Magnum Rifle Hunting Cartridges - Go Large or Go Home

Updated on November 27, 2017
LJ Bonham profile image

LJ Bonham is a semi-subsistence hunter, hunting magazine editor, and firearms enthusiast who lives in the Rocky Mountains.

.358 Norma Magnum
.358 Norma Magnum | Source

Why a Magnum?

Magnum. The word is synonymous with power, long range, and a certain cachѐ which implies those who shoot them are uncompromising rifle enthusiasts. Are magnum hunting cartridges really necessary? After all, a deer hit in a vital spot with a .30-30 will be just as dead as hit with a .300 Weatherby Magnum.

The answer is magnums exist because they do a job better than anything else. After all, if they didn’t work, hunters would have rejected them long ago. All hype aside, magnums do one thing very well—they hit harder at much longer ranges and often with flatter trajectory. They also provide extra power not found in standard cartridges at close range, which many hunters find useful on very large or dangerous game.

L-R: .375 H&H, .338 Win Mag
L-R: .375 H&H, .338 Win Mag | Source

.300 Win Mag Velocity vs. Standard Cartridges

L-R: .308 Win., .257 Weatherby, .375 H&H
L-R: .308 Win., .257 Weatherby, .375 H&H | Source

Regular Cartridges Just Weren't Enough

British gun maker Holland & Holland created the first magnum cartridge to solve a problem. Hunters wanted and needed a cartridge equal in power to the traditional Nitro Express loads used in break-action double rifles but which fit into bolt-action magazine rifles. They introduced the “.375 Belted Rimless Nitro Express.” in 1912 and then changed the name a few years later to ".375 Holland & Holland Magnum." Hunters around the world loved the .375 and soon every major gun company offered a rifle chambered for it. A decade later, the prestigious British gun maker necked down their .375 to .30 caliber and created the accurate .300 H&H Magnum—the long range magnum benchmark.


A Guy Named Roy

It didn’t take long before other people saw the magnum concept’s advantage—more power, farther down range. California custom gun maker, Roy Weatherby, took one look at the .375 H&H’s case and resolved to remedy its one major fault—it only fit into long, magnum action rifles. American firearms manufacturers made most bolt action rifles for cartridges based on the 3.34 inch long .30-06, not the 3.6 inch H&H. Roy shortened the H&H case to .30-06 length, straightened the walls, and squared the shoulder into his patented “Venturi Shoulder.” The result? Velocities beyond anything the shooting world had seen up to that time. Weatherby brought his creation, the .257 Weatherby Magnum, to market in 1945.

Magnum Mania

After World War Two, magnums flooded the market as ammunition and gun manufacturers raced to feed the power hungry market Weatherby had created. Winchester and Remington, in particular, were locked in a fierce battle to see who could develop magnums faster. Winchester struck first with the .458 Winchester Magnum in 1956, followed by the .264 and .338 two years later, and .300 in 1963. Remington replied with the 6mm, 6.5mm, 7mm, 8mm, and .350 Remington Magnums with mixed commercial success.

Are magnums worth it? Absolutely. There is a magnum cartridge for every game animal on the planet.

.257 Weatherby Effect on Ballistic Gelatin

Small Bore Magnums, Big Punch

Here are some magnums perfect for varmints, small predators, and light boned, lean game such as antelope; white tail and roe deer; and the smaller African plains animals.

  • .224 Weatherby Magnum
  • .240 Weatherby Magnum
  • .257 Weatherby Magnum
  • 6mm Remington Magnum
  • .26 Nosler
  • .264 Winchester Magnum


7mm Rem Mag vs Elk at Long Range

Long Range, Big Animals

The longer ranges found on Africa’s grasslands, America’s prairies, or across mountain canyons, and larger game such as mule deer, elk, moose, black bear, and the large African plains species are ideal for these magnums.

  • .257 Weatherby
  • .264 Winchester Magnum
  • .270 Winchester Short Magnum
  • 7mm Remington Magnum
  • .28 Nosler
  • All the .300 magnums
  • 8mm Remington Magnum
  • .338 Winchester Magnum
  • .350 Remington Magnum
  • .358 Norma Magnum
  • .375 H&H Magnum


.416 Rigby vs. The Meanest Animal on Earth

When Everything's on the Menu, Including You

Magnums come into their own as the only realistic choice for dangerous game—grizzly bear, polar bear, African lion, Cape Buffalo, hippopotamus, and elephant, etc. Appropriate magnum choices include:

  • .338 Winchester Magnum
  • .338 Remington Ultra Magnum
  • .375 H&H Magnum
  • .375 Remington Ultra Magnum
  • .378 Weatherby Magnum
  • .416 Remington Magnum
  • .416 Rigby
  • .416 Ruger
  • .458 Winchester Magnum
  • .458 Lott
  • .460 Weatherby Magnum

Make It a Magnum!

When failure is not an option, the shots are long, and the game tough, magnums are the only rational answer. They are popular because they shoot farther and hit harder than anything else. Go large or go home.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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