On the pages of the latest hunting and shooting magazines they look irresistible. It’s this year’s latest batch of new magnum cartridges, promising levels of performance never before seen by riflemen and hunters. They shoot faster and flatter, hit harder and make your old-school deer rifle absolutely obsolete.
I admit to having been bitten by the magnum bug, numerous times. Bigger is always better and 200 or 300 feet per second more is worth a new rifle, ammunition, scope, mounts and reloading dies. But if you take a close look at the standard-caliber rifle that has served you well and compare it to the new .339 T-Rex Hammer, then apply that cartridge’s performance to your average whitetail hunt, you will find a lot to love about that old rifle.
When I found that new Remington Model 700 Classic chambered in .25-06 under the Christmas tree 17 years ago, you would have thought it was Solomon’s treasure. I had a scope mounted and a few boxes of 100-grain pointed soft points within days. With that rifle, I have a lot of hunts under my belt and thousands of rounds downrange. Using a 150-yard zero, the bullet is 1.7 inches low at 200 yards and 9.1 inches low at 300 yards. The 100-grain bullet still delivers 1,161 foot pounds of energy at 300 yards.
With a case of magnumitis, a new .300 Remington Ultra Mag and that same 150-yard zero, a 150-grain bullet is just 1.2 inches low at 200 yards and 6.7 inches low at 300 yards. At 2,541 foot pounds, it has more than double the energy of that .25-06 at 300 yards.
We have gained a half ton of energy and 2.4 inches less drop at 300 yards. The price is more than twice the recoil—the .25-06 produces 12.5 foot pounds and the .300 Ultra Mag hits you with 31.93 foot pounds—and nearly twice the price at the counter for a box of ammo ($18 for the .25-06 and $40 for the Ultra Mag). Newton’s 3rd Law and your wallet can’t be ignored for long.
Where there old rifle really shines is in our fair state, hunting whitetails. Over five seasons, nearly filling my tags each season, my average shot was around 75 yards with one shot stretching to 275 yards. That soft-recoiling, cheap-to-shoot .25-06 looks better and better. All that extra magnum energy, especially on Georgia deer at Georgia ranges, is wasted. The Ultra Mag bullet might shoot flatter, but you will place the .25-06 bullet more precisely because of the minimal recoil.
You don’t need that new magnum, but when has it ever been about need? Save your lunch money and buy that sexy new rifle, especially if you are headed West or hunting bigger critters where all that horse power can be put to use. When you hit the woods this fall with your old rifle, don’t feel handicapped, especially if you have put in the time to practice at the ranges you might meet Mr. Whitetail this fall.