The Best Deer Cartridge: Hunters Share Their Top Picks

Matt Johnson
Matt JohnsonPublished: November 1, 2023
The Best Deer Cartridge: Hunters Share Their Top Picks

We wanted to see what the most common, and ultimately the best, deer cartridge was for whitetail deer. So we turned to the massive hunting community on Reddit to see what they had to say.

The options we listed in the poll included the .270, .308, 30-30, .243, 6.5, and something else. The latter was so that users could share their personal favorite if it wasn't listed.

We received nearly 200 votes over a few days. So, with that, I think we found some solid evidence of the best and most popular rounds.

Frankly, I'm not sure how I forgot to list the infamous .30-06 Springfield. However, the users on Reddit did not forget, with many of them choosing it as their top pick for deer hunting. The .30-06 has been a popular choice among hunters for over a century, offering a wide range of bullet weights and velocities to fit various hunting situations.

So what were the results?  

.30-06 Springfield.

The .30-06 Springfield was the top choice among the hunters we surveyed. This was a write-in by countless users, as I simply forgot to add it to the choice.

This cartridge has been in use for over a century and is versatile enough to handle different types of deer hunting. It has excellent stopping power at long ranges and can handle heavy bullets. The .30-06 is also accessible, and its cartridges are available everywhere. All these features make it an excellent choice for many hunters.

One Reddit user went on to say that the .30-06, after the 30-30, has probably killed more whitetails than any other caliber.  

There's some truth to that, but it's still a close race with the .30-30.

Specification.30-06 Springfield
Bullet Diameter0.308 in (7.82 mm)
Bullet WeightRanges from 110 to 220 grains (7.1 to 14.3 g)
Case DesignDesigned by Springfield Armory
Typical Muzzle VelocityAround 2,700 to 3,000 fps
Typical UseHunting, target shooting, military

.308 Winchester.

308 Winchester

Next up, we have the .308 Winchester cartridge. It was also a popular choice among our Reddit hunters, with some even mentioning that it's their go-to round for hunting deer.

The .308 Winchester is a shortened version of the military cartridge, .30-06 Springfield. It is a versatile cartridge that is appreciated for its accuracy, reliability, and power. It has a flatter trajectory and lower recoil than the .30-06, making it an excellent choice for even the most novice hunters.

We've found that the .308 has excellent penetration ability, making it suitable for shooting large bucks and hunting in dense forests.

Specification.308 Winchester
Bullet Diameter0.308 in (7.82 mm)
Bullet WeightRanges from 125 to 180 grains (8.1 to 11.7 g)
Case DesignDesigned by Winchester Repeating Arms Company
Typical Muzzle VelocityAround 2,620 to 2,800 fps
Typical UseHunting, target shooting, military

.270 Winchester.

The .270 Winchester cartridge was the third most popular choice among hunters, getting around 16% of the votes. It is another popular hunting cartridge that has been around since the early twentieth century.

One thing we love about the .270 is it is a relatively flat-shooting cartridge that offers excellent accuracy and velocity, making it perfect for long-range hunting. It delivers enough power to take down large deer and is suitable for hunting deer in open country. 

Due to its popularity and high demand, the .270 Winchester cartridge is widely available, making it easy to find and purchase. That's a big deal in this day and age. Ammo can be difficult to find.

Specification.270 Winchester
Bullet Diameter0.277 in (7.04 mm)
Bullet WeightRanges from 100 to 160 grains (6.5 to 10.4 g)
Case DesignDesigned by Winchester Repeating Arms Company
Typical Muzzle VelocityAround 2,700 to 3,100 fps
Typical UseHunting, target shooting

6.5 Creedmoor.

I had to add this to the poll as it's easily one of the best up-and-coming rounds over the last few years. Originally designed for competitive shooting, the 6.5 Creedmoor has gained popularity among hunters as well, and the voters showed it. This round took 20 of the votes to include mine.

The 6.5 offers excellent accuracy, low recoil, and a high ballistic coefficient, making it perfect for long-range hunting. It can also handle heavier bullets effectively, making it suitable for larger deer in open fields.

One Reddit user commented that the 6.5 Creedmoor is "the best combination of accuracy and lethality" they have ever used for deer hunting.

Specification6.5 Creedmoor
Bullet Diameter0.264 in (6.71 mm)
Bullet WeightRanges from 95 to 160 grains (6.2 to 10.4 g)
Case DesignDesigned by Hornady
Typical Muzzle VelocityAround 2,700 to 3,000 fps
Typical UseHunting, target shooting, competitive shooting

.30-30 Winchester.

The .30-30 Winchester cartridge is a classic choice for deer hunting, and it was the fourth most popular option among our Reddit hunters with 9% of the votes.

Given the comments, you'd expect this round to be much higher on the list. However, many of our users mentioned that they prefer it for its nostalgic value and not necessarily for its effectiveness as a deer cartridge.

Regardless, the .30-30 has been used successfully for deer hunting for over a century. It offers moderate recoil and is suitable for shooting in dense areas with short-range shots.

Specification.30-30 Winchester
Bullet Diameter0.308 in (7.82 mm)
Bullet WeightRanges from 110 to 170 grains (7.1 to 11.0 g)
Case DesignDesigned by Winchester Repeating Arms Company
Typical Muzzle VelocityAround 2,200 to 2,400 fps
Typical UseHunting

.243 Winchester.

I really thought the .243 would pan out much better than it did in the polling, but it received around 5% of the vote, making it the least popular of the cartridges that made it onto the poll.

The .243 Winchester is a versatile cartridge that has been a favorite amongst varmint and predator hunters but also performs well in deer hunting. It offers excellent accuracy and manageable recoil, making it easy to shoot even for smaller framed hunters.

Though the .243 may not have been as popular among our Reddit voters, it is still a viable option for deer hunting and should not be discounted. 

Specification.243 Winchester
Bullet Diameter0.243 in (6.17 mm)
Bullet WeightRanges from 55 to 115 grains (3.56 to 7.45 g)
Case DesignDesigned by Winchester Repeating Arms Company
Typical Muzzle VelocityAround 2,960 to 3,200 fps
Typical UseHunting, target shooting

What's your cartridge of choice for deer?

In conclusion, the survey results demonstrated that hunters have diverse preferences when it comes to the choice of cartridges for deer hunting. 

The Old Faithful .30-06 Springfield rose to the top, showing its enduring popularity and reliability. The .308 Winchester, .270 Winchester, and 6.5 Creedmoor also gained substantial favor among the community. The .30-30 Winchester and .243 Winchester, despite trailing in the poll, still hold their place in the hunting world with their unique advantages. 

It's evident that the choice of cartridge can vary greatly depending on personal experience and the specific conditions of the hunt. In the end, the best cartridge for deer hunting is the one that gives the individual hunter confidence and accuracy in the field.

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

Master Outdoorsman

Matt is a seasoned outdoorsman with expertise in fishing, hunting, and wildlife. With a Master's degree in Wildlife Science, he combines his passion for nature with conservation efforts, sharing his knowledge through his writing for Fish and Game Report.

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