Choosing a hunting rifle is a lot like choosing a car. You are surrounded by options for each and every niche, and it can get a bit confusing. That’s not a bad thing because the more choices the better. A lot goes into choosing a hunting rifle, and it should be a decision you make consciously.
A good hunting rifle will last you your entire life, so think of it as an investment and not a purchase. To make things just a bit easier for you we’ve gathered our top five hunting rifles by category. These rifles are aimed at hunters in the Americas and to work within your average hunter’s budget.
You won’t find an H&H Drilling that costs as much as a car on this list. What you will find is five rifles from five distinct and common categories that are all top notch hunting rifles.
The Best Budget Hunting Rifle
Budgets are tight all over and working within a budget doesn’t mean you have to compromise to succeed. Right now, the firearms industry is a buyer’s market and companies like Ruger are producing high-quality firearms at a good price.
One such rifle is the Ruger American Rifle Ranch in 300 Blackout. This light and handy rifle is remarkably affordable but doesn’t sacrifice quality. This lightweight rifle features a 16-inch barrel, comes with a scope rail, and a threaded barrel.
The 300 Blackout as a round is somewhat new but is perfect for a short barrel, lightweight carbine. Unlike the 223 the 300 Blackout won’t experience ballistic sacrifices from a 16-inch barrel. It’s made for short barrels and it’s also made to be suppressed. While most budget hunters aren’t looking to spend the extra money on a can this gun is the perfect host for one later on down the road.
The 300 Blackout round is versatile and can be loaded with supersonic, or subsonic loads. With subsonic ammo and the right can this gun would be exceptionally quiet.
300 Blackout has tons of appropriate hunting rounds available and is a good hunting round inside of 300 yards with supersonic loads. It also has very light recoil and is a great option for new shooters not accustomed to heavy recoiling rifles.
The rifle is made in America but remains remarkably affordable without having to cut corners. It uses a single piece three lug bolt designed to chuck brass fast and hard. You get plenty of scope clearance and topping it with something like the Nikon Monarch would be perfect.
The gun comes equipped with Ruger’s adjustable trigger system that lets the user adjust the trigger pull from 3 to 5 pounds. It also features a free-floating cold hammer forged barrel and Ruger’s own bedding system. It’s not just a cheap hunting rifle, it’s an excellent hunting rifle that just happens to be cheap.
Best Youth Hunting Rifle
One key to getting a young hunter comfortable with hunting is a weapon that fits them. A weapon they can control and handle, and confidently shoot. The Mossberg Patriot Youth Super Bantam is one of the best deer hunting rifles for young shooters, or for smaller shooters. The Mossberg Patriot Youth Super Bantam is a mouthful, so to keep things easier I’m just going to call it the Super Bantam.
Mossberg has been using Bantam to describe their smaller guns for some time and I finally looked into what a Bantam is. I was not disappointed. A Bantam is a small, but ferocious chicken that walks around with its chest puffed out. It’s a good name for Mossberg’s smaller rifles and shotguns.
The Super Bantam comes in a few calibers, but for youth hunting, I’m going to suggest the 243. The 243 is an outstanding medium game round that’s perfect for deer, hogs, and coyotes. It has very low recoil and popular enough you can choose a custom tuned load for your game of choice. It’s also a short action that’s easier to cycle.
The Super Bantam’s most defining feature and the reason it’s the best youth hunting rifle is the adjustable length of pull. You can easily shrink or grow the stock by adding a series of spacers to it. This allows you to adjust the length of pull for a young shooter and allows the rifle to grow as they do. The gun also features a compact 20-inch fluted barrel and altogether weighs less than 7 pounds.
The Super Bantam comes with Mossberg’s LBA adjustable trigger that allows you to adjust the trigger from 2 to 7 pounds. Although for a youth hunting I’d go with 5 or so pounds. The Super Bantam comes ready for a scope with a mounted scope base, and something like the Bushnell 3-9x would be a great fit. As a final note, we offer the always cool Kryptek camouflage model if the young shooter in your life want’s their rifle to stand out.
The Most Modern Hunting Rifle
If price isn’t a major concern, and you really want to top out on modern features the Savage Model 10 FCP-SR is the rifle for you. While this rifle is designed for tactical use at its heart it is a bolt action 308, which has long been a fantastic choice for hunting. The Model 10 FCP-SR combines a number of desirable features to produce an extremely accurate and modern rifle.
The 308 Winchester has long been a choice for hunters looking for a powerful and versatile cartridge. It offers excellent ballistics at ranges up to 800 yards and is one of the more powerful short action cartridges out there. It’s potent and has no issues taking most North American game. One of the biggest benefits of going 308 lies in its popularity. Because of its popularity, you have ammo loadings for just about anything.
The Model 10 FCP-SR is rocking a free floated 24-inch barrel that takes the perfect length for a 308 Winchester. Its long enough to take advantage of the powerful cartridge, but far from unwieldy. The barrel is also threaded for either a recoil reducing or flash suppressing muzzle device or a sound suppressor.
The rifle has a honker of a bolt handle that’s easy to manipulate when wearing gloves, which may be a consideration for my northern brethren. The Savage Model 10 FCP-SR is outfitted with two front sling swivels, which looks odd but serves a purpose. It allows you to mount a bipod to the forward sling mount, and still utilize a sling on the rear mount.
The Savage is ready for a scope and a nice long range capable scope from a reputable company like Leupold would be perfect. You’ll be stacking deer out at quite a distance with a good bipod and scope setup. Additionally, the rifle features Savage’s accutrigger that’s one of the best on the market. It’s so light, with very little movement for it to break. It really helps reduce and calm flinch, especially when buck fever sets in.
The Best Long Range Hunting Rifle
If you told me, you wanted to hit an animal at long range I could suggest to you any number of different rounds. We could go with the 300 Win Mag or the 338 Winchester Magnum, but you may say you it in a short action and in a lightweight platform. After much soul searching I’d go with the 6.5 Creedmoor. The round is easy, but what rifle? Well, I’d mix a new round with a classic rifle, the Remington 700.
The Remington 700 is the flagship of Remington’s rifles and is well respected across the world. This bolt action rifle comes it dozens of different calibers and tons of different variations. I prefer the SPS or Special Purpose Synthetic. It’s lighter, and the synthetic stock is better suited for dealing with the cruel beast we call nature.
The Remington 700 SPS in 6.5 Creedmoor is more than capable of reaching out and touching a target. The round stays supersonic past 1,200 yards and the long and svelte 6.5mm round has a nice ballistic coefficient. It’s accurate and takes some time to run out of steam. It can humanely take game at long ranges. The Remington rifle is also well suited for long range shooting, and it’s the choice of the Marine Corps Scout Snipers.
The gun features a 24-inch barrel for exceptional accuracy and to maximize the 6.5 Creedmoor’s velocity. The rifle is drilled and tapped for scope mounts and you’ll want something tuned for ballistic drop, with a mil or moa dot reticle for bullet drop. Something like the Bushnell Legend in 4.5-14x would be perfect.
The rifle is outfitted with the X Mark Pro adjustable trigger and comes set at 3.5 pounds from the factory. What’s really cool about this trigger is that it’s externally adjustable. There is no need for a gunsmith to adjust your trigger. Although 3.5 pounds seems just about perfect for me.
Overall, it’s a light and handy little rifle that’s great for taking those long-range shots. The 6.5 Creedmoor round is somewhat new, but have proven popular enough to have a few different hunting loads available. It’s an excellent combination of gun and round.
The Best Brush Hunter
The 30-30 is an American classic. It’s likely killed more deer than any other round in the United States. The 30-30 is most commonly found in lever action rifles like the Henry listed here. The combination of the round and the lever action platform makes a very potent brush hunting combo.
Brush hunting is typically hunting that occurs in thickets, often on the ground. Brush hunting is unpredictable and the ranges can vary between shotgun range and rifle range in just a few minutes. You need a gun that points quickly like a shotgun but has the extra range of a rifle. The Henry Lever Action 30-30 is that gun.
The open iron sights make it quick and easy to get on target for close range shooting and are dynamic enough to allow a shooter to hit targets at 200 yards. The sights are adjustable and are a semi-buckhorn design. This means the rear sight has a wide set of ‘ears’ for close range shooting and a more precise smaller notch for long range shooting. The gun also has a brass beaded front sight that’s easy to see and reflects light for low light shooting. The Henry lever action is also drilled and tapped for a scope rail. I’d mix a little bit of new with old world and go with a miniature red dot sight personally.
The Henry’s short 20-inch barrel keeps the weapon lightweight and maneuverable in thick brush and makes it easy to move over long distances without getting fatigued. The rifle weighs only 7 pounds and has an overall length of only 39 inches.
The Henry’s smooth lever action allows the shooter to make rapid follow up shots to compensate for a miss or to even take multiple animals. The 30-30 round isn’t a long range cartridge, but within its effective range, it’s a hammer. It hits hard, and with the right ammo will expand rapidly and put an animal down quickly. What you lose in range you make up for with moderate recoil, which goes back to the ability to make rapid follow up shots.
Henry’s lever guns look as good as they function. The American walnut stock and rich bluing are certainly a throwback to simpler times and simpler rifles.
Over and Out
These are my favorite hunting rifles and I stand behind each selection. The big question is for our readers, do you agree? Disagree? Tell us why and let us know. We all always like to hear from you. What’s your top five hunting rifles?