Hunting on a Budget by Phillip Hayes

  • Monday, 11 February 2019 08:23
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Hunting on a Budget by Phillip Hayes: Affordable starter-pack

Shooting and hunting has become quite expensive, but getting started with the basic kit is relatively affordable. With hunting season looming it is now time to get your kit ready, and for those wanting to start out in the sport we’ll look at some lower priced options.

Of course, you’ll need a rifle, and there are many budget-priced choices. Various well-known manufacturers such as Ruger, Howa, Savage, Marlin, Sabatti and Remington offer hunting rifles in most popular calibres for less than R10 000; I even found some advertised online for less than R8 000. 

Among the models I have tested are the Ruger American, Savage Axis, Howa 1500, Sabatti Rover and the Remington 783. All are excellent rifles, all lightweight, fitted with synthetic stocks and accurate enough for almost all local hunting applications. I’d choose a wooden stock rather than synthetic, but that’s a matter of personal preference. However, I have found that the synthetic stocks on some budget rifles are not sufficiently rigid – though this will make little practical difference to hunters taking shots within 200m, and besides, in adverse weather conditions, any modern synthetic stock will prove more stable and durable than wood. 

At these prices you cannot expect precision triggers or target-match class barrels, but some models are available with thicker and longer barrels at a slight premium in price. Most of the factory triggers are a bit rough, but again, more than good enough for hunting purposes. Aftermarket triggers such as Timney can be fitted to some and will set you back about R2 000. Most importantly, almost all of these rifles I tested were capable of printing five shots into 1½ to 2MOA at 100m using the factory-fitted trigger and randomly selected factory hunting ammunition. That’s good enough for almost all hunting purposes.

Budget rifles mostly come in calibres .243 Win, 6.5x55, 6.5mm Creedmoor, .270 Win, .308 Win and .30-06. The 6.5x55 and 6.5 Creedmoor offer light recoil and exceptional penetration with bullets weighing 120 to 160gr. Hunting ammunition in these calibres loaded with 140gr bullets is available from almost all manufacturers and this affords the best compromise with reasonably flat trajectory and good penetration. However, while a 6.5mm would be my first choice in these lightweight rifles, keep in mind that PMP does not make ammunition in these two calibres, so if you’d prefer locally produced ammo for general hunting, the .308 will probably be the better choice. PMP’s 150gr, 168gr and 180gr hunting ammo (brown box) will set you back between R310 and R380 per box of 20. Having used only PMP ProAmm ammunition for hunting I cannot attest to the quality of PMP’s standard ammo, but a long-time professional hunter friend is happy to recommend them. Comparing the standard PMP ammo price with imported ammunition shows that PMP remains some of the most affordable locally available. Imported ammo prices vary from R440 to just over R1 000, depending on brand and bullet type. 

For the Creedmoor expect factory ammunition to set you back about R600 per box of 20, while the most affordable option in 6.5x55 seems to be Sellier & Bellot, which costs about the same as PMP’s standard .308 ammunition.

Read the full article in the March 2019 issue of Magnum.

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