shooters corner

Which long gun should I buy next?


Which long gun should I buy next?

This is a question that new shooters frequently ask those of us who have been at it long enough to sacrifice some of our hearing for our love of the shooting sports.


Every shooter should start with a 22 rim-fire rifle. They are incredibly cheap to use with cost at about two cents per cartridge. In addition, for well under $200 you should be able to buy the one you want. With a bit of patience you should be able to find a used 22 in working order for under $100. I have two of these little rim fire beauties. One is a single shot and the other a semi auto. They are just fun guns for new shooters to use while learning. The cartridge has a low report, almost no recoil, did I mention cheap ammo? And they are just plain fun. Yes they CAN be pressed into service for small game hunting and self defense, but they are there primarily as a teaching tool. At nine dollars per 550 cartridges at my local Wal-Mart – I can buy a weekend worth of father and son time for under $10. If you have a 22 and know how to use it safely, I can’t think of any reason that you shouldn’t be passing that skill along to some youngster this weekend.


The only shotgun I actually own (although I am "gunsitting" several others) is a side by side 20 gauge that belonged to my granddad that I am about 75% of the way through restoring. I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a 12 gauge in the house, but I don’t much care for the big bore scatter gun. In general they seem heavy and have recoil to match. But I do respect their power and hope I am never looking down the muzzle end of a big 12. As a hallway clearing tool I don’t think they can be matched. And no one can deny the utility of a scattergun for birds on the wing and bunnies on the run. These are definite game getters. For small game alone, every household ought to have a shotgun of one size or another. Pick your favorite flavor and stock #5 shot and you have a combination that will put food on your table in every season. God forbid that you need a house gun, but even a non-shooter can watch your back with shotgun in their hands, once you have covered the basics of safety.

Center fire Rifles:

I admit it. I’m ‘riflecentric’. I am of the opinion that the man with the rifle will win the fight outdoors 99% of the time. The centerfire rifle is the tool for defense in any situation where someone is shooting back. In addition, the rifle will take game farther and hit harder at any distance beyond 30 yards.

Riflemen will spend hours arguing the virtues of their favorite rifle and write reams denigrating everything else. I will just say, pick the one that appeals to you and PRACTICE until you think you can’t practice any more. It really doesn’t matter whether your rifle of choice is a military surplus variant, a commercially made hunting rifle, a bolt action or a single shot. If you know your rifle and its capabilities and limitations, you can usually adapt your actions to fit the roles that your tool is capable of handling.

You may feel that a single shot 22 for forage while you evade all enemies is the way to go. You may not feel comfortable with less than an M60 to defend your retreat. Either way, you should choose the weapon that meets your needs and practice as much as humanly possible.

My first rifle was a 1940’s vintage Number five Enfield carbine. I still have her and she would still do the job if called upon. For simple rugged, bolt action utility an Enfield or Mosin Nagant will suit your needs admirably. With chargers and practice you will be able to hit a torso target 10 times in under a minute at 100 yards with either of these rimmed cartridge work horses. I have combined my fondness for the rugged reliable Enfields and the effective 308 cartridge by picking up a couple of Ishapore made "Enfields" rifles chambered in 308

I was given a custom built bolt action 30-06 which I used to take an impala while hunting with the fellow who gave it to me. It is a synthetic stocked beauty that will shoot tight groups with quality ammo. The 30-06 is a fine choice for reaching out a few hundred yards and thumping what needs to be stopped from getting closer or running away. In fact, with a good deal of range time you can stretch the 30-06 to distances beyond 500 yards. At shorter ranges, the 30-06 will take any game that walks with proper shot placement. With literally thousands of factory loadings and reloading component combinations readily available, it is arguably the most versatile chambering on the market today.

You need not have a custom tack driver built. My favorite rifle to hunt with is my 375 H&H Win M70. It is a 100% factory model. It is my favorite game getting tool, simply because I have used it most often, and have had so many positive experiences bringing down game with her. I had the opportunity to hunt in Africa and to me the 375 H&H was the only choice to have in my hand under the African sun. I practiced with my rifle until I felt confident that I could swat lion at spitting distance. Thankfully, I never needed to make that kind of life defending shot, but the rifle has proven reliable in every sense of the word time after time. 300 yards is about maximum for any load in my hands but I am 100% confident that if I hit an animal with the 375, it will go down. There is no doubt about whether you missed or will have to track when you see 4 hooves in the air at impact and I love exploding water filled milk cartons.

What about semi-autos for center-fire cartridges? Before I could afford 308 semi-autos I had an AKM and perhaps a dozen SKS carbines over the years. These are fun guns with low recoil and relatively cheap ammo, and they are simply RELIABLE. They go bang every time. The real beauty of the SKS is its ultra simple design. In ten minutes I can show you how to safely operate and care for an SKS carbine. Chances are good that even if you don’t good care of them, they will still work for you too. I’ve used both AK style and SKS carbines to put deer down. The SKS are particularly effective for the hilly wooded country that I live in. Shots on deer are typically less than 100 yards and I have made clean one shot kills with SKS on several deer and feral dogs under those conditions. I have also watched helplessly while deer walked away at 300+ yards as I stood by with an SKS in my hands knowing that the little 7.62x39 cartridge would be stretched too far to use effectively (at least with my hands guiding the shot). That is why I have leaned toward the 308s.

I consider my 308 bolt guns and my SKS carbines are "force multipliers" and back up guns for the next generation. These are the rifles I will share with those who can be trusted if I need to patrol and defend my home territory in case of a social breakdown or other lawless situation when we will need armed defense.

The 308 semi automatic "battle rifle" is my tool of choice for general defense. I had an FAL in the preban days. They are fine rifles, but I really didn’t care for them. There are many fine military surplus 308 semi-autos. HK style rifles point where I want them to easily for me. So, I have a Cetme and a G3 clone and I like them both. If I were reaching for a one gun to take into a dangerous place against armed attackers, it would be one of my 308 semis.

For REAL long range work, nothing will substitute for a 50BMG. But most shooters are unwilling to sacrifice the $2,000 needed to invest in a big half inch bore rifle.

So what is your favorite?