By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
Shooters new to the rifle game are inevitably astounded by the variety of calibers available, but a few simple guidelines are all anyone needs to pick the starting point that’s right for them.
Rifles are referred to by the diameter of the bullet they launch, denoted either in fractions of an inch or in millimeters. The larger the diameter, the more powerful the rifle.
With that said, here are three key guidelines any new rifle shooter should bear in mind when they head to the gun counter:
Aim for the middle
Pick a caliber that is comfortable to shoot, but is powerful enough for the intended purpose. The goal in selecting a hunting rifle is to pick one that has enough power to allow for a reasonable margin of error on the part of the shooter without being so powerful as to make it miserable to shoot due to recoil.
Make sure ammo is common
With that in mind, most experienced deer hunters in the South, where typical shots are within 150 yards and the deer’s body sizes are not as large as those found in the Midwest and the North, would suggest the .243 Winchester or 7mm-08 as the minimum chambering acceptable for hunting deer.
Obviously, if you will be hunting coyotes but not deer with the rifle, the minimum power standard can be lower, and if you’re interested in target shooting only, any caliber will be fine.
Pick a caliber whose ammunition can be commonly found at a reasonable price.
While the debate about the “ultimate deer rifle” is one that will never end, most whitetail deer hunters choose a chambering in the immediate vicinity of the .30 caliber range, the .270 Winchester and the .30-06 Springfield to name the two most popular, and for a variety of reasons. Either of these offers enough power for almost any game in the lower 48, but the popularity of the two ensures ammunition for them will be available anywhere shooting supplies are sold.
Practice, practice, practice
If there are lots of brands and loadings available for the rifle you’re looking at, you’re looking in the right place.
Find a local gun range or a safe place to shoot and practice all you can. The more you practice, the better you’ll be and the more fun you’ll have, and the more you’ll want to practice.
Also, if you’re new to firearms altogether, take a hunter safety course as soon as you can. Even if you don’t plan to hunt, the safety training alone will be worth the effort, and you never know when you might get an opportunity to try out something new.