Rifle Designs Pros & Cons

 Here are some things to consider when deciding on a big game rifle to purchase or build:

Weight:              Total firearm weight is affected by the type and length of action, the length and contour of the barrel, the diameter of the bore and the materials used in the stock, as well as the size and type of optics / sights used.

Heavy                  Pro      The heavier the rifle the more it will soak up recoil, making you less sensitive when firing heavy recoiling calibres.

                            Con     If you need to carry it around over long distances or extended times, it will make you fatigued quicker. If you are fatigued, you won't be as alert, and if you need to make that important shot late in the day, fatigue may reduce your ability to perform at your best.

Light                    Pro      A light rifle is a pleasure to carry around, and doesn't wear you out if you spend many hours on foot. This is especially true if hunting in hills or mountains.

                            Con     A lighter rifle will have a much faster recoil speed and consequently a sharper recoil impulse. Consider how many rounds you are likely to fire from it. If you only expect to fire one shot per day and are comfortable with the level of recoil, this may not be an issue for you.

Length:               Rifle length is generally a function of action type and length and barrel length. A single shot or double break action rifle will be much shorter than a bolt action for instance.

Long                    Pro      A longer barrel will produce higher velocities.

                                       Sight radius is improved if using iron sights, reducing possible sighting error.

                                       Balance and pointability may be improved (depending on other factors).

                                       Blast is reduced as more powder burns up in the barrel and also is farther from the shooter's ears.

                            Con     In thick vegetation, a long firearm can be a liability, being less manoeuvrable and slower to bring to the shoulder quickly.

                                       More prone to catching on branches etc.

Short                   Pro      Convenient to carry around, and generally lighter also.

                                       Much easier to use and bring to the shoulder in thick vegetation.

                            Con     Some velocity will be sacrificed.

                                       Sight radius will be reduced when using iron sights, increasing possible sighting error.

                                       Blast will be more pronounced and closer to the shooter's ears.

Stock Material:  A rifle's stock will add to not only its visual appeal, but also to its accuracy and durability. The material selected should be based on the user's requirements.

Wood                  Pro      Most readily available and largest number of stock design choices.

                                        Can be modified by the user.

                                        Considerable visual appeal (especially with higher grades of wood).

                                       Tactile appeal; wood generally feels better than synthetic materials in the hand.

                            Con     Not as strong as other materials, can suffer cracking in heavy recoiling calibres.

                                       Susceptible to warping from heat and moisture variations which can cause temporary and unpredictable point of impact shifts with ammunition.

                                       More easily damaged by dents and scratches.

Wood Laminate  Pro      Maintains the aesthetic appeal of wood.

                                       Is much stronger and far more stable than natural wood.

                            Con     Generally heavier than natural wood.

                                       Is not usually available in higher grades for additional figure.

Wood with Aluminium Chassis        Pro      Maintains all the positive features of natural wood.

                                                                    Extremely strong and stable for best accuracy and most consistent point of impact.

                                                         Con     Higher cost to purchase.

Synthetic             Pro      Very stable and almost impervious to changes in heart and moisture.

                                       Often available in very light configurations.

                                       Many are very inexpensive to buy.

                                       Minor damage (scratches & dents) are generally less noticeable and less concerning to owners.

                                       Increasingly available in camouflage as well as block colour finishes.

                            Con     Usually not as aesthetically pleasing.

                                       Some designs have hollow buttstocks and have a hollow sound.

Barrel Contour:            The contour (or weight) of your rifle's barrel will play a significant way in which it handles and shoots.

Heavy                  Pro      Slower to heat up when firing several shots in rapid succession, providing more consistent point of impact shot to shot.

                                       Less barrel whip will generally contribute to better accuracy.

                            Con     Adds weight to the rifle, making it more difficult to carry for extended periods of time.

                                       Too much weight forward can unbalance the rifle, compromising its handling characteristics.

                                       May require a wider forestock.

                                       May be more costly to purchase.

Light                    Pro      Easy to carry for extended periods of time.

                                       Will fit into any forearm width.

                                       May be cheaper to purchase.

                            Con     Quicker to heat up when firing successive shots, affecting point of impact.

                                       Greater barrel whip can lead to reduced accuracy.

Sight Selection:            The choice of sight selection will be largely dictated by the type of game you intend hunting, the conditions under which you are likely to be hunting and the likely engagement ranges. To a lesser degree it will also be influenced by your personal preferences.

Telescopic          Pro      Can magnify the target at long ranges or for precise shot placement

                                       Reticle provides distinct aiming mark

                                       Some reticles have additional aiming marks for longer ranges

                                       Involves only a single focal plane which makes use simpler

                            Con     Heaviest option in relation to additional weight

                                       Field of view will be more limited (depending on magnification)

                                       Have a very limited eye relief range (may be an issue with heavy recoiling rifles)

Red Dot               Pro      Large field of view

                                       Eye relief range is very broad

                                       Involves only a single focal plane which makes use simpler

                            Con     Generally no magnification

                                       Dot reticle often gives no indication of cant

                                       Can be prone to failure (e.g. flat battery)

                                       May be difficult to use for people with colour perception difficulty.

Reflex                 Pro      Generally the smallest and lightest option

                                       Least obstruction to field of view

                                       Usually the quickest for target acquisition

                                       Involves only a single focal plane which makes use simpler

                            Con     Generally less rugged and more prone to damage

                                       Can be prone to failure (e.g. flat battery)

Iron                     Pro      Add least weight and bulk

                                       Least prone to failure

                                       Little obstruction to field of view and peripheral vision

                                       Always ready for use

                            Con     No magnification for longer shots or target assessment

                                       Not as precise in terms of defined aiming mark

                                       Involves the use of three focal planes

                                       Requires more skill by the firer to prevent sighting errors

                                       May cause additional issues to shooters with impaired eyesight