The perfect all-around North American caliber? In my opinion, it would be a .308 Win.. You don't need anything bigger than it in North America. Every game animal in N.A. can be taken with the round (even bigfoot ... ). Bigger isn't always better. Accuracy is what counts! What is your opinion?
30-06. Although I feel that we are in total agreement on this one. The -06 and the 308 are both similar rounds. I just feel that the venerable 06 gives a little more range than the 308 and a little more versatility. Although, I AM splitting hairs. I would feel more than confident with a 308 in my hands. Not sure I agree with all the hype about the short actions vs long actions debate. A shorter action is stiffer by design and slightly faster to cycle. But then again...
"If you hit what you are aiming at the first time you won't need a quick follow up shot"
Book of Tex, chapter 12 paragraph 2.
True the 30-06 is ranked #1 and the 35 whelen is good
Both the 30-06 and 35 whelen are good rounds. The 35 whelen is just a 30-06 with a .357 round. I don't know about a 300 win mag. Too big and too much recoil. If I had to go with a Mag. it would be a .338 win mag. I like the recoil of the .308 and it is military (most used round for snipers) and is inherently more accurate then the 30-06.
I think you could start quite a debate about the accuracy of the 308 vs the 30-06. I would not want to bet any money on which one is more accurate. Both rounds are known for their accuracy. I would have to see some data showing the 308 more accurate than the -06 to believe that one. I seem to remember that the reason there was a change from the -06 to the 308 had more to do with compact size of the ammo and how many rounds a soldier could carry more than any accuracy differences. However, I do sport an open mind. I know a good idea when I steal one.
The 20th Century's Top Rifle Cartridge This link states my opinion, .308 is a perfect round for many situations but North American hunting includes Alaskan brown bear.. I'll take a larger caliber if I visit Mooseman J.I.C.
2 things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, I'm not sure about the former. Einstein
Since this question was which is the best all around North American cartridge vs the most popular, I see no reason to even consider the old small case cartridges which are popular, but really don't compare to the somewhat newer more efficient combinations.
Without going into the real extremes, I would suggest the list for consideration could be limited to the belted magnums all using essentially the same case; .264 WM, 7MM RM, .300 WM, and the .338 WM. I think the easiest to remove from consideration is the .338. Yes, it has lots of energy for the really big game, but who wants to be knocked on their butt with every pull of the trigger. Also it is not going to perform well with the lighter bullets. The .264 is harder to dismiss, but unless you are a handloader, there is limited choice of amunition. It can however be loaded from 87 grains up to 160 grains. And I can say from experience moose are no problem with the 140 grain Nosler load. That said it should be dismissed as well, except for those whose range of game is more toward where the 100 grain loads are suitable.
This leaves the 7MM and 300 WM. I would suggest the best compromise for an all around is the 7MM RM. I think that even the .300 WM is overkill for NA game, and it will not load down to the lighter loads as well as the 7 MM.
So that is my choice. If you want to see how the 7 MM or others compare to the .308 or 30-06, see the link below. It allows you to compare three different cartridges and after that a number of different loads for each. Try selecting the 7 MM RM, .308, and 30-06. Then select 150 grain PSP bullets for each and see how the ballistics compare. Then try the 175 for the 7 MM and 180 for the other two and see how the heavier bullets compare. I see the 7MM as the clear winner for either the light or heavy loads.
If you handload, you can do even better. The Remington pointed soft point seems to have a poor ballistic coeficient. Sierra boat tails are better.
I've hunted with a 30-30, .303, .308, 30-06, and two .264 WM. Still own the 30-30 (sentimental value - belonged to my grandfather and is said to have bear teeth marks on the stock!) and the .264's. While I would not sell the .264's to switch to the 7MM, if I were starting with nothing, I think the 7MM is the better choice. Just my thoughts,
More hunters use the 30-06 than any other cal. here in CO. However, I am considering the 7mm-08. It has all the power needed for everyday hunting although some out-of-staters would consider it too light. If I had to settle for one rifle, it would be a Savage in (most powerful to least) 30-06, 308, or 7mm-08. Any of these will bring home Elk, Mule, Pronghorn, Big Horn, Mountain goat, Doll, Lion, or Black/brown bear.