The perfect deer rifle for me. (Warning: Long post)

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Thread: The perfect deer rifle for me. (Warning: Long post)

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array sgtD's Avatar
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    Thumbs up The perfect deer rifle for me. (Warning: Long post)

    This summer I was pondering what might be the perfect deer rifle for me. Of course many people have differing opinions and there is hardly anything from .223 to .416 Rigby that won’t do the job on a deer under the right conditions. But we all have our own opinions, likes, and dislikes when it comes to choosing our perfect rifle.

    I started thinking about what were my favorite characteristics in each each of the rifles I currently own, and then listing them.

    30-30
    pros - ubiquitous, very little recoil, does the job, in a lever action it is the most comfortable rifle to carry through the woods in the palm of my hand.

    cons – limited range for hunting in open country, limited energy beyond 200yds (100yds in the 16” trapper)

    .308
    Pros – almost as ubiquitous as the 30-30 & 30-06; will get it done under most any circumstance; plenty of range, more than enough power out to 300yds which is my personal limit under field conditions; fairly flat shooting; recoil is tolerable, matches the 30-06 in every way using up to 165gr bullets, which is plenty heavy for any deer; great bullet availability for reloading.

    Cons – recoil with full power loads in my rifle is just a bit more than I like when it comes to getting a lot of practice at the bench. 15 – 20 rounds and my shoulder wants me to stop shooting it. Other than that, I love this round.

    30-06
    Pros – The definition of ubiquity, and ditto everything I wrote about the .308, but it will push heavier bullets at higher velocities, which is great for hunting bigger game, but not really necessary for deer. As an all around cartridge for all animals larger than deer, except big bears, the 30-06 is my choice and probably always will be.

    Cons – Recoil is at the top of my limit for pleasurable shooting and muzzle blast is worse than the .308, with no real increase in performance when using “deer sized” bullet weights. Hence, my ’06 only gets used when I feel the need to use a 180gr or larger bullet.

    Some folks make an issue of the long v. short action and handling characteristics, but personally it makes no difference to me. I guess if I had to choose I would agree that the short action does kind of handle easier, but not enough to make a big difference IMO.

    What I was looking for was a rifle and cartridge combination that would give me relatively the equivalent performance of the .308 and ’06 out to 300yds with deer size bullet weights, but with less recoil and muzzle blast (preferably not much more recoil than the 30-30), and something that I could get commercial ammo and a wide range of reloading supplies for without having too much trouble. Mot too much to ask, right??

    I thought about the .243, which is of course the simple answer, and I know that many, many people use it for deer, but for some reason it has just never caught my attention as something I would want to use. I know a lot of guys who swear by the .243 and I cannot disagree that it is a great cartridge, but that tiny little bullet just ain’t for me.

    Same goes for the 25-06, which one of my friends uses to fill his freezer every year. However, another drawback there is that unlike the .243, it’s not always easy to find 25-06 ammo in the hardware store and Wal-Mart.

    The .270 is probably the most popular round used in the area where I now live, but I had no experience with it and wasn’t really thrilled about getting to know it better for some reason. It just never has struck my fancy, although my brother-in-law and sister swear by it as the end all and be all.

    So with all of that in mind, I started researching and trying to find the “perfect” deer rifle for me. Not for anybody else, but for me.
    What I came up with is the 7mm-08.

    While thinking over my choice I researched it quite a bit. Comparing a 140gr 7mm bullet v. 150gr .30 cal. bullet, the performance is on par with the .308 and 30-06 out to 300yds. In fact, the farther you get out toward 300yds, the better the 7mm bullet compares, due to a higher ballistic coefficient. (less wind drag = more retained velocity & energy). Of course the deer probably wouldn’t notice either way.

    The recoil of the 7mm-08 is light. I really can’t tell the difference between the recoil of the 7mm-08 and the .243. It’s just a bit more than shooting a 30-30 in a full size rifle, but pretty much equivalent to the 30-30 recoil in the little 16” trapper carbine that I have. Basically, it’s a soft shooter, which tends to make my heart warm with affection toward a cartridge. Did I mention that I don’t like a lot of recoil?????

    Ammo availability was somewhat of an issue that I was concerned with, until I realized I could use .308 cases to reload with and that 7mm bullets are made with almost the same widespread availability and are about the same price as .30 caliber bullets. I felt somewhat relieved by that knowledge, but then imagine my surprise when I walked into Wal-Mart and found about a dozen boxes of 7mm-08 on the shelf. Also, I live about 45 minutes from Cabela’s and they carry everything, so I felt much better about being able to get or manufacture what, to me, was an “oddball” cartridge.

    I didn’t have a lot of money to spend when I started looking at platforms. My choices were limited to the budget rifles; those being either the new Marlin XS-7, a Mossberg ATR, or Stevens 200. I did not include the Remington model 770. I have seen some, and know some people who have them, and I just don’t like the rifle. I have read many rave reviews about the new Marlin and it came down to a toss up between it and the Stevens 200. Since I am a Savage fan anyway (my .308 and 30-06 are both Savages) I ended up sticking with what I know best and getting the Stevens. I know the Savage 110 is strong, dependable and accurate, and that’s what I got, less the accutrigger. Neither of my older Savages have the accutrigger and both shoot sub-moa, so what the heck?

    I picked up the Stevens 200 in 7mm-08 for $299 at the local dealer. I put a set of Leupold mounts and rings on it and mounted a Nikon Pro-Staff 3-9x40 BDC scope. I paid $169 for the scope at Dick’s. The mounts & rings cost around $50 IIRC.

    I bought some Remington Core-lokt ammo from Wal-Mart, hoping against all hope that the rifle would like it. Of course it didn’t. None of my savages can manage better than a 1 ” group with factory Core-lokt ammo. Not sure why, but they just don’t like the stuff. The Stevens shot just under 2 “ groups with the stuff. At least I now had some cases to reload, so I was not too upset. I ordered some dies and bullets, and then never did have time to do any reloading.

    Hunting season was approaching, so I picked up a box of Winchester Supreme Ballistic-Silvertips at Bass-Pro in hopes the rifle would like them so I could use it for the upcoming season. The target below is the result of the sight in session @ 100 yds.



    The first shot hit almost at the top of the paper and I kept adjusting the scope after every shot until I hit the x ring, then I shot two more for group. They grouped .930” and one shot of the three was a called flier that I pulled to the right. I believe they will shoot 1/2” or so if I do my part, but at $35 per box, I wasn’t about to waste three more trying to print a smaller group.

    The trigger in this rifle is better than the one in my .308, and about equal to the one on my 30-06. No travel and the trigger pull is not what I would call heavy at all. I think the trigger feels really nice, but admit that I am not qualified to say, since I am really not into trigger critique. I just know if they are too heavy or not. This one is not. The one on my .308 was until I adjusted it, and it’s still not as good as this one was out of the box.

    The stock was that ugly grey color, so I took it off and painted it black with that Krylon Fusion paint that is made to adhere to plastics. It takes a week to fully cure, but doesn’t seem to scratch off so IMO it’s worth the wait. The finishing of the stock was poor, as far as grooves marks from the mold, but I sanded and smoothed those out before I painted it. I like the checkering on it, it’s both functional and attractive IMO. I think it’s a nice looking package now.

    As far as the feel of carrying, it is a light rifle, with scope and all it weighs about 7.5 lbs. The stevens does have a cheaper feeling type of plastic mixture or something. It just doesn’t feel as solid as the synthetic stick on my Savage ’06, but it’s lighter so that’s nice. The stock is made on the old retired Savage stock mold. Which is better than the new one to me. My ’06 has the newer squared synthetic stock and it’s ok, my .308 has a fancy wood stock which is a bit too thick to feel comfortable when carrying in the palm of my hand. The ’06 is thinner and more comfortable, but the stock is sort of squared at the bottom all the way down. The stock on the Sevens is squared on the bottom in the front portion, but rounded where the magazine is. That coupled with the thinness of it and a good balanced weight gives it a nice carry feel. Not as good as a Winchester ’94, but darn close.

    Time to go hunting finally came and Friday night I didn’t see any deer, but Saturday afternoon a deer came in. I had a doe tag to fill, and a buck tag. So when I saw what I thought was a nice doe I shot it. It turned out to be a young buck with no antlers showing. Anyway, the deer was less than 50 yds away and I aimed behind the shoulder for a heart /lung shot. When I squeezed the trigger the bullet went right where it was supposed to and he dropped like he had been struck by lightning. I’ve seen that happen on TV, but this is the first time it has happened to me so needless to say I was impressed. DRT, no tracking necessary.



    All in all, I am thrilled with the rifle and the cartridge thus far. It’s everything I was looking for. A dependable, lightweight, light recoiling, accurate rifle that feels nice in the hand, has a flat trajectory, plenty of potential long range power and drops deer like a ton of bricks. All for about $500. I love it, and hope someone finds this information useful or at least entertaining.
    When you've got 'em by the balls, their hearts & minds will follow. Semper Fi.

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  3. #2
    Distinguished Member Array TerriLi's Avatar
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    Nice choice for what you want, good hunting.
    I know not what this "overkill" means.

    Honing the knives, Cleaning the longguns, Stocking up ammo.

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    Member Array ScubaDuba's Avatar
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    Looks like you came out OK. Especially since you found out you can use .308 brass. I bought a couple thousand rounds of LC .308 for 3 for a dollar last month from a local guy. If you need some .308 shot up so you can reload it for your rifle...just send it to me!!

  5. #4
    VIP Member Array sgtD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScubaDuba View Post
    Looks like you came out OK. Especially since you found out you can use .308 brass. I bought a couple thousand rounds of LC .308 for 3 for a dollar last month from a local guy. If you need some .308 shot up so you can reload it for your rifle...just send it to me!!
    Thanks, but I've been shooting .308 for years and have plenty of brass on hand. lol
    When you've got 'em by the balls, their hearts & minds will follow. Semper Fi.

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    VIP Member Array Stevew's Avatar
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    The 7MM-08 is a fine round and is here to stay. For the handloader bullet selection for 7MM is great. I put on par with the 270.
    Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around laws. Plato

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    Distinguished Member Array Gunnutty's Avatar
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    Excellent post. Good review of the rifle. Good outcome on the hunt. Looks like you made a good choice.
    We will be much better off when we learn to deal with things as they really are, instead of how we wish them to be!

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    I love that little round. Too bad I'm a lefty and 7mm-08 is hard to find from the major players in a left handed gun.
    It is surely true that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. Nor can you make them grateful for your efforts.

  9. #8
    Distinguished Member Array Wasabi's Avatar
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    Nice score on the Stevens/Nikon combo. I've been eyeballing a 7mm-08 myself. It looks like the perfect round for my needs. Checkout the Hornady Light Magnum 7mm-08 ammo. You may want to give it a try, there's some good reviews out there on it.

  10. #9
    Member Array bgglock's Avatar
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    Great story and choice of caliber! My latest deer rifle is also a 7mm-08. It is a Remington Model 7 25th Anniversary edition that I found last year (I sold a Stevens model 200 in 7mm-08 to get it). I like it for all of the same reasons you so eloquently stated. No luck with it this year as I was concentrating on getting my son a deer (he got a nice 6 point buck), but I anticipate more from it in the seasons to come. Enjoy your rifle!!
    Current handguns: Glock models 19, 22C, 23, 27, 29, & 36; Kimber Pro CDP and Polymer Custom; Kahr PM9 & CW9; S&W models 6906, 386PD, 66; Taurus 85 Ultralite Ti; Browning Buckmark;

    Former handguns: S&W 4"686, 4" 620 & Sigma .380, Taurus 617 Ti, Kimber Pro Eclipse, Walther P22, Glock 30 & 33.

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    VIP Member Array nedrgr21's Avatar
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    Nice rifle, glad it's working out so well for you. Couldn't help but notice you skipped over the 6.5's (.260, 6.5 Grendel, 6.5-06) - brass can be made for two of them from -08 or -06 brass. Just throwing that out there :)

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    VIP Member Array sgtD's Avatar
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    I shoot lefty too. You can see in the pic that my ammo carrier is on the "wrong side". I have never owned a left handed rifle though, but that is one other reason why I didn't get the other two I was looking at. Those Monte Carlo ccheek pieces are useless when they are on the wrong side of the gun. The Stevens has a straight stock and the safety is on the tang where it belongs and is accesable to a lefty.

    I did skip over the 6.5s. No good reason. I know they are great rounds as well. A freind of mine had one that his daughter took ownership of. Its a sporterized swedish 6.5. She is a deer slayer ( 3 this year already) and the rifle is a tack driver from what I have heard. I know I have seen her shoot other weapons and don't want her shooting at me.

    I plan to try the hornady LM 139gr.and some Federal Premium just for kicks, but have to be honest when I say that the stuff I'm using now will be hard to beat. But still I like to know how my rifle shoots with different off the shelf ammo, in case I ever need to use it in a pinch. For instance I know now that it is accurate enough to deer hunt with using Core-lokts as long as I keep the range under 200yds or so I can get in the kill zone. But like everyone else, i want the most accuracy and velocity I can get.

    I also plan to do some handloading and tinkering with this thing over next summer to see what I can wring out of it performance wise. I plan to handload some core-lokt 140s and some hornady 139s too. I bought a box of 100 of the hornady bullets but have not loaded any yet. I seem to be able to get great accuracy and on game performance with core-lokt bullets in my hand loads n my other rifles, just not with the factory loadings. ??Its a mystery as to why, but that's how its been for me. My othe rifles like the cheap Federal blue box economy stuff, so if I am buying off the shelf that's what I use in them. I think federal started making 7mm-08 in their economy line now, so hopefull they will follow the trend and this rifle will like them. Experimenting is all part of the fun, but it gets expensive real quick these days.

    take care and thanks for reading my ramblings.
    Last edited by sgtD; December 8th, 2009 at 12:46 AM.
    When you've got 'em by the balls, their hearts & minds will follow. Semper Fi.

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    VIP Member Array jwhite75's Avatar
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    That is often a "forgotten" round by many people. It is a very viable deer round. I personally use a .270, in a Winchester Model 70. It is amazing how good this thing really shoots. It makes me look like a sniper on regular occasions to the range. Glad you found the rifle for you.
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    VIP Member Array tns0038's Avatar
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    The 7mm-08 is a fine weapon, and will serve you well for deer size hunting. Similar to the tried and proved 7mm Mouser, the 7mm-08 loaded with 130-150 grain fast expanding bullets has served three friends of mine for years.

    I joined a hunt club in the early 90s. Each of the members had some kind or another magnum, and the only thing they had in common is members having to help hunt a wounded deer after dark.

    The factory magnum ammo, while moving faster would not expand on the light skin 125-lbs deer, and instead just pass right through, causing only a pen size hole. Upon researching the issue, I choose the 7mm-08 and worked up a 140 grain Nosler Ballistic tip load for their guns.

    Taking my advice they traded their magnums in, and I sighted in their new rifles. And amazingly, deer and wild boars, started dropping dead in their tacks. Lighter recoil meant they were aiming better, and quick expanding bullets delivered a massive shock to the heart lung area, resulting in critters dropping in their tracks.

    Fast forward 17 years later, and those three guys have now taken over 50 game each and never a one has gotten away.

    FYI: I shoot a pre-64 action Winchester 270 featherweight, loaded with hand loaded 130 grain Nosler Ballistic tips, choreographed at a little over 3100 FPS 10 feet from the barrel.

  15. #14
    Member Array jgilbert's Avatar
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    Congrats on the rifle as well as your kill, I've got a Remington Model 7 in 7mm08 that is my baby. I've killed 16 deer with it and have never had a problem. If you decide to move away from the Winchester Ballistic Tips (which I never really cared for personally for whatever reason), check out the Federal Fusion ammo, it's a little cheaper and shoots nice little clover leafs out of my stock Model 7.

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