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Old September 16, 2018, 12:59 PM   #1
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Best livestock defense rifle

Howdy, I have been looking around to see which rifle would be best for defending my livestock against predators around the farm and to target shoot here and there to sharpen my shooting skills a bit. I am pretty new to rifles as to knowing which caliber to use and what to use em for. I have been watching videos, doing my research on certain rifles and I have been thinking about a good ole Marlin 336w 30-30, but have also been looking at some of the Ruger American and Savage Axis 308 and 243. Of course there are others out there I have been reading and looking at but these are some of the ones that i have been looking into. So, I know where we live we can get raccoons, coyotes. Also, there have been reports of mountain lions roaming the area, and bears as well. So, any help from y'all would be appreciated. And let me know what y'all think of my 3 choices and if y'all would recommend any other rifles as well. Thanks.
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Old September 16, 2018, 01:30 PM   #2
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.308 for ammo availabilty and overall performance track record
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Old September 16, 2018, 01:37 PM   #3
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I like a shorter barreled, compact bolt gun in 308 for such roles. This with a low powered scope and a couple of 5 round magazines would be near the top of my list. Street price is right at $400
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Old September 16, 2018, 02:14 PM   #4
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The Marlin would be perfectly adequate, and probably my choice.

One of the budget bolt guns, like the Ruger American, would be just fine, as well.

For cartridges...
You'll have more varmint loads available for .243 Win, than .308 Win.
.308 Win has much more selection available for big game and targets than .243 or .30-30.
.30-30 will be cheaper, overall; but doesn't have much in the way of varmint loads. (Some, but not much.)

The bolt guns, more than likely, will be more accurate. (Better for target work.)
The Marlin, in my opinion, is quicker to cycle. (Quicker follow-up shots.)

Put your cards on the table, pick the factors that are important to you, and see which rifle that leads you to.
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Old September 16, 2018, 03:57 PM   #5
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Two or three big 'ol honkin sheep dogs!
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Old September 16, 2018, 06:24 PM   #6
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Most farmers I know take their livestock protection pretty seriously. A firearm is but one tool in your arsenal for predator control.

For example, you're not gonna solve a mountain lion problem before there's a problem. Accidentally coming across a mountain lion within range of a 30-30 where he stands there and lets you shoot him isn't a realistic scenario. If there is one in the area that's been a problem for livestock, and has killed, it wouldn't be an isolated problem for you. Plenty of lions out there who kill elk and deer that compete for food resources for livestock. Ranchers leave those lions alone. It's only when a lion kills a few cattle that they set out to find it. It would be a concern for the industry in the area. You hunt lions with dogs or traps, which usually means hiring somebody.

Most states will not allow you to just go out and shoot any old predator you find on your property. Lions and bears are game animals, if they're out of season, or you have no tags, just because they're present on your land doesn't mean you can kill them. As an owner of livestock, you can get a depredation tag for a specific animal if warranted. If you own 5000 acres, and come across a black bear cub (and kill it) 2 miles from your chicken coop, it would be tough to justify to a game warden that you were worried about your livelihood.

Raccoons problems are far more effectively solved with traps.

Coyotes, as a part of an ecosystem, both solve problems and create them. Killing them for sport can be turned into an artform (witness the thousands of YT videos on the subject). But like other predators, there are effective deterrents and proofing you can do before resulting to lethal control.

If you could be more specific about what state you live in, what livestock you have and how many, how big your farm is, what does the landscape look like, and anything else that could provide more specific advice.

The easy answer to "I want a varmint gun" is to take your current AR15, add a good trigger, and build a hot .22 centerfire upper. You can go with .223, but the new hotness is .224 Valkyrie. There's .22 Nosler and a few others, but for preds, you want far, flat, and fast. Smaller holes leave better pelts, and there's plenty of energy in the modern calibers for your average predator. Keep the distances reasonable with black bears, but feel free to hit yotes and cats out to 500yds if you can swing it. The old "bolt guns are more accurate" argument is total crap until you start getting into real money. Buy just about any $100 single-stage trigger, a and a good name-brand upper, and feed it quailty ammo or tuned reloads.
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Last edited by SamNavy; September 16, 2018 at 06:33 PM.
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Old September 16, 2018, 09:39 PM   #7
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If I had a farm and wanted a rifle for livestock protection and could have any gun I wanted, it would be a pre 1964 Winchester model 94 chambered it n 25-35. With Hornady's new Leverlution ammo, that would be a sweet farm rifle. A rancher I know has killed several mountain lions eating his calves with a Rossi lever action 357 mag. He has worked with the Division of Wildlife to be legal, and has to leave the cats where they died, and then notifies the local warden.
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Old September 16, 2018, 10:17 PM   #8
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I have the Savage Axis II in 308. Shoots great. IT was a package deal, came with the scope. Shoots great and it was under $400.
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Old September 17, 2018, 05:45 AM   #9
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You don't mention where your ranch is located? We do not know which predator(s) are a threat. Wolves, humans, large bears and mountain lions can be the threat to full grown cattle. I assume coyote and bobcats are a threat to calves.

I like the idea of large protection dogs such as Great Pyrenees and others breed to serve as 24 hour a day protection. I have heard of farmers putting donkeys in the fields with cattle and goats in this part of the country for protection. You will want a good rifle anyway even if only for snakes.

So, what is your threat? You do not say. Wild hogs can also be a threat to fields and crops. Then there are birds of prey against fowl.

One calf lost will cost as much as a good gun or a couple of good dogs.
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Old September 17, 2018, 06:25 AM   #10
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I have used a Ruger M77 in 7.62x39 to kill a dog that was attacking my was an instant kill.

Thinking about what predators I have actually confronted while they were attacking my "livestock" (chickens, geese, ducks) it has mostly been domestic dogs, foxes, racoons, and in one unobserved instance (found eaten remains and evidence where one had killed my gander), coyote. If I had to choose a gun with which to protect my livestock, I would likely choose some autoloading .223 or 7.62x39...I don't see any reason for anything larger.

I would want something that could fire repeated shots without having to work the action, and recoiled as lightly as was possible...I would not choose a 30-30 lever action...unless that is all I had.
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Old September 17, 2018, 07:41 AM   #11
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Ruger mini14 .233
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Old September 17, 2018, 09:59 AM   #12
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SamNavy made excellent points above.
1. Where do you live? There are bears and mountain lions in Arkansas, they rarely eat cows. Alaska presents a different story.
2. Are you going to guard your herd 24/7/365? No? then likely the gun you choose won't be used to protect your herd.
3. Human predators are predators too. Arm accordingly.
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Old September 17, 2018, 10:46 AM   #13
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Welcome to tfl!

Am gonna buck the trend here, but I do it often...

I am pretty new to rifles...
Get a .22. For now, anyway.

Learn to shoot a rifle, without the noise, kick and COST of a deer gun when you don't need a deer gun.

once you develop some skill with a rifle, you will know what you know, and what you don't, and will be in a better position to decide if a larger rifle is needed/useful, and then decide on which one.

Generally speaking, predators are not impressed by what is written on your gun. What makes an impression is what you can do with it. A .22 is the place to begin.

You might also consider a shotgun. Depending on the situation, of course. I've known a great many farmers who only had a shotgun, and managed pretty well. Every situation is different, the more we know about yours, the better advice we can give.
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
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Old September 17, 2018, 11:35 AM   #14
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Of the available choices, I'd go with the 30/30 lever gun. Fast shooting, up close and personal. That's what would work for me.
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Old September 17, 2018, 11:43 AM   #15
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Here in Wyoming the "standard" for nearly all ranchers and farmers today is the AR15. Even most of the old timers, who I thought would never be rid of their classic marlin or Winchester 30-30s are all carrying ARs now.

Good for anything from prairie dogs to wolves. Accurate and easy to use, and most are fitted with the telescoping stocks so they fit easily in trucks and 4 wheelers, are not easy to damage, need little care (a drop or 2 of oil on the bolt carrier every month or so does fine) And at the price today, they are not at all expensive.
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Old September 17, 2018, 11:52 AM   #16
Don Fischer
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Cartridge would depend on if you are defending your livestock against 40 lb coyotes or 800 lb Brown Bears! For most animals you may need to protect against, the 243 would be more than adequate and be much more pleasant to shoot for practice. You could even drop down to a 223 and be well served!
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Old September 17, 2018, 12:05 PM   #17
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Not to start an argument, but I have never known a farmer/rancher that was pretty new to rifles. Unless you recently retired from city life and bought a farm.
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Old September 17, 2018, 01:55 PM   #18
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I used a mini14 ranch rifle for years. Killed lots of raccoons, coyotes, pigs and a few of other types of nuisances.

Reliability is almost legendary, accuracy is acceptable.

That being said, there’s many other rifles that will do the same task. It’s more about preference really.
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Old September 18, 2018, 11:00 AM   #19
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So, I live in Northwestern Washington, and my house if off a highway. We split a driveway with our neighbors and most of them live near the river that runs along their property and I would say it is a good half mile to 3/4 of a mile away from our fence line. We have an old trail that runs behind our house where the train use to run through way back when so often times we get people and I'm sure predators too, walking through, looking at our hogs in the back pastures, with trees surrounding them.Our livestock range from cats, dogs, chickens, to piglets, sows and a boar to calves, cows and a bull. Our property is about 6 and a half acres with field fencing around the perimeter and trees covering the perimeter as well. Our cattle usually roam all over the property and we generally have a good sight of them, except when they're in the back pasture of the woods with the hogs. The hogs on the other hand are a ways from the house and are in a small paddock and penned up. For the most part, were surrounded by trees, sticker brush, and some wetlands, river and mountain range. We generally have coons and sometimes coyotes lurking around in the past. That was, before we had dogs. Recently, our neighbors have spotted or so they say have reported seeing a mountain lion roaming through their property twice. And their have been numerous reports of mountain lions being spotted in the town near us as well. Our neighbor across the highway has also seen black bears running through his property which is not far from ours. Recently my dad had heard my dogs barking at a coon near our chicken coop. And we've lost many chickens and waterfowl to coons in the past. So, maybe a shot gun would be a good start as well? I have shot my dads .22 and I also carry a S&W M&P Shield on me. So, I'm just looking at some options in case I ever have to deal with any of those types of predators, not that I would shoot em off the bat but in case they ever decide to go after my livestock or a family member or I.
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Old September 18, 2018, 01:55 PM   #20
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My vote would be for a good quality AR15 like a Windham Arms in .223. You aren't likely to be shooting at bears and the .223 with some decent 60+ gr bullets like the 65 gr Sierra Game Kings or similar with take care of everything else you may encounter. The .223 would also be the most economical cartridge.
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Old September 18, 2018, 03:03 PM   #21
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I would say go with the AR platform as well. An AR-15 would be a good start and you can get the conversion kit to make it .22 LR so you can learn. If you have larger predators, an AR-10 in .308 should handle pretty much anything else.
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Old September 18, 2018, 07:31 PM   #22
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So, I live in Northwestern Washington...
It's nice to be on good speaking/cooperational terms with your neighbors.
Get a trap or two for the coons... every farm should have some traps.
Get some trail-cams and coordinate with your neighbors for good locations to place them. Far easier to make a case for a depradation tag with tons of pics of the same bear or lion snooping near your fencelines. Check them regularly.
Every year, every season, buy tags for everything you can... just in case you do surprise something during a season, there's no legal issues.

Have a gun ready to go at all times. Get a scabbard for your quad or gator for when you're away from the house. Have it near you religiously. In 6.5 acres, there's nothing out of range of .223, but if you're gonna take a shot at a bear from the house at 400yds that is in the process of killing your animals, you're gonna want something bigger. LONG-ACTION! Nothing worse than a .223-wounded haunch-hit bear running around. An AR is a good choice for the rest of the farm. If you want to step up the power in case of the surprise bear, then 6.8spc is also a good choice (Hornady 120sst's are fantastic). For the size of your place and possible targets, I don't see any limitations to a 30-30 lever-gun except ammo capacity.

Also... you can pick up a Maverick 88 for about $180 or less a lot of places. No reason not to have one stashed out in the barn or wherever... a 1oz slug solves a lot of problems. You can leave it just about anywhere next to a can of WD40... hose it down and cycle the action every couple of months.

An M&P Shield (9mm or .40) is a decent choice for farm carry. Small enough not to get in the way, but enough caliber to get something to stop whatever it's doing. Make sure you've loaded hollow-points that you know function in the gun... the more energy the better. Gold Dot 124's are good for half the law enforcement in the country, good enough for me. A piece of advice... if you ever pull it on a bear or cat, shoot 5 or 6 rounds initially, then at least a couple follow-ups unless you know it's done.

So, to sum up:
Be a good neighbor
Traps and game-cams
Buy tags
.270 or .30-06 bolt-action at the house
.223 or 6.8spc AR15 when you leave the house
12ga shotgun back of the property
+P rounds in your carry pistol

Oh... more dogs can't hurt.
Living in Hawaii... damned if I don't feel like a criminal just to get permission from the gov't to buy a gun.
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Old September 18, 2018, 07:47 PM   #23
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If you’re gonna trap raccoons.... they can’t resist marshmallows
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Old September 19, 2018, 03:42 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by rickyrick View Post
If you’re gonna trap raccoons.... they can’t resist marshmallows
You don't even need a trap if you feed them enough !
Get a industrial Costco size bag and after they eat about half they just lie on the ground in a sugar induced coma...easy pickins then !
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Old September 20, 2018, 03:09 PM   #25
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What y’all think of the Smith&Wesson M&P 15 Sport 2? Seems like a good rifle, reasonably priced and ammo isn’t expensive at all, so it would be a good target shooting rifle and seems to have good reviews. What do y’all think? Anyone have it?
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