Woody for TTAG
Previous Post
Next Post
3 tips for choosing hunting rifle
The good news: New hunters have plenty of options when they are searching for their first hunting rifle. The bad news: The choices can be overwhelming. Above is a Ruger SR-556VT semi-auto rifle chambered in .223 Remington, which has a lot of versatility and low recoil. Below are a Howa M1500 HS Precision HHS63701 in 7mm Remington Magnum, a Rossi R92 Model 920442093 in 44 Remington Magnum, a Ruger American Rimfire Standard 8305 in 22 LR, and a CZ-USA CZ 527 Youth Carbine in 7.62x39mm. Photos by Woody for TTAG.

Hunting is a heckuva lot of fun, and the proceeds — savory game meat, unique memories, and new friendships — are worth their weight in bug spray and doe urine. But if you’re new to the sport of hunting, you may or may not have had a mentor to lead you into the right way of taking game animals, which includes shooting them humanely.

Shooting an animal — whether it’s small game such as rabbits and squirrels or medium to big game such as turkeys, javelina, whitetail and mule deer, pronghorn sheep, and others — is an awesome responsibility. The task, killing something, carries with it an ethical responsibility to accomplish the harvest humanely, without undue suffering by the animal. That means you need to pick the right tool for the job — something you can handle and something that will kill the game animal with one shot.

So you and your new hunting rifle have to be able to deliver on that goal of a one-shot kill. If you have never bought a firearm or been in a gun store, then picking and purchasing your first hunting rifle can be a challenge.

No one wants to look stupid, and everyone wants to spend their money wisely. Here are three tips that will help you find that first rifle you’re looking for to use while hunting North America’s game animals.

1. Do Some Research

There is lots of info on the internet, but most of it isn’t as good as what you see here at The Truth About Guns, so don’t believe everything you read. Stick with trusted online resources like TTAG, or go old school and actually buy a book on hunting.

Three guys who I know and trust to talk about hunting rifles include David E. Petzal, Bob Robb, and Bryce Towsley.

Petzal, former executive editor of Field & Stream and a longtime rifle columnist, wrote The Complete Book of Hunting, still available online in its original hardcover form, back in 1990. It’s a comprehensive look at hunting with a gun, covers gun and equipment selection, game species, and big-game hunting techniques.

Petzal Complete Book of Hunting
David E. Petzal’s The Complete Book of Hunting is a comprehensive look at hunting with a rifle, with extensive discussions of chambering choices and action styles for big-game hunting firearms. Cover photo courtesy of the publisher.

Robb is probably better known as a bowhunter, but he has taken plenty of game with a rifle. His Ultimate Guide to Elk Hunting is a paperback dating back to 2001 and covers the techniques and strategies of several North American elk hunters. Their advice covers hunting elk throughout their range and offers guidance on choosing the top-end of centerfire-rifle performance. Robb also authored the paperback, Hunting Wild Boar in California 6th Updated Edition if feral hogs are on your hunting season dance card.

Robb Ultimate Guide to Elk Hunting
Bob Robb’s Ultimate Guide to Elk Hunting covers top-end centerfire-rifle performance for hunting mountainous big game. Cover photo courtesy of the author.

Bryce Towsley has written about firearms for 38 years. He knows guns and ballistics and how they relate to the real world, and currently writes a column on gunsmithing for The American Rifleman. His books include Gunsmithing Modern Firearms: A Gun Guy’s Guide to Making Good Guns Even Better and Big Bucks The Benoit Way, which is about an Eastern hunting family and their success at hunting deer. His “Prepper Guns” hardcover is also worth reading, though not directly on the topic of hunting rifle choices.

Towsley Gunsmithing Modern Firearms
Bryce Towsley’s Gunsmithing Modern Firearms: A Gun Guy’s Guide to Making Good Guns Even Better is a wide-ranging hardcover about upgrading hunting and other rifles. Cover photo courtesy of the author.

Of course, check with your friends and family about what they use, and why, and where they buy their hunting supplies. I would try to find a store that had a staff who hunts and who have experience in the type of game hunting I was considering.

That probably won’t be at a big-box store like Walmart (which just announced it would stop selling handgun ammunition, and which has already backed out of AR-15 sales).

Many states require new hunters (regardless of age) to take a state-approved hunter-education course. Go ahead and sign up for it. You’ll have to have the course eventually, and if you take it ahead of committing money to a rifle choice, you’ll gain valuable wisdom that can cement your pick before you start shopping.

Fortunately, reading about hunting isn’t as difficult as reading about particle physics, so doing a little research before you buy your first hunting rifle won’t be drudgery.

Most important, please take an NRA training course. 

The gun-rights group is better known these days for its missteps in politics and the personal enrichment of its leadership. But the National Rifle Association got its start training shooters in firearms safety, and their First Steps Rifle Orientation should be a must-do item on your list.

Then, once you know how to handle firearms safely, sign up for the Basic Rifle Shooting Course. You’ll get a solid grounding in gun handling that will serve you well when you’ve decided to begin your search for a hunting rifle.

link to Rifle NRA Training Division
Rifle safety and use instruction is the middle name of the NRA. Graphic courtesy of NRA Training Division.

Also, if you attend the NRA Annual Meetings, you can see the wares of nearly every major rifle manufacturer, side by side, and factory reps are there to answer questions. They also won’t try to sell you a gun at the show because they can’t. It’s a really low-key experience and a chance to look at a lot of guns side by side.

2. Take a Test Drive

The research you’ve done will narrow the field of choices you might consider, and it will also expose that you’re not just going to buy a rifle. It also means buying ammo, probably an optic (such as a riflescope or red dot), carrying case or sleeve or both, eye and ear protection, and cleaning supplies, at a minimum.

When new shooters ask me what I shoot, I’m careful to say that what I shoot isn’t necessarily what they need. But I do offer to take them to shoot whatever I have in my safe, my treat.

Most hunters I know are happy to take a new shooter to the range and let them feel the shooting experience without any financial commitment. Good manners dictate that you  offer to cover the range fees and ammo, or buy lunch afterward, but that’s between you and your contacts.

During the test drives, you’ll find out pretty quickly what you like and what you don’t like. More important, you’ll find out what you can handle, and what you can’t.

Overwhelmingly, new people I’ve introduced to shooting love shooting smallbore rimfires, and they’re most comfortable using bolt actions because the manual of arms is easy to understand. Also, finding a good rifle in a reasonable price range is fairly easy. 

Among the deer-hunting cartridges, I’ve found new shooters have enthusiasm when they shoot rifles chambered in .22-250, .223 Rem., .243 Win., .257 Roberts, .260 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, and 6.5 Grendel.

Most new shooters get recoil fatigue when they enter the .270 Win. realm, but they can generally tolerate it, along with the .25-06 Rem., 280 Rem., .284 Win., .308 Win. and others like that, including 7mm-08 Rem. and 7×57 Mauser.

Magnum cartridges, starting with the .257 Weatherby Magnum, are generally too much for most people who are just starting out, and 7mm Remington Magnum, 300 Winchester Magnum, and above are too much for almost all beginning shooters.

Hornady Match 168-grain boattail
This is a three-round 100-yard group shot with .308 Winchester using Hornady Match 168-grain boattail hollowpoints #8097, with a point of aim in the middle of the square. For hunting, this rifle would be likely set up with a Maximum Point Blank Range zero of 300 yards. The .308 is at the top end of what most new shooters find acceptable in terms of recoil, is widely available, has a range of bullet weights suitable for hunting, and appears in a number of rifle styles, including both semi-auto and lever actions. This round was fired from a Savage Model 10PT-SR 22356 bolt action. There are worse cartridge choices for the new shooter. Photo by Woody for TTAG.

It’s most important to find a gun that you enjoy shooting and carrying. So that means light enough to carry for several hours in the field, and not so light you’re punished by recoil at the buttstock when you shoot it.

3. Some Universal Considerations

Without getting into your choice of chambering, there are a few universal concepts to keep in mind prior to plunking down your plastic.

It’s very difficult to get a thorough, correct fit from your rifle when you’re buying it at the gun store. Ideally, you should already check this by shooting a loaner, but if you haven’t, head position is the most crucial element to get right.

If your head is in any position other than straight up and down, you’ll oscillate around your center of gravity when standing as your brain seeks to find its balance. That translates into wobble.

In the video below, author Ryan Cleckner talks about the topic in more detail. 

If you crane your neck left, right, or forward to see the sights or eye relief on the scope, you’ll be unstable. Part of this head position on the stock is due to length of pull (LOP), that is, the distance between the trigger and the middle of the buttpad.

Too long a LOP and you’ll have trouble getting your hand to the trigger, and you’ll feel like you’re falling off the back end of the gun. Too short, and you’ll come forward onto the front part of the comb and get too close to the optic. However, if you’ll be wearing thick winter clothes, take that into account.

The right way to get the gun up is to have a natural head position and bring the gun to your face, not the other way around. If you can’t get the optics in line with your eye when you bring the gun up, the fit is wrong, and the Shooting Gods will punish you with inaccuracy and pain. Ask me how I know.

You can help your stock-fit experience by buying one of the newer stocks that allows some adjustability. The Ruger American Hunter short-action line comes with a Magpul stock that’s adjustable for LOP and comb height. Ruger’s Precision Rifle and Precision Rimfire Rifle come with adjustable buttstocks as well.

Mossberg offers partially adjustable stocks on some of its MVP and Patriot bolt-action rifles and the 464 lever actions. Savage offers stocks with adjustable LOPs, as does Browning in its X-Bolt lines. Some Remington Model 700s, especially the long-range models, have adjustable stocks.

The Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic Compact has LOP adjustability. You can also improve your marksmanship with many synthetic and wood stocks by adding adjustable combs or wraps.

Savage AccuFit buttstock
Savage’s AccuFit buttstock is very adjustable for comb height and length of pull, two very important considerations for proper head placement on the stock. The company is currently running a promotion, the “Traveling AccuFit” campaign, to publicize the stock’s adjustability. A Model 110 Long Range Hunter rifle, chambered in .280 AI (.280 Ackley Improved), will be used across the United States to hunt multiple species with a variety of different hunters that vary in age, size, and experience level. Savage brought the AccuFit stock to market in 2018. Image courtesy of Savage Arms.

If you decide to go with a semi-automatic rifle that has a buffer tube on it, you can fit a whole bunch of multi-position adjustable stocks on it pretty easily.

You’ll have to decide on an action type, but some of that will be dictated by the chambering you choose. I prefer bolt actions for hunting, but you may be happy with a pump action, lever-action rifle, semi-automatic, and or single shot.

You’ll also have to choose a stock from a dizzying list of materials, including hardwood, laminated wood, polymer, and fiberglass. I like the looks of wood, but synthetics are more durable and more resistant to the elements. An effective recoil pad is also worth looking for. 

Beyond chambering, your choice of barrel includes materials (carbon steel or stainless), length (generally 16 to 26 inches), contour (thickness), and muzzle treatment (threaded or not threaded for an appliance).

A longer barrel will certainly affect the rig’s overall length and weight, but they aren’t inherently more accurate. It’s worth looking at this TTAG article, The Truth About Barrel Length, Muzzle Velocity and Accuracy, for more on the topic.

Bottom Line

It’s easy to be overwhelmed when picking your first hunting rifle. But if you use a process of elimination — action, chambering, stock style, and barrel style — you can quickly get your choices down to just a few inside your price point and make your final decision from that list. 


Here are a few more topics that can help you choose the best hunting rifle for small or large game:

Hunting 101: Getting Started with Hunting in America

Hunting at Maximum Point Blank Range (MPBR)

Gun Review: Savage Model 110 Varmint in .223 Remington

My Lost (and Found) Remington 700 .260

Gun Review: Tikka T3 Hunter

Gun Review: Mossberg MVP LR-T

My Name Is Tom And I’m A Hunter

First Time Hunter: My First Kills

5 Hunting Rifles That Won’t Break The Bank

6 Under-The-Radar Hunting Rifles That Are Worth Buying

Gear Review: Leupold VX-Freedom 1.5-4×20 Duplex Reticle Scope

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. I hunt with a pawn shop purchased, $350-ish Ruger M77 in 30.06 w/ Leupold 3×9; nothing expense or fancy.

    The pigs and deer can’t seem to tell the difference between it and the expense guns with boutique chamberings. YMMV.

    • I hunt with a Ruger American in .243. With a Redfield 3×9 scope on top. Out the door new was less than 500. I was not a beginner but had not hunted in decades when I made that purchase. It was new. Lightweight. In a caliber good enough for my area. And I would not be heart broken if I dropped it into a gorge.

      I am limiting my shots to a max of 300 yards because at my age and skill level that is my ethical maximum. And this rifle/scope combo makes that limit with ease.

      For a beginner there are a large selection of very reasonably priced entry level rifles from companies like Savage and Ruger that will fill the freezer. Add a shotgun for birds and small game and you have a complete hunting battery that will cover all your seasons. The majority of my birding is done with a bone stock Mossberg 500. An economical gun that does the job.

      • Oh, for the love of God, don’t even signal that the AR is a reasonable first hunting rifle. That is just shameless promotion of a personal agenda.

        • Why not? A lightweight, accurate, low recoil rifle (depending on caliber) that can be fired as a single shot or 1-5 shot magazine (local law dependent) is a very good choice for a first hunting rifle. Not to mention it’s versatility. Swapping the upper can turn your deer hunting rifle into a hard hitting large game gun and then again into an excellent varmint gun and then into a paper punching long distance target fun gun.

          Obviously it’s not as traditional as what I and many others grew up with but tradition aside it’s an excellent and extremely versatile choice for someone who’s just entering into hunting as well as we “seasoned” hunters.

        • Thanks Capt. Obvious

          But if you have to expend effort defending the thing as a viable hunting machine, you are just again signaling your intents, not the best interests of those new to hunting. Skip the AR as a hunting platform. Really! It dose nothing but hurt the cause.

          Hell, anyone carrying an AR around in the woods might be an enemy, and thats a new tangent of hunting.

          Get with the program and promote hunting, not your twisted 2A dreams. Post that signal elsewhere.

        • BCG. Sorry to disappoint, I’ve been rifle hunting since I was 14- .410 slug, 30-30, .270, Muzzleloader. Updated laws allowed kids to hunt even younger in my state. Once it was time to shop for a rifle for my kid(10 year old girl), I choose an AR. Why? 30 Cal. Almost zero recoil. Adjustable stock. Lightweight.

        • Nobody. It could be I don’t promote the AR for hunting because I live in CA. The caliber is legal here. But the only CA legal ar platforms are a complete waste of time.

          Does that suit your agenda?

        • @BCG Seriously? It’s people like you that hurt all gun related activities including hunting. Anyone carrying an AR in the woods might be the enemy?? The enemy of what? Just because someone chooses a gun you are triggered by they suddenly become a dangerous enemy? That’s some serious unbalanced stuff right there.

          Yes I support the second amendment, it’s part of the American constitution. If you don’t support it perhaps another country would be a better choice. I’ve got news for you, without the second amendment there wouldn’t be any hunting. Gun grabbers go after the easiest to attack first and continue on until even your supposed non threatening bolt action and double barrel shotgun are targeted. Even today the gun confiscation crowd are including high power magazine fed bolt action “sniper rifles”, aka your hunting rifle, in their lists of evil weapons.

          A Fudd villainizing any gun other than traditional models is just a big a threat to the second amendment as those liberal preaching all gun confiscation. If you think it ends when only the guns you don’t approve of are listed for confiscation you are even more delusional than you seem here.

        • Nobody quote “Oh, for the love of God, don’t even signal that the AR is a reasonable first hunting rifle. That is just shameless promotion of a personal agenda.”

          avatarBeoBear says:
          September 7, 2019 at 17:40
          Why not? A lightweight, accurate, low recoil rifle (depending on caliber) that can be fired as a single shot or 1-5 shot magazine (local law dependent) is a very good choice for a first hunting rifle. Not to mention it’s versatility. Swapping the upper can turn your deer hunting rifle into a hard hitting large game gun and then again into an excellent varmint gun and then into a paper punching long distance target fun gun.

          Obviously it’s not as traditional as what I and many others grew up with but tradition aside it’s an excellent and extremely versatile choice for someone who’s just entering into hunting as well as we “seasoned” hunters.

          avatarBCG says:
          September 7, 2019 at 17:58
          Thanks Capt. Obvious

          But if you have to expend effort defending the thing as a viable hunting machine, you are just again signaling your intents, not the best interests of those new to hunting. Skip the AR as a hunting platform. Really! It dose nothing but hurt the cause.

          Hell, anyone carrying an AR around in the woods might be an enemy, and thats a new tangent of hunting.

          Get with the program and promote hunting, not your twisted 2A dreams. Post that signal elsewhere.

          Am I the only one seeing Nobody and BCG as two “hand holding” trolls? One claims talk of ARs for hunting is “signaling” (a true regressive left word), a legitimate response from BeoBear follows, only to be minimized by BCG, claiming defense of ARs for hunting is only for advancement of 2nd A rights.
          I would bet both Nobody and BCG think AR stands for assault rifle.

  2. A good hunting rifle with a scope. Like a Remington 700.

    The military would call that a sniper rifle. A *highly* lethal “Weapon of War” that should have no place on the streets of America…

    (Sarcasm… 😉 )

    • Hunting on the streets of America should not be tolerated. No deer, elk, hog or bunny wabbit should ever live in fear while simply trying to get to a Starbuck’s for a yummy beverage and a scone or muffin.

      • We joke. But here in the over crowded bay area I have seen deer in the streets and have had flocks of wild turkey in my front yard. Temptations, temptations……

  3. Okay, wait. So why is the author talking about hunting, then displaying (as the very first photos) guns chambered in calibers that aren’t generally allowed for hunting? .223 Rem, .22LR, 7.62×39, etc. which are more for varmint control than licensed deer/elk/bear hunting. Unless I missed something after reading the article twice, I only see mention of a 7mm Mag rifle, and a photo of .308 Win later on down the page.

    Wouldn’t it be more prudent and believable to focus on .30-06 Sprg, .30-30 Win, .243 Win, .350 Legend, etc.?

    • Nevermind. I just read it for a third time after posting, and I saw the section discussing proper calibers.

      Nothing to see here. Move along. Haz just needs more coffee…

      • This is a prime example of people who talk shi! then “change their mind”…. I’m not sure if you’re a woman or a manlet, but you really should keep your trap shut unless you have something constructive to add to a conversation…
        People like you…….UGH

    • 7.62 x 39 is legal in all States. It’s ballistic performance is in the same class as 30-30 Winchester. .223/5.56 is legal for deer hunting in many States. However, I generally leave the AR for Coyote. If I were going to use .223 for deer I would be using my Ruger American Ranch.

    • Hey, everyone. Another foreign actor posting a link to his online store. These guys never contribute to the conversation, and just try to hawk their wares.

      Don’t click on the link.

  4. I noticed the 7mm Mauser (7×57) was mentioned. Read on.

    My response to an online video titled, “Elk Castle Shooting Sports: Winchester 7×57 Mauser”. This posted four years ago in 2015 in regards to Winchester’s new Model 70 bolt action sporting rifle in this caliber. Too bad Ruger’s bolt action American rifle isn’t chambered in 7mm Mauser (7×57).

    The 7mm Mauser (7×57) was developed originally in 1892 as a military caliber,primarily for Spain, Mexico, Central America, and half of South American governments. Their Armies (soldiers) utilized it extensively. In addition to being chambered in Mauser bolt action rifles, the 7mm Mauser was even chambered in machine guns. In fact, in 1913 during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) a version of the Japanese Arisaka bolt action rifle was produced for the Government of Mexico. This caliber also saw extensive use during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) by both Fascist and Republican factions. No doubt the 7mm Mauser even saw some, but limited use, during both World War 1 (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945). Not to mention the Spanish American War (1898), and South Africa’s Boer War (1899-1902). So much for the military history on the 7mm Mauser.

    Sporting use: The 7mm Mauser (7×57),along with the .30-06 Springfield and .375 Holland and Holland Magnum historically, is a world caliber. Africa, India, Europe, North America, and elsewhere it’s seen over a century of use hunting big game of
    the world. Even today (2019) the 7mm Mauser would be an ideal classic dual purpose “deer/elk” caliber for the average North American hunter who wishes to fill the family freezer with fresh venison and elk meat. A quality bolt action sporting rifle such as this gorgeous Winchester Model 70 chambered in 7mm Mauser, topped with a good 4x scope, and carry sling would give an entire lifetime of service to it’s owner. This is one caliber that deserves to be far more popular than it is. It’s also highly useful to both sexes, including youth who desire a rifle with lethal killing power on big game, yet has noticeably less recoil than a .30-06 and .270.

    —James A. “Jim” Farmer
    Ashland, Oregon
    Now a resident of Merrill, Oregon (Klamath County)

    • Jim, IMO the 7mm-08 has taken the place of the 7×57 in modern firearms markets. They’re both excellent rounds which do as you say – fill the freezer.

      The problem for the 7×57 was that once the surplus Mausers dried up, so did much of the interest in the 7×57. Going into a sporting goods store today, you’ll find it much easier to find 7mm08 loaded with modern hunting bullets than the 7×57. It’s a shame, but there it is.

      • Yes it is a shame indeed! And why do we have today 5 to 6 times more rifle calibers than we need? Too, so many over-lap and duplicated each other ballistic ally. Example: the
        .270 Winchester and .280 Remington. Whatever happened to “keeping it simple stupid”
        and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Again, is there really any excuse for all the newer rifle
        calibers that have emerged since after World War II ended in 1945? Perhaps both the
        .223 and .22-250 Remington to supplement the .22 Hornet (1930) and .220 Swift (1935)
        were warranted. Also, same for the .44 Magnum (1955-1956). Also warranted was the
        vast improvement in primers, bullets (modern), and smokeless powders. But again, today we have way “too damned many rifle calibers!” I feel the sporting goods industry
        itself largely deserves blame here for creating an artificial demand! Progressive makes
        sense for medical, dental, and health care, but certainly not for what I allude to, including progressive politics (creeping socialism which ultimately leads to Communism). Whatever happened to the old 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser, .30-40 Krag, .303 British, .300 Savage, and even .35 Remington for instance? Inhabitants of both Norway and Sweden still consider the original 6.5 Swede (1894) adequate for hunting their version of moose. The older generations of hunters rightly considered these all adequate for not only deer, but likewise elk, moose, and caribou. Are members of the deer family today tougher, stronger, and more difficult to kill with a properly placed sensible shot vs. generations ago? Obviously not. No….the average North American hunter today is both over-gunned and over-scoped. I realize my posting will not make me popular with some readers here, but this is how I feel about the issue.

        • The 7 x 57 MM Mauser was a fine cartridge 100 plus years ago, and remains so today. Of course, same applies to the 30-06 and don’t forget the 6.5 x 55 MM Mauser.

        • Well, to answer your initial question above, the answer is “marketing.” I’m convinced that since about 1960, the object of modern gun marketing has been to convince the American shooter that they need some “new hotness.”

          re: the .270 Winchester and .280 Remington: No less a gun writer than Townsend Whelen said of the .280 his article “Just a Little Bit Better” back in the early 60’s: “If you have a .30-06 or .270 Winchester with which you shoot well, you need read no further.”

          Today’s gun rag editors would hit the roof if one of their writers wrote that. Townie laid out the details of the .280 Remington and showed that, at best, it could give results perhaps as much as “10% better” in terms of drop (than the ’06) and 10% or so more energy downrange than the .270. And this is true. But, as Townie pointed out to his readers, he didn’t see any need for the reader to rid himself of a .270 or .30-06 that had been working well in favor of a .280.

          The 6.5×55 Swede: The reason why that cartridge hasn’t picked up far, far more following in the US is that the case head is 0.480″ in diameter, whereas our rifles in the US have their bolt heads set at 0.473″ as a result of the .30-06. Ever since then, “American cartridges” pretty much follow the pattern of case heads being 0.473″ diameter. The second issue for the 6.5×55 today is that it is in-between the OAL’s of the “short” cartridges (0.308, .243, 7mm08, .260, et al) and the ’06. Our rifles tend towards the “standard” length action (for the ’06 and similar cartridges) and “short” length actions, and for the larger stuff (.375 H&H magnum length cartridges).

          The 6.5×55 is an excellent cartridge, and the Scandinavians are hunting and target shooting quite well. The rifle I’d really like to acquire to launch 6.5×55’s is the Sauer STR-200.

  5. Weight! Don’t buy a heavy “sniper” rifle and expect to be able carry it up hill all day.

    Had prospective hunting club member bring 17 pound .308 to range day and it shot beautifully off a bench. When he came with us to hunt deer on some hills of only a few thousand feet it was just too heavy to try use.

    Hunting rifles might fire one or shot on a deer hunt. It doesn’t need the super heavy target barrel. Most of my hunts are done with 760 pump action in 30-06.

  6. For those who are recoil sensitive, I think the 7mm-08 is one of the best all-round hunting rifle cartridges developed since 1960. It has very minimal recoil.

    IMO, .224-diameter rounds, .243’s, and .25’s require expert shot placement on deer or larger game to avoid wounding game that gets away into the woods. 7mm cartridges are where you finally get to a point where the bullets can be heavy enough to take quartering-away shots (my personal favorite) where I can slip the bullet in the front of the near-side lung cavity, possibly taking out the heart, and then taking out the far shoulder to anchor the animal “right there.”

    My list of recommendations for people asking “what should I buy to hunt with?” goes like this:

    1. .30-06 Springfield.
    2. .270 Winchester.
    3. .308 Winchester or 7mm-08.
    4. Anything and everything else.

    • I agree, the 7mm-08 doesn’t get the love it deserves. It’s very similar in recoil and effectiveness on medium game as the 6.5 Creedmore, which is the new hotness. I’m still searching for a left handed bolt for the daughter, hopefully find an old Savage 10 Left hand but can’t seem to find any in lower calibers than 30-06.

    • Regarding recoil, to many people forget or never thought about stock design, which can be a very significant factor. For instance, the U.S. 30-06 Springfield Rifle weighed around 8 pounds. The 1917 Enfield fired the same cartridge and was about 2 lbs. heavier. Due to it’s stock design, lots of drop, the felt recoil of the U.S. Rifle of 1917, aka the U.S. Enfield was greater than that of the Springfield. I had always found recoil of the Model 70 Winchester Target Rifle to be a minor factor, in part due to it’s stock design. That rifle, in caliber 30-06 and later in .308 Winchester weighed about 10 lbs. Target rifles were shot a whole lot more than hunting rifles too.

      • You have a valid point Alan. I recall my late father, a U.S. Army World War II veteran who served from 1941 to 1945 under-going basic training, I believe in then San Luis Obispo,
        California. He mentioned the recruits who fired the bolt action .30 caliber (.30-06) 1903 Springfield rifle the first time on the range had black eyes and bloody noses from the stout recoil. No doubt due to the stock design. Last week I examined a bolt action Ruger American rifle in .30-06 priced new at about $388.00, without scope and sling of course. I imagine even with a compact 4x scope and sling this modern .30-06 would be entirely different to shoot from the shoulder vs. both the ’03 Springfield and ’17 Enfield. Bear in mind too these recruits in 1941-42 were no doubt being screamed, cursed, and yelled at by some hard assed Army drill instructors. This certainly isn’t conducive to developing confidence. Bear in mind that era was totally different back then vs. today. Some things change for the better, while some things change for the worse. I also recall my late dad’s experience with the .30 caliber Garand M-1 semi-automatic rifle which had noticeably less recoil than the older bolt action 1903 Springfield. The Garand weighed about a pound more and was gas operated, which reduced the recoil of the .30-06 ammo. My dad said “firing the Garand M-1 rifle was no more punishing then firing a .300 Savage.”

    • Dyseptic Gunsmith,

      Even with the “larger calibers” there are no guarantees. I shot a nice buck (probably about 140 pounds field dressed) at 130 yards with my rifle chambered in .270 Winchester shooting a 130 grain bullet. The buck was quartering away. My shot placement absolutely destroyed the near lung (it looked like red corn flakes cereal), took off the top of the heart, and the bullet stopped against the hide in the brisket.

      And I almost never learned any of this because:
      (1) That deer took off running into the woods
      (2) Did not leave a single drop of blood anywhere
      (3) I abandoned my search of over 20 minutes

      The only reason I know about the wounding profile: I would not give up and called out four more people to fan out into the woods and help me look for it because I was convinced that I put a good shot on it. It took all five of us another 15 minutes to find it. It collapsed about 80 yards away from where I shot it and there was not even any blood on the ground where it collapsed.

      My personal standard after that experience: use 150 grain or heavier bullets to ensure a passthrough and ample blood for tracking, no matter which way a deer is facing. (The next time I hunted that location I used a 150 grain bullet and that deer collapsed 40 yards away from where I shot it — and it had a nice exit wound.)

  7. Single shot 12ga with 3in slug. After shooting this anything is easy.

    30-06 single shot w 3×9 scope is a fine choice. I have a .308 that I enjoy hunting with.

  8. I’ve been hunting with a pawn shop Rem 7600 in 30-06, affectionately known as the Amish Machine Gun for quite a few years and it has served me well. I upgraded the beat up stock with an 870 synthetic and the Tasco 3-9 x 40 scope with a Vortex Crossfire Ii 3-9x 50. The recoil isn’t bad with the pad on the 870 stock. It will be my Pennsylvania gun for the foreseeable future. This year I plan to try my 20″ 6.5 Grendel AR for GA deer. The recoil there is hardly noticeable.

    • The 760/7600 (I’ve heard them called the “Mennonite Machine Gun”) is a great deer hunting rifle. They’re fast-pointing, fast-cycling, rugged, simple rifles.

      Almost every one of them I’ve seen has been a .30-06. I think I’ve seen one in .270 Win and one in .35 Whelen. I think if someone were seeking an deer & elk rifle for heavy timber situations, they could do much worse than a 760 in .35 Whelen.

  9. True Story:

    As a boy I wanted to try quail and dove but didn’t have a shotgun. So I used .22 Short in my Ruger 10/22 ($49 new at Jensen’s Custom Ammunition in Tucson a VERY long time ago). Obviously the .22 Short won’t work the action. Leaving the magazine out and feeding them in one at a time was the idea.

    This wasn’t wing shooting. I sat in a shady spot and watched a small sandy wash where I’d seen the birds running before, right under the hanging dry grass up against the bank. The birds would move and pause, move and pause. I’d shoot the last one in a line, right in his little boidy head from maybe twenty feet.

    Took a few hours of this to get enough to fill a frying pan.

  10. Lee Travino’s rule for “which clubs to buy”:

    Buy the cheapest clubs you can find——hit 600 balls a day.

    Buy a lightly used rifle (shotgun) of appropriate quality and a case of ammo.

    I certainly understand why .30-06, quality affordable scope, and Ruger American keep showing up in these comments…arguably the best combo for all North American eatables; awesome if bought lightly used!

  11. “3 Things To Consider When Buying Your First Hunting Rifle”

    Uno: Ten high-capacity Boolitz

    Swei: Semi-automatic magazine that holds no more than three clips

    San: The “Black thingy that goes up”. (NO, THE OTHER ONE!)

  12. Got my first hunting license in 1972. My first hunting rifle was a .30-30 Win. Ranger ’94 AE, factory installed Bushnell 4X scope in see-thru rings. Cost was $207.00, quite a bargain if I do say so. Zeroed the scope at 100yds and set the irons for 50 yds w/ 150 gr pills. This combo served me so well I never bothered to get a bolt-action rifle.- any failures were strictly my fault.
    I don’t hunt much anymore but expect to do so upon retirement in a year or so.
    I might look for a turnbolt .308 at that time.

  13. New to hunting rifles..sort of. I grew up with hunting rifles but haven’t had one in my hand for over 30 years. I have shot many assault rifles but the hunting rifle takes more finesse so to speak. I am going out there to buy my first hunting rifle as a newbie. Thank you for all the comments and great article.

  14. I like that you said that once I’ve done my research and know what type of hunting rifle I’d like to get, I should try to test it out before purchasing to make sure it’s the right fit for me. My husband and I plan to buy some hunting rifles that we’re going to store in our vacation cabin. I’ll follow your advice, and hopefully, find a store owner that’s as cool as you and would let us try out some rifles before making a purchase. Thanks!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here