Recoil often is a top consideration for many shooters and hunters. I’m often asked which types of firearms and ammunitions have the knockdown power needed for quick clean kills in the field, but light on the recoil side.
To help, I’ve assembled a list of my favorite calibers—and why—along with a few things you need to understand regarding their limitations.
350 Legend—Great for deer, and is the fastest hunting straight-walled cartridge in the world. I shoot the Winchester Deer Season XP, 150-gr. bullet and it hits hard. I’ve dropped big whitetails in their tracks, and also had incredible luck on big mule deer. The recoil is about 20 percent less than a .243 so it’s truly a great option for someone who wants the smallest amount of recoil possible. We try to keep most of our shots at 150 yards or less when using a 350 Legend, however, the accuracy within those parameters is unbelievable. My gun of choice is the Winchester XPR with a Banish 46 Suppressor (where legal). Another added benefit is many states allow for the 350 Legend when other rifle calibers are not accepted because of the straight wall configuration. Always check your local regulations.
410 Gauge—If you have plans to hunt something that requires a shotgun and you’re looking for the least amount of recoil possible, look no further than a 410. This season I was able to harvest my first turkey with a .410, and our 3-year-old son also harvested his first turkey using this gun. It sounds like a soft pop and the recoil is almost un-noticeable. It’s a fun gun to shoot and a new challenge brought to any hunt. We were using the Double X Diamond Grade turkey load in 3”, 7 ½ shot. We chopped down an old Winchester Model 840, .410 Single Shot Break Open Shotgun to create a perfect short and light gun. Using the Double X Diamond Grade we decided all our shots should be 30 yards, based on the patterns we were getting with the gun and ammo combination.
300 Blackout—Great for deer, hogs and black bear. The Winchester 300 Blackout Power Point is a legendary whitetail deer cartridge. The 150-gr. bullet hits hard and expands well. It is also cost-effective for those who want to do high-volume shooting or hunting without breaking the bank.
270 Winchester—This classic caliber has been around for decades and is tried and tested as anything you will find. When I decided to take my 79-year-old grandma on a mule deer hunt, I handed her the 270 Winchester. It’s flat-shooting, accurate and the 130-gr. Deer Season XP ammunition has been designed specifically for deer hunting, offering massive bullet impact performance. If you’d like to hunt something a little larger, Winchester also offers a 150-gr. Expedition Big Game AccuBond Long Range bullet. This will give you controlled expansion, allowing for penetration through thick hide and bone before delivering massive knockdown power. My gun of choice for this caliber is a Winchester XPR or a Model 70 with a Silencer Central Banish 30 Suppressor (where legal).
243 Winchester—Great for deer, antelope, coyotes and prairie dogs, I absolutely love the versatility of a 243 Winchester. My two favorite ammo choices include the 95-gr. Deer Season XP and the 58-gr., Varmint X bullets. For the Deer Season XP, the extreme point bullet features an oversized impact diameter meaning more trauma and better transfer of energy, which means incredible knockdown power. The Varmint X has been designed specifically for the predator hunters. The bullets are explosive upon impact and also provide minimal pelt damage.
6.5 Creedmoor—This is a caliber that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, and for good reason. It is another flat-shooting option with versatile use in the field. I like the 125-gr. Deer Season XP bullet for whitetail and mule deer, but they also offer a 142-gr. Expedition Big Game Long Range for larger, thicker-skinned animals. If you’re into competition shooting they also offer Match ammunition in a 140-gr. bullet. The hollow-point boat-tail design provides the precision accuracy that match shooters expect and demand.