If you’re just getting started in learning about firearms, it can be really complicated to understand all the different calibers and what each cartridge is capable of. Let’s begin with understanding what caliber actually means.

“Caliber” is the measurement of the internal width of a firearm’s barrel, and consequently the width of the bullet. A larger caliber such as .308″ means the bullet is physically wider than a bullet such as a .22″. Larger caliber bullets can cause more damage and generally weigh more, so they penetrate deeper; however, caliber only describes the size of the bullet, and provides no information as to the cartridge’s speed or power.

Next, we need to understand what exactly a “cartridge” is, and how that differs from a bullet. A “Cartridge” refers to the entire firing unit: brass case, primer, gun powder, and projectile. The word “bullet” only refers to the action projectile that is shot through the barrel and hits the target.

Now that you understand that, things will start to make sense. Let’s take an example. The .308 Winchester and the .300 PRC are both the exact same caliber. They both shoot a .308 caliber bullet. Don’t be confused by the names of cartridges. Sometimes they round things off to make a nice marketing name (such as the .300 PRC when it’s really a .308) and sometimes they use other ways to measure so they can have a nice sounding name.

Both the .308 and the .300 PRC can shoot the exact same bullet (projectile). For example, a 180 grain GMX bullet could be loaded and fired out of either cartridge. Bullet designs are mostly interchangeable between cartridges of the same caliber.

However, the .308 Winchester case is much smaller than the case of a .300 PRC. Thus, the .308 Winchester case can’t hold as much gun powder, so when it shoots the projectile, it won’t cause as much damage to the target.

Now you’re ready to see some numbers. On this chart, you’ll see the name of the cartridge, the caliber measurement for that cartridge, then an approximation of how big of an animal that cartridge could kill (much of which is highly debatable), and how much average energy the cartridge would produce at a typical hunting distance of 100 yards.

All Rifle Cartridges, And Their Power

CartridgeCaliberSuitable for Hunting Animals Up To...100 Yard Energy (ft lbs)
.17 HMR0.172Varmints136
.17 Hornet0.172Varmints440
.17 WSM0.172Varmints275
.204 Ruger0.204Varmints991
.22 Creedmoor0.224Coyote1,495
.22 Hornet0.224Varmints503
.22 Nosler0.224Coyote1,247
.22 WMR0.224Varmints199
.220 Swift0.224Coyote1,361
.222 Remington0.224Coyote886
.223 / 5.560.224Coyote1,152
.224 Valkyrie0.224Coyote1,204
.240 Weatherby Magnum0.243Deer1,805
.243 Winchester0.243Deer1,680
6mm BR0.243Paper/steel 🙂1,391
6mm Creedmoor0.243Deer1,826
6mm Remington0.243Deer1,675
.25-06 Remington0.257Deer1,891
.257 Weatherby Magnum0.257Deer2,297
.26 Nosler0.264Marginal for elk2,799
.260 Remington0.264Deer2,018
.264 Winchester Magnum0.264Marginal for elk2,470
6.5 Creedmoor0.264Deer1,974
6.5 Grendel0.264Deer1,264
6.5 PRC0.264Marginal for elk2,481
6.5 Weatherby RPM0.264Marginal for elk2,771
6.5 x 55 Swedish Mauser0.264Deer1,755
6.5-284 Norma Match0.264Deer2,190
6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum0.264Marginal for elk3,042
.27 Nosler0.277Elk3,093
.270 Weatherby Magnum0.277Elk2,797
.270 Winchester0.277Elk2,504
.270 WSM0.277Elk2,737
6.8 Remington SPC0.277Deer1,351
6.8 Western0.277Elk2,672
.28 Nosler0.284Elk3,299
.280 Ackley Improved0.284Elk2,608
.280 Remington0.284Elk2,558
7mm Mauser0.284Elk2,054
7mm Rem Mag0.284Elk2,788
7 SAUM0.284Elk2,682
7 STW0.284Elk3,095
7mm Weatherby Magnum0.284Elk3,117
7 WSM0.284Elk2,911
7mm-08 Remington0.284Elk2,223
.30 Nosler0.308Grizzly Bear3,638
.30-06 Springfield0.308Elk2,809
.30-30 Winchester0.308Elk1,619
.30-378 Weatherby Magnum0.308Grizzly Bear4,141
.300 Blackout0.308Hogs834
.300 PRC0.308Grizzly Bear3,758
.300 RUM0.308Grizzly Bear3,660
.300 Ruger (RCM)0.308Grizzly Bear2,591
.300 Weatherby Magnum0.308Grizzly Bear3,636
.300 Winchester Magnum0.308Grizzly Bear3,383
.300 WSM0.308Grizzly Bear3,284
.308 Winchester0.308Elk2,446
7.62 x 39mm0.308Deer1,322
.325 WSM0.323Grizzly Bear3,143
.33 Nosler0.338Grizzly Bear4,140
.338 Federal0.338Grizzly Bear2,907
.338 Lapua Magnum0.338Grizzly Bear4,186
.338 RUM0.338Grizzly Bear4,048
.338 Win Mag0.338Grizzly Bear3,579
.338-378 Weatherby Magnum0.338Grizzly Bear4,352
.340 Weatherby Magnum0.338Grizzly Bear4,030
.35 Whelen0.358Grizzly Bear3,177
9.3 x 62mm Mauser0.366Grizzly Bear3,328
.375 H&H Magnum0.375Cape Buffalo3,787
.375 Ruger0.375Cape Buffalo3,956
.378 Weatherby Magnum0.375Cape Buffalo4,981
.350 Legend0.378Elk at short range1,418
.416 Remington Magnum0.416Cape Buffalo4,115
.416 Rigby0.416Cape Buffalo4,151
.416 Ruger0.416Cape Buffalo4,426
.444 Marlin0.429Grizzly Bear2,120
.450 Bushmaster0.452Elk at short range1,896
.45-70 Govt0.458Elk at short range2,227
.458 Win Mag0.458Cape Buffalo3,995
.50 BMG0.510Anything with a pulse11,665