With so many new options on the firearms market, there's sure to be one that perfectly matches your whitetail needs.
By Layne Simpson
When it comes to available firearms, we deer hunters have never had it so good. From centerfire rifles to slug guns to muzzleloaders and even handguns, there are now more great options than ever. Let's go shopping.
With its optional fluted barrel and laminated thumbhole stock, the T/C Omega is a serious muzzleloader.
The Thompson/Center G2 and Encore are today's most versatile deer guns; their interchangeable barrel capability can make them all things to all hunters.
For starters, the G2 Contender rifle and handgun are now available in more than a dozen chamberings. Not all of them are appropriate for whitetails, but the list includes .22 Long Rifle, .17 HMR, .22 Hornet, .357 Mag., .44 Mag., .30-30 Win. and .45-70 Government. Lengths are 14 inches for the handgun barrel and 23 inches for the rifle barrel.
Latest chambering is the .375 JDJ, which is basically the .444 Marlin case necked down for .375-caliber bullets. It shoves a 220-grain bullet from a 23-inch barrel at 2300 feet per second. The G2 Contender is also available in 209x45 configuration, a .45-caliber inline muzzleloader designed to use the 209 shotshell primer for ignition.
Moving up to an even more powerful firearm, the Encore rifle and handgun are now chambered for over a dozen deer cartridges, including .243 Win., .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag., .30-06, .308 Win., .405 Win., .375 JDJ, .450 Marlin and .45-70 Government. Standard barrel lengths for the Encore pistol are 12 and 15 inches, while rifle barrels are 24 and 26 inches. A carbine version called the Katahdin has an 18-inch barrel. Switch out the centerfire rifle barrel with the optional 209x45 or 209x50 barrel and you have transformed your Encore into a .45- or .50-caliber inline muzzleloader.
Is your hunting area one in which only slugs can be used in gun season? If you shoot an Encore, that's no problem -- simply switch to a fully rifled 12-gauge slug barrel and you're all set. What's more, you're not even limited to deer with this firearm. When spring has sprung and you want to hunt turkeys with your deer gun, swap out its slug barrel with a smoothbore barrel replete with extra-full choke and adjustable sights with fiber-optic inserts. You can get the Encore in blued or stainless steel.
One of my favorite inline muzzleloaders, the T/C Omega, is now available in five combinations. The stainless steel gun is offered with a choice of four stocks: black synthetic, camo synthetic, and laminated wood with regular or thumbhole-style grips. The blued-steel version comes only with a black synthetic stock. All are available in .50 caliber, and the two with black synthetic stocks also can be had in .45 caliber.
The Rifled Deer version of the Browning Gold 12-gauge shotgun has a cantilever-style scope mount permanently attached to its 22-inch barrel.
Along with its European styling, the new ShortTrac version of the gas-operated BAR autoloader is available in short chamberings such as .243 Win., .308 Win. and three Winchester Short Magnums in .270, 7mm and .300 calibers. The LongTrac version is offered in longer cartridges such as the .270 Win., .30-06, 7mm Rem. Mag. and .300 Win. Mag.
Each variation has a lightweight aluminum receiver and synthetic trigger guard. Depending on caliber and barrel length, nominal weights run from 6 3/4 to 7 1/2 pounds. The standard BAR with steel receiver ranges from 7 1/4 to 8 1/2.
Utilizing a titanium receiver, a lightweight 23-inch stainless steel barrel and a synthetic stock, Browning brought the weight of the new Mountain Ti version of the A-Bolt rifle in at only 5 1/2 pounds. Add a sensibly sized scope, a magazine full of cartridges and a lightweight nylon carrying sling, and the one you carry up the mountain in search of a big buck shouldn't weigh much over 7 1/4 pounds.
For now, the Mountain Ti is available in the three Winchester Short Magnum chamberings of .270, 7mm and .300 calibers. As other Browning A-Bolts go, the .223 Rem., .223 WSSM and .25 WSSM are now available in the Hunter, Varmint Stalker, Composite Stalker and Medallion.
Not long ago, I shot a nice buck with the Rifled Deer version of the Browning Gold 12-gauge slug gun. It has a blued metal finish, a walnut stock and a cantilever-style scope mount permanently attached to its 22-inch fully rifled barrel. It's now available in two other versions: one with Mossy Oak's Break-Up camo, the other with a black synthetic stock.
Browning also offers a deer-gun version of its BPS 12-gauge slide-action shotgun. It has a 22-inch rifled barrel and a walnut stock.
Hunters who sit in a stand and take deer at long range will appreciate the superb accuracy of the M1000 Eclipse version of the A-Bolt rifle. The one I shot was in .270 Win., and it averaged groups under an inch at 100 yards with six of the 10 factory loads I tried. Many other chamberings also are available, including 7mm Rem. Mag. and .270, as well as 7mm and .300 WSMs.
Browning doesn't overlook lever gun fans, either. The BLR is now available in nine chamberings, from the gentle .22-250 Rem. and .243 Win. to the far-reaching .270 WSM and .300 Win. Mag.
Until recently, all firearms imported by the Kansas firm CZ-USA were of Czech origin. Most still are, but the new Model 3 is an exception.
Available in .270 WSM, 7mm WSM and .300 WSM, it is manufactured in the U.S. Slated to eventually be available with both left- and right-hand actions, the Model 3 has a three-position safety on its bolt shroud, plus an adjustable trigger. The barreled action is stainless steel, and its stock is black walnut with cut checkering at the wrist and forearm.
My favorite CZ whitetail rifle out to 125 yards or so is the Model 527 Car
bine in 7.62x39mm Russian. Federal, Winchester and Remington load the cartridge with a 123-grain softnose bullet at 2300 feet per second, and it delivers about the same energy at 100 yards as the .30-30 Win. But recoil is lighter, making it a top choice for a kid's first deer rifle.
In addition to a detachable magazine and 18 1/2-inch barrel, the 527 has controlled cartridge feed, and its trigger is the single-set type. Stock options include walnut, maple and brown wood laminate. With a weight of 6 pounds and an overall length of 42 inches, the 527 is light and handy. It also comes with rings for scope mounting.
Those shooting whitetails at longer ranges can opt for the Model 550, with its longer action in a variety of chamberings, including .243 Win., 6.5x55 Swedish, .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag., .308 Win. and .30-06 Springfield. Its features include a Mauser-style claw extractor, square-bridge receiver with integral scope-mounting base, and single-set trigger. Two basic styles are available: FS, with Mannlicher-style stock and a 20 1/2-inch barrel, and American, with a 23 1/2-inch barrel.
The new Ruger Super Blackhawk, available in .44 Magnum, is designed to provide reliable performance on big game.
Hunters who prefer compact rifles for shooting from tree stands will find several from Ruger that fit the description. For shots no farther than 100 yards, the Model 96/44 lever-action in .44 Mag., the Deerfield 99/44 in .44 Mag., and the Mini-30 autoloader in 7.62x39mm Russian are all worthy of consideration. Each has an 18 1/2-inch barrel, measures less than 38 inches overall and is very light; even when wearing a scope. Neither carbine will exceed 8 1/4 pounds.
Staying with short, lightweight rifles but increasing effective range with more powerful chamberings, we arrive at the Model 77CR Compact. It has a 16 1/2-inch barrel and is available in .243 Win., .260 Rem., 7mm-08 Rem., and .308 Win. The rifle weighs around 6 pounds.
Single-shot fans have the No. 1 International, with its Mannlicher-style stock and 20-inch barrel in .243 Win., .270 Win., 7x57mm Mauser and .30-06 Springfield.
Ruger's Model 77/50 inline muzzleloader has taken a lot of whitetails in recent years. It is now available in blued steel with beech, synthetic or walnut stock and stainless steel with a laminated wood or synthetic stock.
Like muzzleloading, handgunning for deer is becoming more popular as hunters look for new ways to challenge themselves in the field. Several Ruger revolvers in .41 Mag., .44 Mag., .45 Colt, .454 Casull and .480 Ruger are up to the task. Attaching a scope to the single-action Super Blackhawk Hunter and the double-action Super Red-hawk is a quick and easy process.
The Sporter LT version of Winchester's Model 70 Classic offers left-handed shooters several great deer cartridges.
For 2004, U.S. Repeating Arms has announced availability of the new .25 Winchester Super Short Magnum chambering in blued, stainless and camo variations of the Winchester Model 70 Ultimate Shadow rifle. This provides deer hunters with the performance of the .25-06 in a shorter cartridge. The new chambering is also available in the Classic Featherweight version.
Left-handed shooters will be pleased to learn that Feather-weight and Sporter versions of the Model 70 now are available with the bolt handle on the port side. The southpaw Feather-weight is available in three WSM chamberings in .270, 7mm and .300 caliber; Sporter options include those three, plus .270 Win., .30-06, 7mm Rem. Mag. and .300 Win. Mag.
The latest Model 94 lever-action is called the Timber, and it's a powerhouse. Chambered for the .450 Marlin cartridge, it has an 18-inch ported barrel, three-quarter magazine, walnut stock with Pachmayr recoil pad, and quick-detach sling swivel posts. The rifle even comes from the factory with an aperture sight. This is the "woods" gun you want to be carrying when it's important that you not face a long trailing job in recovering your buck.
This year's introduction of the Timber brings the total number of available Model 94 variations to five: the Legacy, Ranger, Traditional-CW and plain Traditional. If you feel the .450 Marlin is more cartridge than you need for deer, you can choose among the .30-30, .44 Mag. and .45 Colt.
Winchester slug guns are well known for bringing home the venison. Now the Cantilever Deer Gun version of the Super X2 autoloader has a cantilever-style scope mount, adjustable sights with fiber-optic inserts, and a fully rifled 22-inch barrel. The Dura-Touch coating on its synthetic stock offers a sure grip.
For those who'd rather pump shells into the chamber, there are five versions of the Model 1300. Full-sized versions include the Black Shadow, with synthetic stock and either adjustable open sights or cantilever scope mount; the Ranger Deer, with walnut stock and open sights; and the Camp Defender, with a smoothbore barrel for Foster-Type slug loads. For smaller shooters, the 20-gauge Ranger Deer Compact has a rifled barrel and adjustable sights.
Other available "youth" guns from Winchester include the Model 70 Compact in .243 and 7mm-08, Model 94 Ranger Compact in .357 Mag. and .30-30, the Model 9410 Packer Compact in .410, and the Model 1300 Sporting Field Compact in 20 gauge.