So, You Think a Rifle is What You Need: A Guide For First-time Rifle Purchasers
While not necessarily ideal for self-defense, rifles make great firearms for hunting and long-distance shooting. With added power, distance, and accuracy over handguns, a rifle is a staple in any firearms collection. But which rifle should you get?
Choosing the Right Rifle
You can find rifles in many configurations, from lever action to bolt action to even semi-automatic. What your purpose is will largely define which type you need or want.
Henry Repeating Arms Brass Lever Action .30-30
A lever action is the old cowboy-style rifle you see in many westerns or ranching shows. Henry Repeating Arms makes the most recognizable lever-action rifles out there, but they do tend to carry a higher price tag. Largely, lever actions are considered a piece of history and are kind of nice to-haves.
Ruger 18029 Precision Rifle
A bolt-action rifle will be slower to fire, but they do tend to be more reliable as they have fewer moving parts than a semi-automatic rifle. Bolt actions make ideal hunting rifles, as an average hunter with minimal skill can usually make a decent kill with a single shot and follow-up shot if needed. This is why many of the top long-distance shooters in the world prefer a bolt action, in addition to one critical factor: dependability! In competition shooting, time is of the essence. Knowing that a rifle is not going to misfeed or jam is crucial.
SIG SAUER MCX
A semi-automatic rifle, like an AR-style rifle, can be outfitted to perform as accurately and reliably as a bolt action and thus can be used in both hunting and long-distance shooting. Depending on the parameters of the match, you may want to opt for higher-capacity magazines than you could find in a bolt action. Nowadays, there are all types of firearms out there that meld the most desirable qualities of bolt action rifles, e.g. dependability, and ease of use, with the contemporary styling and versatility of the popular Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR).
The next big question to answer is, what caliber do you want? This will greatly determine the selection of rifles available for you to choose from.
Okay, so What Caliber Should I Get?
This is another purpose-driven question. Are you hunting squirrels and rabbits at 100 yards? A .22 Long Rifle would fit the job nicely. Want to take down that deer at 200 yards? You could probably get by with a .223 REM, but a .308 WIN would be ideal. How about that elk at 400 yards? You might need something with a little more punch, like a .30-06. You want to make sure that you have a projectile large enough to take down your quarry while at the same time traveling fast enough and on a flat enough trajectory that you can reach out and hit your target accurately at a distance. Every situation has a number of variables to consider.
"You’re not so much looking for a large caliber that is going to do a lot of damage, but instead, something that has the speed to reach out at distances and flies on a relatively flat trajectory."
Target shooting changes things a little. You’re not so much looking for a large caliber that is going to do a lot of damage, but instead, something that has the speed to reach out at distances and flies on a relatively flat trajectory. The .308 WIN is a long-time favorite for distance shooting and can be found for a very reasonable price. However, the 6.5 Creedmoor has recently taken over as a top long-distance performer due to its ability to fly straight beyond 600 yards.
What Do I Like?
While I tend to be more of a target shooter, I do have some preferences for firearms that I currently have and ones that are on my list to acquire.
Springfield Armory Saint Victor
For regular short-range shooting (around 50-75 yards), I enjoy short-barreled rifles chambered in 300 Blackout. The 300 Blackout cartridge has comparatively low recoil, is highly accurate, and I can train with it for extended periods of time. Specifically, I like my Springfield Armory Saint Victor AR Pistol. With its compact size, it can easily be maneuvered around corners to clear a room. This is one of those exceptions to when a rifle could be used for home defense. Equipped with a Sig Sauer ROMEO5 red dot, sighted in at 50 yards, and loaded with subsonic ammunition, this thing won’t wake or harm your neighbors, as the subsonic velocity decreases the penetration capability of the projectile. Switch to supersonic 300 Blackout, and this would be a great hog-hunting gun.
For mid-range (100–200 yards), I’ve got my F1 Firearms FU King AR-15 chambered in .556 NATO. Yes, I know, that’s honestly one of the reasons I bought it. Their marketing was genius, and for a low-cost entry-level firearm that is still reliable and can be adapted to any purpose, it met my needs. Equipped with a Sig Sauer ROMEO5 green dot sighted in at 100 yards, this firearm has proven to be very accurate. Effective as both a hunting and target shooting rifle, there is a reason the AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America right now.
F1 Firearms FU-King F15
For longer distances, I use a Sig Sauer 716i TREAD chambered in .308 WIN. Equipped with a variable-power scope, I have this bad boy dialed in at 200 yards. I can easily hit 500 yards with the current set-up, and the .308 WIN cartridge is readily available, being one of the most popular hunting rounds on the market. My personal goal is to hit 1,000 yards with this setup. I have plenty of people telling me it can be done, but it ain’t gonna be easy.
Sig Sauer 716i TREAD
To really reach out and touch steel at a distance, a bolt-action Ruger Precision Rifle is on my list. Many companies make something similar, but the price point for everything packed into the Ruger keeps it at the top of my list. I’ll probably end up with it chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, as that round has such a flat trajectory; hitting at 1,000 yards should be a breeze.
There is a lot of information out there and so many things to consider, but it really does come down to getting something that fits your purpose. If you don’t know your purpose yet, remember that AR-15s can be easily modified to meet any purpose. Talk to people at the range, go shooting with a friend, read as many opinions as you can, and take a class. All of those can help steer you in the right direction. As always, we want to hear what you think. That’s how we all learn about this great sport of shooting.
MEET THE AUTHOR
With over two decades of experience in both civilian and military marksmanship programs, Teeps has developed a profound passion for shooting. Not only does he find great joy in introducing newcomers to the sport, but also continually seeks to expand his repertoire in the pursuit of shooting excellence.