7 Best Bolt Action Rifles: Rugged and Reliable

by Travis Pike

December 20, 2023

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In the big wide world of rifles, the semi-auto reigns supreme. It’s just the current king of rifles, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. We’ve seen a recent rise in the popularity of bolt action rifles. Why? Lots of reasons. One, I imagine the semi-auto market is just too full, and people are tired of them. It’s why AR companies like Aero, Daniel Defense, and Springfield have all released bolt guns in the last few years. 

We’ve also seen a rise in the technology of bolt guns. You are not stuck with deciding between a wood or polymer stock these days. In fact, you have tons more options. What kind of barrel do you want? Is it going to be used with a suppressor? What about a chassis system? Is a tripod in your future? These features aren’t necessarily new, but they’ve become much more mainstream. 

Best Bolt Action Rifles

Why a Bolt Action Rifle?

The bolt action rifle still has plenty of benefits, even in the age of the semi-auto. First and foremost, it’s still the most accurate repeating platform in the world. If you want the smallest groups possible, then a bolt gun is the route you want to take. That’s not to say that every bolt action rifle is more accurate than every semi-auto. 

In most cases, if you are comparing like with like, then bolt action rifles are more accurate. A 1,000-dollar bolt gun is likely more accurate than a thousand-dollar semi-auto rifle. Bolt actions provide the cheapest degree of accuracy. A 500-dollar bolt gun is likely capable of achieving 1 MOA accuracy, but that’ll be tough to achieve with a semi-auto rifle. 

Bolt action rifles also tend to be extremely reliable. Manually operated firearms often fall into that realm of reliability. This makes it easy to use varying loads that might choke a semi-auto. 

Bolt action rifles also get you into a wide variety of calibers. From the stock standard .223 Remington and .308 Winchester to less common cartridges like 6mm PRC and really big cartridges like .338 Lapua Magnum. 

There is also a degree of suppressor supremacy with bolt action rifles in both sound and reliability. The sound of the action moving forward and rearward in a semi-auto can be loud. A bolt action doesn’t have that noise. This allows the weapon to be very quiet. It also is not impacted by the change in back pressure a suppressor can create. This can hinder a semi-auto’s performance and require different tuning if suppressed or not.

Finally, it’s also a very common configuration around the world and likely the most common legal repeater on the market. That makes it tough to ban, and as far as I know, there isn’t a single state that bans bolt action rifles. 

How We Chose the Best Bolt Action Rifle

Shooting Christensen Arms MPP

I honestly have no idea how many bolt action rifles I have shot and tested over the years. I have enjoyed using some sort of bolt action rifle for everything from backyard plinking with a 22LR, to hunting deer and hogs, to long range precision shooting. In my time I have shot worn out surplus rifles to the high end offerings using all the latest materials and technology. This list comes from all that experience.

I have reviewed these guns based on how well they shoot including accuracy and the ergonomics of the rifle along with the value they provide. This is more than just a spec sheet comparison.

I know not everybody has the same budget or shooting needs, so I have included several deferent types and price points in this list.

Gun University’s Choices of the Best Bolt Action Rifle

Best Bolt Action Rifles

CZ 600 Lux
  • Beautiful wood stock
  • Iron sights
  • Tons of caliber options
Check Price
Savage Impulse
  • Straight pull bolt action
  • Numerous variations
  • Implemented scope rail
Check Price
Tikka T1x MTR
  • Rimfire bolt action
  • Super lightweight
  • Detachable magazine
Check Price
Ruger Precision Rifle
  • Adjustable stock
  • M-LOK handguard
  • Many caliber options
Check Price
Browning X-Bolt Series
  • Several variations
  • Adjustable trigger
  • Free floating barrel
Check Price
Christensen Arms TFM
  • Adjustable stock
  • Carbon fiber barrel
  • Half MOA guarantee
Check Price
Ruger Scout Rifle
  • Iron sights included
  • Scout style scope rail
  • Adjustable LOP
Check Price

Spec Comparison of the Best Bolt Action Rifles

Below is a table of the specifications for the best bolt action rifles.

RifleBarrel Length (in)Overall Length (in)Weight (lbs)Caliber

CZ 600 Lux

20-2439.2-43.28.2.223, .308, .30-06, .300 Win Mag

Savage Impulse 

18-2441.58.8.243, 6.5 CM, .308, 300 WSM, .30-06, 300 Win Mag

Tikka T1x MTR

16-20.133.7-37.85.7-6.2.22LR, 17 HMR

Ruger Precision Rifle

24-2646.7510.7-15.2.308, 6.5 CM, .338 Lapua, 300 Win Mag, 300 PRC

Browning X-Bolt Series

22-2641.75-46.756-7Many

Christensen Arms TFM

16-27327.3-7.786.5 CM, 6.5 PRC, .308, .300 Win Mag, .338 Lapua, 300 Norma Mag, 300 PRC, 338 Norma Mag

Ruger Scout Rifle

16.1-18.738.57.1.308, 450 Bushmaster, 350 Legend

Best Bolt Action Rifle

Here is our list for the best products:

  1. CZ 600 Lux
  2. Savage Impulse
  3. Tikka T1x MTR
  4. Ruger Precision Rifle
  5. Browning X-Bolt Series
  6. Christensen Arms TFM
  7. Ruger Scout Rifle

Best Products – Reviews 

1 CZ 600 Lux

CZ-600-Lux-Feature-Image

CZ 600 Lux

A Safari style bolt action rifle with iron sights, threaded barrel and a detachable magazine that can be locked into place.

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value B

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CZ 600 Lux Specs

  • Barrel Length 20-24 in
  • Overall Length 39.2-43.2 in
  • Weight 8.2 lbs
  • Calibers .223, .308, .30-06, .300 Win Mag

CZ 600 Lux Review

The CZ 600 series is brand new and already going quite far for CZ. They’ve made it an entire family of rifles, and the Lux series is the ultimate model. This gun blends old school and new school to make one awesome bolt-action rifle. The 600 Lux series blends modern technology with old-school cool. The result is a rifle that looks like something that was taken out of the hands of an old-school English hunter on safari. 

This includes a wood stock that is to die for. It’s got a wonderful grip and forend that’s checkered nicely and very comfortable in the hand. It’s checkering that looks as good as it feels. The rear grip is shallowed out for a sure and comfortable trip, and the rifle’s distinctive pistol grip is fairly vertical. This allowed me to tuck it into my shoulder to stabilize the gun and reduce the recoil. The bolt knob is also wood, which is charming and very nice on the hand. 

Across the top is a set of safari sights that are just so freaking sweet. I love iron sights on bolt guns, and safari sights are open sights designed for quick on-target shots. When hunting a lion, fast shots count. I’m no lion hunter, but I still love the sights and wish more guns hand them. Those great sights are combined with an awesome trigger that’s super smooth and a cold hammer-forged barrel. The result is a rifle that’s accurate enough that CZ provides a sub-moa guarantee. 

The 600 Lux comes in everything from .223 Remington to .300 Win Mag. It’s got both long and short-action options. Overall, the LUX is a great rifle, but like all great rifles, it’s not cheap, and for the price, you aren’t getting a lot of modern love. 

CZ 600 Lux Pros and Cons

  • Sub MOA guarantee
  • Tons of caliber options
  • Awesome sights
  • Expensive

CZ 600 Lux Deals

2 Savage Impulse Predator

Savage Impulse Predator

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy A
  • Value B-

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A-

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Savage Impulse Specs

  • Barrel Length 18-24 in
  • Overall Length 41.5 in
  • Weight 8.8 lbs
  • Calibers .243, .308, 6.5 CM, 300 WSM, .30-06, 300 Win Mag

Savage Impulse Review

The Savage Impulse is probably my personal favorite bolt action rifle. It’s because I have a tendency to enjoy the odd and unusual, and in the United States, the Impulse is odd. It’s a straight pull bolt action rifle. Instead of going up, rearward, forward, and down, it’s just back and forth. This makes it super quick to get follow-up shots. That’s rare in the United States because semi-autos are the norm, and it’s not really needed.

Still, it’s super enjoyable to pull the bolt back and forth. The bolt action is quite smooth, and the challenge of operating a manual action rifle still exists…it just wants to go fast. The Impulse is a hunting rifle in most configurations, but surprisingly to no one, they also produce a chassied-up precision model for competition shooters. 

The Impulse features the Accu-Trigger design, which is the best budget stock trigger for bolt guns on the market. The trigger blade safety device works well, and the very short pull and travel of the actual trigger make accurate shooting easy. These guns come in a wide variety of calibers and configurations, with my favorite being the .308 and 6.5 Creedmoor options. Sadly, no intermediate cartridges like .223. 

The rifle proved to be very accurate in my hands. Even in a standing position, the gun’s weight helps stabilize it and makes it easy shooting. The removable mags are a nice touch, and the various configurations ensure there is something for everyone. They integrate a 20 MOA scope rail into the receiver, which prevents tolerance stacking, much to the joy of many shooters. Plus, you can even adjust the length of pull and add a taller cheek rest. 

The downside is weight. These rifles are beefy and hefty. It’s not bad in the tree stand, but you’ll want a sling during the stalk. 

Savage Impulse Pros and Cons

  • Fast cycling
  • Very accurate
  • Adjustable LOP
  • Heavy

Savage Impulse Deals

3 Tikka T1X MTR

Tikka T1x MTR Featured Image

Tikka T1X MTR

The Tikka T1X MTR (multi-task rimfire) comes in black only, but the T3X accessories will work with the T1X stock.  What that means is that you could order grips or beavertail forend in OD green, olive green, orange, stone grey, or black to give your rifle that two-tone styling.

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  • Shootability A+
  • Reliability B
  • Ergonomics A+
  • Accuracy A
  • Value B

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A-

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Tikka T1x MTR Specs

  • Barrel Length 16-20.1 in
  • Overall Length 33.7-37.8 in
  • Weight 5.7-6.2 lbs
  • Calibers 22LR, 17 HMR

Tikka T1x MTR Review

I wanted to ensure I offered a rimfire option on this list. Rimfire guns, specifically 22LR, are famous for how easy they are to use and how capable they can be for target shooting, training, and small game hunting. There are tons of bolt-action rimfires, but I can’t think of one better than the Tika T1X MTR. The T1X MTR is a .22LR, or you can go with the fast-flying, hard-hitting 17 HMR. 

This rimfire bolt gun gives you a short, light, and accurate platform. At 5.5 pounds, any shooter, from novice and newb to journeyman and expert, can wield the gun with ease. It doesn’t discriminate by any means. Recoil is very light, and even a young shooter can easily use the rifle. There are even left-handed options, so they leave no one out. It’s the most accessible rifle on this list.

It’s a Tikka, so you get a fully bedded rifle. Even if it’s a rimfire, they don’t hold back. The barrel is free-floated from the stock, and this results in a very accurate weapon overall. It’s perfect for small game hunting, plinking, and training, but wouldn’t be out of the picture at a rimfire competition shoot with some Eley ammo. 

The bolt action is super smooth, and honestly, it might spoil new shooters. Going from a Tikka to something a little more standard might feel like a punishment! The T1x MTR could have just been a quick toss-it-out-and-forget-it rimfire, but they didn’t do that. They put that Tikka magic into rimfire. Of course, that means it’s a little pricier than most, but it’s understandable. Like all rimfire rifles, the reliability will really be determined by ammo more than the rifle, so shoot the good stuff for the best results. 

Tikka T1x MTR Pros and Cons

  • Lightweight
  • Super accurate
  • Accessible to everyone
  • Expensive

Tikka T1x MTR Deals

4 Ruger Precision Rifle

Ruger Precision Rifle Featured Image

Ruger Precision Rifle

Ruger’s factory made, competition ready, bolt action rifle.

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics B+
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A

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A

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A+

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Ruger Precision Rifle Specs

  • Barrel Length 24-26 in
  • Overall Length 46.75 in
  • Weight 10.7-15.2 in
  • Calibers .308, 6.5 CM, .338 Lapua Mag, 300 Win Mag, 300 PRC

Ruger Precision Rifle Review

There is a whole category of customized, high-dollar precision rifles that haven’t made it to this list. These rifles are rare, tough to find, and often built for specific purposes. If you want one of those rifles, you likely already know what you want and aren’t coming here. If you want to dive into the world of precision shooting and even the PRS series, then the Ruger Precision Rifle is the way to go. Ruger set out to create an accurate, precision rifle at a fair price point and did just that. 

For under two thousand dollars, you can get into the world of precision shooting. That’s expensive, but for precision rifles, it’s quite affordable. Some models go for more than two thousand, but the .308s and 6.5 Creedmoor come in at around 1,700 dollars. The Ruger Precision rifle is no plain Jane budget option, but it’s adorned with some very modern features that make it a cut above the rest. 

We have a fully adjustable stock that allows you to adjust for length of pull very precisely. You can also adjust the cheek rest to meet the needs of your optic. One thing that first surprised me about the Ruger Precision Rifle was the recoil. Most bolt actions give you the full dose of recoil, but the inline stock design of the RPR keeps the gun from wanting to rise and makes recoil more manageable. I imagine in calibers like .338 Lapua, this is quite valuable, as is the big recoil-reducing brake. 

Opposite the stock is an M-LOK handguard that’s ready for a bipod. It’s basically screaming for one. Across the top is an integrated optics rail. The receiver hosts an AR-compatible grip and safety selector. Not to mention the cold hammer forged barrel that’s built for accuracy. 

What’s the downside? Well, it’s big and heavy and only really useful for precision rifle matches. It’s tough to hunt with a rifle like this. 

Ruger Precision Rifle Pros and Cons

  • Affordable precision
  • Modern design
  • Ultra accurate
  • Big and heavy

Ruger Precision Rifle Deals

5 Browning X-Bolt Hunter

Browning X-Bolt Hunter Featured Image

Browning X-Bolt Hunter

A classic looking bolt action rifle with walnut stock in the Browning X series line of rifles..

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics A+
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value B

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A

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A+

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Browning X-Bolt Series Specs

  • Barrel Length 22-26 in
  • Overall Length 41.75-46.75 in
  • Weight 6-7 lbs
  • Calibers Many

Browning X-Bolt Series Review

Browning is a legendary name in the gun world, and while John Moses Browning passed away almost a century ago, his name lives on. These days, Browning is a company owned by FN that produces sporting arms aimed at the hunting world. The Browning X-Bolt is Browning’s premier bolt action rifle series. The X-Bolt offers a ton of small but nice features that appeal to many shooters. 

The X-Bolt comes with the little things. Things like a detachable magazine, the very solid X-Lock scope mounting system, and the ability to open the bolt without disengaging the safety. That’s the little things. One big thing is the accuracy the weapon provides. It’s super accurate with a very nice trigger. They designed the rifle for placing precise shots on animals of nearly any size.

To do so, we have a free-floating barrel and glass bedded stock. The X-Lock scope mounting system has a reputation for being quite robust. When it comes to glass, the better secured it is, the better it will perform. The bolt movement is ultra smooth, like polished ball bearings gliding the bolt back and forth. It’s the best adult fidget toy I’ve ever handled. 

When it comes to premier, precision-oriented hunting rifles, the Browning X-Bolt is tough to beat. It mixes a series of excellent qualities together to form a rifle that’s precise but also lightweight, ergonomic, and in enough variations that you can chase everything from whitetail deer to bear with one. 

Browning makes tons of variations of the gun in tons of calibers. This includes simple camouflage finishes down to specific task configurations. Models like the Long Range allow you to reach out and touch targets and are accessorized appropriately. The Speed model features a shorter bolt throw that makes the weapon cycle quickly and efficiently. There is a little something for everyone with the X-Bolt. 

Browning X-Bolt Series Pros and Cons

  • Tons of variations and calibers
  • Very accurate
  • Very high quality
  • Expensive

Browning X-Bolt Series Deals

6 Christensen Arms TFM

Christensen Arms TFM Featured Image

Christensen Arms TFM

A long range tactical rifle with adjustable carbon fiber stock and carbon fiber wrapped barrel.

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics A+
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value C+

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A

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Christensen Arms TFM Specs

  • Barrel Length 16-27 in
  • Overall Length 32 in
  • Weight 7.3-7.78 lbs
  • Calibers 6.5 CM, 6.5 PRC, .308, .300 Win Mag, .338 Lapua Mag, 300 Norma Mag, 300 PRC, 338 Norma Mag

Christensen Arms TFM Review

The bolt action rifle world was doing just fine until Christensen Arms popped in and shook everything up. Traditional companies like Remington were stuck and lagging behind. Christensen Arms swept in with stock features that other companies would consider to be custom. Guns like the TFM, for example, show why such a small company has become so dominant. TFM stands for Tactical Force Multiplier. 

As you’d imagine, it’s aimed at the sniping role, but you’d be silly if you think you couldn’t take the TFM and apply it to other roles and duties, from precision comp rifle to the most tactical rifle out there. The TFM brings in the same features that made Christensen Arms so dominant. This includes the carbon fiber-wrapped barrel for unparalleled precision while still remaining lightweight and balanced. At 7.3 pounds, it’s not unmanageable. 

The end of the barrel sports an aggressive brake to take some sting out of the lightweight rifle. The TFM comes with a half MOA guarantee. That’s a crazy degree of accuracy, and the free-floating barrel and glass-beaded stock are just expected at this tier of rifle. So is the overall excellent trigger. It provides a short pull and crisp break that’s entirely predictable and consistent. 

We’ve talked a good bit about the rifle’s barrel, but let’s jump to the rear end. The Christensen Arms TFM comes with a fully adjustable stock that provides an adjustable cheek weld and length of pull. The stock allows you to tailor the rifle to your body, scope height, and more. Comfort isn’t required to shoot accurately, but it sure helps. 

The TFM comes in calibers ranging from 6mm Creedmoor to .338 Lapua. It’s a hard-hitting, easy-shooting, and very capable rifle at long ranges. That half MOA guarantee means it’s absurdly accurate and very capable of putting precise shots where you want. The downside is, of course, price; it’s not a cheap rifle, and you really can’t get a rifle like this for less. 

Christensen Arms TFM Pros and Cons

  • Absurdly accurate
  • Lightweight and balanced
  • Excellent ergonomics
  • Expensive

Christensen Arms TFM Deals

7 Ruger Scout

Ruger Scout

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy A
  • Value B

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 12 Reviews

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Ruger Scout Rifle Specs

  • Barrel Length 16.1-18.7 in
  • Overall Length 38.5 in
  • Weight 7.1 lbs
  • Calibers .308, 450 Bushmaster, 350 Legend

Ruger Scout Rifle Review

Jeff Cooper outlined the Scout Rifle concept decades ago. His idea was for a do-it-all rifle that incorporated many somewhat niche features. Those features being:

  • A long eye relief scope mounted forward of the action.
  • An action that can be charged with stripper clips and potentially removable magazines.
  • The rifle would be fairly light at eight pounds and at least 2 MOA accurate. 

Jeff Cooper designed the concept in 1983, but oddly enough, it recently made quite the comeback. The Scout Rifle concept has lived on, and Ruger’s Scout Rifle has certainly fit most of Cooper’s requirements. It might lack a magazine cut-off, but it certainly shoots better than two MOA. The gun features a rail forward of the action for a scope and comes with a set of ghost ring iron sights as auxiliary options. The rifle comes in a variety of calibers, including .308, but also .350 Legend and 450 Bushmaster.

Cooper outlined the need for a synthetic stock, and Ruger has those options, as well as several wood stock options for the more traditional shooters. The Ruger Scout Rifle comes with a detachable magazine for quick reloads and is set up for slings. One impressive feature is the ability to adjust the length of pull to make it shorter or longer to fit the shooter via a set of spacers. 

The barrel is free-floating and cold hammer forged for maximum accuracy. You’ll exceed Cooper’s accuracy standards by a long shot. At the tip of the muzzle sits either a flash hider or brake, depending on the caliber. Plus, you get the vaunted Mauser-type controlled feed extractor. 

The best part of any Scout rifle is just how fun it is to shoot. These guns are a blast at the range. Hitting targets quickly at moderate ranges is where they really excel, especially from unsupported positions. With the .308 models weighing a little over six pounds, it certainly won’t tire you out too bad. 

Ruger Scout Rifle Pros and Cons

  • Lightweight
  • Fulfills the Scout Rifle design
  • Fun to shoot
  • Easy handling
  • Not great for longer ranges
  • Tough to find good long eye relief optics

Ruger Scout Rifle Deals

The Bolt Gun World 

The bolt gun world is absolutely massive. You can find something for everyone in nearly any caliber. I’m betting if I looked hard enough, I could find a bolt-action rifle in .32 ACP. You have lots and lots and lots of options, and there is something for everyone. 

With a bolt action rifle, you can get into Precision Rifle Competitions, hunt, or just enjoy having affordable precision. Bolt guns still rule, and their resurgence is a welcome one! I, for one, welcome back bolt gun supremacy. What say you? 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why choose a bolt action rifle over a semi-auto rifle?

Bolt action rifles offer several advantages, including superior accuracy, reliability, and a wide range of caliber options. They are often more affordable for achieving high accuracy levels compared to semi-auto rifles in the same price range.

Are bolt action rifles more accurate than semi-auto rifles?

In most cases, when comparing rifles of similar price ranges, bolt action rifles tend to be more accurate. The manual operation of a bolt action allows for precise and consistent shot placement, making them the preferred choice for those seeking the smallest possible groupings.

What makes bolt action rifles reliable?

Bolt action rifles are known for their reliability due to their manually operated design. The simplicity of the bolt action mechanism makes these rifles less prone to malfunctions, especially when using different types of ammunition, making them versatile and dependable.

Are bolt action rifles legal in all states?

As of the information available, there is no state that outright bans bolt action rifles. They are a common and widely accepted firearm configuration around the world, making them a legal option in all states within the United States.

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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