Whether it’s your first rifle or another in a large collection, how to choose the best deer rifle involves a lot of choices. Short or long barreled rifle? Lever-action, pump, bolt-action or semi-auto? Small or large caliber? Wood, Kevlar or fiberglass rifle stock? Blued or stainless steel?

With so many options, how do you choose the best deer rifle? It’s not an easy task. Even experienced hunters can labor over this decision for a long time.

There are many great rifles out there that will do the job just fine, but here are some basics to consider that could make one rifle better suited for you than another.

Things To Consider When Buying A Deer Hunting Rifle

The Action

This is the mechanism that handles the ammunition, moves a round from the storage location to the chamber. There are four basic types of actions most commonly used for deer hunting rifles: bolt, lever, pump and self-loading. Bolt-action is quieter and easier to maintain due to fewest moving parts, more precision, and greater accuracy at longer ranges. The others have larger magazines, faster reload time, and follow-up speed.

The Length of the Barrel

The length of the barrel affects the stiffness of the barrel, the length and weight of the rifle, and the exit speed of the bullet or muzzle velocity. Rifles with short barrels are lighter, more compact, and easier to carry around, but their recoil and muzzle blast is much stronger. Both of these influence your accuracy. Longer barrels have higher muzzle velocity and more accuracy.

rifel caliber

Photo credit: Bass Pro Shop


The caliber is the diameter of the projectile the rifle fires, in other words the size of the bullet. It has to match that of the bore of your rifle barrel. The higher the caliber of your rifle, the bigger the bullet diameter and generally the larger the game it can take down.

Age and Shooting Experience

These factors play a huge role in your decision. These are self explanatory reasons and quite easy to understand. For instance, if you are a first time shooter, the noise and recoil of some high-powered rifles can come as a huge surprise. It is generally accepted that, for first timers, they should start with a rifle like a .22 — it’s lightweight, easy to carry, and simple to operate.

Terrain and Range of Shot

Are you hunting in open spaces or in heavy brush and cover terrain? If you’re up for medium to long range shooting, a heavy, long-barrel rifle with a scope is the right choice. Lightweight, short-barreled rifles, chambered in short to mid-range calibers with lever action or auto-loader and no scope, due to the fast follow up shooting ability, is the best choice for thicker terrain.

The Weight

How heavy a rifle is obviously affects the carrying and handling of it. In all truthfulness, the type of material is a much more personal choice than the weight reduction argument for the same type of gun. Of course, Kevlar and/or fiberglass are lighter than wood, but not by much. And while the stainless steel rusts slower than blued steel it also gives your rifle that shiny (and visible) bright finish. Whichever you choose, it’s ok, as long as you are comfortable with it and you are able to pay for it and understand any advantages or disadvantages. Remember, the better the material is, the more expensive your rifle will be.

Taking all these in consideration will help you out when buying the best deer rifle for you. Because it comes down to your personal preferences, educate yourself first. Check out the manufacturer catalogs, and talk to experienced hunters and gun salesmen, so you are able to better understand what each rifle offers, and ultimately end up finding the one that will cover most or all of your needs. Happy shopping, and best of luck in your hunting!


© Ahturner | Dreamstime.com – Deer hunter taking aim at a whitetail deer