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How to Pick the Best Hunting Rifle: From Caliber to Customization

Dec 26, 2023 | 0 comments

Hunter aiming downrange through a scope

A solid rifle, made with precision in mind, will significantly improve your accuracy downrange. However, choosing the best hunting rifle can change depending on the circumstances. This article dives into important details about hunting rifles, from what caliber to choose to how to keep them in good shape. It’s packed with info to help you make smarter choices.

Rifle Characteristics and Scenarios

Caliber and Bullet Choice:

Choosing the right caliber for the game you’re hunting is extremely important. For smaller animals like rabbits, a .22LR is good because it has low recoil but enough power for game that size. For bigger animals like deer and elk, you will need stronger calibers like 6.5 Creedmoor or 300 PRC 

Rifle Weight and Portability:

The weight of your rifle matters depending on where you’re hunting. In steep, mountainous areas, a lighter rifle is better. But remember, lighter rifles will have more felt recoil increasing the potential for inaccurate shot placement. The attached accessories will impact the portability. If you’re looking for thermal optics consider stream-lined and compact gear like the Trijicon Reap IR Mini Thermalscope.

Terrain Considerations:

Where you hunt affects your rifle choice. In thick forests, you’ll want a shorter, easier-to-move rifle like a lever gun or an AR-style firearm. In open areas, a rifle with a longer barrel will shine because of its improved weight and ballistics. If you’re in a tree saddle or tree stand, a shorter barrel could make more sense. 

Lighting Conditions:

To effectively hunt in lowlight situations you will need a rifle with a rail system that can support night vision or a thermal optic like the AGM Rattler. A good rail system can accommodate more than one accessory, so consider that when looking for a rifle. Also, know that larger scopes will take up a lot of real estate on a rail system, so take that into account.

Rifle Customization

  • Buttstock: Smaller, collapsable, or adjustable buttstocks can make your rifle fit your body better. It can improve handling, performance, and comfort while you’re out in the field.
  • Barrel: A smaller barrel will decrease weight and improve handling, but can also decrease accuracy, so keep that in mind if you’re considering this type of modification.
  • Rail systems: Adding a rail system will enable additions like a forward grip, an IR illuminator like the Designate IR-V, or a bipod. Not all rifles are as customizable, so keep this in mind.

Ethical Considerations and Safety

  • Ethical Hunting Practices: Picking the right rifle and caliber for what you’re targeting is important for fair hunting. You want to make sure you hunt in a way that’s quick and humane.
  • Safety Precautions: Always follow gun safety rules and local hunting laws to keep everyone safe. Never modify your rifle or rifle accessories in a way that may violate the law.

Top 6 Hunting Rifles – Versatility, Precision, and Power

Remington 700: Nothing sells this rifle more than the fact that the US Marine Corps uses it as a sniper rifle. With incredible accuracy, it’s perfect for hunting at a distance. It can be fitted with bipods for steadier firing and can be mounted with a variety of thermal scopes like the Pulsar Talion XQ38.

Winchester Model 70: Referred to as the Riflesman’s Rifle, this rifle was once used by the US military. Although it was eventually replaced by the Remington 700 for military use, it has a lot of features that some would argue make it a superior firearm. With a shorter barrel and lighter-weight versions available, the Winchester Model 70 is easier to maneuver and hike with. 

Savage Arms 110: This one is famous for hitting targets at a distance. The accuracy of this is arguably one of the best. Since it hasn’t been around as long as the Remington or Winchester, the Savage Arms 110 doesn’t have as many aftermarket accessories available. But it does come stock with some very advanced features like an adjustable trigger that lets you alter the comb height and length of pull.

Ruger American Rifle: This firearm is great if you’re on a budget. Made with lighter-weight material, it is still accurate at range right out of the box. How well it maintains this accuracy over the years may not hold as well as the Remington 700. Either way, it’s great for long treks. It comes with an adjustable trigger and could work well with a night vision scope like the Pulsar Digex C50.

Weatherby Vanguard: A powerful rifle that’s also easy to handle. The Weatherby Vanguard is consistently accurate. It has various caliber options for hunting different sizes of game. It feels incredibly sturdy, the trigger is smooth, and it’s consistent under reasonable firing conditions. Check out this review by the guys at Backfire that really shows off the impressive accuracy of the Weatherby: ​​

AR-15: Famous for being adaptable, the AR-15 is the best for hunters who like to customize. This magazine-fed rifle can be fitted with a collapsable buttstock, a custom-fitted pistol grip, and a shorter barrel. Consider optics like an AR-15 thermal scope for night or low-light conditions. Be aware that many states limit the amount of ammo a rifle can have inserted while hunting. Walking around with 30 rounds inserted in your rifle could land you a serious fine and loss of your hunting privileges. 

Choosing the best hunting rifle means considering the firearm’s caliber, weight, how it fits your body, and the places you’ll be using it. Whether you’ve been hunting for years or just starting, these variables will help you pick a rifle that best matches your needs. 

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