In this article don’t expect me to tell you which rifle you need to buy to be happy with. This is much harder than one would think. What kind of rifle is good for long range hunting is quite easy to determine. I don’t want that someone buys it and then founds out that he practices long range hunting just every now and then.
What kind of rifle is good for a certain individual depends mostly on the type of hunting that one likes to do. So first of all I want you to ask yourself. Will this be my only rifle? Will I use it for all kind of hunting scenarios? Is it gonna be a dedicated rifle for long range hunting only? Or maybe I would just like to be able to take a longer shot every now and then?
Only when I have answered this questions in my mind, I can discuss what kind of rifle is good for long range hunting in my case. Now lets get into details about what you have to know.
My first rifle
A lot of times new hunters tend to buy the rifle of their dreams. It was the same in my case. I bought one of the best sniper rifles that I could find. Fortunately my father had a lot of “normal” hunting rifles that I was also able to use. Why am I saying this.
Basically I found myself with a heavy long rifle which was extremely good for long range shooting, but it didn’t suite most of my hunting situations. Most of the time I was hunting with my fathers rifles. The situation was that I had my dream rifle that I rarely used and I mostly hunted with rifles that I didn’t like. Could it be different? Definitely it could. Most of the rifles that we can buy today can be suitable for long range.
If I would be there again I would buy a normal hunting rifle that is suitable for most hunting situations. And then I would put on a really good detachable mount that would allow me to switch from a red dot to my rifle scope. We will discuss about rifle scopes and mounts in the next articles. Yes maybe this would not be the perfect long range hunting rifle, but it would fit most of my hunting situations.
Is my rifle good for long range hunting
A lot of times I get asked from hunters if their rifle is good for long range hunting. Even more times I hear people saying that they need to buy a new rifle for long range hunting because the one they have is not good.
A lot of times hunters think that a long range hunting rife needs to look like a sniper rifle with an adjustable stock and heavy long barrel. Actually this is not like this. A good long range hunting rifle can be quite light and it doesn’t need to have all the adjustability in the stock. Later in the articles we will find out that it is much more important to choose a good caliber, bullet/ammunition and a rifle scope that is suitable for long range hunting.
First of all what we need to know is if our rifle can shoot sub moa groups at 100y/100m. If it can then it is good for long range hunting. Even if it has a nice wooden traditional stock and there are sights on the barrel. It might not be the rifle of our dreams but it will do the job. What is important is that we find a suitable ammo for our purpose. This will be discussed in the future articles. Anyway before buying any ammo I need to find out which rifling twist has the barrel of my rifle.
What is a rifling twist and why it is important?
Rifling is often described by its twist rate, which indicates the distance the rifling takes to complete one full revolution, such as “1 turn in 10 inches” (1:10 inches), or “1 turn in 254 mm”. A shorter distance indicates a “faster” twist, meaning that for a given velocity the projectile will be rotating at a higher spin rate.
A faster twist will be able to stabilise heavier and longer bullets. And modern long range bullets tend to be heavier and longer than what we could get years ago. If we put in the equation monolithic bullets the twist is even more important, because for the same weight monolithic bullets are longer than standard bullets and need faster twist to stabilise them.
So if I already have a rifle and I would like to use it for long range hunting I need to know its twist and adapt the bullets weight to it. If I am buying a new one I will have to choose the twist rate according to the bullets that I intend to shoot.
There are two things that I would like to expose. First is that a bullet that shoots good at 100m is not necessarily perfectly stabilised. We will discuss about his in the next articles. The second is that older rifles with faster calibers had slower twist rates. Mostly because the theory was that we need really fast bullets with flat curve of flight. Fast means light and light means short bullets. This theory worked good, because the riflescopes didn’t have adjustable turrets and there were no rangefinders. Now the theory is different.
I want a dedicated rifle for long range hunting
Let’s say that I already have an all-round rifle and now I am in the market for a specific rifle. This might seem easy from now on but it is not. First of all I need to decide on the caliber which we will discuss in the next articles. Based on the caliber and bullet weight I need to pick a correct rifling twist. And now the most important aspects.
Rifle stock is really important because it has to suite our needs. And of course we have to like it. Now we could discuss about which material it has to be made of but it really depends on what you like. Definitely I can give you some guidelines. If I like wooden traditional stocks then this is completely ok. otherwise we can choose a plastic/composite stock which is more durable but it does not look so good. A carbon stock is a good choice if we want a really light rifle for mountain hunting.
All of the stocks need to have some things in common. The forend can not touch the barrel. The barrel need to be floating. It is better to have a bit wider forend because a lot of times we might need to take a shot from a back pack or a tripod and it helps for the rifle stabilisation. We need to have a way to attach a bipod. If the scope will be mounted with higher rings it is good to have an adjustable cheek piece. Length of pull can be regulated with a thickness of the butt pad so there is no need for adjustability. It will save us some weight. Since hunting can be really surprising it is good that the stock is also suitable for shooting from hand.
Heavy is good light is better. There was a rifle maker that once said: “A light rifle has one advantage. That it is light. All the other advantages are with a heavy rifle.” The rifle needs to be light for sure, because we need to carry it around. It doesn’t help if we have a heavy low recoiling rifle and than we can not carry it in the mountains.
Barrel length is also really important. As you all know a longer barrel will produce a higher velocity but a shorter one will be more manoeuvrable. Some calibers like really fast magnums need longer barrels to burn all the powder and have the full effect of the caliber. Other calibers can be just fine with shorter barrels. What suites our needs depends on caliber and how much manoeuvrability we need.
Again you already found out that there is no simple answer to this. I like more lighter and shorter barrel profiles since it is easier to carry them around. The other thing is that with a hunting rifle we will not make long strings of fire so there is no need to have a heavy barrel because of cooling. Most hunting situations will allow us to take one shot and maybe a follow up shot.
Heavy recoiling caliber can be a reason for a heavier barrel, but I would definitely recommend a muzzle brake to tame recoil.
Muzzle brake is a device threaded to the end of the barrel that redirects gases to the sides or even to the back. It significantly reduces recoil but it is absolutely needed to wear good ear protection. I am a fan of muzzle brakes but only on heavy recoiling calibers. For a hunting rifle I will always prefer a muzzle brake than a heavier barrel or other recoil reducing devices that add weight.
A muzzle brake will also help us spot the shot and see what was the animal reaction upon impact. Anyway if the caliber can be controlled without a muzzle brake I believe it is even better. The idea that we need really fast magnum calibers for successful long range hunting is not always true. We will get to this in the next articles.
A good trigger is a must on a long range hunting rifle. Anyway don’t get confused with really light match triggers. Hunting is not a controlled environment like a shooting range. A lot of times we walk longer distances and we become tired. Add some hunting fever to the shot and a light trigger can quickly result in a missed shot.
Do. you need help with selecting the right rifle for your needs? Feel free to contact us.