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Choosing the right rifle for your hunter

Christmas is just around the corner and one still has time to buy that perfect hunting rifle for your special hunter.

Rifles are a personal thing and there are so many out there to choose from so the PVT consulted with hunting expert Dan Simmons to focus on some attributes of rifles that may help people choose the right rifle. Simmons is an outdoor columnist who has been hunting all over the world for 40 years. Simmons was a game warden in British Columbia, Canada and has written about many of his exploits in the PVT and several books.

“Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to buying that rifle so really all I can do is point out some qualities that I like in a rifle,” he said.

Dan Simmons said he loves the hunt, which means to him tracking the animal, sneaking up on an animal and getting close for the kill.

“The trend in hunting is to kill from far away and to me that’s not hunting,” he said. “I don’t hunt an animal with an AR-15 and try to pick it off from a mile out. That’s target shooting, not hunting. Hunting takes skill as a tracker and hunting is getting up close, well within 200 yards. Shooting beyond that is not hunting. Using these new computerized scopes, that’s not hunting either. Of course I can go on.”

Lever-Action Rifles

The American West was won by a lever-action rifle but people fail to realize that long before it was favorite of the U.S. Calvary, it was a hunting rifle. The lever action has evolved and still is an American favorite for taking down big game at close range.

Simmons likes the Browning BLR, which comes in different barrels and cartridges.

“I like Browning because of the locking bolt, solid quality workmanship and the .308 caliber is universal,” Simmons said.

They use aircraft aluminum in the receiver. A Browning BLR Black Level Takedown .308 with a 16-inch barrel weighs seven pounds. Browning says that its lever action is not limited to flat-nosed ammunition, which hinders accuracy. The Browning BLR utilizes a reliable box magazine that protects bullet tips and allows it to fire powerful game-dropping magnum cartridges.

This Browning retails at $1,600 and is at the high end of the lever-action family.

Simmons also likes a Marlin. “I like the Marlin lever-action rifles because they are traditional and capable of heavier calibers like the 45-70,” Simmons said.

The Marlin 1895 big bore uses a 45-70 cartridge with a tubular magazine, has a 22-inch barrel and weighs 7.5 pounds.

This rifle is cheaper than Browning at $620 to $950.

Bolt-Action Rifles

Simmons has a lot of respect for lever-action rifles and would not turn one down, but his preferences lie “in a good solid bolt-action rifle.”

“There really is no comparison,” he said. He uses a Browning A-bolt, which weighs 7 pounds and has a simple box loading magazine. Barrels come in 22 inches or 26.

“This gun is my favorite and it’s one of the best on the market,” he said.

The A-bolt starts at $700.

A common and sturdy Winchester Model 70 bolt-action rifle is a good choice.

“This rifle is a classic,” Simmons said. “And it supports all calibers from .233 to dangerous game Magnums.”

The rifle sports a 22-inch barrel and is around 7 pounds and lighter. This classic rifle is under $1,000 and comes in at $829.

Another bolt-action favorite of Simmons is the Mossberg.

“People have known Mossberg for their shotguns and not their bolt-action rifles,” Simmons said. “They have a new bolt-action rifle that rivals all and was built with performance in mind. It’s a new entry into the quality gun market and is good quality for the price.”

The Mossberg Patriot comes in four short action and seven long action calibers with a 22-inch barrel. It has a standard drop box magazine and weighs about 6.5 pounds.

The Patriot comes in at $330.

Simmons in general says if you are looking for a rifle for young hunters, look for those that can support a .243 caliber.

-Contact sports editor Vern Hee at vhee@pvtimes.com.

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