The Best Rifle for Deer Hunting

Best Rifle for Deer

Are you new to deer hunting? Maybe you’ve been away from the sport for a while and want to get back into it. Either way, the first thing you need to do is select a rifle. But which one is best? Let us help you navigate the seemingly endless options to find the right choice for you.

Deer hunting is an American tradition that may rival baseball as “America’s pastime”. There is no doubt that Americans have been hunting deer since before baseball was even invented. Early settlers relied on venison as a primary source of substance, material for clothing, and even traded deer for other resources. Although few of today’s hunters rely on venison to survive many families still consume what they harvest. But before you can harvest a deer you need to have the right rifle.

What to consider

The two may considerations when selecting a deer rifle are action and caliber. We will examine each of those in a little bit. Other considerations might include weight, length, range, and even availability of ammunition. Each of these will be more personal considerations based largely on where you hunt and personal preference.


Bolt – this is the most popular action for deer rifles. Not only is it simple, but it’s an easy-to-use design that can also be very accurate. They are also a good choice for longer ranges with some models capable of 1000 yards or more. Almost any caliber can be obtained in a bolt action model so you should have plenty of options. Depending on the caliber selected you will have a capacity of 3-5 rounds.

Pump – at one time pump action deer rifles were very common. Although they are still available, and very popular with those who have them, their availability has decreased. You can still find a wide range of calibers if you are willing to purchase a used rifle. This action is good for medium-long ranges out to several hundred yards. Like the bolt action, the capacity is generally 3-5 rounds.

Lever – if you prefer the .30-30 you will most likely be purchasing a lever action. Although not a great choice for more than 200-300 yards, a lever-action rifle is at home in dense woods, thick brush, or small hunting plots. The smaller size and heavy bullet make it perfect for penetrating heavy cover and still getting a kill shot. Most utilize a tube-style magazine which provides additional capacity but can be problematic with some modern ballistic tipped ammunition.

Semi-automatic – modern sporting rifles are growing in popularity among hunters but have a relatively small following among deer hunters. This will probably increase as more states allow their use for big game hunting. Semi-automatic platforms are as accurate as bolt action and available in a wide range of calibers suitable for taking down a deer.


.223 – although a very popular semi-automatic round it is on the verge of being too light for deer. It can be done but shot placement is paramount.

.243 – it’s impossible to tell how many young hunters took their first deer with this round. It is flat shooting and has light recoil, making it perfect for the new shooter or younger hunter.

.25-06 – this is another flat shooting, light recoil round that has been very popular with young hunters. In recent years it has largely been replaced by the 6.5 Creedmoor.

6.5 Creedmoor – although this relatively new round has gained growing popularity among deer hunters. It shoots flat, has light recoil, and is available in both bolt or semi-automatic actions. Long-range hunters often see it as a less expensive option.

.270 – this is a classic deer round. It offers plenty of punch without being uncontrollable or uncomfortable for the average shooter. Due to its long-time popularity, it is available from almost every manufacturer in almost every action or desired platform.

.30-06 – although a great deer round and still popular with experienced hunters this round has seen a decline in popularity. This is due in part to availability and in part due to recoil. Nonetheless, if you choose this round, it will serve you well whether chasing deer or bigger game.

.30-.30 – this is a round that is available almost exclusively in lever-action but is nonetheless responsible for taking down more than its fair share of deer. Lighter recoil makes it a good choice for younger hunters, but limited range means it is best for close-range hunting.

7 mm – this round offers a good combination of range, recoil, and knockdown power for deer or some larger game. Although it may not be the best choice as a first gun, it is one that many hunters will grow into.

One Reply to “The Best Rifle for Deer Hunting”

  1. David Chadwick says:

    Though have taken deer with .223 recommend keeping it 100 yards or less (quite effective).
    Personally have taken more deer with the
    .22-250 than any other caliber. Puts them right down out to 250-ish yards.
    For dual purpose cartridges (deer & varmint) the .243 & .25-06 are obvious choices. The .243 can carry 900 ft lbs of energy out to 400 yards with the right commercial SP ammo.
    The .25-06 passes right through on any shot under 150-175 yards. More wasted meat especially if you hit bone. They don’t go far though (less than 40 yards in my experience).
    The 6.5 Creedmore gets a lot of guff but logistically it’s undeniable about its capabilities out to 800-1,000 yards (something unlikely in the South & East hunting environments).
    .30-.30 is probably the best option for the South & Eastern woodland hunters. Lots of knockdown thump, fast handling, ammo availability are all plus’.
    .270, .30-06, & 7MM boils down to range, cost of ammo, and of course perceived
    Lastly (just for thought), they say more deer have been taken with rimfires than you’d believe, by squirrel/rabbit hunters and poachers.
    And with the development of air rifles in the last 15 years some places allow for their use (.30 caliber and above).

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