The Best Deer Guns for Urban Areas
Derrek Sigler 11.03.20
Let me start off by saying that I don’t think you can, or should try deer hunting inside a city with a firearm. But as you all know so well, many states have restrictions on using certain types of cartridges and firearms due to the close proximity of the people living there. The closer you get to dense population zones, the tighter the restrictions based on how far an errant bullet can fly. These areas usually restrict hunters to shotguns, muzzleloaders, handguns and rifles chambered for straight-wall cartridges. Which of these is better for you? There are several factors we’ll look at to help you get the best deer gun for your urban area.
Best Deer Guns – Shotguns
Shotguns fall into three basic categories for deer hunting. You have the standard smoothbore barrels, fully rifled barrels and then some combination of the two, usually from a rifled choke tube. Shotguns are popular for these areas because they pack a lot of thump into a shot, so tracking a wounded deer can possibly be less of an issue. Also, shotguns are well known for expending their energy very quickly, so the shot or bullet falls off and travels a fraction of the distance a rifle bullet can.
Smoothbore shotguns are the type you’d use for bird hunting, but can be highly effective deer guns if used right. There are a couple ways to go here. Some slugs, like Brennekes, have a built-in form of rifling so they will still shoot accurately from a smoothbore. In fact, some folks feel they work best out of a smoothbore. You’d want to use a cylinder choke or the most open choke tube you have. For a while, rifled choke tubes were popular, but have fallen off dramatically.
Another option is buckshot. You have to be careful with buckshot, and I’ll admit, it is my least favorite of all the options available to you. I know a few guys who prefer the smallest size shot they can get, but I go the other way. I like triple-aught buck. Yes, there are fewer balls coming out, but the shot is bigger, and therefore the kinetic energy. I like to use the tightest choke I can get away with safely. That depends on your gun, the shell and more. Do your research. I tested some 3-½ inch 000 buck out of a Mossberg 835 a few years back, mostly just for giggles. Through a modified choke, I was getting most of the nine pellets inside a pie plate at 40 yards. The scary part for me is, that’d be a lot of holes punched into the front quarter of a deer. If used right, a shotgun loaded with buckshot can be one of the best deer guns in tight spaces.
Rifled barrels are much better for slugs in my opinion, and most will agree with me. Depending on your gun and ammo choice, you can expect decent accuracy out past 100 yards. I have a Mossberg 12-gauge slug gun that consistently puts two-inch groups at 125 yards using Hornady 300 grain SST slugs. That’s a whole lot of thump, too. A good plan is to get a combo shotgun, with both slug and field barrels. Then you have a gun that can handle a lot of hunting. I once knew of a 20-gauge slug gun that was developed with a 3-½ inch shell. That gun was a 200-yarder and was amazing. I wish it had caught on.
One other less than common shotgun type is a hybrid. These are the guns with barrels that are rifled only halfway. These guns are mostly found on the used market and are, shall we say, finicky. They usually like one type of ammo and that’s it.
Best Deer Guns – Muzzleloaders
Muzzleloaders are a lot of fun to shoot and hunt with. They’ve gotten more powerful and more accurate that ever, and yet remain one of the most cost-effective ways to hunt. Some prefer the older side-hammer cap and ball style rifle, while others want the most modern option they can get.
I hunt with a CVA Optima. I’ve had it for a long time and it is a fun, dependable rifle that doesn’t cost a fortune. I also have CVA’s super economical option, the Wolf, which I have given my son to use. If I lived in a restricted zone, I might opt for one of the models like a Thompson Center Triumph, or a Traditions Vortek. I’ve shot those and really enjoy them, but for my week-long muzzleloader season, I stick with the tried and true Optima. I’ve had really good patterns and performance from Barnes Expanders and Hornady SST bullets. I use Triple Seven pellets, too. There are plenty of other options out there, this is just works for me. Muzzleloaders are like any other firearm. Different guns will like different bullets and loads.
Best Deer Guns – Straight wall cartridges
Many states now allow for straight-wall cartridges fired from rifles to be used in these restricted areas. These range from the older stand-by cartridges, like .44 mag or .357 mag, to the newer ones like 450 Bushmaster or the latest – 350 Legend. We can throw in the .45-70, .444, 460 Ruger, .500 S&W… Basically any cartridge with a straight wall, depending on where you’re at. All will definitely do the trick on a deer and most other game, depending on size, of course.
What is the upside? Performance for one. Having shot many of these in one form or another, I can attest to small groups at ranges you’d expect to see in population-dense areas. There is an argument for using these even in more “open” areas. I plan to use my Henry Big Boy in .44 mag for hunting in a spot on my land where a 100-yard shot is at the long end of the range.
You don’t have to spend a lot to get a really solid rifle in a straight-wall cartridge either. Just about everyone has added 350 Legend this year, and there are lots of options in 450 Bushmaster now, too. These are also two of the options I readily see available ammo for when I head to
the store. A buddy just bought a 450BM solely because it was the only one he could get ammo for.
The bottom line
If you need a gun for deer hunting in a restricted area, there are options available. If you need a shotgun, or if you have one, a slug barrel is a very economical way to go. A combo is a great option too, if you want a new one and want to bird hunt as well. A muzzleloader can be your most economical option, plus there are usually separate seasons for them, too. If performance is key, a straight-wall cartridge rifle is a better option. You’re probably going to see increases in range and accuracy, depending on what you go with. Remember, your best deer guns for urban areas will fit into your budget and comfort level. Check your local laws and above all else – get out there and hunt!
What is your best deer gun for these restricted areas, and what advice would you give someone looking for one?
Cover Image: Shutterstock/Campbell