appropriate firearm for various hunting applications is fairly easy to
ascertain. Bird and waterfowl hunting typically involves a shotgun.
The 20-gauge is appropriate for smaller game, while the 12-gauge is more
adapted to larger birds as well as waterfowl taken from longer distances, such as
geese. Refer to the Armory munitions room "Shotgun
Ammunition: Hunting" to determine which combination of gauge, shot size,
barrel length, and choke is best suited to the type of shotgun hunting you may have in
Choke is a measure of the opening, or viewed differently,
constriction, at the end of a shotgun barrel. This dimension determines
how quickly the pellets or shot in a fired shell will begin to spread
Chokes range from
cylinder to improved cylinder to modified to full, with cylinder being open and full
being the most restrictive. A full choke is useful when the shooter
desires to maintain a tight pattern over a long distance, such as when hunting
ducks or geese. The cylinder or improved cylinder chokes are at the other extreme, and
are appropriate for close-in shots when the game bird is flushed relatively near
at hand. The modified choke covers intermediate applications. Some
manufacturers offer barrels that can accommodate interchangeable choke tubes, a
feature that greatly increases the versatility of a shotgun.
check the choke of a 12 gauge shotgun with a dime: the dime won't fit in a full choke
barrel, but will fit in an improved cylinder barrel with about the thickness of
the dime to spare.
Choice of action is based upon
personal preference. Pump action shotguns are extremely popular because
of their reliability and the fact they may be carried in a safe condition, yet
be brought quickly to bear. Autoloaders also have a large
following. These guns find a niche when extremely fast follow up shots are
required. Both types of actions are popular for use
in trap shooting, skeet shooting, and sporting clay pigeons. Such
activities involve shooting
inanimate objects such as saucers, which are tossed in prescribed directions
with respect to the shooter, usually by a
Choosing a rifle requires much the same
logic that is followed when selecting a shotgun. Consult the Armory
munitions room "Rifle Ammunition: Hunting",
find the type of game animal you wish to hunt, and determine which calibers are
T he objective of a hunt is to make a clean, humane kill
without destroying excess meat. For this reason, it is not wise to
"hunt down" when selecting a caliber of bullet. Sure, you can
blast a squirrel with a rifle intended for grizzly bear. Will the kill be humane?
Yes, the squirrel won't suffer. Will meat be destroyed? Why
yes. In fact, there won't be anything left of the squirrel except a pink
mist. Granny Clampett won't be pleased with a squirrel stew sans
squirrel. Was the hunt successful? No. Hopefully this woeful
tale, while an exaggeration, demonstrates the point.
In a like manner, it
is cruel to "hunt up". The goal of the sportsman is to dispatch
his prey in a manner which is quick and relatively painless. Shooting
game with an underpowered cartridge invites multiple shots, resulting in
extended suffering for the animal and wasteful meat loss for the table.
Does this constitute a successful hunt? No.
will find that certain cartridges are more versatile than others for hunting
applications. This versatility derives from the fact that a given
cartridge may accept a variety of bullet weights, each suited to a particular
type of game animal.
example the .30-06 (pronounced
"thirty ought six"). Yes, correct pronunciation is a tradition. This incredibly
adaptable round is appropriate for fox, coyote and varmints (125 grain bullet),
antelope (150 grain bullet), deer and black bear (180 grain bullet), and
moose/elk (220 grain bullet). Other cartridges also exhibit
consideration involving cartridge selection for a particular model of rifle
relates to the type of terrain you will be hunting. Specifically, will
your shots on game be relatively close, such as those associated with southern
woodlands, or will they take place in the wide open expanses of western
In the West, use of a "flat
shooting" cartridge is a requisite. Southern and Eastern shooters often select a
"brush busting" cartridge. The difference between the two can
be generalized and simplified: a "flat shooting" cartridge
tends to propel a lighter bullet faster, while a "brush busting"
cartridge tends to propel a heavier bullet slower.
The impact all this
has on the shooter relates to the bullet's ballistics, essentially the dynamics
which act upon the bullet to produce its trajectory during flight. The
shooter must memorize key pieces of these data; specifically, how high or low
the bullet lies in its arc at hundred yard intervals with respect to the
rifle's "zero", or point of aim.
relatively easy to visualize. If a rifle is zeroed at 200 yards, the
bullet will fly through an arc and strike an object at that distance exactly in
line with the rifle's sights. What if the shooter desires to hit an
object at a distance estimated to be 100 yards?
Because it is traveling
in an arc, the bullet will be above the rifle's line of sight at 100
yards. To hit the object, the shooter will need to hold the rifle's point
of aim slightly below the object. How much below?
sportsman is firing a 130 grain, .270 cartridge, an extremely flat shooting
round. From the ballistics tables, kindly reproduced on line by www.remington.com
and www.federalcartridge.com, the shooter recalls that his particular bullet will be 1.5 inches high at
100 yards. Hence, the shooter holds the point of aim through the sights
at a point 1.5 inches below the desired point of impact. At 300 yards, the bullet
will be 7.0 inches below the zero point. Thus, to hit a target
object at this range, the shooter will hold a point of aim 7.0 inches above the
desired point of impact.
Succinctly put, with a flat shooting
cartridge, longer shots will involve hold over or hold under corrections measured in
inches. Hence, one is less likely to miss. Brush busting cartridges
will necessitate long distance adjustments in the point of aim which are
literally measured in feet. A miss is much more likely. Add to this
mix the fact that the shooter must be good at estimating distances in the
field, another source of potential error, and you can appreciate why flat
shooting cartridges are preferred for long shots.
consideration one needs to reckon with when selecting a rifle involves type of
action. It used to be said that bolt action rifles were significantly more
accurate than pumps, autoloaders, and lever actions. Unless one is a USMC sniper, this probably isn't really a consideration any longer.
The inherent accuracy built into the production firearms of today likely exceeds
the ability of most people to shoot them. Therefore, choose a type of
action that you feel most comfortable with.
considerations related to firearm selection are largely a matter of visual
appreciation, handling aspects, and overall aesthetic appeal. Some
shooters prefer synthetic stocks. Others love the look and feel of
classic wooden stocks, some of which can be strikingly beautiful. Gold
inlay or engraving on a receiver may produce a work of art. Camouflage coloring on steel
parts may aid concealment, black matte contributes to stealth, stainless
steel resists adverse weather, case hardened finishing gives an authentic
"cowboy" look, and good bluing is gorgeous.
each firearm and caliber or gauge tends to fulfill a specific role or function,
don't be surprised if , like most members of the American gun community, you end
up owning more than several.
you wish to view pictures and descriptions of the firearms offered by various
manufacturers, you will find www.galleryofguns.com
to be an excellent, user friendly resource.