“What is the best rifle to take deer hunting?” That is a question that we often get asked here in the store. It’s also one of the longest running and most hotly debated arguments in the history of hunting. For years, gun writers have been arguing for this caliber or that caliber, for bolt action versus semi-auto, pump or lever action. First of all, there is no “perfect” deer rifle. The vast majority of rifles that are large enough to legally use on deer are quite capable of getting the job done in the field. But there are several considerations to take into account when you are selecting your next deer rifle.
Action The bolt action rifle is the most popular type of rifle for deer hunting today. Multiple tests have shown that the bolt action has the greatest accuracy. A bolt action rifle will perform well in almost any type of hunting situation. It is also the most widely available type of rifle.
In areas filled with dense brush and shots are limited to 100 yards or less, many hunters prefer a lever action rifle. Semi-auto and pump action rifles also work well in a variety of situations.
Barrel Length Barrel length is an important factor in choosing a deer rifle. A heavier, longer barrel will typically offer increased velocity and stability. Both characteristics are important for accuracy especially when making long-distance shots. A shorter, lighter barrel, on the other hand, is better suited for situations where quick, moving shots are called for. Many hunters opt for a mid-range barrel length that will succeed in the majority of hunting scenarios.
Wood Versus Synthetic Wood stocks are a good-looking traditional choice for hunters, but wood can expand, contract and warp depending on the weather. Many of today’s hunters are opting to go afield with synthetic stocks that are made out of tough materials such as Kevlar, graphite, epoxy, fiberglass or composites. Synthetic stocks can resist chipping, scratching, impact and harsh weather better than wood stocks. While fiberglass stocks can be heavy, Kevlar is prized by hunters for its strength and light weight. Finish Blued steel is a traditional finish that is somewhat camouflaged in the woods. Stainless steel is much more resistant to rust than blued steel and more resistant to the effects of powder gas. One downside to stainless steel is the bright finish. Caliber One of the most popular and time-tested rounds is the 30-06. It works well in most situations and has plenty of power to take down deer. Also, hunters can easily find a variety of ammunition for this caliber. One argument against the 30-06 and other larger calibers is the amount of recoil they inflict on the shooter. Many deer hunters have traded in their 30-06s for smaller calibers that aren’t as punishing to shoot. Another 30 caliber round that many deer hunters prefer is the 308 Winchester. The 308 will perform well in most hunting situations and has several factory loads that are widely available.
The 243 Winchester and the 270 Winchester are good examples of two smaller calibers that deer hunters have relied on for years. Legendary outdoor author Jack O’Connor championed the 270 Winchester decades ago and is a large reason for its initial rise in popularity. Today the 270 Winchester continues to be a top seller nationwide.
From the 7mm-08 Remington to the 25-06 there are several other popular calibers that are effective for deer. To find out which caliber will work best for the terrain and hunting situations you plan to encounter stop by and talk to one of our in-store experts. We’ll be glad to answer any questions about deer rifles and deer hunting that you may have.