Rifle Essentials

Whether you're interested in target shooting, competitive shooting or hunting, the shooting sports are filled with fun. Learn how to shoot safely and effectively.

Basic Safety

Stay safe at the range, in the field or at home by following these guidelines.

• Gun Handling 10 easy-to-follow rules to keep yourself and loved ones safe.

• Transportation Rules regarding the proper transportation of firearms differs greatly by jurisdiction. Always consult local laws when you hit the road.

• Eyes And Ears Whenever you shoot, it's critical to protect your eyesight and hearing. Fortunately, there's protective gear to fit any style, personal preference and shooting need. Visit championtarget.com to learn more.

• Range Etiquette For an inexperienced shooter, a busy range can be a confusing and intimidating place. It doesn't need to be. Learn how to have fun, fit in and stay safe at your local shooting range in this video.


Access Control With rights come responsibility. It's critical that firearm owners secure their firearms to prevent unauthorized people from accessing and using them by locking them in an approved safe. Champion shooter Julie Golob explains how all gun owners can become safer and more responsible through the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Project ChildSafe.

Shooting Style

Rifles fill a variety of roles. In the right caliber and loaded with the proper ammunition, they can serve in home defense, target/competitive shooting and hunting.

• Home Defense Although handguns usually get the call for use in home defense, rifles are effective and increasingly popular options. Home-defense-specific firearms are typically modern sporting rifles chambered in 223 Rem. and 308 Win.

Recreation Target shooting is a great way to have fun with family and friends. Target ammunition for rifles usually features full metal jacket or lead round nose construction and is more affordably priced than hunting or home defense ammunition.

• Hunting Depending on their caliber and design, rifles can be used for everything from close-range small game hunting to 500-plus-yard shooting at big game like elk. Because of the wide variety of hunting needs, rifles and cartridges are offered in a tremendous range of calibers and bullet types.

Ammunition Construction

Ammunition falls into a few general categories. The broadest are rimfire and centerfire. Rimfire loads' priming mixture is placed around the inside of the case rim where the gun's firing pin strikes. Rimfire calibers include the 22 Long Rifle, 17 HMR and the 22 WMR, and are used for target shooting and small game hunting.

Most rifle rounds fall into the centerfire category. These cartridges have a separately-made primer placed in the center of the head of the case.

Bullet design is another important distinction in rifle ammunition, as bullets fall into two main groups: expanding and non-expanding. Expanding bullets are used for hunting and home defense, while non-expanding bullets are used for target shooting, military purposes and hunting certain species of dangerous game. The Ammo Insiders explain the differences between bullet types and purposes in this video.


Fundamentals

Hitting your target consistently requires solid fundamentals. Check out these tips for building a strong foundation.

• Semi-Automatic, Bolt, Lever And More Rifles are generally divided by action into three primary groups: Semi-automatic, bolt and lever. Semi-automatics fire one shot with each pull of the trigger and feed cartridges from a magazine. Modern sporting rifles are among the most popular varieties of semi-automatics. Bolt-action rifles hold cartridges in a magazine. When a round is fired, the bolt must be pulled back to eject the spent shell and pushed forward to chamber a new cartridge. Lever-action rifles usually hold cartridges in a tubular magazine. The lever, located on the bottom of the receiver around the trigger, must be pushed forward and pulled backward to eject spent cartridges and chamber new ones.

• How To Load How you load a rifle depends on the action. For a semi-automatic, push cartridges down into the spring-loaded magazine on top one another until full. Bolt-action rifles can feature a detachable magazine like the one just described, or a hinged floorplate magazine built into the firearm. With these, shooters load the gun by opening the action and pushing cartridges down into the magazine. Lever-actions are loaded by sliding cartridges nose-first into the tubular magazine's loading port, which is usually positioned on the side of the receiver.

• Stance Because rifles have so many different applications and need to be fired accurately in a wide variety of situations, shooters use five basic shooting positions: Standing/offhand, kneeling, squatting, sitting and prone. Hunters also need to be proficient with in-the-field shooting scenarios such as shooting off a backpack, from shooting sticks and off the rail of a tree stand. Learn more about shooting better in hunting situations in this video from the Ammo Insiders.


• Sights Most rifles are used with scopes, which magnify the target and superimpose a reticle (crosshairs). Shooters should keep both eyes open while using a scope or iron sights. If shooting without a scope, the shooter should position the rifle so the front sight sits squarely between the posts of the rear sight, centered on the target beyond.

• Recoil Management All firearms produce recoil. The challenge for shooters, especially newcomers, is managing it. This requires a proper grip and stance, as well as practice. It's important to resist anticipating the recoil and pushing the rifle downward to counter it. Rather, concentrate on holding the rifle steady while keeping the sights on target.

• Trigger When shooting a rifle, it's important to slowly squeeze the trigger at the first knuckle of your index finger. This ensures a smooth trigger pull that doesn't pull the gun off target.

• Magazine—Not 'Clip' Nearly all semi-automatic and many bolt-action rifles hold cartridges in a removable, spring-loaded sleeve called a magazine. These are often mistakenly referred to as "clips." Use the correct term—you'll win points with the seasoned veterans you bump into at the range.

• Training Options Most new shooters are interested in rifles for hunting. If you're among them, check out one of the many hunter safety classes available. To find a class near you, check out one of Federal Premium's education partners.

Storage & Maintenance

Rifles and ammunition need to be stored and maintained correctly to be safe and perform at their peak. Here's how to do it.

• Ammunition If stored properly, ammunition can last many years. Keep it in a cool, dry place protected from direct sunlight. Also be sure to keep it locked and secure to prevent unauthorized access. If stored properly, loaded ammunition has a 10-year shelf life.

• Firearms A wide array of kits takes the guesswork out of the cleaning and maintenance process for new shooters. Learn more at hoppes.com, gunslickpro.com or outers-guncare.com. All firearms should be stored in a dry place and secured to prevent unauthorized people from accessing and using them.