Hunting Firearm Checklist for Choosing a Weapon Wisely

  • Written By Eric Crouch on September 20, 2020
    Last Updated: January 31, 2021

Buying your first firearm for hunting is an exciting venture but it can be daunting at the same time. There are some things you should check before buying a firearm for hunting to make sure you are getting the right tool for the job and aren’t breaking any laws. Whether you are buying a firearm second hand and or from new, it is extremely important that you check that the gun is lawful, functional, and in good condition.

It can be difficult to know what to look for when selecting your first hunting firearm and there are so many options to choose from. So, how do you decide what type of gun is best for you? As well as checking to ensure that the gun you purchase is lawful, you obviously want to make sure that you have selected the right gun for your hunting needs. You wouldn’t hunt duck with a high caliber hunting rifle, just as you wouldn’t hunt elk or moose with a shotgun, so making sure you know what you are looking for before you start is essential.

Luckily for you, in this article, we will be guiding you on what each hunting firearm type is suited for, what game it is able to take down, and what you should check on each gun type before you buy. We will also be guiding you on how to tell if a gun is lawful, functional, and in good condition. By the end of this guide, you should know exactly how to select the right firearm for your hunting needs and ensure that you are putting your money in the right place.

Firearms That are Suitable for Hunting

There are many forms of hunting and multiple different types of game that are fair quarry. Game animals come in a range of different sizes from the minuscule Hare to the mighty Moose, so it is clear to see that hunting firearms differ depending on what you are hunting. You couldn’t take down a Moose or Elk with a .22 air rifle suitable for a Hare, just as you wouldn’t want to shoot a Hare with a 308 rifle for Deer and Elk hunting. To make the most humane kill and perform at your best in the field, it is important that you have a hunting firearm that is suited to your target species. In this section, we will be looking at a few different hunting firearms and calibers and what they are best used for in terms of quarry.


Shotguns are the most versatile type of firearm available for hunting. They usually shoot a spread rather than a single projectile unless a slug is used. The most common gauges are 12 and 20 gauge. Shotguns are best used for hunting birds and small game, with the exception of feral hogs (wild boar) when a slug is used.

Air Rifles

Unlike traditional firearms, air rifles use a compressed piston, gas, or mechanical spring to fire a small projectile silently. These rifles are great for the beginner that wants to learn the ropes for hunting. A .22 caliber or more air rifle with plenty of power will easily take down squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, and prairie dogs.

Hunting Rifles

Hunting rifles are your only option when hunting larger game. They come in many different forms and the caliber you choose will determine what game animals you can hunt effectively. For deer and elk, you will need a .30 caliber rifle or more and for bear, you will want nothing smaller than a .300 caliber hunting rifle. There are smaller calibers that are suited to smaller game but generally speaking a .30 rifle is your best “allrounder”.

Pistols and Revolvers

Pistols and revolvers are easily concealed weapons that you will not actively hunt with, but they are useful to have on your person while out in the field. They are useful for quick action at close range and dispatching animals quickly that have been injured with an accidental unfatal shot.

How to Make Sure a Firearm is Lawful?

Before you buy a firearm, you must make sure it is legal. This isn’t really an issue when you are buying from a reputable vendor, but you should still know what to look out for if you are buying second hand or are suspicious that a gun is stolen.

Over 30% of guns found at crime scenes in the U.S were reported stolen and more than 40% of those weapons were not reported as stolen from their original owners. With this in mind, it is not always possible to tell if a gun is stolen. The only way to make sure that a gun you are purchasing is lawful is to ensure that it comes with papers and purchase from a reputable vendor even if you are buying a secondhand weapon.

If you are suspicious that a gun is not lawful which once again, you shouldn’t if buying for a reputable vendor, you should check that the serial numbers match the paperwork. If you are buying secondhand and there is any evidence that the gun has been tampered with, especially if you see filed out serial numbers, do not buy it. Thousands of guns enter the illegal market each year, so make sure you stay legal and buy a registered gun with papers from a reputable seller.

Should You Buy a Secondhand Gun?

Buying a firearm for hunting is an expensive task, especially if you purchase a gun from new. Buying a secondhand gun could save you some money and a used gun is usually 70% – 80% the price of the same gun new. Buying a firearm secondhand can certainly save you some of those hard-earned dollars, but is it worth it? When you buy new, your purchase will likely come with a manufacturer’s warranty which protects you if anything is to go wrong with the gun, but when you buy secondhand you are buying with no such protection.

When you buy a new firearm, it is up to the vendor and the manufacturer to prove that the gun is in perfect working condition, however, when you buy a secondhand firearm it is down to you to determine if the gun is in good condition. You must check that all of the gun’s features work effectively and the gun functions properly. If you walk away with a secondhand gun that does not function properly it is usually down to you and you will not get refunded.

You should check to make sure all safety mechanisms work by ensuring the gun is unloaded and flicking over the safety. The safety mechanism should engage by locking the trigger, to check this, try and squeeze the trigger while the safety is on. When the safety is off, you should take note on how the trigger operates, it should feel smooth and not too heavy. If the trigger feels gritty, heavy, or unstable you should avoid purchasing the weapon. Dry fire the weapon a few times to make sure the cocking and trigger mechanisms are all in working order and if there is a de-cocking feature, ensure that works as well.

Next, you should disassemble the gun and check to see if it has been well maintained. If it is full of dirt and grime you can be pretty certain that it has not been well maintained by the previous owner. If it is clean you are still not out of the woods. A gun that has had zero maintenance throughout its previous life can still be cleaned just before sale, so look out for significant wear and ensure that everything works perfectly. Check down the barrel (unloaded of course) and inspect the bore. If there are any bulges, rust, uneven wear, or pitting, then steer clear! Check the muzzle and make sure it is sharp, unworn, and crisp. Once you re-assemble the firearm everything should go back together with ease without too much movement between parts.

If you buy a gun from a reputable manufacturer it should come with a transferable warranty, however, if the gun has been ill-maintained, neglected, or tampered with, that warranty will be void. Finally, if the seller or vendor is able too, ask to try the gun out on their range (if they have one) to ensure everything is engaging and working as it should.

If you take all of these steps you can be fairly certain that the gun in your hand is in good condition and reliable. Make sure you buy your secondhand hunting firearm from a gun store that is reputable and reliable. Doing this ensures that if you have any problems with your purchase you can return for advice, assistance, and resolutions. The gun store you head too should be organized and all of their products should be labeled and priced. The staff should be friendly and helpful, willing to assist you and answer any queries. If you find yourself in a store where the staff are unhelpful and the store seems sketchy, it is probably best to look elsewhere!


To conclude, when you buy a firearm for hunting you should make sure it is legal, functional, and in the hands of a reputable vendor. If you are buying brand new you should simply make sure that the weapon you are buying can handle the tasks you put in front of it. You should get plenty of advice beforehand and ensure that you are putting your money in the right place. When you are buying a secondhand hunting firearm, you should thoroughly check it over for wear and tear by inspecting every mechanism, function, and part of the gun. Make sure to disassemble it, reassemble it, check the safety, and dry fire it.

If possible, you should fire a few rounds through the gun in question if it is secondhand or fire some rounds through the same model of the gun you are purchasing if buying brand new. Overall, ensure that you buy your gun from somewhere that is organized with helpful and friendly staff, steer clear of dark and dodgy gun stores, make sure you know what you are buying, and check the firearm over thoroughly before purchase. Happy Hunting!

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