The phrase “Bring Enough Gun” has always meant been a mantra to ensure that you have a round that has enough the power to have the terminal ballistic affect you desire down range.
1) For a hunter this means that the round has enough energy to make a quick and human kill.
2) For self-defense it means it has enough energy to remove an attacker’s ability to be ongoing threat to you or someone in your charge.
I have always found it a little odd that the military uses a varmint round on people. I can explain that though.
Bringing enough gun is only part of the equation though, the gun needs to be capable of making the shot, practical for use, and not “too” powerful.
I think we need to look at each of these individually…
There are 2 aspects of capability that need to come into play… the guns and yours.
Even in the best circumstances achieving sub-MOA (MOA = Minute of Angle & sub-MOA refers to the ability to shoot 3-5 shots in a group of 1” or less at 100yds) is a challenge. When you factor in adrenaline, wind, temperature differences, shooting positions, movement…. accuracy can take a big hit.
Why is this important?
If you aren’t able to hit a ground squirrel at 400yrds, do you need a round that is capable of shooting that far? Well maybe, but you also run the risk of it being too powerful.
Your ability to hit the kill zone of your intended target limits the range at which you should be shooting at it.
Obviously the round needs to be powerful enough to get the job done at the range you are shooting. So while a .223 is a completely acceptable round for a coyote at 100yrds, it is underpowered at 1000yrs.
But you also need to consider what your purpose of shooting is…
A few years ago on rimfirecentral.com PS118.8 posed the series of questions with regards to squirrel hunting…
1. Will I be putting myself in better shape by using a .17?
2. Which .17? the HMR or the other version
3. Why one over the other?
4. With a good rest, can I expect either a Marlin or Savage to put 3 shots into an inch at 70-80 yards?
I responded, “What is your plan for the squirrel?”
My point was yes, it will reliably kill a squirrel, but if you want to eat it or skin it, it may do too much damage.
To a greater extreme, there is no distance at which a .338 won’t kill a squirrel, but at any distance it will ruin the meat and you are also taking too much risk of ricochet and injuring something you don’t want to hurt down range.
A .223 round will easily fly 1000yds and will hit the target with a little more force than a .25 ACP at point blank range. It would conceivably be moving fast enough to be lethal (not reliably) but if your rifle was sighted in at 200yds you would have to aim about 45 feet high.
That isn’t practical.
I set the limit of practicality at about 10 MOA of adjustment. So even though the 5.56 is frequently quoted as being good out to 600yds, its drop means I don’t think it is practical out past 500.
How do these factors interact?
Lets take a look at the most common caliber in the US… the .22 Long Rifle.
As a relatively weak cartridge, I wouldn’t want to shoot an animal with it that had a kill zone any larger than 2” with it. This decision limits its hunting range to 200 yards, let’s pretend for a moment that I could reliably hit a 2” circle with it at 200yrds (I can’t) and look at the rest of factors.
If it was sighted in so that the point of impact was never higher than 1” over the point of aim, it would maximize the distance I could just aim at the center and still hit the kill zone, it would have a point black range of about 80yrds. After that you would need to adjust your scope to still make a good hit.
Assuming, the round would still be effective out to 140 yards, the round would have dropped 13.99” and any father it would be beyond the practical range of the round. (Which is good for me because rested, in still wind, I can still hit a 2” circle at 140yrds).
Lets look at another example…
If within a typically hunting time frame and position a shooter could make a 6 MOA shot, and was hunting a deer with a 10” kill zone, they could safely shoot at a distance up to about 165yds. Grandpa’s 30-30 is good with a point blank range out to 170yds assuming a 100yd zero and the round is in the dirt by 350yrds. Any guesses on why it is a popular deer rifle?
The .17 Winchester Super Magnum
Given the .17HMR, the introduction of the .17 Winchester Super Magnum has many people asking…
And honestly I wasn’t sure either, but since that introduction and Michael Bane have me thinking about rifles, it only makes since to look at it a little closer.
The .17 WSM is a 17gr bullet traveling 3000fps, but in my opinion it still doesn’t have enough energy hunt anything larger than I’d hunt with a .22LR so based on capability, its max range is about 200yds.
With its ballistics it could allow for a point blank hold from 20-185yrds.
If a full day prairie dog hunting out to 180yd without adjusting your scope appeals to you… you have your reason!
What logic do you use to determine what is enough gun? I hope you let me know in the comments below.
Oh yeah why does the military use a varmint caliber?
In Viet Nam we fired 250,000 rounds for every insurgent killed. They need them to be cheap to afford them, small and light weight to get them to the troops and not every round is fired for its ballistic affect.