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Downsize Your Rifle Load

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Downsize Your Rifle Load

Perfect bullet performance means you can save your shoulder and shoot better, too.

I’ve shot a great many animals with modest rifle rounds, and looking upon the slain critters that could not have been bashed flatter if I’d dropped a safe on them, I’ve wondered: Why on earth would any hunter need more gun?

Power hath its place. If you’d like to dance in the alder thickets with a brown bear, you want lots of it. To hunt Marco Polo sheep, you will have to shoot a tough animal at a very long distance and won’t want a pop gun. But very few of us do this stuff. We hunt deer and antelope and pigs and once in a while elk. For all of that, less is more—and more so now than ever.

The Old Argument

For lo these many years, we’ve been told that heavy bullets and lots of velocity was the only way to go. And so we went, and got a flinch and scope cuts for our trouble. But there was logic behind the size-and-speed drumbeat.

Through almost all of the 20th century, big-game bullets tended to blow up on impact, thus failing to penetrate. The best protection against this was more bullet weight. Prior to affordable handheld lasers, range estimation was a guessing game. Here, the best solution was more speed for a flatter trajectory.

But hunters discovered that it was one thing to read about the uncanny effectiveness of the .358 Thunderf – – – er and quite another to shoot the awful thing. Lots of people bought cannons, and then regretted it only once, and that was continually, to paraphrase the Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart.

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