The Deer Hunter: Best hunting rifles and shotguns

Choosing the right gun for deer hunting is very personal and frequently depends on where you are hunting and the varying State laws that apply.

Promotional image courtesy Browning and

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, April 6, 2017 – The proper guns to use for hunting deer is a very complex topic, for a number of reasons. Most rifles or shotguns used for deer hunting are personal to the hunter, whether male or female. Firearms manufacturers produce a wide range of rifles and shotguns suitable for kids, women, and adults.

Based upon the hunter’s personal preferences and depending upon varying state laws, most hunters select the ones that fit their style of hunting, and the legal requirements of where they hunt.

Some states that are very flat are shotgun only and others allow both long and short range rifles, and laws vary from state to state.

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Ohio and Indiana are shotgun only states. Why? Because they are very flat and have very open farmlands.

A shot at a deer that misses with anything that doesn’t drop to the dirt after a couple of hundred yards risks injuring someone, as a rifle bullet may travel from one-half to one mile when discharged.

Ohio allows the use of slug based shotguns with slug bullets. These are a shotgun that fires a single piece of copper or lead about an ounce or an ounce and a half, and have a range of only a few hundred yards, due to their weight and the drop associated with it.

These type of shotguns require a great deal of stealth in order for the hunter to get within 10-60 yards distance from the deer.

On land in eastern Ohio, the author hunts using a Browning A5 with a 3 inch extended choke. This gives a slug the designated twists in the barrel, similar to the rifling within a long gun, to increase its distance and accuracy.

Images courtesy of and are used for educational purposes only.

When the author hunts in the Virginia tidewater region from the Richmond area South and over to the coast and peanut farms of Suffolk with flatter lands, double OOT buckshot is used, as it is the only type designated by law to hunt with.

One doesn’t need to necessarily change the choke tube, and it provides a tighter pattern longer out. This enables a shooter to have successful 50 yard plus shots using buckshot.

When hunting with shotguns, it is recommended to use a 10, 12 or 20 gauge shotgun. These shotguns are recommended, whether for a child/teen, man, or woman, as they have a range of manufacturers that produce multiple types of shotguns for hunting.

Browning, Benelli, Berretta, Winchester, Mossberg, and Weatherby are among the top shotguns brands used for deer hunting.

In addition, even with short distances, a scope will greatly improve your shot placement and lead to a more successful harvest.

Scope manufacturers include Burris, BSA, Nissan, Leopold, Zeiss, and Vortex among others.

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In examining what are favorite rifles for deer hunting, again there are differing factors that come into play. Whether you are a youth or woman, a teen, or adult male makes a big difference.

Photo by Lance Fisher / CC BY (

For all deer rifles, a good scope is necessary. The scopes assist in shot placement by expanding the size of the deer in your viewing area as well as directing the bullet placement to the location where the cross hairs in the scope intersect.

Tuning one’s scope, thru both laser bore sighting or adjustment at a rifle range, should occur at a minimum of at least once a season, if not more, to ensure the scope is at maximum effectiveness.

For youth or women, a .243 or a .270 caliber rifle is a great rifle. Why? They are hard hitting with good knockdown power.

They shoot fast, accurate and with minimal recoil.

Remington 770 promotional image – Remington offers hunters a variety of choices regarding calibers in this lineup, including .308, .243, .270, and .30-06.

For very flat, straight shooting, use no that greater than 150-grain bullets.

Larger grain bullets are made, but the drawback is these is that they increase the rate of drop between 100 to 200 yards and further out, requiring greater practice to achieve the accuracy and proficiency and ensure a kill versus a wound or a miss of your deer.

There are multiple manufacturers to choose from for either the .243 or .270 caliber rifles, including Savage, Browning, Ruger, Remington, Winchester, and others.

These may be obtained at hunting stores like BassPro, Dicks, Academy Sports, Gander Mountain, Cabelas as well as at online stores like When you buy online be prepared for your purchases to be sent to a local gun store for pickup.

Some hunters prefer a lever action cowboy gun in 30-30 caliber. These are relatively short barreled rifles with sights built on top of the barrel called iron sights.

30-30’s are primarily used when hunting in rather thick densely wooded areas on the ground or out of a ladder or climbing stand. These allow the hunter to shoot very quickly while the deer is briskly walking through the woods.

The 30-30’s are also set up to allow for scopes to be put on them.

This gives the hunter the best of both worlds, being able to track the deer thru the woods and use the iron sights to shoot with or to get a larger and clearer target area with cross hairs over the heart.

Winchester and Marlin manufacture very good 30-30s that may be obtained from either the brick and mortar or online gun stores.

By Weatherby – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

Many hunters also prefer a larger caliber rifle for deer hunting. These include calibers like the 300 Weatherby and Winchester magnums, the 30-06 and the 308 or Nato caliber 7.62.

These are smooth bore (no iron sights) bolt-action or semi-automatic rifles that require a scope before hunting with them.

With the increased powder charge in the ammunition in these calibers, try to limit your upper range to 185 grain for deer hunting.

Why? 185-grain bullets is all that is needed for a deer. Anything else is overkill.

Use large caliber bullets like 240-280 grain when hunting elk, caribou or bear. In a measure of full disclosure, the author hunts with a scoped browning shotgun, .270, 30-30, a 300 Winchester Magnum, a 30-06 and a 308.

The Calibers for the rifles range from 150 grain to 185 grains smooth bore rifles are. The author, like most hunters, will select the rifle and caliber most suited to his location and style of hunting.

For large open fields in a wooded or hilly terrain, the scoped rifle ranging from the .243 to the .308 would be suitable.

For areas where it is flat with mostly corn soy and peanut fields, use a shotgun to avoid damage to buildings or people.

If hunting in dense woods use a cowboy style gun, a 30-30, to prevent you from having bushes or branches impact your shot because the barrel of your rifle is too long.

Good Hunting!

Jim Berliner learned to shoot guns at a young age from his father, a career military officer and an avid hunter, sports fisherman, and surfer.

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