Choosing the right ammunition can make the difference between harvesting a big buck and going home empty-handed. Here are six of our favorite new deer loads for 2024
Serious whitetail hunting demands preparation, and many hunters begin making plans to fill their tag well in advance of opening day. That might include scouting, planting food plots, improving habitat, and much more. But all this prep works leads to a single moment, and all the time and energy you’ve invested in locating your target buck comes down to one critical element: making the shot.
There have been many hot debates among hunters about the best cartridges for whitetail deer, but it’s ultimately your hunting bullet that is called upon to cleanly harvest the deer of your dreams. It makes sense, then, to take the time to be certain that your bullet is up to the task.
Here are six of our favorite new deer loads for the upcoming season. Provided you do your job and the buck you’ve been waiting for all fall finally decides to show himself, these loads will help you punch your tag and put meat in the freezer.
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Federal Premium ELD-X
The new ELD-X load from Federal combines Hornady’s popular ELD-X bullet with Federal Premium components, and the result is a versatile, accurate load that deer hunters are certain to love. The ELD-X (Extremely Low Drag-eXpanding) bullet features a cup and core design with a progressively thickening copper jacket. The ELD-X’s Heat Shield Tip resists deformation and helps these bullets maintain a high BC and produce match bullet accuracy in many rifles. At low velocities the Heat Shield Tip initiates expansion so this bullet is suitable for long-range hunting. At closer distances and higher velocities, the thick jacket base and Interlock ring ensure that the bullet will hold together and retain 50 to 60% of the original weight. I’ve used ELD-X bullets on a variety of game including whitetails and I’ve been very impressed by the results. Couple that with Federal’s top-shelf cases, primers and powders, and there’s little doubt that this is one of the best deer loads for the upcoming season. Federal currently offers 10 ELD-X loads including 6.5 Creedmoor and 6.5 PRC (143-grains), .308 Winchester and .30-06 (178-grains), and the new 7mm PRC (175-grains). Check it out here.
Remington 360 Buckhammer
Lever gun lovers have found their straight wall cartridge of choice with Remington’s new 360 Buckhammer. Available with either 180- or 200-grain Core-Lokt bullets, the 360 Buckhammer shoots flatter and hits harder than the 350 Legend without excessive recoil, and the rimmed cartridge design is ideal for lever-action rifles. Henry is currently chambering lever-action rifles for this cartridge, but other manufacturers are likely to follow as the Buckhammer continues to increase in popularity. Premium Remington components like high-quality brass, primers, and propellants guarantee reliable performance. Of course, the Core-Lokt bullet at the heart of this new load has proven effective on deer for decades, and this load will certainly become a favorite in deer camps across the country. It’s been a long time since lever-action fans found a new cartridge to fall in love with, but the Buckhammer might be the one. Check it out here.
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Browning Max Point
It’s no coincidence that Browning has emblazoned the Max Point rifle ammunition box with an image of a whitetail buck because this load is designed specifically with America’s favorite big game animal in mind. The streamlined profile offers high ballistic coefficients for excellent accuracy at extended ranges, but the most crucial element of this deer hunting bullet is the Max Point polymer tip bullet design. Upon impact, the bullet sheds energy effectively and the result is quick, clean kills when the hunter does their part. Max Point ammunition is available in over 10 different loads ranging from .243 Winchester (95-grain) to .300 Winchester Magnum (180-grain) and includes mainstay cartridges like the .308 Winchester, .270 Winchester, and .30-06. Hunters in straight-wall states haven’t been left out, either: there’s a 150-grain 350 Legend load available, too. Check it out here.
Winchester Power Point 400 Legend
The 350 Legend has been a huge success for whitetail hunters in straight wall-only states, but if you’re looking for a Legend with a big more punch, then the new 400 might be just the ticket. Loaded with a 210-grain Power Point bullet, the new 400 Legend load produces 2,400 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle and carries over 1,100 foot-pounds at 200 yards, which is 300 more foot-pounds than the 350 Legend produces at that range. 400 Legend Power Point ammunition is relatively affordable and recoil isn’t as abusive as a .45-70, .450 Bushmaster, or 12-gauge slug gun. Sighted in 1.8-inches high at 100 yards, the 400 Legend load is dead-on at 150 yards and drops less than 5-inches at 200 yards, making it suitable for most eastern whitetail hunting. Accuracy from the Winchester XPR rifle that I tested was pretty good, too, averaging around 1.25-inches for three shots at 100 yards. This may well be the best Legend yet. Check it out here.
Fiocchi might be best-known for their shotgun ammunition, but the company’s new KnockDown rifle ammunition is outstanding. It utilizes a LFCHP (Lead-Free Copper Hollow Point) monometal bullet that produces deep penetration and nearly 100% weight retention. Modern copper bullets are highly effective on game, but if they have a flaw, it’s that very hard copper projectiles don’t expand in lighter game, especially at long distances, and instead “pencil through” the animal without shedding sufficient energy. That’s not an issue with Fiocchi’s new Knockdown load. The hollow nose cavity initiates expansion and the skives in the bullet nose allow it to expand and shed energy effectively. Rings cut into the shank of the bullet help reduce fouling, as does Fiocchi’s proprietary hot-burning powder that offers consistent burn rates and excellent terminal performance. The bullet’s streamlined profile helps increase BC and accuracy is excellent with these bullets. Fiocchi is currently offering KnockDown bullets in several popular cartridges including .243 Winchester (80 grains), 6.5 Creedmoor (120 grains) and .308 Winchester and .30-06 (150 grains). These bullets are legal in areas with lead bans and because they retain much of their weight and penetrate deeply, they’re also a great choice for tough game animals like hogs and elk. Check it out here.
SIG Elite Series Accubond
As with Federal, SIG has partnered with a top hunting bullet manufacturer to produce a superb new hunting load for this fall. SIG’s Elite Series Accubond ammunition is loaded with Nosler’s venerable Accubond bullet, which combines a streamlined profile with a polymer tip and the durability of a bonded bullet. Accubond bullets have an excellent reputation for accuracy (they’re often the most accurate load for many new rifles I test), and the bonded core design ensures that the core and jacket will not separate for maximum energy transfer and superb terminal performance. SIG combined the Accubond bullet with premium components including a quality nickel case, consistent propellants and reliable primers to create one of the most versatile all-around hunting cartridges available today. Thanks to the bonded core design you can consistently expect 70% weight retention with Accubond bullets, which leads to devastating results. There are currently three loads offered: 6.5 Creedmoor (140-grain), .270 Winchester (150-grain) and .308 Winchester (165-grain). Check it out here.