With their oddly shaped long faces, solitary existences, and enormous bodies with palmate antlers, moose are a legendary species marked by lore and intrigue. Present in North America, Europe, and Asia, the moose is actually the heaviest-bodied member of the deer family. For most American hunters, moose present an opportunity of a lifetime since the species is found only in select parts of the country or as you travel north to Canada or Alaska. Tags are generally limited even for residents in states with a managed moose population, while guided hunts require serious coin.
When the day comes to fill a moose tag, the next logical question regards which cartridges are best for the task at hand. Despite what you may think, it doesn’t require a shoulder cannon to successfully take a moose. As Swedish hunting data recorded over the years makes clear, one of the most popular cartridges for the successful take of moose is the 6.5×55 Swedish, which equates roughly to the .260 Rem. and 6.5 Creedmoor. On average, it took 1.5 shots to drop a moose, which traveled 41 meters after being shot. The .30-06 was slightly more popular than the Swede but produced almost identical results: 1.5 shots with an animal that traveled 43 meters before dropping.
Here’s a look at the 10 best moose hunting cartridges of all time…
Prior to the U.S. Army adopting the 7.62x51mm NATO (.308), the .30-06 ruled the roost. Long-action and capable of housing bullets up to 220 grains, the .30-06 was an obvious choice for soldiers returning home to hunt. As a result, many rifles were sporterized and put into use from Kansas to Alaska. Viable for moose and the grizzly that so often lurks nearby, Alaskan hunters came to trust the round for many big game pursuits. In Sweden, the .30-06 is the most used cartridge for moose hunting and has proven highly reliable.
A modern take with a classic twist, Mossberg’s Patriot Revere rifle in .30-06 pays homage to a rich tradition of moose hunting. With 5+1 capacity, a 24-inch barrel and classically elegant Walnut stock, the Patriot Revere is an accurate rifle capable of taking down any sized game.
Developed for the military to replace the .30-06, the .308 features a shorter case and operates in a short-action rifle and has long been a proven round for military and hunting applications. It may be the most popular big game hunting cartridge ever made and has proven itself on everything from bear to elk, moose, and deer. Producing relatively moderate recoil, the .308 is available in compact, easy-to-carry rifles like Mossberg’s Patriot Youth Super Bantam, which is ideal for smaller framed shooters or as a lightweight rifle for heavy timber or thick brush. With an adjustable length of pull from 12-13 inches and a weight of 7.5 pounds, the Patriot rifle is also capable of housing loads like Hornady’s 178-grain ELD-X, which produces 2600 FPS and 2672 FT/LB of energy at the muzzle.
.300 Win Mag
A classic big game cartridge, the .300 Win. Mag. has served in U.S. military applications and as a long-range favorite for hunters across the globe. Producing 2850 FPS from the muzzle in Hornady’s 200-grain ELD-X, the .300 Win. Mag. has been a favorite among Alaskan hunters for its ability to stop big bodied and dangerous game. Great at long distances and lethal on massive-bodied moose, the .300 Win. Mag. is also one of the most versatile North American hunting cartridges. It comes in Mossberg’s Patriot Synthetic Cerakote, which holds up well to the most inclement weather and treacherous terrain. Featuring the Lightning Bolt Action (LBA) adjustable trigger (2-7 pounds), the Patriot comes with a 24-inch barrel and weighs just 6.5 pounds.
.375 H&H Mag
Originated by London-based gunmaker Holland & Holland, the .375 H&H Magnum first hit the scene in 1912 and features a belted case to ensure proper headspace. One of the most reliable big game cartridges, the .375 houses bullets from 270 to 350 grains, delivering massive energy on target. Most African and Alaskan guides say the .375 would be their choice if they could have only one rifle. When paired with moose, the .375 is incredibly effective and, when in bear country, gives hunters confidence should they run into dangerous game.
Designed to outperform the .375 H&H, the .375 Ruger was released in 2007 and has been successfully used to take numerous Alaskan and African game species. Unlike the H&H cartridge, the .375 Ruger functions in a standard-length action and rimless. Hornady’s 300-grain DGX leaves the muzzle at 2,660 FPS with a whopping 4,713 FT/LBS of energy, more than enough for dropping a giant moose in its tracks. Mossberg chambers the .375 Ruger in its Patriot Synthetic Cerakote with 22-inch barrel and adjustable rifle sights. Accurate and lightweight, the .375 Ruger makes a great choice when you’re tracking moose through thick brush.
.338 Win. Mag
First introduced in 1958, the .338 Win. Mag. is based on a blown out and shortened .375 H&H Magnum. The .338 gained a reputation in Alaska for its use on brown bear, which is why it’s now the No. 1 choice among guides. The most popular medium-bore cartridge in America, the .338 delivers 2,950 FPS from the muzzle with 3,900 FT/LBS of energy from a 250-grain projectile. The .338 is now available in Mossberg’s Patriot Walnut, which weighs 7 pounds and features a 24-inch barrel and LBA trigger for enhanced accuracy.
Certainly one of the most popular big game cartridges ever made, the .270 Win. was launched in 1925 and has stood the test of time. Capable of sending a 150-grain bullet at 3,200 FPS, the .270 was a long-range cartridge before such things were popular, and it carries enough energy to drop even the biggest North American critters. Available in Mossberg’s Patriot Synthetic Cerakote, the .270 features a long action and is certainly capable of downing moose. Ammunition is plentiful and the rifle is light enough at 6.5 pounds to carry through vast open country.
7mm Rem Mag
Commercially available in 1962 as a .280 on steroids, the 7mm Rem Mag. is another favorite among serious long-range shooters and big game hunters. The 7mm Rem Mag. sends a 165-grain projectile at almost 3,000 FPS with 3,200 FT/LBS of energy, making it a favorite among moose, elk, and deer hunters. It’s now available in Mossberg’s Patriot Synthetic with a 3+1 shell capacity and a fluted, threaded, 24-inch barrel.
Talk about the 6.5 Creedmoor for moose or elk and you’re sure to get a few sideways glances from leery hunters who think the cartridge is too anemic for such a massive animal. One of the most effective rounds ever used for moose in Sweden is the 6.5×55 Swedish, however, which offers similar ballistic performance to the .260 and 6.5 Creedmoor. Data seems to point out that, contrary to popular opinion, the 6.5 Creedmoor is likewise just as useful on moose. Available in Mossberg’s Patriot Walnut, the 6.5 Creedmoor features a 22-inch fluted barrel and weighs 7 pounds.
The name of the game in recent times is fast moving projectiles with high BCs that are capable of touching the 1,000-yard barrier with impressive accuracy. At the other end of the spectrum is the .45-70, which has been a proven big game round for over a century. Another cartridge developed for the U.S. military, the .45-70 is the epitome of the large-caliber, slow-moving projectile that’s highly effective on big game. The .45-70 has been often used in Alaska in lever-gun formats and sends a 300-grain bullet at 2,000 FPS with a massive energy of up to 3,400 FT/LBS of energy. Meant for closer ranges, the .45-70 is effective on moose and dangerous game.