Skip to main content

Do You Believe Shotguns Are Safer Than Rifles for Hunting Deer?

Whether you believe it or not, the science is loud and clear.

You often hear a lot of hunters and anti-hunters alike claim that rifles are more dangerous than shotguns and should be restricted when it comes to hunting deer. People believe shotguns are safer than rifles because rifles fire bullets that travel farther than traditional slugs, therefore they are more dangerous to bystanders and other hunters.

I will admit, I have made that same statement myself when my own home state of Indiana put rifles on the ballot this past year. Ultimately, the use of rifles for deer hunting was voted down due to safety concerns.

Had I actually looked up the facts on this story, I would have changed my tune.


In a study by Todd S. Bacastow, Ph.D in Pennsylvania, shotguns and rifles were put to the test as far as ballistics are concerned. The conclusions absolutely go against common knowledge.

This study took into consideration that most hunters exercise caution when firing their gun. It also considered that the average shot was either aimed at the ground past a deer from a treestand at an angle, or standing on the ground fired approximately three feet above the ground at a deer on a flat trajectory.

As the study showed, once trajectories were computed for the average 30-06, 150-grain bullet with a 2,910 feet per second muzzle velocity, and the average slug at 385 grams with a 1,900 feet per second muzzle velocity aimed at a level line three feet above the ground, slugs traveled farther in conjunction with a ricochet.

Surprisingly, that ricochet happened 100 percent of the time.

Deer Hunting Rifle

The end result was that the rifle shot traveled 1,408 feet until initial impact with the ground followed by a ricochet maxing out at 4,835 feet. That is a difference of 3,427 feet.

The slug traveled 840 feet until it made contact with the ground. From there it took off 4,365 feet until it finally settled down 5,205 feet away.

Simple ballistics is the final conclusion. Slugs stay mostly intact longer after hitting the ground and also keep 95 percent of their fired energy. Therefore, shotguns are actually more dangerous than rifles in regards to a ricochet.

The overall odds of either a rifle or shotgun fired in the woods causing injury is very minor. Unfortunately, sometimes it does happen. Accidents occur all the time. However, if all hunters followed simple gun safety rules and always knew what was behind their target, accidents would be greatly reduced.

Maybe next time the rifle debate comes up near you, hopefully you can remember this article and throw some statistics at them.


you might also like

Do You Believe Shotguns Are Safer Than Rifles for Hunting Deer?