Part 2: getting equipped

As a newcomer to the hunting and shooting sports, I only owned two firearms, both of which had belonged to my father. One was his old Smith & Wesson service revolver (he had been a volunteer police officer in our town) and the other was a Remington target .22 rifle which he’d had since he was a boy. Obviously, neither of these were going to do for pig hunting. So…I set about finding a hunting rifle.

For months I’d been looking at different rifle manufacturers, and asking people their opinions in person, on web-based forums, and even calling the gun makers themselves. One thing I realized early on was that there isn’t really a single “best” choice, especially for a beginner. There are simply too many high-quality, affordable guns being made today for that. And the fact that I’m left-handed only served to cut down the available options to a manageable number.

I had researched the various cartridges available and determined that there were three that would serve my purposes: the venerable .30-06, the .308 and the 7mm Remington magnum. All three have very similar ballistic performance and are common enough to make finding ammunition a non-problem. All three were also enough to handle any game I’d encounter in the continental US. I decided to let the choice in available rifles decide which of the three I would get.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I was probably going to make a purchase over the Internet. There are only a few gun shops that are a convenient distance from my home, and none had a decent selection of used rifles. (Buying a used rifle was a decision it didn’t take me long to make: you can save about half the cost of an equivalent new rifle, and there are tons of high-quality used rifles out there.) I have a weakness for the exotic things in life, so in addition to the Winchesters, Remingtons and Brownings out there, I kept an eye peeled for a used Sako (a Finnish rifle reputed to have wonderfully smooth actions). And indeed, it was a Sako that I found — an older AV model in 7mm magnum. It was on gunbroker.com, which is sort of the eBay for firearms. Because I was buying at the end of deer season, demand was down a bit, so I won the auction with little competition. I was thrilled.

I should probably point out here that purchasing a gun online may not be for everyone. The wide majority of people selling guns online are honest, ethical people with whom you shouldn’t have any trouble, but…there are always exceptions. If you’re unfortunate enough to fall victim to a seller who is less than ethical, you may find that you have little recourse. In my case, I realized ahead of time that I was taking a calculated risk, one that was justified given the potential for savings. Before I committed, I phoned and spoke with the seller, just to see what he was like. He seemed reasonable enough, so I went ahead with bidding, and I was very happy with my purchase.

I have since purchased about a dozen other guns online, and have yet to regret a single transaction. But — if your personal tolerance for risk will prevent you from feeling comfortable about doing this, you may be better off buying locally. It’s a decision that you have to make for yourself.

I had also decided that I needed a backup gun for the field. This wouldn’t be a gun carried with the intent of harvesting game; rather it would be a self-defense gun should something go very wrong during the hunt. Wild boar have been known to attack their hunters, and with their sharp tusks, they can do significant injury to humans. For my backup gun, I went totally crazy and got a Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan, chambered in the nuclear-powered .454 Casull. This was way more handgun than I needed (after all, it’s intended to stop grizzly bears!), but my playful side got the better of me, and I wanted something with some “wow” factor to it.

Properly armed for most anything I could possibly encounter, it was time to hit the range.

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