The Best Sporting Rifles of 2017: Tested and Reviewed
These are the year’s top-performing and most affordable sporting rifles, fully evaluated based on their performance and value.
Gun writer Richard Mann met with Field & Stream‘s rifles editor David E. Petzal and deputy editor Dave Hurteau at his home shooting range West Virginia hills to test these six sporting rifles, all new for 2017.
Over the course of four days, the trio generated roughly five gallons of brass, shooting the test rifles at distances from 10 to 500 yards—plus a few shots at 1,000-plus just for fun. When the smoke cleared, they narrowed the field down to the top six rifles that stood out because of their performance and value
After weighing and measuring the rifles, they were evaluated for the following:
• Accuracy: Testers fired three five-shot groups from a bench at 100 yards, deducting one point for every 1/4 inch the average group size was larger than 1/2 inch.
• Shooter Interface: Each sporting rifle was shot from multiple positions, mimicking hunting situations.
• Fit and Finish: They evaluated workmanship and appearance.
• Functionality: They tested ease of loading, action smoothness, and general operation. We evaluated features and subtracted points for malfunctions.
• Trigger: They measured pull-weight with a digital scale and evaluated quality of pull.
Finally, they weighted the test categories for a total possible score of 100 and crunched the numbers to get our rankings. The price of each rifle was then divided by its total score to determine the best value.
These sporting rifles were outfitted with the Bushnell Elite 4500 2.5–10x40mm riflescope, Weaver rings and bases, and Hornady provided all test ammunition.
Top Six Sporting Rifles
Best of the Test: Remington Custom Shop M7 Scout
|.308 Win.||6 lb. 3 oz.||38.75″ overall length||19″ barrel||Manners synthetic stock|
Tested with a Burris 2–7x32mm Scout Scope, the new M7 Scout was the most accurate sporting rifle tested (and the second most accurate overall). The Scout dominated the shooter-interface test; it was the handiest, fastest, and smoothest operating rifle we touched. Fit and finish and functionality were impeccable, and the Timney trigger was perfect. With its auxiliary XS Sights, red-dot compatibility, threaded muzzle, and three quick-detach sling swivels, the M7 is the definition of versatility. The only downside is price; perfection isn’t cheap. —R.M.
Montana Co. American Legends Rifle
|.280 Rem.||10 lbs.||45″ overall length||24″ barrel||AA-grade American black walnut stock|
This is a lovely rifle. There’s no other word for it: AA walnut, excellent checkering, first-rate fit and finish, a superb trigger, and more than enough accuracy. But it’s also a throwback to an era when sporting rifles could weigh a lot, and this one weighs a whole bunch by modern standards, probably too much. It reminded me to an uncanny degree of the pre-’64 Winchester Super Grade Model 70, except the American Legends Rifle has nicer wood and will shoot rings around one of the old Model 70s. If you’re a traditionalist, here’s your gun. —D.E.P.
Weatherby Vanguard Camilla
|6.5 Creedmoor||6lbs. 8.6 oz.||39.75″ overall length||20″ barrel||Turkish A-grade walnut stock|
The Camilla is designed specifically for women, with a higher comb, a 13-inch length of pull, and a slimmer grip and fore-end. Because of that, in addition to the all-male test team, we had an experienced female hunter (my wife) examine it. The Camilla was plenty accurate and finished second in the shooter-interface test. Above-average scores in the other categories as well put the Camilla third in the sporting-rifle division, just a few points ahead of the Howa Kuiu. Ironically, our woman hunter liked the Kuiu better. The Camilla is a solid value, too. —R.M.
|6.5 Creedmoor||7 lbs.||40.5″ overall length||20″ barrel||Synthetic stock|
I don’t know of anyone who has bought a Howa rifle and sent it back for repair or adjustment, or gone to the gunsmith with a heart full of wrath. And these days, that is considerable praise. As with all Howa rifles, the Kuiu’s quality is all out of proportion to price. I liked this rifle quite a lot better than its overall ranking. The Camilla’s excellent handling scores bumped the Kuiu out of our top three, but believe me, it is a very good rifle. —D.E.P.
Best Value: Mossberg Patriot Predator
|6.5 Creedmoor||6 lbs. 9.8 oz.||42.38″ overall length||22″ barrel||Synthetic stock|
With below-average scores in fit and finish and functionality, the Predator is not a refined rifle. Most egregious was the ease with which the bolt could be bumped out of battery or to the fully open position. We also found the trigger a bit stagy and sticky. But the Predator ranked third in both accuracy and shooter interface. When it comes to getting on game and hitting your target, this gun gets it done—and at a price that earned it Best Value honors. —R.M.
Remington Model 700 American Wilderness
|.270 Win.||7 lbs. 15.3 oz.||44.75″ overall length||24″ barrel||Grayboe fiberglass stock|
Built on the Model 700 action, this bolt gun is designed to be the ideal backcountry rifle. Accuracy was good, but the rifle’s size and weight hurt its shooter-interface scores. The trigger, though adjustable, was somewhat heavy and creepy, and fit and finish were a bit rough. Still, the rifle functioned without a hitch, and the Grayboe stock is indestructible. When you need this rifle to go bang, even in the roughest conditions, it will. —R.M.
This content originally appeared on fieldandstream.com