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Killful Cartridges

Is the .243 Win a  more "Killful" cartridge that the big Weatherby's?  Beau knows

Is the .243 Win a more “Killful” cartridge that the big Weatherby’s? Beau knows

The Most Killful Cartridges

By Beau Shea

“Vegetarians are cool. All I eat are vegetarians–except for the occasional mountain lion steak.”

― Ted Nugent

I’m a guide and I arrange for things to die so I can make my living.  I’ve killed a lot of stuff and seen some more killed on top of that.  From the big ones that have “Magnum” printed on their butts to the smallest ones that still have primers in the center, I’m going to tell you that some are just better than others.  I’ve seen it.  I know it because I’ve seen it.  Some work and some don’t.  Some cartridges are just more killful than others.


I had a dandy guy from Texas show up with a monster wildcat 7mm-.378 Weatherby, the cases looked like cigars to me, and danged if his wife didn’t have the exact same caliber.  Both of them had 175 grain Nosler Partition bullets loaded in these things that shot just a few feet-a-second short of the speed of light.  I thought just aiming them at one of our spindly little mule deer out here in Wyoming would probably kill them out of fear alone, but I was wrong.

She shot the first one, a nice-looking typical Muley that I wouldn’t have crossed the street to spit on, but it looked like a monster to them.  She shot and it raised up it foot like it was saying, “Whoa, now that stings, Nelly.” She shot again and I saw the dust fly off the hide, a high hit on behind the shoulder.  With that shot, bad-leg-be-damned, that deer took to running like a democrat from church.

Bang.  Bang.  Bang.

“Harold,” she says, “Give me some more bullets, I’m not done shooting this deer.”   And you know, she wasn’t.  I saw her hit that thing three times while it disappeared like virginity on prom night.   It died alright, but not right there and right now like a good beastie should when you hit it with about ten thousand pounds of muzzle energy.  And here I am, again, dragging a deer back half-a-mile for people I don’t know and really don’t like, all because they think that muzzle energy makes a rifle kill better.

Harold did better, that poor old hen-pecked man, but honestly I think it’s because he missed.  His deer, and I’m here to tell you, this one was worth shooting, went down at the sound of the shot.   I was watching through the binoculars when the bullet hit.  It looked like the Zapruder film with antlers, because they both came off when that big bullet hit.  You see, I’m not saying that you can’t kill stuff with the big 7mm bullets, because like Harold, you can blow their head from here till Sunday, but it’s rare to see them animals fall right down dead.  It’s the bullet, you guys, not how fast it’s going over your chronograph or how much energy it’s got on paper.

Bring Enough Gun

Bring Enough Gun

I shoot most of my animals, elk included, with the 95 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip in a .243 Winchester.  Now that is a killful cartridge.  On paper it doesn’t look like more than a popcorn fart but that cartridge will kill whatever you can see because you can put the bullet where it needs to go without being knocked senseless by the kick.  You can’t shoot a gun you’re afraid of and no amount of muzzle energy is going to kill your animal if you miss the thing entirely.

Do you think Martha, or Myrtle (of whatever Harold’s wife’s name was, they all start to blur together after a while) would have missed her deer and shot it in the foot if she’s had a .243 or .22-250 of something else that wasn’t going to black her eye every time she fired?  I bet not.  And I wouldn’t have been getting my cardio workout dragging it back to the truck so shot to pieces you could look through it like a window.  No Sir.

It’s not hard to kill deer.  You’ve just got to get a bullet that is made for that size game and then shoot them in the boiler.  Break their shoulders.  Pop their lungs.  Let air in and blood out and they will die, whether they are shot with a modern marvel magnum or an altlatl dart.  So, when you come hunting with me, bring a rifle you can shoot without flinching with a bullet that is made for deer.  Take a good rest and don’t worry if you’ve brought enough gun.  Worry that you’ve brought enough skill.