Finding a suitable centrefire rifle for hunting – Outtheresouthernadventures

Finding a suitable centrefire rifle for hunting

Things are a little more tricky when you look at buying a centre-fire rifle, which is used for big game, goats, deer, pig, Tahr and Chamois. Does one rifle/caliber do for hunting all of those animals?  Well you could probably get away with one rifle/caliber. In all fairness most good rifle manufactures are all pretty similar in style/action/feel. True, some are better than others, that is a fact and really again comes down to how much money you want to spend on a rifle. You could spend anywhere from $500 to $10, 000 (or more) For the average person getting into hunting a spend of around $2,500-3k will get you a pretty good set up that could last you the rest of your hunting career. You could get a cheaper deal if you look about.

A modern hunting rifle, the Tikka T3x. A good choice for the new hunter. 

Buying a second hand rifle, is it a good idea? You might be buying someone else's problem and as it is second hand you're not likely to be able to take it back to whoever you brought it from and get your money back. Best bet is buy a new rifle from a reputable dealer. That way if something happens you can take it back to them. However in saying that, doesn't mean to say you couldn't buy a second hand rifle and it works perfectly and you are more happy with it.

As a rule, a modern centrefire rifle might come with the end of the barrel threaded to put a suppressor on it, You will need a scope and mounts (or rings)  and perhaps sling to carry it. A good gun bag and cleaning kit.

My hunting rifle, the Ruger No1. Suppressed, Bi-pod, bullet holder, sling, and high quality scope and mounts.  

Some things you need to think about before buying a rifle are. What are you going to be hunting. What sort of range are you capable of shooting out to and your experience shooting. What the rifle is capable of shooting out to. The caliber selection. The type of scope you will have on your rifle. Whether you will get it suppressed (which you should). There are alot of factors that can and will influence what you buy. 

As I mentioned, most rifle manufactures are pretty similar and you might find you really like a certain brand because your friend has one, it was light to carry, came up to the shoulder and pointed well. It shot nicely and was accurate. So because of that experience, that is what you are going to buy.

One of the first thing you need to think about is what caliber to select. This is another one of those, 'Ask your friends what they use, ask experienced hunters what they are using. I often think along the lines of if you picked ten hunters and asked them what caliber they are using,(probably 10 different calibers)  then what projectile or bullet weight ( bullet weight is measured in 'grains' ) they use, you will get close to ten similar answers but if you added all ten bullet weights together then divided them by 10 you will find a average bullet weight, which might be 130grains to 150grains. So any rifle that shoots a 130/140/150 grain projectile ( or there abouts) would be a good choice.

Projectiles come in a huge range of different configurations and weights. (grains)

As a general rule it takes around 1000 foot pounds of energy to kill a red deer so if you looked at a ballistic chart you would see what certain calibers do at different ranges. This is  what their energy does as the projectile goes out further at different ranges say at 100m 200m 300m etc. As the projectile gets further out the amount of energy decreases as the projectile reduces in speed. For most hunters shooting out to 200m or even 300m is starting to get out there. So the caliber you have selected should be able to deliver it's projectile accurately and with enough energy to kill at that range. There are lots of available calibres in New Zealand that are good choices, 6.5x55, 260, 270, 280, 308, 6.5CM to name afew, there are others.

Just a few commonly used calibers, but there are alot to choose from. 

You might wonder, what are these numbers? what is a .308, well basically it is the diameter of a barrel ( expressed in hundreds of an inch). The .308 can also be expressed as a European measurement of  7.62x51mm, which is 7.62mm diameter of the barrel in mm and 51 is the length of the case or bullet shell.

You will notice above I gave a few different options for caliber selection, there are a lot of different calibers available to the new hunter or shooter. However choosing a caliber you like and enjoy shooting is a key part of shooting accurately. If you choose a caliber that is too powerful or has too much recoil you won't enjoy shooting it and will start to flinch, reducing accuracy and you will start missing animals. I have deliberately left out larger calibers and the likes of your magnum calibers.    

There will always be any number of hunters that will tell you their caliber is the best. There will be hunters that will tell you a .222 or .223 is all you need. These smaller calibers are fine in the hands of good hunters that are experienced and accurate shooters that can get close enough to put the projectile in exactly the right spot to get a kill. As an inexperienced hunter or shooter these light calibers will result in wounded animals and you losing animals you would have got with a more powerful caliber. From my experience and in my opinion the lightest caliber I would suggest a new hunter buys would be a .243 then moving up from there. 

The comparison, .223 (55grain projectile) on left and .243 (100grain projectile) on the right 

For the sake of this article, will say you have decided on a Tikka .308. Looking at a ballistic chart the .308, using a 150gr projectile out to 300m still has around 1300 foot/pounds of energy so will kill effectively. And assuming you know what you're doing as far as taking a accurate shot and with good shot placement. ( and there are no other factors like wind or uphill or downhill shot placement)

Let's say is has a suppressor, Bi-pod, sling. You've sorted out a scope and rings and they are attached. Now you need to sight it in. Buy three or four packets of different .308 ammo and test it out through your firearm at the range. Not all ammunition is the same and you might find one type shoots more accurately than the others. If so try and stick to that ammunition.

Generally, on the range, try sight your firearm to shoot about 2 inches high at one hundred meters. This means your cross-hairs of the scope are on the center of the target but the projectiles are hitting 2 inches higher when you squeeze the trigger. What this means to you is that simply at 100m your projectile hits 2inches high, at 200m the projectile will hit pretty much center of the target and at 300m the projectile will hit about 6-8inches low of center. Now any animal out to 300m is shootable.

Sighting in to shoot slightly higher allows for bullet drop at further distances. 

Shooting at a range is a great way to increase your shooting skills and understand where your firearm shoots, how it shoots at different ranges and increases your ability to hit what your aiming at. 'Range time' is well worth while. Whenever possible use a rest when taking shots. It takes alot of practice to be able to shoot well 'off hand'. For example, use a rest at 100m and fire three aimed shots, then fire another three standing at the same target and see how difficult this is to even hit anywhere on the target. Practice, practice, practice. 

Range shooting is a great way to learn to shoot correctly and know how your rifle shoots. 

Once your happy with your firearms accuracy and you are happy and confident with your shooting skills, then now you can think about getting out into the hills in search of game.