Several big-game calibers are like professional athletes in small market cities: They perform well day after day, yet don’t get the attention they deserve. Since these calibers don’t have a Facebook page or Twitter account, I hope this post helps provide the notoriety they deserve. I’ve used all three calibers in the field, with excellent results. If you have a big-game trip planned, are thinking about raising the ballistic performance of your present round, or just want to shoot really cool guns, check out these three.
.325 Winchester Short Magnum (WSM): As part of Winchester’s impressive short magnum introductions a decade ago, I had the chance to test the .325 WSM on Nilgai, one of the toughest game animals in North America. This native of India is so tough, the guides on the King Ranch would not allow hunters to use .270 Winchesters or 30-06 Springfield calibers. Male Nilgai fight with razor sharp, dagger-like horns and, as a result, their front shoulders have near-Kevlar skin. I got one chance at a bull and dropped the beast in its tracks — a real knock-down performance. Contrary to the production end of the .325, its recoil was amazingly light. I recommended it to a friend who bought one for his wife, and she loves the gun. Choose from 180, 200, or 220-grain bullets for a short action rifle that will take anything in North America.
.45-70 Govt with Hornady Monoflex Bullets: While some conservative shooters may initially reject anything with “government” attached, Hornady developed this round in 1873 as a military cartridge and thus carries the name. The bullet traditionally had a flat nose, so that it would safely function in the magazines of lever-action rifles, yet Hornady changed this concept dramatically with the development of the MonoFlex bullet. The greatly increased aerodynamics of this bullet helped make it safe in tubular magazines and have dramatically bumped up its performance. It’s an excellent, moderate-range caliber for most big game, with a muzzle velocity of 2025 fps and energy of 2276 ft-lbs. from a 250 grain bullet. The round enables hunters to enjoy the use traditionally designed firearms with plenty of modern knock-down power.
Ruger 338 RCM: The Winchester .338 Magnum round has been a classic big-game round, yet the recoil has dampened the enthusiasm for many shooters. Enter Ruger‘s Compact Magnum: You can shoot this maximum-energy round with moderate recoil and great accuracy. I tested its performance last fall on an Alaskan black bear hunt, where it proved its mettle on a 200-yard neck shot in pouring rain. The hunt was down to its final minutes and the RCM saved the day. Like the Winchester .325, the powerful round provides moderate recoil but actually a greater ballistic performance than the standard .338 Winchester Magnum. Bullet selection is among 185-, 200-, and 225-grain rounds in three of Hornady’s most popular bullets.