Every shooter on the face of the planet has their particular Go-To cartridge, their personal favorite, and the majority have multiple rifles in different calibers to cover a broad range of duties, and if nothing else, just for the fun of it (guilty as charged myself, and no regrets!) But after years of shooting and handloading, there are truly only 4 cartridges that any lay person needs to take care of any common shooting scenario. Before you other caliber nuts start in on me, here me out:
There are 5 specific conditions that lend influence as to why these are the 4 Horsemen of the cartridge world:
1) Current availability of factory rifles and ammunition. 2) Inherent Accuracy & Precision. 3) Breadth of efficient overlapping of scenario usage. 4) Availability of reloading components and interchangeability between cartridges. 5) Comfortability of shooting.
After reading, if you still think I'm a jackass, well, there just ain't no reasoning with ya Chuck!
1) .223 Remington/5.56 NATO
This brainchild cartridge of Eugene Stoner, Robert Hutton, and Remington Arms was first developed in 1957 as a scaled down combat cartridge from the 308 Winchester/7.62 NATO, and has become as common and ubiquitous as Coca-Cola and McDonald's the world over. Because of the round's light recoil, accuracy, speed, and low dig into the wallet, folks from 8 years to 80 have been able to easily master usage of rifles in this cartridge. From target practice up to 500 yards and beyond, to varmint hunting, human combat, and even taking down game as large as feral hogs and deer, this little brother to the 308 Winchester punches well above it's weight class. Of course availability of factory ammunition and readily available semi-auto and bolt action rifles at easily affordable prices allows for this cartridge to become a part in any shooters collection. Also easily obtainable are the reloading components: it is one of the cheapest and easiest rounds to handload, and quality components can see this cartridge sending pills 800+ yards downrange within 1/2 MOA accuracy.
2) 6.5 Creedmoor
This is one of those rounds you either love or hate, and while it's true that this .264 pill cartridge hasn't done anything really new that previous 6.5mm cartridges haven't, this particular cartridge sets itself apart, not only by it's accuracy and precision, but how easily it can be handloaded even with cases from other calibers! Developed as the perfect PRS cartridge between Hornady's Dave Emary and PRS Champion Dennis Demille in 2007, this cartridge has taken the shooting world by storm. Essentially, this cartridge is a .264 pill nestled into a shortened and necked-down 308 Winchester case. And it shoots like a frickin' laser! While it may not be quite as fast as say the 6.5x55 Swede, chronograph tests still regularly clock pills at 2,700fps+, and the bullet design inherently lends to extreme accuracy, even at distances up to 1 mile! No small feat for a bullet with an average weight of 130 grains. And with all that shooting power, firing a rifle in this cartridges feels not much more than shooting a 223 Remington. Every major Rifle and ammunition manufacturer produces weapons and rounds in staggering numbers for this cartridge, and all easily affordable. The round is also ridiculously easy to handload, being able to convert pretty much any brass with 30-06 Springfield parenting for 6-5 cases. Powder loads fall right in between the 223 Rem and the 308 Win, and match grade components are easily affordable and readily available. And this cartridge has exceptional put-down power, dropping everything from Wile E. Coyote to 6x6 Elk, and everything in between. It's my personal favorite cartridge for speed goats, having to take long, fast shots at the quick, lithe prairie critters.
3) 308 Winchester/7.62 NATO
This is another cartridge that has a permanent place around the world. This round can be found in everything from basic lever action hunting rifles, to AR platforms, precision sniper rifles, even to my personal GOAT - the M134 Minigun. There is no round that I've researched that has seen greater and wider use and application. Both commercial and military ammo manufacturers pump out millions of 308 rounds a year, and rifles in any platform can be had at reasonable prices, with many reaching iconic status. Does HK91 ring a bell? With the wide availability of high quality match grade and hunting ammo available, it almost becomes redundant to handload this cartridge for most shooters; but for high volume PRS trigger pullers, this round is easy and cheap to tailor specific loadings. And like the 6.5 Creedmoor, any cartridge case longer than 308 with 30-06 Springfield parenting can be converted to usable 308 Win brass. The 308 is is also renown for it's accuracy, being used by military snipers and long range shooters for decades. Sub-MOA 800+ yard shots are nothing new for this cartridge, and it has dropped everything from White-tails to Bullwinkle, without the clavicle busting recoil of a 300 Win Mag. Truly the 308 Winchester is quite appropriately the All-Around American cartridge.
4) 375 Raptor
There's just something about firing a large caliber rifle that sends a tingle down your spine, kind of like the first time you got ready to get laid. It's a thrill that few other activities in life can provide, and the 375 Raptor does it in one hell of a neat package. This cartridge is admittedly a wildcat design developed by Arne Brennan in 2017, and is quickly becoming THE contemporary big-bore cartridge. Like the 6.5 Creed and the 308 Win, brass can easily be converted from any case of 30-06 parenting. Powder loads are comparable to the 308 Winchester, and thanks to the prolific availability of 375 H&H Mag components, there is a smorgasbord of bullets choices ranging from 220gr at the lighter end all the way up to 400gr pills for sub-sonic rounds. And many of the same powders used in any of the cartridges above can be used with the Raptor. Shooting this cartridge feels like shooting an amped up 308 round, going no where near the heart-stopping kick of 300 Win Mag or 375 H&H. And it's accurate: 1/2 MOA 300 yard shots are nothing for this round, with terminal speed and force at that range clocking at 1,900fps and 2,600ft-lbs! This is greater terminal ballistics than the 458 SOCOM, 50 Beowulf, 450 Bushmaster, 45-70 Gov't, or 500 Auto Max! Add to this that any short action bolt rifle or AR10 can easily be converted to use with the 375 Raptor with nothing more than a barrel swap, and there isn't a reason NOT to love the it. And the Raptor has put-down power up the yinyang! There is record of this cartridge putting down every large game animal in North America to Zebra, Wildebeest, Giant Eland, and even Water Buffalo in Africa! I'm pretty sure not even Dumbo stands a real chance against this round if one were so inclined. " Where can I get this hammer of the gods?!" you ask? Thankfully most reputable barrel manufacturers like McGowen and X-Caliber are already cutting tubes for this cartridge, and any AR10, Savage 10 series, or Remington 700 series actions can be built onto, with no need for proprietary magazines. Handloading dies are easily obtainable through Lee, Omega Rifles, CH4D, or Whitten Gun Works, and Omega Rifles has loaded ammunition available as well. Or you can call us here at The Happy Trigger and we can build you a custom weapon system with ammunition to go with it!
So there you have it, the ultimate any-scenario cartridge collection! I know there are you folks out there that will say I'm a complete idiot and don't know my a$$hole from my elbow, and that's okay. You keep spending gobs of cash on those obsolete and fancy cartridges, I'll stick with my 4 Horsemen knowing that I'll always be able to shoot accurately on the cheap. And when the zombies come....