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May 30, 2008

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Two Cases Where Bigger Isn't Better

As the nature of my curious profession requires me to use as many cartridges as possible, I did a lot of hunting with the 7mm Remington Magnum and the .300 Winchester Magnum, and tried very hard to like them. But it didn't work out. Both have the same virtue and the same fault. The virtue is that they are somewhat more powerful than standard cartridges of the same caliber, and their fault is that they are somewhat more powerful than standard cartridges of the same caliber.

The 7mm Remington was probably inspired by the Mashburn 7mm Magnum, which Warren Page brought to fame over his 25 years as shooting editor of Field & Stream -- except the Mashburn was a lot more powerful than the Remington round. Warren pushed a 175-grain bullet at just over 3,000 fps from his rifle, which the Remington will not do in any way, shape, or form. The .300 Winchester had to follow in the giant footsteps of the .300 Weatherby, which is much longer, and does everything in a much bigger way.

The 7mm Remington kicks considerably more than a .270 or a .280, and has a bit more effective range, but not much. Similarly, the .300 Win Mag has bigger numbers than a .30/06, but not much. But it kicks noticeably harder. I had several rifles in both calibers in the 1970s and 1980s, and used them hard, but I finally gave up on them and went to non-magnum rounds instead. My shoulder is happier, the animals fall down just as fast, and I do not miss these rifles at all.


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Dennis L. Crabtrey II

Someone who agrees with me. You don't need a magnum cartridge for the majority of shooting, only for those VERY rare occasions where a long shot is required and unavoidable.

Jim in Mo.

Thats what I always thought, extremely long distance.
The only way I'd go bigger than my '06 is for a 338 for bigger game.


There will always be the "bigger is better" group of folks that gun/ammo makers love.

They are the group that sells perfectly good firearms (usually at a loss) to buy a new wondergun that kicks their teeth loose and they end up selling it (usually @ a loss) to purchase either the next new wondergun (if they haven't learned their lesson) or buy what they had to begin with.

And the cycle continues......



I have noticed my grouping is much tighter with the non-mags ie:.270,.280,.30/06 than the mags. The "flinch" factor plays a part and its just not as enjoyable to shoot. I found myself loading down the magnum for deer and it equaled out to an .30/06 load and if I want to hunt Elk or other larger game, loading it up. Just a nice option with the .300 Mag. You can load an .30/06 up but I found I liked the bigger .300 Mag loads better.


A 270 is perfect for deer. Many people buy a bigger gun thinking if I ever hunt bear in Alaska I'll need the extra power and they end up with way too much kick for 99% of their hunting. Buy the right tool for the hunting you do most often and you can't go wrong. If you hunt different game a 30/06 a great versatile choice. For my hunting magnums are a waste of money and meat.

Jim in Mo.

I've wondered about the usefulness of the .30/378 Weatherby. Sure it'll scrap dust off a chalkline at 500yds but, given its velocity what would happen if an elk passed by at 30yds? Would the bullet hold together? If it did, would expansion be so great that penetration would be limited?


Well, since Americans like numbers, here's some numbers:

A friend and I were hunting elk here in WY a few years back. He was armed with his 7mm magnum, firing a 160 gr. Nosler partition at just over 2900 fps. I was armed with my 7X57, shooting a 140 gr. Nosler partition at just over 2900 fps. We both killer bulls. Mine was a little larger and died with one shot. His took several rounds to dispatch. Comparing the bullet holes from both cartridges, they were pretty much identical.

Now tell me, what advantage do you get with that extra 20 gr. of copper and lead?

SD Bob

Remember several topics ago when Dave threw us for a loop by going .338 win mag on us after touting the enjoyment of lesser rounds for so long? It appears his senior moment is over and the short actions are making a comeback. Lets us not forget though that if it is not a $700 model 70 tricked out to cost 12 grand, the bullets will inevitably bounce right off the side of any animal. The only solution for those who don't have $12,700 is to buy a belted magnum for $600 so it can penetrate the shield of crapulence every animal has!

Robert  W.  Sprague

Dave, I need to stick up for my favorite cartridge/rifle combo, even when it defies logic. I have an early 7 mag model 700, manufactured with a stainless steel barrel with a sickly looking bluing job. The thing is as ugly as Mrs. Clinton in good light. I blundered on a load of 63.5 of IMR 4831 behind a 140gr ballistic tip. It comes out at 3000 on my chronograph, and shoots into 5/8" on a bad day, and .25 on a good day. I have killed everything from ground squirrels to 350lb wild pigs, with too many coyotes and deer in between to count. If it kicks any more than a 30-06, I can't tell, and since the load is somewhat attenuated, the cases can be reloaded multiple times with very little streching. I agree the animals don't know if that bullet came from 7mag or a 7-08. I have talked to alot of people who have similar experiences with a Rem 700 in 7 mag. Anybody else have a similar story?

Jason N.

It still boils down to bullet placement,how much you practice and how comfortable you are to your rifle.
Rifle calibers get blamed for poor performance but alot of hunters dont match bullet type to what game they are shooting. Example a controlled expansion bullet for pronghorns. Then complained that it didnt knock the buck off its feet.


I think people often discount the importance of power more than they should.
Not every shot is perfect, and a more damaging bullet does help compensate for an less than idea hit.

But of course accuracy matters more than power. So never trade But accuracy for damage.

If you can expand a fairly large bullet and go nearly through your prey then you arent going to be much better off with a bigger gun.
This is why on the most common big game - deer, you gain little by going beyond a .270 or .308(unless you find the need to shoot long range.)

But just as a .270 gives you bigger "quick kill" zone than a .243 on a deer, a .300 gives you a bigger zone on an Elk.

If youre the ideal restrained hunter who aways waits for the good shot and doesnt miss then you lose little by sticking with a small gun.
If youre normal then power helps.

The ideal gun is one you wont flinch from but can shoot an expanded bullet through the torso of your target. That rarely exists though.

Dr. Ralph

I've never understood the fascination with the newer, faster, better cartridges. Pretty much all of my guns are chambered for something that has 100 years of experience to back it up. 7X57 is an excellent game stopper with extremely mild recoil as is the 30-30. I'm a fairly large man or at least not small and the 30-06 is about as much gun as I can shoot comfortably, and it works on everything. It is my favorite but probably because it was my father's and it's a shooter... I did experiment with a .257 Wby. Mag. and was not impressed with it's knock down power at ranges typical of rural Tennessee. Of course the average deer is killed at 17 yards so obviously that was not what Roy had in mind for this particular cartridge.

Last year I took my daughter's 16 year old boyfriend out because he had never killed a deer. His father is a disabled cop and so they hunt ducks from a blind mainly. He brought along a Ruger 7mm Mag and missed his first doe at less than 50 yards... I had shot this gun three times and put up about an inch group at 100 yards and so I knew it was sighted in but it hurt me and I outweigh the boy by 80 pounds. I can't imagine what it feels like to him. Anyway he did drop the second doe that meandered his way but if I could just convince him that all that pain is not necessary he would hunt more and better. I blame it on the manufacturers who are unwittingly running kids away from the shooting sports with their Ultra Mags and 3 1/2" shotgun shells...

Jim in Mo.

Dr. R,
Who knows because of your size the mag may have been jolting you more than the boy. About eight years ago I was at the range and next to me was Fred Miller off. tackle of Rams (now with Titans I think). We both were shooting '06s but because of his size he was taking quite a jolt (his body not giving) while my much smaller body gave with the punch.



I can't imagine ever needing to flush my cash down on a magnum rifle. I'll never own one.

My .270 had dropped all the elk I've crosshaired with one shot. If I ever draw that moose tag, I'll use the .30/06 and be done with it.


I’ve used both the 7mm Mag and 300 Mag. There’s nothing wrong with either cartridge, although I think the neck on the 300 Mag is short.

I’ve had long and thick experience with 7mm bullets in 7 x 57, 280, and 7mm Mag. If there is any difference in killing power or accuracy between any of these cartridges in comparable rifles out the 300-yrad range, I couldn’t see it.

BTW I think all the major loading companies load the 7mm Mag to the max. I could never handload comparable bullet weights that rocked like the factory loads.


I have 2 7mm Rem Mags, one my dad bought for an elk hunt in 1990 (made in early 70's) and one I got for xmas 3 years ago when cabelas was selling the 2003 shot show special 700 for $400. I haven't even shot my new one. I'm having to much fun and success with my ABolt 7mm/08 and .243 WSSM. The 7Mag is for any open country hunt and any time I might hunt bigger game. Dont think I will use it for a while. With ammo becoming more and more expensive. Look for people to quit feeding their beasts and taking out the old .30-30's and .30-06's which always have ammo for relatively low prices.

Mike Diehl

I get great service against deer with my .243 Winchester pushing a 100 grain bullet. I'd up gun to .30-06 for moose, or elk but otherwise don't need anything more powerful than the .243. I've never been strongly tempted to hunt bear. I see the pix and think "Do people really eat that thing?"


Where I hunt the action is pretty close-up; a long shot is about 80 yards, and in some places the timber is so thick you can't see a deer 30 yards away. My 30-30 has always been perfect for that kind of hunting. I have a .30-06 but have never needed its reach. Still, I know lots of guys that hunt with 7mm and .300 mags. I think it has something to do with their sense of what "macho" is. Somehow they equate getting busted in the face with a rifle stock with manly virility. I'm not sure that's "thinking with the wrong head," but it isn't smart.


Jim Carmichael (Sorry Dave) said never chrono your favorite hunting load. He was right. A buddy paid more than good money for a .300 WSM. He came over extolling all kinds of borscht about velocity gains and short actions, etc...

Another friend of mine is lucky enough to own a 600 yd. range. We took his new toy over and the range owner just happend to be using his chrono while ringing out a new rife. We shot the .300 WSM with factory ammo over the screens. Surprise, it fell well short of the claims. We shot my 30/06 with my mutt and jeff middle of chart handloads. Same barrel length, my '06 averaged only 80 fps slower than his short mag. My buddy almost cried. By the way, the short, light little rifle is beast off the bench... My '06 is push over!

Also, if you need something a little bigger. Don't sell the 338-06 short. A 200 grain bullet at 2700 plus will do a lot. Recoil is about that of a full house 180 grain load in the '06.

NH Philosopher

I enjoy shooting my 300 win mag - particularly when out for Elk and long 250+ meter shots at muleys and whitetails.

I know it's more than I need - but its a versatile weapon that I can use in various hunting situations. Granted me 30.06 is also versatile, but for somereason I dig the 300 win mag over most of the riles I own - including:


Has nothing to do with being Macho or any other non-sensical pyschographic mumbo jumbo. I am partial to the rifle's feel, it's pinpoint accuracy and the way it drives 165 grain hornady SST boattails. the rifle's a tack driver.


Thank you Dave P.!!!

More than once on this blog I have touted the .270 Win. I spent some time working in a gun shop and have tripped the sear on more than one caliber. The only gun I ever had truly "hurt" me, was an M77 Ruger in .338 Win Mag. It belonged to an older fella we called "Big Daddy" because of his knowledge of firearms and his proficiency with them! He had tricked out this bazooka and developed some hand loads for an upcoming Colorado elk hunt! They chided me for days for not being able to "take" the recoil! I even shot a .458 Win Mag M77 that was unbelievably comfortable!
I shoot .270 Win in a bolt gun and a Ruger No. 1! Both have mild recoil with the Ruger's weight cutting it's recoil just a bit more! Both very accurate and very reliable.
The biggest difference in the two? The chambers! I can sit in the house and peck out loads with my old Lee Loader and they function in my bolt gun just fine. The No. 1 lacks about 1/8th inch swallowing the round, making it impossible to close the action. To load for the No. 1, I must go to the bench!
My load is 46.5 grs of IMR 4895, std Win large rifle primer and a 130 gr Sierra BTSP for a round that is very close to a factory round.
If I ever slip the sear on a deer and he doesn't go down, I know it was me! NOT the gun or the load!
Very nice rounds that will do an excellent job on deer without recoil:
.270 Win
.308 Win
.257 Rbts
.35 Rem
There are lots more, these are just a few that come readily to mind!



I bought my nephew a NEF Handi-rifle blued/synthetic. After the rifle arrived and I picked it up, it dawned on me the recoil might be a bit much because of the light weight!
After screwing an older Weaver K4 I had stuck back for such emergencies, off we went to the range for a 25 yard session.
Suprisingly, the recoil was about like my No. 1! Not bad at all!

p.s. - It's a real tack driver after an old 'smithing buddy dressed the crown down a bit! It had a little booger in it that confounded the boy and ME for several rounds before I thought to check it!

Black Rifle Addict

Dave...why are you beating up on my beloved 700 Rem mag?(and my son's 300Win mag?)
Even if one can achieve only limited ballistic improvement to a bullet, it's not paper ballistics that keep a caliber/round alive over the years;It's there preformance in the field that counts.
These two rounds have proven themselves over the years, and if a hunter is confident with a rifle why must we berate their records on this blog?
Anyone agree with me out there in blog land?


Is there any wonder why the .22LR and the .30/06 is in almost every hunting arsenal. Sure you can have any rifle and caliber you wish or chose. But most people have one or both. Unfortunitly I have more .22's then I can shoot in an afternoon.

Tom the Troll


I own a 7 mag, and a couple of 7mm mausers. I really enjoy the mausers, I dread the magnum. I looking foward to trading the mag.

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