Essential Tips on How to Choose a Hunting Rifle for Any Game

how to choose a hunting rifle

In the pursuit of game, your hunting rifle is your most crucial tool. Knowing how to choose a hunting rifle that aligns with your hunting goals and environment can be tricky. With this article I want to try to explain the selection process in simple terms, focusing on action type, caliber, and build—without the fluff—preparing you to make a selection with confidence.

Key Notes to Remember

  • Rifle action type is crucial; bolt actions are reliable for large game, while semi-autos like the AR-15 are more versatile and can be used for a larger vatiety of activities and game.
  • Barrel length affects accuracy and velocity; shorter barrels can be stiffer and more maneuverable, but too short may reduce velocity—ideal for tracking game with careful bullet choice.
  • Caliber and ammo selection is key, depending on the game size and hunting conditions; from high-precision calibers like 6.5 Creedmoor for long shots to versatile ones like .308 Winchester, and specialized options for big game.
how to choose a hunting rifle

Determining the Ideal Rifle Action for Your Hunt

Selecting the right rifle for hunting is similar to choosing the right tool for a job. Central to this is the rifle’s action, a major determinant of reliability and smooth cycling, as showcased in the Tikka T3X Superlite with its bolt action, 2-lug bolt, and 75° lift.

But how does game type influence this choice between bolt action and semi auto rifles?

If you plan to hunt deer or elk, the action of your deer rifle should be suitable for this purpose. Using a rifle designed for smaller game like rabbits to hunt a deer would be as ineffective as using a screwdriver to hammer a nail.

Remember, family hunting trips also require consideration. If your hunting rifle or hunting guns will be used by different family members, including children or a spouse, then certain rifle actions become a key consideration due to their ease of use. After all, the right firearm is not only about performance but also about user-friendliness.

The Significance of Barrel Length and Weight in Hunting Rifles

Next, let’s explore another vital element when choosing a hunting rifle – the barrel length and weight. Shorter barrels tend to be stiffer and less prone to the effects of harmonics, potentially increasing accuracy over longer barrels? But how short is too short?

For most short-action cartridges, an optimal barrel length of 22-23 inches is sufficient for the complete combustion of the propellant charge. However, decreasing barrel length can result in a velocity loss of 10-20 feet per second per inch, and this exacerbates down to 20-30 feet per second per inch when barrels are shorter than 16-18 inches.

However, there’s no need to worry! Utilizing aerodynamically efficient bullets that have less barrel contact can counteract the velocity loss in shorter barrels. This is again, why for my first rifle I chose the Tikka T3X Superlite, which features a 22.4-inch barrel length. This rifle is designed for accuracy without compromising maneuverability, making it an ideal companion for hunters who need to track their game.

From a personal experience, long barrels can be tricky when you’re hunting in a difficult terrain, especially if it involves a lot of hiking. When you’re trying to focus on hearing and spotting deer, getting the barrel constantly stuck between the branches and bushes can become annoying.

how to choose a hunting rifle

Selecting the Appropriate Caliber and Ammunition

Now that we’ve discussed the rifle’s action, barrel length, and weight, it’s time to examine yet another crucial element – the caliber and ammunition. This is where we match the ammo to the game size and hunting conditions.

And to delve deeper into this, let’s break it down into three subsections: high-precision calibers for long-distance shots, versatile calibers for various game sizes, and specialized calibers for specific game.

High-Precision Calibers for Long-Distance Shots

When it comes to long-distance hunting, precision is key. This situation calls for calibers such as the 6.5 Creedmoor. This high-precision caliber provides accuracy over longer distances due to its flat trajectory and ability to maintain high velocity and energy.

But what’s more, the 6.5 Creedmoor also has a light recoil, which makes it easier for hunters to stay on target for subsequent shots. This is especially useful when dealing with game that often move in herds, allowing you to swiftly shift targets without losing sight.

Plus, with the high ballistic coefficient bullets of the 6.5 Creedmoor, wind drift is significantly reduced, aiding in the accuracy of long-range shots. So, if you’re planning to take that long shot, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a great choice, at least from my findings and advice I received from my hunting mentor.

Versatile Calibers for Various Game Sizes

What happens if your hunting targets include a range of game types, not just one specific kind? This is where versatile calibers come in handy. Take the .30-06 Springfield, for example. It can accommodate a wide range of bullet weights, providing the flexibility necessary to hunt smaller and larger game alike. Keep in mind that the recoil of an .30-06 will usually be on the high end.

The 7mm-08 Remington is another versatile option, offering mild recoil and consistent performance across a variety of game sizes, including small game. This makes it an excellent choice for both beginners and seasoned hunters seeking flexibility.

Also worth mentioning is the .308 Winchester (which I chose for my first rifle) an all-around effective caliber with a proven record in hunting game from deer to moose. So, for those who wish to target different sizes of game without needing multiple rifles, versatile calibers are the way to go.

Specialized Calibers for Specific Game

Sometimes, hunting requires a specialized touch. This is where specialized calibers like the 7mm Remington Magnum and the .300 Winchester Magnum come into play. The 7mm Remington Magnum, for instance, offers superior downrange energy and knockdown power with its ability to fire heavier bullets, making it suitable for larger game.

The .300 Winchester Magnum, on the other hand, is renowned for hitting large animals like moose and brown bear hard, due to its capability to fire heavy bullets at high speeds while maintaining high energy at a distance. And for hunting dangerous game, the .375 H&H Magnum is a preferred choice due to its high power and ability to neutralize large and aggressive animals.

Even with its mild recoil, the 7mm-08 Remington has proven its worth in the field by taking down large games such as elk and a ton-weight eland bull. In addition, rifles such as the Ruger No. 1 and single shot rifles are particularly designed for single-shot use. These specialized firearms, including semi automatic rifles, are known for their precision and accuracy. No. 1 rifles utilize .300 Winchester Magnum for effective use against large game over open landscapes. Therefore, for hunting specific game, specialized calibers should always be on your radar.

I Also Recommend Watching a Video By the American Outlaw That Explains This Topic Pretty Well

Choosing the Right Stock Material for Durability and Comfort

Selecting the suitable stock material for your hunting rifle is also an important factor. Primarily, the debate revolves around synthetic stock and wooden stocks in this matter.

Synthetic rifle stocks, made from materials like fiberglass and carbon fiber, offer high resilience and are unaffected by changes in moisture, humidity, and temperature. They can easily be molded into ergonomic shapes and allow for customization with various accessories. Plus, they are generally lighter than wood, contributing to the overall balance and portability of the rifle.

However, wood possesses its own allure as well. Wooden stocks, with their unique grain patterns and colors, contribute to the classic elegance and aesthetic value of the rifle. They provide a natural and comfortable grip during extended use, enhancing the shooter’s overall experience. Moreover, laminated variants of wood stocks combine classic looks with strength and improved resistance to environmental conditions compared to traditional solid wood.

So, how does one decide on the appropriate stock material? It’s about balancing durability with shooting comfort. Synthetic material requires less maintenance and withstands harsh weather better, while wood stocks offer a traditional feel and comfort but may demand more care. So choose wisely!

Personal note: personally, I picked a synthetic rifle stock, due to it’s lighter weight and better resistance to hours of cold and humidity during a hunt. But I must say, I always prefer the looks and feel of a traditional wooden stock rifle.

how to choose a hunting rifle

Optimal Scope Selection for Precision Shooting

In precision shooting, the choice of the best scope is of utmost importance. Variable power scopes with magnification ranges like 3-9x, 4-12x, and 3-15x are preferred by hunters for their adaptability in making long-range shots.

These scopes allow you to zoom in on your target and adjust the magnification to suit your shooting distance. This adaptability not only improves your shot accuracy but also enhances your hunting experience by providing a clearer view of the game.

Another key feature of a scope is its performance in the darker hours of the hunt. I was constantly reminded that the majority of opportunities you normally get (at least where I hunt) is in the last minutes of the hunt, when it’s pretty dark. A good scope with a quality lens will gather more light from the environment and allow you to see your target for a longer period of time.

Personally, I chose the Leupold VX 3HD for my first scope, as it is known for the great quality of their lenses.

Understanding State Laws and Ethical Considerations

Purchasing a hunting rifle combines more than just performance and usability; comprehension of country and state laws and ethical considerations is equally vital. For instance, state regulations can specify minimum bullet diameters for deer hunting.

Some states and provinces have specific requirements for cartridges, such as those that mandate the use of straight-walled hunting cartridges. Others have magazine capacity restrictions for hunting rifles, dictating the number of rounds a hunter can have loaded at any given time. So, it’s important to familiarize yourself with these regulations before making a purchase.

Ethics, too, should not be overlooked. Safety and certainty of a clean kill are paramount; hunters must verify that conditions are safe and that there is a clear line of sight to the target before shooting. After all, hunting is not just about the thrill of the chase but also about respect for life and nature. At least that’s my opinion.

how to choose a hunting rifle

The Tikka T3X Superlite: My First Choice

Now, let’s focus on a model that I chose for my first rifle, after many hours of careful consideration. This bolt action rifle embodies many of the features I’ve covered thus far – the Tikka T3X Superlite.

The key factors that helped me make up my mind on going with a Tikka were the following:

  • it’s super light, as you can tell from the name.
  • I chose the stainless steel Tungsten Cerakote covered model for added resistance to the environment.
  • Tikka has a great reputation for making quality accurate rifles.
  • It’s not cheap, but it’s not expensive either. You get a great deal for your buck, and it can last you a very long time, if you take care of it properly.
  • I chose the .308 Winchester Caliber, as it is versatile and can handle all the game I plan to be hunting.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best hunting rifle caliber for beginners?

For beginners, the 243 Winchester, 260 Remington, and 7mm-08 Remington are great choices due to their light recoil and strong performance. Try out these options to find the best fit for your hunting needs.

What kind of rifle do I need for hunting?

For hunting, a bolt-action rifle is the most popular choice among deer hunters. It is strong enough to handle powerful cartridges and allows for fast follow-up shots in practiced hands.

What is the barrel length of the T3x SUPERLITE Tikka rifle?

The barrel length of the T3x SUPERLITE Tikka rifle is 22.4 inches, making it compact and easy to handle.

What is the magazine capacity of the T3x SUPERLITE Tikka rifle?

The magazine capacity of the T3x SUPERLITE Tikka rifle is 3 + 1, meaning it can hold a total of 4 rounds.