Editorial: The Sky Isn’t Falling Because of HB1231

Commentary on the new Indiana deer rifle law by WIN Gear Editor Trent Marsh.

Photo courtesy National Shooting Sports Foundation

The sky is falling! The sky is falling, with thousands of rifle bullets falling with it! We are all doomed!

Ok, this might be a little bit of an exaggeration to the recent online reaction to limited high-powered rifles being legalized for deer hunting in Indiana last week due to HB1231, but not much. The hand wringing began immediately, with cries about the “end of the deer herd in Indiana” and how “Saturdays in November are no longer safe.” This kind of talk isn’t just factually incorrect, it’s dangerous.

“Shotguns are safer that rifles!”- A cursory understand of ballistics and ballistic performance dispels this soundly. Assume for a moment a perfect test environment. If a shotgun shooting a slug, and a rifle shooting a bullet are paid perfectly level on a bench and fired, over a perfectly flat surface, both the slug and the bullet will hit the ground at the same time. That’s gravity. And yes the rifle bullet will have traveled further, because its higher velocity means it made it further in that same time. This “rifle distance vs. shotgun distance” is often cited.

What this ignores is the propensity of a slug to skip or ricochet. Not only that, when a slug ricochets, because of its higher mass, it carries more momentum in relation to the bullet, and on average, travels further than a .30/06. For more information, you can review this study conducted at the Armaments Engineering and Technology Center at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., by Todd Bacastow Ph.D. if you don’t believe me.

This information dovetails with the fact that the average rifle is far more accurate than the average shotgun. While errant shots (those fired at 35-degree angle or more) will travel further with a rifle than a shotgun, those are the exception not the rule. And distance traveled is no gauge on safety. A stray bullet at 500 yards is just as dangers as a stray bullet at 2,000. Taking momentum into consideration you can make a compelling argument that you would still rather be struck by the stray rifle bullet than shotgun slug. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of shots taken in the deer woods are at a confirmed target, from an elevated location, at a downward angle. Given those circumstances, a rifle is more likely to impact closer to the intended point of aim, and neither the rifle or the shotgun provide a realistic measure of danger to anything except the intended target.

“The population density in Indiana is too high for rifles!”- I agree, if one could hunt the state as a whole, the density of 181 people per square mile is dangerous, but that isn’t realistic. If we look at Indiana on a county by county basis, things start to make more sense. The Indy metro area houses 1.9-2.3 million of the 6.5 million people in Indiana. Lake, Vanderburgh, and Allen counties house just over 1 million combined. Removing these three counties from the equation knock the density down to just under 86 people per square mile. Reasonable for hunting, bow, shotgun, or rifle.

“Well, that’s it, the deer herd is done for.”- Similar to the refrain of those lamenting the addition of crossbows. As if the tool matters as much as the hunter. Liberal doe bag limits that most of us believe certain special interest groups have pushed for have far more to do with the deer herd reduction than weapon choice does. Some of the same people I’ve personally heard complain about rifles or crossbows are the same people that go out and fill every tag they can, meanwhile squawking that the number of deer they’re seeing is dwindling. Maybe a little trigger control is in order? As hunters, the management of the deer herd falls to us. The state can’t make us fill tags. If you aren’t seeing deer like you were, maybe don’t fill every bonus tag you can. I promise, rifles won’t break out of their safes and start shooting deer on their own.

Most Important- Let’s not overlook this last little tidbit: when you make the argument that hunters in your state can’t possibly be trusted with a weapon without endangering the innocents in the area, you do hunters everywhere a disservice. The vast majority of hunters, even those in the evil “orange army” are respectful, safe, and responsible people. Putting a rifle in their hands won’t change that. But bellyaching about how nobody “needs” a rifle, and hunters with rifles are “dangerous” sounds just like something from the Clinton campaign, or Moms Demand Action, HSUS, PETA, or Everytown.

Rifle hunting is now the law of the land for hunters. Support it, even if you don’t participate. Make no mistake, hunting and firearm ownership in this country is under attack, and this expansion of hunting rights should make every single one of us proud and happy. If we can’t rally around expanding hunting opportunities in our own state, we are doomed to lose it eventually.

Trent Marsh - Gear Editor
Trent Marsh spent much of his childhood in the woods and lakes of Northeast Indiana. He has long had a passion for the outdoors. He transferred that passion into a career as the marketing manager for an optics company the last five years. In a short amount of time Trent has become a respected outdoor marketing professional and one of the next generation of outdoorspeople. When not hunting or fishing Trent is can usually be found tending his garden or chickens, or travelling the world with his wife.


  1. Nice read but off the mark. No one is saying, no hunting with rifles. Sum are just saying not needed for deer. Also if we are to buy into your gravity theory, then why are this hpr’s not allowed in parts of the state and parks like shotguns? We know the answer! As far as the population argument, I couldn’t agree with you more! Now my question for us all! We as tax payers pay the DNR to run our natural resources,correct? They turned down the hrp’s , but our government still passed it! If our government is smarter than the DNR then why do we have our tax dollars paying the DNR department?!!! This is sarcasm at its highest. We again know the answer. To the NRA, stick to the 2nd amendment and leave the conservation to us Hoosiers.

  2. This should have never been passed , the lawmaker who introduced this bill , I hope he looses a re-election. Be interesting to see to see what prosecutors do in the case of a so called accidental shooting from hpr’s. I have heard thru my 35 yrs of hunting hunters unloading a shotgun on deer now they can do that with a hpr , yea fella who wrote this I smell what your cooking , it stinks in a big way.


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