Hunting vs target requirements of a rifle.

Discussion in 'Long Range Hunting & Shooting' started by tlk, Nov 9, 2008.

  1. tlk

    tlk Well-Known Member

    Apr 11, 2008
    So I was out hunting last night and was thinking: the rifle I use currently has put a whole lot of meat in the freezer, but I know that I cannot place anywhere near the top of an iron sighted turkey shoot. Misses on deer are few and far between - higher/lower/forward/back hits are more common, though.

    This line of thought brought me to this: what are the real differences I should be aware of between hunting and target requirements of a rifle and its attributes with respect to repeatability/accruacy? I use to think that these would be the same, but notice that there are a couple of threads here that say there are fundatmental differences between the two. Am I missing something? If I shoot at something, regardless of whether it is a target or game, I want the bullet to go right where I want it to go, and I want all followup shots to go into the same hole (ideally) or very close to it. The goal of both target shooting and hunting is to hit what you are aiming at, so I am not seeing where the real differences in the two are to be had.

    May have been discussed before but I want to know what to define as a successful LR hunting rifle generally as I am tooling on up. I am trying to be practical instead of falling into the land permanent frustration that comes out of false ideas, potentially thinking that I have a dog when I may have pretty good gun (but screwed up ideas of what I should be needing).

  2. Derek M.

    Derek M. Well-Known Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    Harold Vaughn, author of Rifle Accuracy Facts, determined that for the most part, a production rifle does not come chambered concentric to the bore. If I recall, he opined that it was virtually impossible. That would be point one.

    There are several top notch smiths on this site, and competition shooters as well who use quality smiths to build their hunting/bench rifles. There are 3 main items that in my opinion are critical and are worth mentioning: 1) The action. You should have a very good action, of your preference, which must be blueprinted, or you can buy a custom action, like a Borden, Nesika, or Stiller. 2) The barrel. While I believe that all reputable barrel makers turn out great barrels, some just have an edge with name recognition and I think you'd be happy with any of them. 3) The chamber. It is prudent that the chamber is cut true to the bore. That is all that needs to be said, unless you want to go into details about tight necks, etc.

    Of course there are other issues, like a quality stock and the smith you use. You can buy the best components and have a regular gunsmith put them together and get a semi-crappy rifle. One item I have found interesting about the H-S Precision and McMillan stocks is that when I shoot at the range, sometimes I will hold the forend as if I'm shooting in the field, regardless that the rifle is cradled in bags, and compare that to shooting without contacting the forend, like when I'm shooting with a bipod. The point of impact out to 200 yards has been the same (my limit at this particular range). I'm guessing that this can be attributed to the quality of the stock, the smith that put it together, and I suppose I'm loading good ammo.

    In comparison, when I'm shooting along with my police officer buddy, if he does this with any of his 4 factory rifles, the poi is slightly different. So, stock and how you shoot the rifle becomes more important when keeping with a factory gun, in my experience. Case in point: I loaded some 180 TSX bullets in his 30.06 for our bear hunt in BC. I found 47.5gr to be a good, repeatable load, with 1/2 to 3/4" groups at 100 yards when I shot the rifle. However, when he shot it, the best he could do was 1-1.25" or so. He missed a huge bear on the first day at about 75 yards. (I think he got the jitters). He attributes it to having to use a fence post. (I'm still laughing b/c I think I could have pulled it off freehand). Anyway, we checked the rifles on day 2. At 100 yards, with a bipod, seated position, his rifle was off. It was 6 low and 4 right if I recall. We re-zeroed the rifle. He got about a 3" group with 3 shots. He was convinced something was still wrong. We let the bbl cool, then I cranked out 3 rounds inside an inch with the same shooting posture.

    If you happen to be looking for a barrel, let me know. Sometimes I buy a bunch at a time just b/c they are available. Right now I have Liljas and Kriegers in the safe. I sold an Obermeyer, 2 Kriegers, and 2 Liljas last month.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2008

  3. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

    Jun 12, 2001
    If your first shot did not kill it, there is little point in putting another shot into that spot. You should try a spot that is more likely to kill the animal. :D

    Target rifles are somewhat specific to the type of competition they are used in but they generally have certain characteristics that are similar.

    1. They are heavy. Have you ever tried shooting offhand with an 18 pound rifle? I have a video of my daughter trying to kill a running antelope at 100 yards with such a rifle. She never even manages to get a round in the chamber. I might post it down in the humor section.

    2. For the most part target rifles are designed to be stable as the barrel heats but first round is seldom counted. In hunting first round is about all that counts. In F-class you will sometimes fire as many as twenty two shots without a break. Anybody who shoots that many shots at an animal has more than a few loose screws.

    3. Competition stocks are specifically designed for the type of competition anticipated. These are seldom ideal for a walk around hunting rifle.

    4. A long range competition rifle and a long range hunting rifle will usually use a different cartridge because a hunting rifle can tolerate a higher powder charge with the fewer shots taken than a competition rifle.

    5. A really good long range hunting rifle will have an accuracy of less than 1 MOA. For example, for the kill zone of a deer, 1 MOA is about 1200 yards and for an elk it is approaching 2K and for an antelope that is just about 1000 yards. For competition nobody is going to win anything with a 1.0 MOA rifle nor even with a 0.5 MOA rifle. A competition rifle to win with, better be down in the 0.25 MOA range. I personally can't shoot 0.25 MOA although I have rifles that other people can shoot that well.

    6. There are people who hunt with triggers less than 2 pounds but I am not one of them being as I fall down every once in a while and do not wish to blow my head off when I do (I seldom hunt with a round in the chamber anymore although I used to always have the rifle loaded). Competition rifles will generally have trigger pulls at a maximum of two pounds and often down to 2 ounces.

    For a dedicated long range rifle that is always shot at long range there may be very few difference. Sometimes the Pa longrange hunters will used 60-80 pound heavy benchrest rifles for hunting but it is a specialized form of long range hunting.

    Finally, a person should analyze what kind of hunting they enjoy. If you like to sit with your back to an oak tree and shoot a buck at 150 yards then you got no real need for precision. If you like to walk around and shoot what you see then that is a different rifle, but if you wish to sit on a ridge line and shoot across the canyon then that may still be a different rifle. Use the rifle that allows you to hunt the way you enjoy hunting and don't get a rifle that makes you miserable because you are forced to hunt some particular way that is not fun to you.
  4. esshup

    esshup Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Everbody is different in their comfort levels. One hunting buddy is comfortable having a gun that is 2 m.o.a. and doesn't shoot any further than 200 Yds. I don't think he is capable of shooting better than that even if the rifle is.

    Myself? I would prefer 1/2 M.O.A. or better in a hunting gun.