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5 Things to Look for in a New Hunting Rifle

Looking for a new hunting rifle? Remember these five features.

When being fired, a rifle is often described as an extension of yourself. And when shopping for a new rifle, a buyer has to decide what kind of hunter he is and what is important to him.

Here are five things any shooter should think about before they make their purchase.

1. Single-stage vs two-stage triggers

Back in the days before cell phones, flat screens and the Internet, rifles only fired with a single-stage trigger, which were heavier and thus less accurate. This led to efforts to lighten the trigger and increase precision, but raised the risk of accidental firings by this “hair trigger” out in the field.

The two-stage was born as a compromise between the two, allowing a shooter to mechanically switch between the heavier (safer) trigger and lighter (more accurate) ones. For especially less seasoned hunters, the option to switch between the two and get more comfortable with each is ideal.

2. Recoil pad

Just about every shooter can remember coming home from the range with a bruised shoulder due to some rather nasty recoil from whatever they were firing.

That’s why any new rifle should also be equipped with a recoil pad, a piece of foam, rubber or leather that reduces recoil and allows a shooter to focus on the target and not the kick that would otherwise occur. Some of the more popular brands of pads are the Pachmayr Decelerator and the LimbSaver.

3. Iron sights vs. telescopic lens

Most rifles come with one of two sights, iron or telescopic, and if you’re like most hunters you’ll want to go with the latter. Telescopic sights, or “scopes,” use a series of lenses to magnify the target from long distances and greatly increases precision.

However they offer a limited field of vision and are not as conducive to quick firing, while iron sights are also more advantageous in bad weather conditions. But if you are usually going to be in fixed locations and value accuracy above all else, the scope is your answer.

4. Stocks: Synthetic or Wood?

Synthetic stocks offer a number of advantages, but the one area they can’t compete in is looks. Just as a 1963 Aston Martin will always look better than a 2014 Toyota Fit, many hunters will always gravitate towards a classic-looking rifle with a nice walnut stock because they wouldn’t want to be seen with anything else.

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Aesthetics aside, synthetics are much more durable and able to withstand the kind of damage that rain, sweat or humidity would more easily cause a wood stock to crack. Synthetics make the rifle lighter than wood, and if you really care about appearance some synthetics can be painted. If you want your stock to be camouflaged or look like Hello Kitty, then go nuts.

5. Barrel length

There has long been a debate about how much the length of the barrel affects accuracy, which perhaps is why many manufacturers for a while seemed to be favoring length.

One brand that is going the other way is SIG SAUER, which recently introduced a line of factory built SBRs to meet increasing demand for short-barreled rifles. While short-barreled rifles are lighter and easier to carry (especially in dense areas), longer barrels do improve velocity and accuracy, especially if you are using iron sights.

But with the advent of scopes effectively making that issue moot, a few inches is not going to make much difference for most hunters.

5 Things to Look for in a New Hunting Rifle