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HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsFirearms and Sk...Firearms and Sk...New Hunter Seeks Rifle AdviceNew Hunter Seeks Rifle Advice
New Post
3/18/2014 10:58 AM

 Howdy HPG Forums, long time reader, first time commenter.  Last week, at 38 years old I secured my first hunting license for the purpose of harvesting mid to large size game (deer, elk, antelope, et al) to feed my family.  I am seeking any and all rifle buying advice both in terms of brand and  caliber.  I have done a fair amount of reading online (forums, mfg websites) but have held off in posting any questions anywhere but here on the HPG forums.  I am a novice to firearms in general so any and all knowledge and experience you might wish to share will be most appreciated.

Goals and Needs

1. Landscape to be hunted: open valleys, tree'd foothills, as well as heavily tree'd mountainsides

2. Carry: both car-based and backpacking based trips (lightweight will be a priority)

3. Caliber: primary target will be deer, with a future possibility for taking elk.  My initial research suggests .300 Win Mag.  

4. Caliber availability: I'm interested in your thoughts on the availability and cost of ammunition in the longterm as part of the decision.  

5. Lifetime: I appreciate making purchases that are long lasting and as such I enjoy solid, proven technology.  That being said I embrace innovation and although am not an "early adopter" am also not a total luddite.  

6. Accessories: If you're feeling generous with your advice and would also like to make scope or other necessary accessory suggestions I am all ears.  

7. Sourcing: would you recommend sourcing a weapon from any particular place?  Big box store, local gun shop, online, gun show, et al?  

8. Price: quality, weight, and accuracy are my priorities.  Price is second.  So far I've looked at rifles in the $600 to $1300 range just to give you an idea of what I am bracing for.   

I greatly appreciate any an all advice (or criticism if warranted) you may wish to share.  I am a very knowledged backpacker and am greatly interested in adding such a valuable skill to my repetoire of outdoor pursuits.  

- Sam

Bozeman, Montana

New Post
3/18/2014 3:26 PM

First, welcome, and second have you read some the threads on here about rifles? While not directly applicable they contain a lot of good information and discussion about a variety of things rifle related. I am going to apologize in advance for being long winded and taking the long way around to get to your questions, but I want to provide some background on why I am going to make the recommendations I do.

In my opinion shooting is a skill that needs to be developed just like any other skill, and I also believe that while skill can be applicable across platforms that you have to ensure skill with a specific firearm. I further think that shooting skill on a range on a nice summer day is not really a measure of field shooting skills. The range is a great place to learn the fundamentals and develop skill, but at a certain point you are going to have to take off the training wheels so to speak and start learning/practicing the skills that you will need in the field during a hunting trip. Of course your location and type of hunting will dictate to what extent you need to develop specific skills. My first deer was killed in Texas on family land. There hunting is typically done from a blind situated to look over several opens, and as you are sitting in a blind and can use the window of the blind as a rest it is not terribly different from a bench on a range. None of the other hunting I have done elsewhere involved blinds and in my experience snow/rain/sleet/etc... is normally blowing and you are tired from moving to your hunting location, or it is hot as hell and you are dealing with that issue. If you take a shot having a bench like rest is not the norm. That means that you need to be practicing your shooting from field positions. Your group on a range, from the bench, on a nice warm summer day is far less important than your ability to make that first round hit from a field position in inclement weather, and in my experience several field positions. Planning on shooting off a bipod or your pack, guess what the brush may be to high. Plan on shooting from sticks so you can be higher, guess what you left them behind because they encumbered you while you belly crawled over the brow of a hill to get closer so now you are shoot prone, do you know how to sling up for extra support? I know that this seems a bit unrelated but bear with me.

Like I said to start, shooting is a skill that needs to be developed, and that skill only comes from practice. While it is true that running a bolt gun is running a bolt gun, and that knowing proper form and technique translates from gun to gun. I personally don't feel like I can get the best out of given firearm until I have carried it and shot it enough to really know how it performs and more importantly how I preform with it, and I am not talking about the best group or even average of groups I can shoot from the bench. I am talking about shooting it under all conditions, from different positions, in different weather. Perhaps I am a bit of a fanatic, but I feel that we have a responsibility to make a first round kill. I am not going to try and say my record is perfect, because hauntingly it isn't, but I am going to say that we owe it to animals to do our best to make it so. Until I know how the rifle will perform and more importantly how I will perform under given conditions I don't really know what my envelope for a ethical shot is, and knowing that envelope is critical because it is on me to make that clean kill.  I also don't really feel that it is ethical to rely on a bigger caliber to make up for marginal or poor shot placement, because you are shooting outside your skill envelope. In the past these views haven't been popular, but they are mine, and influence my rifle/caliber choices.

Without that out of the way and as background, on to your questions. In my opinion 300 Win Mag overkill for deer as a caliber. When you add in stiff recoil and expensive ammunition it becomes even less likely that you will practice with it and learn your envelope and develop skill. It may or may not be over kill on an Elk, but a properly placed bullet is a properly placed bullet and a marginal or poor shot is a marginal or poor shot. I have cringed before hearing about some of the shots folks have taken on critters with the caveat they were using a bigger bullet/caliber to make up for taking shot they knew they shouldn't take period. Their words not mine. In my opinion, you would be well served with a 270, 30/06, or 308.  I don't have any personal experience with .270, but there is a reason it is a classic caliber. I have experience with the other 2, more with 308, and would lean towards them for a reason. In a lot of ways the 30/06 is still the yardstick against which other calibers are measured, and that is because it allows you to run a whole gamut of rounds from light to heavy for the game you are after. The 308 is, to keep it simple, a light 30/06, which means you don't have the ability to run heavier bullets. The reason I lean towards them over the 270 is the availability of inexpensive practice ammunition in the form of milsurp. No milsurp is not the ammunition you want to be shooting for bragging groups, but it allows you to get rounds down range from your hunting gun and is accurate enough for that field use. I personally prefer the 308 as it is a bit easier recoil wise,has the shorter action, and milsurp is easier and cheaper to find. I also like these three because they are probably the most common hunting rounds and thus you are more likely to be able to get ammunition for them. There

I also want to make a quick comment about range.  There is a common conception that you should be able to knock anything down out to 500 yds with your hunting rifle, which drives some of the 300 Win Mag and 7mm recommendations.  First, I always have to wonder how much of that is fish stories.  How did they know that it is X number of yards especially before the advent of range finders. I have played a game more than once with a variety of folks on guess the range when I was holding a range finder. Most folks have no clue. Second, do you know the variables to shooting out to that range?  I have had folks tell me I am good to X range then take 5 shots to walk it on from the bench and say see told you I was good to go, and that was from the bench under nice conditions. Finally, I got to talk hunting with two different Snipers, as in real deal school trained make a living entirely or partially (as part of other duties), snipers. In each case the answer was the same when asked what they felt an ethical hunting range was and that was 300yds or under, or in other words the point blank of your rifle. I am not a long range expert, but when two guys who make a living at it tell me the variables are two great to shoot out farther I listen.  Again there are folks who can do it, and that is because they have spent the time and effort to develop the skill, but they are in the minority.

Rifle weight is another place where I tend to take a middle of the road approach. There are people out there that can shoot the heck of a light rifle, but in my experience they aren't the norm. A lighter rifle is great to carry, but is harder to hold steady, and more punishing during recoil, which can impact how much you practice. I personally choose to carry a rifle that is a bit heavier because I know that I can perform better with it under rougher conditions. I would look for a rifle in the 6.5-7lb range without scope/sling/ammunition/etc... Other peoples opinions will vary, but having watched a lot of folks shoot they seem to do far better off with a gun that isn't to light or to heavy, and that seems to be the right range in my opinion. I also prefer shorter barrels for field work, but that is a whole different kettle of fish.

Folks get worked up over controlled round feed and push feed, but I have had more issues with getting control round feed rifles tuned than I have had with push feed rifles. I am fine using either and don't really have a preference. Folks with more experience do, but I just haven't seen the issues they report. As far as rifle brands, man there are a veritable plethora of choices these days, from inexpensive (Ruger/Savage) to middle of the road (Remington/Tika/Winchester), to sell a kidney expensive. I would say handle as many rifles as you can and if possible shoot them, and find the one that just seems alive in your hands and speaks to you. I am a big believer in the way any tool feels in your hands, almost as if it is an extension of your body, and the confidence and comfort that lends. Don't just pick a rifle based on joe blow said this was the one, pick a rifle because it is the right one for you. As you drill down ask if what you are looking at and liking has a good reputation. Until then get hands on with a bunch. There are a ton of variables about the human body that can make a rifle work great for one guy, but not the next. Just be wary of proprietary or limited availability stuff because they can be a pain in the butt later.

I personally think that the Leupold VX3 line is about the best bang for you buck these days. I have owned a bunch and never had a lick of trouble with them, and they always compare favorably with other scopes in the same price range and even more expensive scopes. I generally like a lower power variable (1.5-5 or 1.75-6), but it is really hard to beat the 2.5-8 for lightweight, brightness, fov, and upper and lower magnification.

So the short answer is 308 in a rifle that fits you well with Leupold glass and practice with it a bunch so you can make the shot when the time comes and know it before you break the shot.

I am guessing that wasn't what you were looking for, but hopefully it will be helpful.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
New Post
3/18/2014 4:43 PM
My suggestion would be to spend about $400 on something like a Ruger American rifle, chambered in .270 or 30-06, top it with a $400 2-7 or 3-9 variable Leupold scope, and then spend about $500 on ammo learning how to shoot it. If you stay with it, you'll gravitate in many directions with regards to the hardware, so don't get heavily invested on the maiden voyage.

Learn to shoot, then learn to hunt. With a combo like I listed above you can kill anything in the Lower-48 at any reasonable distance if you choose the right load and you hit 'em in the right place.

Good luck with your choices and your future success in the field.
New Post
3/18/2014 5:21 PM

Samh, first welcome to the forums! Excellent first post.

As always, this is just my myopic opinion…

The 300WM is a great cartridge and it does hurl the .30cal bullets 200-300fps faster than the 308W.  However, under 300yds I doubt you will see any difference on game. 

Here is my take…

Training and practice ammo are always at the top of my budget.  I’d rather have a $100 rifle, $600 scope, and $1000 in practice ammo than the other way around. 

Optics: Build the rifle around the scope!  The lowest quality scope I would personally use is a Leupold VX3 in 3.5-10x or 2.5-10x with caped turrets and a simple duplex reticle.  Spend good $$$ on quality rings and bases.  I have said this in other threads but optics/rings/bases are NOT the place to pinch pennies in my opinion. 

Chambering:  “Lightweight” and “300WM” is a recipe for developing bad field shooting habits in my opinion. I would look long and hard at the 308W.  I have killed with that chambering out to just past 400yds and it served me well.  The 300WM does shoot flatter but not enough, in my opinion, to subject yourself to the huge increase in recoil and ammo cost. 

Ammo:  For hunting ammo I would look at a Barnes TSX or TTSX in 165-180gr.  Find a loading that will work on the largest animal you plan to shoot and it will do fine on anything lighter.  I do not like switching hunting loads for different species.  For practice ammo shoot through 500rds of surplus 7.62x51 (147FMJ) busting rocks out in the field before next season and you will be glad you did.

Actions:  I would go with a Remington BDL, Ruger, Winchester Classic, or even Savage in stainless.  If you can buy used, all the better.  Spend the $$$ saved on practice ammo or a training course.  

I would invest in a dozen snapcaps and wear them out dryfiring.  I would also invest in a pair or collapsible shooting sticks.  You may shoot ok without them…but you will always shoot better WITH them.  

The long version short:  Get a used 308W.  Buy 100rds of hunting ammo.  Buy +500rds of practice ammo.  Buy a set of Stoney Point shooting sticks. Take the rifle to a good smith and have him go over the trigger, action, and chop the barrel to 16-20”.  Add side sling swivels.  Practice dryfiring 5 min every night. 

***I posted before reading Scot's and 41Mag's post.  Sounds like our views are similar.


Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
New Post
3/18/2014 6:27 PM

Sam, by the time hunting season rolls around you could very well be a much better field shot than 95% of the hunters taking to the field. Here's why -- it sounds like, unlike every other American male, you weren't born knowing how to shoot. That means you are in a position to learn how to really shoot without any ego or training scars getting in the way. Everybody on this thread is saying "practice a lot" which is right on. But getting a day or two of good instruction on the front end of that practice is going to set you up for success. There is a LOT more bad instruction than good and bad habits can be hard to break. I still catch myself letting half of a breath out and holding it for precision shooting from time to time and I've known better for something like 5 years now. It's the 30 years before that that I'm trying to unlearn. Try PM'ing 112Papa on this forum to see if he can recommend a school or instructor in your neck of the woods.

I could offer a whole bunch of justification and might if I get the time, but I'd offer a slightly modified version of Strow's advice on equipment. Get a used .308. Get a Leupold variable with capped turrets and a duplex reticle. Better than Leupold Rifleman if you can afford it. If you get the VX3 Strow recommends, you'll still have it when you've switched out rifles a time or two. Run a box of federal powershock through it from sandbags on the bench. Or have a shooting friend do it. If it doesn't feed correctly or shoot at least 1.75 moa from the bench with that load, dump the rifle and move on to the next one. If it does feed and shoots 1.75 moa, you're done for the time being. Get your training and then put in your practice time with it. Hunt for a season or two. After that, you'll likely have developed an opinion on what if anything you want to do to it or a more specific opinion about what you want in a rifle.

As to ammo, I too REALLY like the TSX as loaded by federal. Blows a hole all the way through whatever it encounters that is about an inch and a half in diameter. I shoot the 150 grain as well as the 150 grain powershock and 147 grain milsurp. Both the TSX and powershock 150 grain loads by federal shoot to the same point of aim. 147 grain milsurp shoots .5 moa higher. Your variance as a shooter and the variance introduced by field conditions are both much greater than the difference between 150 grain federal and 147 grain milsurp. So you sight in for the good stuff (200 yd zero) and it's plenty close for the cheap stuff. That's the reason for 150 grain instead of 165 grain. The reason powershock is in the picture is that it is the most accurate factory loading I've found in every rifle I've ever shot it in. It's always my sanity check or if I want to turn in a particularly nice group. It also puts whitetail (and probably antelope) down just fine even though it penetrates for crap (sometimes it doesn't even exit a whitetail).

If milsurp ammo wasn't a consideration, I might consider a 30-06 because it gives you everything in the lower 48 plus everything in Alaska. I like the 300 win mag and am very glad my father in law just gave me his, but I think Strow characterized it's performance versus the .308 very accurately. It kicks enough more that I want it in a 9lb rifle minimum, and the ammo costs half again as much before you even bring milsurp into the picture.

ETA: On reflection, Scot probably covered all of the rationale. And if he didn't, others have. I wouldn't have much to add.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
3/18/2014 7:00 PM

 You've already got a lot of great advice Sam!

I to was going to suggest a Ruger American but there are a lot of sub $500 rifles out there these days that are sending back some impressive results. A .308 or .30-06 will dump and elk just as neat as a .300 Win Mag will. I've got all three and several guns that are a lot bigger but I still prefer the .308 or '06 for most of my hunting. A quality bullet like the mentioned Barnes will drill a hole through just about anything. 

I shot a coyote last deer season at a measured 400 yards with my .30-06, I dont feel a bigger gun would have made my job any easier that day.

I freely admit to being a Leupold fanboy. I once sent them a VX-II that had the windage screw stripped out. I was the THIRD owner and they still warrantied the work for free (at most I paid shipping). They make great glass right over in Oregon. I like a 3x9 for most of my guns but guys used to hunt with fixed 4x for a lot of years so dont think that a smaller scope wont be capable.

My last several guns have been bought online but for your first one I'd suggest going into the stores and doing some shopping. Find one that fits you, feels comfortable and lines up naturally. Yes a custom stock can be had but that's coin that should be spent practicing right now. Other than glass I'd say find a good sling, not just a carry strap but one that you can shoot with as well. Doesnt need to be a M1907 sling like is used in matches but something that will help steady the rifle.

After you get so you can shoot a decent group practice shooting from field conditions and in different positions. Jog or something to get your heart rate up and see how you do. All over the net there are different ideas on this, just try one a few times and you'll learn a lot about your capabilities.

Finally if you've never hunted before I'd suggest hunting some small game, maybe with a buddy or someone that can help you out. The work starts after you get the animal down so learn that side of it before you get a deer or elk down also.

New Post
3/18/2014 9:03 PM

I would stay away from magnum rifles if this is going to be your first hunting rifle. Recoil, noise, cost of ammo are multiplied. Learn to shoot a reasonable caliber proficiently. 30-06, 308, 270 win. My preference is the 308 with 30-06 coming in second. I own a Tika T-3 Superlite, ( available only at Sportsmans Wharehouse) Under six pounds, scary accurate, good triger and very good price. Get out and learn to shoot it in field positions once you have done your work zeroing the rifle at a range. Go on hikes and bust rocks like a lost friend of mine would do ( Timberline) . It puts you in field shooting condition. Secondly...learn about the game and how to hunt...rifle is only part of the equation.

New Post
3/19/2014 9:22 AM

 So far all the advice you've been given is solid. My only hunting rifle is a Browning Bar Safari in 270 Win with a modestly priced 1-6x scope. I inherited it from my granddad. It's more than capable of taking any game in my area, and is easy to carry and shoot. 

The only recommendations I would have for you:

  • Find some professional instruction and get a good hunting buddy if you do not have one, especially if new to hunting. Also consider trying your hand at hunting small game first. The investment is smaller and rewards are more immediate. 
  • Buy a 22 trainer that is similar to your centerfire rifle. It helps you keep sharp with a minimum of expense, and allows you to hunt small game in the off season.
  • Spend about as much on the scope as you do the rifle. 
  • Get a good sling. I like one that you can get into position with quickly, as opposed to one you have to set up such as the standard GI Loop sling. I have one of these and it's the boss:
New Post
3/19/2014 9:24 AM

Everyone has presented good ideas and info and I won't argue with any. I might add a couple of things. A good trigger is important, get one or have the rifle worked on. If you have the money and the location nearby then by all means practice a lot with the rifle you are going to use, if not invest in a good airgun and practice with it. Nothing substitutes for practice with the primary arm but nothing beats LOTS of practice with something of similar weight, trigger and sighting arrangement. I have my own range that I can shoot on whenever I want, I have land that I can shoot on whenever I want, I reload to keep myself in ammo (but still have trouble covering the cost of practicing enough) but I get more practice in with my airgun in the basement or a 22 on the range than any other way. You are in for a very fun ride!

New Post
3/19/2014 9:39 AM

 The honesty of superlative information provided in everyone's answers is precisely why I opted to post questions regarding my initial foray into a hunting rifle here at HPG.  Not only do Scott and Evan design high quality gear, they put it to use in the field and their customers and followers do as well.  I'm very appreciative of everyone's responses thus far.

I particularly like that everyone took pause in their answers and reminded me that the acquisition of the firearm is a bit of a midpoint goal and not the endgame here.  Obviously the ultimate goal is to take an animal to put food on my family's table but theres much, much, much to do previous to that to be a responsible hunter.  The lengthy response from Scott regarding practice at the range and in "real world" situations is key and I'm particularly pleased with those statements in relation to a caliber choice and how it equates to the cost of practice ammo.  Secondly the notion of a larger caliber for the sake of making up for one's shooting inaccuracies is not something I've considered.  

A theme definitely is forming amongst all respondents that leans toward a .270, .308 or .30-06 in a used, late-model firearm.  I am fortunate enough to live in a town with plenty of used firearm options and it pleases me to hear the group recommend that simply from a price standpoint.  I am keen to put the money saved toward practice ammo and fuel costs to drive into the forest for practice.  

As for shooting instruction I am lucky to have a co-worker who was a former shooting instructor and I work for a company that employs a number of former SF ops whom I have access for questioning as needed.  I will be partaking in a one-day professional firearms training course this summer but the focus will be on pistols.  Hopefully by that time I will have some range time under my belt and be able to ask necessary rifle questions of the instructor.  

I am fortunate enough to have a solid group of friends who have hunted this region for a decade and who are willing to take me under their wing (haze?) me this fall when the season opens.  I like the suggestion of taking up small game with a .22 first.  I'm hesitant however to buy a .22 given the current scarcity of ammunition though as the .22 I currently own is somewhat heritage and I do not wish to shoot it.  

The main take away I've received from everyone so far seems to me to proceed as follows:

  1. Practice is the most important aspect regardless of my equipment
  2. A good scope is potentially more important than a good rifle
  3. Caliber needs to allow for affordable practice ammo and not be too big just for the sake of making up for inaccuracy

I genuinely appreciate everyone answers and suggestions so far.  I look forward to any other info posters may make later than this and I also look foward to sharing with you what I opt for as well as my practice and real world successes (and failures!).

New Post
3/19/2014 9:56 AM

To be honest the money spent short term on a .22 rifle is, in my opinion, better spent on more practice ammunition for your main rifle.  By the time you bought a decent .22 and a decent scope for it you could have darn near bought a case of ammunition in your main caliber.  Shoot a case of ammunition through you main rifle, using good form and technique and you will really know your rifle.  Longer term a good .22 is a great way to stay tuned up and a lot of fun.  However, you can do a heck of a lot of maintenance with snap caps and 20 rds of ammunition, and as you said right now .22 is hard to find. 

I am a bit embarrassed I didn't mention training, as it is a very big deal with me. At this point I feel that Randy Cain is probably the best guy to learn a bolt gun for what we are talking about.  There are other schools that teach a practical rifle, but Randy is a phenomenal teacher in my personal experience.The thing is there, is very few instructors who are teach to the middle ground.  Most available classes are either sub 100 yd carbine classes or long range precision classes, and neither really focuses on good positional shooting ala hunting.  There are certainly carbine classes that teach  positions and work them, but they are mostly focused on non-conventional positions using barriers.  Randy teaches from about 25yds out to 200 yds and focuses on the bolt gun, and sling.  In Extremis Consulting has a class I am hoping to take this year, which is more precision based but goes out to 500yds, which is longer than typical hunting shooting, but I want to expand my knowledge base, and that seems like a good class to do it.  In short training is worth traveling for, and getting the training directly applicable to what you are doing is worth even more.


Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
New Post
3/19/2014 10:27 AM

Quite right on all points. Sometimes I forget that not everyone is sitting on a stash of 22LR rounds like I am, and the cost benefits are really only there in the long term. For me, since I'm in it for the long haul, it's really helped bring down the cost of not only re-learning to shoot both rifle and pistol after years without them, and teaching family and friends of all ages to do the same. 

I've found that professional instruction has paid huge dividends as well.

New Post
3/19/2014 12:50 PM

While I will agree with the short term assessment for not using a 22 for practice it is in one's long term interest to be able to practice efficiently often year round. A 22 might not be the best tool if both the main rifle and the 22 take the same effort to use in driving time, set up etc., that is where I think an air gun shines. Practice at home whenever the mood strikes (everynight) can do wonders. Though snap caps are fine nothing substitutes for the feed back of a hole in the paper. Hitting a dime sized paste on dot at basement distances everytime takes all the skill that hitting a deer at 100 yds does. No one I know can afford shooting 25 rounds daily from their hunting arm. When you go out to shoot then you want to get in as much as you can and shooting 500 rounds of any big bore caliber in one day is both tiring and spendy. I would buy a decent rifle and a good scope and as soon after that as I could I would get a full sized air gun and shoot it every day. Couple that with as much shooting with your main rifle as you can you will be ready for anything. I don't shoot nearly as much as I used to but when I shot my best it was because I shot a lot with anything I could.

New Post
3/19/2014 1:26 PM

Great points, the only thing I have to say is that shooting 500 rds of anything a day is probably counter productive.  Getting to the range can be a pain, and there is always the desire to make the most of it, but you are far better off making the most of 20 or 50 good rounds than burning lots of rounds to make up for infrequency.  That is actually one of the issues I have with a .22.  Typically it is cheap enough that it is easy to just burn rounds for the sake of burning, which is when you start getting sloppy and learning bad  habits.  The extra cost of full caliber ammunition has a way of focusing you in my experience. Even during a dedicated class shooting 500 or so rounds is not the best idea in my opinion. I hear time and a gain from instructors who I respect that 200-300 rounds a day is most peoples "quality" limit.  After that fatigue and bad habits start setting in.

The idea of 20 round a night of air gun ammunition is a good one, and I may have to look into it.  Heck even a high quality airsoft for a pistol can be a good way to train.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
New Post
3/19/2014 3:28 PM

 I'd agree with what Scott is saying about the .22 becoming a quantity over quality thing for a lot of people. While I do enjoy my .22's I find I like my bolt action better than my autos but I attribute that to two enlistments as a machinegunner in the Marines. Blasting off ammo isn't a big deal to me anymore, I'd rather make one great shot rather than throwing 10 out there and seeing where they go. Ditto on the more expensive centerfire ammo making you focus more on making each shot count. I've taken to "stump shooting" when I'm out and about. So while my "range time" is probably less than 5 rounds these days I still learn a lot. It might not be as sexy as shooting little groups in paper but it's just as challenging if not more to hit a random rock/ dirt clod/ pine cone/ cow pie/ whatever and an unknown range in field condintions and the randomness of it adds a real life hunting aspect to it as well. 

If it's legal where you're at you can still hunt small game with the larger rifle and it'd make you focus on marksmanship a lot as well. Put a headshot on a rabbit or whatever you're hunting and you wont lost any meat. Of course for a handloader there are other options such as cat sneeze loads or similarly a Hamilton Game Getter is another option without needing to get into reloading. One way or another I'd still suggest going hunting with someone or getting into it some way some how prior to being in the back country and having some big game down and realizing you dont know what needs to happen next.

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3/20/2014 7:46 AM

 The cost of ammunition was a bit of a surprise to me.  I did not quite expect to find the cost as high as $1 per round and as such I am finding myself very solidly in the market for a .308 or .30-06 as opposed to my original foray toward the .300 Win Mag.  Also a clear notion that spending as much on a scope as I do a rifle is forming as a standard opinion (here and elsewhere I'm researching).  

  • Optics: Leupold optics
  • Ammo: Strow and Evan recommend Barnes TSX or TTSX in 165-180gr.  I have found the standard grain count for a .308 to be 150.  Why the higher suggestion - or was that grain count for .30-06?  
  • Practice ammo: 500 rounds of surplus 7.62x51 (147FMJ).  Can "practice ammo" be attained at my local or big box gun store? 

And yes, in response to GlennGTR the importance of learning about the game and the hunt is far more important than the rifle, the scope, the clothing, the gear, etc etc etc.  At this time for me it's easier to wrap my head around the gear aspect but am concurrently learning where to hunt, and how to do it safely and humanely.  I have yet to delve into the dressing of game however.  I've put knife to the skin and bone of a few elk and deer in friend's garages but field dressing is a wholly unclear subject to me still.  Learning!

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3/20/2014 11:17 AM

 These days ammo can be anywhere from expensive to downright outrageous so shop around. If you find a "great deal" online be sure to figure out how much cost shipping will add (kind of an obvious one lots of people seem to forget about). The buck a round thing is pretty decent for premium hunting ammo right now (in standard calibers) in my area. Most Federal Premium stuff is going for closer to $30 a box here but I'm finding Federal Fusion for $22 a box for my .308. I've been running that as it's nearly the same price and the "cheap" FMJ off the shelf. I try to reserve my stock of military FMJ for my M14 as it does the best in that platform, my GSR doesn't do as well accuracy wise with the lighter ball. I haven't shot any critters with the Fusion ammo yet so I can report on how well the bullets hold up but being from Federal I expect they'll do fine.

150 grains was the standard for the military load in .30-06 and it was carried over in the .308 so that's where I believe that standard came from. A 165 grain slug is going to shoot just as flat and often times more accurately while the heavier bullets will penetrate deeper than a lighter bullet of the same construction. TSX or T-TSX are great bullets that penetrate deeply, open up well and dont come apart. They are a premo elk slug and there is no reason not to use them for large deer. My .30-06 loves Nosler Ballistic Tips (165 grain of course) so that's what I use in it for deer, I'd consider that bullet to light for elk even though I've never had one blow up like a lot of people report. I'm picky with my shots on game and with those BT's I've always had the bullet exit on mule deer from up close to out several hundred yards. Now that I'm going more and more with the .308 I'll use the same bullets (and weights) in it that I did with the .30-06. 

A lot of people seem to like the SST and say it's tougher than the BT but the one time I had a bullet blow up on game it was with an SST. That experience soured me on that bullet so I avoid them personally. 

I'm not sure where you'll find mil. surp ammo right now with all the panic buying. Last time I saw any quanitity anywhere was just as the 2008 panic was starting and it was 55 cents a round shipped. 

New Post
3/20/2014 1:17 PM

samh wrote

  • Ammo: Strow and Evan recommend Barnes TSX or TTSX in 165-180gr.  I have found the standard grain count for a .308 to be 150.  Why the higher suggestion - or was that grain count for .30-06?  

I would prefer to run 165 grain in .308 for better weight and penetration. However, if I use the lighter 150 grain I can switch between that and milsurp without changing zero on my optics. In our neck of the woods 165 grain premium .308 loads seem easier to find than 150 grain ones.

This constantly updated thread is the best resource for 7.62x51 milsurp:

I like South African, West German, and Lake City. Haven't tried any others, but I would imagine the Israeli is pretty good too. Some of them I know you want to stay away from. That's a research topic.


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3/21/2014 10:49 AM

 Thank you for the clarification on caliber and grain count.  I think that's a topic I'll wait to learn more about after I've had sourced a rifle and had some time to shoot a fair amount of practice ammo (thanks for the pricing resource, Evan).  I will be visiting a number of gun shops this weekend and laying hands on as many rifles in the categories I'm interested in as I can.  

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3/24/2014 8:36 AM

 I laid hands on over a dozen rifles this weekend and read about as many scopes.  Let's just say the decision making process isn't getting any easier.  I took each and every piece of advice provided to me in this thread into account as I was looking and feeling each of these weapons and the ability to have a somewhat educated discussion with each gun dealer I visited with was very helpful.  

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