Hunting can be a pricey hobby; that probably isn’t new information. Owning multiple rifles for hunting different species might not be in the cards right now, so what if you could purchase just one versatile rifle for all occasions? That one rifle would need to be all-purpose. It would need to house ammo that could take down everything from varmints to large game. If there was a rifle like that, it would give you the biggest bang for your buck and allow you to enjoy hunting throughout the seasons. Opinions on the perfect rifle range far and wide. Walking into your local gun store and asking what the best all-around caliber for a hunting rifle is could end up with raised voices and strong opinions. Instead, read on for our recommendations. In making our suggestion, we’ve considered ammunition availability, diverse bullet selection, and power or foot-pounds of energy (FPE).
Hunters have been choosing the 30-06 Springfield since 1906, hence the “06” in the name. This rifle has aged like fine wine because of its versatility and exceptional performance. While there are many 30-caliber rifles on the market, the 30-06 fits all of our criteria. You can find ammunition anywhere from online to a local specialty store to a gas station; that’s important in a world where ammo isn’t always readily available. Bullet selection ranges from smaller to larger grain to take down a wide range of game, and the FPE is equally versatile. For concrete evidence that this rifle is a great all-around choice, just take a look at the Boone and Crockett Club. This club records the largest North American game taken down and the caliber rifle used to make the shot. The 30-06 is both the number one caliber used overall, with nearly 1,300 trophy-book entries, and the number one caliber used to hunt whitetail deer. It seems many hunters agree the 30-06 Springfield is a rifle you shouldn’t overlook.
Many rifles are limited in what magnitude of bullet stopping-power they can handle, but that isn’t much of an issue with the 30-06. The wide selection means you can tailor the caliber to many types of hunting, whether it’s varmints, small game, large game, or even some dangerous game. Simply adjust the grain of the bullet. This rifle can handle anything from a smaller 100-grain bullet to a much larger 220-grain bullet. With such a wide range of choices, you’ll almost never be at a loss.
One of the best ballistics features of a 30-06 is the varying amount of energy each bullet can produce. This is where the FPE comes into play, which helps measure the energy needed to move one pound a distance of one foot. Choose a smaller grain for a lower FPE, or a larger grain for a high FPE.
If you’re getting rid of raccoons, rabbits, coyotes, armadillos, or other varmints plaguing your neighborhood, the 30-06 can handle a small 100-grain bullet that is perfect for the job. Hunting these animals is legal year-round in many states, meaning you don’t need to wait for deer season before enjoying your new rifle. If you purchased a rifle tailored to larger game you’d be wasting iton these smaller species; you’ll either need to shop for an additional specialized firearm or wait until the right season begins. The 100-grain is perfect for long-range varmint shooting, but be aware that expanding 100-grain bullets do significant damage. On the rare occasion that varmint pelt preservation is important to you, consider a jacketed bullet. This won’t expand in the same way and may help protect the pelt. While it could be argued that even the 100-grain is a bit overkill for some smaller game, that is the trade-off for an all-around firearm that can also hunt large game. Specialized rifles are available if your focus is primarily or exclusively on smaller targets.
When you’re ready to move to larger game, your 30-06 will be right there with you. A 220-grain is the largest bullet a 30-06 Springfield can handle, and while it has more drop than lighter bullets, it will provide you with the extra energy you’ll need. That enhanced power is enough to hunt almost any North American animal. For dangerous game, you may want to choose a larger weapon, but the 30-06 does have something to offer in this arena as well. While brown bears, moose, and elk may not be possible to hunt at longer ranges, a heavy bullet aimed properly in this rifle can certainly take them down at short to medium ranges.
Things to Consider
Remember that no single rifle will be perfect for every game or every hunter. The 30-06 is simply our suggestion for the most versatile option. If you regularly hunt particularly small game, consider investing in a .22 Long Rifle (LR) that can provide enough power to hunt animals as large as foxes or bobcats. With this more specialized firearm, you can focus on smaller animals without feeling like the amount of power is overkill, but you won’t be able to hunt deer or coyotes with it.
For hunting trips that could include bears or other animals in the dangerous game category, the 30-06 may not be a great choice. A 220-grain bullet in the 30-06 does provide a decent amount of power to take down most large game, but dangerous game has unique considerations including enormous size and long range. The power behind that 220-grain bullet just won’t do it. One of our favorites for dangerous game hunters is the Remington 700; this rifle has proven time and again that it has the knockdown power to take down some of the biggest game you can find.
But if you’re new to hunting or hoping to invest in a weapon that will give you the biggest bang for your buck, we love the 30-06 Springfield. This gun is arguably the most versatile on the market and won’t leave you needing a new rifle for every hunting trip. In the end, this choice is highly personal. You couldn’t ask about a great all-around rifle without starting a lively debate among hunters, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We love how many options hunters have and how passionate they are about this hobby. For a great start, give the 30-06 a try, but be open to experimenting with different rifles to see what fits your hunting style.