With the MSR-10 riﬂes for hunting and long-range shooting, Savage Arms gives shooters some excellent choices.
Story by Craig Hodgkins | Photos by Savage Arms
Savage Arms’ line of next-generation semiautos comes to the marketplace with an attitude – the company has cleverly co-opted the MSR acronym for branding the guns, using the tagline “MSR now stands for Modern Savage Riﬂe” – but the guns are poised to deliver in the ﬁeld and on the range as well, with everything from expanded caliber choices and badass designs to a full suite of custom upgrades packaged as standard features.
The new MSR-10 Hunter is part of a four-gun family of next-gen semiautos from Savage Arms. (Inset) The Long Range ships with one 10-round magazine (foreground) and the Hunter uses a 20-rounder.
Although the four-gun family includes two MSR-15 models in 5.56mm (the Recon and Blackhawk), our focus here will be on a dynamic duo of aptly named, hard-hitting MSR-10s, the Hunter and the Long Range. And while the company’s slick new AR-15 riﬂes are already gaining a reputation as straight shooters, the chance to zero in on building a better AR-10 was a perfect ﬁt for Savage – oﬀering opportunities to play to the brand’s strengths, including longrange accuracy and innovation.
SAVAGE MAY BE BEST KNOWN for its extensive collection of bolt-actions for hunting, competitive shooting and plain old plinking, but the company has also been in the AR business, oﬀ and on, for years, quietly creating custom barrels for other manufacturers.
Simply put, the AR-10 platform oﬀered Savage engineers a chance to innovate. According to Al Caspar, president of Savage Arms, “One of the stumbling blocks to unbridled creativity with the AR15 platform is the nagging need for conformity – in other words, keeping the riﬂe compatible with a variety of accessories. With AR-10s, there are far fewer such constraints. Savage engineers were able to think outside the box to bring gamechanging features to both the MSR Hunter and MSR Long Range.”
While developing its modern, precision AR-10s, Savage also addressed other longstanding shortcomings of MSRs designed for larger cartridges.
“For example,” Caspar added, “AR10s have traditionally been heavy, bulky and unwieldy. We tackled these issues head-on, shaving oﬀ unnecessary weight and trimming size with a smaller, lighter chassis that strikes a perfect balance between performance, ﬁt and function. As a result, both the MSR-10 Hunter and MSR-10 Long Range feature a compact AR-10 design that feels and handles more like an AR-15.”
The buttstock on the MSR-10 Long Range is a Magpul PRS Gen3.
“Savage’s AR-10s also feature custom-forged uppers and lowers for a look unlike anything aﬁeld or on the range, plus a free-ﬂoating forend that locks down so tight you can bridge a scope mount from forend to receiver with no loss of accuracy. Tactical Blackhawk! grips, buttstock and ﬂip up sights are also standard.”
Professional 3-gun competitor Patrick Kelley knows a thing or ﬁve about the needs of long-range shooters, and he knows the Long Range model well, having been involved in early testing of the gun.
“It’s got all the cool features that a free gunner would want in one package,” said Kelley at the recent SHOT Show in Las Vegas. “A longer gas system, 5R-riﬂed barrel, Melonite coating, 22-inch barrel length for 6.5 Creedmoor, 20-inch in .308 Win. An M-Lok hand guard.”
Dead Foot Arms
“The upper and lower are both proprietary,” Kelley added, “and shorter in length, which allows us to make the gun more compact, bring the center of balance back closer to the center line of the shooter, which makes for better handling. The bolt carrier group is also lighter than a standard bolt carrier group. Again, less reciprocating mass means a lower recall impulse.” “It’s got every feature in it it should have,” Kelley concluded, “at a price point that will make you smile and make you want it all the more. (This) riﬂe has all the cool features that little boutique gun makers can do, but in one riﬂe from a large manufacturer: Savage Arms.”
A closer look at the muzzle of the Long Range model.
BOTH MSR-10S ARE AVAILABLEin .308 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor chamberings, each of which oﬀers applications in hunting and long-range shooting. The .308 Win. is a ﬁne all-around choice for big game, not to mention a top traditional pick of snipers and other long-range shooters. A relative newcomer, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a long-range performer developed for target shooting but perfectly capable in hunting applications as well.
The nonreciprocating side charging handle on the Long Range model.
Savage tailored barrel length to caliber and purpose. The .308 Win. version of the MSR-10 Hunter sports a 16-inch barrel (and weighs just 7.5 pounds), while the 6.5 Creedmoor Hunter carries an 18-inch barrel. MSR10 Long Range barrel lengths are 20 inches for the .308 Win. and 22 inches with 6.5 Creedmoor.
Regardless of length, all barrels are button-riﬂed and paired to their particular action with Savage’s obsessive attention to precise headspace control. To further enhance accuracy while reducing fouling, the bore features innovative 5R riﬂing. And to extend barrel life, Savage applies an ultradurable, Melonite QPQ surface hardening treatment inside and out.
Although the MSR-10 Hunter hit the market too late for extensive range testing before our monthly print deadline, American Shooting Journal columnist (and current cover boy) Mike Dickerson enjoyed obvious success with the brand-new gun on a recent west Texas hog hunt. (MIKE DICKERSON)
With roughly 10 million modern sporting riﬂes already in the hands of American gun owners, there’s no denying the platform’s appeal for a variety of uses. And, after talking to thousands of shooters online and in person at ranges across the continent, Savage knew exactly where to aim with their new line. The company is convinced that both new MSR-10s will quickly ﬁnd a place in the hands and hearts of discerning shooters, and with early results trending so favorably, it would be hard to argue otherwise.AmSJ
Despite the continuing impact of inﬂation, you can still ﬁnd some excellent hunting riﬂes that won’t break the bank.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE DICKERSON
Progress and the march of time can be very hard on the wallet, especially when it comes to hunting riﬂes. Consider, if you will, the classic Big Three of American hunting riﬂes. According to a 2004 gun-value reference in my collection, you could at that time buy a new Remington 700 BDL riﬂe for about $500, and the ADL model went for even less. A new Ruger Model 77 All-Weather riﬂe could also be found for less than $500, and the same could be said for a Winchester Model 70 Black Shadow.
In testing, the Mossberg Patriot in .25-06 Rem. produced sub-minute-of-angle best groups with five factory loads.
Today, the latest incarnations of these ﬂagship models of American hunting riﬂes all have a suggested retail price of close to $1,000. In little more than a decade, these iconic American riﬂes have essentially doubled in price.
Not everyone can afford to lay out that kind of change for a hunting riﬂe. The Even fewer can afford semicustom or custom riﬂes, and if you have to ask the price of, say, a ﬁne European double riﬂe, you may want to be sitting down when you hear the answer.
Of course, gun makers are well aware of this economic reality and have scrambled in recent years to produce more affordable guns for the masses. Many of these guns won’t win any beauty contests. Some may be described as downright ugly. Actions may be less than silky smooth, and stocks may bend in a stiff breeze. They’re often described rather euphemistically as “budget-friendly” or “entry-level” riﬂes. These are, of course, handy phrases when you’re trying to avoid using the word “cheap.”
Have the manufacturers cut corners on these guns? You bet they have, but they had to in order to make the guns less expensive to produce and offer them at what are, by today’s standards, crazy-cheap prices.
TODAY, VIRTUALLY EVERY MAJOR mass-manufacturer of hunting riﬂes has added an inexpensive riﬂe to their product lineup. While some have derisively called this a race to the bottom, I don’t exactly see it that way. Sure, I’m fond of guns that have richly ﬁgured walnut stocks, elegantly engraved receivers, and ﬁt and ﬁnish reﬂective of old world craftsmanship, but those guns won’t smack deer into the freezer any more effectively than most of today’s more affordable riﬂes. Advances in manufacturing processes and materials now enable gun makers to offer inexpensive riﬂes that resist the elements, work reliably and shoot tight groups – and that’s all many buyers, especially ﬁrst-time buyers, are looking for in a hunting riﬂe.
Here’s a quick roundup of some of the more popular inexpensive riﬂes currently on dealers’ shelves. Since there must, I suppose, be rules to the game, I’ll limit this discussion to riﬂes that you can buy at a real-world price of $500 or less.
Remington’s entry in the bargain hunting rifle category is the Model 783, which has a free-floated, button-rifled barrel and pillar bedding. (REMINGTON)
Consider, for example, the Thompson Center Venture riﬂe, with which I’ve had a fair amount of experience. These riﬂes feature a free-ﬂoated barrel with 5R riﬂing and pillar-bedded action. I used the Venture Compact model chambered in .308 Win. on a memorable Texas deer hunt, dropping two whitetail bucks and two does with four shots guns over two days of hunting. Several other outdoor writers did the same. I didn’t subject that riﬂe to accuracy testing, but I did test an identical gun chambered in .22-250 Rem. Five of six factory loads shot sub-minute-of-angle best groups, easily living up the riﬂe’s MOA accuracy guarantee.
I was impressed enough that I bought a Venture Predator riﬂe, chambered in .204 Ruger, and it regularly shoots half-inch groups with its preferred load. That’s more than can be said of many more expensive riﬂes. You can ﬁnd the Venture for less than $500, but if that’s too rich for your blood, you can look for the no-frills TC Compass riﬂe for less than $400.
The TC Venture is one of the author’s top choices in bargain-priced hunting rifles.
Another $500 riﬂe I’ve had some experience with is the Winchester XPR riﬂe. The one I tested, chambered in .30-06 Springﬁeld, put six different factory loads into groups averaging 1.3 inches, but that’s only part of the story. It dropped a 165-grain Federal load with Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets into average groups of 0.58 inch and a best group of just 0.31 inch. This gun is quite similar to the Browning AB3 riﬂe. Both have decent triggers, a boltunlock button, 60-degree bolt lift and detachable box magazines. Both are offered in a variety of conﬁgurations and calibers, and if you shop around, you can ﬁnd either one on sale for about $500.
One of the most aesthetically pleasing and feature-rich offerings among the bargain-priced riﬂes is the Mossberg Patriot. This riﬂe’s lines are very much in a classic conﬁguration, and you can get it with stocks that are walnut, laminate, black synthetic or synthetic Kryptek Highlander camo. Standard features include drop-box magazines, ﬂuted barrels with recessed crowns, a spiral-ﬂuted bolt and adjustable trigger system. I tested one in .25-06 Rem., and ﬁve different factory loads turned in sub-MOA best groups. Surprisingly, I’ve seen the basic black synthetic model retail for less than $300.
The Winchester XPR rifle in .30-06 shot tight groups for the author using a Federal Premium 165-grain load with Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets.
ANOTHER POPULAR ENTRYin the value-priced category is the Ruger American Riﬂe. I haven’t tested one yet, but have just received the Predator model, chambered in – wonder of wonders – 6mm Creedmoor. I plan to give this one a thorough workout as soon as I can obtain enough ammo to put it through its paces. Available in several conﬁgurations, this riﬂe has an adjustable trigger, cold hammer-forged barrel and a tang safety. It utilizes an integral bedding block system to free-ﬂoat the barrel and has a removable rotary magazine. The one-piece bolt has three locking lugs and a 70-degree throw to allow ample room for mounting scopes on the bases supplied with the riﬂe.
According to Big Green, also known as Remington, the bargain-priced Remington 783 is “not dressed to impress, it’s dressed for work.” With a MSRP of $399, the 783 has freeﬂoated, button-riﬂed barrels mated to receivers that are pillar-bedded to a high-nylon-content synthetic stock. The riﬂe is equipped with an adjustable trigger and, notably, detachable steel magazines. The bolt has two locking lugs and a 90-degree lift.
The author reports that the Winchester XPR rifle has a decent trigger, 60-degree bolt lift and detachable box magazine.
The main thing going for the Savage Axis riﬂe is the fact that it is, well, a Savage. That usually means you can expect good out-of-the-box accuracy. With an MSRP of around $368 and a real-world price of around $330 for the basic model with a black synthetic stock, you’ll get a riﬂe that uses the classic Savage locknut approach to set headspace set to minimum.
Dead Foot Arms
This has always driven some purists mildly nuts, but it signiﬁcantly contributes to the accuracy Savage riﬂes are known for. Barrels on the Axis are button-riﬂed. The two locking-lug bolt is unusual in that it uses a ﬂoating bolt head design, which theoretically also contributes to accuracy. Detachable box magazines are part metal, part plastic, with metal feed lips. Triggers on the Axis models I’ve seen aren’t overly impressive, but at a cost of about $450, you can step up to the Axis II riﬂe and get the Savage Accutrigger and a Weaver Kaspa 3-9×40 scope.
The Ruger American Rifle has quickly become one of the most popular of the economy hunting rifles. (RUGER)
Savage rifles, including the budget-friendly Axis and Axis II (shown) models, are known for their outof-the-box accuracy. (SAVAGE)
These riﬂes and others like them may not be your ﬁrearms cup of tea, but taken as a group, they ﬁll an important gap in the marketplace. They give people who might not otherwise be able to afford a decent riﬂe an affordable entry point into hunting. If we’re going to preserve our cherished hunting traditions in this country, we’re going to need their participation – and their votes – in the years ahead. That’s worth thinking about the next time you bypass the bargain-riﬂe section of your local gun store. AmSJ
The 6.5 Creedmoor rifle cartridge has been around for a while now and very popular among long range competitive shooters. This caliber is also effective for hunting as well. As a matter of fact the 6.5 is gaining rapid popularity. With its mild recoil and long range accuracy this caliber can compete along the lines of other long range cartridges such as the .308.
Anyhow, the 6.5 isn’t new. The 6.5 caliber has been around since 1891. Orginally, produced for the Swedish military, hunters in Europe quickly found it to be great on game.
Winchester came out with the .264 Win Mag and Remington launched its .260 Remington. Both of these calibers are great performers but it took a while for it to catch fire in the hunting world. Many people are asking is the 6.5 good for hunting?
Here’s a few from our list that you can check out, some of these are factory and custom loads to match your hunting scene.
Max. Velocity Range: 3,550 fps
Water Capacity: 96 grains
Max. Pressure: 65,000 PSI
The 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum is the fastest production 6.5mm there is. Combined with high Ballistic Coefficient (BC) projectiles designed for long range shooting, the velocity of the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum opens a whole new world of possibilities and provides hunters with the terminal performance every Weatherby shooter is accustomed to.
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Max. Velocity Range: 3,400 fps
Water Capacity: 93.5 grains
Max. Pressure: 65,000 PSI
Originally designed for competitive shooting, it is an excellent hunting cartridge as well. Its relatively short case coupled with a long O.A.C.L. maximizes usable powder capacity with heavier projectile weights. H4350 and RL17 yield good accuracy and velocity.
Max. Velocity Range: 3,190 fps
Water Capacity: 57.9 grains
Max. Pressure: 51,000 PSI
Offers a host of attributes that make it an ideal round for many hunting situations.
Browning’s 129gr BXR
Bullet Type: BXR Rapid Expansion Matrix Tip
Bullet Weight: 129 grains
Ballistic Coefficient: 0.557
Muzzle Velocity: 2,850 feet per second
Designed for rapid expansion on thin-skinned game, the the Browning BXR 6.5 Creedmoor ammo is great for whitetail, blacktail, mule deer and pronghorn hunting.
Hornady Superformance 120gr GMX
Bullet Type: GMX
Bullet Weight: 120 grains
Ballistic Coefficient: 0.450
Muzzle Velocity: 2,925 feet per second (Full Boar) & 3,050 feet per second (Superformance)
Not only does Hornady’s Superformance line of 6.5 Creedmoor ammo give you a higher muzzle velocity than any other brand of factory loaded 6.5 Creedmoor hunting ammo, but it also uses the outstanding GMX bullet.
Federal Fusion 140gr
Bullet Type: Soft Point
Bullet Weight: 140 grains
Ballistic Coefficient: 0.439
Muzzle Velocity: 2,750 feet per second
Though Federal designed the Fusion line of ammunition specifically for deer hunting, it will also work really well for just about any other species of thin-skinned game. So, regardless of whether you want to take your 6.5 Creedmoor antelope hunting, mule deer hunting, or whitetail hunting, you can count on this load to get the job done.
Bullet Type: Pointed Soft Point
Bullet Weight: 140 grains
Muzzle Velocity: 2,700 feet per second
Remington now offers the Core Lokt in 6.5 Creedmoor. So, if you’re a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy who wants a reasonably priced and dependable load to use in your 6.5 Creedmoor for hunting deer, black bear, feral hogs and even elk, then the Remington’s 6.5 Creedmoor 140 grain Core Lokt will probably work really well for you.
Barnes VOR-TX LR 127gr LRX-BT
The 127gr VOR-TX LR load is a really good choice for a person who wants to use the 6.5 Creedmoor for hunting big game at longer ranges like mule deer, pronghorn, Himalayan Tahr, sheep, mountain goat, and chamois.
Few would argue that John Moses Browning was not an inventor of firearms par excellence. Just trying to list Mr. Browning’s accomplishment in the gun world can leave the garden-variety gun writer, like me, feeling a bit queasy. You just know that you are going to forget something. From .50-caliber machine guns to the legendary 1911 pistol, Browning’s list is long and varied. You may suspect that I favor some of his shotgun wizardry, and you would be right. The 1897 Winchester pump shotgun is one of my favorites, and it paved the way for the iconic Winchester Model 12.
Even though this gun is very long, the barrel hides behind the bead, so from the shooter’s point of view, it’s an easy transition.
I believe that Browning had the traits of all great inventors. First, they are brilliant in that they can conceive an idea, then picture it and finally have the tenacity to stay with the concept until the job is done. Whether it’s Eli Whitney working on the cotton gin – was also involved in mass producing firearms for the government, by the way – or Thomas Edison, who fooled around with that lightbulb thing until he got it right, great ideas often come from the most unexpected places.
Let’s talk about L.P. Brezny. Brezny is one of those guys who is hard to put a handle on. He hails from the windswept plains of South Dakota and is a former policeman – think old cowboy and sheriff with some trapper and mountain man thrown in. But what Brezny is first and foremost is a shooter. Everything from shotgun to long-range-rifle shooting is in his bailiwick, so much so that his booksModern Shotgunning and The Gun Digest Book of Long Range Shooting are widely read. He has helped more than one shotgun ammunition manufacturer develop shot loads over the years, and has created his own shotgun-choke system aptly named the Dead Ringer. Most recently, Brezny has invented the Metro Gun system. “Metro Gun?” you say! “What is that?” I am so glad you asked.
Several years ago,like all great inventors ahead of their time, Brezny saw the need for a shotgun that would go easy on the ears. Urban sprawl causes tighter constrictions on where shotgunners can shoot. Often, there might be a location where one can shoot, but it would really help to keep the noise down – keeping peace with the neighbors, and all of that. Also, reducing the decibel level can increase one’s success rate when hunting certain animals and birds, particularly crows. Remember the old adage that necessity is the mother of all invention? Well, Brezny needed to shoot more crows. In order to do that he needed to have a shotgun that made very little noise, so he created the Metro Gun.
The Metro Gun – essentially, an extra barrel attached to a shotgun – is a clever combination of silencer, suppressor, choke and recoil-management system.
Brezny does a lot of shooting and hunting, which includes animal-control jobs. The common crow can be a real pest in agricultural areas; ditto for feral pigeons. Shotgunning for these birds is often done in close proximity to barns, buildings, humans and livestock. One can easily see how a low-decibel shotgun would come in handy for these situations.
The system is very easy to install. Just remove your screw-in choke and replace it with the screw-in Metro barrel.
After a lot of testing, blood, sweat, tears and a bunch of ammunition sent down range, Brezny delivered. Essentially, the Metro Gun is a 32-inch barrel extension that simply screws onto the end of your existing shotgun barrel. Just remove your screw-in choke and insert the Metro barrel. Voilà! You are ready to shoot quietly. The Metro barrel is ported along its entire length, which allows gas to bleed off a little at a time. The Metro is so long that most of the gases are gone by the time they get to the muzzle. Very little gas equals very little noise!
How little noise?Most tests show that with subsonic shotgun ammo, the report will create only 72 decibels of sound and just 82 decibels with supersonic. Some compare it to closing a car door. Winchester, Remington and Federal all make shotgun ammunition in the subsonic line.
Mr. Brezny noticed other benefits too. Not only was there much less noise, there was much less recoil – it will make your shotgun a soft shooter – and delivered a better pattern. Essentially, the Metro acts as one long choke tube. Brezny routinely gets reports from Metro customers on how effective his barrel is for game. Ducks don’t flare after the first shot, and with no blast to drive them away, crows continue to come to the calling,
Would some consider the 32-inch Metro Gun a bit long and wieldy? Probably, but Brezny insists that while shooting, the barrel “disappears behind the bead.” Also, at only 1.1 pounds (the 25-inch Raven model weighs less), not much weight is added.
If you have a situation where you want to shoot a shotgun but would like a lot less noise, you need to check out the Metro Gun.
Eli Whitney, John Moses Browning, Thomas Edison and L. P. Brezny all had the vision and made inventions happen, but only one of them made the quietest shotgun you will ever see. ASJ
Porting along the entire length (main image) of the barrel allows gases to escape gradually from the Metro Gun. Less gas equals less noise. Among the benefits of this system, the decibel level is so low that crows (center inset) are not startled by shots. While the Metro Gun seems long with its 32-inch barrel extension, the shooter doesn’t realize the difference when the bead is lined up with the barrel. The extension weighs only 1.1 pounds, and even lighter on a shorter model.
Like many of you, I am much better at just doing stuﬀ than getting ready for it. I guess it’s all about being prepared, and I was never the sharpest Boy Scout in the troop, or something like that.
But some things are too important to not prepare for. Depending on what and where you hunt with your scattergun, your season is either coming up fast, or is already here. September is often the last call for getting shotguns and other paraphernalia ready, so let’s talk about what you need to do to get out there and sling some lead or steel.
First, pull those scatterguns out of the gun safe and look ’em over. I’m sure that you would never put a shotgun away at the end of the season without a thorough cleaning, but if somehow this did happen, now is the time to rectify it.
Open the action and make sure everything seems to function properly – action, trigger, safety, etc. If there are any problems, you may (yes, I wrote “may”) have time to get it to your gunsmith for repair. But if there are any questions with functioning or the safety, do not take the shotgun to the ﬁeld.
Most of the time, the only prep our guns need is some old-fashioned cleaning. Pump guns and semiautos need a little more TLC when it comes to this, but don’t neglect the actions on your side-by-side and over-and-under shotguns just because they’re easier to clean. It is, however, easy to be intimidated when it comes taking pump and semi-auto guns apart, so if you feel as if you are getting in over your head, don’t do it.
Not that long ago, I needed to disassemble a Browning BPS, and when it came to taking the bolt assembly apart I was unsure about getting it back together. Fortunately, there are multiple internet videos about putting this gun – and many others – back together.
While you are making sure that your guns are ready to roll, here are a few items that will help improve your experience in the ﬁeld.
ONE GUN PROTECTION PRODUCT I’ve recently come to use is Hopper Spit by Birchwood Casey. The name is derived from – and I am not making this up – the product’s dark brownish-green color. If you caught grasshoppers for ﬁsh bait as a kid (as I did), you know what color their spit is.
Hopper Spit from Birchwood Casey is a fine gun protection product
Hopper Spit is an extreme rust and corrosion preventative for the metal on ﬁrearms. It will protect ferrous and nonferrous metals, and withstand the harshest conditions, including salt spray. This is a good protective spray for long-term storage of your guns (so you’ll be all ready for next season), or before a hard day in the ﬁeld or the range. The suggested retail price is under $15, so you really can’t aﬀord to not test it out.
ANOTHER TYPE OF protection that we often neglect in the ﬁeld is for our hearing. For some reason, we wear it religiously when we go to the trap, skeet or sporting clay range, but we think that banging away in the dove ﬁeld all day is somehow diﬀerent. Some of us (like me) have already experienced some hearing loss from years of unprotected shooting, but it’s never too soon, or too late, to protect the hearing you have left.
Any hearing protection, including the simple “jam it in your ear” soft foam type, is better than nothing, but I think the in-ear electronic models work best. They eﬀectively reduce shotgun blast noise while letting us hear what is going around us, and this increased awareness can be very important while on the range or in the ﬁeld.
Etymotic Research’s Gunsport PRO electronic ear plugs provide excellent hearing protection on the range or afield.
Etymotic Research’s Gunsport PRO electronic ear plugs are an excellent option for this need. GSP 15 electronic earplugs allow natural hearing when no background noise is present, and gradually protect from loud continuous noise from vehicles, machinery or gunﬁre from nearby shooters. At the ﬂip of a switch, sound is ampliﬁed, improving distance detection up to ﬁve times for enhanced awareness.
I’ve used the GunSport 15 model ear plugs in the ﬁeld and in a shotgun class at Gunsite Academy, and found them to be comfortable, eﬀective and easy to use. The suggested retail for these ear plugs is $299.00, but if you do much shooting (or go to NASCAR races, etc.), they are worth every penny.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING as too much ammo. Can I get an “amen?” We shotgunners tend to go through a lot of ammunition, and that is a good thing. No matter how many shotgun shells you may have stored at your ranch, you are probably always in the market for more. I know I am.
Before you head oﬀ to the dove ﬁeld for your ﬁrst hunting expedition, you should put in at least a couple sessions shooting trap, skeet or sporting clays – anything to get you out there shooting.
Browning BPT Shotgun ammo with a CZ-USA All American Trap Combo Shotgun.
Maybe you’ve heard that Browning has entered the ammunition world, and here are a couple oﬀerings for you to consider.
For the range, Browning oﬀers Browning Performance Target (BPT) Shotshells. A combination of hard shot and a smooth hull make this an excellent choice. Most of you know that round shot will ﬂy truer and hold a better pattern, and the harder or denser the shot, the more it holds its shape and doesn’t become deformed during ﬂight. Harder shot also breaks targets better.
Before you hit the fields, woods or marshes, tune up your aim with some clay targets.
Browning wanted to come in somewhere in the middle on the price point on this ammo, and accomplished this on their BPT line with a brass-plated steel shell head. The brass plating allows for smooth feeding, but the steel head makes it diﬃcult to reload, so Browning does not recommend it. MSRP for a box of 25 is $9.99, but you may see them on shelves anywhere from $7.99 up.
Browning has also introduced the BXD line of hunting shotshells. Along with nickel-plated shot for tighter downrange patterns, the main feature of these shells is speed. The 12-gauge 2¾-inch shell with a 13/8-ounce shot load delivers a muzzle velocity of 1,485 feet per second, and that, my friends, is a screamer. This type of speed should allow for less lead when drawing on that rooster pheasant that ﬂushed a bit too far out.
Browning’s new BXD line of hunting shotshells feature nickel-plated shot.
THIS ONLY SCRATCHES the surface of all the things you need to attend to before you hit the woods or the dove ﬁeld, but the editors would not give me the 20 pages I asked for to cover this topic adequately. Go ﬁgure.
As always, my advice to you is to just go. There will never be a perfect or even a good time to do it. Go to the range, go to where the doves are flying, or go see if the teal are in yet. No matter what you want to go after, just go! ASJ
Here are a few of the author’s favorites, including (left to right) his Remington 870 Wingmaster, Browning Superposed, Winchester Model 12, Browning A-5, Browning Model 32, and Remington Model 31.
Here’s some other things to consider while out in the field – Shotgun Hunting Strategy from Youtuber Expert Village.
Muzzleloaders have come along way and there has been enormous improvements in muzzleloading technology. Traditionally, able to take down target at 50-75 yards, current muzzleloaders can reach out at longer ranges.
There’s mixture of sentiment as to which muzzleloader to go with.
Modern day hunters have the latest piece of weaponry with all the gizmo.
While some old school purist just want to use their old style muzzleloader.
There are some hunters that just want a reliable muzzleloader.
Whichever side you fall on there is something for everyone. Have a look at this best hunting muzzleloader list.
This is the quick way to get into the field fast.
Weighing in at just six pounds and sporting a 24-inch barrel, the Buckstalker is a lightweight rifle at home in a tree stand or slung on your shoulder during a hard hike. The rifle is equipped with the Accelerator Breech Plug, which is removed in just three turns—by hand. It can use both loose or pelletized powder. The Buckstalker’s Dual Safety System combines an internal hammer block and a trigger block safety for one of the safest guns on the market.
SilencerCo’s Maxim 50
Silencerco loves to shake up things in the gun world.
SilencerCo took a Traditions Vortex Strikerfire in-line muzzleloader, cut the barrel down to 20-inches, and welded a SilencerCo suppressor to the end of the barrel. And because it’s a muzzleloader, you don’t need a $200.00 tax stamp from the ATF to buy it.
When loaded with the recommended 100-grains of powder, the Maxim 50 is rated at just under the 140-decibels threshold considered dangerous to hearing. I used the Maxim 50 at the range and during a hog hunt, and it was hearing safe without protection. The suppressor also contains much of the smoke blast, so you can actually see if you hit your target or not.
Thats a plus when you’re shooting a muzzleloader.
With the suppressor its front heavy, but its deadly accurate at 150 yard.
Remington Model 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader
Considered one of the most advanced muzzleloaders available. Built on a standard Model 700 action, this baby is design with long range accuracy in mind. (300 yards)
Uses a primed centerfire magnum rifle casing, thus results in a hotter and more direct spark. This efficiently use up to 200 grains of powder.
Lyman Great Plains Rifle
This rifle is the opposite of the Remington Model 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader.
You can get this in either a flintlock or percussion cap configuration, this is the perfect muzzleloader for a hunter who wants to relive his Daniel Boone persona.
Thompson/Center Encore Pro Hunter FX
This muzzleloader is used by the infamous hunter Jim Shockey. Thompson/Center gets in its name in the muzzleloader industry as a very accurate, user-friendly ambidextrous, scope mount and rifle protected with a “weather shield” to fight corrosion.
The Optima is CVA’s mid-level muzzleloader and very well designed. Its user friendly gun, reliable, accurate, and reasonably priced.
This is just a small list, there may be others out there at a lower budget, let us know what you prefer below.
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!