CALIBRE GUIDE FOR NEW ZEALAND GAME
The following table shows a range of appropriate firearm calibres for specific game animal species that will provide for humane dispatch.
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A beginners guideINto choosing the FIREARMS OUTDOORS FIREARMSSAFETY SAFETY INTHE THE OUTDOORS right firearm
Remember when buying a firearm, you must hold a valid firearms licence. Take the time to do your research, seek advice from experts and ensure you can fire your chosen calibre comfortably and safely. Always follow the seven basic rules of firearms safety. For more information on firearms safety, visit the Mountain Safety Council website and read the Arms Code.
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selecting a firearm No single firearm is suitable for every purpose, for example there are significant differences between the types of firearms used for target shooting, hunting game animals or hunting game birds. Also, there is no single firearm that’s suitable for every type of hunting. There is no ‘one size fits all. The type, size and weight of the game animal will determine the size and calibre of the firearm you select. The most important consideration is that the firearm fits you well, feels comfortable and you are able to shoot safely and accurately.
Primary considerations: What purpose do you intend to use the firearm for? Do you want to hunt small game, large game or game birds or is your interest target shooting? What type of firearms action and calibre would be most appropriate? Does the firearm feel comfortable, can you maintain a natural hold and does it fit physically? What style, shape and overall look appeals to you? How much are you prepared to spend?
PURPOSE If your firearm is for hunting purposes, you need to ensure that the calibre is suitable for the size of game you intend to shoot. The basic principle is that the bigger and stronger the game, the more powerful the cartridge must be, especially for humane killing. You may also wish to consider weight, especially when undertaking longer hunting trips. For competition shooting, it would pay to check the specification requirements of each particular competition before purchasing your firearm(s). Joining a shooting club, that caters for your interest, will enable you to try out different types of firearms, seek advice from experienced shooters and allow yourself time to consider your selection carefully before buying.
TYPES OF ACTION The ‘action’ refers to the firearm’s mechanism which feeds and locks the cartridge into the chamber and once the firearm is fired, determines how the action is unlocked and the cartridge is ejected. There are a variety of firearm actions to consider which include the bolt action, the lever and pump actions, the break-open action (common on airguns and shotguns) and the semi-automatic action.
The bolt action is recommended for new shooters as they are one of the simplest, reliable and safest actions to operate. It’s easy to check that the firearm is unloaded. Some bolt actions are designed for left-handed shooters, adding to safety and comfort. There are advantages and disadvantages for each type of action and it is important that you familiarise yourself with these when selecting your firearm. For further information read section 3 of the Arms Code.
CALIBRE The calibre is the internal diameter of the firearm barrel or the diameter of the projectile. This is usually expressed in decimal parts of an inch (such as .22, .308 or .45), or in millimetres (for example 9mm). Shotguns are used for hunting small game like rabbits and hares or game birds such as ducks and pheasants. The calibre is measured in ‘gauge’ (ga) which ranges from 8 (largest) to 28 (smallest). The 12 gauge is the most common, but shooters with smaller physiques often prefer the lighter 20 gauge. Airguns The .177 and .22 calibre airguns are suitable for target shooting. The more powerful models are suitable for controlling rodents, rabbits and possums at shorter ranges. The Rimfire The .22 rimfire is one of the most popular calibres for new shooters. It comes in a variety of actions and is sufficiently accurate and adequate for small game. Ammunition is readily available and less expensive than for other calibres.The 17HMR is suitable for rabbit hunters with ranges up to 175 metres. It has little recoil and can be very accurate. The .22 magnum rimfire cartridge has about three times the energy of the .22 rimfire rifle cartridge. It is adequate for small animals at ranges of up to 125 metres. The centrefire .22 calibres include .222, .22-250 and .223 and are suitable for hunting goats, wallabies and small deer. However, hunting deer with .22 centrefire rifle is not recommended for new shooters. The .243, or 6mm cartridge is about the lightest calibre that should be used for larger game animals. This cartridge is designed and loaded for smaller, thin-skinned, animals and shot placement is critical to ensure a humane kill. A selection of ammunition for a variety of firearm calibres.
Centre-fire cartridges larger than .243 offer the potential for the delivery of more striking energy to the target. The weight of the bullet affects the speed it travels and this should be taken into consideration. It is important to choose the right calibre for the environment you intend to use it in most often. If you are expecting long shots in open areas, the .270, .308 or 7mm calibre drives a faster and flatter trajectory (path of the bullet). They are more than adequate for any big game animal in New Zealand. Remember accuracy is more important than calibre size. It is important to hit an animal in a critical area than to deliver massive striking energy to the wrong place.
recoil The physical force generated by a firearm when it is fired is called recoil. Kick is what you feel. The amount of kick is dependent on firearm size, weight and calibre. Lighter weight firearms combined with larger calibres generally produces more kick. As calibre size increases so does the amount of recoil generated. It is ill-advised to use a large calibre you can’t control. The greater kick and noise can be unpleasant and cause the shooter to develop a flinch, something that affects accuracy and possibly safety.
COST The cost of a firearm can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. However with proper care and ongoing maintenance they can last a lifetime. Think of your firearm purchase as an investment. There is also the cost of ammunition. Generally smaller calibre ammunition costs less than large calibre ammunition. You should also consider what accessories you will need such as a telescopic sight, ear and eye protection, cleaning equipment, carry case and an acceptable means to secure your firearm. (Refer to the Arms Code for minimum standards of security for firearms).
The most important consideration when selecting a firearm is that the firearm fits you well, feels comfortable and you are able to shoot safely and accurately.