Consider the Modern Sporting Rifle as a First Gun

A female hunter with a modern sporting rifle

When my son was just old enough to introduce him to deer hunting he was too small to just hand him a “man’s” gun and put him in a stand. A12-gauge, slug gun would have been too much for him as they are for most youths and many women of any age. They are too heavy and come with a hefty recoil.

I could have selected a youth model shotgun. These are chambered for less powerful, 20 gauge ammunition featuring less kick and a scaled to a smaller over-all size. Though some would argue otherwise, a 20 gauge is not as good as a 12 for hunting deer. Besides, what would I do with the gun in a couple years when he grew into a bigger gun?

What we did was opt for a scope-sighted, .50 caliber muzzleloader. The “carbine” sized rifle gave him a decent fit. We practice-fired the gun using lightweight loads with little recoil and, of course, we always used hearing protection. Wade learned to shoot the gun accurately. For actual hunting, we pepped up the load by using a full load of gunpowder. It was a good choice considering the choices available.

With the legalization of deer hunting with center fire rifles in Indiana and if the proposed federal Hearing Protection Act is passed, youthful hunters, petite female shooters and even big guys who don’t like heavy recoil and loud noises will have the opportunity to switch to lighter and quieter guns.

In the traditional world of hunting my son grew up in, the idea of teaching him to use an modern, AR-type rifle with a silencer on the end of the barrel for target practice or deer hunting wasn’t something that came to mind. That’s changing.

Modern rifles are front line these days. Almost every gun maker offers their version of the rifle. These militaristic-looking firearms top the rifle sales at nearly every gun store. With deer hunting with rifle laws changed in Indiana, these modern, semi-auto rifles are sure to grow even more in popularity and will easily find a home in the deer woods.

The underlying reason for the increased popularity stems from the advantages these semiautomatic rifles offer. They are lighter and less cumbersome to carry than traditional long guns. Most come with adjustable stocks to fit any sized shooter.

Being semiautomatic, they offer much quicker follow-up shots than muzzleloaders or bolt action rifles and the semi-auto action cuts down on the recoil. Another factor that’s increasing the popularity of modern rifles is the cool factor. With their coloring, custom triggers, match barrels that increase accuracy and diminutive weight, these rifles are the equivalent to a souped-up sports car.

Nationally, the Hearing Protection Act is winding its way through the legislature. It specifically addresses potential hearing loss caused by shooting with the side benefit of making shooting sports, including hunting, more enjoyable. The law will eliminate the special tax and burdensome regulatory process now in place, designed to suppress ownership of suppressors, a.k.a. “silencers.”

The term “silencers” is a misnomer, advanced by thousands of TV and movie scenes in which silenced firearms sound more like an ongoing pillow fight than a gun fight. Factually, a really good suppressors lower the decibels of a rifle shot to that of hard-slamming a car door or running a push mower. All of this will help make modern, carbine rifles perfect for youthful hunters.

Semi-automatic guns have less recoil because some of the energy is used to cycle the gun’s action for the next shot. A suppressor not only quiets the gun, they further reduce recoil. Learning to shoot with relatively quiet, reduced recoil firearm is fun and helps instill good shooting form and habits.

Choosing a modern rifle, with a suppressor can make a young hunter’s first gun, his lifetime choice.

Mike Schoonveld grew up hunting and fishing in rural Northwest Indiana. In 1986 he piggy-backed a career as an outdoor writer onto his already long tenure as a wildlife biologist with the Indiana DNR. Now retired from his DNR position, Schoonveld is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed boat captain, operates Brother Nature Charters on Lake Michigan and spends much of his time trailering his boat to fishing hotspots around Indiana and the Midwest. Mike can be reached through his website or visit Mike's Outdoor World Blog at


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