Best Hunting Rifles, Shotguns & Handguns

When going on a hunting trip, you’re going to want to bring the right firearm for the job. Any old seasoned hunter can tell you the gun you choose to hunt with makes the world of a difference; but how do you pick the best hunting rifle, shotgun, or handgun?

In short, it depends on your prey and your distance. Any of our recommendations will last for years to come. The thing you want to consider most is what you are going to be hunting and so we’ve broken the recommendations up into three categories:

  • Big game hunting
  • Small game hunting
  • Waterfowl Hunting

Here, we lay out the best hunting rifles for beginner hunters. It doesn’t matter whether you’re hunting squirrels, ducks, or elk, this article is for you.

Hunting Big Game (Deer, Stag, Elk)

You can take down big game with a handgun, shotgun, or a rifle but a rifle is normally preferred for deer hunting, elk hunting, or stag hunting.

Deer & Stag Hunting

When deer hunting in the US, it’s generally seen as unethical and unpractical to use anything lower than a .22 caliber. While a 22 can kill a deer unless shot in the head, lung, or high shoulder deer kill shot, it will take a while to die. The best deer hunting caliber is between .25-.30. 

Best Deer hunting rifle

TIKKA T3x Hunter

Tikka has guaranteed that, so long as you use good ammo, your shots will remain inside a 1-inch circle at 100 yards.

The Tikka T3x hunter’s features are the top of what you’ll find in this price range.

Remember, having a humane kill is important. A well-aimed shot in the lungs or heart is the most humane kill zone. Caliber is imperative as well because a lighter round won’t have the power to quickly kill a larger animal.

Elk Hunting

The Elk possesses a bold, strong sense of smell & acute hearing abilities; They can spot a hunter from a hundred yards away.

Once they start catching on to your movements, they’ll take off into the deep forest & that will most likely be the end of elk hunting for that day.

When hunting for Elk, you have to be prepared. The greatest factor that’ll be a game-changer for you is your rifle. You can just go hunting with any rifle, but you need the best rifle for elk hunting.

Best Elk Hunting Rifle

The Kimber Model 84M Classic

Elk are large animals, weighing over 600 lbs. Making it easier for them to take a huge hit & still be on their feet. This means that you need the best hunting rifle when tracking an elk.

For accuracy and power with as little recoil as possible, we go with one of the best elk guns on the market, The KIMBER MODEL 84M CLASSIC. This is a bolt action rifle, chambered in short action 7mm-08 REM, 243 wins. It also features a trigger that is adjustable and releases at 3.6 to 4 pounds. The 308 for elk is a great caliber for this type of gun.

Wild Hog hunting

Here’s a species that has become somewhat of a nuisance in the US. Wild Hog populations have exploded in recent years. More & more big game huntsmen are realizing they can add the words "hog hunter" to their resume as these critters invade their home areas.

Hunters have started to actively look for a dedicated gun to hunt hogs.

Best Hog Hunting Rifles - Ruger Mini 14

This was a tough decision, but in the end, it came down to straight-up power. The Ruger mini 14 is an awesome option for anyone wanting a semi-automatic AR-15 shooting experience in a more traditional hunting rifle package.

There are several different variations on the M-14 with different style stocks and barrels. Some stock models arrive with magazine capacities of up to 20 rounds, however, you are able to get larger aftermarket ones. This lets you put a load of rounds down range & take down a whole group of hogs.

Small game hunting

Unlike with bigger game, small game will go down easily with most calibers. Common small game include Rabbits or varmints like racoons and rats.

Rabbit hunting

Rabbit hunting can be greatly rewarding if you’re willing to put in the work tracking them. They are speedy little creatures so you’ll have to be quick and ready with your shot. Having a hunting dog with you will be of great value. You can easily hunt rabbits with a shotgun, rifle, or handgun.

Best rabbit hunting shotgun - Remington 870 20-gauge

Using a small rifle would be handy for rabbits or any small game but we decided to go with the Remington 870 20-gauge. It’s hard to go over shotguns without bringing up the 870. Along with the Mossberg, it is probably one of the most proven & widely used shotguns out there, responsible for more than its fair share of rabbits being caught.

Varmint hunting

Hunting pests has its own appeal. Since these animals aren’t normally killed for their meat, you can use any caliber .20 or higher to take them down.

Best Rifle for Varmint hunting - Remington 700 Varmint SF

Discussing the best varmint rifle wouldn’t be complete without including the ubiquitous Remington Model 700. The Varmint Stainless Fluted model was built especially for predator hunters & is available in a number of varmint calibers as well as the heavy-hitting .308 Winchester. The .308 has proved useful for hunters having to deal with larger pests or even big game like feral hogs, deer, and bears.

Waterfowl-Duck hunting

Waterfowl include ducks, swans, and any similar animals swimming around the marsh. Shotguns have been the standard for taking down these animals.

Best waterfowl shotguns

The Stoeger M3500 Waterfowl & Remington V3 Pro Waterfowl are our picks for hunting waterfowl. Both are inertia driven firearms that allow for customization and adding of scopes for better sight.

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