Best Rifle And Caliber for Lightweight Beginner?


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Hello All.

I am completely unfamiliar with rifles as I have never hunted, so please bear with me on questions that have probably been asked countless times on this forum.

My 16 year old daughter has expressed an interest in hunting. We have taken a hunter's safety course together and I'd like for her to bring home some venison this fall...but first, she needs an appropriate firearm.

Let me start by telling you that my daughter is 5'6" and probably weighs 100 lbs fully clothed.

I'm currently looking at three budget rifles. The Thompson/Center Compass, the Ruger American Predator, and the Savage Axis II XP. Currently, the prices at Cabela's are as follows:

Thompson $249.99 After mail-in rebate with no scope
Ruger: $549.99 With Vortex Crossfire II 4-12x44 scope
Savage: $439.99 With Weaver 3-9x40 scope

Personally, the Thompson "feels" cheap to me, although the articles I've read seem to like it. I know that for the price, I can outfit it with a scope and still come out at the Savage and Ruger's price point.

Of the three, the Ruger seems to be the "gold standard" of budget rifles(according to what I've read) what do you guys think? If you have any other suggestions, I'm all ears.

Secondly, She wants to start with whitetail, but if she likes it, she wants to move up to feral hogs and black bear and possibly more since we have relatives who are avid hunters in Latin America.

I know that the .243 seems to be the best all-around deer and varmint round and it would play well with her light weight and bony shoulders (though she is far from a delicate flower), but how would it do with bigger game? Should I consider the 6.5mm Creedmoor or the 7mm-08? Does anyone have any other suggestions?

Again, I am completely ignorant when it comes to this stuff so any help you can give me would be appreciated.
223 REM will work. Don't count it out. Pick the right ammo, and it will take a deer as well as anything else.
243 WIN take a lot of deer. A lot of fathers pick that for their kids' Yute Rifles.
Personally, I like 308 WIN and 30-06 for whitetail, but I'm also 6'4"/300 lbs. My kids all started with 30-30 WIN and then graduated to 30-06 when they could shoulder an adult-sized rifle, but they were walking landforms like me even as kids.
7mm/08 is very close to 308 WIN, but has much less recoil. If she can handle the recoil, that would be my first choice.
I just purchased a 308 win Howa 1500 Game King on-line for $460!!! Came with a 3.5x10 - 44 scope and bases and rings, Hogue over molded rubber stock, recoil pad and everything but a sling !. Being sold on-line I had to find a local FFL holder (gun dealer) to have it shipped to and he charged me $20. I was ready for the range for right at $500!

I started looking at budget rifles and simply hated the synthetic stocks. I looked at Ruger American, Mossberg Patriot, T/C compass, Remmingtons, Savage Axis and the like. I wanted a stock I felt had some weight to it and that I felt I could get a good grip on. Knowing I was looking at an upgrade of at least a wood stock I started looking at other options based on some different suggestions. I am glad I did. I am very happy with my choice so far.

Now to be honest I have a 14 yo daughter (and like you said 100 pounds sopping wet). She currently shoots my lever 30-30 and to be honest she could shoot my new 308 with no problem. They seem to fear the noise as the recoil isn't that bad at all. The main reason I like the 308 is the gross amount of ammo choices out there off the shelf. You can get some lighter rounds for varmints and some heavier rounds for more stout critters.

I asked many similar questions on the thread below - so read thru it and hopefully you wil find some answers there as well.
The most important thing is to make sure the rifle fits her. A standard length of pull (the length from butt of stock to trigger) is most likely not going to fit your daughter. A rifle that is too big will cause your daughter bad shooting habits. I would suggest a youth rifle like Browning Micro or Micro Midas X bolt. This is what I bought my wife and it fits her perfect. I bought the rifle in 7mm-08 caliber which has a mild recoil. She ended up shooting a black bear and deer this year with her rifle, making perfect shots on both. I know it will cost you more than a budget rifle but if you ever want to sell later you will probably get what you paid for it.
Both posts above are spot on with suggestions. Howa makes a heck of a rifle for the money and the scopes they use are extra nice for what they cost(if bought separately). The .308 has more rounds to choose from and there are a couple of companies that make reduced recoil rounds that are supposed to shoot the same POI as the full flavored variety.

As mentioned also, you could up your spending budget, get a nicer rifle, and it will tend to hold more of its value if you decide to sell it later. I don't think the 7mm-08 has as mild of a recoil as some are lead to believe or are told. It is mild compared to a .308, but it still has some kick to it. Will your daughter be able to handle it? Each shooter is different in what they can and can't handle. A friend of a friend bought his 13 year old son a 7mm-08 based on suggestions and once they got to sighting it in, they discovered it had more recoil than he would be able to handle and the dad borrowed a .243 until he could get it sold and buy something different. They also make reduced recoil ammo for it.

I would suggest a .243 and it will run the gamut on game it can kill, until you start getting into large game like elk. If you want a little larger bullet, a .30-30 will do just about everything you need it to and then some. Those old calibers have killed more game than we new hunters want to think about or remember.
Nothing wrong with the 243, but I would consider the 7-08 with 120 grain bullets, you can even start her out with reduced recoil loads from Hornady or managed recoil loads from Remington, either would be fine for deer. If you had limited your quarry to deer, then I think the 243 is a no brainer, but large hogs and black bear lead me to suggest that you step up to the 7-08. The 7-08 will allow her to shoot heavier bullets than the 243 for hogs and the giant black bears that can be found in NC.

Perceived recoil has as much to do with how the rifle fits as it does the cartridge, so make sure to let her tell you what feels best. A nice rifle is a lifetime investment if you buy quality so don't make a decision based only on price. I would suggest that you also look at Remington Model Seven rifles.

As j-bird mentioned, sometimes it is the noise rather than the recoil that causes problems for new shooters........I'd suggest both foam ear plugs AND ear muffs for at least the first few shooting sessions.

Good luck and thanks for encouraging your daughter in this pursuit.
From what I have seen the Rugers are hard to beat. I would go with either the 308 (aka the best deer cartridge ever made) or the 7mm-08, Start with the reduced recoil stuff until she is ready to go full steam. I have shot a light weight rem model 7 since I was 15 years old. I am about 6 ft and might make 130 lb on a good day, bony shoulders aren't a problem once you get the fundamentals down. Skinny folks tend to give more with the recoil. I started my skinny 8 year old out with a 300 blk out but by the time he is 16 he will be using the 308.
Thank you, everyone for your replies. I have some stuff to consider.

I'm a city boy, so this will certainly be a life-changing experience for me. I can build cabinets, rebuild engines, wire up a house, and lay brick...but I have never been able to stomach the thought of shooting an fact, I rarely eat yeah, my daughter's desire to hunt certainly raised an eyebrow in my house.

She is made up of way stronger stuff than I am, she wants to experience the empowerment that comes from hunting, and there is no way I am not going to be a part of that.
I cannot offer any better advice than has been given above but wanted to say you're a great Dad to take on something that is so far outside of your comfort zone. Good for you! If you get her started show her this forum and we can take her from there !
For whatever it's worth, I have a house full of teenagers, boys and girls. We have three Ruger American's in the gun safe, all 7mm-08.
I bought my 9 year old son a Savage stainless synthetic lightweight hunter last year in 243. It is a small, light rifle that is perfect for a young hunter or smaller adult and it shoots great. I like it so well that I use it too and am considering buying one for myself in a different caliber. The 243 is a great deer caliber and the recoil is almost non-existent. 7mm-08 would be a great choice as well. This rifle would fit her now and she could use it her entire life.
There's dozens of calibers that would fit your bill. But none better than the.243, for many reasons. Ammo is more readily available and cheaper than most. Guns in .243 are available in every brand. Resale value is great. They won't become obsolete anytime soon, like some other calibers might. Recoil is light. Noise is reasonable. Power is good for deer. It's a long range rifle. The other calibers mentioned are all good too, but IMO none quite fit every category listed above for a youth rifle. The 30-30, 7mm08 .223 and half a dozen others definitely would also be good choices as well. In your life stage, resale value should definitely be a consideration in your decision.
I'm late to the dance for this convo so maybe you've made your purchase decision already. I won't repeat all the very correct opinions above, but I'll just offer that you may want to reach out to family and friends in the area that have hunting rifles in different calibers that would be willing to borrow them to you for a range day. Take your daughter out - dressed in her heavy hunting-style jacket - and let her take a few shots from each...but not too many (start with the bigger calibers and work your way down). By the end she'll be anticipating the recoil and probably won't enjoy shooting as much. But let her see what feels like a good fit for her in terms of caliber and the gun itself. There is a lot to be said for the build of a rifle and you may be surprised to find out that she was as comfortable with the recoil of a heavier .308 rifle w/ low recoil cartridges as she was with a lightweight/cheaper 7mm-08 or .243. Bear in mind, there are many a youth that start out shotgun hunting (waterfowl, deer, or otherwise) that are very comfortable shooting a 20 ga. pump. A 150 gr. .308 round has less recoil than a 2 3/4", 1 oz. 20 ga. out of a pump don't sell her short until she tries them. I'm a big fan of the .308 given it's versatility, ammo options, and price, but that doesn't mean it's right for her either.

I'll tell you one thing if nothing else, when the time comes for her to pull the trigger on her first deer, she will have so much adrenaline pumping that she could shoot a .416 Wby. Mag and not feel it. :)
From a reduced recoil standpoint, any of the .308 family (.308, 7mm-08, .243) would suit you well. I’m a fan of the 7mm-08 for smaller framed people. More “insurance” than the .243 and less recoil than the .308.

If you were handloading you could make reduced recoil rounds for almost any caliber. Most factory loads for 30-06, 270 and other popular deer calibers are not appropriate for 100 pound kids.

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Agree that .243 is about ideal. The only reason I have outfitted my teenagers with 7mm-08 is for versatility. I hand-load reduced recoil loads for them, but they can use full power loads when they mature and/or choose to hunt bigger game. If I didn't hand-load, I would opt for .243.
As mentioned above you are going to want to get a rifle that fits her as well as not going to have to much recoil to start out with. Here is a link to a Tikka Compact .243 that is currently on sale for a very great price.
In my opinion, you will not get a better rifle for her than this one at a similar price point. As she grows more confident and if she decides she would like to start hunting some of the other animals you suggested, she may want to step up to a larger caliber. But for deer and for a beginner, .243 is an excellent option.
As mentioned above you are going to want to get a rifle that fits her as well as not going to have to much recoil to start out with. Here is a link to a Tikka Compact .243 that is currently on sale for a very great price.
In my opinion, you will not get a better rifle for her than this one at a similar price point. As she grows more confident and if she decides she would like to start hunting some of the other animals you suggested, she may want to step up to a larger caliber. But for deer and for a beginner, .243 is an excellent option.
X2 on the Tikka and Europtic. I bought two guns from them and was 100% satisfied.
I posted on another thread, but in case you didnt see, they are doing a gun and scope package give away right now. make sure you get signed up. If you win, you just owe me half of your winnings... I will take the scope or the gun, Im not picky. :)
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All good options above, but one of the best calibers was omitted. The .260 Reminton is probably the most kid-friendly deer killer on the market. My boy started shooting his Model 7 in .260 at eight years old, and he wasn't very big at the time. Originally bought for my wife, he took it over and that's all he ever used. He still has it. Ammo is a little less available than the others mentioned, but it won't be obsolete any time soon. It would be my first choice for a kid, with the 7/08 being a close second.
I'm in the single shot camp for young shooters learning to shoot deer or squirrels or any non dangerous game. For new shooters with only one shot I'm betting their hunts will become 99% or better one shot kills. In addition the single shot is simply a safer gun for new shooters to learn on. With that in mind the Thompson Center Encore is as near a perfect rifle as there is. One can start out with a 243 barrel and then some day add a muzzleloader barrel or a shotgun barrel or a 7mm barrel or almost whatever caliber barrel one wants to shoot. If someday she switches to a heavier caliber she still has the user friendly 243 to practice with--the perfect no kick rifle when shot with ear protection it would be hard to flinch and easy to get rid of if a flinch developed shooting higher calibers. I'm not saying everyone would want a caliber larger than a 243 some day; my wife loves hers and has dropped every deer except one of her deer on the spot. The one that ran only ran about 45 yards before dropping. She has no need nor desire for a larger caliber. She simply picks her shots and aims.

If you order the barrels all the same weight one can switch barrels and shoot all equally well because they will all feel the same. Note there may be other rifles that are better today that offer that same flexibility; I'm going by what has worked for my wife and I.

Check out the options in rifle barrels available thru the link below. Note; when we order a new caliber barrel we also buy a new forearm but the stock and shooting mechanism from our original encore is used with all new barrels.

Just think one can order a 22LR barrel for their deer rifle in the same weight as their deer barrel and practice shoot for pennies a shot and it would be just like shooting the high caliber barrel but without the loud noise, the kick or the expense. That is huge to me. All deer stories should end with And then I squeezed off the shot. Knowing there is only one shot, and having practiced with the same rifle even with a different barrel it is fairly easy to become very precise with every single shot even for those who are like me, not a naturally great shot.

I have never shot a 260 but I would look into it as Drycreek mentioned as well as the other calibers mentioned by others. Bullet availability is no longer such an item today since it is simply so hard just to buy any caliber here that one should keep themselves at least five or even ten years in stock at all times. If one has a 243 or 260 or whatever and a 22LRbarrel for example, it is pretty easy to have 5,000 rounds of 22LR on hand and 100 rounds of the deer hunting caliber. That could carry one a lot of years shooting a single shot using the deer hunting rounds to shoot deer and the 22LR rounds for practicing.

I don't mean to sound elite or anything expounding on the virtues of shooting single shot guns; The truth of the matter is I shoot single shots because I otherwise would be one of those guys whose deer stories don't end with "AND THEN I SQUEEZED OFF THE SHOT".
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