Popular Rifle Caliber Breakdown

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In this post the discussion turns to a simple popular caliber breakdown. This will be a rifle specific comprehensive overlook. Each caliber will be broken down by:

· Capability

· Availability

· Cost

.22 LR

The .22 LR is by far the most popular caliber in the United States. Almost all kids started out shooting one to get basics and mechanics. My first time hunting was with my Grandfather with his old Marlin lever action .22 LR and I believe most hunters have a similar tale for their first time. The capabilities of a .22 LR are often overlooked and dismissed. It has one great aspect that I feel most people overlook is the way the round dumps all of its energy when it hits a dense medium. This translates to no wasted energy and can do quite a bit of damage. It can take down game as large as deer (right range and correct shot placement) and is ideal for not damaging meat or wasting it on smaller game such as rabbits and squirrels.

The availability of .22 LR is widespread and generally consistent. With endless manufacturers producing rifles and pistols it is easy to find a generally dependable firearm. The ammunition is becoming more available again in most regions within this last year. I’ve seen several people selling some of their ammo stock from when they bought a lot of ammo. Generally it is simple to find ammo and a myriad of weapons designed to fire this round.

Cost of .22 LR comparatively speaking is very cheap. Makes sense seeing as it is a rimfire caliber. A good expectation is that you will pay somewhere between 8-20 cents a round. Obviously buying bulk is cheaper but smaller quantities will stick to right around these numbers as well. Also firearms that fire this caliber tend to be cheaper and easier to find so it is a great round for everything from hunting, plinking, and for practice of mechanics.


The .223/5.56 is extremely popular in the United States primarily thanks to the United States Military using the round as its standard round. This fact dictates every facet of my discussion points. It is a capable round and is deemed by most as a 300 yard shooter. After this unless you are skilled the ballistics will take over from point and shoot shooting that the general population uses. Plenty of people can squeeze more performance out of it but for hunting it’s smart to keep the range to 300 yards to make sure you can make an ethical kill. It can take down deer and there are accounts of elk being taken with it with good shot placement. It works on smaller game is a popular varmint hunting round because it does have good velocity with a ridiculous amount of bullet variants to help make choosing an appropriate round for the task at hand easy.

The availability of the .223/5.56 is very widespread thanks again to the fact it is the standard issued round in the Armed Services. Almost all AR platforms shoot this round and as mentioned before a lot of hunters enjoy using this round. Almost every retailer of ammunition from Wal-Mart to your local gun store will have several variants of rounds in this caliber making it easy to find. With this round firearms are almost exclusively in bolt action guns and semi automatic rifles. Once again a large amount of manufacturers make these giving you plenty of options for a dependable weapon. Make certain your firearm fires .223 or 5.56 since 5.56 is loaded at a higher pressure and may not fire through certain firearms.

Cost of .223/5.56 per round runs anywhere from $.25-1.30. It is a large difference because of the different styles of bullet choice and manufacturer. This is very affordable compared to similar calibers making it generally easy to find and fun to shoot. The price of the firearm is also generally reasonable due to the fact of the popularity giving many different options. Bolt guns are generally cheaper depending on brand than the AR/semi auto variants but still affordable.

.308/7.62 Nato

This is the hardest hitting and largest of the most common rifle rounds. It is easily elk and deer capable and will dispatch varmints without a problem but is overkill on small game. Without perfect shot placement, i.e. headshot, you will ruin any meat on small game. I would say for the average shooter 500 yards is the maximum range to try to game down at with this round. Though this round has a much greater potential than this, look at snipers statistics, you once again need to “ballistically savvy” to squeeze this performance out of this round. Most people trained with the round call it thousand yard capable. It has great knockdown and will dispense a great amount of energy on impact especially at distance.

As with the .223/5.56mm the .308/7.62 Nato make sure to check exact specs of your firearm before loading it without recommended ammunition.

This caliber is widely available in a variety of loads. From full metal jacketed ammunition to recoil reduced hunting loads you can find anything for your purposes. The fact that the round is adopted as many nations military round helps its cause in a lot of countries but also helps here in the U.S. As with the other two rounds covered these are easily found at most retailers.

The cost of .308/7.62 Nato runs around $.45-1.50. Compared to rounds with similar capabilities this is still relatively cheap. While it is much more expensive the other two rounds covered it is the most capable for distance and larger game. In terms of bolt guns there are affordable options but when you jump to semi auto versions of this caliber the price jumps up quite a ways compared to an AR chambered in the .223/5.56mm.

That wraps up the brief breakdown of the most popular and common rifle calibers here in the U.S.A. Hope you enjoyed it. Check back for more content.

Garrett W.