CHOOSING A HUNTING RIFLE

The quality of your hunting rifle has a major impact on your hunting success. However, it can be difficult to know what to look for. You might even feel intimidated by the rows of rifles behind the counter of your local sporting goods store. Modern advancements in firearms have left shooters with seemingly endless options for hunting. While options are a good thing, having so many choices of manufacturers, models, calibers, and accessories can can leave you confounded about where to start.

This guide is designed to help you break down the fundamental elements of a hunting rifle. Explaining all your options here isn’t practical, so consider this a starting point. Use this information to kick-start the process of finding the best rifle for your hunting needs.

IS IT LEGAL?

Before you invest hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on a new hunting rifle, you should check the hunting regulations for the area you plan to hunt. Many jurisdictions have limitations on what types of firearms can be used to hunt specific game animals. For example, some areas restrict using rifles for deer hunting. Certain states may also have legal limitations on caliber and cartridges used for certain game.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT CALIBER

Deciding on the caliber of your hunting rifle may be the most important decision in the buying process.

As a basic rule, you’ll need a smaller caliber for hunting small game and varmints. You should move up the scale, increasing size and power in proportion to the size of the animals you hunt. You obviously wouldn’t use the same caliber rifle to hunt squirrels as you would moose. Choose something too small for a massive bull elk, and he’ll think he’s been bitten by a mosquito. (There are exceptions. A well-placed, lucky shot always has the potential to bring down large animals.) However, shooting an eastern gray squirrel with a .30-06 will reduce your squirrel to nothing but a puff of fur.

30-06 hunting rifle

For general reference, a small-bore .22 caliber rifle is perfect for rabbits, squirrels and varmints. Larger animals like deer and elk require something larger and more powerful. Popular choices are the .270 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield.

CONSIDER DISTANCE AND HABITAT

The type of hunting rifle you need will largely depend on the distance you’ll be targeting game. If you’ll be hunting thick woods, you’ll need a short-barreled rifle for maneuverability. You should also look for a rifle with a little more punch to effectively bust through brush.

However, if most of your shots will be long distances across open cropland or prairie grass, a long-barreled, flat-shooting rifle with a powerful scope is more appropriate.

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