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By Ron Spomer via Sporting Classics Daily

They’re black, homely, half-plastic, and cheap. God bless ’em. Call them abominations, insults to American gun-making, or Cheap-Mart specials, but appreciate them because today’s starter bolt-action rifles are an important component in protecting wildlife and maintaining our rights to hunt and shoot . . .

Connoisseurs of exhibition-grade walnut, 22-line hand checkering and steel, one-piece bottom metal may never love bolt-actions such as the Ruger American, Savage Axis, and Winchester XPR, but thousands of kids and middle-class workers surely do. For $300 to $600, these basic rifles and others like them are an affordable entry into the world of shooting and hunting. With today’s costs for boots, clothing, optics, licenses, ammunition, and—sadly—access privileges, it’s more important than ever that firearms be affordable. Protecting our 2nd Amendment rights would be difficult without the political support of millions of middle-class gun owners. Maintaining our fish and game departments and defending our right to hunt also would be impossible. 

Safety in numbers.

Despite today’s collector value of early lever-actions, pre-64 Winchesters, and Savage M99s, those and most rifles made in the 20th century were originally priced within reach of the average American. Certainly, there were high-end options and expensive, full-on custom rifles, but because access to forests and fields was basically free and wide open, most hunters found the means to purchase a deer rifle, a shotgun or two, and a .22 rimfire. With such an arsenal, the 20th-century sportsman could still-hunt the woods for deer, tramp the fields for pheasants and quail, wade the wetlands for ducks and geese, and take the kids out for gray squirrels and cottontails.

Browning’s AB3

It was this affordability and accessibility that forged early American conservation ideas into our durable and highly successful North American Model of Wildlife Management, a program of hunter-funded conservation that not only
saved multiple species from extinction, but also fueled their resurgence to abundance. The return of pronghorns, whitetails, elk, moose, turkeys, geese, and more made it possible to bring back large predators such as grizzlies, cougars, and wolves. The millions of dollars raised from license fees and excise taxes on guns and ammunition funded most of this. And ordinary, working American hunters paid for most of it.

Today, with cities bursting at the seams and spilling recklessly into rural landscapes, and with more highways and reservoirs and citizens shouting for food, energy, and toys, our wildlife and wild places are again at risk, as never before. We need inexpensive, accessible rifles to help recruit and retain more hunters who will beat the drum for gun rights and conservation while funding ongoing wildland restoration and protection. The new starter rifles that sell for as little as $300 help them do this.

In an era when running shoes sell for hundreds of dollars and bicycles for thousands, how can rifles go for so little? Aside from their flexible, molded thermoplastic stocks, what makes these bolt actions so cheap? And are they worth even that price?

Common to the genre are tubular receivers drilled from bar-stock steel. Similarly, bolt bodies are simple tubes with locking lugs attached up front, bolt handles near the back. Ejection ports are usually narrow and marketed as more rigid than traditional, open-topped receivers. That’s true, but the main reason they’re made that way is to reduce production time and costs. The downside to narrow ejection ports is access. It’s difficult to single-load cartridges at the range, clear jams, or dig stuck cartridges from narrow chambers.

Ruger American Rifle

More concerning to many shooters are the nylon or polycarbonate detachable magazines common to these rifles. Some hunters love these because they make it easy to unload a rifle in compliance with state regulations when getting in and out of the field. Traditionalists hate them because they look, feel, and sound cheap and could be easily lost or accidentally dumped while the rifle’s in use. To this, I’d have to interject that, through dozens of whitetail, mule deer, elk, and coyote hunts with such detachable magazines, I’ve yet to have one fail. They’re actually easier to load, cycle, and unload than many steel box magazines on traditional bolt-actions. And it’s a simple matter to buy two or three spares—just in case. But they still look, sound, and feel cheap.

A less attractive option might be the blind magazine molded into the stock. While this saves on manufacturing expense and weight, it necessitates running each cartridge through the action in order to unload the rifle. Of course, they need only be popped free from the magazine. There is no need to shove them completely into battery and risk an accidental discharge. 

All the starter rifles I’m aware of use push-feed actions with plunger ejectors, something controlled-round feed traditionalists have railed against since American hunters learned to say Remington Model 700. 

Sorry, but I cannot get too indignant over this. Too many push-feed actions in too many makes and models have been dragged around the world’s toughest game fields to question their viability. One should, however, pay attention to extractor size. Some starter rifles include acceptably large extractor claws, but a few use small, narrow hooks that could more easily fail or break.

Triggers are problematic on some starter rifles. Stamped sheet-metal parts, some plastic or nylon parts, and rough finishes make for poor performance and questionable durability of a critical component. That said, more of these rifles incorporate surprisingly good triggers with features such as user-adjustable pull tension plus the added safety of the Mossberg LBA and Savage AccuTrigger.

Barrels on most of these rifles screw to the actions with a recoil lug pinched between them, again, like the M700 pattern. This “cheap” engineering option has more than sufficed for decades. Thousands of ultra-accurate rifles shoot lights out with sandwiched recoil lugs. 

Similarly, most barrels on these bargain rifles are free-floated, raising cries of “too lazy to bed properly” from rifle snobs. I can appreciate a superior bedding job as well as the next rifle aficionado, but even the most meticulously bedded barrels often shoot more accurately when floated. The gap between stock and barrel on some of these rifles is unquestionably excessive and ugly, but for most shooters on a tight budget, pretty is as pretty does. Besides, a wide gap is almost essential because of what I consider the least satisfying part of starter rifles—those plastic stocks.

For beauty, feel, and traditional performance, give me a fancy walnut stock. But please, carry it after I’ve climbed 5,000 feet and hiked ten miles. And build a roof for it when it starts to rain. Synthetic stocks might have no soul, but they sure have staying power. And the stiff, hand-laid versions add a precision and consistency you pay dearly to bed into any walnut stock.

I can get behind cast fiberglass–Kevlar stocks for rough, real-world hunting rifles, but these poured plastic things? To put it kindly, the best I can say is they hold the barreled action and help you aim it. And you don’t have to worry about scratching them.

Other than that . . .  Regardless how you dress them up, molded rifle stocks remain ugly and too flexible. I’ve often seen them bend enough to touch a “floating” barrel. They even sound cheap when you thunk them.

Perhaps worst of all are the molded-in trigger guards and sling-mount holes on many models. Such simplistic, all-in-one stocks save a lot of parts and production time, but what happens if the sling attachment hole or trigger bow break? 

Ultimately, however, cheap stocks aside, these rifles shoot. Virtually every one I’ve tested has shot factory ammunition into 1.5 MOA. Many make MOA and a few better it. That’s the kind of precision that riflemen pay thousands to get in a custom gun.

So how do we rank these starter rifles? Pretty high, in my estimation. Tools that can perform the way these do at such a low prices deserve all the credit and attention buyers give them. And, this is very important: These rifles allow kids to get into hunting and shooting at a price dads or grandpas can afford. They enable young men and women just starting their careers to secure a rugged, functional tool that leaves them with enough cash to add a decent scope, buy some ammo, a duck stamp, and a deer tag. They permit hard-working middle class families to outfit moms, dads, and kids for the best family outings available in America today: hunts that teach self sufficiency, competence, survival, and hunter-gatherer skills as old as humankind.

In short, today’s budget rifles are the new long bow, the new spear, the basic tool needed to join our hunting heritage.

Starter Rifles
Ruger American
Savage Axis
Browning AB3
Winchester XPR
Mossberg ATR and Patriot
Tikka T3 Lite
Howa M1500 Hogue GameKing
Weatherby Vanguard
Series 2 Synthetic

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Sporting Classics Rifles columnist Ron Spomer is producer of the comprehensive mobile app Everything Whitetail which includes extensive details on guns, ammo, bullets, ballistics, recoil, hunting tactics, whitetail behavior and much more. Record and share your experience with the built in Hunt Report feature. Everything Whitetail is available for both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms. 

Also, visit and; On Youtube, visit on Facebook, visit

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        • All the Sears have closed anywhere near me. They thought their shite didn’t stink when I was young (50 years ago)-things change. K-mart had guns too-long gone…and Wally world to come. Remember Monkey wards?

      • Sears was actually notorious for jumping on the anti-gun bandwagon, I believe it was right after the GCA of ’68. They ceased selling guns outright and started showing open support for Senator Dodd and friends’ efforts; an outright stab in the back to the American sportsman on a tight budget. It was basically the Cheaper Than Dirt scandal of the era, but even worse.

    • Yep. Or Wards. I still have the Wards bolt action .22, I got as a young ‘un, I believe Mossberg made them.

    • My 20 ga pump s a Ted Williams model from Sears. I bought it used in the late 1970’s for something like $125. I bought guns from a couple of local chain stores back in the day. One was a bargain dept store in NJ and eastern PA called LaneCo. They used to sell Marlin and Winchester 30-30 lever guns every fall for $99.99. I bought my Ruger 10-22 from them for $88, I still have bricks of .22LR from LaneCo with the $9.99 price sticker on them…….. remember price stickers?

  1. $300 is too much for me. I’ll go with milsurp bolt actions for $200 please – with actual hardwood stocks.

    • You can still get a decent K31 for around $300, no problem. I’ve noticed a lot of modern shooters, especially hunters, are squeamish around iron sights, though.

      • I’ve been thinking about them, but I’m worried about long term ammunition costs. I’ve been led to believe reloading Berdan is a non-starter and the supply of Swiss surplus is drying up. Am I missing something?

        If I can be sure of food, though, I can’t see any reason not to get a few more guns this year…

        • PPU/PVRI makes boxer primed ammo for an OK price for 7.5 Swiss. And as for reloading, they use the same projectiles as the typical .308 so there’s nothing hard to find for reloading this cartridge.

    • My mosin was good enough to take care of a Nazi problem, I think it can handle a doe just fine.

        • Finland didn’t just lose to the Soviets, it lost twice (the Winter War and the Continuation War).

        • Yes, you could argue that Finland lost to the Soviets twice and they did loose territory, but unlike Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania they maintained actual ownership of their country. Oh and they didn’t get occupied for nearly half a century, like Eastern Europe. All of this despite being vastly outnumbered and possessing a tenth of the tanks and even less than that ratio of aircraft.

        • I guess “winning” and “losing” are relative to one’s goals. If your goal is to not become a communist country then it wouldn’t matter how many battles you lost as long as you retain your independence.

        • ” If your goal is to not become a communist country then it wouldn’t matter how many battles you lost as long as you retain your independence.”

          And don’t ever forget it.

  2. I have absolutely nothing against starter guns. In fact I am pretty intrigued with Savage. Being a South Paw, my options are limited, and toss onto that the added expense. Savage doesn’t charge me more for being different. I like that.
    While I can love to look and drool at the art that is holland and holland, give me a break, I could never afford one.
    Unless I am a hardcore hunter, or shoot a bolt action in serious competition, I could not justify to myself, or my wife the cost of some rifles out there.

    • Savage makes a very nice , scoped and bore sighted (111) 30.06 that has a very nice trigger and will drop any big game at 1000 yard using quality ammo , right out of the box , for less than $550.00 .
      The Ruger American is a quality starter and will also get you an out of the box ‘Buck’ for $ 450.00 , trigger isn’t quite as crisp but it’s adjustable . The Mossberg is the only other one I’ve tried and it shot well , felt ok in the saddle but I was not at all thrilled with the trigger . I would upgrade to the Savage second tier stuff for a few more bucks , they make excellent high caliber starter rifles .

        • O.K. , but a 220 grain HV 30.06 could kill an elephant at 500 yards , maybe , a baby elephant for sure .
          Actually , the 30.06 will take any big game on the North American continent and 95% of everything on the globe , I give you a few exceptions , but with hand loads and some of the newer ammo options it could be a debatable topic .

        • Elephants have been killed with .308 and 7mm mauser. There’s nothing walking this earth that can’t be killed by a .30-06.

          Now, would I chose the 06 to go after a buff in thick bush? No. But if a buff came after me and an 06 was what I had, then the buff would regret his choice.

  3. They’re meat rifles for the average Joe — inexpensive, accurate meat rifles. Which is not an insult. Sure, most people might prefer real wood and fine bluing, which is understandable. But dollar for dollar, today’s entry-level hunting rifle is an unbelievable value and fun to shoot.

    • “Meat rifle” — that is a great description. They get the job done. My freezer bears testimony to that.

      Another advantage: you wouldn’t be out very much money if anyone ever stole it.

      Finally, you aren’t afraid to actually use the thing. So what if it gets scratched or beat up a little.

      • Also nice guns to put into storage , if you know what I mean , lube em well , wrap em , vac pac em and put em places you may need them later . I mean $250.00-$550.00 you can blow in a few dinners .
        Just in case you can’t get to your safe you may need a back up plan .

        • I like where you are going with that. I have to wonder if it would be even better to store milsurp rifles like Mosins, SKSs, or even AK47s for just such an occasion.

        • NO. US common caliber (unless you think the Commies are coming and bringing 50yr old ammo).

          One of those mfg that chambers for .308/7.62 and will accept a G3 magazine can print $.

        • Surely , it is recommended, but I personally prefer the 06 as #1 hider because there is so much brass available still and I like it as a reload because of all the options in bullet weight and powder . It is a very versatile caliber . I have experimented with this so long now and have a lot of data accumulated and I’m just very comfortable with it.

  4. Yes sir. I have a Mossberg ATR in .270 Winchester that cost around $270. It puts the bullets exactly where I want them with a $250 scope, $20 scope rings, and shooting Winchester 150 grain pointed soft point bullets for $20 per box of 20. I have put three bullets into three deer between 100 and 160 yards.

    I have no complaints whatsoever. Is it the most beautiful thing to behold? In my case, yes, because I could not afford anything else. Most importantly, I have venison in my freezer because of it.

  5. My very first meat rifle I ever bought for myself, to own, without any real research or thought put into it…. was a Remington 710. I used it for one season. It got the job done, but shooting other guns made me realize what it lacked, and what I wanted out of a hunting rifle. As much as I hate Rustington guns, the $200 I spent on that gun was a $200 education that has served me well in the years since.

  6. I got a savage axis in 308. Out of the box it shot 1.5″ groups at 100 yards. After spending $200 on a timney trigger and bolt on muzzle brake it does .5″ at 100 yards using my own reloads.

    • Does your magazine ever fall out in the Savage?

      I had an Axis in 30-06 and when I would fire 180gr the magazine would blow out the bottom, and the same happened with the upgraded .308. I got rid of 30-06 and the .308 is just a back up, for the purchased ammo for my battle rifle. The only reason why I didn’t get rid of the .308 is because I flattened a doe at 500yds.

      I will never own another Savage again, and I should have just bought the ruger, mossberg, or splurged on the tikka or Sako.

  7. Wow, some serious gun snobbery there. It’s as bad as 1911 and Glock fanboys are. I bought a Ruger American Rifle in .270 Win on the recommendation of my wife’s grandfather who prefers it to his Weatherby. He said that they shoot great and you don’t feel like you have to keep it wrapped in bubble wrap. And they do shoot great.

    We often talk about on this site that the important thing is that the gun does it’s job reliably and well. These rifles do. Like all mechanical things, they may have issues at times, but so will $10,000 custom rifles.

    My rifles job is to put meat on the table. It’s well suited for that. And let’s face it, no tool can really ask for more than that.

  8. I’d skip the Savage Axis and just go for one of standard Savage 11/110 models. They aren’t much more, often include a scope and have a much greater aftermarket support. I got one in .300 win mag that shoots 1/2 to 3/4 moa no problem.

  9. I think one of the biggest barriers remaining to new hunters is the proper butchering of any game animals they take. I, personally, have not been hunting in several decades because I don’t much remember how to properly break down a deer after I’ve taken it. (And my dad if too many thousands of miles away for me to get a good refresher.)

    I honestly wish there was more of a business in guided hunts in the Great Lakes region. I know I would easily shell out the extra cash if I knew that any game I take would be properly treated and not wasted due to my own lack of knowledge and experience.

    • I’m not sure where you are in the Great Lakes Region, but in Mi, there are two commercial outfits that will butcher your deer for you in my idea that I’ve had very good results with. Very good.

      I also know a retired meat cutter that does an excellent job. I would happily forward contact info.

      As long as it’s below 60 degrees when you take the deer, you’ve got plenty of time to get it to the processor.

      Or is your issue gutting the deer?

      • Gutting is the bigger issue. It’s very easy to contaminate the meat if you don’t know what you’re doing.

        • This is the internet. I’m sure you could spend a few hours (maximum) on youtube or some hunting forum and get enough info to not completely destroy a carcass.

    • Sorry i accidentally deleted my first post.

      I’m not sure where you are in the Great Lakes region, but in SE Mi, there are two fairly high volume processors that do great work. I’ve had deer done by both before I learned.

      I also know a retired meat cutter who does excellent work. I will happily share info for either of these options if your in the area. The prices are good, and their work is great.

      As long as you can gut the deer, you should have plenty of time to get them there as long as it’s below 60, which it usually is in rifle season.

    • Agreed. Taking a deer would be unethical if it was not properly dressed and used. Not knowing how to do so does stop some people from hunting.

      • Had this iamge jump to mind of Ralph struggling to get a deer into a tux. But I’m too lazy and jet lagged to take it further.

    • This is my problem. I haven’t been hunting since 2003. I have helped dress out a deer and debone it since the 90s.

      • I had not been hunting in 35+ years and my son sparked a renewed interest in me. I find that simply doing is the best way to bring back the skills.

        There’s always a group of us and between us we figure out the small details.

      • You do realize that despite all TV shows proposing the opposite, you cannot in fact learn skills just by watching a seven minute video. Watching YouTube on how to gut a deer doesn’t qualify you to do so any more than marathoning House M.D. makes you qualified to perform surgery.

        • I think it’s more that you can’t get good at anything simply by watching a vid on YT. That said, I’ve found protips for obscure issues with auto painting, electronic circuit design, computational fluid dynamics, metallurgy, manual machining, and the like.

          Is YT 90% trash? Of course. So is the public library. But there are some real hardcore people with depth of knowledge, and if you are looking for an answer to something really odd, it’s even money that Goog results will have some YT content in there near the top.

        • I guess it just depends on the subject matter. My car had the transmission solenoid conk out one time and I was able to replace it with little issue just by watching youtube. And I only had limited experience replacing anything with a car, outside of general maintenance work. Sure it was messy and it probable took longer then if I took it to a professional, but I learned a lot and save a ton of cash.

  10. For me, my Ruger America is a rifle for taking game. There is no sentimental value with this gun. My great grandpappy didn’t take his first deer with it or anything like that. I don’t worry if I scratch a the stock. It’s a tool that works well and does a great job at a cost lower than other options.

  11. It’s the Kia of rifles. Nothing wrong with them. Good for the cash, no resale value but great for a starter or point a to b item. If it helps others get into the sport than all the better.

  12. These rifles do a great job for what they are intended for. You can get a Savage Axis with cheap scope at BiMart (Northwest) for around $329, or so when they go on sale (often).
    It doesn’t get much better than that if you looking for something just to pop a deer once a year, or a starter big game rifle for your son.
    Probably the weakest point on most of these rifles is the trigger. sometimes you can do a little “tweeking” yourself, but it’s best to have a gunsmith lighten up the trigger if needed, and hone the sear.
    I don’t see any point in spending $200 or more for add on trigger, not for a $250 to $350 gun. Just use it as is for a season or two, then sell it and get something that you really wanted.

  13. Buy used… Not saying these rifle don’t serve a purpose but you can find really nice used rifles in 243/308/270/30-06 you name it. People are always willing to trade up to something new, I found what is, to date, my favorite firearm. A beautiful Remington 700VLS deep rich blueing and a laminate wood stock, was found at the Cabelas gun library. Traded a savage 10trophy hunter package 308 and a couple hundred bucks for it. Spent about an hour with a silicone cloth dealing with light surface rust, and maybe another 30 minutes scrubbing the bore and it looks and shoots like a million bucks.

    • I would be a little reluctant to pay too much for a used gun off the internet , I don’t know about returning these things , but if you do buy used , get to know the dealer and make sure he has been around for awhile , and check the barrels , this is the heart of a good rifle and can be abused , unkempt and even bent or warped , take a pin light , pull the bolt and look at the innards .

    • +1

      That’s how I managed to get my Ruger M77 MkII .300 Win mag for $500 in a left handed configuration with a 3-9 Nikon scope, I also recently picked up a used left handed Remington 700 in .300 RUM

    • There are some great project guns out there but they can be a little iffy especially for a new shooter. A bore sighted nib gun might be a better first than a custom stocked 1903 at the pawn shop for the same price.

  14. People can bag on my Ruger American all they want but it will outshoot my Remington 700 and it cost 1/3 as much. I’d rather buy another Ruger and spend the extra $300 on the glass than another Remington. My Savage in 17 HMR is a heck of a shooter as well.

  15. I have over the past decade and a half gotten ride of almost all my “working” hunting rifles and replaced them with the “poor mans Sako” best know as the Tikka an Tikka T3’s. They are all one might wish and certenly fill all the categories brought up in the above artical. My primary choices as an Alaskan and Large
    /dangerous game hunter is the T3’s UltraLite in .300WM an .338WM. Another platform that falls into the category is the Mossberg 4×4’s.
    The first Tikka i aquired was in their first year they were released. A Whitetail, blued in .223. I was hooked from the first moment I cycled the glass smooth, nearly frictionless bolt and then accuacated the crisp trigger break, like breaking a pane of glass. This, from a just out of the box, new production platform. Like I’d just spent a grand on an action/trigger job! In the first five years I bought just about every model in several calibers that were produced. This included several which were only made for one or possibly two years.
    Of those numbers the one which I thought to be one of their very best was the Tikka Continental in .308. Bull Target Barrel right off the Sako production line and one of the best factory adjustable triggers ever produced. Several years later I converted as the foundation for a tactical rifle build. It has since traveled well and remains in the front row in the safe.

  16. One way to save money to buy a better rifle is to forgo the expensive camo hunting clothing. When I started hunting in the early 70s you hunted in jeans, a warm shirt and a field jacket. The deer don’t know the difference and besides you should be wearing that ugly blaze orange that is a dead givaway. Camo is there to impress other hunters not the game. The one exception is turkey. They can see you.

  17. Remington 788 in .243 Winchester is a better rifle than what most people think and it does get the job done. It is not even used for deer, but varmints. I have an old used Weaver V9 scope on it made in El Paso Texas. I wish the the rifle had a better trigger and I suppose I could get one from Timney, but it is good enough.

  18. While my Sako with checkered Mannlicher stock is a thing of beauty and shoots the hammer of Thor, my favorite is my Savage 10FP. It’s very accurate to 1000 yards.
    Less than 600 bucks!

  19. Ruger American .243. Redfield 3x9x40 scope. Wal mart sling. All cheap and all work. They have to.

    In CA hunting is expensive. Jump thru all the hoops just for the license which costs an arm and a leg before tags. A pig tag is 22 bucks.

    Add a used 4runner. I live in the bay area and all the public hunting lands are at least 2 hours away.

    Camo? I go to work world and buy heavy duty work clothes.

    Ammo is restricted to non lead here. My .243 is 2+ dollars a round. And non lead shotshells add costs too.

    My shotguns are low cost. Mostly 500 mossbergs. They also need to be. I’ve got new hunters into the game and sometimes my shotguns are used as loaners.

    • I used to live in the Bay area, best advice I could give you is move north at least 500 mi., or east, or south, oh, wait a minute, not south!
      East or north, anythings better than staying in Kalifornia.

      • Gunr. My kids and grandkids are here. Keeps me here. I was just back in KY. WV and Ohio seeing family. But I don’t want to be a long distance grandpa.

  20. For around the same price you can get a Zastava M70- a true Mauser action in a walnut or beech stock. They aren’t finished as nicely as the FN Mausers, but they work well and have true controlled round feed. If you wanted, you could tidy up the wood a bit and they’d look even better. The bluing is well done.

    • Tremendous value. Centerfire had .243 or 270 on sale for 279 bucks last year.

      I already have too many rifles, i was very tempted

  21. Thank you for not including the remington 770 with your list. It doesn’t deserve to be in the same breath as the rest of these.

  22. They push the limits of acceptable wit sny plastic internal parts.

    Me personally 300 bucks just seems like it dumbed down to much, it cannot last. I have no qualms about low end winchester 70 base model, savage 110, 111, 114, 116, low end 700, basic ruger 77 etc.

    Thats all i need, but plastic internals just seem doomed to fail. I wish they would use nice guage stamped metal, thats fine.

    • I have a hi-point carbine chambered in 40 cal. I have never had any issue with it and have put a lot of shots thru it. I also just bought a savage axis 308 and other than the trigger being hard I have no complaints with it either. I dont know where all the bad talk about hi-point started but I never seen or heard of any being true. The axis is a cheap gun so why would anyone expect much more out of it???

  23. A couple of notes:

    1. Most modern rifles will have a “free floated barrel.” What gets bedded is the action. Some high-end custom rifles might have the barrel in contact with the forearm of stock, but I won’t belabor that point here.

    2. In general, these rifles are designed by cost reduction/manufacturing engineers and lawyers. I’ve felt the triggers on a couple of these (I won’t specify which) and they were… well… triggers, I guess. The stocks were cheap, felt cheap, and were cheap. The metal finish is what you’d expect – rough.

    3. In my study of the gun industry, there’s always a race for the bottom. American management is infested with people who are stupid enough to think that you can make cheap guns that will make you a lasting profit. Winchester was brought to their knees by this type of management mentality – starting in 1964. Look around the industry today – where is Winchester? They’re gone, the name owned by FN. Remington is being taken down even now by this mentality.

    IMO, which is worth what you’re paying for it here, you’re better off buying a mil-surp bolt action made of real metal. In today’s rifles, the Swiss K31’s, Mosins etc are the cheap rifles. I’ve seen old Mausers at gun shows in somewhat rough, but workable shape, for $200. I’ve seen old Rem 700 ADL’s in racks at gun shops for $300.

    Look in the used market, folks. There’s lots of stuff out there that can give better service than rifles that were cheap from the get-go.

  24. Mine is a Ruger American. Predator in .243 Win which I bought for a Coyote Rifle. Didn’t like the trigger on the Savage Axis. Now that the Axis II is out and you can get the accu-trigger the Savage is a bit more appealing.

    Stock is still a touch nicer on the Ruger, though either one could use a stiffer foreend.

  25. I own three Weatherby Vanguards.
    .308 1″ but barrel has to be spotless, .223 .75″ with 55 gr black hills, and 300 WSM .65″ with premium ammo.

    I don’t see any reason to spend more than $500 on a rifle, unless it was something just for fun.

  26. My buddy bought one of the cheap plastic Rem 700s back in 2012, for a trip we were taking to Africa, as a back-up rifle in .300 WM. Once we cleaned the burrs out of the chamber so that shells would extract, it shot great. One ragged hole at 100 yards, repeatedly and consistently. He ended up using it as his primary. Best $400 he ever spent, though some warthogs, springboks, Hartebeest, and gemsbok might disagree.

    • You can thank Remington for that shit. Didn’t want any competition for their 783 I’m guessing. The X7s are now off the Marlin site. X7s had the best of the shitty plastic stocks. My X7 308 shoots near 1 inch groups with Winchester Power Points. I’m still looking for a Stainless X7.

  27. The best budget rifle deals, particularly .22s, in my estimate are in the used market. Most of those older rifles have stocks made from walnut or beech and nicely blued receivers and barrels. Their actions generally are smoother than modern stuff and accuracy seems to me to be every bit as good, and in some case better, than today’s plastic/pot metal versions. Depending on locality, the prices for run-of-the-mill vintage guns are considerably less than brand new offerings.

  28. I bought a Savage Trophy Hunter XP for $500 or so total cost a couple years back. It has the Accu-Trigger, which is a good trigger. It’s not a great trigger, but it’s good. The scope is an unmarked 3-9x Nikon that appears to be the P-series (the current XPs have a lesser Nikon on them). It’s a plenty good enough scope for the occasional hunter. You do have to pay attention to where you rest the stock. I had to replace the package scope rings, putting the total cost at about $580. The rifle consistently shoots five-shot groups at 1.1-1.2″ with good ammo (I keep it zeroed with Sierra Game Kings.) The action is fairly smooth.

    I am amazed that you can get an accurate rifle with a good trigger and a decent scope for under $600. I think the author is spot-on in his observations.

    At some point, I will likely put a decent stock on the gun for $150 or less. At that point, there really isn’t anything functional to complain about. Barrels can be replaced to get under MOA performance. Bottom metal and magazines can be upgraded if the factory plastic bothers you.

    I look at these guns as starting points. You can upgrade many of them into “real” guns at about the same cost as buying a “real” gun in the first place. Or you can leave them alone. I see it as giving gun buyers more choices, which is a good thing.

    Not all that many people are sophisticated enough to successfully navigate the used and military surplus market. These are serviceable rifles that get people shooting well enough to hunt with little fuss.

  29. Luv my high dollar custom made F class guns and I luv taking my $300 (that’s what I paid out the door at a gun show 2 years ago) Ruger American in 308 out into the woods and harvesting deer. It’s light weight, cheap, reliable and accurate. Does the job it was made to do. Cheers!

  30. My dad still has a 16g side by side he bought at Monkey Wards back in the 60’s. It was made by Stevens. Plastic stock and forend. Yes, cheap. My dad didn’t have much money back then. But you know what; it shoots.

    Funny thing: a study was done a few years back. People were given a laptop computer with all that was necessary installed for the computer to operate efficiently, and anything that added extra weight removed. They were also handed a laptop with it’s normal configuration which included the normal unnecessary extra weight things installed. Everyone preferred the heavier model.

    The overall opinion was the lighter one must be a cheaper built unit. The fact was, the lighter one was actually the better of the 2. It didn’t contain things that caused the laptop to retain extra heat, which, for those who don’t know, is bad for a computer. So manufacturers continue to produce what the public perceives as better. Same here with guns.

    Don’t get me wrong. I personally like the look and grandeur of a beautifully polished wood stock. For example: compare a Browning BAR with a wood stock and the engraving on the receiver to a BAR with a synthetic stock and plain receiver. From an aesthetic perspective there is no comparison. But from an operational perspective they are the same. And the synthetic stock will certainly stand up to much more than the wood. Throw in the fact that the synthetic cost is several hundred dollars cheaper and from a practical perspective the synthetic becomes a no brainer for some.

    So, hooray for the manufacturers who have recognized this gap and filled it with less expensive arms that still perform well. And remember, most hunting guns are not something that are being taken to the range and having hundreds and thousands of rounds put through them. They are taken to the range to be sighted in and then to the field to be shot perhaps a few time a season (for the lucky hunter who gets that many chances).

    Overall, my guess is the average hunting rifle is shot no more than a hundred times, plus or minus, in it’s life. I am basing this on my own experience with my hunting rifles. I use them specifically for hunting. Some may disagree with this as some may use theirs for target shooting also. But I have sport rifles for that.

    My point is, for the person who can’t afford a thousand bucks + for a top line rifle, these entry level guns are the ticket. I bought my grandson a cheap entry level youth rifle a couple of Christmas’ ago. 1) because I knew he would out grow it and 2) because I didn’t know if he would even take to it. It’s a Rossi with interchangeable barrels. I can take him deer hunting and bird/squirrel hunting with it. These guns definitely have their place.

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