Best Guns to Use for Various Types of Hunting

If you want to hunt multiple types of game, you will need multiple guns. There is generally a “best” type of firearm to use for any given animal. Some of those are more obvious than others, although, over my 15+ years of hunting, I have hunted dozens of types of animals and used plenty of different firearms. I know firsthand which ones work best in which situation, and today I am going to walk you through it.

Certain shotguns can be used to hunt just about anything, but you certainly would not want to hunt squirrels with your deer hunting rifle. If you want to go with the safe bet, the best gun for hunting is a 12 gauge shotgun. With a simple change of ammo and possibly choke, you can effectively hunt an entirely different animal.

While that is true, it does not mean that a shotgun is always the best. If you want to know what the most efficient type of firearm to use for the most common types of game is, then keep reading.

Best Rifle Whitetail Deer Hunting

If you want to hunt whitetail deer, you will need some sort of rifle. A rifle is the best and most effective tool for hunting whitetail because it can shoot long distances and still deliver a ton of energy to its target.

Your whitetail caliber rifles are going to be centerfire cartridges. These consist of a primer, casing, gunpowder, and of course, a bullet. The size of the bullet and casing depends on the caliber. Caliber is technically the diameter of the bullet, but the name of the overall cartridge is oftentimes referred to as the caliber as well.

If you want to get a rifle to deer hunt with, the first question you will ask is what caliber you should buy. This is the age-old debate in the hunting world. There is no one best caliber, and every hunter has their own opinion. The truth is, most rifle calibers out there are very capable of taking down a whitetail deer.

With that being said, there are a few restrictions. In most states, you are required to use a rifle that is chambered in a caliber larger than .22 inches. So the .223 Remington is about as small as you can legally use. Of course, it will work for whitetail, but it is not the best. You need to step up from .223, but after that, most calibers are efficient within 100 or 150 yards.

Personally, I like to use a .308 Winchester for deer hunting. It is viable for over 300 yards, and I have used it to take down dozens of whitetails. A great and affordable rifle to get in 308 Winchester is the Ruger American. This is a highly rated rifle that is a best seller and gets a ton of great reviews. If you want to see a little more about this rifle, check out this youtube video below.

Best Shotgun For Bird or Waterfowl Hunting

If you want to hunt some type of bird or waterfowl, your best bet is a 12 gauge shotgun. If you think about it for a minute, it would be extremely hard to hit a flying target with a single bullet. So a shotgun is going to shoot numerous smaller BBs and give you a better chance of hitting your target. 

A shotgun shell consists of a primer, gun powder, and a wad that is full of BBs(also called “shot”). When you shoot, the entire wad travels down the barrel and is fired. Once the wad exits the barrel, it opens and lets the BBs out. Those BBs then spread out as they fly. So if your target is 10 yards away, your shot spread is going to be much smaller than it would be at 25 yards. This makes it much easier to hit flying targets.

You can get shotgun shells in a variety of shot sizes. A shot size basically describes how big the BBs are in the wad. You typically use 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 shot for waterfowl hunting. This is called birdshot, and it is not suitable for hunting anything larger than geese. For larger game, you can use slugs or buckshot.

The Benelli SuperNova 12 gauge shotgun is an excellent choice for any hunter. It is the top-rated shotgun on their website and is very affordable. If I had to buy a new shotgun for waterfowl or upland birds, this is what I would get. If you want to see the SuperNova in action, check out this review video on YouTube!

Best Firearm for Varmint Hunting

For varmint hunting, you will want to use a small caliber rifle. Varmints can be anything from rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, groundhogs, porcupines, coyotes, and much more. For most of the smaller animals, a .22 LR rifle will be a great choice. The LR stands for Long Rifle and is simply the name of the caliber.

A 22 LR can be used to hunt dozens of animals, and it is always a good idea to have one if an opportunity arises. The Ruger 10/22 is a super popular choice for a semi-automatic 22 LR. Thousands of these rifles have been sold over the years, and their continued success speaks for itself. Check out this review with nearly 2 million views.

If you want to hunt something a little larger like a coyote, a 22 LR will not be big enough. A popular round for hunting coyotes is the .223 Remington. This is still a small caliber round, but it is going much faster than a 22 LR and causes more damage.

The classic AR15 is commonly chambered in .223 Remington/5.56 NATO (which are effectively the same), and the Ruger AR556 is the perfect rifle to use. This is an incredibly popular rifle with over 100 5 star reviews on their website.

The Hunters Buyers Guide

No matter what kind of animal you are hunting, there are a few key features you can look for in your desired firearm. Let’s go through them one by one.

Type of Projectile

As I mentioned before, you basically have two options for projectiles. You can have a single bullet or a wad of BBs. When you are hunting large game, you will want to use a high-powered rifle that shoots a single projectile.

Although when you are hunting waterfowl or birds, you will want to use a shotgun, which shoots a wad of BBs. This makes it easier to hit a moving target. You can also use a shotgun for hunting small game like small varmints, but small caliber rifles are also popular for this kind of hunting.

Caliber & Gauge

If you are hunting big game, you will not want to use a 22 LR. Instead, you need a larger caliber like 308 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, or 270 Winchester. There are hundreds of calibers out there, and there are a million caliber reviews and comparisons online. Just know that smaller calibers are better for smaller game and larger calibers are better for larger game.

Shotguns also have a sort of “caliber” called a gauge. The gauge is a measure of the diameter of the shotgun bore (barrel). 12 gauge is the most common, followed by 20 gauge. The smaller the gauge, the larger the bore. So 12 gauge is bigger than 20 gauge. There are some advantages to different gauges, but 12 gauge is a go-to for just about everything.


Lastly, the largest factor affecting what firearm you are going to buy is your budget. With guns, you get what you pay for. A $200 rifle is not going to hold a light to a $2500 rifle. Thankfully you can get some pretty solid rifles and shotguns for less than $1000. Although you also need to consider other things you will have to pay for when you buy a firearm. Make sure you include sales tax, optics, and ammunition in your budget.

Final Thoughts

We have looked at some extremely popular guns that can be used to hunt three types of game. These three types of game represent a large portion of what is available for Americans to hunt but does not include everything. You should now have a solid idea of what kind of firearm and caliber is used for hunting each type of game, and you can use that knowledge to pick up your very own hunting rifle or shotgun online or a gun store nearest you.

Written by

Brady Kirkpatrick is the owner of and has been featured in Cheaper than Dirt,, AllOutdoor, and countless others. He is from Omaha, Nebraska and has been an avid gun enthusiast ever since he moved to the Midwest over 15 years ago. It's his passion to share his knowledge and expertise about guns and gun safety.

Latest comments
  • Just use 50 beowolf

  • You are a little lacking in the detail about the .223 Rem and 5.56 Nato. Please amend and let people know that a gun chambered for .223 should not be using the higher pressure 5.56 Nato. the additional 10k psi difference could be a problem if the .223 rifle is not built to take higher pressures.

  • Check local rules for hunting, some states don’t permit using .223/5.56 for deer. they consider them on par w/ .22 LR or 22 WMR.

    • You’re correct. I don’t know about all states, but I do know that at least some require .243 Winchester, with Florida being kne example I know of.