AccuracyLong Range ShootingPrecision RiflesSniper Rifles

The Caliber Discussion


  • caliber overview
  • terms
  • debates
  • use
  • size/distance
  • recoil
  • ammunition
  • wrap up
  • final thoughts

A short paragraph on the term Caliber

A rifles caliber refers to the internal diameter of a firearm’s barrel, typically measured in inches or millimeters. The selection of a rifle caliber depends on various factors, including the intended use, shooting distance, recoil tolerance, and in my opinion the most important seems to be personal preferences. A caliber discussion needs to take into account available bullet weights, appropriate barrel length and thickness for your use, and then the available cartridges for that caliber that have the speed characteristics you might require. I think that the cartridge which fires the bullets in question plays a huge role in application and perhaps that gets confused more in caliber discussions I see on the internet, but I am going to deal with that separately in another post down the road.

A short mention of limiting the discussion to the term Caliber.

Searching forums, google, and other sources of information about caliber selection I found a few interesting patterns. Popular calibers in the search arena include the .308 Winchester, 6.5mm Creedmoor, and .300 Winchester Magnum, which are commonly used in applications considered long range shooting, however the results lead to more questions than answers, so im going to change this to a discussion on why there is such a bifurcation in message and use. Why is this interesting? Well two of those are 30 cal and one is 6.5 cal, but most folks talking about those are really talking about the cartridge and less the caliber. Anyway, lets look closer at caliber chat and info starting with what I dont particularly like and ending with what I think is important and some opinions.

Debates I don’t particularly like: 

One of the most heated debates in the caliber selection discussion revolves around the tradeoff between stopping power and recoil. Stopping power refers to the ability of a bullet to effectively incapacitate the target somehow, while recoil is the backward force experienced by the shooter when firing the rifle.

Proponents of larger calibers argue that they provide superior “stopping power” due to their increased bullet size and energy transfer upon impact. This argument champions the idea that these stopping power calibers are better suited for taking down a living thing. On the other hand, those in favor of smaller calibers argue that the recoil associated with larger calibers can limit accuracy and shooter comfort, especially during prolonged shooting sessions. Consequently, many shooters opt for smaller calibers that offer manageable recoil without sacrificing too much stopping power.

Stopping Power

I find both arguments short-sighted and limiting. First is the term stopping power. While a bullet can stop a target, I believe that shot placement and intended results are more important as standalone elements in this conversation.

Hunting as a consideration

What I mean by this and focus on in all RifleKraft curriculum, podcasts, and videos is that a shooter’s ability to hit the intended location on a target is of paramount importance; not only is shooter capability and level vital but so is the desired outcome. What I mean is that in a hunting scenario, a hunter may want to preserve meat and shoot in a location that will not only ethically kill the hunted animal but also cause the least devastation to the harvestable tissue. Harvesting tissue or mounting a trophy will influence the location of the shot, in my opinion. Stopping an animal isn’t necessarily the immediate outcome of shooting an animal in the “kill zone.” To drop an animal in its tracks requires that its nervous system is interrupted and disables it from moving; killing an animal is typically the results of blood loss (falling blood pressure leading to death) in a short(er) amount of time. Hunters are familiar with blood trails, adrenaline, and other components of a great kill shot that took a while to play out.

Stopping power is more a factor of energy on a nervous system vs damage to the cardiovascular system. While both result in death, they play out differently once the bullet reaches its mark. The flip side of this is when swat snipers and other professional riflemen train to hit the T box; this is what I would consider stopping power, and this isn’t a direct translation to caliber or energy as much as turning off a switch of the nervous system such that the results are instantaneous. 

What are some good caliber questions? Heres a short list of mine. 

Choosing the right rifle caliber is a personal decision that depends on several key factors. Here are some essential considerations to keep in mind:

Intended Use:

Understanding the philosophy of use of your rifle is crucial. Are you primarily engaging in long-range precision shooting, or are you planning on using the rifle for hunting purposes? The answer to this question will heavily influence your caliber choice. What I think is important is that the momentum and velocity for the available bullets is maintained in the zone you intend to work in. For example, If I was going to select which calibers might be considerations for project X I would ask follow up questions to back track to the final answer:

Target Size and Distance:

If you plan on using your rifle for ranges beyond 300y, “typical” shooting distances should be considered. Smaller caliber bullets are typically going to slow down faster as time of flight increases compared to heavier caliber bullet choices. Making sure that the speed degradation doesn’t ramp up inside the ranges youre going to be shooting is essential.

Recoil Tolerance:

Consider your personal comfort level with recoil. While some shooters have no issue managing heavy recoil, others find it uncomfortable and even detrimental to their shooting technique. It’s essential to find a caliber with a recoil level that you can handle comfortably without compromising accuracy. Take a RifleKraft test and see if you can maintain your desired shooter bracket with different rifles. A lot of this is also influenced by the weight of the rifle. Don’t be shy about adding weight if it increases accuracy; sometimes getting a little stronger and carrying a heavier rifle can increase the overall outcome.

Ammunition Availability and Cost:

This argument comes up, and I think it’s relevant. It’s important to consider the availability and cost of ammunition for your chosen caliber. Some less common or more specialized calibers may be harder to find or more expensive. Opting for a caliber with a wide selection of readily available ammunition can save you both time and money. Handloading is not cheaper contrary to anything I’ve found out myself. What is cool about handloading is that it adds a layer of understanding many enjoy. Handloading also allows you to play with cartridges that are not as easy to get ammunition. Cartridges are not the same thing as caliber so don’t confuse the two.

The TLDR: 

Ultimately, the ideal rifle caliber choice is subjective and depends on your specific shooting goals, preferences, and intended use. What works perfectly for one shooter may not be the best option for another. Conducting thorough research and testing, seeking professional advice, and getting hands-on experience with various calibers will significantly assist you in making an informed decision.

Remember, regardless of the caliber chosen, consistent practice and familiarity with your rifle’s characteristics are, in my opinion, of greater importance for optimal performance. Shot placement is crucial in achieving results and without that all arguments are less interesting to me.

The wrap-up

The great caliber debate continues to captivate the shooting community, and it’s unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. As technology advances and new cartridges emerge for existing calibers, the options and opinions surrounding caliber selection will only grow. At the end of the day, the best rifle caliber and cartridge for you depends on your shooting goals, preferences, and intended use. By considering factors such as intended use, game size, recoil tolerance, and ammunition availability, you can make an educated decision and embark on your shooting journey with confidence.

Does my opinion matter?

If I had to make a statement today, I would say that currently the best overall cartridge in the 300-1200 one is the 6.5 Creedmoor. I came to this conclusion doing the same things I wrote above and getting data for myself through direct experience and comparison to others. I have many cartridges and calibers but if I had to take one rifle for that zone today, it would be that.

Enjoyed reading your article! Love the 6.5 Creedmoor also, for all around target shooting and hunting in Texas
I'm not a hunter nor a SWAT sniper. I ring steel and poke holes in paper. It's a hobby. Im not competitive although I may choose to compete occasionally. For me, I've opted to stick with 223. I handload 75gr ELD-M at 2800 fps at a cost of about 45-cents per round. I load to mag length and can use them in both my gas and bolt gun platforms. I like the simplicity. Ive stretched these out to 1000y with great results in low wind, but of course they're more susceptible to wind influence than a 140gr 6.5 CM but cheaper and low recoil. That's my logic. It works for my needs.
    the best round ive found so far for my howa 6.5 hit center of water bottle at 200 yards
  • M
  • October 12, 2023
I hunt deer with a .375 H&H mag with my white tail load. 235 grain Barnes TSX and 2,900 fps and change. Haven’t had one take a step yet. It’s not viable beyond 300 yards, but out to 300 it’s a hammer
Whenever someone talks shit about 6.5cm incessantly, I fuel up with some of my wife's red beans and rice and wait until there are some really attractive women next to them, and I crop dust them, and then tell the ladies that ol' stinky is known to do that from time to time.
Killed multiple deer with my box stock .25-06 and custom .35 Whelen. I find that the .25, with proper shot placement puts deer down just as quickly as the .35 Whelen. Bullet construction to match the animal being hunted and shot placement are what really count. The $550.00 Weatherby .25-06 (with the 1200 dollar Leupold it currently wears) is my go to rifle for hunting. Friends say I need bigger, but my deer kills in the last three years, three by the .35 and 4 by the .25 show no difference in distance traveled after the deer was hit.

Gonna talk about PRS, I have moved from 6.5’s to 6’s. Lighter bullets less recoil makes hitting targets just a bit easier. Even considering the last two 6.5’s I owned were, the most accurate rifle barrels I have ever shot.
    • R
    • December 25, 2023
    I think the author of this article hit the nail on the head for all the components of a caliber choice.. I think also it depends on how often you shoot. Recoil is a big factor and yardage of targets/game. Trigger flinch on big kickers is a more likely scenerio for a miss. Its something that cant be measured. I have taken many deer with a 243 Win and a 70g bullet and a moose, only because I hit the heart given the accuracy of 1/2 MOA and a stable shooting position. The low recoil makes it easy to focus. Trigger flinch misses game - especially with off-hand standing shots and worse with running game. Shooting out to 1000yds on a bench is a whole different game. Joining a gun club and practicing, getting to know your rifle and learning not to pull the trigger but to squeeze takes time to master. Knowing the limits of your shooting capability and rifle is good to find out at the range. Try estimating distances by eye and knowing the bullet drop and compensation for these yardages. That puts game on the table. I personally think the 6.5 CM is a great cartridge and I own two rifles for this caliber along with a 6.5x55 Swede, however the good old 270 Win duplicates the performance of the 6.5 CM or exceeds it up to 300 yds. Most game is under that margin, but thats old hat. The 6.5 CM is good but over-rated. For 6.5 shooters the 6.5 PRC outshines the 6.5 CM in velocity for long range shooting, however it hasn't been around long enough to be fully evaluated for accuracy. My Dad killed a truckload of deer and moose with a 30-30 Win with iron sights - mostly under 50 yds, where accuracy doesn't mean squat. Light recoil, light to carry, short for the woods, walking through brush. There are so many factors to consider for a choice in a gun and caliber as well as the cost and availibilty of ammo. You will get alot of good advice from the gun club crowd as well as the experience.
Nathan Foster has a lot of detail on bullet effectiveness on game as well as a lot of data. Worth the time to go through his blog.
  • B
  • October 22, 2023
Wow, kind of a disappointment when this guy sounded really knowledgable then summed it up with the plain vanilla Creedmoor, a very pedestrian cartridge, and one I will never own. Where am I? Well, for big game, I mostly use the reliable 300WM, but I also like my 25'06Ackley Improved. In fact, I'm sort of an Ackley FanBoy. I own 243Ackley Improved, 22-250Ackley Improved, 223Ackley Improved, and a 22-243Middlested, which is currently my #1 daylight coyote rifle. The 40 degree shoulder is where it's at for brass life, and performance, of course. When talking either target or hunting cartridges, not enough thought goes into barrel twist, and barrel life is a big deal unless you shoot the boring 308W. Yes, I own one but it's a safe queen; occasional loaner. My other loaner is the nostalgic, but capable 220Swift.
    I do not think that Chris was going for an article that identifies the best unicorn cartridge. I believe, if I understood the article correctly, is that Chris identified that a majority of internet searches through various methods highlight the curiosity of people with 308, 6.5, and 300WM and the relation to best for long range. While an Ackley might be phenomenal in its performance, it is not necessarily for those just getting into the sport. Scott even mentions that handloading is not cheap. This article seems more for the masses, rather than those already in the know.
    his point is valid tho. The 6.5 does so much of what we need, and it does it cheap, and recoil free.
  • J
  • December 14, 2023
It’s not about caliber, it’s about BC. Ballistic Coefficient. And Grains. I did a long range rifle course with Colorado long ranch and learned it the hard way. The right bullet would have got me to 1000 yards.
    • J
    • December 17, 2023
    I'm still trying to figure out my max killing range on deer and bear with my 6.5cm build I went out 1st day pa bear this year seen a brute of a bear 1176 yards and sadly I couldn't shoot it was wide open but I had allot disadvantages the 6.5cm I built off a short action savage 11 I put a 25inch shaw barrel on 1:8 twist I lap the lugs trigger set at 1.5 lbs I reload I'm using 143 eldx fed 210 match priners h4350 2940fps no presure signs at all my groups at 300 yards are half moa the rifle shoots better than I can . The wind meter said I had 11mph crosswind from the left . I'm using a vortex ventom 5x25x56 it tracks perfect. My max range I had in mind was 800 on deer and 400 on bear . I caught some Griff off few people that are telling me not to go over 500 on deer 200 on bear ? So this left me with wanting to do another build with a savage 110 flat back reciver I did rebarrel it for 30.06 I loaded up some 185 berger vld I know for sure 500 I could kill a bear . But I wanna shoot out to at least 1000 and know I'm good every year where I hunt I see a bear and this year I seen my biggest bear and couldn't do anything again . So I made up my mind I'm going to build a 7mm mag what do you guys recommend on bullet weight and what has the best bc now days . Any help from you long range guys would be great I'm not new to long range but got allot to learn fare as killing power on big game bears from average 250 some up to 650lb . Just a short of my area I'm hunting it's off another ridge that's very high up and to the other side its very steep and can not be climbed you have to drive off the ridge and to the other side that's about 15 min course to get they're and you have to drive up a power line and walk the railroad tracks on a trail below it it's game lands so a spooter is a must and its allot hard work but it be worth it to get a nice bear or buck . Any help would be great thoughts and be honest stright with me I don't wanna go wound a great trophy . Thanks in advance JD
Hit it in the heart and its dead.
  • A
  • January 7, 2024
Forgive my ignorance… Is a 12” grouping (3 consecutive shots) at 2,000 yards on a gas gun (AR10) pretty doable or does that demonstrate some serious skill? The round is a 108gr Horandy 6Arc.
    • E
    • March 11, 2024 demonstrates one thing for SURE -'s a GREAT day to buy a lottery
    No need to forgive the ignorance, the comment shows it :D

    2000 yards is a long ways to be shooting a 6ARC. most people are shooting significantly larger calibers at that distance. I may be offbase here, but if you could put 3 shots into 12 inches at 2000 yards with any 6mm, most people would consider that some of the best shooting ever done using a rifle and bullets fired by a human.
  • E
  • March 11, 2024
Good article, this subject does make me lol,....the opinions of the young generation on how the 30-06 is no good or which ever dicussing which woman's body is prettier,....there's nothing new, atleast in the past about 132 years,...... of cartridge developments,....just more of them,...same as in women......
Very well written, Chris.
    • L
    • March 11, 2024
    Yep, requirements matter, and facts based on empirical, traceable, and verifiable data matter.
  • A
  • March 11, 2024
Well said. Agree on 6.5 CM at that range. 600 and in 6br rules