A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing a Hunting Rifle

Choosing a first hunting rifle involves a lot more than just getting measurements and caliber right. There are other considerations that new adult hunters should be thinking about when they pull the trigger on their first hunting rifle.

Like all hobbies, starting with an entry-level piece of gear or equipment is a practical first step.  The natural progression of buying fun toys and guns is that there will always be an excuse to move up to a higher quality as skill level and finances improve. Rifles absolutely fall into this category and any adult hunter who is buying their first rifle should be thinking ahead regarding the possibility of handing that rifle off to a young or new hunter in the future.

Another seldom addressed situation is the fact that sometimes it takes hunters years to find a great rifle that fits and shoots exactly how it is supposed to, and it can take decades to find the perfect rifle. In almost forty years of hunting, I have never found my perfect rifle. I keep trying to find it every few years, but it eludes me to this day, so that is something worth thinking about.

Whether you find your perfect rifle or not will depend on luck and many other unforeseen details, but the chances are really good that someone’s first rifle will not be the standard of perfection. So, my advice for new rifle buyers is to purposefully buy a lesser quality, lower cost rifle and plan on moving up and getting another one in the near future. If you follow this advice, you will not be disappointed with your first rifle and you will get to anticipate what the future may hold. Or, you may totally luck out and score the ultimate straight shooter. 

There are exceptions to every rule and I want to share one of those exceptions. I have a hunting friend in Washington State who received a .270 bolt action rifle as gift in high school. It is cheap looking, it is banged up and according to experts it has too short of a barrel to be accurate at great distances. Twenty years after he received that rifle, it is still his only hunting rifle and he has hunted the country with it. He doesn’t hesitate when it comes to making 350 yard shots on bears or deer.

See our related story on How to Choose the Best Deer Hunting Rifle and 3 Factors to Choosing the Best Elk Rifle