Knocking Things Down- Rifle Power

By John Simeone

In combat and hunting when you pull the trigger you expect the end.

Rifle ShellsI walked into the hotel lobby and observed the Mobius crew meandering about, some working on laptops, but generally looking very bored as usual. I thought I'd fire them up a bit, considering I do that in some way nearly every day. You know you guys are a lot harder to kill than the VC were in Vietnam, we are going to have to come up with a more powerful gun. I'm sure they were impressed with my complement, and I got the big “Yea right” look, I had hoped for. By now they were use to my gallows humor usually at their expense, but after two years of getting to know them, I found we have a lot in common. By the way all of these guys are Iraqi and Afghan so my statement was clearly understood. They knew exactly what I was talking about as many had seen years of combat. Just for the record these are the guys that fight alongside our troops as brothers in arms. Now they train the US Army at Ft Polk, and are instrumental in saving many a soldiers lives.


Of course all the hero stuff does not alleviate these guys from Uncle John ridicule, soon they were showing me actual combat footage of gun fights in the streets, saved on the laptops, that would make the OK Coral look like a walk in the park.

It is all about knock down power and the 5.56 NATO cartridge .223 Remington, just doesn't have it. The edge over the AK-47 with its 7.62X39 cartridge is not in knockdown power or reliability, it is in accuracy. The fact remains that the Iraqi Security Forces, if given a choice would rather pack an AK than an M-16. Simple lesson learned, they want to stop the bad guys in their tracks.

The armed forces are in the processes of developing a more powerful combat cartridge most likely the already established and tested 6.8 Remington SPC, a 30 Remington case necked down to .277 cal. like the the 270 Winchester but not quite as powerful. This fits into the Stoner action of the M-16 or M-4 and suddenly you have a more powerful combat rifle.

The reason is you now have a heavier bullet, at about the same speed, with a greater diameter. This simply equates to more knock down power if you will. There are many different ballistic tables that show this. All of them have their pros and cons and are open to debates but one of the most lasting has been the Taylor Knock Out Rate, invented by the famous elephant hunter John “Pondoro” Taylor, the Buffalo Bill of Africa.

Now they have a computer program that any shooter can go to and check TKO rates on any cartridge of interest. In the hunting world as in the combat world, bigger is better every time. Cartridges were developed for a specific purposes. A 223 Remington was once the 222 Remington magnum, never intended for big game hunting or combat, it was designed as a varmint cartridge, to shoot nothing larger than a coyote. This along with the 22 Hornet, 222 Remington, 22-250 Rem. and the 220 Swift were designed to blow up on impact on varmints at various ranges depending on the cartridge's powder charge. The whole idea is to use a light fast bullet, and attempt to disintegrate the varmint.

With the development of the military 5.56 NATO it gave the 223 a full metal jacket bullet, now when striking a military target it could not blow up like a soft point, but it was found that the light fast bullet had other properties, it tumbled on impact causing a more deadly wound. Still when the 5.56 was used on larger human beings it was found to be somewhat lacking. So the search goes on to replace it with something like the 6.8 Remington.

In the hunting world we must first look at deer hunting which most hunters will do most likely with a rifle. The rule of thumb with a deer rifle is use the biggest thing you can use comfortably, which can be a tall order. With all things being equal the minimum TKO on a deer is a score of 10, which would be what most true gun experts would recommend as the 243 Winchester. They do that to keep everybody happy, but they really mean 7mm/08.

Strange as it may seem there are a small group that feel the 223 is a fine deer cartridge, claiming continuous one shot kills. Why I've never seen this is something to ponder, truth is almost every time I've seen a 223 and many 243 kills it was a botch job, even with good sharpshooters behind the gun.. In every case deer hit with the 243 acted more like they had been hit with an arrow and ran to bleed out. In defense of bow hunting I would rather shoot a deer in the lungs with a good broad head than a 243.

This is not the worst scenario if you have a type of terrain to track an animal. But this is not the case in Louisiana where you really don't want a deer to run too far. Yes a good rifleman can kill deer all day with head and neck shots with a 22 Hornet, but for the average deer hunter this is not the rifle to use or any of the other varmint class cartridges. The law of averages will catch up to you sooner or later and you will fire a good shot that blows up or craters on the outside of the animal and you have a lost deer situation that could be avoided by just using enough gun.

Each time I write about such things I sound more and more like Elmer Keith. My personal minimum deer rifle is a 270 Winchester, never had anything go far with it, but I seldom use it because to me a 308 or a 30-06 seems to kill a little bit better. The 300 magnums on deer and hogs fared no better than the lesser kicking 308 and 30-06, while the 300 Weatherby magnum was just plain uncomfortable to shoot.

We all know about my love affair with the 325 WSM and the Browning X-bolt rife, but to this day I don't know what they did with the kick from such a powerful rifle. Now why would someone want to deer hunt with a 325 WSM, when a 30-06 would get the job done. Simple, I cant tell the difference in recoil of the two rifles so why not go with more knock down power. I've had kids tell me they cant tell it from a 243.

Sounds a little extreme doesn't it ? Well at one time it was legal to hunt deer in my state with a 22 magnum and one old hunting partner of mine killed quite a few with his. I have killed several big wild hogs with a 22 magnum with brain shots. I got in trouble one time with a little 100 pounder when I shot him with the little Marlin behind the shoulder, he turned and charged. I turned him away with a shoulder shot and as he ran by I shot him in the rear end. He then turned to charge again and I hit him in the head and ended the fight. Not enough gun, well the same thing happened with a 222, a 300 Weatherby, a 350 Remington magnum, and a 45-70 you just can't tell about hogs.

Now my next deer rifle just might be a Marlin 45-70, I already have the H&R Buffalo classic in 45-70 which has no mercy on deer with the Hornady 325 grain flex-tip bullet I can use in either weapon.
Then I have to put up with the “shot placement is everything,” crowd. Well it is to the elephant hunter with a 458 solid that must be surgically placed in the brain. The same bullet in the lungs won’t do much good. Shot placement is important to the deer hunter using a varmint gun and a head or neck shot will in fact drop the deer too. But to the regular deer hunter you need three things good shot placement, a big enough caliber rifle to put your deer down right now, and a proper controlled expansion hunting bullet.

Why would Robert Ruark write a book called “Use Enough Gun” and why would Elmer Keith write volumes on big bore rifles, because something probably happened to them. I know Ruark attempted a Hyena with a 220 Swift, damn near ate him, and he dropped it with a 470. Confidence in the a firearm is measured in the knowing when you pull the trigger the battle or the hunt is over...Pass i

Posted in: Guns and Ammo