Ok, roast a few marshmallows and lets talk of rifles and bullets. Today we have the best bullets on the planet, with construction ranging from all lead as in old west and today with solid copper or gilding copper jacketed bullets with which to load our rifles. And some of those rifles reveal the best of both worlds, big game such as deer and varmints too. It is bullet weight, shape, composition, speed and sectional densities along with a bullets terminal velocity drive the ability to provide sufficient energy for a clean kill.
Marginal cross use cartridges such as the .223 lack sufficient sectional density (diameter/weight) to provide consistent kills at normal terminal design speeds of 2000 fps where the bullet mushrooms in the game delivering maximum energy to a deer and black bear size game. Yet on lighter game, such as coyotes and the like, they shine due to the smaller target mass and body thickness and penetrate well with excellent wound channels. At 6 mm, this in my estimation, is the small game to big game caliber such as gophers and coyotes to deer and bear. A one gun machine that also kicks little. The 6.5 mm and above like the .270 or 7mm there is sufficient sectional density coupled with energy and good bullet construction and shape for really big game such as Elk and Moose. I consider brown bear as “Dangerous Game” and should be treated that way, with respect. The smallest caliber I recommend is the .338 Winchester Magnum with 250 grain bullets like the AccuBond or a Partition/ A Frame style.
There are many schools of thought on which rifle and caliber to own however Most New England Hunters shoot the .270 Winchester, 30-06 and 308 for all around big game performance It is not as recoil friendly for a new hunter unless you purchase reduced recoil cartridges, which manufacturers do make.
From a hand loading perspective I would opt for the larger calibers all the way up to my .375 if I was not a varmint hunter, because I can create reduced loads for any of these cartridges. That is why I highly recommend to my readers that they become hand loaders, you will be so glad you did. It will bring a whole new level of satisfaction to those that do. In addition it gives you a large measure of Freedom. Like you, I like freedom to choose.