Rifle Types: The Complete Guide

Rifle Types: The Complete Guide

If you read our article on hunting rifles for beginners, it may have left you wondering what other sorts of rifle types are out there. After all, most everyone is familiar with the ubiquitous bolt-action and the classic lever-gun, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a complete list of rifle types? Read on for such a lineup, in alphabetical order.



Thanks to an accident of the alphabet, we start here with the familiar bolt gun. Utilizing an action actuated by a bolt and handle, the bolt action seats a round when the bolt is driven forward, after which pushing the bolt down locks the action into place. Once fired, the bolt is unlocked by lifting, then pulling the handle rearward to eject the spent shell. The process can be repeated until the magazine is empty. Bolt handles come in a variety of different throw angles (the distance which you must rotate the handle to unlock the bolt)—60- and 90-degrees are popular options. As a general rule of thumb, the shorter the throw angle, the quicker you can run the bolt, the quicker your follow up shot, hence why companies like Benelli use 60-degree throws on their premier hunting rifles (in Benelli’s case, the Lupo).

Standard bolt-actions come in a wide variety of subsets. Some utilize push-feed actions, which strip the cartridge off the top of the magazine to seat into the action. Others utilize controlled-round feed, which locks the round into a claw-style extractor as the bolt is pushed forward. As far as feeding is concerned, some feed from detachable box magazines, while others utilize fixed, hinged-floorplate variants, and still others can be single-shots. Safeties can be standard two-position or three-position variants (the latter has an option to lock the bolt in place), which can be mounted on the tang, the trigger guard, or even the bolt head. Some bolts cock when opened, others cock on close, etc. ad infinitum. Despite this multitude of minute differences, however, bolt-actions all run about the same way. Lift the bolt, pull it back, push it forward, lock it down, and you’re ready to go.


Does the above procedure seem a little too complicated to you? Want to shave off a few fractions of a second on your follow-up shot? If so, the straight-pull bolt-action is for you. Unlike its traditional sibling, the straight-pull locks and unlocks without manipulating the bolt handle up and down, but simply by sweeping it back and slamming it home.

This is accomplished in different ways by different companies. Savage’s new Impulse utilizes the Hexlock system, a series of six ball bearings which lock the bolt into place in a barrel extension when closed. Other systems, like the classic Blaser R8, utilize a radial locking system. There are even more out there, but the main characteristic, of course, is the operation of the action. Pull out, push in, and fire.


Break-action rifle types are among the simplest designs on the market, and tend to skew either to its high or low end. Many exquisite double-barreled dangerous-game rifles are of a break action design, as are many small rimfires. Break-actions are actuated by a lever either on or near the tang of the rifle, which hinges the barrel(s) forward to reveal the chamber(s). Cartridges are then placed into the chamber(s) manually, and the gun closed to seal the chamber and cock the gun. After firing, the action is broken back open, which either fully ejects or extracts the spent shells, based on the design.


Incredibly accurate and durable, falling blocks can be found in such famed firearms as the Sharps rifle (Quigley down under, anyone?), and the fine Ruger No. 1. Its design is as simple as it is effective. A block rides in tracks cut into the breech, and is actuated by a lever that generally doubles as a trigger guard. Dropping the lever opens the chamber, after which a cartridge can be fed in by hand. Lifting the lever raises the block, sealing the chamber tight–so tight, in fact, that this is the design often used in artillery, and other high-pressure weapon systems. To unload, the rifle is generally equipped with extractors rather than ejectors, necessitating the removal of spent shells by hand. Cocking the hammer is accomplished manually by pulling it back.

Fully Automatic

This is a hunting page, meaning you likely are not reading this article to get informed on full-autos. That said, it is technically a type of rifle, so I feel obligated to include it here, lest people forget about this pinnacle of firearm technology. 

A fully automatic firearm is, essentially, a gun which allows the bolt to continue cycling and firing for as long as the trigger remains pulled, until your magazine runs out of ammunition (one technical exception to this is guns offering a “three-shot burst”). How it does this is barely different in principle to how a semi-automatic works, which I have written about in some detail down below. The only primary difference is between closed- and open-bolt fire. 

A closed-bolt design will chamber and fire a round exactly like its semi-automatic sibling: the primer is struck by a firing pin, actuated by a hammer. The only difference is that a device (generally some sort of sear) will allow the hammer to release again as the bolt or bolt-carrier moves forward, firing the next round. An open-bolt full-auto, on the other hand, simply uses the force of the bolt driving forward to ignite the primer–the firing pin will thus often be attached directly to the bolt.


If you really need an explanation here, you may have not watched enough Westerns as a child. Lever-action rifle types are those stylish guns you often see hanging off horses in saddle bags, or in the hands of men with 10-gallon hats. They are operated via the lever riding below the receiver, and are widely favored for their quick-running actions, delivering fast and accurate follow-up shots. The downstroke of the lever ejects the spent shell in the chamber and cocks the hammer, while driving it back up chambers a fresh cartridge. 

Magazines are almost always tubular, though some companies equip the guns with detachable- or fixed-box magazines, as these can help the rifle chamber more efficient styles of ammunition. For traditional tube-magazine-fed lever guns, some are fed through the top of the tube via a removable inner sleeve, while others utilize a side-gate loading mechanism. Some rifles even have both. Safeties are not traditionally affixed to these sorts of firearms, though some now come with the feature.


Let me start this section with a warning, to ensure no one runs afoul of local game seasons. All muzzleloaders that sport rifled barrels are rifles, but not all rifles are muzzleloaders. A muzzleloader is defined as a gun in which propellant (powder) and projectile are both loaded from the muzzle The powder is first measured and poured into the chamber, after which the bullet is driven home by a ramrod. Some more modern designs like the Traditions Nitrofire only load the projectile down the barrel and feed propellant from the breech, but as some states do not consider this a true muzzleloader, I will stick to the stricter definition. 

Ignition is accomplished via either a #209 shotgun-style primer or a large-rifle primer for inline muzzleloaders, in which the primer is seated in front a bolt face in the breech. For more classic designs, called sidelocks, ignition can be achieved by #10 percussion caps, musket caps, #209s, or even a flint stone struck against a frizzen. That last option is worthy of an article in and of itself.


While mostly relegated to shotguns in modern times, pump-action rifles were all the rage back in the day, and you may stumble across a classic Remington 760 Gamemaster at some point. Instead of a handle running the bolt back and cycling the action, the bolt is connected to a mobile fore-end by one or two action bars, along which the fore-end can be moved, or “pumped.” Doing so ejects a spent shell casing, chambers another one and cocks the gun.

Pump-actions have mostly fallen out of favor these days due to the strength needed for a locking mechanism to handle modern chamber pressures, as it would make the pump almost unworkable without massive effort. That said, there are still companies making them for older, classic deer chamberings like .30-30 Winchester. As with most every rifle-type on this list, there are a variety of ways the gun can be fed and made safe, but the action remains roughly the same across all pump guns.


One of the first actions designed to withstand modern smokeless powders, the rolling-block is an incredibly strong system. The breech is sealed by a block that rotates in place on a pin, and is locked in place by a hammer, hence the name. While a durable design, the rolling block is limited mostly to slow, single-shot applications, thumb-cocked by a hammer and is thus generally only found on vintage or reproduction guns.


Semi-automatic rifle types, plainly put, are rifles that do not need to be manually cocked for every shot. Firing a round initiates the ejection of its case, the chambering of a new round, and the cocking of its hammer. It will do this every time the trigger is pulled, until the gun runs out of ammunition. If you thought having two types of bolt-actions was excessive, you’d better hang on tight, as semi-automatics can be blowback operated, recoil operated, gas operated, or even piston driven.

Blowback Operation

Generally constrained to pistols, blowback operation utilizes the rearward force of the propellant from the cartridge to move the bolt back, ejecting the spent casing and chambering a new one. This is a relatively weak force, hence why it is generally limited to pistols, but it is sometimes used on small rimfire rifles.

Recoil Operation

Another type of operation no longer commonly found on rifles, recoil operation utilizes the force of the recoil to work the action. In a long-recoiling system, the barrel and breechblock stay locked together throughout the process, meaning the barrel retracts with every shot. A short-recoil system, on the other hand, only has the barrel move a tiny distance, with the breechblock traveling alone for the majority of the cycle. Nowadays, recoil operation is generally found on shotguns and pistols, the glaring exception being heavy machine guns like the M2-HB.

Gas Operation

The most common way to cycle a semi-automatic firearm, gas systems channel the gas from a fired projectile out a small hole (generally in the barrel), and use the pressure it creates to cycle the bolt. The piston-driven design–best known in the AK-47 platform–is a cleaner-running variant of this, as it uses gas to press on a piston, which is attached to the bolt by a rod, to cycle the action. It is cleaner since gas is not routed to the bolt, from there escaping directly into the action, but requires more moving parts, and thus is slightly more complicated.

BONUS: Revolver

You’re probably wondering if your author has lost his mind, or understands the proper definition of a rifle. As it turns out, only one of the above is true. Revolvers were once in vogue both as pistols and rifles, particularly for cavalry troopers, though misfiring problems have relegated them to reside only in history books, and as careful reproductions. Nonetheless, you may one day stumble across a six-shooting long-gun, so its existence merits inclusion. That said, I’d certainly not recommend it for your next hunt. They have a nasty reputation for firing several shots simultaneously, right when you least expect it.

How to Choose the Best Hunting Scope

How to Choose the Best Hunting Scope

In a recent piece, we discussed choosing your first hunting rifle, gave a few examples, and discussed the important qualities of each. That’s only half the equation, however. You’re going to need to top that new gun with some sort of optic, so what should you look for when it comes to glass? Read on for some important features, factors, and a few models to take into consideration on your quest for clarity. 


Your first consideration when choosing a hunting scope, generally, is magnification. Primarily hunting back east, and rarely see a shot past 200 yards (if that)? A standard 3X9 is probably enough to fill your needs. Looking to push the envelope? You’ll likely want to go up to 15 or 20X on the magnification. Don’t let your bottom magnification get much higher than 4X, however. There is always the possibility of a close shot, and you don’t want your lower magnification so high you have trouble finding your target quickly in your scope. This is one reason why you should not simply get the highest power scope you can find: the higher magnification the scope, generally the higher the bottom end. The higher the magnification range, the more expensive the scope.

Additionally, from a performance perspective, you actually do not want that high a magnification of scope. For an ethical hunter, your longest shot should be nowhere near as long as a competitive shooter is generally firing onto paper. As such, the additional magnification at hunting ranges will do little more than make your sight picture needlessly wobbly.


Do you need an adjustable scope? That depends on how far you care to go in your hunting career. For the average, backyard hunter, a lack of ballistic turrets is no real problem. If you intend on pursuing longer, more precise shots however, an ability to dial in your adjustments is a must. At even longer hunting distances, you can get away with holding for wind, provided you have a reticle marked with wind holds (another thing I would highly recommend); the ability to dial is most critical on elevation. It takes a very skilled marksman, or a real Christmas tree of a reticle, to successfully hold for windage and elevation at the same time. Translation? Get a scope with a turret/turrets. 

Next, you need to determine whether you’ll be using MOA or MRAD for your calculations. While the differences between the two are worthy of their own article, in general, there is little advantage to one over the other for hunting purposes. MRAD has long been the military standard, while MOA has traditionally been used more by hunters. The important thing to keep in mind is that once you’ve decided on a system, it will be far easier to stick with it. Switching is, of course, possible, but you will have to relearn all your calculations and distances to do so.

Focal Plane

First Focal Plane (FFP), or Second Focal Plane (SFP)? The debate over which is preferable when choosing the best hunting scope is almost as bad as the caliber wars. In a nutshell, FFP magnifies from behind your reticle, which means that your crosshairs and other markings enlarge proportionally to your target, and thus your windage- and elevation-holds (subtensions) retain their accuracy. With SFP, the magnification mechanism is on the far side of your reticle, so your subtensions are only technically accurate at a certain magnification (generally the highest one). From the sound of that, you’re probably thinking: “why would anyone ever choose SFP?” As it turns out, the choice is not quite as simple as it sounds.

For starters, FFP optics tend to be more expensive than their SFP counterparts. If you’re not planning on doing extremely complicated holds and calculations (as are common in PRS matches, where FFP is now a sine qua non), the extra cost can sometimes not be worth it. Second, for an FFP reticle to work when at full magnification, it has to be incredibly tiny at its lowest power. If your hunting area has ranges that are not all that far, and you expect to do some snap shooting, this is not always an optimal state of affairs. For hunting at extreme ranges, of course, FFP is irrelevant, as you’ll be at maximum magnification anyway, and your subtensions will be accurate. In my opinion, both have their place, so do your research and determine which is best suited to your particular needs. You can learn more about their differences here.

Objective Lens

This is a simple one. The objective lens is that final number you see on a scope model (for instance, on a 3-9X40mm, 40mm is your objective lens size). The larger the objective lens, the more light is let into the scope, the better it will perform in a low-light environment, be that twilight or thick, dark woods. The smaller your lens, the less light will be let in. Additionally, the higher magnification you’re running, the more light your scope will need, which is why you tend to see objective lens size increase with higher magnification models. The downside? Larger objective lenses can be heavier and more cumbersome. For hunting optics, common objective lenses tend to be in the 30-45mm range. Take stock of your needs and find a good balance.


Above are the main considerations you’ll need to take into account. Want some models to consider? Check out the list below for a couple of our favorites.

Zeiss Conquest V4

Much as with my article on hunting rifles, I am starting here with a bit of a Cadillac, but if you’re serious about hunting and long-range shooting, “buy once cry once” should be your mantra. While this is a bit of dough to drop right off the bat, it is still less than dropping a paltry amount this year, and then spending the exact same amount next year when you’ve decided you need a higher-quality optic to achieve your goals. The Zeiss Conquest V4 line is based off a 4X zoom ratio, and boasts 3-12, 4-16 and 6-24 models. Reticles are all SFP, with both illuminated and non-illuminated options available. If you’re going straight to the Conquest V4 line, I would avoid the Reticle 60 option, as it is the only reticle offered without any subtensions. Models can generally be found for between $699 and $1,299, depending on magnification and other options (adjustability, etc.).

Leupold Mark 5HD

I gave you an SFP Caddy, so I feel obligated to present a similar offering from the FFP side of the market. The Leupold Mark 5HD provides a 5X zoom ratio and FFP performance. It is available with a variety of reticles in 3.5-18X44mm, 5-25X56mm, and 7-35X56mm (I would recommend the lowest magnification model for most hunters). Turrets are all adjustable with ZeroLock technology, to ensure your dials don’t do any self-adjustment, and models can generally be found for between $1,499.99 and $3,199.99 depending on magnification level and features. If those prices seems way out of your range, Leupold also makes a Mark 3HD, with a 3X zoom ratio, while its VX line of SFP models move even further in the affordable direction. 

Vortex Diamondback Tactical FFP Riflescope

For more budget performance without diving too far into the $5 bin, check out the Vortex Diamondback Riflescope. Simple, rugged and affordable, these FFP scopes come with a lifetime warranty with adjustable turrets, and have one choice each of well-marked reticles in either MOA or MRAD. Models consist of 4-16X44mm and 6-24X50mm, and can be found for between $350 and $450.

There are plenty more worthy brands and models, but these three would be an excellent place to start when choosing the best hunting scope for your needs

Best Hunting Rifles for Beginners

Best Hunting Rifles for Beginners

Your first time afield can be a daunting prospect. From how to conduct yourself and dress, to which gear to bring and which to leave at home, the experience can be as humbling as it is rewarding, revealing just how little you yet know about how to thrive in the great outdoors. Potentially the most daunting part, is deciding on a rifle. While the process can be eased by using a mentor’s firearm, you will eventually need to pull the trigger on a purchase of your own. This is a big decision, as it can represent a substantial outlay of cash, and a potential commitment to a platform and caliber. Read on for a few great options to get you started on your search for the best hunting rifles.

Benelli Lupo

I won’t lie to you, if we were to liken this process to your first car, the Benelli Lupo would be a Corvette, but hear me out. Unlike flipping your 15-year-old self the keys to a 400-horsepower monster, there are some significant benefits to starting near the top of the proverbial heap. For starters, if (like me) you prefer to minimize your overall expenditures, this is not a rifle you will ever need to graduate from. With nine different caliber options, sub-MOA accuracy, a threaded barrel, and a weight tipping the scales right around seven pounds (caliber dependant), this rifle can take you from the treestand to intense backcountry excursions, and will likely outshoot your own capabilities at any distance. Additionally, for beginner shooters, the Lupo tames recoil with a Progressive Comfort system and Combtech cheek pad, though I would recommend a smaller hunting caliber for a first rifle anyway (unless you’re jumping straight to elk). The controls are also intuitive, with an ambidextrous, tang-mounted safety, a detachable-box magazine, and an adjustable trigger. The gun also comes pre-mounted with a two-piece Picatinny rail, to make mounting your first optic easy. MSRP: $1,699; www.benelliusa.com

Savage Model 110 Hunter

I should disclose upfront a small bias toward Savage Arms, as my first and most trusted hunting rifle is an old Model 111 I got a deal on at the local auction house. I say small, however, as my large predilection for the company’s firearms is due in larger part to the incredible accuracy and dependability I have seen out of their guns over the years. The company’s Model 110 line is about as storied as a hunting rifle can get, and encompasses guns from basic utilitarian models, all the way up to ultralight backcountry bruisers. The Model 110 Hunter is a great place to start. With the company’s adjustable AccuFit system, tunable AccuTrigger, and an AccuStock rail that secures the action along its entire length, the gun is a solid performer that can grow with you as your skills improve. Additionally, the tang-mounted safety and detachable box magazine will get you used to the ergonomics of other Model 110s when you’re ready to step up your game to a more lightweight or game-specific variant. MSRP: $849; www.savagearms.com

Ruger American Standard Rifle

Ruger’s primary offering to hunters, the American rifle, also comes in a variety of different trims, each with its own specific features. For a beginner’s hunting rifle, however? The American Standard will serve your purposes just fine in your quest for the best hunting rifles. Available in seven common calibers, the Ruger American Standard weighs in between six and six-and-a-half pounds, with a 22-inch barrel for good accuracy results. An alloy-steel receiver and a black-synthetic stock mean this gun can take all the abuse a beginner can give it, and keep on ticking. The Marksman trigger is adjustable between 3 and 5 pounds, the magazine is detachable, and a soft rubber buttpad is included for recoil reduction. To make the gun safe, an ergonomic tang safety provides easy access at a moment’s notice. MSRP: $579; www.ruger.com

Henry Long Ranger

While I don’t think any roundup of the best hunting rifles for beginners is complete without the inclusion of a lever gun, I must make one caveat. If you ever intend on getting into longer-range precision shooting, or longer-distance hunting, your first gun should be a bolt-action. While I appreciate the appeal of a good old lever-gun as much as the next red-blooded American, the fact of the matter is that with modern loadings and cartridges, a bolt-action is almost always going to be the best bang for your buck, and you should get familiar with how to run one right off the bat. Please note, however, that I said “almost.” 

If you have a true need to go the lever-action route, and you don’t plan on pushing the distances all that far, Henry’s Long Ranger has found a way to allow the classic design to run with modern calibers, making for an excellent and well-rounded hunting gun. Coming chambered in .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, .308 Winchester or 6.5 Creedmoor, this lever action comes with a detachable-box magazine instead of the ubiquitous tube, which allows it to run the aforementioned cartridges. Weighing in at seven-pounds empty, this gun is right around the weights of the other rifles on this list, despite some truly beautiful American Walnut furniture. A round, blued-steel barrel meshes nicely with a hard-anodized black receiver, which is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. While I’d consider mounting a scope essential for any hunter, it does come with a standard set of irons. Using a high set of rings, you could even cowitness your irons underneath the scope–this is a favorite setup of Eastern hardwoods deer hunters. MSRP: $1,195; www.henryusa.com

Bolt-Action Anatomy

Bolt-Action Anatomy

If there is a single type of rifle that has permanently endeared itself to American hunters, it is the bolt-action. While this may sound like elementary knowledge nowadays, it once was far from a foregone conclusion. In Europe, the lightning-quick straight-pull bolt-action is king, thanks to the popularity of driven hunts–particularly for boar. In 19th-century and early 20th-century America, the lever-action reigned supreme, thanks to its balance of speed and capacity, not to mention its efficiency with the commonly used powders and projectiles of the day. For the current century, however, bolt-actions provide the most effective combination of strength of action, speed of follow up, and capacity easily brought into line with modern hunting regulations. To see why, let’s take a closer look at bolt-action rifle anatomy.


While the modern hunter will most commonly encounter bolt-actions mounted on a traditional wood or synthetic stock, bolt-actions are versatile enough to be found on a wide variety of shooting platforms. More precision- and competition-minded folks tend to run bolt-actions mounted to highly adjustable chassis–with adjustments for everything from length of pull to drop at comb. On the other end of the spectrum, those concerned with a diminutive package and looking to shave some pounds will utilize bolt-action pistols, like the new Savage 110 PCS. How it’s mounted has little to do with the action itself, of course. I merely mention it to show how well the design has proliferated through the gamut of firearm platforms.


Dating from 1824, bolt-action anatomy remains incredibly true to its initial design, improvements mostly reflecting adaptations to changing cartridge technology, or machining processes. The first piece of note is the receiver. Generally constructed from some sort of aluminum, steel, or stainless steel, this is the overarching metal “bucket” where all the functions occur–cartridges are fed in from the magazine, peeled off the top by the bolt and slammed home into the chamber.


The action itself, then, is manipulated primarily by the bolt. For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on rotating-bolt designs, as opposed to the straight-pull mentioned in our introductory paragraph. The bolt consists of a metal tube, which houses both a firing mechanism and a locking system. The firing mechanism consists of a spring-loaded firing pin (which touches off the primer of a cartridge), while the locking mechanism is made up of a varying amount of lugs, which lock into slots in the receiver for a firm hold. Though it sounds simple, note should be made that this locking system is exactly what has given the bolt-action such an advantage with modern hunters and shooters. When the bolt is turned, locking the lugs into place, the lockup is significantly stronger than on–for example–a lever action, allowing it to handle heavier chamber pressures, and thus stronger loads. The bolt is actuated by a bolt handle, which protrudes to the side. It is lifted to unlock the lugs and pulled rearward to clear the action, then moved forward to chamber a round and pushed down to re-lock the lugs.

Feeding Styles

As the bolt locks the cartridge in place in the chamber, it is also responsible for the other processes of the action–loading, extraction, and ejection. Here we begin to see some differences between designs. The vast majority of rifles on the market are termed “push-feed.” Cheaper to produce than their counterparts, and boasting a higher accuracy potential, push-feed actions catch the next cartridge as the bolt moves forward, and push it into place in the chamber. This helps accuracy, as it allows the cartridge to center itself *slightly* better, lessening the effect of the minute disparities between cases. Where it’s less efficient, though, is in reliability. Since the cartridges are sliding into place relatively unassisted, failures to feed (FTF) and double feeds are marginally more common.

For the most reliable feeding, with a small hit to accuracy, shooters tend toward “controlled-round-feed.” These sorts of rifles are particularly prized by dangerous-game hunters. Instead of simply pushing the next round into place, controlled round feed latches onto the base of the cartridge with the extractor claw before stripping it from the magazine. This (in theory, anyway) eliminates the possibility of a double feed, and most common FTF issues.

These two types of action necessarily extract and eject differently as well. While most push feeds utilize a spring-loaded plunger on the breech (bolt) face, to spring the spent casing free as soon as it clears the ejection port, controlled round feeds use a fixed mechanical ejector attached to the receiver, to sling the spent casing free at a fixed point. This is due to the ejector gripping the round as soon as it is stripped from the magazine, rather than only when it is driven into the chamber. While there are many more intricacies between the two, this should suffice for a fundamental explanation.

Cocking and Firing

The other responsibilities of a bolt are cocking the action, and releasing the firing pin. Cocking is accomplished either upon opening or closing the bolt, when a lug actuated by the rotation of the bolt compresses the firing pin spring. Once compressed, the pin is held in place by a sear. Releasing the spring tension is accomplished by the pulling of the trigger, which actuates the sear away from the pin, allowing the firing pin to translate its potential energy into kinetic. Again, this is a bit of an oversimplification, and different varieties of the above process abound, but for basic bolt-action anatomy, it will suffice.

Outside of this, the bolt-action looks incredibly similar to other rifle designs. The magazine (most commonly a detachable-box or hinged-floorplate unit) feeds rounds into the action, which moves them to the chamber. From the chamber, bullets are propelled down the barrel, and are spun to stability by the rifling within it. The action can be made safe by an either two- or three-position safety, which can do everything from disengaging the trigger, to blocking the sear, to blocking the firing pin, to locking the entire bolt, depending on model.

Bolt-action anatomy, while representing only a small fraction of firearm design, is nonetheless a broad topic in and of itself. With the information above, you will hopefully have a firmer understanding of what’s going on inside your rifle, next time you rack that bolt and pull the trigger.

Making The Shot: Outdoor Solutions’ Long Range School

Making The Shot: Outdoor Solutions’ Long Range School

If you are considering hunting, one of the most important, if not THE most important thing to learn is proficiency with a firearm. The last thing you want, is to to put in all the hard work, locate the animal you are hunting, only to miss your shot, or worse yet, wound an animal without recovering it.

Our team recently had the opportunity to host a long range school event for our friends at Benelli, along with a handful of industry writers from some of the most popular publications. This event was to put the new Benelli Lupo to the test.

Below is an article from Andy Massimilian with American Hunter Magazine. We hope you enjoy it!

Making The Shot: Outdoor Solutions’ Long Range School

By Andy Massimilian (American Rifleman Magazine)

Making The Shot: Outdoor Solutions’ Long Range School | An Official Journal Of The NRA (americanrifleman.org)

“They will get you hitting at 1,000 yards before lunch on day 1”, explained Greg Duncan from Blue Heron when pitching a story to me on Outdoor Solutions Corp’s Long Range Shooting School.  Greg is a straight-up guy who’s not prone to exaggerate, but I was incredulous that success at 1,000 yards was as achievable, seemingly easily achievable, as he described.  As it turned out, he was correct, but on a 3:00 p.m. timetable rather than noon.  

The Long Range School is produced by Texas-based Outdoor Solutions Corp, which also arranges big-game hunting and fishing expeditions. I took the Level 1 course designed to help prepare big-game hunters for success on what is typically an expensive and possibly once-in-a-lifetime hunt where a longer-distance shot may be the only shot available. Taking a 1,000-yard shot on an animal is not encouraged, but learning how to connect with targets at that range and at distances beyond your comfort zone coming into the class helps with the more realistic, ethical shots you’ll potentially take on a hunt. 

A group of students gathers around trucks in the wilderness at the Outdoor Solutions Long Range School.The LRS is a 2+ day experience set in Texas, Utah or Michigan using field conditions for most of the shooting exercises, not a square range. You can bring your own rifle, but the class is conducted using a factory-spec Benelli Lupo rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and equipped with an Advanced Armament Corp Jaeger suppressor and a Zeiss Conquest V4 6-24X 50 mm scope. The ammo supplied is the Barnes BT Match Burner BT Match 140-grain load. Each of up to 13 participants is assigned their own rifle for the duration. There are three instructors plus support staff. My total round count was about 130.

Your Issue Rifle: the Benelli Lupo

The Lupo is Benelli’s first bolt-action rifle, and it debuted in 2020. Available in six calibers suitable for taking any North American big-game animal, this rifle is built to deliver greater accuracy than most competitive rifles of similar weight and price point, and Benelli backs up that promise with a three-shot sub-m.o.a. accuracy guarantee. In 6.5 Creedmoor, the 6.9-lb. Lupo holds 5+1 rounds in a detachable magazine and sports a medium weight barrel that is 24” long to wring out most of this cartridge’s potential velocity. 

Benelli Lupo rifle right side shown on white.The action is slick, relatively quiet, and has a 60-degree bolt throw for more rapid cycling. I found the stock contours make the rifle comfortable to shoulder and carry afield, but they’re not ideal by any means for the benchrest shooting that we did at the onset and conclusion of the course; Not surprising, given its intended use. Like most Benelli shotgun barrels, the Lupo’s barrel is cryogenically treated, which can improve accuracy and is free-floated. The trigger can be set between 2.2 to 4.4 lbs., and mine broke cleanly and consistently at a weight that seemed just under 4 lbs.

It Starts In The Classroom

A threshold requirement to long-range shooting is speaking and conceptualizing the language of milliradian (MILS) or minute of angle (m.o.a.). The LRS uses the latter system, and lead instructor Erik Lund took care to explain more the night we arrived at the lodge. Lund explained what m.o.a. meant and how to work the Zeiss Conquest 6-24X scope, which is calibrated in m.o.a. on its turrets and its ZBi reticle. 

A Benelli Lupo rifle sitting on a shooting bench next to Barnes Precision ammunition.Working the ballistic app and other foundational material is also covered and the worthwhile presentation is emailed to each student for future reference. We would soon learn the practical application of m.o.a. because wind holds, scope adjustments and target size are all communicated in that language. 

Live Fire

The next morning, it’s off to the range for a day of known distance (KD) bench rest shooting at 100-yard paper, then square 3-m.o.a. wide steel targets set at successive 100-yard increments up the mountainside all the way out to 1,000 yards. The steel targets are painted with a specific design that helps the spotter call the correct adjustment in m.o.a. by seeing where a round impacts the steel.  

A group of shooters aim their rifles downrange from the bench on a known-distance target range.Benchrest shooting techniques are explained, but the most important takeaway for me was learning to use the trigger where your firing hand thumb does not wrap around the stock. This method is unnatural and doesn’t fit the ergonomics of the Lupo’s hunting intended grip, but it’s worth some experimentation. For others, this was the first time behind a suppressed rifle, an experience Lund correctly said would make them never want to go back after seeing how much this accessory makes shooting more pleasant by taming recoil and lessening the harshness of a rifle’s report on the ears.

Day 2 is field work starting with convoying in 4x4s up steep hills into the mountains on narrow paths to an elevation 2,500’+ higher than the KD range. At the summit, you’ll shoot from 12 stations across four locations. Target presentations at each station vary with shots taken on the level, uphill, downhill, and across ravines and draws. Targets are placed in the open from 149 to 700 yards with most at 400 to 500 yards.

A rifle barrel and scope are seen in the foreground, while targets dot a hillside in the background.Ranging is done with a Zeiss Victory RF binocular. At some stations, the shooter chooses the firing position with a Sand Sock bag rest and your backpack, while at others, you are instructed to get familiar with using a BOG tripod or shooting sticks to help build a stable firing position. One of the more helpful tutorials in this respect was instructor Eric Suarez’s imaginative use of both the shooting sticks and a bag rest to achieve a rock-solid sitting position on uneven ground.

Building stable positions is a skill easily mastered, but accurately reading the wind only comes with lots of field experience and luck because wind conditions can be very deceptive. Case in point was a 470-yard shot from one ridge to another where a near full value cross wind hit the shooter hard. What was the wind correction we needed to make? As it turned out, nothing. The wind was only blowing where the shooter stood and about 25 yards forward and had no noticeable impact on trajectory. I would have never thought that to be true, and there were no visual wind indicators except at the shooter and the target.

A shooter mounts his Benelli Lupo rifle in the field while shooting off a bag rest.Coming down from the mountains, a final hour on the KD range allowed us to validate our skills on easier targets to conclude the class. This session also gave us a chance to work with the instructors on how to call wind corrections.  

A Practical, Field Based Focus

The LRS is not intended for the F-Class shooter or the ballistic nerd; don’t expect to hear esoterica like the Coriolis effect, spin drift, effects of cant, or the reason uphill/downhill shooting is different than firing over level ground. Those matters and much more ballistic knowledge in an interesting read can be learned on your own with Brian Litz’s seminal book, Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting.

A shooter aims his rifle across mountain ridges while a spotter mounts his spotting scope in the foreground.Taught instead are the necessities needed for reliably hitting steel over two days of live fire. A large part of that knowledge is how to use the GEO Ballistics ARC calculator, which accounts for several environmental factors that impact a bullet’s flight like humidity, temperature, air density and wind. The ARC calculator is key to making it all much simpler than in the past because it tells you the precise minute-of-angle (m.o.a.) adjustments in elevation, and if you use the wind function, windage. Though the steel targets were 3-m.o.a. wide, what was learned certainly applies to smaller targets.

Reading The Wind

For distant shots, wind reading is by far the most challenging aspect of putting a bullet where you want it. You can do everything correctly–perfect shooting position, trigger control and accurate ballistic calculator inputs—and still be robbed of a hit on target because of the wind. The LRS covers several aspects of wind detection but without using a Kestrel meter or similar device.  

Two men stand next to a steel target showing impact marks. One man is holding a Benelli Lupo rifle with a mounted suppressor.Instead, shooters are instructed to sharpen their powers of observation to detect direction of mirage, vegetation movement, bullet strike dust and spotting trace. In what I thought was the most impressive demonstration of wind calling of the class, instructor Ryan Pettis read mirage at two places downrange to give me a dead on accurate 1.5-m.o.a. correction on an 800-yard target. Looking through the spotting scope after two near perfect shots, I can only say that his well-trained Marine Scout Sniper eyes discerned subtle mirage where I couldn’t see any.

For more info on the Long Range School, visit the Outdoor Solutions Corp website.

Gun Review: The Benelli Lupo in 6.5 Creedmoor

Gun Review: The Benelli Lupo in 6.5 Creedmoor

How does this Italian bolt-action stack up as a long-range hunting rifle?


Benelli Lupo on bench

Students at Outdoor Solutions’ long-range shooting class use Benelli Lupos in 6.5 Creedmoor topped with Zeiss glass. Brian McCombie

During the two-plus days I spent at the class, a fair amount of my attention was focused on answering the question: How effective would the Lupo be for taking deer and other big-game animals out to 400 yards?

Field shooting long range
During the second day of the shooting course, the students used the Benelli Lupo in practical field scenarios. Brian McCombie

Benelli Lupo to 400 Yards

The bolt-action, magazine-fed Lupo, I concluded, was quite capable of making first-shot, one-shot kills to 400-plus yards on big game. It was very accurate, the bolt-action locked up solidly, and the five-round magazine tucked up into the receiver nicely and out of the way. The Lupo is also threaded for a suppressor, and Benelli’s Progressive Comfort System built into the stock effectively reduces recoil. 

One caveat, though: Benelli placed the Lupo’s trigger system in the stock’s wrist at a strange angle. In some shooting positions, that angle required me to twist my hand and wrist in a way that made it difficult to shoot, especially when firing from a level platform like a shooting bench. Not that much hunting is done off a bench. Still, it will take a hunter some practice and adjustment to get used to that different trigger angle and trigger-guard placement. 

Lupo of shooting sticks
One of the students in the class puts the Benelli Lupo to work on a downhill shot off sticks. Brian McCombie

Taking the Benelli Lupo to 1,000 Yards

The class was held near Coalville, Utah, this past June, and was attended by 15 people, including myself. Three instructors, all with impressive military and civilian shooting credentials, took us through two days of intensive shooting, starting with 3 MOA steel targets ranging out to 1,000 yards. https://8daa68bf4c1bf6391da2e109e3f52182.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Then, on the second day, we traveled up into the nearby mountains and shot from positions we might encounter while hunting, like off large rocks and tree stumps, from shooting sticks, and lying prone on rocky hill tops.

Obviously, the course was designed to make us better long-range shooters. But the purpose of that was for us to find out just how far we could ethically take a shot at a big game animal. Most of the participants I talked with hadn’t shot a game animal at much over 125 yards, and they wanted to gain the skill and knowledge to know how and when to take a shot at 300 yards or more. 

Benelli Lupo Rigged Up

Each shooter was provided with a Benelli Lupo chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and topped with a Zeiss Conquest V4 6-24×50 rifle scope. We shot suppressed, the rifles tipped with AAC Jaeger 30s. Barnes Precision Match in 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition firing a 140-grain boat tail bullet rounded out or rigs.https://8daa68bf4c1bf6391da2e109e3f52182.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

We zeroed our rifles on paper at 100 yards, then shot more paper at 200 yards, taking turns shooting and spotting with a partner. Then we stretched to 3 MOA steel targets at 300 yards, and more steel at every 100-yard interval out to 1,000 yards.

Our day-two shooting was really a much better test of the Lupo as a longer-range hunter and the rifle did really well. My first shot hits included:

  • Within six inches of the target’s middle, at 650 yards shooting off a log with my backpack under my chest, and a wind of 10 mph wind moving right to left
  • Dead center twice in a row, prone at 480 yards, pack under my chest and small range bag under my shooting elbow, with the target posted upslope from me
  • Two out of three shots easily within an area equal to an elk’s vital area at 610 yards, rifle resting on top of a short, scrubby tree, with me holding off 2.5 MOA to the right to compensate for wind
  • And, 710 yards, my butt on the ground and rifle on short shooting sticks, two shots in a row, and my spotter put them a half foot apart and straddling the center bullseye.

A longer-range hunter? With that kind of accuracy, the answer should be, “Hell, yes!” And yet…

Benelli Lupo grip
The author found the positioning of the Benelli Lupo’s trigger awkward, especially when shooting off the bench. Brian McCombie

Ergonomic Issue

Those dead-on shots from positions much less stable than day one’s shooting table got me asking myself: How come I’m drilling damn near everything when shooting off logs and brush, first shot in all but one case, yet I had so much trouble the day before hitting a bullseye at a measly 100 yards?

Which is when I began paying attention to my trigger hand’s placement on these day-two shots and realized all my shooting was being done uphill or downhill. And with the rifle tilted at these angles, my hand and wrist were fairly comfortable. 

I also remembered that during day one my accuracy improved as the shooting stretched out to 500 to 1,000 yards. At the time, I assumed I was getting used to the rifle as the day wore on and so my accuracy improved. But it occurred to me that maybe the improved shooting was because those targets were placed up slope from my shooting table and I had to place the Lupo at a definite angle to make those shots.https://8daa68bf4c1bf6391da2e109e3f52182.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The 100- and 200-yard targets I had so much trouble with were essentially straight ahead and level with me and the shooting bench. At that position, my hand was forced back and this twisted my wrist at an awkward angle relative to my forearm and shoulder; getting stable with my hand and wrist in this position was very hard.

The Lupo’s trigger system looks a lot like that found on Benelli’s Super Vinci, but the Lupo’s is pushed up and back into the stock’s wrist or grip at an even more extreme angle. 

Flawless Functioning

The trigger itself snapped off a very crisp 2 pounds 4 ounces according to my Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge. The bolt worked easily and smoothly, even with the dust and dirt blown into the action during two windy days in a very dry Utah landscape. Recoil in this caliber was minimal.

But the design of the trigger placement, in my shooter’s opinion, is off. I hope Benelli can adjust that in future models, maybe a Lupo II?  That’s a rifle I’d gladly take on a hunt where I could expect a shot on a deer or elk of 400-plus yards.


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