Ahh a question as old as time and no doubt one of the most commonly questions asked by gun owners there is. What is the best caliber for my gun? Well, especially in the gun store setting there is no quicker way to start a debate, and you will surely get all kinds of answers. But do you wanna know the real truth? Shhh…. there really is not ONE caliber that is the best. If you think about it, just the fact that you have rifles, shotguns, and pistols means that you already have multiple types and calibers of ammo. Ruffles chips come to mind when discussing the best gun and caliber … you can’t shoot just one.
In reality, the best practice when it comes down to choosing your caliber is to start with the use case. Are you going to conceal carry this gun? Are you duck hunting or maybe even squirrel hunting? Or how about just plinking? Each use case is so different that there is no “jack of all trades.” Then there is the issue of who will actually be using the firearm? Someone who is big and bad and tough may be able to shoot a large round like a .338 Lapua Magnum (a big honkin’ round) at distances of over a mile. For the Grandma who has arthritis but is a crack shot, maybe a .22LR or a .410 bore shotgun would be better bet to put some meat on the table.
When it comes down to CCW, the most important thing is choosing a gun that you will actually carry with you. Remember that you will have to live with this firearm every single day, when it’s hot or cold, when you are tired, etc. For some, a Magnum Research Desert Eagle .50 caliber is perfectly doable, and the stopping power it provides is unmatched. But on the flip side, that’s a big heavy gun (because it has to be, lest the recoil break your wrist), and many users will find it impractical to carry every day.
Now on the opposite side of the spectrum is one of the super lightweight scandium small-framed revolvers. It is amazing how convenient they are to just slip in a pocket. You can almost forget that you are carrying. But that weight savings comes at a cost. I consider myself a big bad guy, but I kind of dislike practicing with my ultralight revolver. The light weight and size makes carrying a breeze, but is horrible for recoil absorption and management. The gun just wants to beat you up.
When it comes to rifles the 6.5 Creedmoor is one of the newer and more popular rounds available. The amazing accuracy and distance potential that caliber is capable of makes it a top choice for those that want small groups at long distances. But it has a reputation as being horrible for hunting. Well, that comes from the speed and bullet choice in that caliber. Originally designed for target shooters, full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets at such high speeds will just shoot right through a deer. That said, there is hunting-specific 6.5 Creed ammo out there that will down a deer ethically, but it’s at a fairly premium price.
Simply changing calibers to something like the traditional .270 Winchester will make all the difference in the world. Originally developed in in 1923, it was designed from the start as a hunting cartridge. You basically have had 100 years to perfect the best bullets for hunting. Even if you do not have the best shot placement, a good hunting round will still expel all of its energy into the game, meaning it has less of a chance of running away. A bonus since this is “Grandpa’s round of choice,” and not the coolest new thing, availability is not an issue.
I hate to say it again but in the Covid manufacturing times we live in, unfortunately the best caliber or gauge can come down to what’s even available. In my area of the country I could literally get you a real life unicorn before I could get you a single .410 bore shotgun shell. As younger bucks, most shotgun shooters start out on a .410 shotgun, but quickly we want to move on beyond the kids’ round and jump up to the adults’ 12-ga. As is always the case eventually after a lifetime of getting beat up by 12-ga’s or bigger you get to the point that you are now more accurate and want to enjoy shotgun shooting again.
Of course, going back to a .410 or 20-ga. means lower recoil, but the popularity of these rounds can make them tough (and expensive) to find. One alternative for those looking at lower recoil in shotguns are the 12-ga. shorty shells. Since these are basically half length 12-ga. Shells, the recoil is cut in half. The downside is that these will not function in semi-auto shotguns, and are relegated to pump or break open style shotguns.
Just like trying to find out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, we may never know what the perfect caliber is. It kind of seems to me that there is no one caliber, only what you need at the time. Trying to substitute the wrong round for the wrong situation is what will set you up for failure. And sometimes the question of what caliber do I need comes down to what is actually available. But that does not mean you can’t fine tune the substitution to still fit your needs. So I guess the solution is just buy a bunch of different guns and then you have all your bases covered? I like that idea … how about you?
–James “the XDMAN” Nicholas Mr. UnPewfessional
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