With close to a dozen more modern choices, the .30-30 Winchester remains the best deer hunting ammo. If you grew up hunting, you have likely used .30-30 Winchester rounds at some point. It is one of the most used types of ammunition for deer hunting due to its history and reliability. Hunters have used lever-action .30-30 rifles to hunt deer for over 125 years. Yet, a lever action rifle may not be your preferred type of rifle. You may also want ammo suited for longer ranges. Other considerations when choosing the right ammo for deer hunting include muzzle velocity, energy, recoil, and compatible rifles.
Here are the best deer hunting ammo options based on your needs
.30-30 Winchester – Best Overall
The .30-30 Winchester is the best overall choice when it comes to deer-hunting ammo. It was used in the Winchester Model 1894 lever-action rifle, making it one of the oldest types of ammo still produced. The 30-30 remains popular due to its limited recoil. The average 150-grain or 160-grain 30-30 rounds produces 9 pounds to 11.7 pounds of recoil while the typical rifle produces up to 15 pounds of recoil. The lack of recoil allows you to stay on target. You can also enjoy deep penetration, which is important for taking down your target with a single shot. 30-30 Winchester is a great choice for deer hunting but isn’t ideal for large game hunting, such as moose and elk. It’s also not often used for long-range hunting, as 30-30 rounds are commonly found in lever-action rifles made for close-range and medium-range targeting.
- Deep penetration
- Limited recoil
- Not typically used for long-range hunting
- Offers less stopping power
.243 Winchester – Best deer hunting ammo for Reduced Recoil
Using .243 Winchester cartridges is a great alternative to the .30-30 Winchester for those with a bolt-action rifle that still want limited recoil. The .243 Winchester rounds are used in bolt-action rifles and offer a little less recoil compared to the 30-30 rounds. You can find .243 Winchester in lightweight, bolt-action rifles with great accuracy. It’s a good choice for younger hunters and those that are new to hunting. However, it lacks the power and energy needed for long-distance shooting. The barrel of the typical .243 rifle is often shorter compared to larger caliber rifles. Yet, the .243 Winchester is a top recommendation for distances up to a few hundred yards.
- Significantly less recoil
- Great accuracy
- Found in lightweight rifles
- Limited stopping power for big game
- Not often used for long-range targeting
.308 Winchester – Most Affordable Deer Hunting Ammo
Purchasing .308 Winchester cartridges can save money compared to other rounds. The .308 is one of the most affordable cartridges available. The low cost of this ammo may appeal to those that hunt frequently or spend time honing their shooting skills.
.308 Winchester rounds also produce a lot of energy. They have a total energy of about 2,600 pounds per foot and drop just 15 inches at 300 yards. .308 Winchester rounds may be more accurate in medium ranges of 300 to 500 yards compared to the previous types of ammo.
The drawback to using .308 Winchester rounds is the recoil. These rounds produce more recoil compared to the .30-30 and .243 cartridges, which can slow your firing rate.
- Most affordable option
- Well-suited for medium-range hunting
- Produces more recoil
The 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge is manufactured by Hornady, which is an American company based in Nebraska. The company specializes in making high-quality ammunition. 6.5 Creedmoor rifles are suited for big game hunting while the previous options lack the stopping power needed to take down larger animals. These rounds are also made to maintain energy across long distances, making them well-suited for targeting animals at further ranges. A rifle with 6.5 Creedmoor should have an effective range of about 1,000 yards. However, other options may provide a little more accuracy for long-distance shooting.
- Suited for deer and larger animals
- Offers an effective range of 1,000 yards
- Less accuracy compared to other long-range ammo
Conclusion about the best deer hunting ammo options
The .30-30 Winchester is a common choice for deer hunting, as it’s the ammo used in one of the most traditional lever-action deer-hunting rifles. It works well for close-range and medium-range hunting but tends to drop significantly at longer ranges. Using .243 Winchester rounds is an alternative to .30-30 rounds. Instead of lever-action rifles, the .243 rounds are often used in bolt-action rifles. Bolt-action rifles tend to offer greater accuracy. 308 Winchester is one of the most affordable options. If you spend a lot of time at the range between hunting trips, you may prefer using cheaper ammo. 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges are lightweight and made specifically for long-range shooting. It’s a heavier caliber compared to the previous options, making it more versatile. Along with deer hunting, you can use 6.5 Creedmoor for hunting larger animals, such as moose.