Deciding on the right rifle could mean the difference between antlers hanging on your wall and coming home empty-handed. With so many options available, it can be hard to choose the best weapon for you. It’s important to select something that fits your personal style, the game you’re hunting, and your experience level. Let’s explore a few ways to make sure your rifle investment works for you.
Do Your Research
Like any other big purchase, it’s critical that you research products before stepping into a store. This will help keep you from feeling overwhelmed by a case full of choices. Narrow down what you might like by starting with manufacturer websites, then moving to forums and reviews. Manufacturer websites are perfect for getting a general overview of each rifle. This should help narrow your options quickly, bringing it down to just a few rifle choices. From there, it’s time to look at personal experiences. Reviews and forums are great sources of real-life rifle knowledge. Look for users with similar stories to yours, and see what weapon worked for them. Reading these reviews will give you an idea of what you may want to hold and test when you shop. If you have friends and family who are gunsmiths or well-versed in rifles, go to them with your choices. They will likely have plenty of thoughts on what will work well for you.
Throughout your research, remember to consider who the primary user will be. Physical stature is a significant factor. A smaller, lighter person may prefer a lighter rifle with a shorter stock and higher comb; these provide less recoil which can be ideal for some. If the primary user is still an adolescent, consider a youth model. These rifles feature a shorter length of pull (LOP) of about 12.5 inches. Experience is another critical factor. Experienced hunters may prefer the accuracy of a single-shot rifle while newer hunters may prefer the speed of a repeating rifle. Make sure to bring this person with you when shopping to ensure proper gun fit and comfort.
There isn’t one right choice when it comes to a single or repeating rifle. For most users, this is a matter of preference. Single-shot rifles are precisely as their name would suggest: single-bullet rifles. After each shot, you’ll need to reload. The downside of this rifle is that reloading takes time, and missing the first shot may lose you the target. However, single-shot rifles are more accurate on a first shot because of the increase in pressure. Options for single-shot rifles include trapdoor, rolling block, break-open, and falling block rifles. Repeating rifles contain extra cartridges. They are ready for a second shot almost immediately after firing and can be ideal for newer hunters who may not be as accurate. Options for repeating rifles include pump action, bolt action, lever action, and automatic rifles. If possible, spend time firing both single shot and repeating rifles before making a purchase. Because this is a subjective choice, there is no correct answer. Working with different guns will give you a feel for your preferences.
Choosing the right cartridge or bullet should be a central part of your decision. Rifles are only designed to shoot specific cartridges, so when researching your gun, know which cartridge you’ll need. One of the primary concerns here is what game you’ll be hunting. Your cartridge should be able to take down game with a single shot, so bigger game needs more stopping power. Particularly large game may need an even more specialized gun that can hold more powerful bullets. Consider a .30-06 Winchester or .270 Winchester for this type of hunting. These moderately powerful cartridges are well respected for their function and versatility. Smaller game requires less force, so a basic .22 or .223 Remington is ideal. This high-velocity cartridge is perfect for small animals, but unlikely to be the right choice if you’re hunting deer or larger game.
Where is the budget going?
Rifles come in a variety of price points, ranging from the hundreds to well into the thousands of dollars. You can certainly find a decent affordable gun, but what separates a good deal from something that’s just cheap? The most important factor for this question is material. Standard, modern rifles are composed of stainless or carbon steel in the barrel and other metal components. Stainless steel is more expensive, but that doesn’t mean carbon steel is a bad choice. Carbon steel is more prone to rust. If you choose to go this cheaper route, you’ll need to keep up with regular rifle maintenance. If you do, your carbon rifle can last and be a great investment. For the stock, wood or fiberglass is common. Fiberglass stocks are overall more durable. That being said, a well-maintained wood stock is a budget-friendly and valid option. Make sure to choose a strong wood if you go this track. Remember that stock does not determine a rifle’s accuracy, so either material can yield great hunting results with the proper training and care.
But don’t spend the whole budget on the firearm. Even an experienced hunter can get so excited over a new rifle that they forget to set aside money for a scope. Without a proper scope, your rifle becomes useless, so keeping some money in the budget is critical. Whatever you spend on your rifle, expect to spend 50% to even 100% of that cost on a good scope. Research how much a scope will cost before purchasing your rifle to avoid a sadly returned item. Once you have your rifle and scope, be sure to mount it, sight it, and become comfortable with it before hunting.
Remember that choosing a hunting rifle is highly subjective; learning what works for you may take time. Check return windows and policies before making this large purchase. Researching this decision now could save a big headache later. No matter your experience level, if you have access to a trusted professional, work with them. They are sure to have valuable insights into a great starting rifle for you. A trained gunsmith or knowledgeable dealer can always steer you in the right direction for quality rifles and accessories in your budget. Once you’ve done your research and made your decision, make your purchase, and welcome to the exciting world of rifle ownership.