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
|Cartridge||Caliber||Suitable for Hunting Animals Up To...||100 Yard Energy (ft lbs)|
|.223 / 5.56||0.224||Coyote||1,152|
|.240 Weatherby Magnum||0.243||Deer||1,805|
|6mm BR||0.243||Paper/steel 🙂||1,391|
|.257 Weatherby Magnum||0.257||Deer||2,297|
|.26 Nosler||0.264||Marginal for elk||2,799|
|.264 Winchester Magnum||0.264||Marginal for elk||2,470|
|6.5 PRC||0.264||Marginal for elk||2,481|
|6.5 Weatherby RPM||0.264||Marginal for elk||2,771|
|6.5 x 55 Swedish Mauser||0.264||Deer||1,755|
|6.5-284 Norma Match||0.264||Deer||2,190|
|6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum||0.264||Marginal for elk||3,042|
|.270 Weatherby Magnum||0.277||Elk||2,797|
|6.8 Remington SPC||0.277||Deer||1,351|
|.280 Ackley Improved||0.284||Elk||2,608|
|7mm Rem Mag||0.284||Elk||2,788|
|7mm Weatherby Magnum||0.284||Elk||3,117|
|.30 Nosler||0.308||Grizzly Bear||3,638|
|.30-378 Weatherby Magnum||0.308||Grizzly Bear||4,141|
|.300 PRC||0.308||Grizzly Bear||3,758|
|.300 RUM||0.308||Grizzly Bear||3,660|
|.300 Ruger (RCM)||0.308||Grizzly Bear||2,591|
|.300 Weatherby Magnum||0.308||Grizzly Bear||3,636|
|.300 Winchester Magnum||0.308||Grizzly Bear||3,383|
|.300 WSM||0.308||Grizzly Bear||3,284|
|7.62 x 39mm||0.308||Deer||1,322|
|.325 WSM||0.323||Grizzly Bear||3,143|
|.33 Nosler||0.338||Grizzly Bear||4,140|
|.338 Federal||0.338||Grizzly Bear||2,907|
|.338 Lapua Magnum||0.338||Grizzly Bear||4,186|
|.338 RUM||0.338||Grizzly Bear||4,048|
|.338 Win Mag||0.338||Grizzly Bear||3,579|
|.338-378 Weatherby Magnum||0.338||Grizzly Bear||4,352|
|.340 Weatherby Magnum||0.338||Grizzly Bear||4,030|
|.35 Whelen||0.358||Grizzly Bear||3,177|
|9.3 x 62mm Mauser||0.366||Grizzly Bear||3,328|
|.375 H&H Magnum||0.375||Cape Buffalo||3,787|
|.375 Ruger||0.375||Cape Buffalo||3,956|
|.378 Weatherby Magnum||0.375||Cape Buffalo||4,981|
|.350 Legend||0.378||Elk at short range||1,418|
|.416 Remington Magnum||0.416||Cape Buffalo||4,115|
|.416 Rigby||0.416||Cape Buffalo||4,151|
|.416 Ruger||0.416||Cape Buffalo||4,426|
|.444 Marlin||0.429||Grizzly Bear||2,120|
|.450 Bushmaster||0.452||Elk at short range||1,896|
|.45-70 Govt||0.458||Elk at short range||2,227|
|.458 Win Mag||0.458||Cape Buffalo||3,995|
|.50 BMG||0.510||Anything with a pulse||11,665|