Meet America’s most popular rifles for deer hunting 

Jason Lesmeister was hunting in southern Iowa when he dropped this deer with one shot from his .450 Bushmaster at slightly over 200 yards. (Photo by Tim Lesmeister)

Bills in the state of Minnesota’s legislature could legalize rifles for whitetails on a statewide basis. I believe Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia are among the only remaining states that have slug-only zones.

Since the technology for the barrels and bullets has been refined so well I hardly believe hunting with a slug impedes most deer hunters. The vast majority of shots occur within 80 yards and the accuracy with a sabot in a rifled barrel is incredible at that distance. Where a rifle has the advantage is in the longer shots, and most white-tailed deer hunters don’t get them often.

Even with that in mind, I’d open up all the states to rifles everywhere. If you look at what deer hunters are purchasing for firearms across the country it won’t make much of a difference. Hunters replacing their shotguns with rifles will most likely be buying a .350 Legend or a .450 Bushmaster.

The .350 Legend is a straight-walled hunting cartridge developed by Winchester. The cartridge was designed for use in states that have specific regulations for deer hunting with straight-walled centerfire cartridges but has gained popularity across the country. Winchester, the cartridge’s designer, claims that the .350 Legend is the fastest production straight-walled hunting cartridge in the world and is designed for deer hunting out to a maximum effective range of 250 yards.

The .450 Bushmaster is also a straight-walled rifle cartridge developed by Tim LeGendre of LeMag Firearms, and licensed to Bushmaster Firearms International. The .450 Bushmaster is designed for the standard M16s and AR-15s, using modified magazines and upper receiver assemblies. It has a flat trajectory out to 200 yards.

Both of these rifles are being manufactured in bolt-action models, but it would seem the AR-15 style is the most popular. This style in both calibers has a mild recoil and the guns – while not super lightweight – are light enough that a youth hunter finds them easy to handle. Set up with some decent optics, it’s the perfect rifle for hunting whitetails.

One of the main reasons I appreciate the .350 Legend and the .450 Bushmaster in an AR-15 body is the versatility of these firearms. Not only are they great in the whitetail ranges, but they are extremely effective for hunting hogs, too. Set up with a thermal imaging scope and a suppressor these rifles are the perfect option for those nighttime hog hunts where you find a big herd of hogs and fill a truck box by the end of the night.

Back to whitetails. The versatility for deer is that in many situations you never know if you will try to poke a shot through branches at close range in a forest. Or maybe you’re aiming for an animal standing some distance out in a pasture. With these rifles you can effectively do both.

So, if there are any states left that have slug-only zones, it’s time for a change. We’re way past the point where it is necessary. And, some great rifle options prove that.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Firearms, Tim Lesmeister, Whitetail Deer

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