Saving Greenbacks for Whitetails: Deer Rifles on a Budget

We would all like to go out and buy a new gun from time to time, but with the economy such as it is, it pays to not overlook a used rifle either, and since we can’t clip coupons like the missus buying the fabric softener and bacon, we need to spot the good deals sitting on the racks next to more expensive hardware.

Perhaps the best time to buy a used deer rifle is right after the end of the season. Why? Because every year I see someone selling off a rifle that they say was off and caused them to miss that whitetail that was right in front of them. Or they shot a deer and it ran too far for them to consider it effective enough. Visit the gun shops enough and get on a first name basis with the owners, and they will point out these guns to you. More often than not those who miss that deer were too jittery, spent too little time at the range, or just can’t hit a bull in the backside with a banjo, and those who shot their deer and it ran for hundreds of yards, well, whitetail deer will sometimes do that, and sometimes they will hit the ground like clothes at a nudist colony.

One of the most popular used deer rifles out there is the Winchester Model 94 in .30-30. I dare you to go to a gun shop and not find one of these things on the shelf. While the early saddle ring carbines and pre-1964 versions bring higher dollars, there are more than enough of the later versions to go around out there.  Find one of these and you most likely found a great deal. These days the .30-30 has long been overlooked because it doesn’t find its way into gun magazines anymore, so it has joined other calibers supposedly thought to be obsolete. Never let it be said that the .30-30 won’t kill deer.  In the right hands, at the proper distance, it is more than a match for any whitetail walking.

Never overlook the used Marlin .30-30’s either, the Model 336 started off as the Marlin 1936 and it came out in that year and has been a hot seller ever since. The best part is that Marlins have never really commanded the prices of the Winchesters, so you can often find them cheaper than any of the Model 94’s.

I have had a thing for single shots for as long as I can remember, and you can’t get a better deal than the H & R Handi-Rifle single shot rifles. Brand new they cost under $300 and I have bought them used time and time again for $150 and very little more. Throw on a decent scope and you can be killing bucks for under $200. How can you go wrong?

The first rifle I ever bought was a second hand British .303 Enfield in 1994 that I bought for the tidy sum of $75. It was heavy, long, but it shot true. I never did get a chance to point that gun at a whitetail but I have known more than a few who have and the .303 British round is arguably one of the best surplus calibers for deer and bigger. I run across military surplus rifles that have been customized, some better than others, for anywhere from $50 to $200 or so, but they hold little collector value so you can get them cheap enough. Just make sure that you know exactly what you are looking at and what caliber it is since quite a few have been rechambered, some very well, others by Bubba in the basement.

You don’t need to break your bank hunting whitetail deer, and while you might want to keep up with the Jones’, they might be going in the poor house quicker than you and I see no reason to follow them into bankruptcy. The bullet coming out of that gun won’t go any faster because the gun is newer or the bluing is shinier. As long as that used rifle has been taken care of, it will put whitetail on the deck just as well. To date I have never killed a whitetail deer with a new gun, most were at least forty years old. Venison tastes just as good regardless of the age and pedigree of your rifle.