Looking for a quality bolt-action hunting rifle? Then you have probably already considered looking into some of the bigger names out there, such as the Winchester Model 70, Browning X-Bolt, or the Remington 700. These are all some really nice guns, that’s for sure, but depending on which variation you choose, these rifles can all get to be a little bit expensive.
Some folks might say, so what? You get what you pay for! Okay, that may be so to an extent, and price might not be an issue for those with lots of disposable cash on hand. However, for most of us, that is not the case, so do we really need or want to pay a ridiculous amount of money just to get a reliable and accurate hunting rifle? I will help you out with this one, the answer is no!
Just consider for a moment what you are going to do with your hunting rifle. You will likely be toting it through some rugged terrain, in all sorts of weather conditions. Accidentally scuffing it against brush and tree trunks as you trek through the woods and swamps. Sometimes there may even be no other option but to set it down in the snow or mud while dealing with game animals, or perhaps to clear a trail obstruction. Do you really want a fancy showpiece for this type of use? Probably not! It is more likely that you will want the proper tool for the job and nothing more. So why pay for a name, fancy checkering, or whatever other superficial feature they are claiming to have that will drive the price point up.
The fact is that in this day and age there are plenty of hunting rifle options that won’t break the bank. They will offer accuracy, durability, and a long and reliable return on your modest investment. The most modern technological advancements in triggers, stocks, and barrels are now being incorporated into these lower tier guns, so don’t pay for what you don’t need! Today we would like to discuss three such bolt-actions that can be found for a fraction of the price of those high-end and even the mid-tier rifles like the ones we mentioned above.
First is a rifle that is part of a bolt-action platform that has been around for more than a half of century. Savage bolt action rifles cover a broad spectrum between economical beginner grade to the high-end guns with all the bells and whistles. Their 110 series has now been in constant production longer than any other bolt action, proving that Savage has a good grasp on what it takes to build a solid hunting rifle. The Savage Axis is their budget friendly offering. It has only been around for a short time, but it is perhaps one of the less expensive bolt-actions on the market.
It’s been part of an evolution of sorts that began with their Edge model, then the first Axis, and now the latest production Axis II. Although, their website still lists the no frills Axis variation for a very affordable price, hunters can grab an Axis II with Savage’s patented adjustable Accu-Trigger® system and bore sighted scope combo without leaving that entry level five-hundred dollar range. All the barrels on the Savage Axis models are button-rifled, which is a proven method for assuring accuracy. The stocks available are mostly synthetic with a few camouflage options and for a few dollars more they do offer a hardwood variation.
As will be the case with all three of the rifles that we are going to discuss here, it will be practically ready for the woods right out of the box. You just simply take it to the range with your choice of ammo and zero it in. The price range of Savage Axis models runs about $375.00 to $545.00 depending on the options you're looking for.
Next up on our list of economical bolt-action hunting rifles is the Ruger American. Some of the top features of the American are the adjustable Ruger Marksman Adjustable Trigger ™, steel bolt with three locking lugs and a 70° throw angle to accommodate a scope. It also has power-bedding integral bedding blocks, free-floating barrel and of course Ruger’s signature rotary style magazine.
With a number of rimfire and centerfire options available, the Ruger can serve the needs of many hunters. It has a hammer-forged, blued, black, oxide barrel and a polymer composite stock to assure it can handle the harshest environments.
The Ruger American is currently offered in seven variations, which include compact, ranch, predator, and magnum models. Much like the Savage rifle, the American is extremely accurate, and will only require a short time at the range with your preferred ammunition to get you ready for hunting. At a price point that often hovers around $400 or less, it is a lot of gun for the money.
The last of our three wallet-friendly rifles is the Mossberg Patriot. Introduced in 2015, the Patriot line has quickly established a reputation for accuracy. It features a 22” barrel with button rifling that is offered in a choice between standard or fluted. It features a recessed crown and the barrel has been free floated for greater accuracy. Stock choices include laminate or walnut, and this low-end rifle features the LBA® (lightening bolt action) adjustable trigger. It can also be purchased with a Marinecote finish option to provide even better weather protection.
The bolt on the Patriot is a push-feed dual lug action that features spiral fluting. A groove has been implemented on one of the lugs to allow it to ride inside a rail within the receiver, which makes it an extremely smooth cycling action for a budget friendly rifle.
It seems fairly obvious from these three examples that the firearm industry has recognized the need to offer more quality in their entry-level guns. Many sportsmen are just not able to spend thousands of dollars to get a precision capable firearm. Now they won’t have to.
However, we should point out that there are many more options out there beyond what we’ve discussed here. A few that come to mind are the Remington 783, Thompson Center Compass, and the Winchester XPR. All of these will fall into the same basic category, though some may exceed that five hundred dollar cut-off that we tried to follow when choosing our three rifles for this discussion.
Also, we aren’t saying any of these guns are perfect. Although, they will prove to be up to the task of a solid hunting rifle for a minimum investment, there were things that could be improved upon. The Savage and Ruger stocks offer great weather protection, but the forend area on both feels a bit flimsy. This could be easily remedied with some reinforcement if the shooter feels that it’s absolutely necessary. The Ruger is also a little narrow and may not be the best choice for a larger stature shooter. The Mossberg magazine could be sturdier, it is a single stack box style like the Savage and it functions fine, but it lacks the piece of mind that the Savage provides by being constructed with some metal.
What all of this alludes to is that the firearm industry has evolved and lower priced modern rifles can now provide some real value and performance. You can get a very nice and accurate design for a lot less money than just a few decades ago. From adjustable triggers to finely rifled barrels, and occasionally a pretty decent scope, all for a fraction of the cost of the higher end rifles. So take your time when choosing your next hunting rifle, and you may just find that you will have some extra cash left over for other hunting items and plenty of ammunition.