Is it possible to be an active hunter and only have one rifle? Probably not, but let’s look at the issue. First the ‘game’. The CXP classification by game weight and potential aggression is a registered trade mark by Winchester and divides game into four classes. CXP = Controlled eXpansion Performance.
Class 1, 2, 3 & 4 Game Animals
• Small (CXP1) – mostly rodents like rabbits, tree squirrels and such. Less than 10 pounds body weight.
• Varmints (CXP1) – like rats, prairie dogs, jack rabbits, marmots and ground squirrels. Less than 15 pounds in weight. The difference is that small game is eaten while the varmints are not.
• Small Predators (CXP1) – foxes, coyotes and bobcats are tougher than the other two small game and varmints. Up to 50 pounds.
• Medium Sized Game (CXP2) – Non-dangerous. Deer and pronghorns are the primary species in the US. Mount goats, feral domestic animals would also be considered. 51 to 300 pounds.
• Large game non-dangerous (CXP3) are from 301-1000 pounds, elk, muskox, moose, etc.
• Dangerous-thin skin (CXP3) -under 300 pounds like wild Russian boars. In the US these are cougar and black bears (CXP2). Large thin skins like the grizzly bear, polar bears over 300 pounds (CXP3).
• Dangerous thick skins (CXP4) – In the US is the Bison. 1,600 to 2000 pounds the American buffalo are not to be trifled with. The plains tribes expected injury and losses when hunting the big ‘buff’.
Caliber VS Game Chart
Looking at the categories it is noted that size matters. In the US the 30-06 or .270 would come close for everything but the two CXP1 classes. Given the numerous bullet weights for these guns and good proven performance would make these calibers a wise choice. Another plus is that any place that sells ammo, should have a box or two on the shelves. The .308 could be added as well. But the Aught Six is probably more adaptable, handling heavier bullets better than the 308, but for deer and a 150-grain bullet or so the .308 Winchester can match the 30-06, but the latter pulls ahead as the bullet mass increases.
Hunting Terrain Features
Terrain-topography is the next consideration. Long-range shots across flat prairie or short-range shots in the bush. Round nosed or flat nosed projectiles tend to perform better in thick brush or forest. Ranges over 150 yards are rarely encountered which brings us to Americas favorite brush caliber, the 30-30 Winchester in either a Marlin or Winchester 94. The 170-grain flat nose bullet is a goods woods and brush projectile. The problem with brush is that spitzer (pointed) bullets are easier deflected by plant growth than the round or flat-nosed projectiles. However, if you’re shooting across flat desert or plains you need something that will stretch out there you some other options.
Medium Sized Game – Pronghorns are skittish creatures and you need something that can take them at 200 yards or so. A 25-06 or a 257 Roberts are good choices as are the 6 and 6.5mm cartridges. Down in bush eye to eye with a javelina you want some powerful medicine. A 44 Mag semi-auto (Ruger had some good ones) or one of the cowboy carbines in 45 Colt or 44 Magnum. The 444 Marline or 45-70 will work as well. Point is you’re up close and personal with 4-inch tusks in the preys back yard. If hunting these critters in the bush you need a carbine with heavy bullets to do the job. These calibers may work in the bushy areas for short range hits on deer. Point taken is that on smaller sized medium game that 30-06 may have too much suds. Javelina and pronghorns are smallish animals and the bigger calibers destroy two much meat.
Small Sized Game – For varmints and small game, the best choice close-up is the rimfires. The .22’s and 17’s make good on these smallish creatures at shorter range. Beyond about 75-100 yards you will want more. The 17 caliber centerfires, 20 caliber and 22 caliber numbers with a bull barrel will do. The 22-250 can double as a 300-yard bench rest gun. The 22 Hornet bridges the gap between the barrel burning high velocity rounds and rimfires and if you reload could be cheaper to shoot than rimfires given their current high prices.
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Your choices depend on what you’re going to be doing. Informal plinking, competition, hunting fowl or critters. Must of us can make do with three guns. A 22 Long Rifle rimfire, a deer gun and a good shotgun. Shooting Range Industries offers custom shooting ranges, designed and built in the USA.