So what gives? Has our quarry developed armor over the years, or were previous generations just plain wrong. Of course the answer is neither and next season more animals will fall to the old ‘06 than any other round. But, flipping through a gun magazine today, it doesn’t take long to realize that the idea of what is “powerful” and “the perfect round” has changed. While there are few people who would call the 30-06 inadequate for elk, the image of the perfect elk round has evolved into the .30 to .338 caliber magnum class. I believe that many writers and hunters, whether they know it or not, suffer from at least a small case of what I will unscientifically call Magnumitis. The main symptom of Magnumitis is the belief that somehow a magnum round is always needed to perform a task that a standard round is very capable of. In some rare cases the less attractive symptoms of puffing up one’s chest while bragging about the big guns they shoot, and looking down their noses at little folk who only use weak standard rounds, can also be observed.
It shouldn’t be surprising that many of us suffer from this ailment to some extent or another. Over the last few years gun and ammunition manufacturers have flooded the market with new products that have the word magnum attached to them. Whether it’s an ultra, short, standard or whatever, magnums are definitely the talk of the town. Now don’t get me wrong, I‘m not here to bash magnums. A few call my gun safe home, and there are definitely times when a magnum outshines a more standard round. The interest and variety that has been pumped into the shooting industry over the last few years by the new magnums has been wonderful and the large pool of new rounds to choose from benefits everyone. No matter what you think of the large gun manufacturers, there is no denying that they are very effective in promoting their products. Gallons of ink have been spilled on advertising and articles in magazines, and the new wiz bang magnums have been the special guests on many hunting shows. This has had the effect of creating a large group of hunters who believe that the only way to truly kill an animal is to do it with some type of magnum.
The truth is that most people don’t have either the skill or the necessity to take advantage of what magnum rounds offer. Remington likes to boast about how their 300 Ultra Mag matches the tight string trajectory of the legendarily flat shooting 22-250, but does so with a bullet three times heavier. While this is true, the advantage of this round over the standard 30-06 with the same bullet is not realized until shots over 250 yards are required. Even when hunting in most areas of the west, well over 75% of shooting opportunities at game will be under 250 yards. When the really long shots do present themselves, a flat shooting magnum in the hands of a skilled shooter can definitely be an advantage, but most hunters don’t practice enough to truly squeeze out all of the potential. The other benefit a magnum round provides is higher down range energy or as some people say “more punch”. The question is though, how much more “punch” does a hunter need? I am fairly certain that there is not a whitetail deer alive that could tell the difference in a shoulder shot from a 7mm-08 at 300 yards over a shot from a 7mm Remington Magnum with the same bullet. The result would be same, a freezer full of venison, even though the 08 shows up with 25% less energy. The extra just isn’t needed.