How to choose your first hunting rifle

David - Lithgow 303

When you’re new to hunting, setting up a first rifle can be pretty daunting. Here are 3 things to look for to make the process a little easier. 

First rule of thumb, is allocating a budget. You may think that it’s going to be super expensive but when you are just starting out, you don’t need to get the best of the best. When it comes to your budget a good rule to go by is 75:25 – Rifle:Scope. Your rifle will be slightly more expensive than your scope (at least here in Australia – in America, the cost ratio is around 50:50). They are both essential to the hunt but it won’t matter how good your rifle is if you skimp out on your scope.

1. Choosing your calibre  

Jess looking through scope

When choosing a calibre for your first rifle, think about what you will primarily be hunting. Most deer species can be successfully hunted with a .270 Win or a .308 Win. These are both pretty standard, straight-shooting calibres that are easy to buy or reload ammunition for. 

If you are primarily hunting smaller game or smaller deer species such as fallow, hog deer, whitetail or chital (axis) then a smaller calibre like a .243 will get the job done. 

For the bigger bodied animals such as sambar, red deer, buffalo or elk, a bigger calibre can be used such as a 7mm Rem Mag or a .300 Win Mag. In saying that, with good shot placement these animals can be ethically taken with a .270 Win or a .308 Win. 

Starting off with a smaller, more universal calibre like the .270 Win or .308 Win is recommended for beginners as it will help get them used to the kick of the rifles without getting gun-shy.  

2. Choosing your rifle 

Tikka Tx3 rifle

So now that you know the calibre you want, it’s time to choose the brand of rifle. It’s best to go with a major manufacturer that has entry-level/standard rifles available. This way, you get some peace of mind in knowing that your rifle will work properly and is well-manufactured. 

We love our Tikka rifles and they are great quality for the price you pay.  We have also used Ruger, Remington and Browning in the past but there are so many others. You can find some great examples of entry-level rifles here

The pricing of your rifle often depends on the type of stock you choose (wood, synthetic, carbon), what metal the barrel is made of, and the quality of your finishings.  

3. Choosing a scope 

Burris Eliminator Scope

When choosing a scope you need to think about where you will primarily be hunting. If you are hunting more open plains style, you will want to look for a scope with a higher magnification for longer range shooting. If you are going to be hunting in denser bush, you should look for a lower magnification scope to provide a larger field of view and quicker target acquisition. 

We do quite a bit of crop protection (under spotlight) as well as spot and stalk hunting where you tend to be shooting early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Because of this, we tend to go with scopes that have a larger objective e.g. 40mm or wider.

A pretty standard scope is a 3-9×40. This is a good generic scope range for most types of hunting. 

Again, have a think about the kind of hunting that you do to decide what features will be beneficial in a scope. You can find some great entry level scopes here or if you want something a little more upmarket, check out our review of the Burris Eliminator III. 

See also

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