Picking a Deer Rifle — on the cheap

Archer_Nut on Deer & Deer Hunting says:

[I] need a good [starter] deer rifle that is accurate and powerful, but at the same time inexpensive.

The thing of it is that whitetail deer are remarkably easy to kill, as long as you place the proper bullet in the right place. Anything from a 243 WIN up to a 45-70 will work. Some guys swear by the 223 Remington, but I think that’s too small. For calibers, I like to stick to the middle of the road. To stay cheap, be flexible.

Look up the 300 Savage. I would call it the quintessential whitetail deer cartridge. Anything you pick should compare favorably to the 300 Savage. The 30-06 and the 270 Win both are more powerful than the 300 Savage. So is the 308 Win. A little overkill is fine. The 30-30 is not as powerful, but folks take a lot of deer with that cartridge. The 300 Savage is good on whitetail out to 200 yards, whereas the 30-30 (without a lot of help) is just a 150 yard cartridge. Look at the velocity and energy of the 300 Savage and figure that’s your standard for taking a deer out to 200 yards.

If you really want to go cheap, a military surplus rifle is probably just fine. I have a couple Mosin Nagants in 7.62X54R that can be had for $70. They make nice deer rifles. Ammo is a bit of a problem, but I reload. I would shy away from the AK and SKS– 7.62X39 is not a great deer round. Any of those 8mm Mausers you see in the C&R bin will work as well. Just make sure you have a source of ammo before you jump into it. However, if you’re in a try-before-you-buy mode, $70-$130 for a reliable rifle is maybe worth considering. At $70, you can buy $70 worth of ammo and have af few years of fun before you decide to trade up. Remember that a military cartridge is generally meant to kill a human-size target. Deer are about has hard to kill as a human– little different, but about the same.

Nowadays, you should be able to find a gun shop that will set you up with a used bolt-action or pump 30-06 or 270 for $250 to $300– Or a Lever in 30-30 or 35 Rem. Your friends and relatives will probably have something in their closets that they will want to get rid of. My last two acquisitions were a rare Model 70 variant for $200 and a minty Remington 870 TB for $150. Both were closet queens that somebody from work thought I might like. The blue-book values are 2-4 times that. As long as you are flexible on calibers, you should be able to score something nice.

Use Gunbroker.com as a free source of current gun values. If someone offers you a $200 rifle and you go on Gunbroker and see the same thing selling for $800, you know you have something. Just remember that if you buy off Gunbroker you have to pay shipping and FFL transfer fees. I have done this frequently, but I knew what I was doing.

Lastly: remember that you don’t need anything with “MAGNUM” in the name in order to kill a deer. The only difference for your purposes between a 30-06 and a 300 Win Mag is several pounds of additional recoil. The only exception I will make to this is the 44 Magnum– as a pistol caliber it is a magnum. As a rifle round, it’s about on a par with a 30-30– no weakling, but nothing stellar.

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