Maximum Effective Range Chart for All Rifle Cartridges

If you hunt and want to shoot at a longer range, you may be wondering what the effective range of a rifle cartridge is. In this post, we’ll look in depth into that question.

In general, a bullet’s maximum effective range is the distance at which it no longer travels fast enough to reliably expand when it hits a target. This is usually about 1,900fps with most bullet designs. In addition to expanding reliably, a bullet must carry sufficient energy to take down the animal.

The effective range of a bullet can be measured in different ways, because it depends on what the bullet needs to be “effective” at doing. For this experiment, we’ll look at three common ways to determine effectiveness.

  • Distance Bullet Drops Under 1,900 FPS – As a bullet travels, it slows down. When a bullet slows down under approximately 1,900 FPS, bullets can enter a target and never expand. If the bullet expands, it is not very effective at causing damage and can result in an injured animal rather than effectively killing it. The number on the chart below is the distance in yards at which this standard is no longer met.
  • Distance Bullet Carries Less Than 1,000 ft-lbs of Energy – The 1k ft-lbs number is widely considered the amount of energy needed to immediately and ethically kill a deer-sized animal. For law enforcement, a human target is approximately the same size as a deer. The number on the chart below is the distance in yards at which this standard is no longer met.
  • Distance Bullet Carries Less Than 1,500 ft-lbs of Energy – This standard is used for elk-sized game such as kudu, moose, a waterbuck, a young eland, etc. The number on the chart below is the distance in yards at which this standard is no longer met.
  • Max Travel Distance – This is the distance, in yards, at which a bullet will impact the ground when fired in the air at a perfect angle to maximize distance.
  • Why Some Boxes On The Chart Are Marked “N/A” – This means that the bullet does not meet this standard at any distance. You may note some specialty bullets such as the .300 Blackout on are marked as N/A for all three standards because it uses very heavy, very soft bullets which travel very slow. It doesn’t fit neatly into these standards, but obviously is very lethal from short range.

The data in the following table contains averages for each cartridges. We analyzed 6 different loads for each cartridge (the proper way to read that sentence is “Jim sat at a computer for WEEKS putting data into very complicated Excel sheets) to come out with an average of what several common loads for each cartridge will accomplish.

CartridgeDistance Bullet Drops Under 1,900 FPSMax Effective Range with 1,000 ft-lbsMax Effective Range with 1,500 ft-lbs
.17 HMR122N/AN/A
.17 Hornet264N/AN/A
.17 WSM231N/AN/A
.204 Ruger39073N/A
.22lrN/AN/AN/A
.22 Creedmoor47121466
.22 Hornet110N/AN/A
.22 Nosler33117637
.22 WMR3N/AN/A
.22-25038517329
.220 Swift42421369
.222 Remington28151N/A
.223 / 5.562791447
.224 Valkyrie260104N/A
.240 Weatherby Magnum483386195
.243 Winchester370294103
6mm BR37127481
6mm Creedmoor444381193
6mm Remington451376186
.25-06 Remington497464241
.257 Weatherby Magnum638606385
.26 Nosler776752486
.260 Remington450563308
.264 Winchester Magnum555626367
6.5 Creedmoor490561302
6.5 Grendel242217N/A
6.5 PRC554654399
6.5 Weatherby RPM692775519
6.5 x 55 Swedish Mauser433513254
6.5-284 Norma Match505617363
6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum748818562
.27 Nosler689867605
.270 Weatherby Magnum711829561
.270 Winchester556715450
.270 WSM669787519
6.8 Remington SPC41736273
6.8 Western567763503
.28 Nosler705919661
.280 Ackley Improved558766479
.280 Remington478685398
7mm Mauser374583295
7mm Rem Mag627842557
7 SAUM653859574
7 STW724957676
7mm Weatherby Magnum693927645
7 WSM697903618
7mm-08 Remington463671384
.30 Nosler6831097807
.30-06 Springfield479895603
.30-30 Winchester278513201
.30-378 Weatherby Magnum90413161028
.300 BlackoutN/AN/AN/A
.300 PRC6981142855
.300 RUM7461159870
.300 Ruger (RCM)503853554
.300 Weatherby Magnum7121125836
.300 Winchester Magnum7231136846
.300 WSM578993703
.308 Winchester377778485
7.62 x 39mm25039370
.325 WSM6211035745
.33 Nosler6151177902
.338 Federal5471110835
.338 Lapua Magnum6021165890
.338 RUM6521214940
.338 Win Mag5151079804
.338-378 Weatherby Magnum76413241051
.340 Weatherby Magnum6021164889
.35 Whelen333647471
9.3 x 62mm Mauser217587416
.375 H&H Magnum315702534
.375 Ruger364750582
.378 Weatherby Magnum480864697
.350 Legend158327139
.416 Remington Magnum203614485
.416 Rigby226637507
.416 Ruger205616487
.444 Marlin60234151
.450 Bushmaster48222139
.45-70 Govt97311234
.458 Win Mag123646511
.50 BMG110429602610
CartridgeDistance Bullet Drops Under 1,900 FPSMax Effective Range with 1,000 ft-lbsMax Effective Range with 1,500 ft-lbs
6.5 PRC554654399
Velocity (fps)
2,972
2,807
2,649
2,495
2,347
2,204
2,065
1,932
1,803
1,680
1,563
Muzzle Energy (ft-lbs)
2,780
133
1,958
2,222
2,862
3,122
2,784
3,179
6.5 PRC
0.264
2.96
CartridgeDistance Bullet Drops Under 1,900 FPSMax Effective Range with 1,000 ft-lbsMax Effective Range with 1,500 ft-lbs
6.5 PRC554654399
Velocity (fps)
2,972
2,807
2,649
2,495
2,347
2,204
2,065
1,932
1,803
1,680
1,563

Every effective range calculation will, by its nature, be only a broad approximation. Shot placement, bullet construction, and animal individuality will all dramatically impact the effectiveness of the bullet.

For example, having 1,500 ft-lbs of energy to kill a bull elk is a decent barometer, but elk have also been killed with far less energy when excellent shot placement and good bullet construction are in play. However, hunters who choose to use gear that does not meet this standard are often forced to either make an unethical shot, or to pass up shot opportunities when the elk isn’t turned the right way.

Also, remember that the data in the table above is using averages of multiple loads per cartridge. You may be able to use a heavier bullet and achieve more energy or a longer range with more velocity.

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8 Comments

  1. I think your numbers might be off. The 6.5 Creedmoor has long been known to cause damage to the International Space Station with errant shots.

  2. Jeremy McCombs says:

    Jim, I enjoy that you use your platform to provide reliable data to ethically take animals. Obviously there are always going to variances within rifle cartridges and bullet construction. I’ve constructed a similar table that takes into account bullet construction, including expansion ratios and weight retention over time, and I’d be curious to get your opinion on it. Let me know! Thanks again for the info.

    1. Jim Harmer says:

      That sounds really cool. I’d love to see it.

      1. jeremy McCombs says:

        Wonderful! It’s currently in a google sheet so I can easily share access with a good email.

  3. Chad Taylor says:

    @Adam Hymas ????

    @Jim Harmer I know this is a very hard list to compile, I do appreciate your attempts to educate in a common sense way. I’m sure we both understand you’re trying to reach hunters and shooters of all levels, and you don’t want to overload everyone with too much data.

    I find your data a bit too limited, which can vary greatly depending on multiple other factors. It would have been nice had you included the bullet used, bullet weight and muzzle velocites, because as we both know these vary a great deal. For instance 180 grain bullet out of a .30-06 will have a range of numbers even if the MV is the same, as you can have bullets like VLD, spitzer/hollow point boat tail, flat base, and round nose bullets all found in factory loads.

    I just hope I gave you a little something to consider. I really do like what you and your contributing crew are doing. Keep it up!

    1. Jim Harmer says:

      Thank you for your comment.

      It’s certainly true that bullet/load selection will make a big difference. I’m not sure that muzzle velocity would have helped this discussion, though. I think too many hunters see muzzle velocity and assume if it’s fast, it’ll work long range, and that’s not true at all.

      This is averaging several different loads to get these numbers for each cartridge, so we can compare apples-to-apples, but you’re right that with ALL cartridges you could go up or down slightly depending on the load selection.

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