7 Exotic Deer-Rifle Rounds

Guest Post by Todd Woodard, Editor, Cartridges of the World.

With Thanksgiving only a few days away, the question of how to best kill a whitetail or mule deer intrudes on many hunters’ minds, since during the holiday break we might get a chance to walk a few draws or sit in a stand. What we shoot in these times afield is important to us. There are millions of deer hunters with tens of millions of rifles that are used for deer hunting, and cartridge discussions are some of the most entertaining camp talks I’ve had over the years.

Because I’m the editor of Cartridges of the World, when friends or acquaintances get hot for a new rifle, I’ll naturally get some questions about what it might be chambered in. All too often, I see custom rifles set up for a variety of magnums that their owners can’t shoot worth a hoot, and it makes me sad for folks to be overgunned and under-accurate. More than most, I admire the judgment of my dentist, who hunts with a lever-action Winchester Model 88 in .243 Winchester at his lease outside Fredericksburg, Texas. He has tailored his set up for the distances he shoots (>300 yards) and the deer he encounters. Just like picking the right bit for the dental drill, he has picked exactly the right hunting tool for his conditions.

The cartridge advice I usually dispense is to stick with what’s known and proven. The .30-06 Springfield is a fabulously accurate and varied cartridge that can be found in almost every sporting-goods store ever opened. Ditto that with the .30-30 Winchester, the .308 Winchester, and the .270 Winchester, among many others. But what’s known and proven doesn’t have the sizzle of what’s new, flashy, or offbeat.

So for the sake of discussion around the dinner table next week, I selected 10 rounds from the 14th Edition of Cartridges of the World that are exotic enough to mark their owners as being in the vanguard of rifle shooting, but which offer the convenience of loaded rounds being available for them.

6XC Tubb

The 6XC is a development of well-known rifle competitor David Tubb. It is intended for the AR-10 rifle, as well as bolt-action rifles, such as the Tubb 2000, that utilize the AR-10 magazine. The 6XC case is in improved version of the 6mm International, a cartridge created during the early 1960s by avid benchrest shooter Mike Walker. Walker worked for Remington at the time, and the 40X target rifle built in the custom shop of that company has long been chambered for his cartridge. Whereas the 6mm International is the .250 Savage case necked down with no other change, the 6XC is the same case necked down and blown out to the Improved configuration with .015-inch of body taper and a 30-degree shoulder angle. When loaded with match-grade bullets of extremely high ballistic coefficients, such as the 105-grain Berger, 107-grain Sierra MatchKing, and 115-grain DETAC, the 6XC bucks wind as well as cartridges of larger caliber, but its lower level of recoil makes it easier to shoot accurately. Currently, only Norma and DTAC offer loaded ammunition for the 6XC Tubb.

6XC Tubb cartridge
The 6XC Tubb nearly duplicates the velocity of the .243 Winchester with a smaller case, so it is commonly loaded to slightly higher chamber pressures than the .243. Photo courtesy of DTAC.
.25-45 Sharps
The .25-45 Sharps was made to duplicate as closely as possible .250-3000 (.250 Savage) ballistics with an 87-grain bullet. Graphic courtesy of the Sharps Rifle Company.

.25-45 Sharps

The .25-45 Sharps cartridge was developed by Michael H. Blank of the Sharps Rifle Company (SRC). The modern Sharps Rifle Company specializes in AR-15 styles of rifles, and that is the platform the .25-45 Sharps was developed for. The goal was to provide optimum ballistic performance from the .223 Remington (5.56 NATO) case. Blank felt the best all-around option was a .25-caliber bullet of 100 grains or less and ultimately settled on a .223 Remington case necked up to .25-caliber with a case length of 45mm and a shoulder angle of 23 degrees. Federal manufactures a factory load for the .25-45 Sharps, under the Sharps name. The cartridge does have merit, with its performance being close to that of the 6.5 Grendel with a similar weight bullet. With modern, lightweight, mono-metal bullets, like the Barnes 80-grain Tipped TSX, the .25-45 Sharps should be a very effective deer and hog cartridge that offers very mild recoil from a bolt rifle or an AR-15.

6.5 Creedmoor

Cartridges of 6.5mm-caliber have never really caught on among American hunters, but some have gained a good bit of ground with long-range target shooters. The 6.5-284 Norma and .260 Remington are excellent examples. The .260 Remington has become popular not only among those who use bolt-action rifles, but among those who shoot AR-10 rifles. In that rifle, the .260 works fine with most hunting bullets, but when loaded with extremely long match bullets, such as the Sierra 140-grain MatchKing and Hornady 140-grain A-Max, they have to be seated quite deeply in the case in order to keep overall cartridge length compatible with its magazine. Engineers at Hornady solved that problem by developing a shorter cartridge called the 6.5 Creedmoor. Maximum length of the case is 1.915 inches, compared to 2.036 inches for the .260 Remington, but since the 6.5 Creedmoor case has a bit less body taper combined with a sharper shoulder angle, its gross capacity is only about five percent less.

6.5 Creedmore cartridge specifications
As a big-game cartridge, the 6.5 Creedmore is in the same class as the excellent 6.5x55mm Swedish. Graphic courtesy of Hornady.
.26 Nosler Cartridge Info Graphic
The .26 Nosler utilizes a standard .30-06-length action and likes a 1:9-twist barrel. Graphic courtesy of Nosler.

.26 Nosler

The .26 Nosler, the first cartridge to bear the Nosler family’s name, was designed to take advantage of inherently accurate and high-BC 6.5mm (.264-caliber) bullets. Based on a shortened .404 Jeffery case, the .26 Nosler case is non-belted, thus, it headspaces off of the shoulder to further enhance accuracy. Bob Nosler, CEO and president of Nosler, Inc., said this is a quintessential deer, antelope, and long-range target cartridge. The case is necked down to 6.5mm with a 40 degree shoulder. The rim is rebated to .532-inch, so a belted magnum bolt face requires no alteration. The Trophy Grade Ammunition load No. 60110 fires a Nosler 129-grain AccuBond Long Range bullet at 3,400 fps out of the muzzle. Zeroed at 350 yards, the .26 Nosler has a point-blank range of zero to 415 yards. Loaded with the 129-grain ABLR, the .26 Nosler retains as much velocity at 400 yards as the .260 Remington produces at the muzzle.

.300 AAC Blackout

The intent behind the .300 AAC Blackout was to offer a .30-caliber cartridge that would function in AR-15 rifles without a reduction in magazine capacity, that was also compatible with the standard bolt, and that would offer both supersonic and subsonic performance. The .300 AAC Blackout was developed by Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC), a subsidiary of the Freedom Group, and is almost identical to the .300 Whisper that was originally developed by J.D. Jones. Another way of looking at the .300 AAC Blackout is as a standardization of the .300/.221 Wildcat cartridge. AAC standardized the case dimensions and submitted the cartridge to SAAMI, which has established the cartridge with a maximum average operating pressure of 55,000 psi. Hunters can expect performance on game to be similar to the 7.62×39 or the .30-30 Winchester. Much of the appeal of this cartridge is its subsonic performance, but there is some contention that optimum performance from an AR-15 is unattainable with either supersonic or subsonic suppressed loads. It is also arguable that a single twist rate offers optimal stabilization with both a 125-grain bullet at 2200 fps and a 220-grain bullet at 1050 fps. AAC suggests that a 1:8 twist be used, and most commercially offered rifles will come so equipped.

.300 AAC Blackout 7.62x35mm cartridge
The .300 AAC Blackout offers performance similar to the 7.62×39 Soviet cartridge. Graphic courtesy of AAC.

.325 Winchester Short Magnum

After introducing its Short Magnum family of cartridges in 2,000, Winchester recognized the need for another cartridge capable of launching 200-grain bullets (and heavier) with high inherent accuracy, energy capable of stopping the largest North American game, and lower perceived recoil. After considering different calibers, Winchester engineers determined the .325-caliber provided the best performance using the Short Magnum case. Released in 2005, the .325 WSM cartridge delivers similar energies as the .338 Winchester Magnum using a smaller case.

.325 WSM Winchester ammunition box
The .325 WSM is well suited for elk, bear, moose, or other large and dangerous game, where a lightweight short magnum rifle is desired. Photo courtesy of Winchester Ammunition.

In addition to delivering excellent ballistics, the .325 WSM also exhibits exceptional accuracy. Initially, Winchester fielded three loads for the .325 WSM; a 200-grain Nosler Accubond CT, a Winchester 220-grain Power-Point bullet, and a 180-grain Ballistic Silvertip. Hunters can expect delayed, controlled expansion and deep penetration through thick, tough skin and heavy muscle tissue and bone, with ballistic coefficients ranging up to .477 for the 200-grain Nosler bullet.

.375 Allen Magnum

Kirby Allen of Allen Precision Shooting ( made the .375 Allen Magnum for big-game hunting, but the round’s larger bore diameter also makes it suitable for extreme-range target shooting. Like its smaller-caliber brother the .338 Allen Magnum, the .375 Allen Magnum is extremely effective for big-game hunting at long range. With the larger frontal area and heavier bullet weight, this round is suitable for the heaviest animals, especially elk, moose, and other big game at long ranges. With the weight and diameter of this bullet, the .375 Allen Magnum will easily take big game at any supersonic range, assuming the hunter has the ability to put the bullet through the vital area. Even if bullet expansion is minimal, the .375-caliber projectile is effective at cleanly killing big game because of its large frontal area and subsequent large amount of tissue displacement. Fully formed custom brass is available from APS with rifle orders. Rifles for this round are long and relatively heavy, starting around 16 pounds. For more information, check the website or e-mail Kirby Allen at

.375 Allen Magnum hunting cartridge
With its primary bullet (350-grain Sierra MatchKing), the .375 Allen Magnum will sustain supersonic velocity to a range of roughly 2,800 yards, depending on elevation. Photo courtesy of Allen Precision Rifles.

Adapted from Cartridges of the World, 14th Edition, copyright Gun Digest Books. Reprinted with permission. Paperback, 688 pages, available December 19, 2014. Click here to preorder.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog. "The Shooter's Log", is to provide information - not opinions - to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decicions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (74)

  1. Blow our heads off? what a moronic staement that was ,pete in only an idiot would live there Alaska, wtf you talking about sitting on a bucket blowing our heads off for ,wtf insulted you pal or peed in your wheaties,blow me hows that you dmb backwwods jerk.

    1. And still say only an idiot would sporterize a nice old carl gustaf swede mauser thats in that good a shape ,pure lunatic to do that .build a rifle in 6.5 dont hack up a carl gustaf man just herecy.

    2. Damian,
      I’m pretty sure that we’ll never know as its doughtful you will ever own one.
      That someone, such as yourself, who seems to have your substance abuse problem and anger management issue is allowed to apparently own firearms is one of the reasons that those of use who are responsible fireams owners in this country have, to one degree or another, to deal with the fall out of from the Anti-Gun goverment and uber ultra left. It’s a shame that we have to put up with you here. I’m sad to say your little more than a poster child for not allowing those with identifiable mentalheath issues to own weapons. You make us all look bad and in doing that make the fight that much more difficult. A very sad state of affairs.
      PIA is right, You can’t fix stupid.

    3. @ Damian.

      Sir, the next time you read something. Please put you “Coke-Bottle” lensed glasses on before reading. That not what was said, if I really wanted you guys to blow “Your Godd@#$%d F@#^&*g” heads off. I would have recommended far more POWERFUL ammunition than what I did. IDIOT…

    4. @Secundius,
      Hey S., let this one go. Remember “you can’t fix stupid” and that’s even more true when Meds, drugs or alchole seem to be involved and this individual isn’t worth any more of your time or mine. Just ignor this fool and his verbal vomit. He got the raise he was fishing for, no need to feed his delusions any further. I’m done here with this.

    5. @Damian,
      I’m sorry, did you forget to take your medication today? Are the little voices in your head a bit to loud today? As best as I can discern from your disjointed and confusing comment your under the misconception for some reason that there have been slanderous statements made on or about your person. In addition your addled mind and inability to grammatically write sensible thoughts in the English language have for some reason choosen to involve me in your delusion.
      To be sure that I hadn’t by mistake gotten involved in some branch thread that here that connected me with your delusion I reread the comments here to be sure. I find that there is nothing in the comments that would leed you to, for whatever reason, to vomit this obvious addled, uneducated, and very badly written and communicated comment.
      I don’t know where you got this idea to “blow your head off” or that it was in some way a comment I made, it was not. For your information and future education you should be aware that there are very few idiots in Alaska and the few that are here don’t last thru their first year. There are no backwoods jerk here, the country simply just won’t allow for it. I’m not aware of any insult that was directed at me and I don’t eat or pee in Weaties cereal or any other cereal for that matter. As for “sitting on a bucket and blowing your heads off” that’s just simply the spouting of an unbalanced mind. About the only thing that makes sense in this confused diatribe, and that I happen to agree with is that the statements and yours are moronic.
      It whould be very pleasant for those of us, on this Blog at least, if you whould take your durision and negative comments someplace else. What ever has caused this paranoid response and comment was not in response to anything I find here. Oh, and please, either stop drinking to access or get back on your meds or stop drinking while on your meds. You’ll find that things make much more sense when your in control of your life.
      It might also be a good time for whoever reads and moderates this blog for CTD/TSL to exercise there authority over their Blog and take action where comments such as Mr. Damian’s is concerned. Those of us who populat this site an a regular basis whould appreciate it.

  2. Don’t take me wrong here I do like my 30 cals, Have a ruger No 1 in 300 WM but my backup gun has always been a 45-70 just because it never fails to drop what it hits. But I experiment a bit and build guns on occasion and have found for small and medium game the 6.5 is excelent just because it has a high BC and is very accurate. I would like to see both a WSM and a WSSM in 6.5/264 the latter for bolt action pistols with a 13 to 14 inch barrel. Now to the 325 WSM this is becoming one of my favorite hunting rounds in a Browning BLR ( I prefer the feel of my Marlins but The Browning works) this round is effective and hits very hard yet it doesn’t kick as hard as I thought it would. The 200 grain round works well from point blank to 300 yds if you know how to range well, and the 180 grain bullet works to 400 yds easily. So when I head for the woods for deer these days its hard not to just grab the Browning 325 WSM BLR, even for an old guy that prefers to hunt with single shot rifles.

  3. @ Damian.

    I can bet that, try a .50-90 (.512-caliber/13x64mm) “DISClocator”. The only .50-caliber your probably likely to shot stand-up, before being Knocked On Your ASS.

  4. With all due respect guys , all great cartridges but still think the 8mm.06 beats em all hands down with a 200 grain nosler , its a fantastic wildcatted 8mm mauser on 30.06 case ,very good bc and flies straight wayyyyy out there to well beyond 5 to 600 meters and beyond with 180 grainers even farther with right scope and shooter, i use a weaver K6 on my 8mm.06 wish we could post pics on here of the rifles and cases we are examining on this bloq. Even tho this is a somewhat obsolete cartridge to only us handloaders ,it has never failed me on first shot 3 on anything it has ever hit with lots of energy.

  5. @ Damian & Ivan.

    Have either of you two, considered a round substitution of either the .30-40 Krag or the 6.5mm Remington Magnum for the 6.5×55 Swede…

    And before you tell me I’m MAD, give it a shot (no pun intended) anyway…

    1. @Secundius

      It’s a mad, mad , mad , mad , world and we who populate it recognize one of our own!

      I don’t know about the 30-40 kreig but the 6.5 mag is a fair round.

    2. @ Pete in Alaska.

      Hey, Pete. Yes it is, and it doesn’t seem like SANITY is any where near the horizon, either. Did you get the information I sent on the “Rolling-Blocks” before my server went down.

      And, NO Damian and Ivan YOUR NOT going to blow your heads OFF. Not unless I’m there to watch with a bucket of popcorn in hand. LOL…

    3. I didn’t get the “rolling block” info . . Please send again when a moment presents as I’d like to see it.

      Nope . . . I looked .. And the is no Sanity on my view of the horizon either!

  6. Agreed on the 6.5×55 swede ,very capable round, very accurate but rifles chambered in that cartridge are not cheap most times . Swede mausers bring premium prices in good shape and only a fool would sporterize an original swede mauser ,JMHO. But if i ran across a sported swede 6.5 x55 i most deff would not pass it up for right price the round will do its job .I still prefer a .30 cal minimum on large game , But once again that is just my opinion . Great choice to add my man.

    1. @Damian
      I’m pretty sure that my friend isn’t a “fool” or that anyone who knows him would consider him so. His platform was a Mil Surplus long barrel (26″) that was beautify sporterized by a Wyoming gunsmith that we both use. It you didn’t know it, at first glance you wouldn’t cop to the fact that it started as a military rifle. It looks more like a custom built big game rifle. When Barry saw it in Arts privet gun rack in his office he had to have it! That was about 8 or 9 years ago now. The thing I like about it and intrigedr me the most is the “flip to the side” optics mount with positive lock return. With the push of a button it flipped to the side an locks in place allowing for use with open sights. Very nice. I think that Art built it fron scratch.
      I’m not sure what you consider “not cheap”. Most Hi Power center fire rifle ammo, unless it’s MilSrPls, these days is or can be expensive.
      I agree with your keening towards the .30’s, they are my go-to’s as well with my favorites being the .300 WM and .338 WM.

  7. With all due respect I truly hoping to see the 6.5 x 55 Swede included in these 7 exotics.
    Unless of course it is not considered that exotic by many. Its killing capability coupled with a gentle recoil allowing trust and confidence is astounding. Yet it is so foreign to too many hunters on this continent, even after futile attempt of all tree major US rifle manufacturers tried to introduced this great round to the American public. The only explanation I can gather, is that if it was developed by Europeans it can not be as good as any of ours. Pretty dumb, right?

    1. Ivan! What a great choice! I hadn’t considered this cartridge. I friend of mine in Colorado has a Norwedigen Mauser chambered in this 6.5×55. His is sporterized and he uses it as a ranch rifle. Ranch pests like Coyotes, Pron Horn, Badger have been taken with it. It has very nice Balistics and from the outward appearance whould seem to make a fine Deer cartridge!
      You have me looking now, may be a new winter project in e offering here! Going to have to get in touch with Barry and get more info on his and how he uses it. Find out if he’s ever hunted deer with it. There seems to be an available supply of platforms in the surplus market to expierment with too.
      Thanks Ivan! This was a great suggestion.

    2. @Ivan
      And for those interested in this cartridge suggestion check out …. › Knowledgebase For the 6.5×55 Swedish
      This site is also under the first page of a Google search too.

      Ivan, if I’m reading the information correctly it seems that the 6.5×55 didn’t find exceptance in the US because the U.S. ammunition manufactures didn’t load it to its best operating specs. It seems that their loading was at the low end of theower curve and it sort of ended there. In Europe however Norma loaded to MilSpec which saved the civilian market.

      Again, thank for bringing this one to the threads attention, it’s a great suggestion.

  8. @Secundius
    Hey S, I had emailed my Uncle Chris in Tanzanea and got a reply from him this afternoon. He believes that the LM bullet for the i, is, and irs rimmed cartridges were more likly optemized for first of all, corned blackpowder when first introduced and, second, for the shorter shot envelope because of the kind of country the round was to be used in and the game to be hunted.
    Having hunted the veld and thickets where a breach loader combo double gun (like a.405 or .416 Rigby DBL with a 7.92×57 rimmed lower barrel for instance) is in its element I think there may be be the most viable. The animals hunted in Africa are for the most part all short range, under 100 meters, shots. Don’t use optics to much there. Almost all platforms are open/iron sights. So, I’m getting from this that the bad ballistics don’t have a lot of impact as it does just fine in the short range environment it works in mostly. That would include Europe’s short ranges too. In America the bullet was changed to the Spitzer and with the newer powders gained flatter ballistics and some more range. I don’t have a combo gun that’s hunted. None of the GranDa’s are hunted any more as they are mostly collectors pieces now.
    My African brace consists of my custom .416 Weatherby bolt, a Sabbite 450 NE DBl, a Holland& Holland .375 DBl, my Ruger African .375 bolt, a Ruger Alaskan .458 Lott and I always take my .300 WM and .338 WM.
    The Weatherby and Sabbite live in the gun case at Uncle Chris’s lodge in Tanzania as I have little call for them in North America and its easer just to have them there. The H&H has been retired at the insistence of my dad. This was one of GranDa Graham’s favorites and I always enjoyed hunting it. It was a custom done for him, is still serviceable but now worth more as a collector piece. So, it now sits along side others from both GranDa’s collections. The two Rugers
    are racked in Alaska at my place there as on occasion they are used up there. The .300 an .338, they travel with me. The .300 is by far my favorite and go-to game hunter.
    I’m thinking that the LM bullet shape is just simply not conducive to high muzzle energies. The pop bottle design would make me very nervous if loaded to anything near even the low end of modern cartridges tables. I can see where the breaking into two projectiles once it his the target might be useful to a Dangerous Game hunter when in the bush with Lion, Leopard. Could serve well for Eland and some of the larger horned herders although I’ve found the .300 or .338 to be very sufficient for even the large herders. More often than not I’ve paired up my .416 Weatherby and my ,.338 WinMag Tika T3 when over there. I like the .416 Weatherby or the .458 Ruger for Cape Buff if for no other reason than there is one in the breach an three in the magazine and they pack a tremendous amount of terminal energy. I have never hunted Rhino or Elephant and don’t want to. But the 450 NE or .458 would likely do well in either case.
    Crap, sorry, got way off topic here. The 7.92×57 (commonly known as the 8mm) in the Rimless modern cartridge with the Spitzer bullet has served in Africa for years. Not for Large Dangerous animals but certainly for some of the smaller somewhat thin skinned ones and many of the grazers. The less auspices “8”mm Rimmed cartridge with the LM bullet is severely limited in ballistic and range but I suspect was effective enough in its day. All in all I think it’s a design out of time with very limited use in the fields of today.
    I haven’t found any recent platform offerings in the Rimmed “8”mm. I had thought I might find a modern rolling block or the like chambered in the old “8”mm but, no.
    Are you still planning on doing something with the LM bullet? Let me know.

    Pete sends …

    1. @ Pete in Alaska.

      It make’s sense now, If they had used “meal powder” instead, it would imparted greater muzzle velocity and greater ranges. No, I’ll put the LM on the “back burner” under a low flame for now and just let it simmer. I’ll just keep “spalling” my ammunition for now. It basically does the same job, but at greater ranges. And still have the power to take down a Polar Bear at 400 to 500-meter ranges…Talk to you later.

  9. @ Damian
    Sir; RE :Tan and White; Your point being? I’m well aware of the size of Ohio deer, as I had family west of Columbus, and visited often–even hunted a couple times. However, here’s the point I was making with Mr. S. The size of that deer was not the issue; It was with what was used to take it. I’ve let much bigger deer walk on past, both in body size and antlers (points and spread). Racks don’t mean a thing to me– never have; Haven’t found a single recipe for antlers in 45+ yrs. of hunting. Also the avg. deer in this part of Ga. is around 115 -125 lbs. If you want to spend a fortune feeding them and then take a chance on having someone else harvesting it off your land or lease, go for it. For the record, my largest was 237# dressed wgt; A mule deer/ whitetail hybrid outside Thomaston, Ga. in 1980. Long story on how Mule deer got this far east– check the net for train wreck near Thomaston, Ga. circa late 1920s early ’30s. They were being shipped to some rich people on some Ga. coastal island for them to hunt. Train wrecked, survivors escaped, the rest is history. That deer was only 21/2 yrs.old. didn’t matter one bit to me. He was food. Nothing more-nothing less.
    Part of my reply to Mr. S was due to me misunderstanding his question in reference to caliber and overkill. Perhaps it would behoove you to read these replies amongst the forum members a bit more closely, and you might understand things a little more clearly. Everyone, [or just about everyone] has their own personal ‘war stories’ or personal achievements; Some try to prove themselves better than the others for whatever reason they feel they need to do so. That has never been the case with me and I hope it never happens, I was asked a question and I answered: facts are facts and that’s the whole story in a nutshell,–nothing else.
    Mr. S., If you happen to read this; Good evening to you Sir. I’ll catch you later– I’m gonna take My 600mg. Neurontin and lie down for a while. WILL

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