If you’re a hunter, you’ve probably noticed there are quite a few new or new-ish calibers on the market geared for hunting. Technology is always advancing, and with it comes even more options for whatever hunting season you prefer. Whether you’re after whitetail deer, feral hogs, or coyotes, there’s something new(ish) out there worth trying. Check out our list of the top five new or relatively new hunting calibers you should consider taking along the next time you go grocery shopping in the great outdoors.
The 6.8 Western is a cartridge that qualifies as relatively new, but not brand new. It technically got its start in 2021, but it didn’t start getting real attention until 2022, and now it’s finally gaining steam. Hunters are realizing this is a cartridge they really should have their eye on and an ever-increasing number of them are taking game of various sizes with it. So, what’s so great about the 6.8 Western?
This cartridge was designed by Winchester specifically for hunting big game at long-range. It’s capable of taking whitetail deer and mule deer at longer distances and is also great for truly big game like elk, albeit at slightly closer distances. This is a round made for the bolt-action rifle, which is okay because if you’re interested in long-range hunting you probably already run bolts. The cartridge was created by shortening a 270 Winchester Short Magnum case to make room for longer, heavier bullets (with a higher ballistic coefficient, of course).
Here’s what Winchester has to say about it:
- 18% more energy than 7mm Rem Mag 160 grain Accubond at 500 yards with similar recoil
- Similar energy to 300 WSM 180 grain Accubond at 500 yds with 14% less recoil
- 6% more energy than 300 Win Mag 180 gr Accubond at 500 yds with 16% less recoil
- Short-action reduces rifle weight by 5 ounces when compared to 7mm Rem Mag and 300 Win Mag rifles
- Similar trajectory to 7mm Rem Mag, 300 WSM, and 300 Win Mag at 500 yards
The 6mm ARC was designed by Hornady to be a versatile cartridge capable of outdoing others in its class, or that tried to be in its class, all while being for the AR-15 platform. After all, having a round that can reach out and touch targets at greater distances, with impressive precision, without being chambered in a bulky rifle—is a big win. The cartridge was first tested and fielded by a team from the Department of Defense, so it got its first real use as a defensive round. Once it hit the general public, it was also marketed to hunters, and for good reason.
This is a cartridge with a long-range performance superior to the 6.8 SPC, greater versatility than the 6.5 Grendel, and vastly better ballistics than the classic 223 Remington and 5.56 NATO. It also outdoes the 308 Winchester because it produces far less felt recoil and it comes in a platform that weighs an average of 30% less than the AR-10s you find chambered in 308 Winchester.
What can the 6mm ARC hunt? It’s great for everything from coyotes to hogs to deer and it is possible to use it on game the size of elk with the correct load and within range. Like the AR-15? Then the 6mm ARC should be the next addition to your collection.
This is a cartridge from yet another well-known ammo maker. Remington officially launched 360 Buckhammer in 2023, when SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute) accepted it. You’ve probably guessed the main use from its name; yes, the 360 Buckhammer is for dropping big bucks. This round is part of Big Green’s Core-Lokt family that the ammo maker refers to as “the deadliest mushroom in the woods.”
Remington Core-Lokt can trace its roots to 1939, and if you’ve hunted with it, you know all the hype is well deserved. It’s a controlled expansion bullet, and now it’s offered in a new caliber. It has a tapered copper jacket that’s securely locked to a solid lead core that’s capable of expanding to double its size and offers fantastic weight retention. All that translates to filled tags and no need to track animals through the woods. 360 Buckhammer is offered with soft point bullets in either 180-grain or 200-grain.
Here’s the cool part. Because 360 Buckhammer is a straight-walled cartridge, it can be used in restrictive states that allow straight walls for hunting, but not others. It’s designed for closer ranges like you’d typically be hunting whitetail deer at rather than long ranges, and it delivers. Whether you just want something new or specifically require a straight-walled cartridge, 360 Buckhammer is worth a closer look.
We know what you’re thinking: the intended application for this cartridge is literally in its name, and that doesn’t say hunting. Yes, 7mm PRC is another addition to the line of PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge) ammunition, but it does more than ring steel at bragging rights distances. Hornady designed it for long-action, bolt-action rifles for the purpose of fulfilling what they describe as a niche between the 6.5 PRC and the 300 PRC. However, the combination of longer, heavier bullets and temperature-stable, magnum propellants is ideal for dropping big game, too.
This is a 7mm, so although it’s not quite as hefty as 300 PRC, it’s still sizable. That means it’s big and ballistically capable enough to take just about any North American game.
Hornady’s Seth Swerczek says of the 7mm PRC:
We put shootability, precision, and efficiency at the forefront. This is the first 7mm cartridge that has the appropriate SAAMI overall length and twist rate to take advantage of the ultra-sleek, low drag bullet options that today’s hunters and shooters want to use. Because of its design attributes, shooters now have a factory available option that can perform in long-range match settings or on nearly any big game hunt with equal aplomb.
Even better, if you’re a dedicated long-range or PRS competitor, this would be a multi-purpose rifle for you. Just think, you could have one rifle to do it all. Or not, because it’s always good to have a reason to buy extra guns.
What’s Old is New
Sure, we could put another newer cartridge in this space, but this is a great time to remind you not to ignore the classics. Just because cartridges like 45-70 Government, 444 Marlin, and 30-06 Springfield have histories that span various centuries doesn’t mean they aren’t worth using. One of the biggest mistakes current-day hunters make is totally ignoring older cartridges in favor of only running the new hotness. Sure, technology has come a long way, but that applies to those older cartridges, too. Today’s 444 Marlin benefits from all the same technological advances that have been poured into rounds like 7mm PRC. Better propellants, different bullets—these are not the cartridges of yesteryear anymore. We highly recommend broadening your horizons by opening your mind to the idea that some classic cartridges are well worth resurrecting.
What’s your favorite hunting caliber, new or old? Share your experiences in the comments section.