Skip to main content

.270 Vs. .257: What's the Best Whitetail Caliber?

.270 Vs. .257: What's the Best Whitetail Caliber?

Hunters can argue for days on the best whitetail caliber, but what do our experts say?

.270 Winchester

Being a Western guy, I have psychological issues with choosing the best caliber for just one species. Me, I want to be able to shoot anything from coyotes to moose with the durned thing.

So while it's not short and fat and it's not a fire-breathing magnum dragon, Winchester's classic .270 gets it done on most anything, assuming shrewd projectile choice.


Whitetail hunting offers perhaps more variation in shot type and animal size than any other North American big game, so it behooves hunters to shoot a cartridge capable of making the most of any situation. Whether you're threading a timbered needle-hole toward a massive Wisconsin corn-eater or driving a steeply raking shot into the hip of a 280-pound Saskatchewan monster, the .270 Winchester kills whitetails as well as any cartridge — and far better than most.


Importantly, it does so without beating up the shooter. Recoil generated by a .270 Winchester is just a shade past comfortable, but it's not painful.

Some might argue that the .270 is more cartridge than one needs for whitetails. My condolences to those poor misguided souls. I hope that someday when they lay the crosshairs on a heavy-boned, densely muscled, rutted-up northern buck and its shaggy coat and testosterone-filled attitude, it will lead them to the light.

As for bullet, any good 130- to 150-grain bullet makes wonderful whitetail medicine, but I'd go with Nosler's outstanding 140-grain AccuBond. It's tough enough to hold together through shoulder bones, expands dramatically, wreaks havoc on vitals, and is fairly aerodynamic, enabling skillful hunters to reach way out there if need be.

Part of what makes it so great is that a hunter can walk into just about any country gas station and buy a box of .270 cartridges.


— Joseph von Benedikt

.257 Weatherby Magnum


It's human nature to want the most bang for the buck, and few are satisfied with a cartridge that is ideally suited for just one job. Instead, they opt for a jack-of-all-trades cartridge. The good news is there are cartridges that will do decent work on everything from mice to moose, but the bad news is they don't do any one thing particularly well.

The .270 Winchester fits into this category. It was my first rifle, and I killed a pile of game with it. I've learned since, when possible, to match the caliber to the game. Since many hunters hunt strictly whitetails, why not pick a cartridge that is the right tool for the job?

For me, the best whitetail cartridge is the .257 Weatherby Magnum. Invented by Roy Weatherby in 1944, it was his favorite cartridge as well. Why? Because it has low recoil and a laser-like trajectory, and it kills quicker than any cartridge has a right to. Spitting out a 100-grain bullet at 3,500 fps, no other commercially produced deer round has such a flat trajectory.

This means that without a lot of thinking, or confusing ballistic reticles, or scope adjustments, a hunter can place a bullet in the vitals from spitting distance all the way out past 400 yards simply by holding the crosshairs in the middle of the deer.

While there are factory loads featuring 87-grain pills up to 120-grainers, deer hunters will do well to stay in the middle of the spectrum at 100 grains. Smart money selects premium bullets because the cartridge's high velocity tends to tear lesser bullets apart. Monolithic solids, Bear Claws, and Partitions all work great on deer and carry the magical 1,000 ft.-lbs. of energy out past 600 yards for true long-range performance.

So regardless of whether your whitetails are of the tiny Couse variety or great, swollen-necked Saskatchewan giants, the .257 Weatherby Magnum is the ideal cartridge bar none.

— Mike Schoby



GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Top Ten Hunts

Top Ten Hunts

Here at Petersen's Hunting we have compiled the 10 best hunts caught on camera from the last 2 years of Petersen's Hunting TV. Enjoy!

B&C Typical Mule Deer

B&C Typical Mule Deer

Doug Burris Jr's typical mule deer taken in 1969, could just be one record that will never be broken.

Hunting Coues Deer South of the Border

Hunting Coues Deer South of the Border

Former Delta Force Operator Kyle Lamb hikes the rugged desert mountains of northern Sonora in pursuit of the diminutive Coues species of whitetail.

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Have a freezer full of ground elk venison from your fall hunting trips? Never fear, the folks at Camp Chef have a great SHOT Show recipe that is lean and mean, easy to prepare, and a crowd-pleasing favorite!

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Chances are good that you're not getting the best out of your trail cams.3 Ways You're Using Trail Cameras Wrong Optics

3 Ways You're Using Trail Cameras Wrong

Tony J. Peterson

Chances are good that you're not getting the best out of your trail cams.

This recipe adds a little something extra to already-perfect venison backstrap – a sweet and spicy relish made with white-flesh peaches.Venison Backstrap with Sweet & Spicy Peach Relish Recipe Recipes

Venison Backstrap with Sweet & Spicy Peach Relish Recipe

Jack Hennessy

This recipe adds a little something extra to already-perfect venison backstrap – a sweet and...

Check out the new fleet of off-road options for hunters.2020 ATV Buyer's Guide Wheels Afield

2020 ATV Buyer's Guide

Rick Sosebee - June 23, 2020

Check out the new fleet of off-road options for hunters.

Is lever action dead? Not by a long shot.The Return of Lever Action Rifles Guns

The Return of Lever Action Rifles

Craig Boddington - May 26, 2020

Is lever action dead? Not by a long shot.

See More Trending Articles

More Ammo

Sig's focus for the past 18 months has been developing hunting ammunition.Review: Sig Sauer Elite Performance Ammo

Review: Sig Sauer Elite Performance

Joe Arterburn - March 31, 2020

Sig's focus for the past 18 months has been developing hunting ammunition.

When ultimate accuracy counts, consider handloading.Handloading for Predator Hunting Ammo

Handloading for Predator Hunting

Keith Wood

When ultimate accuracy counts, consider handloading.

It was time to talk turkey when OSG senior digital editor Lynn Burkhead visited with Rafe Nielson of WinchesterNew for 2018: Winchester SXP Long Beard 20-Gauge Turkey Shotgun Ammo

New for 2018: Winchester SXP Long Beard 20-Gauge Turkey Shotgun

Lynn Burkhead - January 24, 2018

It was time to talk turkey when OSG senior digital editor Lynn Burkhead visited with Rafe...

The 6.5 Creedmoor is the most popular cartridge in hunting, but medium bores are still deadly as ever.Medium-Bore Cartridges for Big-Game Hunting Ammo

Medium-Bore Cartridges for Big-Game Hunting

Keith Wood

The 6.5 Creedmoor is the most popular cartridge in hunting, but medium bores are still deadly...

See More Ammo

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now