On today’s episode of Buckin’ Out, we’re talking about starting from the basics of form, fit, and function when picking a deer hunting rifle for a beginner. There are a few tips we’ll go through to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

Pick Your Action

One of the first considerations for picking a deer hunting rifle is to decide which type of action you think will be best suited to you, especially if you need a follow up shot. One of the first things taught in hunter’s education is that you should be an ethical hunter. This means the first shot should take the animal cleanly and cause minimal suffering. While taking a deer down on the first shot is the ideal outcome, sometimes a second shot is needed. 

We reviewed three of the most common actions:

Bolt Action – With a bolt action rifle the user has to cycle the next round by releasing the bolt, pulling it rearward to extract the spent cartridge, then cycling it forward to chamber the next one. We had four different bolt action rifles to look at: Benelli Lupo in .30-06 Spfld, Remington 700 in 7mm Rem Mag, Weatherby Vanguard in .243 Rem, and a Sauer Fieldshoot 100 in 6.5 PRC.

The Remington 700 is a classic bolt action which has taken plenty of deer in the field. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/Guns.com)

Lever Action – A lever action gives you the next available shot when the user ejects the spent casing by forcing the handle, or lever, down and away. Another cartridge is chambered when the lever is pulled back into the gun. We had two lever action guns to look at: The 1894 Marlin Dark in .45-70 Gov’t and the Savage 99 in .30-30 Win. 

Lever guns have always had a place in Western culture but they just as accepted as deer rifles in the woods. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/Guns.com)

Semi-Auto – unlike the other two actions, here, there no user action needed to chamber the next round. The firearm ejects and subsequently chambers a new round with every pull of the trigger. We only had one semi-auto to look at: the CMMG Resolute in .350 Legend. 

AR-15's like the CMMG Resolute have become popular among hunters especially in deer friendly calibers like .350 Legend. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/Guns.com)

About the only other type of rifle we don’t have listed here is the single shot. While I wanted to learn with an available follow up shot, many still teach new hunters on a single shot. This makes the hunter understand the importance of taking an ethical shot. 

Semi-auto is the fastest to get a follow up shot on target for the beginner. The next fastest would depend on individual comfort level and training.

Find a Comfortable Fit

One of the biggest factors in making a deer rifle both enjoyable to shoot and accurate is how comfortable it is. I probably won’t fire my deer hunting rifle as much as my Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm over the course of the year, but I think the same principles apply to selecting a gun here. Whether it’s a handgun or a rifle, the more comfortable a gun is to shoot, the more apt I am to shoot and train with it.

One of the biggest factors in making a deer hunting rifle comfortable is the length of pull, or LOP, which is defined as the distance from the center end of the stock to the center of the trigger. Some guns offer the ability to change spacers to customize the length of pull while there are also third-party solutions available for older rifles.

The J.P. Sauer & Sohn Fieldshoot in 6.5 PRC offered a lot of customization right out of the box. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/Guns.com)

Another consideration for a comfortable rifle is comb height. I found that having a higher comb was preferable for me, but that might not be the case for everyone. Again, some rifles will allow you to adjust comb height right out of the box. If this is something that makes a difference for you, then a more custom solution might be the way to go as it’s harder to change comb height than it is LOP.

The rifle should fit snugly in the shoulder while giving you enough eye relief on the scope to fire without being scoped in the face. For me I found that three rifles rose above the rest in terms of fit and comfort. My personal three favorite were, the Remington 700, the Weatherby Vanguard, and the Sauer Fieldshoot. 

Mounting Accessories and Other Options

If you’re someone who plans on taking your rifle far into the woods in search of a deer, then making sure you have sling swivels would be wise. If working from a blind is what appeals to you, then perhaps a place to mount a bipod would also be a nice addition. Finally, the rifle may or may not already have a scope – there are plenty of rifle/scope combos on Guns.com. However, you may not want or need a scope, so that’s where iron sights come in.

People still hunt with iron sights for nostalgia and to make sure the game is close enough for an ethical kill. While many sportsmen today opt for an optic of some sort, having irons on the rifle can ensure that you can still hunt should the glass ever go belly up in the field. 

All in all, there are many accessory considerations when deciding what type of deer hunting style you’ll be doing. Weighing these with the comfort and shoot-ability of the rifle play into which rifle might work best for your first deer hunt. 

Understanding Caliber and Next Steps

While some people aren’t able to take a wide selection of rifles to range for a test fire, I was fortunate to be able to do so. That’s what we’ll focus on in the next video, discussing caliber choice and taking into account what’s important when field testing a rifle. 

revolver barrel loading graphic