Beware the man with one rifle -- he likely knows how to use it.
Part of the allure of shooting is the variety of rifles, actions, sights and
cartridges. It's fun shooting a pump-action one day, a
lever the next and an autoloader after that. It's a treat to plink with a .17 rimfire and get rocked by a 375 H&H Magnum.
But it's not consistent training.
A rifle system means using the same basic action and set-up in all your
rifles. If you shoot a pump-action 270 Winchester
for deer and elk, then get a 22 Long Rifle pump action for bunnies and
squirrels. If your deer rifle is a lever-action, your 22 rimfire
should be, too. Even if they are of different weight and length, you'll at
least operate them the same way, and that can help in your training and muscle
If, like many shooters, you're going to experiment with several
calibers/cartridges over the years (fun!), consider which actions/styles
accommodate those you're likely to want. The bolt-action, most common these
days, is an easy choice. You can find bolt-action repeaters chambered for every
cartridge from 22 Long Rifle through .458 Lott. Lever-actions aren't quite as
versatile, but they're made from rimfires up to 300
Win. Mag. and a few big thumpers like 45-70 Govt., 405 Winchester and .50 Alaskan.
Pump-actions are falling out of favor, even though they are one of the
slickest, fastest cycling styles ever invented. The straight-line action makes
them easy to keep on target for follow-up shots. They're still made in 22 Long
Rifle through some pretty potent elk rounds, but selection is limited.
Autoloaders are the growing thing. More and more AR-platforms are being
chambered for rimfires and big centerfires
up to 338 Win. Mag. These are
all generally heavier and bulkier than other action types, but if you like
autos, you'll find them.
Don't overlook single-shots. Whether break action or falling block, they're
elegant, accurate and often extremely versatile. Break actions usually let you
swap out barrels, so you can convert to virtually any caliber.
While you're setting up your rifle system, consider sticking with the same
kind of stocks (don't go from thumbhole to pistol grip to straight grip) and
sights. All peep or all scope, for instance.
And keeping the scopes all the same helps, too. I once had a scope that turned counterclockwise to increase
magnification. All my other scopes turned clockwise. In a rush to target a
distant bighorn, I blindly and instinctively reached up and turned the scope
from 6X down to 3X instead of up to 9X! I still made the shot, but my brain was
reeling when the ram looked even tinier than it had at first.
Consistency is the name of the game. Practice with a rimfire
that functions like your big game rifle and you'll perform better when seconds
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Ron Spomer has been photographing and writing
about the outdoors for nearly four decades. He's written seven books, hunted on
six continents and been published in more than 120 magazines. He's currently rifles'
editor at "Sporting Classics," Travel columnist at "Sports Afield," Field
Editor at "American Hunter" and "Guns & Ammo" -- Optics Columnist at "North American
Hunter," Contributing Editor at "Successful Hunter," Senior Writer at "Gun
Hunter," and TV host of "Winchester World of Whitetail." He will write on Shooting Tips weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You can read his
blogs and catch some of his YouTube videos at www.Ronspomeroutdoors.com.