Dog gun.

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Published: 08th May 2020
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Dog gun.

Q: I have been thinking about a prairie dog hunting trip for sometime. I am a farmer from southern Ohio, which means finances will be a major issue. The first question I have is about choice of caliber. I was thinking either a .223 Remington or a .204 Ruger. I understand that the .204 is flatter shooting but costs about twice as much per round. The second question is about firearms. I am a left-handed shooter which mean finding a good used bolt action is going to be a problem. I am trying to decide between an H&R ultra rifle and a left-hand bolt action Savage Model 12. I know this is like comparing a Chevette to a Corvette, but price is an issue, so is the slower rate of fire and poorer trigger of the H&R worth the extra expense of the Savage? I understand a compact spotting scope with variable power to 20X is recommended, but what other gear would you suggest? Range finder, good binocs, bipod, etc.?

Chad Bowdle
via e-mail

A: If finances are a problem, the choice of caliber becomes clear (unless you're a reloader, in which case it doesn't matter) and the .223 is the clear winner. You'll be shooting a lot on a good dog hunt and you should practice a lot with your new rifle before you take it hunting. I would look at Black Hills Remanufactured .223 as a high-quality alternative to factory new ammo. Black Hills comes in a variety of bullet weights for vermin shooting. Winchester USA Varmint is another good choice but the bullet weights are more limited.

The only caveat is the .204 Ruger is a hoot because the rifle rises very little in recoil and the results of your shot can be seen through the best spotting scope.

As to the gun, don't sell the little H&R short. I tested a heavy-barrel .223 for my former employer and found it to be an excellent rifle. The trigger pull was crisp (aLbeit a might heavy) and I was able to regularly shoot 1/2" groups at 100 yards with low-cost Winchester USA 55-grain SPs.

I also tested a Savage heavy-barreled bolt action also in .223. It would group at 1/2" at 100 yards, too, and did so with a wider variety of ammo. As for a scope, the bugaboo is you really do get what you pay for and you don't want to get too cheap here. A Weaver 6-20X would be a good choice as would a Bushnell Elite 6-24X. It'll pay to get the best glass you can afford.

As for other gadgets, if you choose the .223, you will be limited to about 300 yards or a little more, so the money might be better spent on the optics. Perhaps more important would be a good portable shooting bench and rest. Midway USA (573/445-6363, has them for sale for less than $50 from San Angelo. A bipod is OK for walk-about hunting, but a good rest will allow you to achieve greater accuracy because you'll be able to bag the front and rear of the stock.

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