Buying your first rifle could feel like an overwhelming task considering the wide range of rifle calibers available on the market. Should you opt for the most popular one? Or, should you buy the biggest one, because that sounds like the best you could get?

The truth is that a bigger rifle caliber is not necessarily the better one. It all depends on the purpose for which you buy it. Whether you want a rifle for home defense or because the deer season is just around the corner, you want to make sure that it will serve you well

The ballistic comparison of popular rifle calibers below should help you make an easy decision the next time you purchase a rifle.

What is a rifle caliber?

Before we dive into the myriad of rifle calibers, we should refresh our memory about what a rifle caliber is.

A caliber is the diameter of a rifle's bore. Additionally, it also represents the diameter of the corresponding bullets. Generally, these measurements are represented in millimeters, hundredths of an inch, or thousandths of an inch.

The most popular rifle calibers include:

  • .22 Long Rifle
  • .223 Remington / 5.56X45 NATO
  • .22-250 Remington
  • .243 Winchester
  • 6mm Creedmoor
  • .270 Winchester
  • 7mm Remington Magnum
  • .300 Winchester Magnum
  • .30-06 Springfield
  • .338 Lapua Magnum
  • .458 SOCOM
  • .50 Beowulf

As you can see, you have more than a couple of caliber alternatives to choose from. Let’s break them down and see the features that make them different!

1.    The .22 Long Rifle Caliber

The .22 LR caliber cartridge is one of the most popular and used cartridges by gun owners everywhere. It is a small-caliber, rimfire shell that uses a heeled bullet, and it is an optimal choice for beginners. Most people use it in target practice and for hunting small game.

  • Weight: 30-40 gr
  • Velocity: 1120 - 1400 fps (feet per second)
  • Muzzle Energy: 100-150 ft. lbf (Foot-pound-force)
  • Felt Recoil: Low

2.    The .223 Remington / 5.56X45 NATO Caliber

This .22-caliber bottleneck-case cartridge is largely used by military forces. Entry-level gun owners prefer it for its affordable price and the little felt recoil. You can also use it for self-defense, survival, and varmint-hunting purposes.

  • Weight: 55 gr
  • Velocity: 3240 fps (feet per second)
  • Muzzle Energy: 1282 ft. lbf (Foot-pound-force)
  • Felt Recoil: Low

3.    The .22-250 Remington Caliber

Another popular caliber for varmint hunting is the .22-250 Remington Caliber, which has good long-range, a flat trajectory, and an inexpensive price. Also, the felt recoil is low, so even beginner hunters can use it easily.

  • Weight: 55 gr
  • Velocity: 3680 fps (feet per second)
  • Muzzle Energy: 1654 ft. lbf (Foot-pound-force)
  • Felt Recoil: Low

4.    The .243 Winchester Caliber

This caliber represents versatile, heavier bullets that help intermediate gun users enhance their control and accuracy. Many hunters use it to shoot down deer and varmint or for target practice.

  • Weight: 95 gr
  • Velocity: 3100 fps (feet per second)
  • Muzzle Energy: 2027 ft. lbf (Foot-pound-force)
  • Felt Recoil: Moderate

5.    The 6mm Creedmoor Caliber

A rifle sporting the 6mm Creedmoor Caliber is ideal for long-range hunting. It is easy to reload and can shoot .264 bullets at more than 500 yards with exceptional accuracy.

  • Weight: 103 gr
  • Velocity: 3050 fps (feet per second)
  • Muzzle Energy: 2127 ft. lbf (Foot-pound-force)
  • Felt Recoil: Moderate-High

6.    The .270 Winchester Caliber

This rifle caliber has been around for nearly a century, and it doesn't show any signs of being obsolete. It is a popular firearm, especially among hunters who like preying on deer, antelopes, and even coyotes.

  • Weight: 1350 gr
  • Velocity: 3060 fps (feet per second)
  • Muzzle Energy: 2595 ft. lbf (Foot-pound-force)
  • Felt Recoil: High

7.    The 7mm Remington Magnum Caliber

This long-range shooting rifle caliber is ideal for big game hunting. The powerful knockdown that it delivers makes it a primary option for hunters worldwide.

  • Weight: 154 gr
  • Velocity: 3100 fps (feet per second)
  • Muzzle Energy: 3286 ft. lbf (Foot-pound-force)
  • Felt Recoil: High

8.    The .300 Winchester Magnum Caliber

This caliber has a belted, bottleneck magnum cartridge developed to suit a standard rifle action. It delivers an outstanding velocity and remarkable muzzle energy to bring down even the largest animals in big game hunting.

  • Weight: 180 gr
  • Velocity: 3146 fps (feet per second)
  • Muzzle Energy: 3972 ft. lbf (Foot-pound-force)
  • Felt Recoil: High

9.    The .30-06 Springfield Caliber

This caliber equips the most popular hunting rifles in the U.S., and it bases its high-performance on previous models used in war battles and big game hunting. It can hold cartridges of up to 2.94 inches in length, and it is ideal for long-range competitions as well as for rifle target practice.

  • Weight: 150 gr
  • Velocity: 2910 fps (feet per second)
  • Muzzle Energy: 2820 ft. lbf (Foot-pound-force)
  • Felt Recoil: High

10. The .338 Lapua Magnum Caliber

This heavy-caliber, high-energy .338 round has been developed specifically for military sniping. It is capable of penetrating body armor at 1,000 meters and ripping through solid materials with an outstanding blast. It is ideal for long-range shooting and big game hunting.

  • Weight: 250 gr
  • Velocity: 3000 fps (feet per second)
  • Muzzle Energy: 4893 ft. lbf (Foot-pound-force)
  • Felt Recoil: High

11. The .458 SOCOM Caliber

This caliber is less than 20 years old, but it is one of the most popular calibers for hunting, self-defense, military, and as an alternate caliber for an AR-15 or an M4 carbine. It shoots heavy bullets with extreme velocity and deep penetration.

  • Weight: 300 gr
  • Velocity: 1900 fps (feet per second)
  • Muzzle Energy: 2405 ft. lbf (Foot-pound-force)
  • Felt Recoil: Very High

12. The .50 Beowulf Caliber

This caliber is one of the heaviest and most powerful calibers out there. The police and military forces use it to stop vehicles chasing away from the authorities and those who refuse to stop at checkpoints. The caliber is also ideal for big game hunting due to its overwhelming stopping power.

  • Weight: 400 gr
  • Velocity: 1875 fps (feet per second)
  • Muzzle Energy: 3123 ft. lbf (Foot-pound-force)
  • Felt Recoil: Very High

The Bottom Line

As you can see, the size of the caliber you choose does matter, but it doesn't really mean that the bigger calibers are better than smaller ones. It all depends on the purpose for which you want to own and use a firearm.


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