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How to Choose Your First Rifle: A Fun Gun's Beginner's Guide

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

A person loading a brown and black rifle

Rifle ownership opens up a world of possibilities - hunting, target shooting, home defense. It’s a fantastic world to get involved in, and Texas is one of the only states in the world with the opportunities that allow you to make the most of it all.

However, and understandably so, there are so many options and so much to learn that buying your first rifle can feel a little daunting.

This guide is your trusted source for demystifying the process.

You'll learn how to choose the ideal rifle based on your needs, from action types and calibers to weight and ergonomics - our expert tips will ensure you select a rifle you're confident and comfortable shooting.

Basically everything you need to know to make an informed decision with nothing but excitement and pride.

Let’s get into it.

Understanding Rifle Basics

Before we dive into choosing your first rifle, let's go through some basic terminology - more specifically, the types of rifles you’ll come across:

  • Bolt-action: Known for their accuracy and reliability. The user manually cycles the bolt to chamber a round and removes spent casings. They’re great for hunting and long-range shooting.

  • Semi-automatic: Automatically chamber new rounds and eject casings after each trigger pull. They’re incredibly versatile, making them suitable for target shooting, self-defense, and hunting game.

  • Lever-action: Classic rifles are loaded through a lever-action mechanism, providing a quick follow-up shot with a dash of nostalgia. They’re often used for hunting and recreational shooting.

  • Pump-action: Popular among shotgun enthusiasts, pump-action rifles use a sliding forearm mechanism for cycling rounds. Known for their reliability, they're ideal for hunting and shooting sports.

Which you choose depends on your purpose for wanting to own a rifle. Use the information on the best potential guns and how you’ll use them, which we’ll discuss now.

How to Define Your Purpose for Owning a Rifle

A man with a hunting rifle sits by the case of a tree

Okay, so before shopping for your first rifle, take some time to reflect on exactly why you want to own one. It’s so important to be clear on your motivations, as this will help dramatically when selecting the best firearm to suit your needs.

Are you interested in hunting medium or large game?

If so, a bolt-action or lever-action rifle in a large caliber like .308 Win or 30-06 Springfield is probably best. If you’re shooting small game, like rabbits or turkeys, a .22 LR bolt-action is perhaps better.

Perhaps you want a rifle for target shooting and plinking. Here, semi-automatic rifles like an AR-15 or Ruger 10/22 thrive, offering follow-up shots with little recoil.

Home and self-defense needs may call for a semi-auto rifle with a tactical stock and accessories–just be sure to adhere to any state or local regulations.

Of course, these are just suggestions, and it’s really up to you. The important thing to understand here

No matter your purpose - recreation, hunting, or defense - defining it upfront directs you to the ideal rifle. Take time to envision precisely how you want to use your new firearm; then, it’s time to go into the store.

How to Choose Your First Rifle Caliber

You’ve probably heard of gun caliber, but let’s ensure we’re on the same page.

We like to think of your rifle’s caliber as its heart – the core driving the power and purpose of your firearm.

At a technical level, the caliber refers to the diameter of your rifle's barrel or the size of the ammo it uses, which significantly influences your shooting range, accuracy, and capabilities.

For example, smaller calibers, like the .22 LR, are ideal for beginners due to lower recoil and cost. However, they have less stopping power.

Larger calibers, like the .308, are effective for hunting and long-range shooting but may require more skill to manage recoil and higher ammunition costs.

Not to repeat ourselves, but having clear knowledge of your intended use for the rifle will naturally guide you toward the perfect caliber match.

As above, the right caliber depends on your intended use, personal preferences, and budget. Research, seek expert advice, and try different calibers at the shooting range to find the best fit for you.

Rifle Length and Weight

While on the subject of size, let’s talk about length and weight, probably the most overlooked yet most important aspects you need to understand as a new rifle owner.

And yes, we’re essentially talking about getting a rifle that’s a weight you can comfortably lift! While shooting, you need to be able to lift your rifle, hold it comfortably, and be able to maintain a steady aim.

Get a rifle too heavy or too long for your body type, and you risk swinging around everywhere and having very little accuracy. And this is absolutely what you don’t want when shooting a gun.

The main considerations here are your physical strength, comfort, and, again, intended use.

A lightweight rifle could be a breeze to carry during a long day of hunting, but it’ll probably have more recoil, affecting your aim.

Conversely, a heavier rifle will provide extra stability for those precision shots but might strain your shoulders during a long day in the field if you’re not used to carrying that kind of weight.

Throw on your Goldilocks hat and try out a few different weights– you’re looking for the rifle length and weight that feels 'just right' for your needs.

Importance of Rifle Ergonomics

A man holding a rifle in the desert with camouflaged clothing looking at the camera

Now you're familiar with some of the rifle specs, it's time to get to the fun part - trying them out for size.

This part is all about how the rifle feels in your hands and whether its fit and overall design are comfortable for you.

When you’ve got the right one, you’ll feel it.

It’ll make itself known to you.

Everyone has their own preference, and there’s no real right or wrong when it comes to how the rifle feels in your hands.

The most important bit here is that you don’t just pick the first rifle you come across. Hold it, try the weight, spin it in your hands, and see how it feels.

If your intuition tells you that something feels a little off, it’s a bit heavy, a bit light, or just doesn’t feel like you want it to, don’t tell yourself that you’ll probably get used to it over time.

You’ll regret that.

Keep it in mind, sure, but don't hesitate to try out different rifles at local gun shops or borrow from fellow shooting enthusiasts–it’ll help you figure out what feels good and what doesn’t.

As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the shooting – or something like that, right?

A Note on Safety

Just like with any other serious tool, safety is always the numero uno priority when handling a rifle.

Here are a few ground rules that every gun owner must know inside and out before they pick up their first purchase:

  • Always treat your gun as if it were loaded, even when you're confident it's not.

  • Keep your finger away from the trigger until you're ready to shoot.

  • Be sure not only of your target but what's beyond it as well.

  • And, of course, lock your rifle up responsibly when you’re not using it.

You can visit the NRA's gun safety rules for a comprehensive gun safety guideline.

As Spidey says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Let's keep it safe out there and live by these rules.

Wrapping Up

Now you know all there is to know before picking up your first rifle!

These tips should act as a trusty roadmap as you navigate the world of rifles. From envisioning your purpose, considering the caliber, analyzing the length and weight, and understanding ergonomics to considering safety, you're now fully equipped to dive into the life of a rifle owner.

Got more questions or need some personal advice? Don't forget, here at Fun Guns, we’re ready and eager to guide you on your personal firearm journey.

Contact us here for queries or visit us in-store at 3701 Franklin Ave, Waco, TX 76710.

Happy shooting, and see you at the range!

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