Is there such a thing as too much rifle?


February 12, 2009, 02:27 PM
Howdy highroaders. I've been reading old posts on this board for weeks and I thought I might get some good answers here.

There are no hunters in my family but now that I'm out of college I want to start deer hunting. Still-hunting to be specific. I've always loved walking the woods.

It seems like people bring an awful lot of gun with them considering that the majority of kills happen within 200 yards. As a novice I wouldnt trust myself beyond that range, but that doesnt mean I don't want to practice long-range marksmanship.

To the point, if I'm looking at rifles should I forgo my dreams of a long distance rifle like a Remington 700 5R milspec, and consider something more along the lines of a Marlin 336?

The hard times have just begun, and as its my first year out of school I'm definitely feeling it. It makes more economical sense to look for a used 336 and I think it makes more sense for still-hunting, but I can't put the 700 5R out of my head.

Have any of you been in a similar position? What would you do?

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February 12, 2009, 02:32 PM
So I shot this sick bunny one time with a 30-06. That was probably too much rifle (blew the back half of the critter right of, I mean it was practically dead before the bullet hit it).

As for killing deer, and such, you'll want an accurate rifle (bolt in most cases are most accurate) more than a particularly large caliber. I would be happy hunting deer and elk my whole life with a 308. I think if you practice, killing deer is quite reasonable out to 400 yards. I've only killed one under 100 yards (with a rifle).

A more mainstream caliber will allow that practice that will make you a better hunter. Getting the 300 RUM or some large 338+ magnum will make practice less effective and less often (and more expensive).

February 12, 2009, 02:34 PM
For still hunting Whitetails you are certainly well equipped with a Marlin 336 in 30-30 or .35 Rem.

February 12, 2009, 02:40 PM
Remington 750 semi auto in 308 Win...faster and smoother than a lever action in my opinion, and the shots often involve quick shots at moving targets when still hunting.

They offer it in a carbine...very short and handy.

Art Eatman
February 12, 2009, 02:45 PM
About the only real reason the .30-30 isn't a 300-yard shooter is that the iron sights on most lever actions don't allow the necessary precision for a clean-kill shot.

A good-used Marlin 336 would be plenty good for Bambi, most any time, anywhere. Any halfway-decent fixed 4X scope in the mid-price range would be all that is needed, if your eyes are happier with a scope than without.

I've always figured that one's skill for clean kills pretty much depends on the distance at which you can reliably hit the end of a beer can. A really good rest in the field lets you reach out farther than just leaning against a tree, or holding for offhand shots. You learn your limits by practicing...

February 12, 2009, 02:55 PM
"Is there such a thing as too much rifle?"

Absolutely, especially for a new shooter.

Too much power, large bore, will get a new shooter to flinch before the shot, anticipating recoil.

There is overkill in everything, same for rifle calibers. Do you really need the latest, greatest, .650 Zombyelephant Super Magnum to take a 125 lb. deer?

Does anybody want to put up with punishing recoil if they don't have to?

Also, be assured, large bore cartridges are super expensive.

Many good choices mentioned here, levers are fine.

February 12, 2009, 03:50 PM
There's many different kinds of "too much rifle" out there. Shooting a javelina with a soft point 7.62x54R, for example; hope you like your meat exploded because there's not going to be much left around the impact site. Or shooting a heavy magnum caliber that far exceeds the needs for the game you're hunting and will hurt you.

February 12, 2009, 04:07 PM
I'd consider any bigger than a .30-06 too much rifle for any part of the lower 48.

February 12, 2009, 04:24 PM
Are you going to be hunting in the Smokey Mountains, or ??

A Marlin 30-30 would suit you just fine in that area. I have one, but myself would prefer a decent bolt action. For all practical purposes someone with a little experience can accuratly shoot a bolt action just as fast as about anything else.

I've scene a few people in search of levers lately that say they can find them for around 200.00. Where I live used ones are in the 300-350.00 range.

If you look you can pick up a decent bolt action with a decent scope for around 400-500.00 If you really look you can find them even cheaper, just might take some time.

A bolt in .308 or 30-06 will work anywhere in any kind of terrain in the lower 48 just fine.

February 12, 2009, 04:38 PM
I love the 336 and I own one.

However there is a lot of room between yoru dream rifle and a used 336.

Actually a used 308 or 30-06 bolt action shooter (Savage, Stevens or Sporterized rebarreled Mauser) in very good or excellent conditions and often with a scope can be had for the same price as a good used 336 (minimum $220-250 in my area in western WA) if not even less.

If you are willing to stretch $100 more or so, you can get a brand new Stevens or Savage (308, 30-06 or 7 mm) in combo with your run of the mill 3-9X 40 scope on sale, ranging from $299 to $399, basically every other week at one of the big box sporting goods stores.

So if you like a more long range and more punch there are choices with the same budget for a used 30-30.

Caliber.....I would say you do not need anything over 308, 30-06 or 7 mm Remington Magnum in the lower 48.....personally I prefer the 30-06 because of its fantastic versatility in terms of bullet weight....with the toughest loads and heaviest bullets with a 30-06 you are covered in Alaska too.....and you can buy ammo basically even at the grocery store!!!

That said, a Marlin 336 is a fantastic rifle and a fantastic round, within its range limitation...with a longer barrel bolt action 30-06 you get a much more versatile tool...

Finally, if you budget is extremely tight and you do not care for a scope, you can always get a Mosin Nagant 91/30 military surplus in one of the big box stores for $80-90.
Tough as nail, excellent and cheap cartridge (same class as a 30-06) and very accurate if you get a specimen in very good conditions...part of the fun actually is the hunt for the gem!!!

But if you do not know what to look for, bring with you an experienced friend...this is true with any used gun.

February 12, 2009, 04:40 PM
Having used a .45-70 with a Lyman Postell bullet on a jackrabbit, I guess I'd have to say "no."

February 12, 2009, 05:21 PM
A 30-30 is perfect for still hunting in the woods. Marlin 336 is good, Winchester 94 is better (IMHO) with open sights.

A long, heavy bolt rifle with a larger scope on top is a hindrance. Get the 30-30 now, it fits in your budget, then save for the bolt rifle over time and get it later.

February 12, 2009, 05:47 PM
I've been still hunting exclusively for almost 30 years now. Farthest shot has been about 110 yards while hunting in this manner. When young and blessed with good vision, I used two lever 336 derivatives with peeps, one a .444 Marlin, the other a .45-70. Killed over a dozen deer with the two rifles. I would have used a .30-30 in their place if I had one. I did shift to bolt action rifles because of their flatter and farther shooting cartridges. Haven't needed the distance in the last 20+ years of carrying such. I intend to use a Ruger Model 77 International chambered in .308 or my Deerfield (.44 Mag) when I get old enough that rifle weight becomes a major factor. The rifles will share the 1-4x Leupold I like for the stalking and close shots that prevail (many have been under 50 yards). Again, if I had a .30-30 I would gladly use it. I like the Marlin, because, for me, it handles better when scoped than a Winchester 94 does.
I now need scopes for hunting due to aging eyes that are not able to respond to sights and target fast enough with peeps to be effective on running game in the shady woods I hunt. If you can use peeps effectively, take a look at the Mossberg .30-30 lever just now being offered, seems to be quite a good buy IMO.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
February 12, 2009, 05:48 PM
To the point, if I'm looking at rifles should I forgo my dreams of a long distance rifle like a Remington 700 5R milspec, and consider something more along the lines of a Marlin 336?

Yes. Doesn't have to be a Marlin 336 (though that it NOT a bad choice); it just needs to be a LIGHTWEIGHT rifle, amenable to carry all morning or all afternoon on a stalking hunt. There are many lightweight rifles - the lightest ones are the ones typically marketed as "mountain" rifles - they are turnbolts with short barrels lightweight stocks & actions - even with scope they can be well under 7.5-8 lbs. The caliber choice for the light rifles is still myriad, but you'd be well advised to get one that doesn't beat you up - say, a 7mm-08 or smaller.

And yes, you can have too much gun. Shoot a squirrel with a .308 and see how much meat you have left. Or a yearly southern doe with a .50 bmg, or.....

February 12, 2009, 06:12 PM
As others have said, get a lever gun now and buy yourself a bolt gun in the future to go with the 30-30.
A lever gun with a set of peep sights can be quite an accurate gun. A big old giant scope on a bolt gun will help you look at what you are trying to shoot but it doesn't gaurantee that you will hit it.
Most folks have a favorite in the Marlin against Winchester argument but the Winchesters have gotten somewhat crazy in price since the New Haven factory shut down so anyone on a fairly tight budget pretty much has to go with the new or used Marlins.
Up in New England Used Marlins in real nice shape can be had for $250-$300 and there are deals on perfectly usefull dinged up guns starting at $175.
A good scope for your bolt gun will cost all of that and a set of peep sights ($75-$90) are about what you could spend on rings for that bolt gun scope.

If you get yourself up to speed (practise!) that 30-30 slug going 2000FPS when it blows through the heart and lungs of a deer will kill it just as dead as a 300 win mag going 2900fps.

30-30 practise ammo at wall mart $14/20, 300 win mag $35 when you can find it

February 12, 2009, 06:26 PM
I think you made your decision:
The hard times have just begun, and as its my first year out of school I'm definitely feeling it. It makes more economical sense to look for a used 336 and I think it makes more sense for still-hunting, but I can't put the 700 5R out of my head.

Your "dream" rifle doesn't have to leave your head..and while you're enjoying that 336, your dream rifle might just change.. go with your gut, it's a good choice.

February 12, 2009, 06:28 PM
If you get yourself up to speed (practise!) that 30-30 slug going 2000FPS when it blows through the heart and lungs of a deer will kill it just as dead as a 300 win mag going 2900fps.
How about at 450 yards with a 10mph crosswind, is the 30-30 still optimal?

30-30 practise ammo at wall mart $14/20, 300 win mag $35 when you can find it 300 win mag is certainly more expensive, but by no means hard to find.

February 12, 2009, 06:58 PM
Have a very good time finding a .30-30 round doing 2k fps at 100y. The leverloution claims to be that fast, but I have yet to see a chrono test done by an independent party.

February 12, 2009, 07:02 PM
Marlin 336 in 30-30 works for me. I've never had the need to scope it (has Williams FP), and none of the deer I've taken were outside 100 yards. I've practiced quite a bit with the LeverE ammo, and feel comfortable I could go well outside that distance. The need has never arisen.
I guess throwing 170 grains of lead over 2000fps with a ton of energy just doesn't command much respect anymore from anything but the deer.

February 12, 2009, 07:05 PM
Put a Marbles tang sight on the 336 and learn to use it and you can hunt effectively out to 400 yd. It is better at 200 to 300 though. When I was a bush pilot in Alaska hunters asked me "what caliber should I bring?" I always told them "bring the one you shoot the best." Any center fire bigger than .22 will do for anything in the Western Hemisphere except dangerous game. For dangerous game bring the biggest one you can shoot effectively.:)

February 12, 2009, 07:09 PM
A 336 in 30-30 is the perfect deer gun and plenty enough rifle for shots under 300 yards. You can easily scope a 336 also don't let people tell you that you shouldn't. Some people are against it because they say it ruins the aesthetics of the rifle but it is not a fashion contest. A 336 with a 1-4x, 2-7x or even 3-9x is a deer killing machine.

Red Tornado
February 12, 2009, 07:23 PM
If you've got a shot over 100 yards in middle TN, you're in an area I haven't seen. The 30/30 is almost the perfect first deer rifle. I've got a 4x scope on my 336 because my eyes aren't that good, and it'll shoot 1 1/4" at 100yds off a rest. I'm not that good in the field, but I know a miss will never be the rifles fault.

I don't remember the ballistics, but if you zero 2" at 100 yards, you're point blank "I think" close to 200 yards. If you're good enough to need more distance, used 30-06s can be found cheap and readily available.

February 12, 2009, 07:41 PM
A 336 is a joy to carry through the brush. I agree with the peep sight.

One alternative not mentioned is a Scout - type rifle. I like the Savage Scout in .308 with a 4x Laupold M8 scope. It's easy to carry, points quickly and I can hit the targets slightly better than with a 336.

30-30 or 30-06 ammo is going to be the easiest to find almost anywhere. 30-06 or .308 can be found in military FMJ surplus for less expensive target practice and plinking (not for hunting).

As far as your dream rifle goes...I suggest you get a deer rifle now - many good suggestions above. The 336 is just about perfect for still hunting.

To shoot in competitions or for uber-accurate paper-punching, you will likely eventually want something that is just plain old not as practical for still hunting as a 336.

"Still hunting" (at least where I do it) involves a lot of ducking under, climbing over and pushing your way through nasty new-growth woods to move the deer around. And the only time I have REALLY had consistent luck while still hunting is when it's a pelting, windy, rain/ice mix (and I accidently cough to make an embarissingly-close deer twitch - it's happened WAY too many times to me. And rarely where I can take a clean shot).

Climbing, ducking and breaking through brush in a pelting rain or snow is not kind to slick dream rifles with nice big scopes.

A 336 with a good peep sight eats that stuff for breakfast. :)

When you DO get into competitions or paper-punching, a service rifle like an M1 Garand, an M1A or a AR19; an "F-Class" scoped rifle like a Savage F/TR; or your Remington 700 5R Milspec offer a whole different kind of fun.

Deer stand hunting maybe, but I would not want to take an expensive scoped sniper rifle out through the pucker brush scaring-up deer.

February 12, 2009, 07:55 PM
Good grief, jbech, that would be one helck of a great shot.

If my dad heard I'd taken a 450 yard shot with a 10 mph crosswind with any rifle, he'd drive three hours from Ellensburg to kick my butt, whether or not I got my buck.

But then, he's seen me shoot....

February 12, 2009, 08:18 PM

Welcome to The High Road. It sounds like you want a Marlin.

You could do worse. There's nothing wrong with a Marlin, or any other modern hunting rifle. You just have to choose the characteristics that are most important to you. You probably don't "need"- or even, truly, especially want a heavy, poorly balanced distance rifle if you only have the funds for one rifle and want to do other things like hunting. On the other hand, if you do really want to practice some distance shooting, the trajectory and recoil of a .30-30 certainly isn't ideal, either.

It sounds like you might want to split the difference and get something like a .243. It will outrange the .30-30 in useful ballistics, and is available in many reasonably priced platforms that will be useful multirole firearms. It also won't beat up your shoulder.

If you just want a Marlin, then whatever we say won't change your decision anyway, will it? :D If that's the case, then get it because that's what you want.


February 12, 2009, 08:55 PM
I won't knock the 30-30 in a lever action platform, but noting that you're just getting out of school and this might be your last rifle for a while. I'd go with a bolt action 30-06.

I think the 30-06 is a lot more versatile. larger bullet selction, reasonable recoil, good up close and out to reasonable distances.......If push comes to shove, you can use it for any game animal in the lower 48. Not quite as compact as a lever action 30-30, but in my opinion what you gain makes it a better choice for a do it all rifle. put a 3-9 power scope on it, and most of us would never need another hunting rifle.

You never know when one of your college buddies might move out of state and invite you to hunt in his neck of the woods someday.


February 12, 2009, 10:09 PM
One thing to consider especially if you will be hunting public game lands is to bring the animal down as quickly as possible to prevent it from running into another hunters sights and losing the animal to his shot. I love the 308, 270, 30-06 calibers but have started hunting with a 7.62x39 (comparable to 30-30), but I hunt on private land. You might consider this if you are looking at 336. Cheaper ammo to practice with.

February 12, 2009, 10:56 PM
Well, that little CZ has been one I've lusted after for some years. It wouldn't be a bad choice if you wanted to do something like buy a huge amount of Wolf 154-grain SP ammunition, so you could shoot all the time with your hunting ammunition cheaply.

On the other hand, it won't have the range of something like a .243.

A .243 won't have the recoil of a .30-06. Since you can't find inexpensive surplus .30 anymore, cheap ammunition is not an '06 advantage. It will almost certainly be easier to build good habits with a .243 than a .30-06. A .243 is also certainly not "too much rifle" unless you're talking about small game (if you reload, not even then).


February 14, 2009, 01:26 AM
Well, there's a growing following for the old Ruger .44 carbine. It's fine to 100 yds and one of the fastest brush guns made (according to some.)

It's not a long range weapon, or a tactical carbine, or especially fun to shoot as a plinker. However, it's apparently deadly on deer and hogs to 100yds.

If you want something with more range, I would consider something really short, like Ruger's M77MkII Compact. This is available in .243, and it would seem to be ideal for still hunting. Carbine length with a low recoil rifle round.

Variable power scopes are so good these days you could get something like a 2-7X or a 3-9X and handle both close range brushy conditions or more open conditions with the same rifle.

Eventually, as finances permit, you could get a dedicated brush gun like that Marlin 336 with aperture sights, and a "beanfield rifle" for long-range hunting. But it would be hard to beat a short-barreled rifle chambered for a flat trajectory cartridge like the .243 Winchester as a multipurpose tool.

February 14, 2009, 01:34 AM
no theirs not. i shoot a Abram 120mm smooth bore. depleted urrainem round. best dam coyote killer that ever killed a coyote. and my tank commander says its over kill. NOT

February 14, 2009, 01:48 AM
What range do you take coyotes at with that thing?

February 14, 2009, 01:56 AM
a mile or so. it depends on how deep a sleep i am.

February 14, 2009, 01:58 AM
I normaly carry a ruger all weather 300 wm and it is fine for the pretty open country I hunt BUT I carried a 45-70 guide gun in Idaho on a black bear hunt and it was a total JOY to pack up and down the steep bushy hills. And a 405 grain buffalo bore round will take a bear out of a tree like lightning.

February 14, 2009, 03:19 AM
"...the majority of kills happen within 200 yards..." Usually well under 100 yards.
Still hunting is not easy. You must be constantly aware of the wind and move very slowly, stopping and looking regularly. However, a used 336 with a low magnification scope or ghost ring sights will do nicely. So will a pump 12 ga., shotgun.
A used shotgun with a relatively inexpensive change of barrel will give you two guns(upland game and deer) for the price of one. Used barrels are around.
Sure is refreshing to hear from a guy who thinks about how to make things happen for himself. Thanks.

February 14, 2009, 04:34 AM
A LOT of us started with a Marlin 336 in .30-30.

Buy something you can afford to practice with. Know what your 'confidence range' is. And go hunt for a couple seasons. Make you rifle perform to its limits and yours, then get a bigger/fancier/nicer rifle.

February 14, 2009, 10:03 AM
I have never owned a 336 but always admired them. My in-laws owned and used 30-30s for years in Pennsylvania and killed a lot of deer with them, almost every one with a single shot. They knew their guns, picked their shots, and hit their aim point every time. It made them successful.

Novel idea today, isn't it? Buy what you can afford. You have your whole life ahead of you to buy your dream gun, which will likely change into dream guns (plural) if you find you enjoy the sport like the rest of us.

Good luck.

February 14, 2009, 10:29 AM
For hunting you generally want to pick the rifle that will provide a reliable quick kill under the circumstances with the minimum amount of damage possible to meat and/or hide.

For shooting in general a rifle that causes you to flinch is too much.

February 14, 2009, 10:43 AM
Go ahead and get the Marlin. If you want the Remington, get it too. Not necessarily all at once. You are already smart enough to see that they are two different rifles for two different purposes. If you don't have the time or means to do both purposes now, start with the cheaper one.

February 14, 2009, 01:09 PM
Thanks to everyone - This has been infinitely helpful. I'm gonna go with my gut and get a used 336 as it suits my needs perfectly. JShirley, thanks for suggesting the .243 and also thanks trstafford for suggesting the CZ carbine (beautiful rifle). I plan on learning with my lever rifle while I save up for a top-notch bolt action... the dream lives on ;)

Now I have to decide between a low power scope and ghost sights... too many damn choices

February 14, 2009, 01:27 PM
My pleasure. :)

I plan on putting a GR on my Winchester 1894. It'll probably be my dedicated hog gun if I find time to get into the woods this spring and summer.

February 14, 2009, 01:51 PM
Another huge factor is the bullet being used for the type of game. Proper bullets for the job are just as important.

February 14, 2009, 03:57 PM
Sometimes, yes.

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