When I get around other hunters and the discussion of caliber choice arises, it seems everyone has their own opinion on the best all-around caliber.
The 30-06 always makes the dance, as does the 270 Winchester, but these old timers are usually eclipsed by the belted magnums and more specifically the .300 Winchester Magnum and with good cause.
The .300 Winchester Magnum was introduced in 1963 and is based off the 375 H&H like its big brother the .338 Win Mag. It has become one of the most popular cartridge of all time, especially with big game hunters. Utilizing the wide range of bullet selection from a 100 grain "varmint " pill to the 225 grain bullet, the .300 Winchester Magnum may be the most versatile caliber on planet Earth. While several 30 calibers, including the 300 Weatherby and the .300 Remington Ultra Magnum, outperform the .300 Winchester Magnum, it still remains the king of the big game rifles in North American and abroad.
The biggest complaint of the 300 Win Mag is its recoil. A 30-06 rifle tipping the scales at 8 pounds fires a 165 grain bullet at approximately 2,900 feet per second (fps) and generates 20.1 foot pounds of recoil in contrast. The 300 Win Mag fires the same bullet more than 200 feet per second faster and generates more than 26 foot pounds of recoil. This makes the 300 Win Mag a poor choice for the recoil sensitive unless the installation of a muzzlebrake and a good recoil pad is an option.
Another quirk is the short neck. When the folks at Winchester designed the 300 Win Mag the decision was made to move the shoulder forward and lengthen the case which shortened the case neck. By lengthening the case, longer bullets must be seated deeper into the case taking up valuable powder space to fit into the standard length magazine. This quirk is easily overlooked as only a handful of shooters experience this "shortcoming".
Some experts argue the neck length on the 300 Win Mag doesn't provide enough neck tension on the bigger bullets if this is a legitimate complaint someone forgot to tell the 300 Win Mag as it has had its share of the limelight as a competitive cartridge being used in 1000 yard competitions and has served its country in both the military and law enforcement fields.
Currently, the 300 Win Mag is produced by Remington, Winchester, Browning, Ruger and every other rifle manufacture both foreign and domestic. I've been in a relationship with this caliber for more than 20 years in one form or another. I've owned semi-autos and bolt actions and shot every other type of action made from single shots to lever and even a few pump rifles chambered in 300 Win Mag. Most handle the 150 grain - 180 grain bullets well or a little better utilizing a barrel with a 1:10 inch rate of twist. For the heavier bullets, a 1:12 inch or 1:11 inch rate of twist barrel gets the nod. I have carried one in more states than I can recall and used it on varmints to whitetails and once on a very stubborn pronghorn in Wyoming. If I were to be limited to a single rifle chambered in the 300 Win Mag I would not feel the least bit handicapped.