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October 15, 2007

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Deer Guns

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that I began deer hunting with a slug gun. I can still recall the afternoon my best friend turned 21 and graduated to a “real” rifle—a bolt-action .270 Winchester Model 70. (No, this was a few years after 1964). I was standing next to him the first time he shot, and his smile was 9 yards wide. He killed a lot of deer with that rifle—and he still has it.

So, to me the “adult” deer rifle is a bolt-action, and most of the hunters I know—and their kids--use bolt-actions—mainly in .243, .270, or .30/06.

But there was a time when deer hunters favored lever actions and semi-autos. I was reminded of this when I was thumbing through a dog-eared copy of Larry Koller’s Book of Guns, first published in 1956 and long out of print. Here’s what he said regarding his deer rifle: “My choice for the ideal woods weapon for whitetail is the .35 Remington caliber in the Model 336 Marlin carbine. It is sudden death in the deer woods…Highly recommended also for the woods deer hunter is a pair of fast Remington rifles—the 760 slide-action and the 740 autoloader.” Here’s what he had to say about bolt-actions: “Bolt actions are on the slow side for most woods hunters for follow-up shots. However, outdoorsmen who have had military training in the use of the bolt-action rifle won’t find this objectionable.”

Times change, don’t they?

What do you prefer to shoot? (OL.com has their list.) Bolt-action? Pump? Semi-auto? Why?

Slaton White



It depends on the situation. If its in heavy brush were the shots are close and have to made quickly than i prefer a lever action rifle with heavy bullets. Out in the open where the shots are going to be out past about 100 yards then i prefer a bolt gun just because it is alot nicer to use a scope and the cartridge is better suited for the style of hunting.Just my opion but not all my shots are at 100+ yards and several deer have been shot in the head laying in their beds in the thick cedar swamp. Its also nicer to have a big chunk of lead when following a bear.

B. Cameron

In my little slice of NY, shotguns are the only option during regular season. My weapon of choice is an 870 with a rifled barrel and open sights. I've found that I can cycle and re-acquire a sight picture on that almost as fast as I can with a semi-auto anything. On the flip side, I haven't needed a follow-up shot on any deer yet...

I always cringe a little bit when I hear some yahoo getting trigger happy with his semi on opening day - but what the heck, it pushes the deer my way!


My first deer rifle was a Winchester 30-30 lever gun. My best friend at the time had a .35 Remington lever gun. Im curious to see how many peoples first gun was a lever action?

Chris H.

My first deer gun was a Marlin 30-30 lever action. Since then I've had a .270 bolt, a 7mm mag bolt, and a .308 bolt. I also have a single shot .243 just for kicks but I love my bolt actions.


Thats two who han 30-30 lever guns for thier first. I bet most that had them are baby boomers.


Chalk up another 30-30 Marlin for the first deer rifle!

My favorite now is a 6-9 scoped Remington 7400 in 30.06.
Easy on the shoulder, quick follow up (have never needed it, 20+ deer)
at home in the brush or at a fields edge.


One more lever-action-was-my-first-deer-rifle here. A Marlin 336 .30-30 that now wears a Nikon scope. It's taken a lot of deer over the years. I've got other guns (bolt actions, semi-autos, and one pump), but that Marlin is still my favorite.


I would really like to have a ruger no.. My dream gun. I knew there would be alot of 30-30 lever actions for first guns. Pretty cool!


Ruger no. 1 ! sorry bout the typo.


First deer rifle I "carried" was my grampa's Marlin 336SC in .30-30 Win. First "deer" rifle I purchased was a Parker-Hale in .270 Win. Still have both! Still kill deer with both! Prefer lever gun w/ iron sights in tight spots, scoped bolt in more open areas. Longest shot I ever made was with, of all things, the .30-30. A tad over 200 yards. The longest shot I've ever made with the .270 was probably within 150 yards.
I'll admit that the long shot with the .30-30 was a fluke. Deer and I spotted each other at same time. I hunkered down and laid rifle across tree stump. Was trying to decide if buck was legal. (Rifle scoped at the time) I didn't even realize I had cocked the rifle. (Gimme a break, I was 17 and "very, very" intelligent!) Deer facing dead on with neck stretched up to look at me. Juncture of crosshairs in 4X scope looked like it had sprouted ears and spiked antlers, suddenly rifle discharged and deer jumped and ran about 20 yards, fell over dead.
Bullet entered right shoulder, exited at last rib on left side, re-entered left hip, bullet was under hide on rump! Through and through at 200 yds with a .30-30!


Marvin Sartin

My first deer rifle was a M94 30-30. Been through them all over the years. My favorite was a 7x57. Now I restrict myself to hunting with Freedom Arms revolvers.

Scott in Ohio

Born in '66 my first rifle was a Savage bolt-action .30-06 given to me by my Grandfather. First rifle I bought was a Browning A-bolt in .270. My son just turned 12 and will hunt deer his first time this fall in PA with a Browning BLR (lever) in .243. I'll be in the stand with a Savage 99. Guess I'm going backwards but all the talk and articles has me hankering to try the lever route.


my first is deer kill was amarlin 30-30 cs


The first deer I killed was with a borrowed Marlin 30-30. Since then I graduated Up. My favorite rifle tho is the Remington 742 in 30-06 (GO Autoloaders!) I got it as a birthday gift from my Dad. Now that was a birthday! Most kids started on a 30-30 for simple reasons.. (lighter recoil, and inexpensive)
Who would buy a kid a Weatherby to drop, scratch, ding, and generaly disrespect?