Some might argue that there are better guns on the market, but the G17 is built for durability and usability.
And in a survival scenario where you might not have the time to pamper your gun like you normally would, you want a dependable gun that will still shoot accurately and cycle through ammo even with some wear-and-tear.
Another good choice is the .45 ACP, as it’s an even more powerful cartridge that’s also commonly used. You can see our list of recommendations for good .45 ACP pistols and 9mm pistols.
What about Rifles?
If you’re like most modern firearms enthusiasts, you’ve probably already got an AR-15 on hand.
If not, it’s a great home-defense weapon that you should consider adding to your arsenal. You can learn more about buying your first AR-15 by checking out our AR-15 Beginner’s Guide.
Depending on what kind of shit hits the fan, you might want to have something a little more versatile (or at least harder hitting) on hand than an AR-15 – especially if you live outside of a major metropolitan area.
Some would say that a Scout Rifle fits that role, and it did…70 years ago. While a scout rifle isn’t a bad idea, there are better options.
The AR-10 is a perfect example, get one chambered in .308 Win with a variable scope and you’ve got a great rifle for taking down game, protecting yourself from two-legged threats, and keeping the whole thing light enough to hike with and giving yourself 20 rounds on tap in case things go really sideways.
The Henry Survival Rifleis a 3.5-pound .22LR rifle that’s portable, accurate, and perfect for hunting squirrels, rabbits, and other small game.
Get a Compact Backup Handgun
As the saying goes, “a .380 in your hand is better than a .45 in the glovebox.”
While I recommend keeping your .45 ACP a little closer than the glovebox (or .357 Mag, 9mm, 10mm, .44 Mag, or whatever handgun you prefer), having a backup pocket pistol on hand can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation.
The idea is to have a compact gun available that you can easily grab in a pinch. I like the .380 ACP because it’s small and lightweight, but still powerful enough to neutralize a threat at close range.
If the .380 ACP isn’t your style and you’re looking for something a bit more tried and tested in the field, you can’t go wrong with an old-fashioned .38 Special.
The Bodyguard 38 is a modern take on a law enforcement classic – the .38 snub nose.
While the Bodyguard 38 (and other .38 specials) may not be popular services pistols in today’s generation, they’ve more than proven themselves to be powerful, dependable, and more than capable of acting as a backup pistol.
Overall, the pocket pistol makes a great addition to your SHTF Kit because it’s small enough to carry on your person at all times. I recommend a .380 APC or a .38 Spl because both of them are small and lightweight, yet powerful enough to take down a threat at close range.
Ideally, the pocket pistol is something you’d only want to use as a last resort – like if your primary gun jammed or it ran out of ammo.
Storing Your Ammo Safely
The last thing you want to do is stockpile ammo for an end-of-the-world scenario, only to discover that it’s corroded and functionally obsolete when it comes time to use it.
A lot of people tend to forget that ammunition has a shelf life. However, that shelf life is completely up to you. Store it right and it will last long enough for your grandchildren to use, store it wrong and you’ll kill your stock before the next deer season.
One of the easiest ways to extend the shelf life of your ammo is by storing it in safe, secure containers where it’s protected from dirt and moisture.
Honestly, every SHTF prepper should have at least one Ammo Can lying around. They’re cheap, easy to come across, and are worth their weight in gold if you ever are in a situation where you actually needto use your ammo stockpile.
Keeping a Silica gel packet in your ammo can will help ensure that your ammo lasts almost forever, they are cheap and easy to get – keeping one in every can is SOP for me.
What’s your take on having a good ammo can and moisture stopper?
Get a Good First Aid Kit
Ideally, every home and automobile should have a first-aid kit – especially people who’re outdoor enthusiasts. For most situations, the standard first-aid kit found in most workplaces will get the job done.
But if you’re in a situation where you really did have to use your SHTF kit, there’s a greater likelihood that you won’t have easy access to paramedics and hospitals in the event of the emergency. For this type of scenario, you’re really going to want to have a little more than a burn kit, some gauze, and antiseptic ointment.
The Grizzly Series First Aid Kitby Adventure Medical Kits is a heavy-duty kit designed specifically for the survivalist and apocalypse prepper.
Designed to meet the needs of law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day, the Echo-Sigma kit comes with all of the tools necessary to treat sprains, fractures, and cuts, as well as stabilize people who’ve experienced serious trauma from knife and gunshot wounds.
And as a bonus, it comes in a pouch that’s easy to carry around if you have to walk for extended periods of time.
We cover how to build the ultimate Range Med Kit too if you like customizing.
Heavy Metal Equipment
You’ll be surprised how much use you can get out of a good quality knife.
Not only does your survival knife act as your last line of defense, it can also be used as an important tool – especially if you’re stuck outdoors for an extended period of times.
Food prep, shelter building, making tools, and even first aid (cauterizing wounds and cutting bandages) can all be done with the help of your survival knife.
Functionally, it’s similar to the KA-BAR except that it comes with a gut hook for cleaning game, as well as a sawback – the serration on the top of the blade just past the hook. It’s made out of 1095 steel and has a 5” blade length, with an overall length of 9.26”.
And don’t forget a Whetstone for keeping your blades sharp without damaging them, like some of the other knife sharpening devices on the market.
Some other tools you might want to consider for your survivalist kit include:
If you ever find yourself away from your toolbox, each of these compact tools makes it significantly easier to set up shelter, make fires, and work on anything that needs tinkering.
Gun Equipment for Your SHTF Cache
As you already know, good gun maintenance is essential to ensuring that your gun is accurate and dependable. If you happen to find yourself in a shit-hits-the-fan moment, you want to make sure that you have all the supplies you need on hand.
After all, it’s not guaranteed that you will be able to trek to the nearest outdoors store and buy more equipment.
For this reason, I recommend keeping a few extra cleaning kits around. Preferably one for your SHTF Bag and another for the trunk of your car.
Our favorite M-Pro 7 kit from Best Gun Cleaning Kitsis perfect for handling most of you gun maintenance needs on the go, and it’s compact enough to be stowed away without taking up significant space.
I also recommend picking up a few packs of Break Free Weapon Wipes. They will go a long way in keeping your guns, knives, and tools clean, lubricated, and protected against corrosion – especially if you’re ever in a situation where you have to use your weapons and tools daily.
For a survival scenario, I recommend something lightweight and effective, without any of the frills. Concealment Express has a number of lightweight holsters for $35 that are durable and comfortable to carry around.
Food, Water, and Air
This really should be self-explanatory. You need food and water. You also need a way to get food and water after your stores have run out.
Getting food is where your firearms will come in handy, but water is a little more complex since you can’t just drink any water you find laying around – that is a quick way to get all kinds of nasty sicknesses.
For water purification, you need two options at least, one for you to get drinking water right now and one method for you to purify a lot of water.
Don’t forget – water isn’t just for drinking. You’ll also need it for cooking, cleaning, and treating injuries.
To get drinking water right away, I love my LifeStraw.
But when it comes to purifying larger amounts of drinking water you’ll need something like the Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System.
Each of these pails is a 30-day food supply for one person. That is a lot of food! Throw in the fact that each of these only weighs 23 pounds and what you have is a fairly lightweight option for long-term food supply.
Long-term water storage is a little more complex than food, you’ll need water – obviously, but you’ll also need a water preserver.
Aside from looking cool, the Tactical Backpack has a number of extra compartments for maximizing your storage capabilities. You can load it up with survival material and store it in your trunk, garage, or closet and grab it at a moment’s notice.
Here are a few things that you want to keep in your backpack to keep you prepared for the unexpected:
When you’re building an SHTF bag, your goal should be to anticipate and prepare for any situation – not just the apocalyptical, but also the more common such as an earthquake, tornado, fire, and whatever else is possible to your local area.
Choosing good survival gear isn’t always about maximizing your firepower.
It’s also about making sure that you’ve got clean water, shelter, and enough supplies in the event that you have to gather your things and leave at a moment’s notice.
Are you a prepper? Do you have a store of SHTF gear? Let us know all about it in the comments!
AR-15s are getting smaller and lighter. Guns come in at well under 6 pounds these days, and some builders are taking that to the extreme. My friend Rex Nanorum over at the Loadout Room has built his lightweight AR that comes in under 6 pounds when it’s outfitted with a suppressor and optic.
From talking with him I’ve learned that guys taking on these projects are looking to trim ounces, and even half ounces as much as possible.
If you are chasing this kind of build and still looking for a lightweight, but functional charging handle then the Radian LT is an excellent choice.
Coming in at only 1.2 ounces the Radian LT is a functional choice.
It’s got two massive wings on the sides that make the charging handle easy to grip and rip regardless of the situation. This is especially true when it comes to using the charging handle with an optic.
The Radian Raptor LT is made from 7075 aluminum and is hard anodized with a Mil-Spec Type 3 finish.
It is also reinforced with high strength reinforced polymer for saving weight, but maintaining strength.
The Radian Raptor LT is a lightweight, well made, and priced well. It’s a great option for your lightweight build or just a standard build that needs a great charging handle that’s priced affordably.
If we are going to name the lighter weight choice we can’t leave out the classic Radian Raptor. The Radian Raptor was one of the OG modern, extended charging handles.
An ambidextrous design features two extended handles for lots of space to grip.
The extended charging handles are big enough to allow a blading technique for those of us with tough hands. Blading is when you are catching the charging handle with your palm and rapidly pull it rearward.
This gas can be a mild inconvenience that gets worse and worse the more rounds you put downrange.
The Radian Raptor SD is vented extensively down the sides to decrease gas blowback by venting it out the sides. This makes shooting your suppressed AR a much lovelier experience. If you are shooting suppressed, you can stop reading now; this is the charging handle you need.
If you want a massive charging handle, then Aero Precision has you covered. The Aero Precision Ambidextrous charging handle is quite likely one of the most significant charging handles on the market.
This makes it perfect for optic’s equipped AR-15s. Especially when it comes to large variable optics. These handles will clear the eyepiece of any modern scope and is my go to on my budget Recce rifle.
This ambi charging handle sports two massive latches, and it’s simple to blade the weapon, even with an optic on the gun. The Aero Precision charging handle is one of my favorite all around charging handles ever. I like it on any rifle, and its large size works with my massive hands pretty well.
The 7075-T6 aluminum design makes it a rugged and capable charging handle for your build. I love how it glides backward when pulled, and the extra size means extra leverage. This makes blading pretty easy, and not too painful on the hands.
The Aero Precision charging handle is my personal favorite, and it functions as an absolute champ.
It’s not often that you see a firearms technique incorporated into the design of a part, this is the kind of extra-level of effort that I’ve come to expect from BCM.
It catches the hand perfectly and is perfect if you are new to this technique. The Gunfighter is a thoroughly modern option for your next AR-15 build and Bravo company has an outstanding reputation for producing high-quality AR components and even full rifles.
If you want to keep things simple, the BCM Gunfighter MOD 4B is the option for you. It’s a compact and small charging handle that meets the standard Mil-Spec dimensions. This charging handle is designed for shooters used to the standard manual of arms associated with military training.
While it functions as a standard charging handle, it’s made to last.
It’s made from 7075-T6 aluminum so its strong as hell and outfitted with a type 3 hard anodized finish for long lasting durability. The MOD 4B is available in both a mil-spec design and an ambidextrous model.
This particular model is the mil-spec model, and it excels for those of us who’ve spent a little time in the armed forces. It’s also a great low profile option for those of you who don’t need or want an extended latch system. The MOD 4B is textured for a more comfortable grip and outfitted with BCM’s load eliminating design. This reduces wear on the pivot pin and paces it midline of the rifle.
The 4X4 from BCM is an ambidextrous option for Bravo Company. It’s mil-spec size and dimensions makes it nice and compact, at least compared to the other charging handles on this list. Each side features a latch that releases the charging handle with ease.
The GFH 4X4 is a great option for lefties seeking a mil-spec sized charging handle. It’s straightforward to use and is made from 7075-T6 aluminum.
I’m a right-handed shooter, so maybe I can’t get the full effect of this charging handle, but I get the concept.
Even though it feels unnatural for me to charge the rifle with my right hand, I find it surprisingly easy to do with this charging handle. The MOD 4X4 is a great little charging handle, and it’s priced affordably for a premium grade charging handle.
I’ve gone through a lot of charging handles; I mean a lot of them. So much so that when testing these designs I got a nice case of tennis elbow and a bruised palm. Maybe it’s charging handle elbow?
Whatever you want to call it I got it. I did, however, learn a ton about charging handles, and there is more to learn than I expected. The best thing I learned was I have a ton of options when it comes to AR-15 builds of all kinds.
Interested in more AR-15 upgrades? Check out Best AR-15 Upgrades for everything from triggers to handguards and more.
This is our Top 10 list, but we want to know if you think we missed any? If so let us know what we missed and why it deserves a place on the list!
For under $300 to get decent glass and a free mount (although heavy)…you can’t ask for anything better than that. Plus PA offers a lifetime warranty. I had a damaged red dot and they look care of it quickly & easily (Best Budget Red Dots).
Note that PA’s stock goes in and out since the 1-6x sells like hotcakes.
If you want to spend a little more to get much better glass and a day-time bright red-dot. I would heavily recommend the Vortex Viper PST II. I saw it at SHOT Show 2017 and had to buy it as soon as it was available.
It’s my current competition rifle optic.
Forgiving eyebox (how specific your eye placement needs to be) and little distortion at 1x and 6x. When you’re actually on the rifle it’s like having a thin black circle and a floating reticle.
Hard to replicate that through a cell phone camera!
And here it is at 6x.
I also really like the reticle because of the red dot. I’ll try to get a better picture of it later since it was a super sunny day. It even washed out the reticles in my Best Holographic Sights article when they were fine to my eyes.
The percussive vibrations of each gunshot actually kill vital little hairs deep in your inner ear. And that can open the door to a high pitch ringing or humming noise that can last forever.
We’ve got the 411 on the best shooting ear protection…from affordable passive ones to the top of the line electronic earmuffs. We’ve tried them all over hundreds of hours at the range as shooters and range officers.
We’ll quickly cover our top picks in each category and budget. Then round it out with our research and more in-depth info on each pick at the end.
Ready? Let’s start with some passive ear protection.
1. Disposable Foam Earplugs
The most affordable of the bunch and really protective at 32dB NRR (noise reduction rating). Remember to compress them before sticking them into your ears.
These feel like the pads used in my favorite $200+ earmuffs further down the list. AND they have cutouts for eye protection since after a few hours your glasses really dig into the side of your head.
5. Howard Leight Impact Pro
If you’re ready to jump up a notch you get 30 dB of protection and ability to hear people around you and range commands. Note that I would use these with pistol shooting only…they are pretty thick and will mess up your cheekweld.
For most you’ll be well-served with any of the Howard Leights with the possibility of upgrading to gel caps. But if you want better sound quality and shutoff (plus the ability to change it for each ear), I like Pro Ears’ Pro Tac Slim Gold with 28dB NRR.
They allready has built in gel caps and there’s a couple colors. I of course went with the camo…
It’s ok protection at 22dB NRR which is fine for pistol competitions…but if you have compensated rifles going off around you…they have enough room in them for some lightly put-in earplugs.
Well that’s the quick list of my favorites…check out our research and more in-depth reviews of each.
Shockwave, Meet Inner Ear
Everyone always talks about the middle ear. That’s mainly the eardrum and those three little bones with cool names: the hammer, anvil, and stirrup.
But what really causes hearing damage though is what happens in the inner ear.
Inside, picture a spiral staircase. Only this passage is just 2 millimeters wide and maybe 30 millimeters long all coiled up.
Sound races along the outside of the staircase, but in the middle are the organ of Corti (yup, sounds ominous) and the basilar membrane. Both are long and thin, with the organ resting on the membrane. All along this little assembly are tiny little hairs. They register sound and transmit it through the auditory nerve to your brain.
But—and here’s the kicker—exposure to an intense sound—that’s 140 dB or more—can make segments of the organ of Corti separate from the basilar membrane. Portions of it actually tear away and float around.
So you end up with an inflamed lesion that causes an accompanying chemical reaction. Hairs die. Scar tissue forms, and even with rest, the tiny hairs typically continue to degenerate. A cascade effect takes over, and the entire auditory central nervous system goes deaf.
Researchers suspect that tinnitus—that high pitch noise inside your head that won’t go away—“begins as a result of the brain trying to regain the ability to hear the sound frequencies it has lost by turning up the signals of neighboring frequencies.”
One more thing: noise exposure is cumulative. Each loud sound is killing ear hairs, so you need to be thinking about total exposure over the course of days, weeks and years.
Ready for some hearing protection yet?
Proper Hearing Protection
First of all, forget cotton balls, tissue, packing peanuts, or my personal old-shooter favorite, cigarette filters. While they are better than nothing, they are also next to nothing. At best, you’ll get a reduction of maybe 7dB.
Effective choices for hearing protection come down to
combinations of the two and
some techy alternatives with sound-circuit technology.
There are so many options, there’s no reason not to protect your ear hairs. From neon foam-on-strings to high-tech headphones, there’s something for everyone.
What you should be looking for is a minimum noise reduction of 15dB, but 30dB is preferable. Pair a good set of plugs with muffs and you might shut out another 10 to 15dB or so.
You know the load you like to shoot, but a conservative 140dB is a common figure for an average muzzle blast. A .22 will be less, a magnum more. With quality protection, you can start approaching a range that’s still loud—as in chainsaw- or sandblast-loud—but may be up to 1,000 times quieter.
Traditional earplugs fit inside the ear, forming a seal that blocks sound. They come in a range of sizes, configurations and materials—from foam to hypoallergenic rubber and moldable polymers. Earplugs tend to be more efficient at handling low-frequency noise.
Least expensive option.
Disposables available in bulk at pennies per pair.
Some rated 30dB or better.
Available strung or unstrung.
Reusable models washable.
Some models moldable for custom fit.
Compact for transport.
Good for tight spaces; no snagging.
Fit constraints for narrow or wide ear canals.
Comfort varies widely.
Muffles all sound indiscriminately; works too well.
Foam models require proper roll-down insertion, removal and reuse.
Some models difficult to pair with muffs.
Moldables more expensive; may be difficult to alter.
Fumble-and-loss factor in dirty environments.
I like these because they are comfortable for a few hours and are 32dB NRR rated.
There’s tons of other foam options but I would stay away from cylindrical ones…those are not very comfy.
Best Passive Earmuffs
Traditional earmuffs come on a headband and have foam pads that cover and form a seal around the entire ear. For those who don’t like the over-the-head fit, a few versions have back-of-the-head wrap designs. Muffs typically are better at screening out higher frequency sounds.
Convenient to put on and take off repeatedly.
Easily paired with earplugs.
Foldable models compact.
One size usually fits all.
Can be bulky, heavy.
May snag or bump in confined spaces.
Comfort issues, especially in humidity, hot or wet weather.
Can interfere with proper cheek weld.
Issues with safety or prescription glasses and proper ear seal.
May not provide as much noise reduction as earplugs; can require pairing with plugs.
Hats or long hair, anyone?
My favorites and what I wore for a long time are the 3M Optime model and Shotgunner model.
The Optime is super protective with 30dB NRR but is also quite bulky. It’s not heavy but it will seriously cramp on your cheekweld situation for rifles and shotguns. Use if you’re shooting handguns…and especially if you’re at an indoor range where the sound reverberates.
For going slim…I really like the Shotgunner. I painted mine over and it served me well for years. It’s less protection at 24dB but you can always double up if it gets really loud with compensated rifles. Comfort is average but I found it to be fine for a few hours if I can take it off my ears during downtime.
High-tech electronics are stepping up the game for earplugs, ear cuffs, ear muffs, and every smart device in between. These focus on screening out the loud booms while letting you still hear conversations and the sounds of the great outdoors.
Noise filtering; loud noises muffled but conversation and subtle noises amplified.
Lots of options, including Bluetooth to enable smartphones.
Available in stereo.
Variety of formats—muffs, earplugs, semis and cuffs.
Price point—usually $50 and up, up, up.
Not always water-resistant.
Expensive to lose; fallen electronic cuffs and earplugs hard to find in the field.
Some models are bulky, heavy.
My go-to recommendation is the Howard Leight Impact Sports. They are super popular for a reason. They are affordable and they work. The only thing I could knock them for was their comfort. But with the newly released gel caps…I have nothing bad to say anymore.
I’d say get the Howard Leight’s if you want to experience electronic ear protection. See how you feel after a few hours at the range. And you’ll always have the option of having sweet gel on your ears down the line.
If you want to step up a little in the world of electronic earmuffs…there’s the Impact Sports Pro which offers 30db NRR protection and good sound cutoff.
They are large, bulky, but surprisingly light and comfy to wear even for longer range sessions and provide amazing noise reduction. I’d recommend these if you are shooting large caliber handguns or shoot at an indoor range.
Next up is a bigger jump in price. But with that you get much better cutoff and amplification. Pro Ears has a stellar reputation and I like their Pro Tac Slim Gold edition. They don’t make my Editor’s Pick because they fit a little tight for people and the ears aren’t as comfy as the MSA Sordins.
Deer seasons in most of the USA doesn’t start until September – but if you’re looking to harvest some whitetail this year you’re probably already planning your hunt now.
Hopefully, you’re planning on shooting and developing your loads for upcoming hunts and maybe spending some time hiking, working out and getting ready for long days in the field and packing that hard-earned venison back to the trailhead. If you haven’t started yet, get going.
This fall some 10 million hunters will go afield in search of the whitetail buck of their dreams. On average, about 6 million deer will be harvested.
Though the numbers seem astronomical, consider this. In 1900 it is estimated that less than 500,000 whitetail deer remained in the US. As of 2013, there were an estimated 32,000,000 whitetails.
A true conservation success story and one that points to the hunter as the true conservationist.
The whitetail deer is the most popular big-game species to hunt. Partly because of the sheer numbers, but also because the whitetail can be found from as far north as the Arctic Circle in Canada to Brazil and Peru in South America.
From the east coast to the west coast whitetails can be found in every state in the Lower 48.
Whitetails live in vastly different habitats. You may find them in the edges around agricultural operations such as beans, corn, and alfalfa. Some you find at high elevation in the aspens in Colorado and Wyoming. Others prefer the tight, close confines of the river bottoms.
Because of the adaptability of whitetails, where you hunt will largely determine the rifle and ammo combination needed to be successful.
The whitetail is the smallest of the deer species in North America. On average a mature buck will weigh about 150 pounds, and a doe about 100 pounds. They are thin-skinned and have a relatively dainty bone structure.
So cleanly killing a whitetail does not take a specialized or heavy rifle and cartridge. A well-placed bullet from nearly any centerfire rifle will allow you to ethically take whitetail deer.
What About The Guns?
There are a lot of options when it comes to rifle and cartridges, let’s take a look at some good choices for whitetail hunting to get you started down the path to a whitetail hunting career.
You’re kidding, right? With all the fast new and sexy cartridges out there, why do I list the .30-30 first?
In all likelihood, the .30-30 Winchester Centerfire has taken more whitetail than any other cartridge. Often packaged in a compact, light and easy to carry lever-action rifle, the .30-30 makes a lot of sense.
There are a lot of whitetail in the river bottoms and thick forest and swamps. Shots will be short. You’ll likely be on a stand or stalk hunting and catch a glimpse of a whitetail sneaking through the woods.
Traditional open sights or a peep sight are quick to acquire and quite accurate for 50-100 yard shots.
Any good bullet designed for tubular magazines will be fine. My Winchester Model 94’s prefer 150-grain flat-points.
Normally you need to use round nose or flat nose bullets in a tube magazine for safety reasons, however, Hornady now offers a tube magazine safe spitzer cartridge using their FTX bullets. Although these cost a bit more than standard .30-30 rounds, they offer better penetration, better accuracy, longer range, and more reliable feeding.
The .308 was originally designed as a military cartridge. Sportsmen quickly realized that the .308 cartridge design was very accurate and could be housed in short action rifles, making them quite handy in the field.
The .308 gives up very little performance as far as velocity and energy compared to the 30-06. What it doesn’t do is recoil very much. A .308 with good 165 – 180-grain bullets will easily handle all your whitetail hunting from very close cover to 300+ yards with good optics.
I know, ‘who hunts deer with an AR?’. Truth be told, lots of folks do.
The AR is one of, if not the fastest selling rifle platform available today. The simple fact is the AR is today’s modern sporting rifle.
Light, handy, ammo is stocked in every gun store in the nation and in all different loads, and priced so an AR-15 is within reach of nearly anyone.
However, several states require deer hunting to be done with a cartridge larger than .23cal and/or have magazine restrictions for what can be used in a hunting rifle – check your regulations before deciding on your rifle!
If it is legal and you do choose standard .223/5.56mm as your cartridge you should be aware that although possible, these cartridges limit you greatly. Choose heavy grain, soft tip ammo and keep your range within 150 yards and a standard AR-15 will serve you well.
While the above cartridges will likely serve the vast majority of whitetails hunters just fine, there are those who may wish to stretch the yardage a bit or pursue bigger game. If you want to stay in the AR platform look closely at the AR-10 platform and move into the .308 Winchester with 150 or 165-grain bullets.
Now you have a powerful cartridge in a semi-auto package capable of taking game cleanly at extended ranges. You will pay a penalty in weight and cost, but it is a viable option if you plan to hunt in areas where shots may be long.
These are the only 2 bullets I’ve recovered from game shot with a Nosler Partition.
While not at all an exhaustive list, I believe anyone looking to start big game hunting with whitetails will be well served with the above choices.
As for what rifle to buy, you have to decide. My personal experience has been mostly with bolt actions; Remington Model 700, Tikka T3 Lite, Ruger Mod 77, Ruger American Predator and semi-custom Mauser 98’s. All work well. All are accurate. All kill whitetail deer just fine if you place your shots correctly.
Now that you have a rifle in hand, what else do you need to have to be able to spend the entire day in the field hunting?
I’m a little over-the-top in what I carry. I grew in the Scouting program and I am a firm believer in Being Prepared.
Also, being from the Northwest I carry more gear than the average hunter because we have wide temperature swings, it will most likely be raining and/or snowing and I want to be sure I am 100% able to function on my own and not be a burden on my partners.
Let’s take a quick look at the very minimum I would have in my pack for a day of whitetail hunting in northeast Washington. I will not go too much into clothing since that is a regional and seasonal variable that everyone needs to deal with on hunt-by-hunt basis.
In the photo below is my gear:
Here’s a quick run-down of what you see and why. Starting in the upper left of the photo:
Space Blanket: Use it as a tarp, a ground cover or a sleeping bag.
Rangefinder and binoculars. I like the compact models. The ones shown are both Leupold brand products. You need to be able to glass at distance and in thick cover. The rangefinder is handy if you are in a more open area or are shooting cartridges or a muzzleloader with less range.
A headlamp and a flashlight. Ever boned out a deer trying to hold a flashlight with one hand? I like the Zebra Light for my headlamp. A single AA battery gives me 200 lumens at the top end and multiple lower settings. A great tool for traveling early morning and at night. I like Surefire flashlights because they always work. I use the G2 series. Relatively inexpensive and very bright and durable.
50 feet of paracord. Get real, made in the USA cord. It has a multitude of uses and always comes in handy.
The little bottle is a Nalgene with a flip-top filled with cornstarch. I use it as my wind-puffer. An easy way to keep track of the breeze and thermals as you move during the day.
Stoney Point shooting sticks. This size is perfect for sitting or kneeling shots. Any rest in the field will help make your shots more accurate.
Map and compass. Yep, I have a GPS. I never use it for navigation. The GPS will crap out at the most inopportune time. Heavy snow and thick timber will not allow a signal. Carry a topographic map of the area you are in. Get a good quality compass. LEARN HOW TO USE THEM TOGETHER! A compass does not tell you where you are. It only points North.
Meat care: the long white bag like the Kifaru Meat Baggie. These 1 ozs. bags will hold 75 pounds of boned meat. You can usually get an average whitetail in one bag. The bag holds the meat in a vertical tube to make it easier to pack out in your backpack. I use two bags for my deer hunting. All the meat that will be ground goes in one. The big cuts go in the other.
Meat Knife – Havalon Piranta: A changeable blade knife. You should be able to easily skin, bone, and process a deer with two blades. I also carry a couple pairs of nitrile gloves to keep my hands dry and a bit warmer. The nitrile also provides a better grip.
Again, this is what I have found works for me. Every area and every hunt is different, so adjust your gear accordingly. But you will find after a few trips there are some things that always get used and will go in your pack every time you go hunting.
A note on meat care: I mentioned boning your deer. I am a big proponent of quick and quality field care. I will go out on a limb here and say that most ‘gamey’ meat results from poor care of the animal in the field.
With any animal the number one enemy is heat. Get the animal broken down and cooling immediately. That means skin off, and meat off the bones. There is a tremendous amount of internal heat and the quicker the meat is separated from the bones, better.
Because nearly all of our hunting is done in the backcountry we bone our animals on spot using the ‘gutless method’. Check the link and do some research on your own. I think you will find it’s a quick, clean and easy way to care for deer.
They even have videos taking you step by step as they clean a Bull Elk!
Tips and Tactics
Because whitetails live in such vastly different habitats, tactics must be adjusted depending on the location. However, there are a few things that remain constant that will help you tag a whitetail this year.
Whitetails are creatures of habit. They stay pretty close to one area and tend to use the same trails and routes. My preferred method of hunting is to find an intersection of two or more trails in the timber or edges of food crops. I’ll then find a good place to sit, usually on the ground with a tree or log to my back.
Then I get comfortable and wait. Be sure to situate yourself so you are downwind of the prevailing winds in the area. If you have too much scent blowing across or down the trail you may alert the deer.
Stay out all day
Take another look at my pack list. Once I leave camp I intend to stay out until dark. I have my lunch, a closed-cell foam pad to sit on and appropriate clothing. Yes, I get cold. Yes, I get bored. Yes, I have sat in the pouring rain and wet snow all day.
But here’s the deal. Most hunters go back to camp in early or mid-morning. Most go back when the weather sucks. I have found that whitetails, especially in cold weather tend to get up and mosey around about 11 in the morning. They get stiff and cold too.
They will get up, eat a little, take a leak and maybe look for an area in the open if the sun is out. I have killed the majority of my whitetails mid-morning.
Use your binoculars
Whitetails like thick stuff. Human eyes are good, but not great. For the most part, we detect motion.
So if a whitetail is moving through heavy timber or brush you may notice the movement, not necessarily the deer. With binoculars, you can pick apart the timber. You see more color. You see shapes.
One of my PH’s in South Africa taught me a lot about thick cover hunting. He always said, “look through the bush.” Meaning, look beyond the stuff on the edges.
Look through the screen. Change the focus on your binoculars so you see through different layers of the cover. You will be surprised how much more is out there than if you just sit and watch.
Whitetail bucks are solitary creatures. However, if you can hunt a late season, your odds go up.
In general terms, the rut begins to crank up in mid to late-November and will run through December and January in many parts of the country. As the rut approaches, the bucks begin to wander more in search of ladies.
As such, they spend more time on the move and are a lot less wary. They are intent on breeding. Not necessarily paying attention. That said, if you are hunting a late season and you have some does or youngsters walk past your stand, get ready.
Often a buck will be following behind to determine if a suitable mate is ahead of him. Be sure you are dressed for the weather this time of year. It will be cold and often wet.
While in your sitting spot keep your rifle across your lap and at the ready.
You will often only have a couple of shooting lanes and even if the deer are just walking you only have a few seconds to make your shot.
If you have to reach for your gun and make noise or sudden movements, you will very likely not get a shot. You must be ready to quickly identify if your buck or deer is legal and then make a very quick decision to either shoot or not shoot the deer.
I shot this buck on cold November day after I had built a fire to warm up and have some coffee. It was 11 am.
How can you not? You are hunting. You are in the woods, with a rifle in your hands, a tag in your pocket and a whitetail somewhere in the neighborhood.
Yeah, you may walk miles. You may freeze on stand. You may get wet.
So what? You’ll likely be in camp or home sometime tonight. You can get dry, warm and fed when you get back.
Take a camera and shoot photos of your gear, your stand, your rifle. Shoot a pic of that pesky squirrel telling the whole basin you are under his tree.
Hunting is about making memories and enjoying your outdoor heritage. Tying your tag on a whitetail and enjoying the pure organic protein the venison provides is a bonus.
What deer have you harvested? Planning your first trip? Let us know in the comments!
It does this with a magnifying lens in the front…and a smaller green/tritium section more forward that holds the reticle. In my case…a nice triangle that makes it very easy to figure out the point of impact.
Original versions had some lettering visible in this view so you can see how that would be distracting. There’s still a “R” to the bottom right but it’s barely visible when you’re on target.
How’s It Shoot?
SeeAll sent me two versions of their MK2 tritium models for testing.
One for pistols which attaches via a dovetail insert. Make sure you have a pistol sight pusher since it took a little while to go on my Glock slide.
I shot with the pistol version at the range a few times and also once for low-light competition. I figured that way the tritium could help out.
Here’s how the tritium insert looks in a dark closet.
Since I was running a TLR-8 flashlight I depended on that more instead of the tritium (see the Best Pistol Flashlights article for more). But it’s as bright as my normal tritium night sights.
I didn’t practice TOO much with the SeeAll on my pistol and I found it took more time to find the triangle.
My best explanation is that when you have a “U” or two-dot rear sight plus the front sight post, you can see how to adjust your handgun to line everything up.
With only the triangle to look for, especially in low-light, I found it more difficult than regular night sights to acquire the sight picture.
Therefore, I suggest pistol use only if you really train with the SeeAll, or if speed isn’t that much of a concern (the triangle system does seem plenty accurate). I can also see it great for beginners that are having some trouble with focusing on the front sight in a traditional rear/front system.
However…it’s different with a rifle.
The rifle version of the SeeAll comes with a good large knob Picatinny mount. No more set screw nonsense.
Note that you’ll need a riser for the AR for a comfortable shooting position.
However, for both versions of the SeeAll…I wished it didn’t obscure the bottom part of the target as much. For something called the SeeAll…it needs to do better in that department.
By the Numbers
Pistol requires some more extensive training to acquire the target at my normal speed…but was easy on a rifle. The sight also cuts off too much of the target…especially when you’re comparing it with red dots.
I didn’t torture test it but it seems pretty robust in a machined metal casing and the lens is really beefy and recessed. Plus tritium has its great half-life of 12 years.
The triangle target is more precise than standard pistol irons. And it was more than enough to hit plates at 25 yards.
Most people have never seen one…so be prepared to get asked what it is. Fit and finish were great. But I do wish that it was a little shorter in profile…especially when on a pistol.
Bang for the Buck: 4/5
The tritium version sells for $99 on SeeAll’s site but it looks like near $200 on Amazon. Not bad for something tritium based. And there’s a lifetime warranty…AND a 30 days no-questions return policy.
Overall Rating: 4/5
If you’re looking at a non-powered optic that gives you nearly parallax-free viewing…AND has tritium for low-light shooting. You should give the SeeAll a try.