best caliber for youth hunters
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.223, .243 or 7mm-08: Which is the Best Caliber for Youth Hunters?

The .223, .243, and 7mm-08 have become staple calibers for youth hunters due to their low recoil, impressive velocity, and effective takedown power. Whether you're going after predators, whitetails, or even medium-sized big-game animals such as mule deer, these calibers are great options to consider.

I've had the privilege of shooting all three of these calibers in both a practice setting, as well as in hunting situations. I have also had the chance to slowly introduce my nephews to these calibers as they become more interested in hunting, and have found that all three offer great advantages, but there are, of course, some downsides.

I'll dive into some more specs about these rifles, as well as my own personal experiences with them, and I am confident you'll be able to determine what the best option is for you.

.223 Remington

best caliber for youth hunters

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The .223 is an incredible, versatile round for every outdoorsmen and shooting enthusiast alike. Ammo is readily available and often at a great price point, the recoil is nearly nonexistent, and its knockdown power is extremely effective for smaller sized game.

The major downside of using this caliber for hunting is that shot placement is crucial. On predators such as coyotes or foxes, the .223 has more than enough power. However, when you transition into big game, it just doesn't quite pack the punch most hunters are searching for.

Harvesting a whitetail with a .223 is more than doable, however, you'll want to be more selective with your shot placement, as the margin of error for this size caliber is slightly greater. For youth hunters, information overload is extremely common, and controlling adrenaline and nerves is often difficult when an animal steps out. I would recommend a larger caliber for medium-sized game, which will allow youth hunters to focus on staying calm during the shot process, and not worry about a nonfatal kill.

.243 Winchester

best caliber for youth hunters

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The .243 Winchester is perhaps the most well rounded caliber for medium-sized game in North America, and quite possibly the most appropriate for youth hunters due to a variety of factors. It's an incredibly accurate round with impressive velocity, and when paired with the right bullet can be the perfect weapon for whitetail deer, coyotes, and even wild hogs. 

The 100-grain Remington Core-Lokt is the gold standard bullet for hunting medium-sized game with the .243. This is a very common round and can be picked up at nearly every sporting goods store at a relatively inexpensive price. It has a 2,960 fps muzzle velocity, a heavy jacket lock that stops early expansion, and produces 1,945 ft-lbs of energy. Making it one of the most reliable rounds for whitetail hunting.

Another great option is the 95-grain Hornady cartridge called the SST Superformance. Hornady boasts 2,908 fps at 100 yards and 2,648 at 200 yards. Both the Hornady and the Remington are great rounds, sufficient at long range for any young hunter. They make some reliable .270 and .30-06 rounds as well, but that's an article for another day.

7mm-08 Remington

The 7mm-08 has a lot of really great things going for it. It is essentially the love child of the .243 and a .308 with some small advantages over both. It packs a heavy punch while still being light on the shoulder of the shooter, and is able to be shot at incredible distances due to its slender profile.

I have to admit, this caliber was a guilty pleasure of mine for quite some time. While some criticize this gun as being an identity crisis between medium- and large-sized game, I firmly believe it has a place in every outdoorsman's gun safe. I'm just not quite convinced it has a place for all youth hunters.

While this is a great whitetail, antelope, and mule deer round, the truth is it might be a little too much gun for a youth hunter, and thus the great benefits of this gun will be compromised. A youth hunter could certainly graduate up to this gun quickly with some experience on smaller calibers such as the .243 and the .223. However, I don't think this is the best starting point. However, if you're looking for a dual action rifle that can be used on whitetail as well as select western game, the 7mm-08 is worth checking out.

What's most important is taking your young hunter target shooting first. Take them to the local gun range and let them try out each caliber. Then take them deer hunting with the one they feel most comfortable hunting with. Ask other hunters with experience, too, as advice from other hunters is always valuable.

Like what you see here? Read more hunting articles by Nathan Unger at Nathan is also the host of the Whitetail Guru Hunting Podcast