Hunting and Fishing News & Blog Articles
10 Great Mid-Priced Bolt-Action Hunting Rifles
The author took this Scimitar-horned oryx in Texas with a Weatherby Vanguard rifle chambered in 300 WSM. (Mike Dickerson/)
With consumer prices about 100 percent higher than they were 30 years ago, a dollar buys only half of what it did then. The firearms industry has not been immune to that inflationary pressure. Today, many versions of the classic big three flagship American hunting rifles—the Remington 700, Winchester Model 70 and Ruger’s Model 77 descendent, the Hawkeye— have suggested retail prices of somewhere north of $1,000.
Adjusted for inflation, those prices are not out of line, but when you add in the cost of a quality scope, base, rings, and ammo, you’re looking at a chunk of change that many people simply can’t afford. Gun makers are well aware of this economic reality and have scrambled in recent years to produce more affordable guns for the masses. This race to the bottom, as some have derisively called it, has resulted in a market glutted with bolt-action guns costing less than $500. Many of these guns necessarily cut a few corners in quality, leaving many hunters longing for something that’s a step up from the bargain-priced guns, but still affordable.
Happily, there’s no shortage of fine hunting rifles that bridge the gap between the higher-priced rifles and the economy guns. Here, in no particular order, are 10 rifles that fit into a mid-priced range, costing more than $500 but less than $1,000. (For a full test of bargain hunting rifles, click here). the Manufacturer’s suggested retail prices are listed, but you can usually find these guns at a lower real-world price.
Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic
The time-proven Weatherby Vanguard rifle is now made in 22 variations. Shown here is the affordable Vanguard Synthetic model. (Weatherby/)
Compared to its famous Weatherby Mark V stable mate, the Weatherby Vanguard has always been positioned as a more affordable rifle—but affordable doesn’t mean cheap. Vanguards are fine guns, and three of them reside in my safe, including one chambered in .257 Wby. Mag. that has probably accounted for more game than any other rifle in my collection. Vanguards have been made in numerous versions over the years, and are now offered in no fewer than 22 variations, including Backcountry, Wilderness, and Dangerous Game models, with prices rising as you step up in quality or into more specialized models. The basic Vanguard Synthetic model is available in 16 chamberings with 24-inch barrels for standard cartridges and 26-inch barrels for cartridges of magnum persuasion. Monte Carlo-style stocks have non-slip pistol grip and forend inserts. A drop-box magazine option is offered in some chamberings. The push-feed Vanguard action, with dual opposed locking lugs, is a beefy, strong one with a one-piece machined and fluted bolt. Buyers of older Vanguards routinely replaced the less-than-stellar triggers of yesteryear, but today’s guns have an adjustable match-quality, two-stage trigger and three-position safety. The gun comes with a three-shot, sub-MOA accuracy guarantee. (MSRP: $599)
Bergara B-14 Wilderness Hunter
In the Wilderness Hunter model, Bergara’s B-14 action is bedded to a synthetic stock with a hand-painted camouflage finish, meaning no two rifles look precisely identical. (Bergara/)
Bergara earned its reputation by mass producing custom-quality, button-rifled barrels using robotics, state-of-the-art machinery, and newer manufacturing processes. The firm began making U.S.-built rifles eight years ago, and the guns quickly earned a reputation for accuracy, but they were priced beyond the reach of many. Bergara addressed that concern with its more affordable, made-in-Spain B-14 series of rifles. They’re not quite as refined as Bergara’s pricier guns, but they deliver lots of value for the money. The B-14 Wilderness Hunter, for example, has a slick-cycling action and a two-lug bolt with a coned nose for smooth feeding, and is pillar-bedded to a glass fiber-reinforced stock with a hand-painted camouflage finish. Free-floated, cerakoted barrels measure 22, 24 or 26 inches depending on your choice of chambering. Options include 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win., 28 Nosler, 7mm Rem Mag. and .300 Win. Mag. The trim barrel contour keeps weight to a bit over seven pounds. Box magazines with hinged floorplates have a capacity of two-to-four rounds depending on chambering. The trigger is quite good, and is adjustable within a range of 1.3 pounds to 4.4 pounds. The rifle has a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee, and judging by other B-14 models I’ve tested, the Wilderness Hunter should meet that standard handily. (MSRP: $899)
Mossberg Patriot Long Range Hunter
The Mosssberg Patriot Long Range Hunter, unlike other Patriot Models, has a pillar-bedded action and Minelli stock. (Mossberg/)
One of the newest entries on our list, the Mossberg Patriot Long Range Hunter, differs from other Patriot models by virtue of the fact that the action is pillar-bedded to the stock, which is not entirely synthetic, but has a wooden core with a polymer covering and attractive grey-and-black-spiderweb finish. The pillar bedding and a free-floated barrel give the gun enhanced accuracy potential, and the rifle’s Minelli stock, with a Monte Carlo comb, is designed for long-range shooting and to work with an optics rail atop the receiver for proper eye-sight alignment. The stock has a tapered, flat-bottomed forearm with dual sling swivel studs for attaching both a sling and a bipod. Fluted, button-rifled barrels measure 22 inches for rifles chambered in .308 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor, while rifles in 6.5 PRC and .300 Win. Mag. have 24-inch barrels. Muzzles are threaded for addition of suppressors. Like all Patriots, the gun has a spiral-fluted bolt with two large locking lugs and an oversized bolt handle, and the bladed trigger is adjustable down to a pull weight of around two pounds. The gun weighs only about seven pounds, making it light enough for most hunting applications. (MSRP: $721)
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The author tested the Kimber Hunter Boot Campaign rifle, a special version of the Hunter rifle made to support a veterans’ support group, and found it delivered sub-MOA groups with ammo it liked. (Mike Dickerson/)
Kimber has long been known for producing very light rifles, and the Kimber Hunter, conceived as a more affordable alternative to the company’s higher-priced guns, continues that tradition. The rifle weighs around 5 1/2 pounds, plus or minus a few ounces depending on barrel length and chambering. It comes in a range of standard cartridges, from .243 Win. to .30-06 Springfield, and is notably chambered in .280 Ackley Improved. Weight savings are achieved by use of slimmed-down 84M or 84L actions with reduced circumference bolts, sporter-profile barrels of 22 or 24 inches, detachable magazines and lightweight synthetic stocks. The action is a controlled-round-feed design with a Mauser-style extractor, fixed ejector and three-position Model 70-style safety. Actions are pillar-bedded to stocks and barrels are free-floated. Kimber says the guns should meet a sub-MOA accuracy standard. A version of this rifle I tested, chambered in .270 Win., proved to be a bit finicky in its ammo preferences, but easily met that standard with a couple of tested factory loads it liked. If you’re looking for a truly lightweight, go-anywhere rifle priced well below many rifles of similar weight, take a hard look at the Kimber Hunter. (MSRP: $891)
Browning X-Bolt Hunter
With excellent fit and finish, a walnut stock and flush-fit detachable magazine, the Browning X-Bolt Hunter looks as good as it shoots. (Browning/)
Those who prefer their rifles adorned with a decent walnut stock know that you’ll often pay a premium for that, but the Browning X-Bolt Hunter is an exception. While many X-Bolt models are priced above $1,000, the walnut-stocked Hunter comes in a bit below that mark. Offered in rifles chambered for 17 cartridges, from .22-250 Rem. to .375 H&H Mag, the rifle has button-rifled barrels with target crowns to enhance accuracy. The action has a bolt with three substantial locking lugs and a short, 60-degree bolt lift for ample scope clearance. A bolt unlock button atop the bolt handle allows you to unlock the bolt to load and unload with the tang-mounted safety in the on-safe position. Rounds are fed from a flush-fit, detachable lightweight rotary magazine, and the gun is equipped with a single-stage trigger that breaks crisply and is adjustable down to about three pounds. One feature I really like is the rock-solid X-Lock scope mounting system, which doubles the standard number of attachment points over conventional base-mounting systems, adding strength and robustness. Other X-Bolt models I’ve tested have proved to be unerringly accurate. Rifles in some chamberings cost just a bit more than the baseline price. (MSRP: $939)
Tikka T3X Lite
Tikka has improved upon its popular T3 Lite rifle with the new T3X Lite, which has a new modular stock, a widened ejection port, provision to attach a picatinny rail, a metallic bolt shroud and a steel recoil lug. (Tikka/)
The Tikka T3X Lite is an improved version of the predecessor T3 Lite rifle, which became quite popular due to its accuracy, light weight and affordability. I own one of those earlier guns, chambered in .308 Win., and it’s about as handy a multi-purpose rifle as you’ll find for the price—but Tikka has upped its game with the new version. Changes include a modular synthetic stock with interchangeable pistol grips, improved texturing in the right spots and an attachment point to change the width of the forend. There’s a better recoil pad, a widened ejection port to make it easier to load a single round and extra screw placements atop the receiver to attach a picatinny rail. A metallic bolt shroud replaces a plastic one, and a steel recoil lug replaces one made of aluminum. Otherwise, the rifle employs the same push-feed action with a two-lug bolt and detachable polymer magazine. It has a crisp, single-stage trigger and a two-position safety. Barrel length varies from 20 to 24.3 inches, depending on chambering, resulting in weights of 6.2 to 6.5 pounds. Offered in 12 chamberings ranging from .22-250 Rem. to .300 Win. Mag., the rifle has a one MOA accuracy guarantee. Tikka doesn’t list a MSRP for the gun, but you can find it for a street price of about $680. For a bit more money, you can get one with a stainless steel barrel, and there are even models made for left-handed shooters.
Savage 110 Hunter
The author took this big axis deer with a newly made-over Savage 110 Hunter rifle chambered in 30-06 Springfield. (Mike Dickerson/)
The Savage 110 has, in one form or another, been slaying game handily for more than 60 years, but today’s version has had a makeover in styling and ergonomics. The grey synthetic stock of the newer 110 Hunter model has sculpted, flowing lines and black inserts that are part of the Savage AccuFit system. Included with the rifle are five risers to adjust comb height and four different inserts to adjust length of pull to provide a custom fit. The rifle’s standard features include the often-copied Savage AccuTrigger, which is adjustable down to a pull weight of about 2.5 pounds, and a rigid, aluminum-rail AccuStock bedding system.
Today’s Savage 110 Hunter model little resembles its predecessors thanks to a complete aesthetic and ergonomic make over . (Savage Arms/)
The heart of this rifle is still the proven push-feed 110 action, which cycles smoothly. The gun has a three-position, tang-mounted safety, feeds from a detachable metal magazine and is offered in 13 popular chamberings. Most guns are equipped with sporter-profile, button-rifled 22-inch barrels, but rifles in 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm Rem. Mag. and 300 Win. Mag have 24-inch barrels. When I tested the 110 Hunter in the field and at the range, it didn’t disappoint. The rifle delivered the sort of out-of-the-box accuracy that has become synonymous with Savage. (MSRP: $759)
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The author found the affordable Mauser M18 to be highly accurate in testing, producing sub-MOA groups with all five tested factory loads. (Mike Dickerson/)
The Mauser M18 doesn’t have the Mauser M98′s control-round-feed action, but it also doesn’t have its price tag. Compared to M98 rifles, the M18 is a true bargain. Introduced a couple of years ago as the “Volkswaffe,” or People’s Rifle, the M18 offers quite a lot for the money. The gun has a straight, stiff American-style stock with soft inlays. Crowned barrels measure 22 or 24 inches in length, depending on chambering, and are mated to a cylindrical steel receiver with a full-diameter, three-lug bolt with a short, 60-degree bolt throw. The gun features twin ejectors, a three-position safety, a detachable polymer magazine and a very good adjustable single-stage trigger. While many rifles have a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee and may meet that standard with one or two loads they really like, the M18 rifle I tested, in 6.5 Creedmoor, met that standard in spades. All five tested factory loads produced one-inch or smaller—sometime way smaller—groups. The gun weighs just 6.4 pounds without a scope. (MSRP: $699)
CZ 557 American
The CZ 557 American features an attractive Turkish walnut stock, excellent fit and finish and an integral 19mm dovetail scope base machined into the top of the receiver. (CZ USA/)
Another walnut-stocked rifle that makes our list is the CZ 557 American. As its name implies, it has a straight, American-style stock made of Turkish walnut. The basic model is available chambered for a half dozen popular cartridges, and you’ll get full velocity from them thanks to the rifle’s 24-inch cold-hammer-forged and lapped barrel. The rifle uses a push-feed action with a receiver machined from billet steel and a dual-lug bolt versus the Mauser-style action found on the more expensive CZ 550 Safari Magnum rifles. The magazine is a hinged-floorplate design with a capacity of four or five rounds depending on the chambering. Even at a glance, it’s easy to see that this rifle is a step up from bargain-priced guns. Fit and finish are quite good on the rifles I’ve seen, and integral 19mm dovetail scope bases are machined into the top of the receiver. The action cycles smoothly, and the gun has a clean-breaking, fully adjustable trigger. The rifle is also offered in synthetic-stocked and left-hand versions that cost slightly less, as well as a bull-barreled varmint version that costs slightly more. (MSRP: $871)
Remington 700 SPS Stainless
The Remington 700 SPS Stainless rifle offers plenty of hunter-friendly features in a package that’s more affordable than many other Model 700 variants. (Remington/)
The Remington 700 has been around for nearly 60 years and has been made in seemingly countless versions, but the one thing they all had in common is that they were built around the cylindrical Model 700 receiver. The most economical of these models, the 700 ADL with its blind magazine, was replaced by the 700 SPS (Special Purpose Synthetic) rifle with a hinged-floorplate magazine, and it remains one of the most affordable models in the lineup, although the ADL was subsequently reintroduced. Our selection, the 700 SPS Stainless model, combines a synthetic stock with a weather-resistant, bead-blasted 416 stainless steel barrel. Internal fire-control components are plated for extra corrosion resistance. Offered in 14 chamberings, the SPS Stainless rifle has 24-inch barrels on guns chambered for standard cartridges while those chambered for magum or ultra mag cartridges have 26-inch barrels. The matte black synthetic stock, with improved ergonomics, has grey over-molded panels in the forearm and pistol grip areas. The trigger is externally adjustable. SPS rifles are also available in tactical, compact and varmint models, as well as versions with blued-steel and threaded barrels and camo stocks. (MSRP: $838)