At their most basic level, guns are tools for hunters. Like tools in a tool box, some guns are better at various hunting tasks than others. Depending on the animals you plan on pursuing and the location where you hunt, it is often necessary to own several different guns to ethically and legally hunt the animals you are after.

Fortunately, this doesn't have to be a needlessly complicated undertaking. By owning the guns on this list, you can hunt virtually any animal anywhere in the world. Read on to learn about the six guns every hunter should have.

.22 rifle

First on this list is a .22 rifle. There are a number of different .22 rifles available these days, ranging from single-shot bolt action rifles to the ubiquitous Ruger 10/22. Some models are better than others, but they are all generally inexpensive, lightweight and great choices for hunting small game.

12 gauge shotgun

A good 12 gauge shotgun is perhaps the most versatile of the guns every hunter should own. A hunter who owns a high quality 3" 12 gauge shotgun with interchangeable choke tubes — such as a Remington 870 or a Mossberg 500 can hunt virtually any type of small game or bird, including squirrels, rabbits, quail, dove, grouse, ducks, geese and turkey.

The same shotgun can be used with buckshot to hunt big-game animals, like deer, hogs and bear, at close range in thick cover. Mount a slug barrel with good sights or a scope and the shotgun can now be used to hunt big game at longer ranges.

Because it is so adaptable, no hunter's gun collection is complete without a 12 gauge shotgun of some kind.

Varmint rifle

If varmint hunting is something you plan on doing, then you should consider a purchasing a dedicated varmint rifle. While any rifle and cartridge will work if you don't care about salvaging the animal's pelt, small-bore rifles are the most popular among varmint hunters.

Bolt-action rifles chambered in .223 or .22-250 are probably the most common but by no means the only — choice for varmint hunters. However, AR-style rifles are becoming extremely popular among all hunters, particularly varmint hunters. These rifles really come into their own when conditions allow multiple shots on several different animals (mainly coyotes) in rapid succession.

In either case, it is essential that a dedicated varmint rifle be accurate, reliable, and be chambered in a flat shooting cartridge.

Brush or woods rifle

The majority of hunters in the United States do most of their big-game hunting in relatively thick conditions where shots past 100 yards are uncommon. When hunting in heavily wooded areas, shots are not only usually taken at short range, but the hunter may only have a few seconds to take the shot. Because of this, a good brush or woods gun must be handy and quick-pointing with sights that enable rapid target acquisition by the hunter.

At short range, cartridges like the .30-30 Winchester and .35 Remington really excel and countless deer, feral hogs, and bear have fallen to them over the years. The Winchester Model 1894, Marlin 336, and rifles like them, are ideally suited for hunting under these conditions and are another gun every hunter should own.

Long-range rifle

Sometimes, due to terrain or some other factor, you won't be able to close the distance and will have to take a long-range shot. This is especially common when hunting in the western portions of North America for animals like mule deer, pronghorn, elk or sheep. In this case, you need a rifle that is up to the task, so a long-range rifle is another essential gun for every hunter.

This usually calls for a bolt-action rifle sporting a good quality scope. Luckily, there are many good ones available on the market that are up to the task, like the Remington Model 700, the Ruger 77 and the Weatherby Mark V, just to name a few. Cartridges such as the .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, .30-06 Springfield and .300 Winchester Magnum are all high-quality flat shooting cartridges that are common choices by hunters to fit the bill here.

Big-bore rifle

A big-bore rifle is the final entry on this list. For the purposes of this article, we'll include cartridges such as the 9.3x62mm Mauser and the .375 H&H Magnum in this category, along with more typical big-bore cartridges like the .416 Rigby and the .458 Winchester Magnum. A hunter armed with a good big-bore rifle is capable of taking the biggest and toughest animals in the world, like moose, brown bear and even cape buffalo or elephant.

This allows the hunter to safely and ethically hunt large, thick-skinned animals in circumstances far beyond the capabilities of smaller cartridges like the .30-06 Springfield or .338 Winchester Magnum. Most hunters won't need a big-bore rifle many times in their life, but when you need one, you really need one.