We are going to take a look at five long guns for deer hunting, more specifically my five picks that I’ve come to use, love, and enjoy over my some odd years as a hunter. I’m sure yours will differ. Hell, there are so many rifles out there that are well suited for hunting I’m sure I will read a comment on this article and wished I had picked it. So let us do just that—I will show you mine if you show me yours.
Ok. The Marlin 336 makes just about every list for deer hunting guns, but there’s a reason why. The lever action rifle is a classic American hunting gun. I almost went with the Winchester M94, which is also on numerous deer hunting guns lists, but the side eject of the Marlin has the edge for versatility. The side ejection port means it’s easier to mount optics.
Otherwise the Marlin 336s are rugged, reliable and the stainless models will hold up to the harshest conditions with less trouble.
Scoped or iron sights, the 336 chambered in 30-30 or .35 Remington makes a great deer gun out to 150 or so yards. These cartridges will reach out a little farther, but if you are hunting where 200-yard or farther shots are the norm you will want some extra power. MSRP is around $500 to $600, but you can find it used for as low as $250.
The bolt-action rifle has got to be the best choice for hunting in big open areas. Nothing can compare to the accuracy that can be achieved—assuming you do your part that is. Really I could have put the Remington 700 here or the Ruger M77 or a half dozen other bolt guns, however, there is one thing I do like about the Winchester Model 70 over some of the others in a hunting rifle—it uses a controlled feed.
A control feed is where the extractor on the bolt captures the cartridge as it loads it into the chamber. In other words, it isn’t loosey-goosy as it’s fed into place. The rim of the cartridge is held in place underneath the extractor during the push forward.
There are a multitude of calibers the Model 70 has been chambered for. Pick one that is best suited for your type of hunting. If you want an all around caliber for all North American game it is my opinion that the old 30-06 is the winner. MSRP is $1500 to $2000, but used price can fall as low as $700.
I will admit that I don’t use a shotgun for deer hunting all that often, but there are times when they really shine. For field use I prefer a pump action, it’s less likely to get jammed up with mud and crud. And if you’re going deer hunting you may encounter mud and crud. The Remington 870 is my choice for a deer shotgun. Easy enough. And when I’m out I will also throw some shot shells in my pockets in case I come across a squirrel or birds that are in season.
The Remington 870 has been around since 1951. Some would call it a “tried and true” model, and they’d be right. The design itself is basic enough—pump, trigger, safety—but Remington offers the 870 in something like 30 different configurations. If you look around I am sure there is one out there that will fit your needs. I prefer to use a short, 20- to 22-inch barrel with rifle sights. I am also a fan of using a smoothbore barrel so I can switch between slugs and buckshot with ease. MSRP goes as low as $372 and as high as $785.
Ruger 44 Carbine
This Ruger is my favorite brush gun. Think of a Ruger 10/22 on steroids. They look very similar on the outside, but the 44 Carbine is chambered for 44 Magnum, has an 18-inch barrel and holds four rounds in an internal magazine plus one in the chamber. This semi-automatic Ruger uses a gas operating system that functions best with 240 grain bullets. Unfortunately it’s no longer in production, but they seem to be widely available online for between $700 and $800.
This little carbine weighs in at about six pounds. The 44 Mag, with the heavy bullets, are fantastic for areas where 100-yard shots would be the maximum. In addition, the big 44 is a lot less likely to deflect when hunting in heavy brush too.
The Browning BAR is my pick for an autoloader high-powered rifle. You can take out a whole herd of deer at 550 rounds per minute of 30-06… oh wait. That’s the wrong BAR.
The hunting rifle version of the BAR is based on John M. Browning’s original military rifle, but the mechanics are said to be far different. The hunting version has been refined and is semi auto. There are a bunch of different versions of this rifle and there is sure to be one that will meet your needs. My pick would be a ShortTrac in .308 Winchester. The “oil finish” version is a thing of beauty.
The BAR ShortTrac rifles use a short action instead of a long action (duh). The BAR ShortTrac .308 rifle has a 22-inch barrel with an overall length of 41.5 inches and weighs just a hair under 7 pounds. Everything about it from the gas-operating system to its hammer-forged barrel has been tested, proven, used, loved… You can’t go wrong with a BAR, but you are going to pay for it. MSRP is around $1300.
So there are my top five. At least the five I picked right now. All of these and lots more are more than capable of putting meat on the table–assuming you do your part.
So what are your picks?