What is the best gun for hunting?

Collection-of-shotguns-side-by-side

Learn How to Start Hunting Series Part 2

What is the best gun for beginners learning how to hunt?

The answer is simple but many seasoned hunters forget what it’s like to start from scratch.

Maybe you are lucky enough to inherit an heirloom weapon or two but aren’t sure if its right for you.

I’m going to walk you through the main weapon choices, going over the pros and cons and by the end there will be a clear winner that won’t break the bank and will maximize your hunting success and opportunities.

We want to find a gun that can be used all year round, affordable, and easy to learn. ‘

If you are new to hunting and interested in getting started take a look at Part 1 in the hunting series.

Hunters have very strong opinions about their guns.

They argue over the best caliber, the best brand, to camo or not to camo, scope no scope.

You have the rifle crowd, the archery only purists, blackpowder enthusiasts, and everything in between.

In this article I will be judging weapons by their ability to be used for hunting certain animals.

In general we can break the basic types of hunting weapons into 5 classes: BB Gun, Rifle, Muzzleloader, Archery, and Shotgun

My personal verdict only regards the suitability of the weapon for harvesting animals and is not indicative of the legality of harvesting the animal as laws vary state by state.

BB Gun Class

Picture of a man loading a pellet gun
Loading a pellet gun. Photo by Sebastian Pociecha

These days there are many fancy gas powered BB and pellet guns that fire up to speeds of a 1,000 fps or more.

Silent, deadly, and very expensive. But the best BB gun has to be the Daisy Red Ryder.

Easy to use, BB’s are cheap, and the fairly quiet “plunk” sound doesn’t scare the birds or other critters to much.

What can be hunted with this weapon? Check your state laws!

Can I hunt deer? No

Can I hunt pig? No

Can I hunt bear? No

Can I hunt predators like coyote and mountain lion? No

Can I hunt rabbit? Yes

Can I hunt quail and dove? No

Can I hunt pheasant, grouse, and turkey? No

Can I hunt duck? No

Can I hunt geese? No

Can I hunt squirrel? Yes

Can this double as a home invasion defense weapon? No

Can I easily practice with this weapon at a gun range? No

Verdict

The BB gun is a great beginner gun for kids to learn responsibility, discipline, and skills needed to be effective once they grow into larger hunting weapons.

Although some states do allow pellet guns to be used to harvest some game bird species I would not recommend it to beginners.

Its a great plinking gun to gain experience and best used for bottles and cans.

Rifle Class Special Case .22 Rifle

Picture of a woman shooting a .22 rifle
Woman shooting a .22 rifle with scope. Photo by Sincerely Media

I like to break up the rifle class into groups: the .22 and every other caliber rifle.

The .22 (pronounced twenty two) is near and dear to my heart because I learned how to really hunt with this rifle.

A great squirrel gun and very easy to learn to shoot. Highly recommend as a trainer weapon for youth and a fun gun to have around.

This is a classic hunting rifle that although is limited in the types of animals you can harvest, it is very cheap to buy and easy to find ammo.

What can be hunted with this weapon? Check your state laws!

Can I hunt deer? No

Can I hunt pig? No

Can I hunt bear? No

Can I hunt predators like coyote and mountain lion? Yes and No

Can I hunt rabbit? Yes

Can I hunt quail and dove? No

Can I hunt pheasant, grouse, and turkey? No

Can I hunt duck? No

Can I hunt geese? No

Can I hunt squirrel? Yes

Can this double as a home invasion defense weapon? No

Can I easily practice with this weapon at a gun range? Yes

Verdict

The .22 is cheap, easy to use, a great little beginner gun but still not our perfect hunting weapon.

I recommend for squirrels and other small mammals and it just loses by a hair to the .223 for coyote hunting.

When you do look for a .22 I do not recommend spring loaded rotary style clips because they don’t feed well.

Because .22 range cost about $150 if you have a chance to pick one up do it!

Rifle Class Large Calibers

Picture of a rifle in the desert

The most popular calibers are the .270, .30-06 (thirty odd six), and the .308.

Is there a perfect caliber? Well it depends on the distance you plan on shooting and the size of the animal you plan to harvest.

A .270 is a great caliber for deer but you might want to go with a heavier round for elk and other larger big game animals.

Personally I have shot all 3 calibers and I find that I favor a gun that fits me well over the bullet caliber.

I would maybe shoot once or twice a season to bring down my buck and so it didn’t matter to me what caliber I used.

Great for large game animals the rifle is a must have for seasoned hunters.

What can be hunted with this weapon? Check your state laws!

Can I hunt deer? Yes

Can I hunt pig? Yes

Can I hunt bear? Yes

Can I hunt predators like coyote and mountain lion? Yes

Can I hunt rabbit? No

Can I hunt quail and dove? No

Can I hunt pheasant, grouse, and turkey? No

Can I hunt duck? No

Can I hunt geese? No

Can I hunt squirrel? No

Can this double as a home invasion defense weapon? No

Can I easily practice with this weapon at a gun range? Yes

Verdict

The rifle is a great weapon and must have for experienced hunters.

I would recommend this as a great second purchase for hunters after their first year of hunting.

But it isn’t the best weapon for new beginners wanting to maximize their hunting opportunities.

You will need to buy another weapon if you wish to bird hunt, basically doubling your initial investment cost.

Muzzleloader Class

Picture of a collection of flintlock pistols and rifle muskets
Collection of flintlock black powder rifles and pistols

The muzzleloader class includes any black powder weapon.

They are typically divided into two groups based on their firing mechanism.

Flintlocks use a piece of rock called flint that is installed in a hammer.

When the hammer strikes the metal frizzen it produces a spark which ignites the powder charge in the barrel.

Percussion caps use small brass caps with a little powder in them that when struck by the hammer ignites the charge in the barrel.

These weapons are further separated into smooth bore and rifled.

Smooth bore flintlocks were the workhorse weapons of early colonists and offer the most hunting options for hunters.

What can be hunted with this weapon? Check your state laws!

Can I hunt deer? Yes

Can I hunt pig? Yes

Can I hunt bear? Yes

Can I hunt predators like coyote and mountain lion? Yes

Can I hunt rabbit? Yes

Can I hunt quail and dove? Yes

Can I hunt pheasant, grouse, and turkey? Yes

Can I hunt duck? Yes

Can I hunt geese? Yes

Can I hunt squirrel? Yes

Can this double as a home invasion defense weapon? No

Can I easily practice with this weapon at a gun range? Yes

Verdict

Althought this checks off almost all the most important hunting options the reason this isn’t the best option for new hunters is the steep learning curve and skill required to be successful.

I do love the challenge of black powder and the increased hunting options you have when you use a smooth bore but it requires a lot of practice and familiarity with hunting and weapons.

I would recommend that beginners purchase another weapon to begin their hunting journey.

Archery Class

Picture of a man shooting a compound bow
Man shooting a compound bow. Photo by Charquise Denise

Although not a gun it is still a viable and popular hunting weapon that we need to cover.

One of the benefits of archery hunting is the opportunities to hunt early season and peak season before rifle hunters have a chance.

Your odds of having a chance at trophy class big game animals increases because animals are not as pressured or stressed from hunting as they are during the rifle season.

Traditional bows, compound bows, and crossbows are all very popular and for dedicated hunters this is something to really consider if you want to have more opportunities to hunt big game species.

What can be hunted with this weapon? Check your state laws!

Can I hunt deer? Yes

Can I hunt pig? Yes

Can I hunt bear? Yes

Can I hunt predators like coyote and mountain lion? Yes

Can I hunt rabbit? Yes

Can I hunt quail and dove? No

Can I hunt pheasant, grouse, and turkey? No

Can I hunt duck? No

Can I hunt geese? No

Can I hunt squirrel? Yes

Can this double as a home invasion defense weapon? No

Can I easily practice with this weapon at a gun range? Yes

Verdict

The bow is actually used for turkey hunting however I have seen so many people lose turkeys due to poor shot placement.

Archery is a great rewarding pastime but I do not recommend for beginners because of the limited options for species that you can hunt and the practice required to become proficient.

Its a great way to build discipline but may be discouraging for new hunters wanting to experience success in their first year.

Shotgun Class

Picture of a woman shooting skeet with a shotgun
Woman shooting skeet with a shotgun.

The shotgun is the best all-around firearm that you can use to hunt everything, all year long with very few exceptions.

There are 3 main reasons why the shotgun is the best gun for hunting: Price, Ease of Use, Hunting Opportunities.

Price

Many hunting articles talk about the best guns for hunters and usually recommend you own 4 or 5 guns, each one for a particular kind of hunting.

While I am all for expanding your 2A options I know that not everone has 5k laying around that they can drop on those specialty items.

A good shotgun will run anywhere from $700 to $1000+ and you can get a lot of use out that one gun. Lead shot can be used for target practice and are quite cheap.

Steel or bismuth shot is required for hunting animals and will be cheaper than rifle ammo.

You can get a lot of mileage out of 2-3 boxes of ammo when at the range which will dramatically improve your ability to land a kill shot.

Ease of Use

The shotgun is both easy to use and easy to practice with at the range.

The benefit of the shotgun when you practice is the chance to increase your skill on hitting moving targets.

The more you shoot at the range the better your chance of success on the hunt.

Compared to other weapons where the target is always stationary you will find that your hunting skill increases when you are able to shoot moving targets as well.

Its hard to improve as a hunter when you only fire your rifle 5 to 10 times a year.

With shotguns you will be using it all year long so you will become a better consistent shooter quite quickly.

Picture of two men duck hunting with shotguns

Hunting Opportunities

The real reward of picking a shotgun for your first gun is the hunting opportunities.

You can hunt all species of animals almost all year round excluding moose, elk, and bear which I would not recommend a new hunter even consider pursuing.

In spring you have turkey season. Pig season is year round and deer season comes in the fall thru winter depending on the state.

Fall is prime time for upland game bird species like dove, quail, pheasant, turkey.

Last winter I enjoyed duck season for the first time and it was a blast. You need to try it!

For most hunters their ideal hunting distance for mammal species is within 100 yards and I have only harvested one deer in my life that was further than 100 yards.

In some states that have a lot of open country this may change but for the majority of hunters they will find success in that distance.

By switching to buckshot or slugs hunters can harvest medium sized mammal species like deer and pig from safe distances.

There are also many different sized BB shot for the size of birds you wish to hunt. #2 steel or bismuth shot is great for ducks.

I usually use #4 steel shot for turkey and teal ducks. #6 and #7 is good for quail and dove.

Just by changing my ammo I can hunt whatever animal species is currently in season.

Home Invasion Defense Weapon

An additional bonus is that your hunting weapon may also serve as a home defense weapon.

Although shorter legal shotguns are more ideal for this role among the weapon classes this will be your best investment.

What can be hunted with this weapon? Check your state laws!

Can I hunt deer? Yes

Can I hunt pig? Yes

Can I hunt bear? No

Can I hunt predators like coyote and mountain lion? Yes

Can I hunt rabbit? Yes

Can I hunt quail and dove? Yes

Can I hunt pheasant, grouse, and turkey? Yes

Can I hunt duck? Yes

Can I hunt geese? Yes

Can I hunt squirrel? Yes

Can this double as a home invasion defense weapon? Yes

Can I easily practice with this weapon at a gun range? Yes

Picture of a shotgun hanging on a log wall

Verdict

The shotgun is the truly most useful weapon you will ever own and it will give you many opportunities to hunt year round.

It’s the best tool to improve your shooting skills and there are many outdoor ranges that provide skeet shooting.

Practice makes perfect and is also a lot of fun to do compared to shooting targets with rifles.

I highly recommend this weapon for first time buyers and hunters and next in the series I will help you pick the best shotgun for your hunting needs.

Don’t forget to review Part 1 in the hunting series so that you are ready to start the process of becoming a licensed hunter.

You Might Also Like

Trending

Browse Topics

Archives