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GUN SELECTION:
HUNTING

An 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 mind.  

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 out.  

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.  

You can 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 mechanical thrower. 

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 acceptable.

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.  

You 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.  

Take for 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 versatility.  

A further 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 or eastern woodlands, or will they take place in the wide open expanses of western America?  

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.  

This is 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?  

Our hypothetical 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.

Another 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.

Subjective 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.

Because 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.

Should 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. 

 

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