Every year, the various hunting and firearms magazines publish articles extolling a list of firearms and calibers that the authors believe exemplifies the perfect battery for hunting in North America. They are, for the most part, well researched and practical guides written by people who generally have a great deal of hunting and/or shooting experience. That’s what they are, guides, and as such they reflect the authors experience and knowledge.
Before starting on the big game cartridges, there are two calibers that you must have. The first is a .22 rimfire, the inexpensive ammo allows you to shoot without hearing the "KA-CHING" of a cash register in your head at every shot. It allows for a lot of practice on the target range, as well as being the premier small game gun. When buying a .22, make sure it is comfortable for you to shoot, that it fits you well, it is the firearm you will use the most. The next firearm you must have will be 12 gauge shotgun. In a survival situation the various shot and slug loadings of the 12 gauge are adequate for any game in North America, as long as the ranges are short. The .22 and 12 gauge could be called the meat and potatoes of a meal, the essentials. The spices and gravy would be the next two calibers.
The 25/06 started life as a wildcat. Based on the 30/06 necked down to .25 caliber, it was originally designed as a long range varmint cartridge, a feat at which it still excels. Today however, when you realize its mild recoil, accuracy, trajectory and long range punch, (when sighted in 1.5 inches high at 100 yards, using a good 115 to 120 grain bullet, it is only 6 inches low at 300 yards with a retained energy of around 1500 hundred foot pounds) the 25/06 comes very close to being the ideal deer and antelope cartridge. It has been used on larger game, such as elk, but most knowledgeable hunters consider it adequate on game up to Caribou in size, but as a long range varmint and deer cartridge, it’s perfect.
The .338 represents an entirely different power level. With 180 or 200 grain bullets of
high ballistic coefficient, it is within an inch of the25/06’s trajectory at 300 yards. It also carries almost 1,000 more foot pounds of energy than the 25/06 at that range, not a bad thing but not needed on deer or antelope, that’s what your 25/06 is for. The trade-off is increased recoil, if both scoped firearms weigh 8.5 pounds; the 25/06’s recoil energy would be about 14 foot pounds and the .338’s would be 32 foot pounds, that’s the tradeoff when you give a bullet weighing twice as much as another bullet the same trajectory, increased foot pounds of energy-at both ends of the firearm
The .338 is considered a premier Elk cartridge with either 225 or 250 grain bullets. Again the trajectory nearly matches the 25/06’s trajectory which translates, as mentioned above, to increased recoil energy and bullet energy. This time, however, it’s a fair trade-off. Elk, Moose, or big bear need a tough, high energy bullet for deep penetration through heavy bone and muscle on its way to the vitals. The energy of a properly constructed .338 bullet will allow it to enter the animal’s vitals and create sufficient hydrostatic shock to produce the resulting, deadly, hydrodynamic shock.
The 25/06 Remington and .338 Winchester, a deadly duo for North American big game. There may be others just as good, but none better.