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Hunting season is coming up fast — in fact, in some parts of the country it has already started. Hunting is a long-standing American tradition, and the run-up to that opening day is typically the point in the business year where gun stores start edging into the black. With the blessed date fast approaching, I figured there would be one or two people out there who might be researching which of the bolt action rifles that have come out in the last few years is the best. Here’s my opinion on the matter . . .

There have been a glut of new budget-priced hunting rifles introduced in the last couple years, and as always there have been some winners and some losers. Here are the top three.

Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 Carbine – $599

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Weatherby has been synonymous with hunting for longer than I have been alive. Their rifles are not only accurate, but beautiful as well. And that’s what puts this budget-minded bolt action at the top of the pile.

Hunting isn’t necessarily about the shooting — it’s also about the experience. Bonding with your best buds, hiking around in the woods, and enjoying the overall ambience of the hunt. To that end, the Weatherby Vanguard series offers an excellent rifle with a fine pedigree (Howa actions and Weatherby finesse) that will not only hit the target but look and feel exquisite in your hand. Swap out the stock for a wooden version for a more traditional look and you have an absolute thing of beauty at a very reasonable price.

Ruger American Rifle – $449

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Introduced only a couple years ago, Ruger’s entry into the affordable hunter market is designed for accuracy and durability. The stock is a hard composite material that maintains its shape and allows for a free-floating barrel to increase accuracy. The receiver is designed for maximum strength with a small ejection port. The really big feature of this gun is its rotary detachable magazine, which allows for quick reloads from spare mags.

The American rifle seems designed to last until the end of the world — its over-engineered and no-frills design make it great for new shooters, but could be something that you might quickly outgrow.

Remington 700 – $595

As much as I may dislike what Freedom Group’s done to some of my favorite firearms brands, the Remington 700 is still a solid choice. The number of after market parts available for the rifle is absolutely stunning, and it seems like you can pick one up at just about any Walmart in the country. Swapping out the trigger for a Timney replacement is a no-brainer when you have a little cash saved up, but it’s good to go right off the shelf. Not as over-engineered and no-nonsense as the Ruger, and not as highly polished and classy as the Weatherby. A middle-of-the-road approach.

That’s my opinion

Based on my experience and my preferences, these are the three rifles I would buy if I needed a new hunting gun. But I guarantee our readers have some strong opinions on the matter as well, so check the comments for more information.

96 Responses to The Three Best Budget Hunting Rifles (2014 Edition)

  1. TC has some very affordable hunting rifles that claim sub MOA. I like my Remy 700, after I got the trigger fixed and didn’t have to worry about it going off on it own…

  2. I use a Mossberg 590A1. I get some odd looks, but I have taken deer and squirrels with and it’s always ready to keep the two legged varmints away.

    • I second this, as I live in a slugs-only state…or used to. They’re allowing “PCCs” for durr-hunting this year (.38-55, .45-70, and .45-90 are on the list of acceptable cartridges too, iirc).

    • +1

      Thousands of used 110s for less than $400, plus the Savage Axis. The 110 series is probably the easiest to customize too – barrel nut.

      But the ultimate budget deer rifle is the H&R Handi Rifle. If you’re on a shoestring budget, you’re not going to buy a $600 Remington.

      • +1 for the H&R Handi-rifle. I happen to have two of them and they seem to be extremely accurate. Their stock triggers are fairly decent as well.

        • A-Rod, I have one. Haven’t put a scope on it yet, but I was a bit disappointed my first time out with it at the range, in regards to accuracy… Just my experience. Maybe it was the sub loads I was shooting. Need more time to find out what’s going on…

        • ValleyForge77,

          My Handi-rifle happens to be chambered in the .44 Magnum handgun cartridge. I started with Winchester white box .44 Magnum 240 grain semi-jacketed soft point rounds. My groups at 25 yards were about two inches … completely unacceptable. Then I tried Sellier & Bellot 240 grain semi-jacketed soft points. Basically all of my shots keyholed the previous shot. Thus my group size went from 2 inches to basically zero inches (perfect) with a different brand of ammunition. I hope a different brand of ammunition works much better for you.

          Oh, and my scope rail was loose from the factory. Make sure you tighten that up as well!

    • +2. The Savage has a superior trigger to the Remy with its Accutrigger, and superior (sub-MOA) accuracy to any Ruger. A budget minded hunter can buy a brand new 110 series with a packaged Nikon scope for under $500 at retail in a variety of calibers from .243 to .30-06.

      • Yeah that Nikon is a pretty decent scope. The mounts savage put on though look like they came off of a pellet gun. For less than $50 though you can swap them out for a leupold dovetail mount or a set of Talley lightweight mounts and you will be left with a gun that will out shoot just about any factory rifle out there (and probably some “custom” ones too).

      • +3. I have shot a number of Savage rifles and I like them a lot better than Remington, Mossberg or Ruger. If I didn’t have the money for a Winchester Model 70, I would have paid for a Savage.

      • What makes you say Rugers are inaccurate? i have two M77MkIIs and i can put 5 rounds from either one in a quarter at 100 yards

        • i don’t think he is saying that but rather that savage has been king of the “very accurate and lowest priced” hill for some time. Savage has also made all the other companies raise the bar and lower prices. Without Savage leading the way, nobody would be getting these rifles at this cost.

        • I love my left-handed Savage Model 11 in .308, but long before I bought it I loved my tack-driving lefty Remington 700 in 7mm magnum.

    • Yeah whats the deal with that?
      $400-$500 gets you:
      – A fairly light and reasonably crisp adjustable trigger
      – perfect head-space from the factory
      – floating bolt head (no need to lap lugs)
      – fully free floated barrel
      – all stocks whether wood or plastic are pillar bedded with steel pillars. with the option for a factory aluminum chassis block for $100-200 over the base rifle.

      Kind of shocked this didn’t make the list. They aren’t necessarily the most refined looking rifles out there, I guess the barrel nut isn’t as good looking as a more traditional shoulder mounted barrel, but still you get a lot of features that you would otherwise pay a gunsmith hundreds or close to a thousand dollars to get on a custom build.

      What gives nick?

        • I’ve owned a 110 from the 90s and it’s the king of the reasonably priced “hunting” rifles and is a very good place to start building precision rifles.

          But let’s just say that I now don’t have a Savage and I now have a M1A 😉

  3. I went with the Ruger American in .243 with a Redfield 3×9 on top. Rifle functions and shoots just fine.

    Now, if only I was a better hunter……

  4. I happen to have acquired a Mossberg 100 ATR bolt action rifle in .270 Winchester a couple years ago. I have not had any trouble putting accurate rounds on target at 150 yards. I think the purchase price was $270. At that price, you cannot go wrong.

    • I agree. The Mossberg ATR line comes in .270, .243, .308, and .30-06, each with a scope, and provides an excellent value. I believe it comes in 7mm, too, but perhaps without scope. All models for under $300.

      I’m only personally familiar with the .30-06 model, but it’s solid at that price and even compares well on performance grounds to rifles in the next tier up. The provided scopes aren’t top of the line, obviously, but they’re serviceable and well suited to an entry level, bargain (not cheap) rifle; appropriate for a newcomer or infrequent hunter, or a just-in-case hunter like myself.

      I do like the Ruger rifles, in all models, but I’m just not a fan of the rotary magazines. It’s why I’ve never bought a 77/357 of theirs. A low capacity external magazine, particularly in a bolt action hunting rifle, just strikes me as odd and out of place. It seems like just one more thing to lose, to buy, or to break, and just provides another after market proprietary revenue stream to the manufacturer.

  5. H&R. Hey, its a single shot but that should be all you need for big game. About $200 at your local whoever.

    Credit to Craig, he beat me to it.

    BTW I use a 700 for elk/deer, but still use a Handi-Rifle as my primary coyote gun.

    • “… its a single shot but that should be all you need for big game.”

      In my experience everything scatters at light speed after the first shot so the speed with which you can deliver follow-up shots seems to be a moot point to me.

      And before anyone posts fantastic stories claiming to shoot running deer at 200 yards, I want to know exactly what cartridge they were shooting, how long their barrel was, at what angle the deer was running, and how much lead they had to put on a deer running full-out. (Hint: the amount of lead required to hit a deer running full-out and broadside at 200 yards is about 9 feet!)

      • My last two required follow-up shots. One was an elk, first shot through the lungs (300WM at 290y). He dropped for about 10 seconds then headed for private land 50 yards away, the second shot stopped him about 20 yards from the fence. Had he made it over I would have had to hump out, find the game warden to get permission to go after him, then hump back in. Next was a ram (300WM at 380y) good trigger break but he stepped as the hammer fell and the first round hit about a foot back. A single shot might get the job done but you have more of a chance of prolonging the suffering and/or having to track all night or even days with the possibility of never finding the animal at all. And to preempt any discussion about the ranges I took those at, I shot long-range comps for several years and have hundreds of hours of training and never take a shot I don’t think is right or within my capability. I’ve also seen good shooters miss the mark at under 200y. Hunting is dynamic and you never know what’s going to happen. I’m sure a few guys never miss, but they’d have to be really good marksman — AND have the discipline to only shoot when conditions are perfect, and they almost never are.

  6. Nick,
    Define budget. $500-$600 to me is not budget. Budget is duct tape on your radiator hose. Budget is free if available. So, though I fully agree with your choices and would have put the Remington 700 and Ruger American on my top ten list also, here are a few suggestions.

    Marlin 336 – Used $250-350, New $400. 30-30 Ammo $0.70/ round
    Mosin Nagant M91/30 – Used, of course $150-$200. 7.62x54R Ammo $0.15/round
    SKS – Used of course $250-$350. 7.62×39 Ammo $0.20/round
    Ruger 10/22 – Used $100-$150, New $225. .22LR Ammo – Priceless

    • Good call on the Nagant. I picked up a box of soft point 7.62x54R with the hope I’ll be able to find the time to hit the woods this fall. Though now that I have the money to order a Redhawk, I’ll probably take that out instead…

      • Stupid call on the Mosin. Can’t be scoped properly. Not accurate. Most Surplus ammo is FMJ. You can hunt with FMJ (not in my state anyway). By the time you invest in decent hunting ammo and make an effort to get proper optics on the Mosio, You in $300-$400 deep. Mosins are for preppers who start gun conversation with “Know whutchoo need, dontcha’?”

        SKS is nearly the same. The latest gun panic destroyed any value the SKS ever had. Hard to scope. Only a little more off the shelf (outta the crate) accuracy than the mosin. Another poor choice.

        10/22? Really? YOu can’t reliable take medium game with any rimfire cartridge.

        The Marlin was the only reasonable rifle you mentioned.

        • There ARE a few good and cheap options out there for scope mounting on a Mosin, as long as you don’t mind a long-eye-relief scout-style scope. The ones that attach to the factory rear-sight base are usually pretty flimsy and I would not trust. However, if you drift out the pins holding the rear sight base to the receiver, and remove the base, you expose a set of dovetails. This dovetail is close enough to the standard dovetail used on millions of .22lr rifles that most scope bases designed for those will fit just fine. The one I used (think it was a Leapers brand?) took a few string of fire at the range to settle in place, but once it was settled and tightened, it hasn’t budged and I haven’t lost zero in about 3/4 of a spam can of surplus ammo (so figure ~300 rounds).

          There is cheap soft-point 7.62x54R ammo readily available (sold under brown bear label, i think?) as well as some pricier Prvi Partizan or Sellier and Belloit SP as well (if you want reloadable brass). With the addition of an $8.00 trigger return spring from Buymilsurp.com and the above mentioned scope, I can shoot 2.5 MOA-ish at 100 yds. Where I live there is almost no opportunity for shots over 100-200 yds, so this is perfectly acceptable accuracy (in my opinion) for deer sized game (though the deer around are pretty damn small). I’ve taken several hog with my 91/30 with the above setup. Puts them down hard, and there’s something appropriate in my mind about using a russian rifle to take down boar. Plus, for yuks, I have done it with the bayonet attached, so in the event of a dangerous charging boar, I have a nice boar-spear at my disposal too 🙂

          My mosin was not some perfect-bore hand-picked special, just a run-of-the-mill $100 mosin (a few years back when you could still find them at that price). I put maybe another hundred bucks into it (scope and base, trigger spring, slip-on recoil pad) and maybe an hour to install it all. For that I have a gun that is a joy to shoot, cheap to feed, capable of taking any game I’d want to in my area, and that I can easily return to stock condition if I ever decide I want to. Now THATS a budget hunting rifle in my mind.

          Sorry for the long reply, didn’t realize how much I’d typed 🙂

        • Give it up. The Mosin is NOT a budget hunting rifle. It’s a terrible choice for the application in most cases, compared to a cheap Savage or Ruger.

          You will end up spending more time and money overall trying to turn a Mosin into a hunting rifle, and it will still probably have a terrible trigger, (comparitively) poor accuracy, poor optics mounting options, and it will still be heavy as a boulder.

          I love my milsurp rifles, but I would not recommend a bubbad Mosin to ANYONE as a “budget” hunting rifle.

          The SKS is actually a great short-range rifle for hunting whitetail and hogs, as long as you can hit them reliably with irons. Again, most of the scope mounting options for the SKS are terrible.

          I used to be in the SKS bubbaing game. Long ago I sold off/threw away all those “accessories” and put them back into their wood stocks.

        • Glad I’m not the only one in here who refuses to chug away on the Mosin coolaid.

          You hit the nail on the head, I would take your comment further and say the only people who like those things or seem to think they are worth something are prepper wannabes who all they ever talk about is prepping, who eat sleep and drink prepping 24/7 but if they actually had to “bug out” would be completely up a creek. My ideal budget rifle would be a 20-22″ 308 savage model 10 with a decent 3×9 optic on it (I’m thinking a Leupold vx2. For about 700 you will have a complete rifle that will shoot lights out with boring consistency, ammo still cheap enough and readily available and a way better rifle than some tooled out Mosin

        • Yeah but, yeah but, with a Mosin you can affix bayonets and repel a charge from a hog.

          If it’s your hobby and it makes you happy to work on a project, then knock yourself out and have fun.

        • All the areas I’ve ever hunted have been densely treed, brushy, hilly, or otherwise short-ranged. There’s rarely need for a scope. In fact, since we’re talking about gearing up on a budget, iron sights should be the plan, or at least a serious option. The larger liability would be the rifle’s length.

          And I picked up a box of twenty S&B soft points on sale at a local hardware in my parents’ town for around $15, I think. In general, looks like it runs about a dollar a round. So, I’d be in for all of $130, give or take, if I took my 91/30 out with hunting rounds.

          I’ve known plenty of people who routinely hunt, successfully, with surplus rifles of all vintages and origins (including Soviet), and so rarely modified they might as well never be.

        • If you were hunting with one in a place where irons work best for you, it would probably be a great very basic bolt-action rifle for that type of hunting.

          However the article definitely is geared towards more open shooting – all of the rifles are scoped. I think that’s why we look at the Mosin and immediately cringe for that type of hunting.

          Irons? No problem, as long as you can hit what you’re aiming at reliably..

        • Wow, a lot of vitriol in these posts. I still stand by my statement that a Mosin can be a budget hunting rifle. I’m not a prepper at all or a Mosin fanboy, just a guy who likes military arms with a C&R. I rarely hunt, and it seems silly for me to spend $400-600 on a rifle I’ll use maybe once a year when I have several rifles that will work just fine for this. The reason I use one of my Mosins is I won’t feel nearly as bad if I bang up its stock or drop it in some mud, compared to doing that to one of my Mausers, my K31, my ’03 Springfield, one of my Lee-Enfields, or my Arisaka. I don’t consider my Mosin “bubba’d”; I made a few improvements to it that can be completely undone in a matter of an hour. I threw a scope on it because the iron sights on the Mosin aren’t spectacular, and neither is my eyesight. The fact is I spent under $200 on a rifle that will put all my shots in a 5 inch circle at 200 yards. That is perfectly suited for the few times I go out for a very casual hog hunt with my friends. I don’t see how that’s not a budget hunting rifle. If the topic of this post was “Hunting Rifles Good to Half a Kilometer Under $600” or something then yeah, it obviously wouldn’t qualify or would be far outmatched by the other contenders. But you can’t get much more ‘budget’ than a $150-200 rifle/scope, and you can’t tell me it’s not good for the hunting I do, since it is, because I’ve used it as such very effectively. And yes, I said I threw on the bayonet once “for yuks”, that is, for comic effect (did I mention our hog hunting ventures are very casual?). Before firearms boars were traditionally hunted with spears. My friends were ribbing me about how I got confused a brought a boar spear, so I threw on the bayonet to get some laughs. Don’t take yourselves so serious guys. Not everyone needs to spend a half a grand on a rifle. Just because YOU wouldn’t use a Mosin to hunt, or YOUR idea of cheap/budget is a lot higher than mine doesn’t mean everyone has your same standards. Fact is, for many many people, a Mosin with iron sights or a cheaper scope is a very viable option for hunting, and is cheaper than any other 30-caliber bolt action out there.

    • Glad to see my comment stir up some discussion. I’m a little unclear though about all the talk indicating that a gun is worthless for hunting or prepper”ish” simply because a scope can’t effectively be mounted on it. I wonder what people did to hunt before optics? Sounds like the gen-x computer crowd to me. I hunt just fine with iron sights and my freezer is filled each fall. The comments about the 10/22 not effective for dear etc, uh-duh! But deer, hog, boar, and bear are not the only game out there. My wife’s squirrel stew is to die for and I never pulled out a .308 to bag a rabbit or squirrel. Nick – love the articles. Keep up the good work.

    • Or even better, the Axis II, which has their VERY nice AccuTrigger installed from the factory. Adds a small price premium, but totally worth it in my opinion and still very budget-minded.

  7. Nick’s budget is larger than ours.

    Budget Rifle… phffft. Mosin Nagant – now that’s budget. Weatherby Vanguard? Remington 700??? Those aren’t budget.

    • I have a 91/30. Budget to buy for sure. But feeding it is another story. In CA we are phasing out lead based ammo. The only copper non lead I could find for 54r was 60 dollars a box. My .243 ammo was half that.

      • How can you stand that place? Hell if it were me id shoot the lead stuff anyway and just keep loaded rounds of the lead free stuff on me so if someone inspects it you can show em what you used. Not like theyll recover the bullet anyway. 54r will sail right through.

        • Hey, Anthony, best not to advocate breaking the law online- even though your frustration is understandable.
          The lead free condor zone has been in place for a few years, and the rest of CA doesnt kick in until 2019. But the law says cant have lead ammo and a gun capable of using it on hand, during hunting season.

          And while I have read in one place its rare for wardens to seize a gun to check for ammo, here is a link to a Q&A by CDFG that says they can, for prohibited ammo. http://californiaoutdoorsqas.com/2010/06/

          When I hunted hogs in Vandenberg a couple years ago, it was impossible to find .270 in copper in So Cal, on LGS shelves, but no problem online. And yeah, its more expensive. My advice would be get good practicing with cheap lead ammo at the range, and then re-zero your rifle with copper rounds you will be using, just before the hunt, just like you would on other ammo if you wanted to do your best.

          And, BTW, IMHO, seems that experienced hunters are increasingly leaving the state, to retire, or to hunt, to avoid the BS. That includes a senior US National Forest Service supervisor I talked to, now retired, who was very diplomatic, but a long time hunter, who inferred it just wasnt worth it to hunt in CA…

          At some point, between closing land to hunters, and making it too hard to hunt, CA will lose the newest generation of hunters, and the stats on who takes what, numbers of licenses issued, is proving that trend.

          Since user fees, ie licenses and tags, pay for game wardens and programs, the State will have to find a way to tax us citizens for their salaries. If you watch “Wild Justice” on Nat Geo, you will probably get an undercurrent of the “eco-warrior for justice” flavor of some of the young guys, who obviously did not grow up hunting, who dont “get” what true sportsmen bring to conservation and appreciation for the habitat as the key to wild game success, and instead seem to regard the poachers and litterers as one and the same as all hunters as the bad guy, the equivalent of the Cartel narcoterrorists running the illegal grows.

          Thats why most of the good hunters I know, the older guys with the means, or the dads taking kids on a big hunt, will most often go out of state.

  8. Throwing in my lot for the Ruger American. It’s cheap, so you can beat on it and won’t feel bad… but most of all it’s light as heck, which is awesome for slogging out into the bush. Like the rotary mag and I never really shoot at anything over 100 yds or so for normal hunting anyway, and it really shines in that role.

    My 700 is an SPS (sitting in a JAE stock) so no way I’m lugging that thing out into the bush lol…. Ruger American works perfect. I just have an inexpensive Bushnell 4-12 on it that works like a charm.

    Can’t speak to the others, but the American does exactly what I need it to do and I have no worries about banging it around, throwing it in the back of the truck, getting it muddy, etc.

    • Local gun show about a month ago, big retailer had American with a “Navy digital camo” poly stock in .308 or .270 for $289. No sights. That’s an unbelievable price. You just can’t buy much manufactured (USA) for less than $300.

      Anyone made an extended mag for the American (.308)?

      • I never understood the point of having navy camo on a rifle, I am in the navy and I think it looks stupid, but to each his own, only people I see buying navy camo stuff is people directly out of bootcamp, but if someone likes it, that’s all that matters, the opinion of a random person shouldn’t matter

    • Savage for me. No issues and shoots as good as my BAR.
      Feel sorry for the unleaded folks. I live in Louisiana. We are about last in everything and I hope the no lead tree hugging folks don”t show up around here.You can only hug a tree so much until you wear blisters on your arms. We want to be last in that as well. I think the biggest threat of unleaded progressive movement is “Tin Whiskers”(NASA has been working on this for 40 years) (Google it) and not habitat for wildlife. Yep predator birds eat other Game Birds and if lead is ingested, BIG problem. How about doing something about Fire Ants. They have desimated the Quail population. No lead is causing HUGE issues in technology. That is why I don’t and will never live in CA. Beautiful place, but only to visit. CNC machining and new alloys have established a new place in Gun building, Cheaper to make, less man hands on production. Its all about QC now. Thanks and I really enjoy the comments.

      • I support the Second Amendment and ethical hunting, but I also support conservation and protecting and preserving the environment, wildlife and biodiversity. In fact, conservation and preservation of Earth’s precious biodiversity and habitats must become humanity’s paramount priority.
        Unfortunately, the Earth and its life has to be protected from selfish humans because self-absorbed, gluttonous humans are the only species destroying planet Earth and its precious life and habitats.
        It’s common-sense prioritizing; what’s more important, hunting with toxic lead ammo or having unpolluted land and water, game to hunt at all, and wildlife other than cockroaches and rats? I think it’s an easy choice.

  9. Budget hunting is a used 30/30 for under $300

    However….
    Or a 12 gauge mossy or Remington shotgun…can hunt anything in north america depending on the shells you use and choke. Red dot and slugs for deer/pigs. Red dot and steel shot for turkey, steel for ducks, 7 or 8 for squirrel, dove or anything else. Off season it is SD in the closet.
    If you are on a budget it doesn’t get any better than that.

  10. Also…if you are on a budget you will never buy anything new. A used 30/06 Savage with scope can be had for $250 round my area.

  11. Great article! Almost great timing. I’m a week ahead of you.

    I just picked up the Ruger American in.308. I only paid $368.00 too! Even with a decent scope I’m still under $600. I just moved to Arizona so this is my first foray into bolt actions. I came from Ohio and there are no (non-muzzle loader) rifle hunts there. So far I’m really enjoying it. It was ready to go out of the box. Weaver mounts were pre-installed. When you register your rifle at Ruger.com they send you a free cheek pad. I haven’t received mine in the mail yet so we’ll see if it helps my cheek weld.

    It’s very light but has a nice recoil pad so the .308 kick is well on the tolerable side. I wish I could upgrade the stock and add an inch or so to the length of pull. My trigger is pretty light and crisp. With match ammo I’m just over MOA. The limit is the user, not the rifle I think. I’ll keep practicing.

  12. After reading this article I am going to pick up a new Savage 110 in 308 on my way home. – A real budget rifle that is very accurate, with better trigger than what was listed her (minus maybe the Weatherby) and requires no work to make it a shooter other than to feed it.

    • If you opt for one of the package guns go ahead and drop another 40-50 on a good scope to replace the rings and bases that come on it. The mount savage uses is garbage, my 10xp in 308 lost zero and had to be re- tightened 3 times before I gave up and put a set of talley lightweights in it. I suggest the one piece talley lightweight ring/base combos, but Leupold dovetail or Warne maxima is good too.

      For around $100 you can throw it in a Boyd’s laminate and have a drop dead sexy rifle that will shoot clover leafs till you get bored with it.

      • I had the exact same experience with a Savage Trophy Hunter XP. I couldn’t get a decent group to save my life. I put a DNZ Game Reaper Mount on it, and it shoots right below 1 MOA.

  13. After looking into what I should buy for a hunting riflea couple years ago I settled on a stainless Tikka T3 in 308. Why? I love the way the bolt moves so slick and easily. Also the trigger is excellent. I handled the Weatherby vanguard series I and II but didn’t like the way the bolt felt when racking it. Also didn’t want to spend the money on a timney if I went the 700 route. I am very very pleased as it is light and accurate. You do need to get rid of the factory recoil pad on the Tikka as it does nothing to help the recoil. Also the blued version is cheaper but I wanted stainless to keep corrosion in check as it can be raining or snowing here in WNY during hunting season.

  14. Remington used to make a very nice 788 model, but that went by the way side. Used Savage 110s in .30-06 are often overlooked at the gun stores.

  15. The remington 700 needs to be off this list. I work at a large chain sporting goods store and the ones we get, including the high dollar models, constantly have rust on the receivers. I would never trust one, in fact if you offered me one for free I’d take it and sell it to buy anything else.

  16. Last year, I looked at a lot of rifles for a cheap hunter, including the Ruger American and Remington 700. I paid $500 for a Savage 110 Trophy Hunter XP in .308. I had to put a $70 scope mount on it because the package mount shifts under recoil.

    The Nikon scope (3-9×40 more or less Prostaff) that comes with the package is shockingly good. The stock, while not great, is good enough. I did have to relieve the tang a little to get it to free float. The easily adjustable Accutriger is quite good. It’s not a perfect trigger, but it is a very good trigger. Now that it’s tuned, the rifle shoots just under 1 MOA with good factory ammo.

    I am amazed that for $570 you can get a light, accurate rifle with a very good trigger and an acceptable hunting scope.

    In my looking, I was also impressed with the Tikka T3. I am very glad I did not purchase a Remington 700.

  17. RAR’s can be had for less than $400. Mine in 308 will shoot sub MOA all day long with good ammo. The Savage Axis Edge that I once owned would not do the same. Also, would that you could get a Remy 700 that looks like the one in the picture for $550. Thats a HS Precision PST012 (M24) stock that clocks in at $350 by itself. The stocks on base model 700’s these days are plastic junk.

  18. Have been considering a scoped bolt gun to add to the collection for longer hunting (feel confident in 100yd shots [not a great long gun shooter] with my Winchester 96 or AK with irons) and love the Weatherby Vanguards. Budget has dictated I look lower in cost however.

    Like several of the commenters, I’ve been looking at Savage, specifically the Axis II Xp to get an Accutrigger and the cheap scope. Looking for thoughts on the package as a whole, and the scope in particular for canyon shots ranging out to maybe… 300yds.

  19. None of those rifles are Budget guns. If a McDonald’s fruit pie technician couldn’t buy this and pay his bills that month, then its not budget.

    If you wanted to stay out of the deep part of one’s pockets, you need to stay around $300 for gun, scope, and ammo. Only one rifle fits the bill. The CVA Hunter Single Shot. $230 ($199 on sale) with a mounted Konus 3×9. Available in 7mm-08, 243, 35 rem, and I think(?)35 Whelen, and maybe more. Not chambered in the typical “30’s”. I’m not loving this rifle as an owner, It just is what it is. I did have one in 7mm-08 Compact/Youth with a Burris 2-7×35. I’ve seen the Konus its as good as any “Combo package” scope. It would certainly serve one through several years of hunting. My rifle shot 1.5 moa out of the box with Winchester Super X and tightened up quite after breaking in a bit. With Hornady Super Perf. it started shooting MOA when I could do my part shooting from the bench. I had never put it on the sled. I had no problem hunting all season with it when I had it. I took 2 deer very close to the 300 yard mark. I think I need another one in .243 for a lightweight hunter. I might top it with some kind of ultra light scope. TTAG should buy me one for T&E. What’s $300 to you guys? Hell, I heard that Farago smokes $300 cigars.

    Mean “budget” when you say budget. Let’s not get snobby. Let’s not define budget by Nick’s standards for what guns he can stand to have in his presence. (j/k, Nick. I’m sure you’re the just the best.)

    • well, the fruit pie technician COULD learn to save some money on the side for six months so that he could still pay his bills.

      • Well, he could save up for ten years and buy a Blaser R8, too. Doesn’t make it a “budget” choice… 😉 I tend to think that when you’re talking about a “budget” gun (be it rifle or pistol), that means something in the $300-$400 range, tops. Most people can scrape that together in relatively short order without crippling their finances, and there are several good options available at that price point. Above $500 seems to be the price point where many people start having heartburn.

  20. I and my stuffed-with-venison freezer will hardily back up the Ruger American recommendation. I’ve got the 270 with a Burris scope. Great feral hog gun, too.

  21. Why would someone outgrow one of these in say .308 for deer, hogs and black bear?

    What do the high end rifles do that these won’t at realistic shooting ranges in the woods, brush or across a cornfield?

    I would think a guy would outgrow a budget scope before he shot better than these can or needed to shoot further than these budget rifles will hit.

    Or does outgrow here carry the same context as getting a Rock Island GI 1911 for starters and then outgrowing your way into a custom Wilson?

  22. OK, I can vouch for the Timney trigger on the Remington 700 – a better trigger AND MUCH BETTER than waiting the 8 weeks it took Remington to even send me the damn box to return the rifle for a trigger that doesn’t go bang when it’s not supposed to. But….

    Which 700 MSRPs at $595? The cheapest 700 I can find on Remington’s website is the SPS at $724 MSRP. The Ruger American has an MSRP of $449 so I assume that’s the MSRP on the 700? Anyway, Remington does make budget rifles, the 783 MSRPs at $451 and the 770 MSRPs at $383 WITH a scope already attached(!).

    • Academy has the 700 ADL for 380.00 every day. .223 – 7mm, all you gotta do is walk up to the gun counter.

      I paid 689.00 for the 700 AAC-SD, and it comes with a threaded barrel. The Hogue stock went in the trash though.

        • A lot of their rifles don’t show up on the website, like the Stainless 5R but that is definitely NOT a budget rifle 🙂 .
          They make the ADL as a “only sold through big box-stores” model to compete with rifles like the Savage Axis and TH XP models (I think TTAG did an article/reiview on this at some point). Go to Cabela’s/Dicks/Academy/Walmart and you will see them on the rack.

          If I was looking for a cheap beater that I could shoot until I had more money to “build” a nicer rifle. I would get the cheapest Savage that came with an accutrigger. As money allowed I would get a boyds stock, a Criterion direct thread replacement barrel, new glass, and maybe an AICS bottom metal like the one from CDI. Or heck wait till I had a grand or so and screw on a full bull barrel and drop it into an Evolution Chassis from XLR. That would be sweet!

          I know the Rem700’s can be made to do all of those things and probably a little prettier (I admit barrel nuts and flat black finish arent very sexy on a proper hunting rifle (see below), but I really like the ability for someone with basic knowledge of tools and mechanics to build a fairly decent precision rifle in their garage without a multi axis lathe/mill.

          That being said my primary hunting stick is a Remington 700 VLS, again most definitely not a “budget” rifle. For all my savage fanboyism, I have a soft spot for satin blueing and beautiful wood laminates.

  23. Nice Review Nick. I’d have expected the Savages with the Accutrigger to be on that list too, just from various research, but appreciate your view as taking into account the ability to customize/upgrade in future. I heard a piece of advice from a Navy Seal sniper who said rule of thumb, for shooting long, spend the same on your glass as you did the rifle.

    If you agree, then the budget just doubled to $1200 or so, new for some of us westerners not used to shooting deer in thick woods in PA, hogs in dense thickets in TX, under 100 yds. I agree with one poster above that a good shotgun with iron sights and slugs has worked well for the last 50 years, for a lot of guys, but thats not always do-able in the high chapparal and across the valley shooting.

    If you were to do this again, with top three “used bolt guns with scope, to shoot out to 300 yds” on a budget, what would you suggest?

    I understand the older 700s were better quality, correct? When was the cut-off date?

  24. Last Christmas I won not 1 but 2.. count em 2 ! Savage rifles.. One was the trophy hunter in 308, accutrigger topped with the Nikon 3×9 scope.. the other was a bare bones Axis in .270.. I tossed the cheap plastic stock and put a Boyds classic on it, then topped it with a redfield 4×12..trigger is a little stiff, But I’ll live with it.

  25. Was the Ruger American over-praised in the article? I know it is accurate, but is it also “durable” and “over-engineered”? Doesn’t Ruger need to cut corners to keep the price so low?

  26. The Savage rifle packages, with scope– $325 at Palmetto after rebate. That’s about as budget as you can get.

    That’s not the Axis, either.

    • The ATR is total garbage. I couldn’t get .243 to shoot any better than a 12″ group. After three shots the groups got much worse! Three different scopes and several different brands of ammo didn’t help. Sent it back to Mossberg and it came back several months later with a new barrel and a bolt that was assembled wrong and couldn’t be fired!

      It does now shoot 4″ groups, but its for sale. I’ll take anything over $150 with the scope. The Savage with an accutrigger is by far the best bang for the buck.

  27. My nosin is a great open site gun, as far as budget guns. It is what ever you can afford. People have been hunting with rocks to guns for years. Cva puts out a very good gun

  28. List fails without the most obvious budget hunting rifle – a bone stock bolt action mil-surp. Get an old Mauser or Mosin or whatever and learn how to use the irons. Recrown the muzzle, maybe install a Huber trigger, and shoot the thing.

  29. A rifle that’s cheap? A rifle that’s strong and sturdy? A rifle that’s accurate? That can shoot from a good distance? A rifle that shoots a BIG cartridge that is also sheap? Mosin Nagant M91/30. With a calibre of 7.62x54r, this rifle has some historical value too. Cheap. Sturdy. Inexpensive. Large rounds. Rounds are inexpensive. Accurate. Mosin Nagant 91/30? The perfect rifle. You can buy this rifle from 100-200 bucks. Not kidding.

  30. Leghorn, how much are these manufacturers paying you?? The vanguard’s barrel has all the Integrity of a a wet noodle. You may get 2″ group but after the 3rd shot it gets worse and after a couple of boxes of ammo the barrel is worn out.

    The Ruger at least has a good magazine and you can always use the rifle as a club…

    The Remington’s barrel makes the Weatherby look good. The magazine is crap and you have to spend another $250 on a trigger just to get it to shoot???

    Its obvious Savage didn’t pay you enough to write advertising. The best choice for beginner or experienced shooters is a Savage with an accutrigger! $450 out the door. Scooped. If you start with the youth model, Savage will sell you a full sized stock for half price. It’s biggest problem is that it is boringly accurate with one hole groups.

  31. if you want a good accurate budget rifle- I purchased mine at gun broker .com 165.00 the rossi single shot .243 it is light weight very accurate rifle topped it with a simmons pro 3×9 for 80.00 total of 240.00 works great on big muley bucks out to 250 yds.

  32. The magazine of the Ruger American Rifle is really impressive. I can reload within a minute. But my eyes are on Weatherby Vanguard now! It looks stunning!

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