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Looking for a Deer Rifle


Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Get a muzzleloader
I'll explain more later
Its later....
I used to recommend this all the time. They are accurate and can shoot a long ways. It doubles your gun season because you can use it for regular gun and eventually the muzzy season. In Michigan our muzzy season is basically 2 weeks long so it worked as a double bonus for me when I would hunt both states. That said, I am beginning to hate having to clean it all the time. To do it right it takes a couple hours out of your day. Jenna picked up her 350 Legend and man o man I want one. Light as a feather, hardly any recoil and the ammo is readily available these days. She hasn't killed with it yet but as you can see by other's comments, the caliber works and works well on deer. Definitely the next firearm purchase for me.
So you want a new rifle/gun for deer season. Here are my thoughts and they are worth exactly what you’re paying for them.

I strongly suggest an inline muzzleloader at first. Here are my reasons
1.) It expands your seasons for less cost because you can use it during the gun season as well as the muzzleloading season in January
2.) They can be scarily accurate out to 200+ yards with the right practice and person behind the trigger. This easily covers almost all shot scenarios in Ohio.
3.) Yes they can be a pain in the butt to clean. Newer powders less so than others. Blackhorn 209 cleans up as easily as a modern rifle or shotgun. Triple 7 has a tendency to make a “crud” ring just off the breech but its not hateful except after a long range session.
4.) They can also be used in other states for the same reasons they can be used in Ohio for additional opportunities. However some states have limits with inlines or scopes that you’d have to look out for.
5.) There are very few species that walk in N America where a 45 caliber bullet shot through a 50 cal sabot wouldn’t be adequate. Perfectly lethal for an Ohio deer and many others.
If you decide to go the dedicate rifle route here goes. You’re coming into the “hot” season to buy both the rifles/accessories and ammunition. It may be harder to find and you may have to compromise. Going with the muzzleloader, those supplies and stocks are still readily available until New Years when the average hunter thinks about the upcoming season.

.357 – I’d pass there are better ones out there, max range in the 125-150 yards.
.357 Max – Great caliber if you reload, otherwise pass
350 Legend – Good to great caliber, ammunition will run in the $teens (fmj plinking ammo) through $40+ a box of 20. Many brand and style of bullet choices available. I WOULD NOT suggest this if you were going to do a deer drive. If you are stand hunting or still hunting its great with good shot placement. Some people complain about the lack of a blood trail but that’s a combination of shot placement and bullet choice. I’ve personally had no problems with mine and I’ve recovered every deer I’ve shot with it within 50 yards. My brother did have one that we couldn’t find and the blood trail petered out fairly quickly. Its good to 200-250 yards or potentially longer. Very low recoil and comparable ballistics to a 30-30. Able to be loaded in the AR platform.

44 mag – fun caliber to shoot, max range around 125-150 yards and not a very flat trajectory. Really fun if you also have a pistol in this caliber. Light recoil.

444 Marlin – A great choice, moderate recoil. Ammo is a bit more expensive at $40-50 a box. Think of it as a rifle version of a 44 mag but capable of 45-70 power (at lower bullet weights). I love mine and have taken deer at 260 yards with it without issue. I’d feel comfortable taking it on a hunt for any N American game (except the largest brown bear) at 200 yards or less.

450 Bushmaster – A great choice. Ammunition is $30-50+ a box. Another AR platform possible round. Its shooting the 45 caliber bullet many use in their muzzleloaders but at an increased velocity. It does a great job on deer. Its what I have for my son to shoot, my brother has one and we bought one for my dad to use. You can make up for less than ideal shot placement (over the 350 legend) with this round imo. FREAKING LOUD (most come with muzzle breaks) if you’re in a blind so be careful to not blow your ears out.

45-70 gov – Another good choice. Recoil can be moderate to heavy depending on the gun and bullet combination. Ammo is in the $40-50+ range for a box. Can handle anything that walks in N America. Capable of shooting as far as you’re capable of shooting it. Not the flattest trajectory but if you know your gun a 265-325 grain bullet has A LOT of energy to give down range.

Those are the most common straight wall calibers.

Break action (single shot) - Most affordable and I’ve known multiple HR and CVA single shots that shoot incredibly well. If TC still existed the encore was a great platform because you could get multiple barrels and also a muzzy barrel all for one gun. Rarely will you get multiple quality shots at a deer so its not a huge disadvantage.

Bolt action – becoming more popular. There are budget quality through damn nice quality ones out there depending on your budget. I’ve been VERY happy with my CVA Cascade. I’ve seen more random complaints about the Mossberg ones than other brands. One thing some people complain about is that some of the lower end budget ones don’t feel solid and feel cheap and “Flexy”. Also some people either love or hate the fact that on the Ruger ones the magazine is not flush with the stock.

Lever action – Not available in 350 legend or 450 Bushmaster except through custom work that I know of right now. Classic action and fun to shoot. Pricier, especially as Marlin is out of business. Watch out for the Remington made Marlin ones, the fit and finish isn’t there in comparison to the older Marlins. The Henry golden boy in 45-70 has a brass butt plate and it freaking sucks to shoot (and that’s all I’ll say about that) but it’s a beautiful firearm.

AR Platform – Good and bad for multiple reasons. The adjustable stock ability of an AR lends itself to smaller framed (kids/wives) shooters. The 350 and 450 don’t recoil that much compared to other cartridges. There can be issues with feeding and reliability between the magazine and the feed ramps and the quality of the upper. The all metal forearm gets REALLY COLD in cold temps. Mounting a scope or red dot is slightly different over a bolt action. Lots of flexibility because you have all the customization abilities of the AR platform.

I strongly suggest a Red-dot or scope. All of these cartridges have 100+ yard capability and it’ll help. Also don’t cheap out on the scope. It’s a big piece of the puzzle allowing you to make a clean lethal shot on the animal. I know my ability to put my Maine bear down last fall was due to the high end scope that I had on it, I never could have make the shot with open sights and potentially not with a red dot. Now do I think you need a $1500 dollar vortex razor on a deer gun in Ohio? Probably not but a 1-300 vortex will do a lot better than the $50 wally world special especially on the harder recoiling calibers. I was helping a friend sight in a 45-70 lever action and we got it on paper at 25, took a shot at 50 and then moved back to 100 to zero. On the 3rd shot we went down range to check the group. Came back and the reticle was literally broken in pieces in the tube. There was less than a box of ammo through it. They replaced it but I don’t know if I could trust that scope again.


Senior Member
Supporting Member
Hedgelj touched on many good points to answer your question.... I'll just add my feelings on the subject...

a) Personal preference ... What action do you prefer... What feels good in your hands.. What rifle fits you best..

b) Do you plan on hunting other states or bigger game in the near future? All states have different regs on the action of the rifle... Example: manually operated or semi-auto... Bigger game you'll want a cartridge that can handle animals larger than a whitetail...

c) I know meat destruction has been mentioned in prior posts... This would be the least of my worries... Shot placement avoids this issue... Put a bullet through the boiler room ( chest cavity ) and little to no meat is destroyed... Plus a dead deer is always the end result when his lungs are destroyed... Put any sized bullet through an area where quality meat is located and you'll have meat destruction...


Supporting Member
This is what does it for me and never felt the need to ever change since I started using one, going all the way back to the 70's.

Good luck in finding yours!

12g Remington 870 Express Magnum w/ riffled barrel

Video description:

My 1995 - 12 gauge Remington 870 Express Magnum w/ rifled barrel and a Bushnell 3x9-40x duplex scope on top, shooting 'Brenneke USA (3" 1-3/8oz.) Black Magic Magnum' slug cartridge.

I always feel like I'm cheating with this hunting implement within my hands. It's my tried and true, trusty go too rifled shotgun that I use for any Whitetail Deer gun hunts.

I've harvested a lot of deer with this shotgun over the years. Deer shot by it tend not to go far at all, typically falling right where they stood prior to impact and/or expiring very quickly with a nominal recovery.

The harder they hit, the better in my honest and most humbling opinion. Within this video, you'll get to see some examples of where I shot through brush and/or small tree limbs with it, and never lost accuracy down range for the intended target.

Examples within the video show a button buck shot less than 10yrds. away w/ a 30yrd. recovery, a doe shot @120yrds. w/ a 45yrd. recovery, a buck shot @75yrds. w/ a 30yrd. recovery, a doe shot @45yrds. w/ a 70yrd. recovery, another buck shot @70yrds. w/ zero (0) yard recovery. He fell right where he last stood, and finally, a button shot @20yrds. w/ a 10yrd. recovery, plus a deadhead recovered where the button fell. The deadhead was a buck that was a sick resident and appeared to be gone for quite sometime when first discovered.

I'd say, if you find a hunting rifle system that outperforms your desired expectations, than I'd stick it. I tend to stick with what I know that works, pretty much all the time for whatever job I wish to get done most effectively and/or efficiently as possible.

If I see deer with this hunting implement that are no further away than approximately 150 yards from me, I'll most likely take the shot, that's how confident I am with this system. I've killed multiple deer at 120 yards and both were heart shots, and all of the other shot deer that I harvested were within 100 yards over the decades, and approximately 99.9% fell within 30 yards from impact with the type of shot placement I made at the time.

I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever with what I have and still use today regarding North America big game hunting rifles. If there is anything that I could possibly complain about the rifle from me, well, that would be that it's not the most fun to shoot repeatedly, like at any type of gun range, but from a hunting standpoint, the rifle pretty much always out performs me.

I always feel very confident when I have my deer hunting rifle within my hands. There's somethin to be said about that I think too, that is, having a 12 gauge magnum pump ready to rock-n-roll. Yeah, I love it!

So, I'm in the camp, 'If it works well, then I don't change it", and that's how I tend to roll nowadays.


11/17/22 - 9:30AM EDIT:

There were a few other deer that were included within the video, but had no real information about them. I wanted to include the further details behind them within this post that are the final results from the 12 gauge Remington 870 Express Magnum and the Brenneke 3" slugs that I use during all Whitetail Deer gun seasons.

The attached photographs will show a buck that was shot in the neck @70yrds. w/ zero (0) yard recovery, another buck shot in between the eyes @25yrds. w/ zero yard recovery, and a targeted doe shot @50yrds. w/ zero yard recovery. They all dropped where they stood last.

Basically, as long as I'm doing my job right, cause I know that my rifle & ammo combo will do theirs, I'll continue to get these type of results nearly every time I head out with my deer hunting shotgun hopefully.


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Village idiot and local whore
Supporting Member
In a bar
Now that you have decided on caliber. What are you thinking for brand? Grains?
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Village idiot and local whore
Supporting Member
In a bar
I am a 180 grain kind of guy. I know some people are 150 grain people. I've never looked up the difference in the two. Maybe someone here has and I can learn something.
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Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
I am a 180 grain kind of guy. I know some people are 150 grain people. I've never looked up the difference in the two. Maybe someone here has and I can learn something.
145 gr win = fmj
150 gr win deer season xp - bullet designed to expand and dump all its energy into the deer
165 gr Hornady - gummy tip like leverevolution rounds, lots of people seem to love them
160 gr win - bonded soft point, bonded bullet, may be more bullet than a whitetail needs but good to great penetration
170 gr barnes tsx - premium all copper bullet with price and performance to match
180 gr pointed soft point- traditional 30-30 style lead and copper bullet, good penetration in whitetail seems to be

There's also a browning load with a fast expanding bullet, and i think another Hornady load with a more traditional lead and copper bullet. Federal has loadings also.

From the 350 legend Facebook group people seem to love or hate the 150s, 180s seem to be effective but a few haters, 165s if your gun likes them seem seem to be well liked. A lot of people were all about the maker all copper but those were $$ in their loadings and otherwise required reloading to use. So far the barnes seem to be working well.

I've read and seen the photos of 2 Maine moose and multiple bears taken with the 180s.

The maximum point blank range using my ballistic app for a +/- 3" point of impact is 217 yards with the 150s down to 198 yards eth the winchester 180s.


Village idiot and local whore
Supporting Member
In a bar

Which of those were you shooting? The hits were so easy to see as a big puff of fur would fly into the air. Very cool to watch!