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While we slept, the firearms industry took a U-turn. Little guns are back in vogue.

Just Wednesday, magnum-mania ruled the American hunting industry. The "ancient" 30-06 Springfield and 270 Winchester were considered too anemic even for deer hunting.

I know people who use the 300 Weatherby Magnum and 300 Winchester Magnum for deer in Arkansas. I know others that use 7mm Shooting Times Westerner.

In the early 2000s, the 338 Winchester Magnum took an extended star turn in the shooting media as the best of the "medium bore" cartridges. If you really need to put a whipping on a 150-pound deer, the 300 Remington Ultra Magnum and 7mm Remington Ultra Magnum can provide the muscle. I even have a friend who uses the 308 Lazzeroni Warbird for Grant County deer.

And then the little 6.5mm Creedmoor swooped in and slayed the magnum giant.

The Creedmoor is a short-action cartridge that duplicates the ballistics of the 6.5x55 Swedish -- which is even older than the 30-06. It more closely duplicates the .260 Remington, which was about 20 years ahead of its time.

I have used the Swede for more than a decade, but I had considered retiring it because it was archaic. Now, thanks to the Creedmoor, it is very much back in style.

The hunting and target shooting world fell in love with the Creedmoor, and the industry downsized overnight. Ballistic coefficient is the watchword of the day because pinpoint accuracy at medium velocity is all the rage. Now we talk about the sectional density and retained mass of premium hunting bullets to wring the best terminal performance out of small-diameter, lightweight bullets fired from efficiently designed cartridges.

Magnums have all but vanished from the shooting media. Every magazine has a monthly article about the Creedmoor, but its attributes have also resurrected some of our old favorites. The 7mm-08 Remington is suddenly hot again, as is the 25-06 Remington, which is lately praised as the ultimate cartridge for whitetails and pronghorns. The 257 Weatherby is faster, but many have decided the extra speed is not worth the extra recoil, muzzle blast and expense of its ammo.

The cycle came full circle last week when an article in a major shooting magazine argued that the 30-06 is too powerful for American game and even for most African game. "Brutish" is how the writer described it. And to think that three years ago, the 30-06 was just barely capable of taking down a yearling whitetail!

We've advocated logic and reason in this space for 15 years. The question is why did the shooting industry take so long to come around to our way of thinking?

I can think of three reasons. Male hunters are getting older. Many have surgically repaired shoulders. Some have surgically repaired retinas and deteriorating spinal columns. Their doctors ordered them to quit shooting cannons. The smarter ones didn't need to be told.

For the same reasons, we're seeing baby-boomer men shelve their 12-gauge shotguns for 20-gauge and even 16-gauge now that suitable ammo is available in those gauges for waterfowl and turkey hunting.

Another reason is the growing number of women entering the hunting ranks. Cartridges like the 7mm-08 and 243 Winchester have long been marketed to women because of their mild recoil. The shooting media have never promoted magnums for women, so women are not conditioned to believe magnum power is desirable.

Third, youngsters often begin hunting with .22-caliber centerfire rifles on the AR-15 platform. (That topic is for another day.) They advance to short-action, non-magnum cartridges when they get older. By the time they are teenagers, their loyalties and preferences are established.

All three reasons revolve around comfort and accuracy. A lightweight, light-kicking rifle is inherently accurate because it does not engender bad shooting habits like flinching and trigger slapping. The result is a pleasant shooting experience and cleanly killed game.

We might never own a Creedmoor, but we're grateful it slapped the shooting industry back to its senses.

Sports on 11/07/2019

Print Headline: Where did all the magnums go?

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