Which rifle to choose?

Choosing the right setup for your first, or next rifle, for that matter, is never easy, especially in South Africa. Due to our restrictive firearm laws you have to choose right the first time, as there are no easy, cheap or quick redo’s… by André van der Westhuinzen

Whether you are in the market for a hunting rifle, or something you can use as a dual purpose hunting and sport target shooting rifle, or a flat-out long range target shooting rifle… many of the considerations remain the same, or similar at least.

Questions, such as what make of rifle to get, what calibre, which brand of scope should I get, which scope mounts and rings and bases, the list keeps on going… is not always easy to answer. Then we have not even looked into the plethora of chassis (new age stocks) out there to choose from.

Much of the decision would be based on what you want to do with the rifle and where you’d mostly use it. If, for example, you mostly hunt on foot in the Limpopo bushveld, then having a heavy, target-type rifle is not what you want, and one would rather opt for a light build rifle, with a shorter barrel, wood stock and sporting a medium power (3-12x) telescope on top. Even a nice Stutzen (full stock) such as a Blaser K95 (pictured above) would be a perfect choice – I’d gladly take one in .30-06 Springfield please!

For general hunting across the country and in various types of terrain and recreational target shooting, a good quality standard factory rifle is more than sufficient. There are too many good brands out there to mention. If you are new to rifles and calibres, you are welcome to call the office and we would be happy to advise you.

Setting up a rifle, or a “weapon platform” as the cool people call it, for say long range sport target shooting, is a little more specific. Here the right equipment makes the difference between first place and seventh place. Right from the start, here distinction need to be made between various types of long-range target shooting… we do long-range shooting out to 1200m, sometimes 1500m, with fairly stock rifles on smallish targets. We do not shoot extended distances, nor do we use rifles that we cannot use for any other purpose. Now that we have that out of the way…

You can either buy a factory rifle, or have a rifle built for you from scratch, or buy a factory rifle and slightly customise it. The latter is by far the most popular option and one we would suggest. Good factory rifles these days are very accurate and shoot sub half MOA without too much effort. Better than that is not necessary for any shooting out to 1500m – the wind will always wreak more havoc on your shooting than anything else, I promise you.

So, what to buy is the question? I’ll try and simplify it to a few choices from entry level to top of the line-ish options:

Entry level –Rifle would be a Howa, Bergara, Remington 700 or Savage – all heavy barrels. If you buy a Howa and the model is anything other than one with a Euro-varmint stock, then you would want to replace that first thing. There are too many stock (and chassis) options and brands to choose from, but if you choose a wood or composite stock, have it bedded by a professional. A Howa trigger is actually very good, just tune it a bit and install a spring kit.

Put a 20 MOA picatinny scope base on, such as AREA 419 and use Warne Mountain Tech rings. A good entry level scope is a Vortex Strike Eagle 3-18×44 or the 5-25×56, or the Vortex Venom 5-25×56 or Sig-Sauer.  Preferably get one with a MRAD reticle. Now you are ready to go!

Mid-level –Rifle would be a Tikka, Sako, Sauer 100 FieldSport with heavy barrels and made for varmint or long-range shooting/hunting. Again, put a 20 MOA AREA 419 picatinny base on and use Spuhr scope mounts. Throw a Leupold Mark 5 HD on top and you are good to go. 

Top-end –Rifle would be any of the midlevel rifles or elevate and go Accuracy International, Barrett, Sako TRG, Victrix, to name a few. As always, mount the 20 MOA AREA 419 picatinny base and tighten the Spuhr mount to a Kahles K525i DLR with SKMR4 reticle, or certain US Optics and Zero Compromise scope models. Perfect setup!

Credit www.blaser.de

Once you’ve decided on the rifle setup of your choice, remember to add these crucial accessories, such as:

  • A bipod, such as a Harris S-BRM 6-9” bipod, MDT GRND-Pod, CKYE-Pod or Atlas. Do not waste your time and money with knockoffs.
  • A bubble level on the scope, to prevent canting.
  • A proper shooting bag is the Armageddon Gear “Shmedium Game Changer”. Yes, that’s it. Buy this one.
  • A Shooting mat, such as the Legionnaire TULS Mat.

Lastly, a tripod is not crucial right from the start, but at some point you’re most likely going to use one, in which case get a Leofoto Summit LM-404C or similar.

One can write a book on what rifles and equipment are available globally, but this short article focuses on what are good options for South Africa and what is generally available here. No use mentioning superb international custom brands, as these aren’t readily available at every gun shop here. Should you have questions on anything firearm and hunting related – call the SA Wingshooters’ office and we’ll be happy to help.

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