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 cartridge. 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 (yds) Bullet Drops Under 1,900 FPSMax Effective Range with 1,500 ft-lbsMax Effective Range with 1,000 ft-lbs
.50 BMG92013901600
.458 Win Mag94495703
.45-70 Govt90202313
.450 Bushmaster82117241
.444 Marlin85180189
.416 Rigby210517692
.416 Remington Magnum208513695
.416 Ruger220533723
.378 Weatherby Magnum440661850
.375 Ruger375578750
.375 H&H Magnum320534707
9.3 x 62mm Mauser301487632
.35 Whelen334431587
.350 Legend11390218
.338-378 Weatherby Magnum5877871019
.33 Nosler5327231012
.338 Lapua Magnum5657411015
.338 RUM556718995
.340 Weatherby Magnum527716990
.338 Win Mag426491940
.338 Federal391536798
.325 WSM520604845
.30-378 Weatherby Magnum8048701115
.300 PRC7027881116
.300 Weatherby Magnum7117831115
.300 RUM7017601009
.30 Nosler6957501007
.300 Winchester Magnum684699980
.300 WSM610687961
.30-06 Springfield502580866
.308 Winchester400430784
.300 Ruger (RCM)496490774
.300 BlackoutN/AN/AN/A
.30-30 Winchester215117350
7.62 x 39mm19142233
.28 Nosler8877501080
7mm Weatherby Magnum7907071010
7 STW787700999
7 WSM761720922
7mm Rem Mag710610904
.280 Ackley Improved601540850
7 SAUM685580887
.280 Remington630524842
7mm-08 Remington501392684
7mm Mauser435314616
.27 Nosler723617884
6.8 Western664530855
.270 WSM708548830
.270 Weatherby Magnum718554818
.270 Winchester604441710
6.8 Remington SPC31170240
6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum9076971002
6.5 Weatherby RPM811610909
6.5 PRC721515813
.264 Winchester Magnum715514813
6.5-284 Norma Match607405710
.26 Nosler905610913
.260 Remington540320717
6.5 Creedmoor553315701
6.5 x 55 Swedish Mauser460215512
6.5 Grendel227N/A267
.257 Weatherby Magnum655360598
.25-06 Remington543260490
6mm Creedmoor580231483
.240 Weatherby Magnum590224478
.243 Winchester523176420
6mm Remington516183418
6mm BR41282260
.22 Creedmoor64098330
.224 Valkyrie3907182
.223 / 5.56325N/A170
.22 Nosler42023187
.22-25043527193
.220 Swift48665213
.222 Remington340N/A84
.22 Hornet165N/AN/A
.22 WMRN/AN/AN/A
.22lrN/AN/AN/A
.204 Ruger414N/A91
.17 Hornet330N/AN/A
.17 WSM209N/AN/A
.17 HMR100N/AN/A

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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