OK, let’s get this straight: You won’t see me making a guest appearance on Best of the West. While I’m fascinated by long-range shooting, I have little patience with shooting at game animals at extreme ranges. There is some distance at which the variables become too great and the risk of wounding an animal is too high. Exactly where this lies is impossible to determine because it’s a moving target, depending on conditions, equipment and skill. However, before you get to “extreme range,” there is often a place for shooting at “long and longer” ranges.
I still think of 300 yards as a fair poke, with its feasibility depending on the conditions and the steadiness of the shooting position. However, when I was kid we considered 400 yards to be a very long shot. With the great rifles, ammunition and optics we have today—and laser rangefinders—shooting from 300 yards to somewhere beyond a quarter-mile is practical when conditions allow. For this kind of shooting, some cartridges are better than others.
For big game you want plenty of accuracy, but with a good barrel and ammo, most modern cartridges are capable. You want a trajectory that’s flat enough to remove at least some of the guesswork, but here’s something else: You want a cartridge with enough velocity and bullet weight so you have plenty of energy remaining when the bullet arrives. Most of us would probably agree that, depending on size of the game, the magnum 7mms and .30-calibers make excellent choices in this arena. But there are some other choices worth considering!
- Because of their traditionally long, heavy-for-caliber bullets, the 6.5mm carries extremely well. Accurate, mild-recoiling 6.5s like the 6.5/.284 and 6.5mm Creedmoor work wonders in 1,000-yard competition, but for my tastes they just don’t carry enough energy for big game at longer ranges. The much faster .264 Winchester Magnum does. Introduced in 1958, it caught on quickly—and then was nearly blown off the market by the more powerful and versatile 7mm Remington Magnum.
It is unlikely that it will ever again be popular, but it offers surprisingly light recoil and good velocity with the inherent staying power of the aerodynamic 6.5mm bullet. It is overbore capacity and needs a 26-inch barrel to strut its stuff. It is also admittedly not as inherently accurate as milder 6.5s like the Creedmoor and 6.5/.284, but with good loads it can shoot very well. Standard factory loads are very limited today, but with handloads or specialty loads, it is an unsung hero for small to medium big game in open country.