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  • Writer's pictureHootey Cline

A Comprehensive Guide to Rifles and Their Use in Illinois

Rifles: Power, Range, and Versatility

Rifles are known for their ability to shoot one projectile at a time with great power and range, thanks to their rifled (spiraled-grooved) barrels. They are available in various metallic cartridges, from .22LR to .308 to .50BMG and beyond. The .22LR is particularly popular for squirrel hunting due to its effectiveness and affordability.

Legal Restrictions in Illinois

In Illinois, rifles are not allowed for hunting in National Parks or on public land, with the only exception being coyote hunting on private land. As of January 1, 2023, a new Illinois law allows hunters to use centerfire, single-shot rifles in certain calibers for deer hunting.

Safety and Awareness

When using a rifle, it is crucial to be aware of where the projectile is going to ensure the safety of yourself and others.

Rifle Platforms

- AR-style Platform:

Dependable and highly adaptable, AR-style rifles are extremely useful for hunting.

- Bolt-Action:

Known for being the most accurate platform available, bolt-action rifles are ideal for precision shooting.

- Semi-Auto/Full Auto/Box Magazine:

Best for volume shooting, these rifles offer rapid-fire capabilities.

- Single-shot:

These rifles have a historical aspect and are often used for hunting.

 - Lever-Action:

Good for most game and also historically significant, lever-action rifles are a popular choice among hunters.

- Carbine Rifles:

Carbine rifles shoot pistol cartridges and are often argued to be suitable for hunting in Illinois. They offer better accuracy than pistols and have been around since the "old west." Building a carbine from a pistol frame is possible but requires contacting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF) for legal compliance.

Accuracy and Maintenance

Proper maintenance is essential for maintaining a rifle's accuracy. Always use muzzle guards and alignment tools when cleaning, and avoid letting the cleaning rod touch the rifling. Synthetic stocks are more durable and functional than wood, but wood stocks have a more classic appearance.

Ammunition and Hunting

Armor-piercing rounds can be hard on barrels, and most military surplus ammo is highly corrosive. For coyote hunting, the .243 90-grain round is great for dealing with wind, while the .22-250 Remington is also a good choice.


To unlock the full potential of a rifle, using a scope is essential. Choosing the correct scope is crucial, with the exit pupil being a key factor in determining the amount of light gathered. To measure the exit pupil, shine a light into the scope over paper and mark the size of the beam that comes out the other side.

By understanding the various types of rifles, their uses, and legal restrictions in Illinois, you can make an informed decision when selecting a rifle for your hunting and shooting needs.

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