A Gun for my Son and Rifle Caliburs

What kind of gun is right for my 12-year-old and other questions answered.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Q:My question concerns rifle calibers for hunting deer and elk. My two choices are the .308 Winchester or the new .300 Winchester Short Magnum. I own a .308 and it shoots wonderfully with handloads using Varget powder and the 168-grain Ballistic Tip bullet. I know this would work fine for deer, but what about elk? Should I consider the .300 WSM?--J.B.

A:Your .308 load is indeed a good one for deer, but the Ballistic Tip is a fast-expanding bullet. It will kill elk handily with broadside shots that avoid the shoulder, but won't reliably penetrate elk shoulder bones. For elk I'd switch to the 165-grain Nosler Partition; you won't even have to change your powder charge, and the load should shoot close to the same point of impact as your deer load.

The .300 WSM will shoot a little flatter, but out to 300 yards (about as far as most of us should sho0t at elk, or any other game) you won't see much difference. It will also kick about twice as hard. If you're going to do a lot of elk hunting, you might consider one, but if you're just going on an occasional hunt, you're much better off with a rifle you know and love.

Q:I have a 1939 Carcano rifle manufactured by Beretta in 7.35mm. My 12-year-old son is starting to hunt and I thought this would make a good first gun. It's light and short and the stock fits him perfectly.

Do you know where I can find ammunition or reloading supplies for this caliber? I have some original ammo manufactured in Italy in 1941 and the brass appears to be in good shape. Do you think this rifle would be adequate for deer-sized game? Could it be loaded hot enough to kill elk out to 150 yards? I plan to take the rifle to a qualified gunsmith to have it examined to see if it functional, though it appears to be in good order with no rust and a clean barrel.--J.B.

A:Nobody makes ammo or reloading components for the 7.35mm any more. While you can reform brass from a couple of other calibers, nobody makes bullet, and they're a real odd size, about .300" in diameter, rather than the .308" of normal .30-caliber bullets. Hornady used to make a 128-grain bullet that did OK on deer, and you might find a box or two at a gun show or through a rare ammo dealer. Or you might be able to swage down 125-130 grain .308" diameter bullets with special dies.

But it really isn't worth the trouble. Buy your boy a light, short 7mm-08 Remington (as made by almost every American manufacturer) and he'll have a much better deer and elk rifle than the 7.35mm. Ammo's easily available, and you probably won't spend any more money than you would on specialized reloading equipment for your 7.35mm.