6 Best Deer Rifles in Your Gun Shop
If you're in the market for a new deer rifle, or your first, now's the time. This short list will give you a great start for your search.
As the air cools and leaves turn from green to gold, the minds of many people turn to pumpkin spice lattes and the coming holidays. For others, however, crisp air and multi-colored leaves can mean only one thing: deer hunting. This fall, before you hit your favorite tree stand, make sure you have a quality rifle on your sling that’s best-suited for making that “BBD!” social media post a reality.
Ruger American Magnum
Ruger has been manufacturing firearms for nearly three-quarters of a century, and during that time it has produced countless well-made long guns. As a result, there are quite a few models to choose from in their catalog, but there is one in particular that meets my criteria for an excellent all-around deer rifle: reasonably lightweight, reliable, accurate, and capable of delivering a clean kill from a variety of distances. I’m talking about the Ruger American Magnum.
At first glance, the rifle, chambered in .300 Win Mag, might seem like a lot of gun—but if you intend to deer hunt at longer distances, it’s ideal.
With an overall length of 44.50” and empty weight of 7.5 pounds, it’s a bit long for maneuvering in close spaces, but it remains light enough to carry to your hunting spot.
Plus, Ruger made this rifle with comfort in mind: the black synthetic nylon stock is ergonomically designed so the gun can be shouldered quickly and easily—the forend is contoured for a solid grip, and the buttpad reduces felt recoil.
Most importantly, this is a precise rifle. It’s made using Ruger’s Power Bedding process, an integral bedding block system that creates an exact fit between barrel and stock, resulting in superior accuracy. The bolt gun is topped off with the Ruger Marksman Adjustable Trigger, which has a smooth pull, clean break, and pull weight adjustable between 3 and 5 pounds.
This model also comes chambered in 7mm Rem Mag and .338 Win Mag.
|Ruger American Magnum Specs:|
Caliber: 300 Win Mag (also 7mm Rem Mag and .338 Win Mag)
Stock: Black Synthetic
Sights: None, includes installed top rail
Trigger: Ruger Marksman, adjustable
Trigger pull weight: Adjustable between 3 and 5 pounds
Barrel Length: 24 inches
Thread Pattern: 5/8″-24
Twist: 1:10″ RH
Capacity: 3 (.300 Win Mag)
Finish: Matte stainless
Weight: 7.5 lbs.
Overall Length: 44.5 inches
Length of Pull: 13.75 inches
Remington 700 Long Range
This bolt-action rifle has a 26” heavy contour carbon steel barrel with a 1:10” twist rate. The combination of those features creates greater stability and accuracy with the aging cartridge—the kind of accuracy that translates to one-hole, five-shot sub-MOA groups.
The .30-06 Springfield has been around since 1906, when it was created for the United States military’s M1903 Springfield bolt-action rifle. Some hunters feel its felt recoil negates its hunting value while others enjoy experiencing the cartridge’s ability to drop “any game in North America”, but the truth is somewhere in the middle—with a sharp nudge towards impressive versatility. If you want a rifle with a great all-around chambering, it’s still a fantastic option. Yes, its recoil is over 20 foot-pounds of energy, enough to make even seasoned shooters shy away, but it does have the ability to drop a wide variety of game, including whitetails, with a single shot; what more could you ask for from a hunting rifle?
The Remington 700 (which has been around since 1962) Long Range has many modern features including an X-Mark Pro externally-adjustable trigger, Bell and Carlson M40 tactical stock, and concave target-style barrel crown. The bottom line is, it’s a quality rifle backed by Big Green’s centuries of experience in the firearms industry.
If you prefer a different caliber, the 700 line comes chambered in everything from 6mm Remington to .308 Win to .35 Whelen. The Long Range model, specifically, is also available in .25-06 Rem, 7mm Rem Mag, 300 Win Mag, and 300 Rem Ultra Mag. Best of all, it’s pinpoint-precise in every caliber.
|Remington 700 Long Range Specs:|
Caliber: .30-06 Springfield (also .25-06 Remington, .300 Remington Ultra Mag, .300 Win Mag, and 7mm Rem Mag)
Capacity: 4 (standard calibers) or 3 (magnum calibers)
Stock: Bell and Carlson M40 tactical stock
Barrel: 26-inch heavy contour carbon steel barrel with matte finish
Twist rate: 1:10″ RH
Trigger: X-Mark Pro® externally adjustable trigger
Trigger pull weight: factory set at 3.5 pounds (adjustable)
Overall length: 47 inches
Length of pull: 13 inches
Sights: None, drilled and tapped for scope mounts
Weight: 9 pounds (empty)
MSRP: $879.76 (in .30-06 Sprg)
How to get serious about not being so damned serious this hunting season.
Marlin 1895 GSBL
If you want an easily-maneuverable rifle chambered in a round capable of bulling through brush barriers and dropping deer right where they stand, this is the lever-action rifle for you.
A good brush gun should be part of every hunter’s collection. After all, the majority of shots you’ll take in your deer-hunting career will be inside 100 yards and frequently involve heavy brush. Additionally, a lever-action is a vital addition to any gun safe and the Marlin 1895 GSBL, specifically, is a must-have.
The Marlin 1895 GSBL has a maneuverable 18.5-inch barrel and an overall length of 37 inches. It weighs in at 8 pounds, empty, and while it isn’t ultra-lightweight, it’s certainly acceptable.
This particular model features a large lever loop for ease of use, allowing the shooter to operate the action even while wearing gloves. The adjustable Williams Fire Sights allow for a clear field of vision and accurate shots at the shorter ranges the gun is meant for. And then there’s the chambering.
This model is chambered in .45-70 Govt, a straight-walled cartridge originally designed for military use back in 1873. Its predecessor was the .50-70 Government, a hard-hitting cartridge with the commercial designation of .50-70-450.
The .45-70 packs quite a punch in its own right; in its infancy it was the favored cartridge for many military rifles, including the Gatling guns used on US Navy warships in the late 19th century. The cartridge’s ideal operating range is inside 200 yards—beyond that, the trajectory changes drastically, meaning you need to have a good understanding of windage and elevation to master it at longer distances. Today it’s recognized as a capable hunting round and favored by many cowboy-action shooters.
|Marlin 1895 GSBL Specs:|
Caliber: .45-70 Govt.
Capacity: 6-shot, full-length tubular magazine
Action: Lever action with large finger loop, side ejection
Receiver: Solid-top receiver; stainless steel
Finish: FNC black finish
Safety: Hammer block safety
Barrel: 18.5-inch barrel with deep-cut Ballard-type rifling (6 grooves)
Twist rate: 1:20″
Sights: Adjustable Williams Fire Sights
Overall length: 37 inches
Length of Pull: 13-3/8 inches
Weight: 8 lbs. (empty)
Features: Green laminate pistol grip stock with black webbing; deluxe recoil pad; swivel studs
Tikka T3x Hunter
Tikka has become synonymous with precision, and the proof is in the T3x Hunter.
The T3x Hunter is a bolt-action rifle that can only be described as a tack driver. The synthetic stock has the appearance of wood without the weight and at 6.6 pounds, this rifle can easily be slung over your shoulder and carried on a lengthy spot-and-stalk, should you so desire. The stock also has an asymmetrical grip pattern, ensuring a solid grip, even in the rain and snow. Then there’s the trigger which delivers a crisp, clean break and natural reach.
This rifle is chambered in .308 Win, a rimless, bottlenecked cartridge that’s been favored by scores of hunters for generations. It’s popular the world over, and for good reason: this cartridge does a great job dropping deer, yes, but has also been used on caribou, elk, and bears.
The case was specifically designed for reliable feeding and ejection, it’s accurate at long ranges, and it can be trusted to cleanly take deer to around 500-yard-mark (depending on the specific load and, of course, who you ask).
All around, it’s a great choice in a classic caliber with plenty of modern features.
|Tikka T3X Hunter Specs:|
Caliber: .308 Win
Capacity: 3 +1
Action: Bolt action
Stock: T3x modular synthetic w/interchangeable pistol grips
Barrel: 22 inches, blued
Length of pull: 13.75 inches
Overall length: approximately 42.5 inches
Weight: 6.61 lbs. (empty)
DPMS GII Hunter
When DPMS launched the GII it was with the purpose of creating a tactically sound semi-automatic rifle. With the GII Hunter, they created a tactically-inclined hunting rifle, something that appeals to many modern shooters. Do tactics and hunting go hand in hand? Absolutely.
The latest GII Hunter is chambered in .260 Remington, a cartridge known as the 6.5-08 A-Square in its wildcat days. It has a rather famous parent case, the .308 Win, and a solid ballistic coefficient. Whether you want to reach out and touch your intended target or drop a deer at close range, the .260 Rem gets the job done (with style).
As for the rifle itself, it’s a pleasure to shoot. It has a good length of pull, shouldering naturally thanks to its Magpul MOE stock and providing a firm hold with its Hogue grip.
The 20-inch stainless steel teflon barrel is durable and rust-resistant, making it a good rifle to hump through the woods in all weather; its overall length is short enough to comfortably handle in a tree stand, but it has enough barrel to provide a nice trajectory for medium-range shots.
Even better, the muzzle comes threaded, so you have the ability to add a suppressor. In addition, the DPMS Free Float handguard is carbon fiber, significantly cutting weight and increasing accuracy.
The DPMS GII Hunter in .260 Rem is shipping this fall and will be joined by a model chambered in .243 Win.
|DPMS GII Hunter Specs:|
Caliber: .260 Rem (also in .243 Win)
Receiver: Forged 7075 T6 anodized, Teflon coated, A3 type
Stock: Magpul MOE
Pistol grip: Hogue
Barrel: 20-inches, stainless steel Teflon w/ threaded muzzle
Twist rate: 1:10″
Trigger: DPMS 2-stage
Weight: Approx. 7.75 lbs.
Savage MSR 10 Hunter
When Savage Arms launched their inaugural line of ARs earlier this year, they didn’t do it halfway, but rather went all out with their MSR 15 Recon, Patrol, MSR Long Range, and the MSR 10 Hunter. By the way, in this case “MSR” stands for “Modern Savage Rifle.”
The Hunter is a nod to the thousands of sportsmen filling the woods not with bolt-action rifles, but with ARs—and it was done well. It comes chambered in .308 Win, .338 Federal, or 6.5 Creedmoor —one cartridge a classic, unsung hero, and the other a stylish somewhat-newcomer—and delivers reliability, durability, and accuracy. But wait, there’s more.
The MSR 10 Hunter is on the heavier side, weighing in at 7.8 pounds, empty (in .308 Win) but makes up for it with a short 16-1/8-inch fluted barrel on the .308 Win and an 18” barrel on the Creedmoor model.
With an approximate overall length of 39 inches, it’s maneuverable in the deer woods, but significant enough to absorb the greater recoil of its AR-10-platform chamberings. The rifle’s furniture and trigger are manufactured by Blackhawk!, the respected tactical gear company that used the rifle platform to showcase its new line of AR rifle components.
If you want to hunt with an AR-10 capable of sub-MOA groups and softer felt recoil thanks to its design and well-padded Blackhawk! adjustable stock, this is the gun for you. The Hunter is the crown jewel of Savage’s MSR line, and well worth a closer look.
|Savage MSR 10 Hunter Specs:|
Caliber: .308 Win. (also 6.5 Creedmoor)
Receiver: Matte black hardcoat anodized (Melonite QPQ barrel)
Action: Direct-impingement, semi-auto
Barrel Length: 16.125 inches (18 inches in 6.5 CM)
Overall Length: 39 inches (41 inches in 6.5 CM)
Twist Rate: 1:10″ 5R Right-hand (1:8″ in 6.5 CM)
Weight: 7.8 lbs. (8 lbs. in 6.5 CM)
Precision, Precision, Precision
Yes, there has been an emphasis on precision in this rifle list. It’s the responsibility of every hunter to make a clean kill and that’s best done with a high-quality rifle. Whatever rifle you use—bolt-action, semi-auto, lever-action—take the time to practice. Remember, one shot, one kill. That’s how you get your BBD. Now get out there and hit the deer woods.