Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

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Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by PistolPete » Thu Jan 09, 2020 11:42 am

Do you have a youth or smaller person who plans to hunt for deer or other medium sized game? I took some time to discuss how to make an ideal choice for a rifle for a small hunter. Getting the right tools in the hands of new hunters is important raising the next generation of hunters.

Please offer and thoughts or feedback you have! And beware, it's a lot of words.

Choosing a deer rifle
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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by raptor » Thu Jan 09, 2020 1:09 pm

That is a great article you wrote up! Thanks for sharing it.

Picking out a firearm for anyone is kind of like buying shoes and a tie for someone...i.e. It is hard to get a proper fit.

My $.02 is that you hit the nail on the head with the Rossi 92 (Trapper model w/ 16 inch barrel).

I use this despite the short pull length of the stock 9for me) as a woods firearm in .357 magnum. The felt recoil is very manageable even with 180 grain Buffalo Bore thumpers I use for feral pigs. (BTW I selected .357 magnum simply it is a round I inventory. A .44 mag would likely be a better choice for my use.)

If you use a Hornady Leverrevolution in 140 gr on thin skinned deer the recoil is even less.

The caveat to my comment is that 100% of my shots are at less than 120 yards and 95% are between 50 and 75 yards in dense brush. So open sights actually work better for me.

Note this a link to the Lucky Gunner site with a gel test mainly for .30 carbine but it has gel tests for .357 fired from a 17 inch barrel on a Marlin 1894. The .357 performs well.
https://www.luckygunner.com/lounge/30-c ... o-testing/
BTW I would note that .30 caliber carbine is an effective hunting rifle round for much game in the US. An M-1 carbine will not have the evil black rifle look but they are silly expensive these days.


A semi-auto should spread out the recoil over a longer period of time and reduce felt recoil but YMMV.
I would think that any AR-platform would offer the added advantage of an easily adjustable pull length that could grow with the youth. So that also is a advantage to consider.

A Ruger Mini-30/Mini-14 in .300 Blackout would also be a good choice in that you can get a stock that has an adjustable pull length. Unfortunate they are silly expense vs and AR.


BTW the small frame individuals can also be older 65+ individuals as well as anyone who is recoil sensitive. A tip for helping these folks adjust is very good hearing protection. When practicing have them use ear plus and ear muffs. YMMV

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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by JeeperCreeper » Thu Jan 09, 2020 5:12 pm

Nice article, I agree with all!!

I'm happy you mentioned the 336Y. It's my go-to woods gun in Pennsylvania. But the 12" length of pull is the key for letting small shooters shoot well.

From my experience, it's all about posture/form than power for small shooters (within reason).
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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by 91Eunozs » Thu Jan 09, 2020 8:52 pm

I almost never get a second shot off while hunting deer... I’d consider the H&R handi-rifle in 300BLK

https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/gun-r ... e-300-blk/
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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by boskone » Thu Jan 09, 2020 9:25 pm

It's kind of a local thing I think, but you can get a Savage Axis (II), with bore-sighted decent glass, from Academy sporting goods for like $350.

My go-to recommendations for new shooters who want to step up from .22 is one of those in .243 Winchester. Solid, complete, but inexpensive gun. Flat-shooting, fairly mild, very common round.

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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by woodsghost » Fri Jan 10, 2020 7:28 am

It was mentioned that a lot of deer rifles (Savage, Howa, etc) don't come with iron sights, and a scope can be added. For the price of a decent scope (or less, depending on what one considers a "decent" scope), a gunsmith can add iron sights, if irons are desired.

A point you could have gone into regarding recoil: a lighter shooter will experience more recoil, yes. A heavier gun will actually reduce recoil too. It was mentioned a lighter gun will be easier for a smaller hunter to hold, but some thought should be put into the hunting context. Is a small or new hunter expected to take a standing shot, off hand, at a deer, after walking for 3-7 hours with the rifle? Or will the small/new hunter be in a blind or tree stand and have the benefit of a rest while shooting? A lighter rifle is maybe better in some contexts than others. A heavier rifle will also be easier to shoot accurately due to less wiggling, assuming one is not asking a 90 lb hunter to hold the heavy rifle up and shoot off-hand.

Recoil can also be managed by how one holds a gun and mates the gun to the body. One can also "toughen up," but I think the point here is to make it easier for new shooters to get comfortable rather than keeping the sport "selective."

To reduce recoil one can also reduce the velocity or the weight of the projectile. If one goes too low in weight or velocity, the round may not perform well on the deer. But this is why one might look fondly on a 250gr projectile near 1,100 fps for deer and then smile on a 90gr projectile at near 3,000fps.

I appreciate the thought towards "price of practice ammo." That was a good point. Also, I appreciate the input about cost of guns. As mentioned above, this can vary by location and time of year, but the point is solid.

Some thought might go into what makes shooters react to a gun. Generally, "pushing into shoulder," " "jumping up into face," and "loud noise." It might be helpful to know which of these, specifically, a young/new shooter finds unpleasant. A shoulder issue might be solved with a recoil pad. Loud noise might be solved with ear pro and a linear compensator. Jumping up into the face might be solved with porting.

Just some thoughts. It was a nice read!

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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by PistolPete » Fri Jan 10, 2020 10:58 am

raptor wrote:
Thu Jan 09, 2020 1:09 pm
Picking out a firearm for anyone is kind of like buying shoes and a tie for someone...i.e. It is hard to get a proper fit.
I totally agree. Firearm fit is a very personal thing.
raptor wrote: My $.02 is that you hit the nail on the head with the Rossi 92 (Trapper model w/ 16 inch barrel).

I use this despite the short pull length of the stock 9for me) as a woods firearm in .357 magnum. The felt recoil is very manageable even with 180 grain Buffalo Bore thumpers I use for feral pigs. (BTW I selected .357 magnum simply it is a round I inventory. A .44 mag would likely be a better choice for my use.)

If you use a Hornady Leverrevolution in 140 gr on thin skinned deer the recoil is even less.

The caveat to my comment is that 100% of my shots are at less than 120 yards and 95% are between 50 and 75 yards in dense brush. So open sights actually work better for me.

Note this a link to the Lucky Gunner site with a gel test mainly for .30 carbine but it has gel tests for .357 fired from a 17 inch barrel on a Marlin 1894. The .357 performs well.
https://www.luckygunner.com/lounge/30-c ... o-testing/
BTW I would note that .30 caliber carbine is an effective hunting rifle round for much game in the US. An M-1 carbine will not have the evil black rifle look but they are silly expensive these days.
I agree, for a kid a 16" lever gun in 357 makes a ton of sense. I am finding however that a lot of kids don't have the appreciation or nostalgia for lever guns that people in my generation do. When I was a kid I thought lever guns were cool because cowboys. Youths of today probably get more material about how cowboys were oppressors of the natives than hard men breaking a new frontier. The rifles don't seem to have the same romance, which is a shame because they are great tools for building skills.

The 30 carbine is a great idea, but as you mentioned $$$$. Even the newly made repros are frickin pricey.
woodsghost wrote:
Fri Jan 10, 2020 7:28 am
To reduce recoil one can also reduce the velocity or the weight of the projectile. If one goes too low in weight or velocity, the round may not perform well on the deer. But this is why one might look fondly on a 250gr projectile near 1,100 fps for deer and then smile on a 90gr projectile at near 3,000fps.
In this case I lent the 9 year old one of my rifles, a bolt action 7mm-08 with a 16" barrel. It is my go-to deer gun in years past. I made him up some light loads (120gr with a case full of Trail Boss) for practice, then he used my normal hunting ammo, full power 139 gr lead free GMX loads. I am sure the hunting shot rocked him, but in the moment people don't seem to notice recoil. He did get a deer this year, so maybe he'll turn into a future hunter.
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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by raptor » Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:43 pm

The other negative for a lever action is that most require a very positive (almost forceful) motion to eject and reload. With practice it is second nature but for new shooters a misfeed is not uncommon. Still I agree with your recommendation.


PistolPete wrote:
Fri Jan 10, 2020 10:58 am

In this case I lent the 9 year old one of my rifles, a bolt action 7mm-08 with a 16" barrel. It is my go-to deer gun in years past. I made him up some light loads (120gr with a case full of Trail Boss) for practice, then he used my normal hunting ammo, full power 139 gr lead free GMX loads. I am sure the hunting shot rocked him, but in the moment people don't seem to notice recoil. He did get a deer this year, so maybe he'll turn into a future hunter.
Actually IMO if you have the ability to reload and make up light loads that is the way to go. It will greatly expand options. If that is the case a buyer can concentrate on a good fit & ergonomics for the shooter. IMO a good fit (pull length and ergonomics) does as much to tame recoil as the caliber (obviously within comparable calibers).

Also a kid may thrilled with shooting a "full size" round albeit with a light loading. He/she can brag that they use a .308 or what ever.

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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by delarey » Wed May 20, 2020 6:26 pm

Great article!
I will add a comment or two:
Weatherby Vanguard...I've shot 2 now. Bit were punishment on recoil.
223 for deer...I've shot Impala, kudu and warthog with 223 and 5.56 (in Africa). I have yet to track an animal. It knocks them down easy. High lung shots...usually disrupts or even severs the spinal cord.

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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by minengr » Tue Nov 17, 2020 1:23 am

I am pretty "recoil sensitive", both felt and aware. I had a couple detached retina's and surgery's when I was younger. I love my 45LC EMF (Rossi). Even with "hot" loads it is quite pleasant to shoot. I took it on a black bear hunt, so I would feel fine taking a whitetail. I have a modified scout scope on mine (1894 rail with a bit of filing) and it works great. If I had to pick, however, I'd probably go with a .243 with a cut down stock. More potential accuracy and range (just in case). But that is me. Full disclosure, I also had a smokeless ML built for long(er) range deer hunting in a shotgun only state (IL). With my set up (another thread) it is capable of 400 yards. So of course, my longest kill was at 50.
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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by PistolPete » Tue Nov 17, 2020 10:33 am

minengr wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 1:23 am
Full disclosure, I also had a smokeless ML built for long(er) range deer hunting in a shotgun only state (IL). With my set up (another thread) it is capable of 400 yards. So of course, my longest kill was at 50.
:lol:
That's how it goes. I know the trajectory of my hunting rifles out to 400 yards and most years my shot is 60 yards or less. This year is about as long as I've ever taken one at 90 yards. Where I hunt they have antler restrictions, where an 8 point is a legal target but a 6 or 4 point is not, so you have to be able to count tines before you can take a shot. In the woods, that really cuts down on the range limits of target identification, because a stick looks a lot like an antler at a certain range. And the further away it is, the more sticks there are in the way! Until that regulation was in place, I would use a red dot, now I use a traditional scope with a magnified optic.

This past weekend I had to pass on 3 bucks, all because they didn't have enough in the antler department.

[edit]
Forgot to add, the 45 Colt in a modern rifle can be pushed beyond book velocity a fair bit. You can look to the internet or 44 magnum load data to get an idea. Rossi offered their 92 in 454, which operates at crazy pressures, so you can push the 45 Colt up to 44 Magnum pressures and it shoots great and is lighter on recoil than lots of other calibers.
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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by raptor2 » Tue Nov 17, 2020 2:57 pm

boskone wrote:
Thu Jan 09, 2020 9:25 pm
It's kind of a local thing I think, but you can get a Savage Axis (II), with bore-sighted decent glass, from Academy sporting goods for like $350.

My go-to recommendations for new shooters who want to step up from .22 is one of those in .243 Winchester. Solid, complete, but inexpensive gun. Flat-shooting, fairly mild, very common round.
I recently had a opportunity to try one of the Savage Axis II $325 sale specials in .223. I was very impressed with it right out of the box. Yes the scope could be better but all in all a excellent rifle at a bargain price.

IMO A youth version of the Savage Axis II in .243 would make and excellent lightweight woods rifle.
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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by boskone » Tue Nov 17, 2020 7:52 pm

raptor2 wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 2:57 pm
boskone wrote:
Thu Jan 09, 2020 9:25 pm
It's kind of a local thing I think, but you can get a Savage Axis (II), with bore-sighted decent glass, from Academy sporting goods for like $350.

My go-to recommendations for new shooters who want to step up from .22 is one of those in .243 Winchester. Solid, complete, but inexpensive gun. Flat-shooting, fairly mild, very common round.
I recently had a opportunity to try one of the Savage Axis II $325 sale specials in .223. I was very impressed with it right out of the box. Yes the scope could be better but all in all a excellent rifle at a bargain price.

IMO A youth version of the Savage Axis II in .243 would make and excellent lightweight woods rifle.
That would be a nice stalking rifle. Maybe trim the barrel back as well; you'd lose some range, but in .243 have a damned handy short-medium range rifle. Sort of a "light scout rifle".

I want to try a scout rifle, but not badly enough to go to the expense and trouble to build one.

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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by NT2C » Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:13 pm

raptor2 wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 2:57 pm
boskone wrote:
Thu Jan 09, 2020 9:25 pm
It's kind of a local thing I think, but you can get a Savage Axis (II), with bore-sighted decent glass, from Academy sporting goods for like $350.

My go-to recommendations for new shooters who want to step up from .22 is one of those in .243 Winchester. Solid, complete, but inexpensive gun. Flat-shooting, fairly mild, very common round.
I recently had a opportunity to try one of the Savage Axis II $325 sale specials in .223. I was very impressed with it right out of the box. Yes the scope could be better but all in all a excellent rifle at a bargain price.

IMO A youth version of the Savage Axis II in .243 would make and excellent lightweight woods rifle.
Truth be told, the scopes on those would have been the talk of the industry 30 years ago. Optics have come a long, long way since the days of my youth.
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Re: Choosing a rifle for a small frame deer hunter

Post by boskone » Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:40 pm

NT2C wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:13 pm
raptor2 wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 2:57 pm
boskone wrote:
Thu Jan 09, 2020 9:25 pm
It's kind of a local thing I think, but you can get a Savage Axis (II), with bore-sighted decent glass, from Academy sporting goods for like $350.

My go-to recommendations for new shooters who want to step up from .22 is one of those in .243 Winchester. Solid, complete, but inexpensive gun. Flat-shooting, fairly mild, very common round.
I recently had a opportunity to try one of the Savage Axis II $325 sale specials in .223. I was very impressed with it right out of the box. Yes the scope could be better but all in all a excellent rifle at a bargain price.

IMO A youth version of the Savage Axis II in .243 would make and excellent lightweight woods rifle.
Truth be told, the scopes on those would have been the talk of the industry 30 years ago. Optics have come a long, long way since the days of my youth.
Yea, no kidding. The most expensive scope I own is a Leupold 2-8x that was purchased in the '80s...and that's expensive in terms of "numbers on the price tag", much less adjusted for inflation.

The only reason it's not also the crappiest scope I own is because I have a Redfield fixed 6x that's a decade or so older, and has moisture intrusion. The Redfield's also the second most expensive scope I own.

In all mechanical/optical respects--clarity, light transmission, weight, precision of adjustment, and even durability--my like $300 Vortex and Primary Arms scopes are inarguably superior.

Possibly the only way the Leupold's superior is that a glossy black gold-ringed scope just looks better sitting on my shiny wood-and-glossy-steel .243 Remington 700 BDL Deluxe. I love ARs mechanically, but lacquered wood-and-blued steel is such a beautiful combination.

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