The Best Caliber for Low-Recoil Deer Hunting
Recoil is a physically necessary part of shooting a gun, and so it’s something that you’ve got to come to terms with if you’re going to hunt with a firearm.
That said, bigger isn’t always better. Recoil doesn’t have to be punishing in order to get the job done, especially when you’re dealing with medium-size game like whitetail deer. With that in mind, we put together a list of 10 low-recoil cartridges for you to consider taking into the field for your next deer hunt.
The 10 Best Low-Recoil Deer Hunting Cartridges
Since whitetail deer aren’t gigantic animals and most hunters won’t be taking shots at distances much beyond 200 yards, you don’t need a rifle cartridge that packs a serious punch to get the job done. You just need one that’s got enough energy to deliver a clean harvest at an appropriate distance. All of the cartridges on this list will do exactly that.
This list is far from all-inclusive, but choosing from any one of these 10 cartridges will provide you with a low-recoil shooting experience that will result in a successful deer hunt so long as you put in the work on your end.
For hunters who want the utmost precision in their shot, it’s hard to beat the 6.5 Creedmoor. Since it was designed for competition shooting, it’s beyond capable of delivering an exacting blow to the vitals of a whitetail deer so long as the shooter behind the rifle is capable of making the shot. Another advantage for the 6.5 Creedmoor is its availability in a wide variety of firearms, including semi-auto, lever-action, bolt-action, single-shot, and more.
The .25-06 Remington is essentially just a necked down .30-06 Springfield cartridge, but don’t let the .30-06 parentage fool you. The recoil on the .25-06 is very manageable while still retaining excellent terminal velocity for a clean harvest. It’s regarded as one of the most popular “quarter-bore” deer cartridges on the market, and you won’t go wrong if you choose the .25-06 Remington for your next deer hunt.
The .260 Remington is a wildcat cartridge that went mainstream, and yet still flies under the radar of most people. Perhaps it’s because the cartridge name doesn’t match the dimensions. Instead of using a .260 bullet, the .260 Remington is actually loaded with a .264 (or 6.5mm) bullet, and was so named before it was de rigueur to attach the “6.5” moniker to new rounds. Whatever the case may be, the .260 Remington falls right into the middle of the pack in terms of performance for a low-recoil deer cartridge.
It’s becoming more and more popular to see people out deer hunting with a modern sporting rifle, otherwise known as a firearm in the AR family. While the .223 Remington can certainly get the job done, the .224 Valkyrie was designed to take advantage of the rifle platform’s longer, sleeker bullets. Traveling exceptionally fast for its light weight, the .224 Valkyrie will deliver more than enough energy for a humane harvest at distances pushing double what most deer hunters will ever need to make the shot.
The .243 Winchester is a cartridge that almost always comes up in deer hunting discussions. That’s because it flat out works. Deer innumerable have been harvested over the decades by a hunter with a rifle chambered in .243 Winchester. It’s also a great multi-purpose cartridge for predators and other varmints, so you’re not just limited to the .243 Winchester being a “deer rifle cartridge.”
Hunters in states where they’ve got to use a straight-walled cartridge have rejoiced with the introduction of the .350 Legend in recent years. This is a cartridge that was purpose-built to serve hunters – particularly deer hunters – and boy does it deliver. For shots at 200 yards or less, it’s hard to beat the .350 Legend, whether you have to abide by straight-walled regulations or not.
Essentially a necked-down .308 Winchester cartridge, the 7mm-08 Remington is a great choice for deer hunters who want to harness maximum knockdown power while also mitigating recoil. Because of this cartidge’s fantastic power-to-recoil ratio, it’s also a great low-recoil choice for shooters who are looking to take on bigger game than whitetail deer, such as elk and others.
The .30-30 Winchester is probably the most iconic deer rifle cartridge of all time, having taken millions of whitetail deer since its introduction more than a century ago. It’s not the most powerful cartridge on this list, but then again, it doesn’t need to be. When loaded into a lever-action carbine, you’ll have a combination that’s hard to beat in most regions where whitetail deer reign.
Considered to be the granddaddy of all the .257 cartridges, the .25-06 Remington and the .257 Weatherby can both trace their existence back to the .257 Roberts. The .257 Roberts was (and is) an incredibly smooth-shooting quarter-bore cartridge that delivers enough energy to drop a deer while still being light enough on the shooter’s shoulder. Just be aware that ammo isn’t the easiest to find, so make sure you bring more than you’ll need to deer camp.
6.8 Remington SPC
The 6.8 Remington SPC had high hopes of being a military cartridge, but in the end, it found a home in the hunting community. Fans of hunting with modern sporting rifles really like the 6.8 Remington SPC because it uses a .270 caliber bullet, giving it a substantial edge in terms of energy and velocity over a more traditional .223 bullet in a modern sporting rifle. If you’re looking to hunt at no more than 200 yards with an MSR, then the 6.8 Remington SPC may be just what you’re looking for.
Why Is Managing Recoil So Important for Hunting?
Recoil management is very important for a wide variety of reasons, but we’re going to focus on three of the main ones that are most pertinent to hunters.
Recoil makes people flinch, and flinching reduces accuracy. This is a problem because accuracy is essential to a humane harvest. If you can mitigate the recoil, make an accurate shot, and still deliver the maximum amount of energy from a lighter-shooting cartridge, then it’s a winning situation all the way around.
Heavier guns manage recoil better, but they’re also more cumbersome and tiring if you’re not just sitting in a treestand or a blind and waiting for the animals to come to you. If you cut down on the gun’s weight, you increase your felt recoil – unless you pair that lighter gun with a lower-recoil cartridge. Then you get the best of both worlds.
Pulling the trigger once on a heavy-hitting rifle won’t make much of a difference, but over the course of a a full hunting career, that recoil can take its toll. Most hunters started out young and will continue as long as they are physically able, but that physical ability may be shortened due to prolonged abuse from shooting rifles with heavy recoil. Some hunters have had to have shoulder replacement surgery due to a lifetime of recoil absorption while others have had to stop completely. By managing your recoil early on in your hunting career by switching to a low-recoil cartridge, you can extend your personal health and prolong your hunting career.
Start Managing Recoil Today
If you’re looking to start managing recoil today and you’re in the market for a new rifle, the good news is that you can take your pick from any number of great guns being made today in all 10 of our choices for the best low-recoil deer hunting cartridges.
Another option for recoil management is opting to use a suppressor. This will help tame the recoil of heavy-hitting cartridges to bring them down to a more manageable level, but it will also bring the low-recoil options listed above into an even more pleasant shooting experience than they already are.
If that sounds like something you want to do, then give Silencer Central a call today. We’re the nation’s largest silencer dealer licensed to sell in all 42 states where suppressors are legal. Out of those 42 states, it’s legal to hunt with a suppressor in 41 of them.
We’ll handle all the paperwork for you and then mail your suppressor right to your door once everything has been approved. It doesn’t get any easier than that. This way, you can spend more time planning your next hunt and less time filling out government forms – aside from your next filled tag, that is!