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Entering the wide world of hunting and choosing the best hunting rifle for yourself can be intimidating. There are so many things to consider, from the type of game you’ll be hunting (not to mention when and where) to what equipment you’ll need to pick up.
In this guide, however, we’re going to take some of that off your plate by showing you some of our picks for the best hunting rifles. We’ve included a diverse array of rifles here, so there’s sure to be one that suits you.
Our overall top pick is the Bergara Premier Series Canyon. We love this rifle because it blends the style of a classic hunting rifle with modern features like an Omni brake and carbon fiber buttstock.
In addition to our best hunting rifle recommendations, we’ll also go into all the different factors you need to think about to figure out which rifle is best for your needs, plus a couple of frequently asked questions about hunting rifles.
Let’s start things off with a closer look at the Bergara Premier Series Canyon.
Also Read: 7 Best Deer Hunting Air Rifles
Here Are the Best Hunting Rifles (Our Picks)
Bergara Premier Series Canyon
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The Bergara Premier Series Canyon has the look and feel of a classic hunting rifle, but don’t think that means this bolt-action rifle is dated.
The stainless steel No. 4 fluted barrel is machined in Spain, then sent to the US for a Sniper Grey Cerakote finish. To complement the barrel, the stock is made from carbon fiber to keep the Canyon lightweight for trekking across rough terrain on your hunts.
The barrel also has ⅝-24” threads for the included Omni brake that helps cut the recoil, which is especially important if you’re shooting one of the more powerful rounds necessary for large game hunting.
And with chamberings available for 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .308 Win, .300 Win Mag, 300 PRC, 28 Nosler, and .375 H&H, you have options for not only hunting but also long-range precision rifle shooting.
The Bergara Canyon has an M5 floor plate, which allows you to use either a hinged floor plate or a detachable magazine.
Depending on which chambering you go with, the Canyon’s barrel is either 20 or 22 inches.
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .308 Win, .300 Win Mag, 300 PRC, 28 Nosler, or .375 H&H
- Magazine Capacity: 3 round mag provided, 5 round mag long action
- Barrel Length: 20”- 22”
- Overall Length: 41”- 44”
- Weight: 6.2-6.5 lbs.
- Classic style
- Variety of chamberings
- High-end barrel
- Carbon fiber stock
- M5 floor plate
The Bergara Premier Series Canyon gives you the sensibilities of a classic bolt-action hunting rifle, but with modern features like an Omni muzzle break, Cerakote barrel finish, and carbon fiber furniture.
CZ 600 Trail
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The CZ 600 series is brand spanking new from CZ and includes a handful of different models, but our favorite for hunting is the CZ 600 Trail.
Another thing that really sets this rifle apart from the others on this list is the modern design. Though the CZ 600 Trail has a classic bolt action, it looks and feels more like a modern sporting rifle thanks to the polymer chassis, AR-style safety, AR-style controls, AR compatible pistol grip, Magpul M-LOK handguard, and collapsible, PDW-style stock.
(The collapsible stock also allows you to make the Trail very compact, just 27.2 inches, which is very convenient for storage or carrying in a hunting pack).
The Trail is available in .223 Rem or 7.62×39. You can even use standard AR-15 mags with the .223 Rem chambering. The 7.62×39 also features interchangeable magazines, but with the CZ Bren 2.
The Picatinny rail along the top of the rifle also calls to mind an MSR and allows you to easily mount your choice of sight or optic with plenty of room to add a night vision device if you want. Of course, you can also mount accessories on the M-LOK handguard.
Other great features include the two-stage trigger with adjustable pull weight and the threaded muzzle.
- Caliber: .223 Rem or 7.62×39
- Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
- Barrel Length: 16.2 in
- Overall Length: 27.2-35 in
- Weight: 6.1 lbs
- MSR styling
- Picatinny rail
- M-LOK handguard
- Adjustable trigger
- Threaded muzzle
- Brand new to the market, so issues may become apparent with time
If you’re already a fan of the AR platform and want something with the same feel, the CZ 600 Trail will be right up your alley. It’s also a lightweight, compact option for those who’ll be doing a lot of walking to get to their hunting grounds or otherwise need something easy to carry.
Ruger American Predator
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The Ruger American has been wildly popular among hunters since it was first introduced more than a decade ago in 2011, but I particularly like the Ruger American Predator. And with a whopping nine different chamberings available, all at very budget-friendly prices, you can get a Predator that shoots a round for just about any animal.
To balance affordability, availability (of both the rifle and the ammo), and manageable recoil, I recommend the .223 Rem, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .30-06 chamberings for small, medium, and large game respectively.
The .308 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, .243 Win, and 7mm-08 chamberings are all available in left-handed versions, so there are options friendly to you southpaws out there.
Atop the rifle is a Weaver rail, giving you the option to mount an optic. Other handy features include the adjustable trigger and three-lug action.
The cold-hammer-forged barrel and stellar action allow for stellar accuracy from such an affordable gun. The synthetic stock is both durable and lightweight, though it’s not a match for Bergara’s carbon fiber stock.
Aftermarket accessories and upgrades for the Ruger American line are incredibly easy to find, so there’s room for growth and development in the future.
One downside: this isn’t the prettiest rifle out there, but aesthetics are secondary to function, and the Ruger American Predator sure nails function.
Finally, while I’m talking about a Ruger, I also want to give an honorable mention to the Ruger 10/22 as a plinking/varmint hunting rifle.
- Caliber: 22-250 Rem, 6.5 Creedmoor, 308 Win, 243 Win, 7mm-08 Rem, 6.5 Grendel, 223 Rem, 6mm Creedmoor, and 204 Ruger
- Magazine Capacity: 4-5 rounds with most models
- Barrel Length: 22” on most models
- Overall Length: 36.37-42”
- Weight: 6.1-6.6 lbs
- Durably made
- Plenty of chamberings to choose from
- Left-handed versions available
- Tons of aftermarket support
- Very affordable
- Not a great looking rifle
Remarkably accurate considering its budget-friendly price point, the Ruger American Predator balances affordability and quality to provide a great entry-level hunting rifle. And with so many calibers available, there’s one for just about every hunter.
Mossberg MVP Scout
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While Mossberg is probably best known for their shotguns, the Mossberg MVP Scout is an outstanding hunting rifle.
This rifle features a 16.25” barrel, making it one of the shorter barreled rifles on this list. The muzzle is threaded, but the rifle also comes with a removable A2-style flash suppressor, plus a thread cap for when you’re not using the flash suppressor.
The Mossberg MVP Scout comes with fiber optic front sight and a ghost ring rail sight but also has an 11” Picatinny rail for you to add your own optic of choice. And if you want a scope but don’t have one yet, you can also get the MVP Scout in a bundle with a Vortex Crossfire II Scout Scope.
Another handy feature is that it accepts AR-10 and M1A/M14 style magazines, so magazines are really easy to come by. It comes with a 10 round magazine, but there are compatible magazines available in a variety of sizes.
Other great features are the adjustable trigger, two side-mounted rails, and oversized bolt handle. The MVP Scout also comes with a sling.
- Caliber: 7.62mm NATO/.308 WIN
- Magazine Capacity: 10+1 rounds
- Barrel Length: 16.25”
- Rifling: 1:10
- Overall Length: 37.5”
- Weight: 7 lbs.
- Compact size
- High magazine capacity
- Compatible with AR-10 and M1A/M14 style magazines
- Adjustable trigger
- Oversized bolt handle
- Multiple Picatinny rails
- Comes with a flash suppressor, thread cap, and sling
- Only one chambering available
- A little heavy
The Mossberg MVP Scout was designed based on the early scout rifles as described by Jeff Cooper back in the 1980s. That traditional scout design is seen in the .308/7.62x51mm chambering, short barrel, included sling, and forward-mounted scope rail.
Browning X-Bolt Hunter
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The Browning X-Bolt Hunter is another hunting rifle with a very classic feel.
It has a satin finish checkered walnut stock with an Inflex Technology recoil pad for comfortable shooting. The solid steel receiver has a matte-blued finish and pairs with the very accurate sporter contour barrel.
The X-Bolt hunter also features an easy-to-use two-position safety, plus a manual bolt unlock. It has a 60 degree bolt lift for fast cycling, allowing you to make quick follow-up shots. The Crisp Feather trigger has a light pull.
The X-Bolt Hunter is available in a variety of chamberings for just about anything you might want to hunt, from varmints to large game.
- Caliber: 223 Rem, 22-250 Rem, 243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Rem, 308 Win, 270 WSM, 300 WSM, 2506 Rem, 270 Win, 280 Rem, 30-06, 7mm Rem Mag, 300 Win Mag, 338 Win Mag, and 375 HH Mag
- Magazine Capacity: 3-5 rounds, 4 rounds with most chamberings
- Barrel Length: 22-26”
- Overall Length: 41.5-46.75”
- Weight: 6 lbs 6 oz – 7 lbs
- Classic looks
- Wide range of chamberings
- 60 degree bolt lift
- Comfortable recoil pad
- The trigger isn’t adjustable
- A bit on the heavier end
The Browning X-Bolt Hunter is a great, classically styled bolt action rifle that’s versatile enough for just about any hunter. All you have to do is choose the right one of the many calibers available.
Savage Arms 110 Hunter
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Fun fact: the Savage 110 Hunter is the longest continually made rifle in the US. Today, however, I want to take a particular look at the Savage Arms 110 Hunter.
Uses the AccuFit system, which allows you to change the comb height and length of pull for a fit that’s customized for your frame. The AccuTrigger is also adjustable so you can choose just the right pull weight for you.
The matte black action and button-rifle barrel secure to the gray synthetic stock. The receiver is drilled and tapped for an optic mount, while the stock is soft with texture at the pistol grip and fore-end to help your grip. The shape of the stock is very ergonomic and the rear is padded.
Finally, the Savage Arms 110 Hunter accepts Magpul AICS magazines, so you have a lot of options there.
- Caliber: 22-250 Rem, 204 Ruger, 223 Rem, 243 Win, 25-06 Rem, 270 Win, 280 Ackley IMP, 30-06, 300 Win Mag, 308 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm Rem Mag, 7mm-08 Rem,
- Magazine Capacity: 3-4 rounds (4 rounds with most chamberings)
- Barrel Length: 22-24”, 22” on most models
- Overall Length: 42.25-45.25”
- Weight: 7.24-7.55 lbs
- Adjustable comb height and length of pull
- Accepts Magpul AICS magazines
- Lots of chambering options
- Adjustable trigger
The Savage Arms 110 Hunter is an excellent deer rifle for those looking for a more adjustable weapon. You can customize the comb height, length of pull, and trigger to suit you just right.
Weatherby Mark V Backcountry Ti
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Our last recommendation is the Weatherby Mark V Backcountry Ti, which also happens to be the lightest rifle on this list.
This rifle is able to be so lightweight thanks to a few different features: the thin, fluted barrel; the carbon fiber stock; and the slender titanium action. All of these features combined get the rifle down to between 4.8 and 5.6 pounds, depending on the chambering.
Speaking of which, the rifle comes in nine different chamberings, but six of those are Weatherby exclusive rounds, which means they are pricey. I recommend going with one of the remaining three chamberings, 280 Ackley IMP, 308 Win, and 6.5 Creedmoor so you’re not committing yourself to spending a ton on ammo.
The trigger, stock, and handguard boast excellent ergonomics, while a Cerakote finish lends durability.
And to top it all off, Weatherby offers a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee on each Backcountry rifle.
- Caliber: 240 Wby. Mag, 257 Wby. Mag, 270 Wby. Mag, 280 Ackley IMP, 300 Wby. Mag, 308 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 WBY RPM, and 6.5-300 Wby. Mag
- Magazine Capacity: 3-5 rounds
- Barrel Length: 22-26”
- Overall Length: 44-48
- Weight: 4.8-5.6
- Very lightweight
- Several chamberings available
- Excellent ergonomics
- Sub-MOA guarantee
- Designed for rugged conditions
- Most chamberings are Weatherby exclusives
Weatherby is known for its innovative engineering and the lightweight Mark V Backcountry Ti is just one more example of that. As the name suggests, Weatherby really intended this rifle for people hunting well off the grid, but it can also be a great choice if your tree stand is just a short walk from wherever you park your car.
Buying Guide: Finding the Hunting Rifle That Is Right for You
When purchasing a hunting rifle, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. These first four considerations are about choosing a high-quality rifle in the first place. Then the last two are about choosing a rifle that fits your particular needs. Let’s take a look at them one by one.
In general, you can get away with less accuracy from a hunting rifle than a target or tactical rifle. However, that doesn’t mean accuracy isn’t important.
For one, as a hunter, it’s your responsibility to try to make sure every hit is an ethical kill. Sure, you don’t need tight groups like at the shooting range, but your rifle does need to be accurate enough to maximize the odds of a fatal shot so you’re not causing an animal unnecessary pain and suffering.
Second, depending on the game you’re hunting, you may be firing shots at long ranges. For example, if you’re hunting mountain goats, you may be on the side of one mountain, firing at a goat on the side of another mountain, hundreds of yards away.
Over these distances, even little flaws in the accuracy can make a huge difference. They can be the difference between a hit, let alone an ethical kill, and a complete miss.
Some people think for greater accuracy, you have to get a rifle with a super long barrel. While a longer barrel certainly helps, it’s just one factor. Plus, with modern rounds, a bullet doesn’t need as long of a barrel to get up to speed. You can get away with a barrel as short as 20 inches, though barrels in the 22-24 inch range are more popular for hunting.
Other factors that affect accuracy include the round you use (both in terms of caliber and the specific cartridge), the rifling of the barrel, and, of course, you as the shooter. Speaking of which…
The more comfortable a rifle is to shoot, the more accurate you’ll be shooting it. Discomfort is distracting and can interfere with proper shooting posture.
Ergonomics doesn’t just matter for accuracy, though. Hunting frequently requires you to traipse long distances, often across rough and unforgiving terrain. A lightweight, low-profile rifle just makes that easier.
One of the most important aspects of ergonomics is the rifle’s buttstock. Whether it’s made from wood or synthetic, the buttstock should be comfortable to shoulder. Padding is a great feature, but at the very least, the rear of the stock should have a comfortable shape.
It’s also nice when the stock is adjustable, so you can change the length of pull to suit your frame.
The ergonomics of the trigger are also important. A lot of it comes down to personal preference, so it’s a good idea to choose a rifle with an adjustable trigger weight. You will, however, generally want a trigger with a nice, crisp break. Fortunately, if you decide you don’t like the trigger on your rifle, trigger upgrades are really easy.
A hunting rifle is going to be out in the field, facing moisture, debris, and possible bumps and scrapes. It needs to be able to stand up to all this.
While classic walnut furniture is gorgeous, a synthetic stock and handguard will stand up to this kind of abuse better than wood.
That’s not to say you can’t go with wood if you like it. If you live in a dry environment and are unlikely to be out in the rain or high humidity, wood will do just fine. Just know that you’re risking scuffs and scratches.
Like any gun, a hunting rifle needs to be dependable. Every time you pull the trigger, your hunting rifle should fire. You don’t want to be messing around with malfunctions. For one, it’s inconvenient and annoying. But depending on what you’re hunting, this can even be an issue of safety.
If you’re deer hunting, for example, and your rifle doesn’t fire when you pull the trigger, you might just miss an opportunity. If you’re hunting bears or hogs, on the other hand, your rifle failing to fire may end up with you in a hospital bed or worse.
Now let’s get into a couple of considerations that depend on your particular situation.
The type of game you’re hunting is one of the most simple factors in determining what caliber of hunting rifle you need. Let’s look at the basic categories of game one at a time, starting small.
In hunting terms, small game is, as you can probably guess, small animals that are hunted for food or their fur.
Common small game includes:
- Prairie dogs
That’s by no means an exhaustive list though. Basically, if it’s under about 40 pounds, it’s considered small game. That’s not a hard and fast rule. Wolverines and coyotes, for example, can both get above 40 pounds.
When small game hunting, the goal is to preserve the meat and pelt, so you need a round that will reliably kill the animal without causing unnecessary extra damage.
For this, .22 LR, .22 Magnum, and .17 HMR are all common choices. These rounds also have the advantage of being very easy to use for new shooters, so if you’re looking to get into hunting but aren’t sure where to start, small game could be for you.
Varmints are small to medium-sized animals that are hunted for pest control.
There’s a lot of crossover between varmints and small game. Rabbits, squirrels, and coyotes, for example, are common varmints. Varmint categorization is even more subjective than small game categorization though.
Even large nuisance animals, like hogs, can sometimes be considered varmints. Most of the time, however, it’s smaller animals. There are also some animals that are commonly hunted as varmints, like snakes and rats, that aren’t really pursued by small game hunters.
For the most part, though, game can fall in either category based on the intention of the hunter. When small game hunting, the hunter is generally trying to preserve at least the animal’s meat and often their pelt as well. With varmint hunting, preservation isn’t a priority.
That, combined with the longer ranges that are more common with varmint hunting, means that varmint hunters can get away with using more powerful rounds. .223 Remington and .243 Winchester are both popular varmint hunting rounds. However, varmint hunters will also use popular small game cartridges like .22 LR, .22 Magnum, and .17 HMR, especially when hunting smaller varmints.
The most common medium game by far is deer and most medium game are hoofstock of various kinds, including not just deer, but also antelope, goats, and sheep.
Exactly what round you want to use depends on the range you’ll be shooting at and how large your local medium game actually is. .308 Winchester, however, is probably the most popular deer hunting round. Anywhere from .223 Remington to .300 Winchester Magnum may suit your needs though.
Large and Dangerous Game
When most people think of “big game,” they think of the African Big Five, including the African lion, African leopard, rhino, Cape buffalo, and African elephant. In reality, though, there are big game species all around the world, including things that you probably consider far less exotic, like bear, moose, and caribou.
Like with other game, meat and pelts are generally the main motivation, though there are also hunters motivated by trophies.
Once again, categories of game are highly subjective. Some people don’t consider medium game to be a separate category, so anything above about 40 pounds would be considered big game. Meanwhile, an elephant’s heart alone weighs 40 pounds, so I find breaking the size categories down a bit more to be useful.
On a similar note, dangerous game refers to the more aggressive species, but a lot of those are also just plain big anyway. Bears, buffalo, and hogs all fall into that category. When it comes to dangerous game, hunting motivations may go beyond meat, pelts, and trophies. When these animals become a nuisance, that generally means a lot more damage than going through your trash and maybe killing some chickens like varmints.
Regardless, if a game species is large or aggressive, you’ll need an especially powerful round to take them down. You also need a round that has a good range, allowing you to put plenty of space between you and the animal to take your first shots.
That said, for safety purposes, you’ll also want a stopping rifle, which is used to put an animal down quickly from up close. This is for when you’ve somehow managed to miss all your ranged shots or the animal has snuck up on you. At the point you pull out your stopping rifle, preserving your life is the greatest priority, not preserving skin and meat.
Big-bore and magnum cartridges are the way to go when hunting big and dangerous game. Look for a rifle chambered for .300 Win Mag, .458 Win Mag, .45-70, or similar. These calibers are hard to shoot, though, so if you’re new to hunting, you might want to start with smaller game.
For large game closer to that 40-pound mark, you can also use old hunting classics like .30-06. These rounds also have the advantage of being easier for new hunters to get the hang of.
While the Bergara Premier Series Canyon is my favorite hunting rifle, the available chamberings are really best for large game and precision shooting.
If you’re looking for a more general-purpose hunting rifle, the CZ 600 Trail and especially the Ruger American Predator are available in more versatile chamberings.
The CZ 600 Trail has a more modern, AR-style feel, while the Ruger American Predator feels more classic. Which of those is better just depends on how you like for your hunting rifle to feel.
Bolt action rifles are by far the most popular type of rifle for deer hunters. These rifles are easy to use but are also incredibly rugged. They can stand up to both powerful rounds and harsh weather conditions.
That just about brings us to a finish on the best hunting rifles.
Our overall favorite is the Bergara Premier Series Canyon. This rifle is lightweight and comfortable to shoot thanks to the carbon fiber body, rubber buttstock, and Omni muzzle brake. The tapered, fluted stainless steel barrel is nice and accurate. Thanks to the carbon fiber and stainless steel construction, the rifle is durable, while the Bergara Premier Action is reliable.
All in all, the Bergara Premier Series Canyon is a great rifle for medium to large size game. However, it’s not the right choice for everyone.
Fortunately for you, we’ve included a diverse variety of firearms in our list of recommendations. Between that list and the buying guide with all the info you need to figure out what to look for in a hunting rifle, you should have no problem finding the best hunting rifle for you.
Corporal Dalton is a former Infantry Rifleman who served with 3rd Battalion 1st Marines. After leaving the Marine Corps, he started an online business where he focuses on teaching self-defense tactics. His two major passions are hiking and shooting guns. He has been a member of the NRA since he was 6 years old and is a strong supporter of the second amendment.