Whether you are buying a rifle as a present to yourself for the holidays or choosing your first rifle for a future hunting season, there are a few things that you need to take into consideration before making your choice. If you are an experienced hunter most of this information is second nature to you, but for the new guy just getting into hunting and possibly with a limited budget, the choosing of a hunting rifle can be a difficult experience.
Let’s assume you are only going to have one rifle but you are hoping to go on various hunting trips in North America for several types of game, your choice, although maybe not perfect for each species needs to be adequate for your needs and skill level.
The Right rifle for what you are hunting
The first question you should ask yourself is what are you going to hunt? Some types of guns, and by guns we are really saying Caliber can overlap in terms of what they are used for. A caliber that you may use for Hogs and Deer might be also useful for Pronghorn Antelope and perhaps even Elk, but it might be a bit on the light side for Moose and large Bear. A .22 caliber rifle might be perfect for Squirrel but completely inadequate for Wild pigs. Get the Picture?
What Caliber is best?
Each Caliber may have several size bullets for available for it and you may want to consider the weight (grain) bullet that will best serve your needs. Let’s assume you will be primarily hunting Hog and Deer, a 150 grain bullet should be adequate for either so you may consider a caliber that has a variety of cartridges around that bullet weight for it. So now we can narrow down our caliber rifle to the .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield and perhaps a .300 Winchester Magnum. Now, remember that we mentioned this may be your first gun and the recoil of the gun may factor into your decision. The .270 Winchester will have the lightest ‘kick’ while the .300 Magnum may leave you with a few aches and pains after a lot of practicing. If you really don’t think Brown Bear or Moose are in your immediate future lets cross the .300 of our list, but if you really want to consider the larger North American game then cross off the .270.
What action should you choose?
Rather than go into all the different kinds of actions (method of placing a cartridge into the chamber) that are available, let’s just stick to the two most popular with new hunters, the bolt action and the semi-automatic. The semi-automatic requires the shooter to do little more than squeeze the trigger whereas the bolt action requires the shooter to manually lift a “bolt” and eject and replace the cartridge. Since the bolt action has much fewer parts and it is easily maintained by the new hunter it was my first choice. I also like that the process of chambering a round makes the new hunter think a bit more before firing.
Stock material and barrel length
Barrel length and the material used for the stock of the rifle are really a combination of personal preference and the environment and distances you may be hunting. But when it was all said and done I ended up purchasing a Savage Trophy Hunter 30-06. It gave me everything I was looking for and it came in a Left-handed version. The variety of cartridges available in the 30-06 caliber allowed me scale down for Pronghorn Antelope or up for Elk and Moose while not breaking the bank on price.
All-in all I am very happy with my choice and glad I took the time to figure out what best suited my needs. For small game…well, that’s why god invented shotguns!