The Rifle Rundown

man looking down the scope of a rifle resting on a table

At the range, in the field or beyond, rifles are a diverse and highly practical class of firearms. Whether you want to shoot a modern sporting rifle at targets or put a classic bolt-action to work for hunting big game, you need to master the basics and choose the right caliber and proper ammunition.

Home Defense

Although handguns usually get the call for use in home defense, rifles are effective and increasingly popular options. In many cases, they’re also easier and more intuitive for newcomers to shoot accurately. Home-defense-specific firearms are typically modern sporting rifles chambered in 223 Rem., 300 Blackout and 308 Win.

Man pointing rifle outside of door


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. Shooters who want to extend their range and test their skills on distant targets should opt for a sleek, low-drag bullet design like the Gold Medal Berger or Sierra MatchKing.

Lady holding a rifle on its side


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.

The best all-around choice is Terminal Ascent. Its aerodynamic design and Slipstream polymer tip improve accuracy and reduce bullet drop in flight, and its bonded core and jacket retain weight on impact, which is critical for lethal penetration at all ranges.

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.