Buying Your First Rifle

Looking at buying a new rifle? Here are some suggestions to help you with finding the right firearm.

With so many firearms available on the market, choosing a rifle can be a tough choice. Even the seasoned firearms owner can sometimes need some help making the decision on which firearm to buy.

It helps to understand a few key factors when making your choice, starting off with what you will be using the rifle for.

Rifle for Target Shooting

Work out how far you want to shoot with the firearm or the rules for any competitions you are looking at using the rifle for. This will help determine the caliber choice you need.

Some target rifles only have a short effective range such as .22 whereas other calibers can reach out a lot further. For example the 6.5 Creedmoor has an effective range of 1000 yards for target shooting.

Additionally, consider the availability of ammunition for your chosen caliber. Some calibers are harder than others to find ammunition or reloading components for. So be sure to check out ammunition prices before you settle on a caliber for your firearm.

When you have decided on a caliber that best suits the distance you will be shooting it’s time to look at some other important factors.

A box of 308 Rounds

It is important to realise that if the firearm is for target shooting, you probably aren’t going to worry about the weight of the rifle as much as you would a hunting rifle. Because unlike a hunting rifle you are mostly going to be carrying it from the car to the bench at the range.

In effect, not being too worried about the weight of a firearm and the fact that a target rifle is likely going to be fired more often than a hunting rifle means you should look at a heavier barrel.

In general, having a heavier barrel is an advantage for a target rifle as the barrel will not heat up as fast as a lighter barrel. Consequently, the temperature of the barrel also effects the accuracy of the rifle.  

This is because the hotter a barrel gets, the more effect stress will have on it. When a rifle is fired, the barrel is put under a burst of pressure and the barrel oscillates and vibrates. As a result, the hotter the barrel of the rifle is when fired, the more movement you will have.

For this reason, the target shooter putting a lot of rounds down range, a heavier barrel is better as it will stay cooler for longer and provide better accuracy.

In the long run you will also need to consider the barrel life of the caliber you have chosen. Some calibers wear out a barrel a lot faster than others. For instance the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge barrel life is around 3800 rounds, compared to .308 which is around 5000 rounds.

In conclusion once you have an idea of the caliber and barrel you want you can pick out a stock that is the most ergonomic for you. The stock should give you the adjustments you need to stay positioned and comfortable behind the rifle.

Rifle for Hunting

Hunting rifles differ from target rifle selection in several ways. It is important to realise factors such as the distance you will be shooting, the type of game and the terrain where you will be hunting.

Another key point is that the caliber choice must be appropriate and legal for the animal you are targeting. For instance all caliber projectiles lose speed as they travel in the air, which effects the amount of force the round will impact its target with.

For this reason, select a caliber that is going to deliver enough force to your target at the distances you will likely be engaging at.

Given that you might be hunting on foot, in a car or sitting in a hide, these are all factors that are going to affect what weight firearm you want to have with you.

When hunting on foot, a heavy firearm can slow you down and become a massive obstacle to lug up and down hills. For this reason, a lightweight rifle becomes important when hunting on foot as you will be carrying it for hours or days at a time.

Therefore a light barrel which reduces the weight of the firearm can save a lot of unnecessary weight on your hunting trip. Likewise a lightweight stock also play a big factor in reducing the overall weight of the rifle.

If you are hunting from a vehicle or spotlighting, weight isn’t going to affect you as much as if you were on foot and you can consider a heavier barrelled rifle.

With this in mind, some manufacturers add ‘fluting’ to a barrel, which gives the shooter a more rigid barrel and cuts some weight from the rifle.

Rifle for Both Target Shooting and Hunting

A hybrid rifle is going to have strengths and weaknesses across both fields and is a very hard combination to satisfy both avenues of shooting.

Given the points for target and hunting rifles above, a shorter barrel can be an advantage here. A short barrel cuts the weight of the firearm down and is more mobile.

For instance, a .308 rifle can come in several barrel lengths from 16” to 26”. Cutting down on barrel size might help reduce weight of the rifle whilst keeping a heavier barrel and stopping it from heating up too quickly.

If you have any questions about choosing a rifle, please reach out to us or join the Facebook group Bolt Gunners and ask the community.