Friday, January 1, 2010

The farm gun

I ran across a farmer who was talking about buying a gun for use on the farm, and I wrote a reply to him.  Here it is: 

I'd suggest two guns for your farm use. A .22 rifle, either bolt action or semi-auto, and a larger gun for shooting at a distance.

I use a .22 semi-auto for slaughter on my farm because I like the ability to have a second shot instantly available. I don't like it because it's a loaded weapon in the often-chaotic slaughter scene. A bolt action rifle fed off a clip or tube requires positive action before it can be fired again ,which means that you can set it down (or drop it) without too much concern. Semi-autos are harder to clean than bolt-action, and this also figures into it.  I spent most of a summer working as a rifle instructor one year, and I've shot tens of thousands of rounds, so I'll choose the less-safe semi-auto, but I did think about it.

For coyotes and other varmits, I'd suggest a rifle in one of the following calibres: .223, .22-250, .243, .25-06, .260 or .270. All of these rounds are very high velocity (read: flat trajectory) low-recoil rounds that will allow you to make accurate, lethal shots. A .22 long rifle cartridge is not big enough to ensure a quick, humane end to coyotes unless you are a very good shot and although I've shot my distinguished expert rating, I'm not that good. 

On the 2nd rifle, a 6x to 10x telescopic sight is what I'd suggest. You can get more magnification, but when you're actually using it in the field it's like trying to read a book through a straw. A lower magnification will allow a wider field of view, and less "hunting" with the scope for the target.

While you are considering a larger rifle, consider that military rifles are designed for the kind of life that a farm gun lives -- in a dirty environment, with a need for reliability. That said, an ak-47 type gun (sometimes sold as AKM) or an SKS clip-fed rifle may be a relatively cheap and good choice for a pickup truck gun if you can get over the way it looks.

If you plan on hunting deer or other big game (moose? elk?) you might want to consider your local game regulations when choosing your 2nd rifle calibre. There is often a minimum calibre allowed for deer hunting, for instance. Check your local game regulations. My 2nd rifle is a .308 calibre with a 10x scope for this reason.  It's a legal calibre to take big game with, and the .308 round is a common, available ammunition. You can see a picture of my rifle in this blog entry.

Finally, practice with your rifles. Buy 500 rounds of .22 and set up a 50' range with a target and a safe backstop for the bullets, and make sure you can put several shots into a circle the size of a half-dollar. Talk to your local gun shop about classes. With the larger calibre rifle you will typically have one shot at a varmit, and if you miss, you might have to wait weeks for a second shot. It's worth spending $100 on extra rounds and practicing until you are reasonably proficient.

Practicing at a distance means that your closer shots will be more accurate, and shot placement, especially when putting an animal down, is very important.   with your larger rifle, measure out a 600 foot range and practice on that.  200 yards is a good working range for a typical farm varmit shot for me.  Longer than that and I aim a little higher.  Shorter, a little lower. 


Across The Creek Farm said...

A great subject. Guns are an absolute necessity on many farms. I don't know about an AK as a farm gun, they're not very accurate in my experiance. Granted, I've only been on the downrange side of them...

In the army I was a M249 auto-rifleman/ machinegunner and for a time an instructor. I must confess that I have day dreamed of tracer filled coyote ambushes when the poultry losses were high.

Bruce King said...

The AK guns aren't particularly accurate at long ranges, but for dispatching a coyote or a raccoon at 100 feet they work pretty well. And they stand up well to abuse -- under the seat in a pickup truck for a few months at a time.