Noise and recoil. Isn't rifle shooting supposed to be a pleasurable activity?

As a reader said: ‘The ground shook, the grass smoked, the noise was deafening; there was muzzle flip, flash and felt recoil to excess! It might have been a black-powder experience.’

Reading between the lines, I don’t think he enjoyed the experience. I also get the impression that he was wearing inadequate ear protection (if any) and shooting from the prone position which increases felt recoil.

If the side effects are unpleasant, then we need to think about ways of reducing them. After all, rifle shooting is meant to be an enjoyable activity.

It mustn’t kick, make too much noise or ignite the grass

In Scotland the issue could be fixed immediately by recommending he try a .222, but the reader lives in England where the .222 is not a legal option for roe. So we need a rifle firing a cartridge of at least .240 calibre, which produces a minimum of 1,700 foot/pounds of energy at the muzzle. And it mustn’t kick, make too much noise or ignite the grass!

.243 rifle bullets

To shoot usefully flat out to 200 yards means close to 3,000 feet per second muzzle velocity. If we then zero the rifle one inch high at 100 yards, the bullet will be about an inch and three quarters low at 200 and a hold on the top of the back will dispatch the fox cleanly.

Much less velocity and we have to start judging range more accurately and allowing for the correct bullet drop. And if we zero higher at 100 yards there’s more risk of shooting over the top of a small target at short range.

What we’re on the look out for

  1. A calibre legal for roe in England
  2. A cartridge that can propel a bullet at sufficient velocity to confidently hit a fox up to 200 yards
  3. Minimum muzzle blast
  4. Minimum recoil

First off, fit a sound moderator

This will minimise the muzzle blast and recoil in one fell swoop. Admittedly they do nothing for the look or handling of the rifle, but they do diminish recoil and muzzle blast. A reflex type of moderator doesn’t make the rifle too unwieldy to handle as it only increases the barrel’s length by about four inches.

Now what about the calibre legal for roe that can hit a fox at 200 yards? You might be thinking .243. Whereas I am not a fan, a lot of people in the UK think this calibre is excellent.

Back to our reader above. A .243 fitted with a sound moderator would make an excellent fox rifle. Use suitable bullets and it would be fine for deer. But I think he could better.

Suitable deer cartridges

We want a deer rifle for shooting fox, rather than the other way around. In which case, there are better deer cartridges than the .243.

An anoraky, rifle crank might go for a .250- 3000 or .257 Roberts, but sticking to more conventional cartridges with easily available ammunition, my own choice would always be the 6.5×55, sometimes known as the Swedish Mauser.

I used one for 10 years on everything from roe to Red and was always satisfied. Bullets are available from 85 grains to 160 grains, so there’s plenty of choice, but I tended to use 140-grain bullets for everything. This saved having to re-zero the rifle constantly. If fox were a regular requirement, then perhaps 120-129 grain bullets at higher velocity would be a better all-round choice.

There are also a couple of cartridges based on the .243/.308 case which are serious contenders for this job.

Accuracy problems?

First is the .260 Remington, which has similar ballistics to the 6.5×55 and would be an equally good choice were it not for the fact that I have heard reports, both here and in the USA, of accuracy problems.

I don’t know whether this problem has been solved but I haven’t tried one and neither has anyone else I know.

An excellent deer cartridge

We come to the 7mm-08. This is popular with good reason and is an excellent deer cartridge. It drives bullets of 140 grains at around 2,900 feet per second – and lighter ones even faster!

Very similar, and a good choice for the more traditionally minded, is the 7mm Mauser, also called the 7×57 or .275 Rigby.

If our featured reader tries out any of these cartridges he should find he gets the performance he wants with minimal trauma if he fires a well-designed rifle of the right weight, fitted with a sound moderator.