I get to shoot a large variety of rifles – different calibres, brands, stocks, suppressors and more. Each has its own benefits (and drawbacks).
The more I shoot them though, the clearer it becomes to me that there is actually a solid, clear answer for where people should be starting when they are considering their first rifle. So. What should you get first?
Get a 22.
Everyone loves to debate first cartridges – argue over .308 vs 7mm08 vs 6.5 Creedmoor – but I feel they are all missing a fundamental point. The fundamentals.
More than once I have had a new shooter out, with the latest and greatest, and realise the main issue is not what calibre the rifle is, but the simple fact they haven’t done much shooting and need some training on the basics.
I was the same.
I wish someone had given me this advice when I got into hunting. As it was, I did a pile of internet research and ended up with a 7mm08 Browning X-Bolt. Still have the rifle, and it is great.
I headed out to the range, really without an idea in the world and bumbled my way through a box of ammo.
Head forward a few years, and I finally understand (slow learner) the many benefits of a 22LR to get going on.
Many guys in the country grow up shooting 22s – so this article is really aimed more at the city folks (like myself).
They let you focus on the important stuff
A 22LR doesn’t kick. So – new shooters can forget about recoil as an issue and learn proper shooting techniques, without potentially inducing flinch due to recoil and noise.
I would still suggest a suppressor though – as the more I do this, the more I come to the conclusion that a flinch – anticipating a shot and naturally going into ‘protective mode’ is as related to noise as it is to the physical kick of a rifle.
So – lots of practice without learning to anticipate the trigger break and tightening up beforehand.
They are cheap to shoot
A box of CCI Standard, meaning, 100 rounds is, well, nothing compared to the price of most 20 round boxes of hunting ammo.
So – while I am not suggesting people just head out and shoot a box of ammo without considering what they are doing (shooting without a purpose or intent is fun, but you likely won’t learn much) – the cost per shot is so low with general 22 ammo that the cost is not a barrier to having some practice with the rifle.
You don’t need a massive distance
50, or even 25 meters is plenty of distance to shoot a 22. Sure – we all want to shoot far – but a lot (the most) can really be learnt up close. So – if you don’t have access to a 1k shooting range a 22LR allows you to head to most ranges, or, with appropriate safety considerations, the back of a farm and get some practice in.
There are plenty of simple drills out there that will challenge you. For a real simple start, just put a timer on. A clock does amazing things to your mental state.
You can hunt with them
While I am not here to condone hunting medium-sized game animals with them (can be done, internet warriors rejoice!) – there is plenty of pest control to be had with a 22LR. Find someone with a farm, lifestyle block, vineyard, get to know them, see if you can head out to shoot a rabbit or two.
This practice is valid for hunting the big stuff as well – and learning to skin and gut a small animal is great practice for the bigger animals.
So – sorry about the bait and click. But not really.
Everyone should have a 22LR – it doesn’t need to be an expensive match grade custom built in a chassis gun either. Learn its limitations, learn how to work around them, and you are well on your way to understanding how guns works, and apply the fundamentals of shooting no matter how big (or small) the cartridge is.
What about an airgun?
You know what. Yes. Also valid as an option. If I think about it – as a kid, that is where I started as well. Back in the day, you could shoot an airgun in a central urban Auckland backyard, that is.
Seriously though… what rifle cartrige should I get?
Well. Basically, I think the question is a little flawed – or at least – it certainly isn’t the only or first question you should be asking.
There is a pile of cartridges in the mid-range out there that are suitable. And people face a real issue with decision paralysis. Better to be out and hunting than standing in a gun store pondering the benefits of a .308 over a 7mm08.
What I recommend changes from person to person, and, it has changed as a general rule, from what I used to suggest as well.
So, sorry – there isn’t a simple answer to that question. Though, happy to help you figure out the questions to ask yourself to get to that answer yourself.