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Best Hunting Rifle For a Beginner

3/18/20

by: Natchez Shooting Supplies

– Contributing Writer: Richard Douglas –

There are so many options in the world of hunting rifles today. If you didn’t grow up shooting and hunting like I did, all of these choices can be overwhelming.

Today we’re going to discuss the best rifles for new hunters.

First Things First

Safety first!
Most states now require some type of hunter’s safety course before issuing a license to hunt. This is not a replacement for hands-on firearms training! Before you shoot a firearm by yourself, take a firearms safety course from a licensed instructor.

Most gun ranges offer them for a nominal fee, sometimes free. Not only is this your responsibility as a hunter, but you’ll also be able to focus on the hunt instead of not blowing off your toe!

We have a family friend who has the computer from his car with a hole in it, mounted on his wall like a deer’s head, complete with a plaque stating where and when he “killed” it. This experienced hunter accidentally discharged his rifle while loading it into his trunk, sending a bullet into the cab and straight through the body control module underneath the passenger seat! It’s a funny story (and true!), but if someone would have been in the vehicle, they could’ve been injured or killed.

Best First Rifle

Rifles come in several types and many different calibers. No matter what you plan on hunting, I think you should go ahead and buy a Ruger 10/22 right off the bat. Ruger has been making these rifles for over 50 years and has sold millions of them, and they start around $200.

As long as you properly maintain it and use decent high-velocity ammo, it will be very reliable and last a lifetime. The .22LR caliber is very inexpensive and does not kick at all, so you can practice for hours without hurting your wallet or your shoulder.

I highly recommend staying with iron sights at first. Learning to shoot with iron sights is a must if you’re going to learn to shoot properly. Once you have enough experience, then you can upgrade to a red dot like the Bushnell TRS-25 or a riflescope. I shoot my Ruger 10/22 for fun more than any other gun I own, and I squirrel hunt with it regularly.

A Good Bolt Action

While a .22 rifle is great for practice and small game at close range, it lacks the oomph needed for anything larger than a rabbit, and it loses power and drops quicky out past 50 yards or so.

For most hunting, you’re going to need something with more power and range. I highly recommend a bolt action rifle for more serious hunting. There are other types out there that are great, but none is more practical than a decent bolt action.

They are very easy to clean and maintain and are very accurate and reliable. Their simple design makes them relatively affordable, and there are plenty of quality models out there for less than $500.

There are many different makes and models out there, available in many different calibers.

The Right Caliber

Of course, the right caliber for you depends on what you want to hunt.

Everyone has their own opinion about what caliber rifle is best for a given application, and this topic can quickly turn into a heated debate among hunters. There are some cool newer calibers out there, like the Winchester Short Magnums and others, but they are typically more expensive and harder to find.

Imagine heading out into the boondocks to the hunting club and realizing you’re low on ammo. The local small-town Wal-Mart may not carry anything but the most common calibers. Some of the newest calibers may not catch on at all, and you could end up with a rifle that is nearly impossible to find ammo for.

The practical advantages that these newer calibers offer are minimal, and really don’t outweigh the disadvantages in my opinion. I recommend staying with the more tried-and-true common calibers for now. If you want to get one of the newer ones down the road, then go for it.

For smaller game like varmints, up to predators as large as coyotes, I recommend the .22-250. It’s very accurate at long distances and packs plenty of punch for anything up to a big coyote.

A step up to .243 will still be small enough for large varmints, but can drop a decent-sized deer out to 200 yards or more with the right ammo. You can kill much bigger game with a .243 at close to medium range with proper bullet placement, but I don’t recommend it.

This may be the most versatile choice if you have to pick just one rifle and you’re not planning on hunting anything larger than a medium-sized deer very often.

If you’re planning on taking down big game on a regular basis, then I’d recommend a .30-06. This caliber is accurate and effective on even the largest game in North America out to 300 yards or more if used properly. I’ve dropped whitetails in their tracks over 400 yards out with mine using regular store-bought ammo. There are much more powerful calibers out there, but they can be overkill for smaller deer and recoil will be significantly higher.

Conclusion

Like I said, everyone has their own opinion and gun enthusiasts love to argue about which guns are best for what. Do your research and befriend some experienced hunters. Ask plenty of questions and read some reviews. There is no perfect rifle for every situation, but the choices I’ve laid out here should at least point you in the right direction. Remember: BE SAFE and Happy Hunting!

Author BioRichard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator. His work has appeared on large publications like The National Interest, Daily Caller, American Shooting Journal, and more. In his free time, he reviews various optics on his Scopes Field blog.

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