Best Bullet Weight For Hunting!!
Based only upon over 50 years of killing deer and a ton of studying ballistics, range work and hand loading, I have come to certain conclusions on what works best for me, in terms of creating bang/flop hits on white tail deer, pronghorns, mule deer and elk.
First off, given today's superior bonded bullets, lighter is better. I began deer hunting, in 1958, with my Dad's cut down British .303 caliber, surplus rifle, using the issue, iron sights. I picked up the factory ammo with 174gr. bullets, flailed away at the range, until I knew that I could put rounds in coffee cup at 100 yards, and went hunting. I did not know what "minute of angle" was and likely, with that rifle, could never have attained that sort of accuracy anyway, but the deer did not know that.
Hunting in N. Baltimore County woods, all my shots were within 100 yards. When I did my job, the deer did go bang/flop. Perhaps things were simpler in those heady days of youth. Wish I didn't know now, what I didn't know then!
Just as an aside, in those simpler days, we did not buy special clothes in which to hunt. We checked the weather and pulled out old winter coats and rubber, over the shoe boots and went afield. Binoculars were likely made in Japan and sold by Monkey Wards for about $20 and worked great! Same for scopes when we got far enough ahead to buy a 4X Japanese scope, we were happy with them. There were no range finders, scent blockers, rattle sticks, cell phones or computers. No external stimulation in the woods, generated by some device, not yet invented. We hunted, using our sight and hearing and tried to move as quietly as we could and not cough and God forbid, never smoke while hunting.
I moved up the food chain a little and bought a used, made in 1952, Winchester Model 70 in 270Win. I could have ended my quest right there. Using 130gr. bullets and now hand loading to well over 3000 fps at the muzzle, my bullets were flying flat and true for as far out as I chose to kill. The Nosler, bonded bullets had come out and I keyed in on their ability to hold together and penetrate deeper and/or cause wide wound channels and big exit wounds that stopped game quickly, even if sometimes not immediately. I was not losing game due to them running off the dying painfully, over time. About the time I got the 270, I began making trips west to hunt mule deer and pronghorn.
More reading and studying and I had to have a rifle in 280Remington. The 7mm bullet is a superior flying bullet as demonstrated on ballistics tables and in the field. My great old Win. M70 went down the road and was replaced by a Browning Stalker in 280Remington. That, for years, has been my "go to" hunting rifle. Although I do love my Howa in 7mm-08 and my Mauser in 7x57mm.
My bullet of choice is the Nosler Ballistic Tip (Hunting) in 120gr. for all but elk. On elk I use the Barnes 160gr. solids to break shoulder and get exit wounds on those big deer. Admittedly I have only bagged to bulls, but neither went more than a few paces after taking my hits. I absolutely limit my shots to under 400 yards, so I see no reason to go to a magnum, although I owned and worked up loads for 7mmRemMag, 300Win.Mag and 300RUM. For me, the additional cost of reloading components for magnums is a waste of money. Not knocking what others may choose. Whatever works for you, go for it. I am merely stating my personal choices.
I hear others lament "meat loss". My first objective in hitting game is to give them quick, humane death, so I will sacrifice some shoulder meat to get my bang/flop kill!