Single shot vs. repeating action rifle

David P. Herne

Well-Known Member
May 4, 2001
Houston, Texas
I've been deliberating for months now over whether or not I will go with a single shot or repeating action in the 6.5mm rifle I plan to have built in the coming months. But still, I am undecided. I respect the single shot by virtue of the rigidity it lends to the complete rifle. On the other hand, the repeating action provides for quick finishing shots in the event of a first shot that wounds rather than kills. However, last night I heard a rather compelling argument for going with the former type action as opposed to the latter when, in the course of conversation about the matter with an acquaintance who isn't even a shooting enthusiast, I heard this: "If a man so deeply fancies the kind of hunting wherein he uses his rifle to reach out to extraordinary distances, comparatively speaking, to dispatch his game, then it stands to reason that that man should be willing to take his medicine in the event that he fails to do this with only one cartridge. That being the case, why would such a man need a repeating rifle?" (This acquaintance is an Englishman!).

How say you, my friends?

That guy sounds like an idiot! If you wound an animal it is your RESPOSIBILITY to take it down quickly and put it out of it's misery. I know " hunters" who hunt for the sake of shooting at stuff and they make me sick. I am not an animal rights activist but I also would get really uppset if someone in our hunting camp told me they wounded one but didn't drop it. I have gone out all night tracking animals before for other people , usualy to find them dead from a slow agonizing painful wound, but sometimes to find them limping around on three legs. I put them down quickly the best I can then beat the tar out of the responsible hunter for not tracking it down himself.
BTW: I use an m-14 type sniper rifle. I usualy go for a hopefully painless headshot but if I do wound at least I can get them with the other 19 rounds in the mag. I thanfully have never had to use more than one follow up shot but just in case they are there.
Ya know my favorite hunters are the ones who bring their hunting rifles to me the week before deer season to clean then as soon as they get it back they hit the woods and never even bother to practice or sight it in. Once a year shooter. There should be a law against it. They wound more animals on opening day than all of us here would in a lifetime.

[ 09-28-2003: Message edited by: m14dan ]
The FLAW in that statement is that if a poor shot is made and the animal is wounded and left to suffer; who is "taking the medicine", the shooter or the animal?

The answer is: the animal 1st and the entire shooting fraternity 2nd.

Just my 2 cents

In the interest of being fair to our Englishman, he was more concerned about the the hunter who takes 'sighter shots'. We'd be naive to think that alot of LR hunters don't do this! To be sure, he meant by saying a hunter should take his medicine when engaged in such a pursuit as LRH in those instances where he completely misses his target with a first shot. Of course, neither of us gave a thought to the subject of dangerous game hunting.

So, assuming that I build the subject rifle around a single shot action (like a benchrest rifle), which I believe makes for a more accurate rifle (the most accurate rifles are invariably single shot rifles), how much does this handicap me in those instances where my first round completely misses the target, but the target can be reacquired for a second shot. (Remember guys, this is something that has happened to me in more than 50% of the cases where I've killed game at > 350 yards.) Or, should I just, as Dr. Field (the Englishman) says, no longer concern myself with it?


[ 09-28-2003: Message edited by: Houston Boy ]

It sounds to me that your friend, Dr. Field, is a pretty smart fellow.

Follow his advise, go with the single shot and spend the time needed in practice to learn how to make the first shot count.

Never depend on using a second shot to take an animal. Save the second shot for a second animal.

[ 09-28-2003: Message edited by: Tim Behle ]
I think that a single shot for longrange hunting isn't a hindrence as you should have enough time to pop in another round without much more time than with a repeater, you just have to be prepared with more rounds close by, JMHO.
Methinks this is a Quality Control issue of sorts. Shoot within the limitations of your weapon and yourself, and the action does not matter. That said, the single shot bolt gun is more accurate in the main, and at long range accuracy is required; more for a prairie dog than an elk at a given range but required nontheless.

"Limitations" is a slippery word BTW. With a little forethought and practice you might surprise yourself with speed of followup fire using a single shot. TOF at long range can be measured in long seconds, plenty for a reload at measured pace. I once jumped a 'herd' of pigs with a single shot H&R .410 in hand and 5 slugs, one in the chamber. I was out of ammo before they were gone and 3 little piggies were headed for the grill.
As a somewhat more serious note, PH's in Africa often backup with double rifles AND two extras between the fingers of the off hand. In a moment of need they have precious little time to reload, but their speed at doing so can be quite adequate. They have the practiced skill and confidence to play the game on that level, why wouldn't you?

Buy what you like and enjoy.
To my gracious LRH comrades,
Thank you for your advice and encouragement. And know that it really is the stuff on which I rely to make tough decisions such as this. Of course, when I submit questions to this forum, I do so without trying to lead anyone into arguing for or against one or the other side of the case. But now that it seems the single shot would be the honorable LR hunters choice, I just wanted to list the reasons why I have struggled with the decision to make this next rifle (which will probably be my last for many years) a single shot versus a repeater.

Single shot actioned rifles are more rigid/stronger than repeating actioned rifles by virture of the much greater amount of continuous steel in them. Also, we are required to remove far less material from the action area of our stock when bedding such an action, making for a much greater stock to action mating surface. Interestingly, a single shot rifle is easier to maintain as well, since it isn't prone to receiving debris, lubricants, and cleaning solvents below its lug raceways and chamber. On the other hand, a repeating actioned rifle facilitates being able to take quick, follow up shots (not a terrible thing in the event that the target game animal wasn't struck at all by a first shot) assuming that it doesn't run off - and we all know that when they hear the report of the rifle from hundreds of yards away, long after the little projectile has struck the earth just beyond them, they tend to freeze. Whereas they run 20 miles if both are heard at pretty much the same time (as in short range hunting). Also, repeating actioned rifles provide for taking that really nice wall-hanger that just happens to be sleeping in the bush when we come diddly-bopping along, whereupon it freaks out and jumps up, running at > 40 mph, less than 20 yards in front of us. I think this is because we can quickly chamber a round that has been sitting safely below the bolt much faster than one which has been sitting in a shirt chest pocket. This is to say that the repeating action rifle can actually be carried around with rounds in it, whereas a single shot rifle cannot (At least not by me; I just refuse to do it. I don't trust safety mechanisms!)

So I guess the only legitimate reason for a dedicated LRH to build an expensive rifle around a repeating action is so he won't as easily miss that accidental, but almost invariably occurring, instance wherein the nicest animal he may ever kill will be killed at short range! I mean, life is just that way, isn't it?


PS - I know we all have really accurate repeating actioned rifles, but the last rifle I had built for myself is built around a single shot action and it's the most accurate SOB I've ever owned. With certain loads, it'll go toe-to-toe with the best benchrest rifles I've ever seen shoot!!!
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