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I’ve seen plenty of “Best Cartridge Ever” or “Only Cartridge You’ll Ever Need” articles, blogs, and editorials, and I always seem to have a bone to pick with them. That’s exactly why I will make no claims that the three loads I discuss below are these are the best, most effective, or even my permanent favorite cartridges for Alaska game.
There are numerous factors that play into any superlative ammo discussion, including versatility, power, and availability. What I want to talk about here is simply three excellent cartridges for anything in Alaska you would hunt with a rifle.
The first cartridge on my list is the one most of us first learned how to shoot. It probably would be safe to say that there are enough .22-caliber rifles in Alaska for every person living here to have one. I won’t waste my time expanding on the merits of this classic, but it is one of the cartridges I use the most. It’s a perfect cartridge for grouse, ptarmigan, snowshoe hares, and just about any other small game around here. I never head out to the trapline without it, and have used it to dispatch everything from red fox to wolves.
My second cartridge is the relatively new 6.5mm Creedmoor. This cartridge caught my attention as it was developed as an across-the-course, high-power competition round. Being a competitive shooter myself, I can see the value of a short action cartridge with good velocity, excellent ballistic coefficient, and amazing accuracy. The first application that came to my mind for this cartridge is as sheep round. It’s more than just that, though. It’s ideal for medium-sized game such as sheep, blacktail deer, black bear, wolves, and caribou. Under the right circumstances, I would trust it to take moose, interior grizzly, or mountain goats as well. I took three Sitka blacktail deer with it last winter, and it did the trick each time. A Hornady 129-grain bullet loaded with their Superformance powder gives me velocities over 2,900 fps (almost as fast as my .25-06 with 117-grain bullets and a much better B.C.).
My third pick is also a fairly new cartridge: Hornady and Ruger’s adaptation of the classic .375. The .375 Ruger is shorter than the .375 H&H and the same overall length as a .30-06, but with velocities 300 to 400 fps faster. I load 300-grain Hornady Interbonds, which smoke out of the muzzle at 2,650 fps. The recoil is pretty comparable to a hot .300 Mag. or .338 Mag. It is an ideal round for dangerous game, and would be perfect for brown bear. I actually killed my brown bear earlier this month with my buddy’s .375 Ackley Improved when my attempts to shoot one with a recurve bow fell through, but it has basically the same velocities, and the .375 Ruger works out of a standard-length long action. In addition to brown bear, this cartridge would also be the ticket for moose, musk ox, and mountain goat (which can be very tough to put down on the spot, which is often necessary).
These three rounds are not the be-all and end-all, and I certainly have a lot of other favorites, but between the three, you would be perfectly capable of taking any game on the continent, not to mention Alaska. What would your top 3 picks be?