There’s nothing like that moment when you have a trophy buck in your sites. Your hands will shake as you slowly click off the safety on your rifle, and you’ll feel the sweat of nervousness and anticipation trickle down your forehead.
It would be a crying shame to have the perfect shot and to still come home empty-handed all because you didn’t have the right ammunition.
The types of ammunition you choose depend completely on what you’re hunting. After all, you shouldn’t use the same type of ammunition to hunt a rabbit that you’d use to hunt a moose.
By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you will understand what hunting ammunition works best for whatever you’re hunting today.
The small game consists of smaller mammals that range from two to fifteen pounds in weight. You would typically shoot these animals at a range of fewer than 100 yards. Here are a few common examples of small game:
The key to shooting small game is having a smaller cartridge. If your ammunition is too large, you will successfully eliminate your target, but you’ll also damage the meat and pelt so you cannot use them. You need a non-expanding solid lead or full-meta-jacket bullet.
Edible game in particular needs a jacketed bullet or expanding lead bullet so you can have a clean, immediate kill. Here are the most common calibers that work best for a striking range of 100 yards maximum
- .17 Mach 2
- .17 HMR
- .22 LR
- .22 WMR
If you’re using centerfires, you want small capacity .22s such as a .218 Bee, .22 Rem., .22 Hornet, or a .223 Rem. If you’re working with a .25 caliber, then use a hollowpoint or soft-point bullet.
Pests and Varmints
Pests and varmints are bigger than a typical small game. They range from less than a pound up to 30 pounds. You need a range of 100 to 400 yards to successfully hunt such creatures.
You typically do not eat a pest or varmint, so meat damage isn’t a factor when you’re considering what ammunition to use with them. Most pests and varmints are small and thin-skinned, but they’re also evasive and difficult to hit. This means you need a bullet with a high striking velocity that rapidly expands as it penetrates.
Here are some common caliber choices that will help you eliminate that skunk in the backyard and other varmints:
- .22-caliber rimfire cartridges
- .17 HRM
- .204 Ruger
- .222 Rem
- .223 Rem
- .22-250 Rem
- .220 Swift
- .243 Win
- 6mm Rem
You want to look for lighter-weight bullets that have a hollow point and thin jacket or a soft-point design. These will give you a low noise level as well as the striking power you need.
Medium Size Game
The medium-size game consists of those animals that range from 50 to 350 pounds. You typically hunt these animals from less than 50 yards away to more than 300 yards away. Thus, you need versatile ammunition.
The size of the game determines your ammunition best, not the distance from which you hunt it.
Here is the most common medium-size game:
- Wild sheep
- Feral hogs
- Smaller African antelope
These are thin-skinned game animals that require a centerfire rifle cartridge of 6mm or more. You should use a hollow-point bullet or expanding soft-point bullet to provide you with the necessary striking energy at 100 yards. Many hunters thus choose non-magnum calibers with moderate power such as a .243 Win. up to a .35 Rem.
Some hunters are using magnum caliber guns for hunting now all the way up to a .30 caliber.
Your ammunition for the medium game must penetrate the game sufficiently enough to reach the animal’s vital organs and also expand enough to create a permanent track wound. The ammunition must have a tension of at least 80 percent of the animal’s original weight as well and strike it cleanly enough to kill it at 100 yards.
Ideally, you should use a spitzer, a flat-base bullet with 100 grains of weight or more.
Big game animals are large, heavy animals that weigh 500 pounds or more. You typically shoot this game from 50 to 300 yards. They consist of the following animals:
- Black bear
- Musk ox
You typically hunt large, heavy game at a close range. The such game often requires more than a single shot to go down because of their size. The game can still run long distances if you have a poor shot, so you want ammunition that gives you the ideal shot each time.
This means you should have a large-caliber bullet of at least a .308-inch diameter and a weight of 180 grains or more. You should plan on shooting a standard or magnum caliber. Successful bullets must expand slowly so they can adequately deposit maximum energy deep inside the heavy target.
Predatory and Dangerous Game
A predatory and dangerous game is a large game that can hunt the hunter. They will weigh anywhere from 150 pounds to over 750 pounds. Hunters typically hunt these animals at 75 yards or less.
Here is the common dangerous game that hunters look for:
- Cape buffalo
- Large bear
- Wild boar
Animals like the polar bears and grizzly bears create unique challenges when you’re considering ammunition. These animals will attack even after they’ve sustained an injury. Thus the ammunition you use must stop them and not just injure them.
You will need powerful cartridges that fire large-diameter, heavy bullets. The ammunition needs to penetrate reliably and weigh enough to reach vital organs deep inside the animal.
Elephants, hippos, and Cape buffalo require heavily constructed, non-expanding bullets known as solids. These bullets weigh 300 to 500 grains. They will smash through heavy bone and penetrate vital organs after traveling through several feet of tissue.
If you’re hunting a thinner-skinned animal like a bear or leopard, you can use a soft-point expanding bullet with a thick jacket that weights 180 to 300 grains.
In the case of a dangerous animal, your hunting ammunition will not just win you a trophy, but it could also save your life.
Choose the Best Type of Ammunition For Your Game
The types of ammunition out there could easily confuse a novice. If you understand what you’re hunting, you’ll know how to pick your ammunition and weapon. Select the bullets that work best for your particular game, and you’ll succeed as a hunter.
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