View Full Version : need a deer rifle

July 2, 2005, 12:12 AM
I'm going deer hunting for the first time. I live in AL, so unless I'm shooting across a cornfield or pasture, the longest shot I forsee taking would be about 50 yards. I'm considering 30-06 and .308, but a carbine in .44 mag sounds like it'd do the job, too. I'm not gun-shy or scared of recoil, but I'm also not a glutton for punishment like some of my buddies (guys who get off on having a bruised shoulder). What's the best way to go for short to medium distance deer hunting?

July 2, 2005, 01:36 AM
If the longest shot you will be taking is 50 yards, then you might do just fine with a 30-30. A magnum pistol caliber carbine (.44 mag and up) would work. There is nothing wrong with the 30-06 or .308, but at the ranges you are talking about, you could do the same job with a less powerful (less painfull) load. Anything from .243 on up is fine for rifle calibers.

July 2, 2005, 06:28 PM
If you're not going to be reaching out to another area code with your shots I suggest getting a .257 Roberts. This is a great round for deer that is often overlooked. The recoil is very managable, much less than the .30-06 and the .308, and it will give you a little more distance than the .30-30. There is renewed interest in this caliber, so ammo is easy to find and there are plenty of choices in makers.

July 2, 2005, 08:31 PM
The choice for close range hunting in Alabama has endless choices for a rifle and caliber, all of which are likely picks. But a good old Winchester or Marlin 30-30 is ideal and are safe guns, have a good resale value, and have killed game for over a century, a weapon you can be proud of and not terrible expensive, the ammo is within reason also.

July 3, 2005, 02:54 AM
If you might sometimes get the opportunity for a shot across a field, it would be best not to limit your options too much by your choice of rifle.

A .308 or 6.5x55 will kill deer just as well as anything at under 50 yards, but will also work out to any sensible range, without your having to suffer undue recoil. The .308 has the advantage of cheap and easily available ammo, the 6.5x55 is my personal favourite for deer. But there are a plenty of good choices for all-round deer rifles - remember you will be more accurate with a rifle that you enjoy shooting. That means a calibre that won't punish your shoulder or bank balance, so you can get lots of practice in!

July 3, 2005, 09:50 AM
I have to agree, that a lever gun in 30-30 or .44 Mag sounds like what you need. Yes there is the chance that a longer shot might offer itself, but either of these rifles will take deer out to 100 yards, and more. Hunting in fairly heavy cover, the lever gun, being short, handy, and offering a quick second shot, is more than adequate.

........having said all that, I think you should buy a nice bolt rifle also, .257 Roberts or 7mm Mauser, .308, .260 Rem and others are good choices for your area. Alabama offers a variety of terrain, and you might want to hunt another area before too long. :)

July 3, 2005, 10:37 AM
There is so much personal choice involved that having an understanding of your personality comes in play. For example, do you already shoot rifles? If so, do you have a preference in action type? You are going to shoot it and no one else. What do you prefer? Single shot, bolt action, lever, pump, or semi-automatic? Effective caliber range is quite broad for deer... 243 to 300 Win Mag or larger. There is a sizable choice of calibers.

If I know nothing about you at all and based on my experience with guns over the years, I would suggest a modest priced bolt action gun in traditional calibers such as 270, 308, 30-06, or perhaps 7mm Rem. I personally have had great success with the 270 in brush or open country. These calibers provide a good selection of factory loadings at affordable prices. For the intermediate shooter-these calibers provide great stopping power and ballistics from less than 50 yards all the way to 300 yards on deer sized game. They have the flexibility of going all the way up to elk sized game.

I would install a medium priced 2.5-7x or 3-9x scope and leave it set on the lower settings (4x or less) while hunting until you purposely want to take a longer shot and change the power manually. It is not hard to shoot a rifle pretty well out to about 100-150 yards on deer sized game even for a beginner if a little sight in time, practice, and familarity are gained with the rifle you choose. You just have to be able to hit a paper plate at that range to feel confident with deer hunting... not the 1-inch groups or less that you read about.

I'm not a big 30-30, 35 Rem, or 44 mag shooter, but they work just fine to 100 yards or slightly farther. I just prefer slightly more flexibility built into the caliber of choice. I would stay away from the SKS, ARs, AK's, Mini-30's although they have their deer hunting supporters; just not me.

July 3, 2005, 03:41 PM
unless I'm shooting across a cornfield or pasture....

I'll presume this means that you may have the opportunity to make a longer shot accross a cornfield or pasture. If my presumption is correct, I suggest that you consider a .270, .30-06, or a .308.

Any of these calibers will work. Buy the rifle, not the caliber. Stated otherwise, if you find a rifle you like in any of these calibers, buy it! They will all do the job just fine.

July 3, 2005, 05:53 PM
if you are almost sure that you will be taking short shots as in 25-100 yards a small .44 mag or .30-30 carbine will work beautifully.

if you think that you may have the chance to reach out and tap a lifetime buck at 250-300 the .30-30 or .44 will not work. in that case you should look into a .243 .270 .30-06 .308 and i could go on and on.

whatever gun you buy make sure it fits you and you like to shoot it. know your limits and those of the cartridge you choose.

Smokey Joe
July 4, 2005, 08:07 PM
Rather--The Bruised Shoulder Crowd likes belted magnums, which is 'WAY more gun than you (or they) need to take deer-sized critters. They get hurt when they shoot, so they don't shoot much; as a result they don't have the practice in to place a shot carefully when it counts.

Avoid a magnum like the proverbial plague. In AL you will NEVER need it.

Any of the "standard deer calibers" will do you just fine; if you don't have a preference buy a rifle in anything from .243 up to .30-'06 and shoot it A LOT, at the distances at which you expect to find deer. Any decent rifle from any one of the major manufacturers will do just dandy. Bolt actions are the most common; they are simple, reliable, and generally accurate. Place your first shot where you should, and the need for a fast follow-up shot is just so much hooey. (Thus you don't need an autoloader, a lever-action, nor a pump.)

If your eyes are in xlnt shape a peep sight will do you fine, otherwise get a good 'scope for the gun--generally you will spend about as much for a good 'scope as for the rifle, get it solidly mounted, take the rig out, and shoot it A LOT. Practice, practice, practice.

Get the book The Perfect Shot--North America which will show you the "kill zone" of the whitetail from various angles. Then practice some more. When that 15-point once-in-a-lifetime buck shows himself for only 10 seconds, at 150 yards, your own ability, and familiarity with your weapon, will count for more than any other factor as to whether the day is an "Ohboy" or an "Aws**t".

July 5, 2005, 08:47 AM
What SmokeyJoe said, +1
The terrain here in my area is much the same, and I have a 30-30 Marlin lever that sees more wood time than any other deer gun I have.
But that is me, your results may differ, good luck in your search.

July 6, 2005, 09:36 PM
Ruger, Mini 30. The 7.62x39 has slightly better ballistics than a 30-30, and surpass'es the .44 Mag.
Great brush gun and capably of hi-cap mags.
I use the Wolf 154 grain soft point or the Corbon 150 grain soft point. I hunt the New England area where deer are fairly large. It knocks them down where they stand. Good for black bear and hog as well.

July 7, 2005, 08:34 PM
The 7.62x39 has slightly better ballistics than a 30-30

since when :confused:

on the remington website i looked at the ballistic tables for the factory loads

.30-30- 170 grain SP
7.62X39- 125 grain SP

the 7.62 was only 100 FPS faster at the muzzle
the .30-30 dropped about .2 inches more over 200 yards than the 7.62

judging by this information the 7.62X39 is, in fact, not at all ballistically superior because when loaded with an equal bullet weight the .30-30 would blow the 7.62X39 out of the water

the only true advantage to using the 7.62X39mm round would be that one could use better shaped bullets. (as in pointed soft point)

July 7, 2005, 09:54 PM
This has been discussed many times before on this forum. The Wolf 154 grain sp, and the Corbon 150 grain sp, out perform the 30-30. I'm not knocking the 30-30, it's a good old standard, but the 7.62x39 in the grains that I mentioned have the edge.

July 7, 2005, 11:28 PM
so that as you grow as a shooter, you have a platform that is more fun to play with. I would consider a Rem. 700 in .308 with a traditional 3x9x40 Nikon Buckmaster scope. That is a lot of gun for not a lot of money. I you get in handloading, it would offer good accuracy. Also, it could offer the versatility of pasture/corn field shot. I like the .30 30 also, and if you knew that you would always take a shot w/in 175 yards great, but I like the option to tag one at 250 if needed.

July 7, 2005, 11:29 PM
AK-47 with a 5 rounder in it... :D

July 8, 2005, 12:36 PM
Hello123 says.........

I would consider a Rem. 700 in .308 with a traditional 3x9x40 Nikon Buckmaster scope. That is a lot of gun for not a lot of money.

I'm only guessing, but I would imagine what you are recommending is in the $700.00 catagory or more. Too much for my budget. Maybe a Savage and a BSA.

July 8, 2005, 09:11 PM
I've seen the following for short range deer depending on what type rifle action you like.

1. .243 in a bolt action
2. 30-30 in a Marlin levergun
3. .50 in a modern black powder rifle
4. your first suggestion of a .44 magnum in a bolt action, Marlin levergun or semi auto (Ruger used to make one but the last one I saw was 25 years ago)
5. 7.62x39 in an SKS though I keep hoping Marlin will come out with one of these someday
6. Your suggestion of a .308 (remember a 308 and a 7mm08 are just necked up .243's)
7. Mannlicher's suggestion of a .257 Roberts, (also a 6.5 mm, a 6mm, a .35 Remington, a 22-250, a 25-06, a 7mm-08 and just about anything else in the book.)

The trouble with rifle hunting in the south is that you need to know your backstop and shoot from a tree stand as the fields ARE small. That is why shotguns are popular in some states. A good Mossberg 500 is an excellent choice for short range deer hunting, but one needs to make sure to sight it in first.

July 8, 2005, 10:46 PM
Meekand Mild

You forgot the Ruger Mini 30 in 7.62x39. Many hunters down south use it with the 154 grain sp or the 150 grain sp. Friend of mine down your way took a 250+ pound ham with it! Head shot.

July 9, 2005, 11:48 PM
Tpaw, I hate to say it, because I really like the old style Ruger model 77 and I think their single shot rifles are decent, but I think that the SKS is a better gun for the money than the Mini 30. I have a friend (in fact he was the guy who convinced me to join the NRA many years ago) who has 'sporterized' SKS rifles since they came available in the US. For about half the cost of a mini 30 a person can get an SKS and re-bed it into a really nice stock. He has shot a lot more deer than I have and hasn't had any problem at all with the SKS.

I had a mini 30 a few years ago and just wasn't impressed by it. Maybe it was the cheesy trigger, but I didn't like it any more than the mini 14.

July 10, 2005, 05:21 PM
How about a single shot handi-rifle in 243 with a nikon pro staff 3x9 or Leupold rifleman scope? Or how about going to a gun store and picking up a used bolt action in good shape. I have had a BSA scope, actually two, I would not advise the BSA.

July 10, 2005, 11:15 PM

Fair enough, can't argue with that.
I have both, the SKS and Mini 30. On nice clear days I'll use my SKS. Overcast or raining/snowing, I'll use the Mini 30 Stainless.
I also do a lot of boating/shark fishing. The stainless Mini 30 is perfect. Salt water/air does not eat it up.

July 13, 2005, 03:20 PM
dude get the .243.

July 13, 2005, 04:02 PM
As a rule, I never get to determine at what range I will get a shot, the deer most generally does that for me. I only get to accept it or decline what is offered. Just when I think the deer and I have a gentleman's agreement to meet at the crack of dawn at 50 paces, it shows up unfashionably late at noon, 200 yards away across the one and only clearing, and heading towards a previous engagement. If there are no open areas known in that area, they will find one for you that you never noticed before, or bribe a farmer or lumberjack into creating one especially for your rendezvous.

Since that is the case, for general, all around, "I want to get a deer when I see it" hunting, a .308 would hardly ever be found lacking enough range or power, ditto with the 7mm-08 or .260 Remington, or their European cousins, the 7x57 and 6.5x55. If you are involved with a "I only want a deer if I can shoot it with my .30-30 / 44 mag. / .69 flintlock", then that is even more fun and exciting, and no one can second guess another man's pleasure...at least in deer rifles...above .22 caliber.

July 13, 2005, 05:52 PM
I think a Ruger .44Magnum Deerfield Carbine or Marlin 30-30/.44Magnum lever gun would do just fine for you. Either will easily work out to 100 yards, and the 30-30 would be okay to 200. Both are fairly light recoiling rifles... and the levergun is a classic :)


July 13, 2005, 06:57 PM
Caleb you wouldn't know if Ruger is making their .44 semiauto again would you?

July 13, 2005, 08:19 PM
MeekAndMild: Yep, they reintroduced it a few years back with some design changes to the action and faster twist rifling to stabilize heavier rounds better. The only negative thing that I have heard is that being as how it is a semiauto, Ruger cautions that it may not work well with very light or heavy rounds, and recommend the 240 or 270gr bullets (which would be fine for deer). In this review here though:

...they tested it with bullet weights from 180-300gr, and report no issues with action cycling.

There is also a ghost ring iron sight available from XS Sights for the Deerfield that you might like as a good fast pointing sight for a light close in gun like that. The factory peep sight would probably be a little more precise if you are going to take your time on a shot though.

This does have a 4 round capacity, but for hunting, if you can't get it done in 4 rounds, it ain't gonna happen ;-)


P.S. Other review from American Rifleman is here:

July 14, 2005, 11:32 AM
I have taken a liking to the Marlin 336C in Rem .35 caliber. None of you guys seem to have mentioned it at all? Any reason why the .35 cal. is not on your list?

July 14, 2005, 07:58 PM
TPAW, my favorite deer rifle is an old 336 in .35 Remington. I didn't mention it because the .35 gun is harder to find than 30/30 and the ammo is a little bit harder to find and a little bit more expensive. (I've even seen more .44 magnum and .357 Marlins than .35's.) I personally think it is a better deer caliber than any of the other three, but that's just me and this guy is new to deer hunting so he probably wants something that is easier to find and he doesn't have to special order. You can go into just about any sporting goods store and they have 2 or 3 30/30s but no 35s.

July 14, 2005, 08:30 PM
ratherbfishin60 any gun that everyone suggested will work fine. the most important thing is to be able shoot the gun in most all situations. Get a gun that strikes your fancy and go out and shoot! Shoot of off a bench. Shoot standing. Shoot laying on your belly. Shoot while on your knees. Shoot at 50 yards and then shoot at 200 yards. Really get to know the gun and what you can do with it. In other words! Be proficient! and you will have a good hunt. Good luck on your first year of hunting.

July 19, 2005, 02:37 PM
I vote for a 30-30 levergun with a low power, variable scope. Something like a 1-4 or 2-7 would be ideal. A 30-30 is good out to 200 yards.

A .44 Mag levergun would also work well if it were a 20" barrel and scoped like the 30-30. A 16" carbine with iron sights would be great for everything this side of 70 yards or so (for me anyway).

If you foresee shooting beyond 100 yards even once or twice a year, I would go for something like a lightweight bolt gun chambered for .308 wearing a variable power scope. Lots of people like the 3-9 range but anything up to 6 power or so is adequate in my book.

Just go handle some of these options and see what you like. As much advice as we can give you, it's still up to you in the end.

Good luck!