Best New Hunting Rifles of 2020
Gunmakers are introducing bolt guns that are lighter weight and more accurate at greater distances.
The name of the game for bolt-action hunting rifles these days seems to be an emphasis on lighter guns that are accurate at longer ranges. The majority of the new releases in the hunting rifle market are taking on this challenge and bringing forth some fine guns.
While there were a number of rifles that got simple makeovers (new camo pattern stocks like CVA’s Cascade, adding weather coating like Cerakote, or expanding the range of calibers) there were several high-quality new rifles featured at SHOT 2020 that are pushing the envelope for lighter, faster and more accurate.
Not all the guns were out at Industry Day at the Range, but we shot the ones that were and handled as many of the new rifles as possible on the show floor. Here are our impressions of the new bolt-action hunting rifles offered at SHOT Show 2020.
Available Calibers: 6.5 PRC, 6.5 Creedmoor
Based on Ruger’s Hawkeye action, the Long-Range hunter is lighter and slimmer coming in at 7.2 pounds and is designed for down range accuracy. The laminate Target stock features a speckled two-tone finish with an adjustable length of pull and soft rubber butt pad.
The barrel is a free-floating cold hammer-forged stainless steel with minimum headspace and centralized chamber and comes with a radial-port muzzle brake to reduce felt recoil. The three-position safety allows the shooter to lock the bolt or to load and unload the rifle with the safety on and the LC6 trigger is designed for a smooth, crisp pull to increase accuracy.
According to Ruger, the non-rotating Mauser-type controlled feed action more effectively extracts rounds, and the fixed blade-type ejector is more efficient at ejecting empty cases with a full rearward motion of the one-piece stainless steel bolt. The rifle comes with a Picatinny rail that can be removed for traditional integral scope mounts.
I shot the Long-Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC at Industry Day at the Range and the rifle had very low recoil and shot accurately. The bolt was a bit stiff, but I expect that would smooth out over time.
Available Calibers: 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win., 7mm Rem Mag, .300 Win Mag, 28 Nosler
Bergara’s new Wilderness Series is intended to bridge the gap between Bergara’s B-14 and Premier Series with an eye toward a rugged hunting rifle. They’ve done an excellent job with a rifle that brings the high-quality Cerakoted Bergara barrels the company is known for—they guarantee a 1.0 MOA—in a more economical package.
The guns use Bergara’s handpainted camouflage with webbing to increase texture and grip on the stocks, which are synthetic with a Soft Touch finish. This series features the Cerakoted B-14 action that is designed for smooth feeding and simple ejection of spent rounds.
The guns feature Bergara’s Performance Trigger with a two-position safety as part of the trigger assembly. It is a one-piece body and the bolt has two locking lugs with a 90-degree throw angle.
The Hunter weighs in just over 7 pounds depending on caliber.
Available Calibers: 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC .308 Win, .300 Win Mag, 300 PRC, 28 Nosler
The Premier Mountain is designed to be a lightweight (6.2 to 6.4 pound) backcountry rifle. It features a carbon fiber stock by AG Composite and Bergara’s premium stainless steel barrel that is guaranteed to be sub-MOA at 100 yards using quality ammunition.
The Premier action uses a non-rotating gas shield to protect the shooter from gas and debris as well as a coned bolt nose and sliding plate extractor with two locking lugs on the front of the bolt head for smoother, more consistent cycling of rounds.
The barrel and action have a Cerakote finish for durability and the fluted bolt helps reduce weight. The TriggerTech trigger is designed with “Frictionless Release Technology” for a smoother trigger pull, and the two-position safety is part of the trigger assembly.
The company uses proprietary science to reduce recoil, and the rifle is reinforced through grip so there’s less felt recoil.
I shot the Premier Approach in 6.5 Creedmoor on Range Day and had limited recoil thanks to that technology and the rifle’s muzzle brake. It was so easy to shoot (and dialed in so well) that I consistently was able to hit the target out to 960 yards.
Available calibers: .308 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, .280 Ackley, .270 Win., 30-06 Springfield, 300 WSM, 6.5 PRC, and 28 Nosler.
The Savage 110 Ultralight is built around the 110 action but offers a number of upgrades to make it an extremely lightweight and durable hunting rifle. The company partnered with PROOF Research to develop a carbon fiber wrapped steel barrel. Coupled with the melonite skeletonized receiver, the whole rifle weighs in at around 6 pounds.
The muzzle is threaded so you can add a brake or a suppressor and the stock is Savage’s own AccuFit technology that offers adjustable length of pull and comb to customize the rifle’s fit to a shooter.
Inside the stock is a hard polymer core rather than an aluminum core, which makes the gun rigid but lightweight. The spiral fluted bolt also cuts weight. It has Savage’s proprietary AccuTrigger that is adjustable from 1.5 to 4 pounds.
This gun was out at the Long-Range lanes at Industry Day at the Range and I fired at least a dozen rounds out of it at progressively longer distances and the 6.5 Creedmoor had very little felt recoil.
It shot consistently and, even with a scope that was zeroed-in and had only been shot out to about 100 yards, we were able to dial in the rifle so I was ringing steel beyond 350 yards.
MSRP $525 and $405 respectively
Available in .243 Win, .270 Win, .300 Win Mg, .308 Win, 223/5.56, 30.06 Springfield, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 7mm Rem Mag – the Venture II is also available in 350 Legend.
This fall Thompson/Center updated their Venture and Compass line using T/C’s Generation II trigger and a threaded muzzle for adding a muzzle brake or suppressor. The Venture is designed for harsh conditions using a corrosion-resistant Weather Shield coating that is tested to be 50x more corrosion resistant than stainless steel. It comes with a stock with HOGUE Overmolded traction panels on the forearm and grip to make it easier to hold when it’s wet.
The aluminum pillar bedding system in the receiver free-floats the barrel making for better accuracy. It has a three-lug bolt with a 60 degree throw which gives it plenty of clearance with a scope. The Generation II trigger has a 3 to 4-pound pull with a crisp break for precision shooting. The gun comes with a three round detachable box magazine that is designed to be low maintenance and easy feeding.
The Compass II is even more economical at just over $400 but has many similar features as the Venture II without the Weather Shield coating and special grip stock. The Compass uses a detachable five round rotary magazine that fits flush to the stock and provides smooth feeding. The stock is ergonomically designed with a contoured cheekpiece and textured grip panels. A Compact version of the Compass II with a 16-inch barrel is also available.
Available Calibers: 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win, SIG .277 FURY
The new SIG CROSS was definitely the biggest innovation in new bolt action hunting rifles at the show. This aptly named rifle is intended to be a crossover gun for the precision shooter who also hunts (or the hunter who is also a precision shooter!). It weighs in at 6.5 pounds and uses a chassis system with a folding stock that brings the rifle length under 25 inches to make it extremely packable for backcountry hunts.
The buttstock is fully adjustable with no tools so you can make it custom fit – or share it with your hunting partner – while you’re in the field. Most unique is the one-piece forged aluminum receiver that helps keep the gun lightweight but also allows for increased accuracy because there’s no chance of things moving when firing magnum loads, like SIG’s new .277 Fury.
The rifle features a stainless steel free-float barrel of either 16” or 18” with taper lock technology. The bolt is a locking three-lug design that is set at 60 degrees for clearance with a scope mounted on the top Picatinny rail and smoother bolt throw. The bolt handle is designed to be ideal for PRS or for hunting purposes.
SIG has its own range day and a friend was able to shoot it there and gushed about how accurate and comfortable the rifle was to shoot. The rest of us will have to wait until this summer to take it for a spin. The CROSS is expected to hit stores in June.
Available Calibers: .240 Wby. Mag., .257 Wby Mag., .270 Wby. Mag., 280 ACKLEY IMP, .300 Wby Mag., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 Wby RPM, 6.5-.300 Wby mag, 6mm Creedmoor, 7mm Wby, Mag.
Weatherby announced its new rifle lineup in September, but the new guns have made quite an impact, particularly the Backcountry Ti coupled with the company’s proprietary 6.5 RPM (Rebated Precision Magnum) ammunition. This gun was designed to be both the lightest and fastest production hunting rifle on the market, and it checks those boxes.
Coming in at just 4.9 pounds, the Backcountry Ti boasts a carbon fiber stock and a titanium receiver paired with the Mark V 6-lug action. It has a fluted Cerakote barrel and spiral fluted bolt to reduce weight and the bolt has a 54 degree throw for clearance with a scope.
The gun’s 3D Hex Recoil Reducer and Accubrake ST muzzle brake help to reduce felt recoil on a gun this lightweight. This is good because the 6.5 RPM cartridge is capable of about 2,000 foot pounds of energy at 400 yards.
The Backcountry is also available without the titanium receiver, weighing 5.3 pounds at a price of $2,499.
Other innovations at Weatherby include a new BSF Barrel in the CarbonMark that, according to the engineer Weatherby recruited from the aerospace industry, is “using carbon the right way.” Rather than wrapping the barrel with carbon fiber, they jacket the barrel using carbon fiber in a patented process to specifically tension the rifling.
This results in a stiff and lightweight barrel that only gets straighter as it heats up making it consistently accurate downrange.
Even with all the innovation, all rifles in the Mark V line saw price reductions with the CarbonMark reduced by about $900 to an MSRP of $2,499.
The Weatherby women’s line also expanded this year with the addition of the Vanguard Camilla Wilderness in a fiberglass stock for just $749.
Available Calibers 6.5 Creedmoor or .308 Win.
In the trend of lighter and faster, Kimber’s latest offering is the Open Range Pro Carbon. The rifle features an AG Composites carbon fiber stock with a 24” PROOF Research carbon-wrapped barrel. Available in only two calibers, 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win., the Pro Carbon sits under 6.5 pounds.
The stocks features all-weather KimPro finish in either a soft touch GORE Optifade Open Country Camo pattern or in a textured granite composite. There is a three-position wing safety and a locking bolt, and a Mauser-styled controlled feed stainless steel action. The trigger is adjustable from 3 to 3.5 pounds.
The barrel and chambers on the rifle are machined to match grade dimensions and the match grade trigger continues with the attention to accuracy. The rifles are light and fast and designed for long backcountry hunts in the mountains.
Available Calibers: .270 Win., 30-06 Springfield, .300 Win. Mag
Benelli, renowned for its high-quality shotguns, is jumping into the rifle world with its first-ever bolt-action hunting rifle. The Lupo has a number of new innovations including seven exclusive Benelli patents – all with the intention of offering a customizable rifle that is extremely accurate.
This is a chassis-style rifle with an alloy lower receiver and a synthetic stock and forend. The stock uses Benelli’s patented Progressive Comfort recoil-reducing system and Combtech cheek pad to reduce felt recoil, this allows the shooter to keep their cheek on the stock and sight in the scope for follow up shots.
The CRIO-treated free-floating barrel is threaded for a muzzle brake or suppressor and is bedded steel-to-steel on the receiver which leads to perfect alignment in the chamber on every gun. The double stack magazine and receiver design allows the magazine to hit higher and, combined with a unique lug design, the bullets feed more smoothly with less chance of a bullet hitting the receiver and deforming the tip.
The chassis-style configuration also allows for the shooter to customize the stock into one of 12 different drop and cast positions with shims that are included with the rifle and length of pull can be adjusted with spacers. The trigger is adjustable from 2.2 to 4.4 pounds.