A new hunting rifle is a major purchase. It’s one that is personal for every sportsman, so it makes sense to put the right amount of research in before you make a decision.
A deer hunter in Pennsylvania is going to be interested in a completely different rifle than a big game hunter in Colorado. Simply searching for “the best hunting rifle” isn’t going to help you make the best choice for you.
Don’t get overwhelmed too fast, though. Once you’ve figured out what kind of shooting you want to do, finding the right hunting rifle to suit your needs is a breeze.
Here are 7 considerations to help ensure the perfect purchase.
Lots of hunters prioritize specs and don’t even really consider fit. A rifle that’s too short for your arm is going to be uncomfortable to shoot, and it will affect your aim. Make sure your weapon is an appropriate length for your body. It’s no different from buying a set of hunting pants: If it’s too big, or too small, it won’t work. There’s no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to rifles.
Choose the Right Action
Your rifle’s action mechanism should be one of your top considerations. For example, you should consider bolt-action if you shoot long-range. The weapon’s action has a huge impact on accuracy and every sportsman wants a quick, clean kill. Pump-action and lever-action are other good choices for hunting. Stay away from single-shot actions such as rolling-block or break-open: they look flashy as heck, but they aren’t practical unless you’re a master marksman.
Plan to shoot in inclement weather? A weatherproof finish can significantly prolong the life of your hunting rifle. Many manufacturers offer weatherproof finishes by default nowadays. Hunting is a lot more fun when you’re not worrying about damaging your expensive rifle stock.
Budget for Optics
It’s all too common for an excited hunter to put his entire budget toward the rifle itself, leaving nothing for a scope. Don’t fall into that trap! Many traditional hunters believe that you should budget the same amount for optics as you did for the rifle itself. However, more and more contemporary hunters are leaning toward spending 50% of the rifle budget on optics, or even abandoning the hard rule altogether.
Much of it depends on what you hunt and when (or where) you hunt it: you don’t need a $7,000 flagship scope if you’re hunting big game that’s easy to see in daylight. Nonetheless, you do need a scope of some kind, so budget for it!
New vs. Pre-Owned
You may be able to get more bang for your buck by looking at pre-owned rifles, but there are some pitfalls that may make new rifles a better buy. For one, you need to do your due diligence when buying pre-owned. It’s a burden that may negate the savings you’re getting.
Some concerns include:
● Is the pre-owned gun in good condition? (Do you know enough about appraising guns to tell if this weapon is in bad shape?)
● Does it appear to be well-kept? E.g. A firearm that’s dirty and rusted probably didn’t receive very good care.
● Are there custom mods here? Most mods make a weaponless appealing on the market since the average buyer wants factory stock.
● Will the seller let you disassemble it and check out the inner workings? This is the only way to find some hidden issues, such as a rusted bore.
● Can you dry-fire the gun? You can feel a defective trigger even if there isn’t a magazine in the firearm.
● Can you still buy parts for this preowned gun, if you end up needing to replace anything? Make sure replacement parts are still on the market.
Are you a beginner or a seasoned shooter? There are calibers (or bullet/barrel diameters) that are preferred for each, and according to Bass Pro, you can even get specific enough to pick out specific ammo calibers for different species you hunt including wild hog hunting, deer hunting, and so on. Hunting is all about precision, so consider going with something like a .22LR for beginners (nothing larger than birds or squirrels), a .380ACP, 12G, or 9MM for regular game, and perhaps a .50BGM for really big game.
What Accessories Should I Get?
It all depends… what region do you hunt in? You may need a tree stand if you hunt in Pennsylvania, but not Arizona. Some accessories are specific to what you hunt and where you hunt, while others (such as cleaning and safety equipment) are universal.
At a bare minimum, you should purchase a cleaning kit with a chamois, carrying case, separate scope case, and camouflage and/or scent protection. If you want to get fancy, pick up a laser range finder to heat-sense your prey and ensure a quick kill.
Ready to pick up your first hunting rifle? With these tips, you should feel confident strolling into an armory and picking up the weapon that suits your hunting style.