Shoot Safe: An introduction to long guns

FALL RIVER COUNTY, S.D. — More popular for hunting than short guns, long guns also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Conservation Officer Chris Dekker with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks explained how they all work and what they might be useful for at the Fall River Gun Range.

I wanted to bring something that was going to show every action type that we have out there, minus muzzle loaders,” Officer Dekker explains. 

Long GunFirst on display was a bolt-action rifle.

A lot of your hunting rifles are going to be something similar to this. This happens to be a .30-06 rifle that is primarily used for for big game, so maybe using it for for deer, elk, antelope you can use for any of your big game species. It’s very versatile.”

Next was a lever-action gun, often thought of as a traditional western long gun, chambered in a .22 caliber. Officer Dekker describes it as “a very cheap round to shoot, a very common round to shoot, and just a fun plinking gun. And it does have use again, predator varmint control or small game hunting.”

However, this likely wouldn’t be a good firearm to use in big game hunting, as Officer Dekker explains. 

“Can a .22 round kill a big game animal with good shot placement? It can, but it’s going to be a lot harder and you have to be a lot more accurate to make that work. And there’s a better chance of wounding an animal and having it either run off and suffer and die or not die at all. There are times where I have hunters coming to me in the fall and saying, ‘Hey, I shot this deer, and when I was skinning it out, I found a .22 round under its hide,’ and that was somebody doing something they should have.”

In South Dakota, firearms and ammunition must meet a foot-pounds of energy requirement to be used legally when harvesting a certain type of game. For example, for a shoulder held firearm, 1,000 foot pounds of energy is required from the ammunition at the muzzle.

Break ActionUp next was a single barrel break-action shotgun, but Officer Dekker says there are other types of break-action shotguns.

It can be a double barrel. This one happens to be just a single barrel break action chambered in a 2 and 3/4″ 20 gauge round. Again, it’s a great small game or bird hunting round. You can go after pheasants with it, duck, quail, you get a heavy enough load, you can maybe even go after some geese with that.”

A pump-action shotgun was also on display.

“This happens to be my patrol shotgun,” Officer Dekker says. “So when I’m on patrol, it usually has a rifled slug – that’s what I’m going to be using in my patrol shotgun, or a buckshot.”

In some states, deer and other big game can’t be harvested with rifles, so shotguns are used instead.

They actually have to use slugs, and so you see guys with slugs and shotguns going after big game in some states,” says Officer Dekker. 

Finally, Officer Dekker showed a Ruger 10/22. He describes it as “a very popular gun, a very popular round, and this is a semi-automatic, so again, every time we pull the trigger, it’s going to cycle the action and send another round down range.”

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