What is a rifle cartridge? A cartridge – also known as a round – is a pre-assembled firearm ammunition packaging that contains a projectile (or bullet), a propellent substance, and an ignition device. Cartridges are designed to fit within the barrel chamber of the firearm. People often confuse the cartridge with being the bullet, but the bullet is actually contained within the cartridge.

There are many different types of cartridges available, and certain types are best used for specific purposes. Read on for a comprehensive guide to help you select the best cartridge to meet your needs.

Hunter Loading Gun

Identifying your needs and your purpose

Before you determine which cartridges best suit your needs, you’ll need to consider your purpose. Will you be using them for hunting, for target shooting or for self-defense? The best cartridge depends largely on what you will be using it for.


Key components of rifle cartridges

What components make up a cartridge? Read on to learn about the four main components: the case, the projectile, the propellant, and the primer.


The case is the main component of a cartridge. It gives a cartridge its shape and also serves to house the other components. It is a container for propellant powders as well as a protective shell. The case attaches the projectile to either the front end of the cartridge or the inside, and it holds the primer in the back end.


The projectile component of the cartridge is also known as the bullet. This part is responsible for impacting the target and creating damage.


The propellent is the material that fuels the projection of the firearm. It drives the projectile through the barrel and out of the gun.


The primer has a mix of substances that have three functions. There is an initiator, or an explosive that starts the process when the firing pin hits the primer. There is a sensitizer, which assists in the ignition process. And finally, there is a fuel which creates the flame and allows for enough time to light the powder.


Types of Bullet Tips and Their Suitability

The tip of a bullet has a huge impact on its flight characteristics, as well as the way it hits an animal. Here are some of the different kinds of bullet tips, as well as what they are suitable for.

Full Metal Jacket

This type of bullet tip does not have a separate tip. Rather, its jacket tapers from the bearing surface to the tip. The end fully encases the core of the bullet. Generally, full metal jackets have a pointy tip. They are not designed to deform when they impact.

Round Nose

This type of bullet is not incredibly aerodynamic. Still, they are popular because lever-action rifles that feed from a tubular magazine require them for the purposes of safety. The tip of this bullet is a part of the bullet’s core, and it is exposed past the end of the jacket. Because of the round design, it helps bullets that impact at low speeds deform.

Flat Point

Flat-point bullets have a large tip, and they are frequently loaded for cartridges that are compatible with lever-action rifles. The wide tip enables the bullet to deform at lower speeds. It also helps them create more tissue damage during penetration.

Spire Point

The core of this bullet extends past the end of the jacket. The exposed core tapers to a sharp point. This used to be the most common type of hunting bullet.

Hollow Point

This type of bullet is associated with dynamic deformation and limited penetration. This type of bullet works wells for varmints. Sometimes the hollow point is capped with a separate polymer tip.

Polymer Tip

Some bullets have a polymer (or plastic) tip, which helps to increase the bullet’s flight characteristics. A polymer tip can help bullets deform at lower speeds.

Aluminum or Bronze Tip

A light aluminum or bronze tip can help change the bullet’s center of gravity and also reduce drag variability. This was intended for hunting and target shooting.

Flex Tip

Bullets with a soft point tip allows the bullets to flyer flatter, and they can also be loaded into tubular magazines.

Heat-Resistant Tip

A heat resistant tip just does what the name implies – it allows the bullet to resist heat during its flight.


Choosing the cartridge caliber

The best cartridge caliber depends on what you plan to use it for. Some calibers are a better choice for beginners, while others are great for hunting. Read on to learn about the best calibers to select for different purposes.

Best for Hunting: The .308 Winchester

This caliber features a moderate recoil as well as a great selection of bullets. It also has a less forgiving trajectory, and it is susceptible to the wind. It can be put into action quickly in a hunting situation.

Best for Big Game: The .300 Winchester Magnum

This caliber is hard-hitting and very accurate, making it a great choice for hunting big game. The only negative is the heavy recoil.

Best for Mule Deer: the 6.5 PRC

This caliber can kill at a long range and is highly accurate. There is only a moderate recoil and a great bullet selection.

Best for Beginners: The 6.5 Creedmoor

The 6.5 Creedmoor is made for high-volume shooting. It is accurate, easy to shoot, offers great bullet selection, and there are lots of options for factory ammo. All of these characteristics make it ideal for the beginner.

Best for Precision Shooting Matches: The 6mm Dasher

The 6mm Dasher is a caliber with excellent accuracy and consistency. It is easy to reload and doesn’t have a bad recoil, making it great for precision shooting matches.

Most Accurate: The .30 Stewart

The .30 Stewart is the most accurate caliber of them all!

Factors to consider

When choosing a caliber, there are many important factors to consider. These include the level of recoil, the noise produced, and the cost of the caliber. Be sure to do your research to determine which caliber is the best option for your intended use!


What are the most popular hunting cartridges?

What are the best cartridges for hunting? Here, we’ve shared some of the top options for long-range hunting.

6.5 Creedmoor

The high-BC bullets and low recoil make this an ideal weapon for hunting.

6.5 PRC

The 6.5 PRC is popular for hunting due to its fast factory twist rate.

.270 Winchester

The .270 Winchester is known for its 97-year-old cartridge. It is more powerful than a Creedmoor and only has about 20% more recoil.

.280 Ackley Improved

That 2.80 Ackley Improved is known for its ability to stop animal at distances greater than 500 yards. Ammo for this cartridge is somewhat difficult to find.

7mm Remington Magnum

This cartridge can shoot heavy bullets, but keep in mind that this leads to significant recoil.

.300 Winchester Magnum

The .300 Winchester Magnum has a lot of recoil, but it’s a very powerful cartridge. It travels fast and hits hard.

What is the best long-range cartridge?

What are the best long-range hunting cartridges for you to use? Here, we’ve shared the top five options.

6.5 Creedmoor

The 6.5 Creedmoor has more acceleration and energy downrange and less recoil than any other factory-made cartridge. This cartridge is set to become the most popular one in the world.

6.5 PRC

The 6.5 PRC is a better version of a .264 Winchester Magnum, which was popular with shooters looking to increase their reach, but was also known for burning out barrels.

26 Nosler

The 26 Nosler shoots flat and has great acceleration. It is a bit rough on barrels, but it makes up for that with its flat shooting.

.280 Ackley Improved

The .280 Ackley Improved has great long-range velocity out to 1,400 yards, and is a well-known cult favorite.

7mm Remington Magnum

This cartridge is popular with hunters who are looking to extend their range, and it remains supersonic out to 1,400 yards. It’s a great option for cross-canyon hunting.

More Top Cartridges

Check out this article for a more in depth look at the best long-range cartridges.

Best all around big game cartridges

What is the best cartridge to use for big game animal hunting? Here are some popular options!

7mm Remington Magnum

The 7mm Remington Magnum is among the most popular big game cartridges.

28 Nosler

The 28 Nosler is a proven option. It has a refined design and is very consistent and accurate.

.300 Winchester Magnum

This might be the best worldwide big game cartridge available. However, you will pay for that with the recoil and the price tag.

.25-06 Remington

The .25-06 Remington provides great velocity with less recoil, making it an excellent choice for big game.

.280 Ackley Improved

If you want good performance with a standard-sized cartridge, the .280 Ackley Improved is a great option. It has a less recoil.

.338 Winchester Magnum

The .338 Winchester Magnum is powerful enough to kill a large bear.

.270 Winchester

The .270 Winchester has what it takes to make a clean kill. It’s a great choice for big game!

.03-06 Springfield

This cartridge is capable of shooting game within 200 yards, which is the distance at which most big game in America is shot. This is considered America’s most popular hunting cartridge.

6.5 Creedmoor

The 6.5 Creedmoor offers good performance with a low recoil. It’s a very accurate cartridge.


What cartridge is the most accurate?

The .30 Stewart is the most accurate cartridge caliber.

Which cartridges are the most effective long range hunting cartridges?

Among the best cartridges for long range hunting are the 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 26 Nosler, .280 Ackley Improved, and 7mm Remington Magnum.

What’s the best all-around hunting caliber?

The best caliber for hunting is the .308 Winchester, which features a moderate recoil as well as great bullet selection.