7 Best Hunting Rifles in 2024 — What Setup Is Right For You?

by David Lane

April 30, 2024

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(10)

While hunting is a sport of skill, having the right equipment can seriously increase your chances. For me, the cornerstone of any gun hunter’s gear is their rifle. Choosing one is a major decision, considering factors like your hunting style, the terrain, and the game you pursue. With countless options available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But don’t worry, that’s why I’ve put together this guide to the best hunting rifles, simplifying the process for you. By the end, you’ll feel confident in selecting a rifle that perfectly suits your needs.

Best Hunting Rifles

What Is a Hunting Rifle?

A hunting rifle is a firearm specifically designed and used for hunting game animals. These rifles are typically long-barreled and are chambered for cartridges suitable for hunting purposes, such as various calibers of rifle cartridges. They often come equipped with optical sights like scopes to enhance accuracy at different distances. There’s quite a variety of hunting rifles out there, from bolt-action to semi-automatic, catering to different hunting conditions and individual preferences. Ultimately, the choice of a hunting rifle depends on factors like the type of game, the terrain, and the shooter’s style.

How I Chose the Best Hunting Rifles

As someone who’s been hunting and shooting all my life, I’ve had the opportunity to try out numerous hunting rifles. When compiling this list of best hunting rifles, I carefully considered factors such as accuracy, reliability, ergonomics, and value.

However, I wanted to present a well-rounded list, so I reached out to some of my hunting buddies for their insights and suggestions. With their input and recommendations, I’ve put together this comprehensive list of my top picks.

I know that choosing a hunting rifle is a personal decision, so I’ve categorized some of these rifles based on their best uses to cater to everyone’s preferences. Additionally, I’ve included a buyer’s guide to help you navigate the options and find the perfect fit for your needs.

Man aiming with a hunting rifle

Now that you know how I’ve evaluated the rifles on this list, let’s jump straight to the list itself. 

Best Hunting Rifles

Editors’ Choice

Sig Sauer Cross

Sig Sauer Cross
  • Chassis system
  • Folding stock
  • Ultra-lightweight
Check Price
Best Durable

Bergara B-14 Ridge

Bergara B-14 Ridge
  • Exactly the features you need
  • Threaded barrel
  • Remington 700 footprint
Check Price
Best Budget

Tikka T3x Lite

Tikka T3x Lite
  • Lightweight
  • Smoothest factory-made bolt ever
  • Simple design
Check Price
Springfield Armory Waypoint
  • Carbon fiber stock
  • TriggerTech trigger
  • Ultra-lightweight
Check Price
Savage 110 Hunter
  • Grippy when wet
  • AccuTrigger
  • Huge range of calibers available
Check Price
Best Entry Level

Howa 1500 Hogue

Howa 1500 Hogue
  • Comes with a scope
  • Ready-to-go package
  • Inexpensive
Check Price
Browning X-Bolt Speed
  • Super accurate
  • Rotary magazine
  • 60-degree bolt throw
Check Price

Best Hunting Rifle Specs

Below is a list of our Best Hunting Rifles, so we can compare and line up the specs from each of the rifles and help you make the best decision possible.

Hunting RifleWeightOverall LengthBarrel LengthTrigger StyleThreaded BarrelDBM or Fixed
Sig Sauer Cross6.5 lbs36.5"16" or 18"2-Stage MatchYesDBM
Bergara B-14 Ridge7.2 lbs -7.7 lbs37.5"- 44"18"- 24"Single StageYesFixed
Tikka T3x Lite6.3 lbs - 6.5 lbs42.5"- 44.5"22"- 24"Single StageNoDBM
Springfield Armory Waypoint6.5 lbs - 8.2 lbs43.5" - 45.5"20"- 24"Single StageYesDBM
Savage 110 Hunter7.25 lbs - 7.55 lbs42.25" - 45.25"22" - 24"AccuTriggerNoDBM
Howa 1500 Hogue7.8 lbs - 6.2 lbs38" - 50"22" - 24"2-Stage HACTNoFixed
Browning X-Bolt Speed6.5 lbs42" - 46"22" - 26"2-Stage MatchYesDBM

Best Hunting Rifles

  1. Sig Sauer Cross
  2. Bergara B-14 Ridge
  3. Tikka T3x Lite
  4. Springfield Armory Waypoint
  5. Savage 110 Hunter
  6. Howa 1500 Hogue
  7. Browning X-Bolt Speed

Best Hunting Rifles Reviews

Now that we’ve had an overview and looked at our list, let us take the time to individually review each item. In this section, we’ll be revisiting our specs, speaking about the product, and looking at the pros and cons.

1. Sig Sauer Cross : Editors’ Choice

Editor's Choice
SIG Sauer Cross

Sig Sauer Cross

A super modern hunting rifle with all of the features and swagger of a tactical rifle, but in a lightweight mountain-ready package.

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

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 20 Reviews

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Sig Sauer Cross Specs

  • Weight 6.5 lbs
  • Overall Length 36.5”
  • Barrel Length 16” or 18”
  • Trigger Style 2 Stage Match
  • Threaded Barrel Yes
  • DBM or Fixed DBM
  • Extra Features Folding Stock

Sig Sauer Cross Review

The Sig Sauer Cross is pretty fresh on the market, but its first steps into our hands did not go well. It’s Sig’s first bolt action rifle design and almost immediately after it was released, YouTuber Nutnfancy posted a video showing the Cross firing while the safety was engaged. Sig Sauer issued a recall a few days later and quickly solved the issue with the rifle basically re-releasing a few months later.

My Sig Sauer Cross is from the second-generation post-safety fix.

I’ve been looking forward to this rifle since I shot some pre-production versions at SHOT Show 2020 and I have to say, this bolt gun did not disappoint me in the slightest. It’s got a great design; the chassis-bolt action combination means that it’s extremely lightweight, the folding stock improves portability, and the threaded barrel makes sure that I can add any standard suppressor to it. The Cross’s trigger is 3 lbs, which is a good weight for hunting, but what really sold me was its smooth break that’s user adjustable. This, for me, is everything I’ve been looking for in a hunting rifle.

While Sig Sauer markets the Cross as a “long-range precision rifle,” I strongly disagree as this is a hunting rifle through and through. While this rifle is totally capable of reaching out, the low overall weight and short barrel make for a rather poor long-range precision rifle.

But on your back in the mountains, this is an amazing rifle.

Even when I’m not planning on doing much more than plinking at the range, I tend to bring my Cross along with me just because it’s light, handy, and fun to shoot. I also really like how easy it is to handle. Since its design somewhat mimics an AR15, anyone familiar with an AR15 shouldn’t have any issues at all in handling this rifle. 

What I love about the Cross is that they don’t use a crazy long barrel. Most hunting rifles come with barrels that are at least 22” long, but the Cross comes in either 16” or 18” depending on the caliber. The short barrel also shaves off some considerable weight, making the rifle lightweight and comfortable to carry. Realistically, this is a much more practical barrel choice and I love that. 

The compact nature of this rifle is perfect for hiking with or stalking through the brush. As a western hunter and shooter, the fact that my complete hunting setup with scope, bipod, and muzzle brake is about 7.6 lbs is wonderful. 

While there’s a lot to love about this rifle, I also have a few complaints. One issue is its aluminum body — it’s a cold rifle to carry when you are out in the woods, so I wouldn’t pick it if I am out hunting in the winter. The Cross is also really picky about the ammo; I had to stick to high grade ammo because whenever I switched to lower grade ones, the performance dropped drastically. 

However, considering that it’s one of the more affordable and lightweight options out there for hunting rifles, I can forgive its flaws. If you’re looking for a trustworthy hunting rifle that you can take out on hikes, the Cross just might be the one for you. You can check out our full review of the Sig Sauer Cross to learn more. 

Sig Sauer Cross Pros and Cons

  • Lightweight makes for easy hiking
  • Folding stock for compact storage
  • Threaded barrel for a suppressor or muzzle brake
  • AR-15/10 ergonomics
  • Expensive
  • Not a fan of the magazine release being inside the trigger guard

Sig Sauer Cross Deals

2. Bergara B-14 Ridge : Best Durable

BERGARA B-14 RIDGE

Bergara B-14 Ridge

A Spanish-made perfected version of a classic American rifle. There is a new king in town.

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

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 3 Reviews

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Bergara B-14 Ridge Specs

  • Weight 7.2 lbs – 7.7 lbs
  • Overall Length 37.5” – 44”
  • Barrel Length 18″ – 24″
  • Trigger Style Single Stage
  • Threaded Barrel Yes
  • DBM or Fixed Fixed

Bergara B-14 Ridge Review

One of the most iconic American hunting rifles of the past 100 years has been the Remington Model 700. But sadly, Remington simply wasn’t able to live up to its own name for much of the past 20 years. Since the fall of that great brand, others have come to take the crown.

The Bergara B-14 series of rifles has gained a near-legendary reputation for being an R700 pattern rifle but made to a radically higher standard of quality than what Remington has put out.

While their B-14 HMR is my favorite version, it’s a bit heavy for a dedicated hunting rifle. Instead, the B-14 Ridge is much lighter and is a much more “classic” style of a hunting rifle.

Built using an R700 footprint, this gives you access to a huge range of aftermarket accessories and upgrades if you want them. The design is pretty clever; the free floated barrel makes sure your rifle is going to be accurate, plus the stock is one of the most comfortable ones I’ve used in a while. The construction is also solid as it is made of chrome moly steel, which is stronger and more durable than regular steel, so this rifle will last you for a while. 

As for the action, Bergara uses its own B-14 with double bolts and I don’t have many complaints because it does a great job of inserting and extracting the cartridge from the chamber. The trigger action was also quite consistent and I was able to get crisp breaks with even amount of pressure every single time.

However, with its weighted action and barrel contour, the Bergara is a heavy gun compared to many others on the list. This means that while you can definitely take it out when you’ll be mostly hunting from stationary spots, I wouldn’t recommend carrying it on mountain hikes. It is also not the most adjustable rifle out there — I had to remove the whole stock to adjust the trigger — so if customizability is a big factor for you, I’d steer you away from this one. 

That said, Bergara rifles are accurate, simple, modern, and ready for anything. While this rifle doesn’t really give you much in the way of fancy features, this is in every way a modern take on the legendary classic American hunting rifle.

Bergara B-14 Ridge Pros and Cons

  • Threaded barrel
  • R700 compatible with triggers and stocks/chassis
  • Highly durable and reliable
  • Great action pull
  • No comb adjustment

Bergara B-14 Ridge Product Deals

3. Tikka T3x Lite : Best Budget

Tikka T3x Lite

Tikka T3x Lite

Made in Finland and imported by Beretta USA, the Tikka T3x Lite is one of the best imports you can buy.

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

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 5 Reviews

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Tikka T3x Lite Specs

  • Weight 6.3 lbs – 6.5 lbs
  • Overall Length 42.5″ – 44.5″
  • Barrel Length 22″ – 24″
  • Trigger Style Single Stage
  • Threaded Barrel No
  • DBM or Fixed DBM

Tikka T3x Lite Review

Years ago, a Tikka T3x Lite in .270 Win was the very first hunting rifle that I bought for myself. It’s also the rifle that I started learning long-range precision shooting with. Although that was a long time ago, the T3x Lite is still one of the best rifles I’ve ever used or owned. 

Accurate as all get out, simple to use, and with a bolt that feels like greased glass — this is a fine example of top-quality production and honestly gives a custom-made feel to a mass-produced rifle.

True to its name, it comes in very lightweight at 6.5-ish lbs even in long action cartridges. All of that and you’ll rarely see these for more than about $750, so I’d say it’s a great balance of affordability, shootability, and accuracy. Another plus is the available range of accessories and rounds; you can find the T3x Lite in all sorts of calibers, stocks, and controls.

The action is a two locking lug system that does a decent job of cycling ammo. The magazine holds 3-4 cartridges at a time and the smooth reloading makes the whole process painless. I am also a fan of the high quality recoil pads as they make the recoil very manageable and they definitely help with the comfort factor as well. 

Something that really stands out to me in this gun is the trigger; it’s an excellent single stage trigger and the best part is that you can adjust the trigger weight (2 lbs-4 lbs). The break is also very smooth and consistent, letting me take quick and accurate shots out in the field. 

So what are the downsides? The stock is honestly kind of horrible. It does its job I guess, but it’s a very cheap plastic feel. Mine hasn’t broken even after hard knocks and long use, but it still feels cheap in your hands.

The lack of a threaded barrel is a big blow to me. With suppressors and brakes becoming more popular by the day, it would be nice if more hunting rifles came standard with threaded barrels.

That said — this is a great rifle and you will not be disappointed. 

Tikka T3x Lite Pros and Cons

  • A bolt smoother than greased glass
  • Lightweight
  • Magazine fed
  • Very accurate
  • Stock feels like a child’s stock

Tikka T3x Lite Deals

4. Springfield Armory Waypoint : Best High-End

Springfield Armory Waypoint

Built like a PRS rifle but with the modern hunter in mind, the Waypoint might usher in a new era of hunting rifle design.

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

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 8 Reviews

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Springfield Armory Waypoint Specs

  • Weight 6.5 lbs – 8.2 lbs
  • Overall Length 43.5″ – 45.5″
  • Barrel Length 20″ – 24″
  • Trigger Style Single Stage
  • Threaded Barrel Yes
  • DBM or Fixed DBM

Springfield Armory Waypoint Review

If I’m being honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Springfield Armory. Their pistols just aren’t my jam, their rifles never floored me. Until the Waypoint. This rifle… this rifle is just WOW.

From the very modern stock with the full pistol grip styling to the threaded barrel that comes with a brake to the ACIS magazines to the ultra-smooth bolt and .75 MOA guarantee — this rifle really delivers on basically everything.

About 2 months before the Waypoint was announced I was planning a custom rifle build, it looked almost part for part exactly like the Waypoint.

This is clearly a rifle that was designed for the modern hunter and has taken a lot of design clues from the PRS competition world to make it the best rifle it can be.

Depending on the model you choose, you can also get the Waypoint with carbon fiber barrels to shave even more weight off of the system. I got a 6.5 Creedmoor myself and this one, along with some other models like the 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, and .308 Winchester are short action only, so keep that in mind if you are considering this rifle. The action itself is pretty solid as it’s CNC-machined from the billet and the recoil lug gives you enough strength and repeatability. 

The gun features a 1913 spec rail, so you can easily mount scopes or any other accessories you want to. It also comes with an adjustable TriggerTech trigger and the trigger weight of the ones on the Model 2020 Waypoint can be adjusted from 2.5 lbs – 5 lbs. 

But this rose has a couple of thorns. Top of my list is, like the Sig Cross, the Waypoint has a magazine release placed inside the trigger guard — I really hate that.

The trigger, while amazing, has a super deep curve to it. I like curved triggers, but this feels like a Lee-Enfield curve and it just doesn’t sit with my finger as well as I would like.

Finally, these are expensive. Steel barrel rifles’ MSRP starts at $1,797, carbon fiber barrel models start at an MSRP of $2,394. On the high-end, the Waypoint tops out at $2,527.

That’s a lot of money. That is literally custom hunting rifle money. Is the Waypoint worth that much? Maybe, but not to everyone.

For a full review on this rifle, make sure to check out our Springfield Armory Waypoint Review.

Springfield Armory Waypoint Pros and Cons

  • Lightweight
  • Fully adjustable
  • Radial brake
  • Outstanding design
  • Oof, that price

Springfield Armory Waypoint Deals

5. Savage 110 Hunter : Best Range

Savage 110 Hunter

Savage 110 Hunter

Lightweight, inexpensive, wide range of calibers offered, this is a simple and to the point hunting rifle.

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

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

A

Based on 5 Reviews

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Savage 110 Hunter Specs

  • Weight 7.25 lbs – 7.55 lbs
  • Overall Length 42.25″ – 45.25″
  • Barrel Length 22″ – 24″
  • Trigger Style AccuTrigger
  • Threaded Barrel No
  • DBM or Fixed DBM

Savage 110 Hunter Review

The Savage 110 is a rifle that is offered in a huge range of styles. From PRS rifles in MDT chassis to simple hunting rifles in plastic stocks, the 110 has a lot of legs to it.

If you’re looking for something on the hunting side of things, the 110 Hunter is a great option.

While the styling and stock design aren’t anything groundbreaking, it is done in a simple yet highly functional manner that gives you what you need. You can adjust the stock length as you need, and the sling attachments are also built-in.

The simple bolt design is one of my favorite parts; it makes sure the locking parts connect with the receiver, minimizing the headspace when the bolt is closed. This tight space helps improve your accuracy. It also has an in-built AccuStock rail system to provide stability and maintain accuracy. I’ve shot this at 200 yards with my good ammo and managed to get 1-inch groups pretty consistently.  

There are extra grip surfaces placed where your hands normally go to help with things getting wet, and the stock is semi-adjustable for the length of pull and comb height. The trigger is Savage’s AccuTrigger and is adjustable for pull weight, so that’s nice too. It’s a clean pull with no creep and also has a lever mounted within to prevent accidental discharges.

What really helps this rifle shine is the fact that it is offered in a huge range of calibers, some of them very niche and uncommon. From 204 Ruger to 300 Winchester Mag with interesting offerings like 280 AI IMP and 7mm-08 thrown in, this rifle covers a lot of ground.

The Savage 110 also has a detachable box magazine for quick and safe loading. Even the 3-position tang safety lets you load and unload in the safe position. The grip is pretty comfortable too; you get fore-end and pistol grip surfaces with a non-slip hold in any weather.

Right out of the box, it’s a pretty decent firearm. And all of that is offered at a very fair price for a solid hunting rifle. Overall, the Savage 110 Hunter is an exceptional rifle that often gets overlooked.

Savage 110 Hunter Pros and Cons

  • Lightweight
  • Huge range of calibers available
  • Extra grip on the grippy parts
  • Low-cost
  • Known extractor issues
  • No quick adjustment options

Savage 110 Hunter Deals

6. Howa 1500 Hogue : Best Entry Level

_HOWA 1500 HOGUE

Howa 1500 Hogue

Rock bottom budget price but punches way above what you expect, dollar for dollar this might be the best ever made.

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

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 4 Reviews

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Howa 1500 Hogue Specs

  • Weight 6.2 lbs – 7.8 lbs
  • Overall Length 38″ – 50″
  • Barrel Length 22″ – 24″
  • Trigger Style 2-Stage HACT
  • Threaded Barrel No
  • DBM or Fixed Fixed

Howa 1500 Hogue Review

I’ve owned no less than 7 Howa 1500s over the years and these are just good rifles. Not great, not amazing, but very solidly Good

For the cost, these are some of the best buys you can make since they punch way, way above their price points.

The construction of the The Howa 1500 Hogue is solid. It comes in a much improved Hogue stock; cheap and plastic but solid and well-made. The bolt and receiver are steel forged while the barrel is cold hammer forged, so this gun can take a lot of abuse and still keep going strong. In addition to that, it is also waterproof and shockproof, ideal for hunting in extreme conditions.

The stock feels really great on your hands and gives such a solid grip that it won’t slip off you even in the rain. There’s rubber coating molded over the stock frame, so it won’t make much noise in case it hits something while you’re out hunting. 

I also really like its action; it’s super smooth and there’s no gritty feeling at all, which makes the whole process of changing cartridges painless. There’s a hinged floorplate in front of the trigger guard so you can access unfired cartridges easily. Unfortunately, there’s no adjustment for the length of the pull or comb. And no threaded barrel to attach a muzzle brake or a suppressor as well.

But something that really helps the 1500 stand out is the HACT trigger. Howa makes their own triggers and these two stage beauties are almost magical. By far the best factory trigger on a hunting rifle you can find on any rifle under $2,000.

Every HOWA 1500 I’ve owned has also been shockingly accurate. From 300 BLK to 300 Win Mag, all of my rifles have shot at least 1 MOA, and most of them are much better with the right ammo. Follow-up shots are also a breeze thanks to the thick and gently curved recoil pad at the back of the gun. They really help in reducing and redirecting the recoil, so I don’t really feel the kickback too much. This helps me maintain consistent accuracy, which is pretty impressive within this price bracket.

The HOWA 1500 Hogue lets you do a lot of customizations; you can switch to an aftermarket stock, add a detachable magazine with a larger capacity, or just alter it to fit your style. Right out of the box though, this rifle is barebones, literally. It’s missing anything fancy outside of that wonderful trigger. But really, if that’s all you need… this lightweight and entry-level sporting rifle is an outstanding deal that will fill the freezer for pennies per pound.

Read our full review on the Howa 1500.

Howa 1500 Hogue Pros and Cons

  • Super low price
  • Lots of aftermarket upgrades
  • HACT trigger is outstanding
  • Bolt likes to bind
  • No adjustment options

Howa 1500 Hogue Deals

7. Browning X-Bolt Speed : Best Value

Browning X-Bolt Speed

Browning X-Bolt Speed

Speed in the title makes the bullets go faster, right? A semi-custom rifle design and feel that delivers big on features and value.

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

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

B

Based on 4 Reviews

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Browning X-Bolt Speed Specs

  • Weight 6.5 lbs
  • Overall Length 42″ – 46″
  • Barrel Length 22″ – 26″
  • Trigger Style 2-Stage Match
  • Threaded Barrel Yes
  • DBM or Fixed DBM
  • Extra Features Radial Brake

Browning X-Bolt Speed Review

Do you feel the need? The need for Speed? 

Put simply, the Browning X-Bolt Speed is kind of like a poor man’s Waypoint. At over $1,000 dollars cheaper but with many of the same features, the X-Bolt stands out as a huge value return on your money.

A simple stock, but well-made and very solid, is the weakest point of the rifle. No adjustment for length of pull or comb makes me sad, but it’s something we can live with.

Everything else… is pretty awesome.

The barrel is a sporter profile and has the weight reduced even more by being fluted. It comes threaded with a radial brake to make this lightweight rifle perform better in your hands. The barrel is also free-floated and bedded in the front and the rear for more stability. The muzzle brake also reduces recoil like a champ. Plus, it’s super cool how the Inflex Technology recoil pad works with the muzzle to reduce recoil for greater control on follow-up shots. 

This bolt is smooth, like really smooth. If Tikka is a 10/10, I think the X-Bolt is a 9/10. You can work the bolt quickly because its extended bolt handle cycles away from the scope smoothly. The bolt unlock button can be opened while the top-tang safety is in the safe position to give you another layer of security when checking or unloading the chamber. 

Something that really helps this rifle stand out is the fact that it comes standard with a Cerakote finish on the metal (which is more durable than traditional bluing or stainless steel) and an OVIX Camo on the stock. Both of these add to the durability of the rifle and help it blend well into western environments.

A 60-degree bolt lift and outstanding Feather trigger help round out the awesome features that come with the X-Bolt Speed. The trigger is very satisfying and accurate thanks to its clean and crisp pull with minimum overtravel.

Oh, and the magazine is a detachable box rotary magazine, which means you can feed cartridges directly in-line instead of feeding offset like you’d do with conventional magazines. That doesn’t really make a huge difference — it’s just cool.

This true mountain-style rifle is great for many field and environment conditions. The only small hassle in my eyes was it being a bit difficult to clean. I’m willing to let that go because this accuracy and lightweight combination is pretty ideal for hunting grounds. 

Browning X-Bolt Speed Pros and Cons

  • Cerakote finish
  • Radial brake
  • Special buttpad
  • Very fair price
  • Special magazines
  • 1 color option and nothing else

Browning X-Bolt Speed Deals

Best Hunting Rifles – Buyers Guide

Buying a good hunting rifle is a totally personal choice. It doesn’t matter what your grandfather used, or your brother uses, or that guy you met one time at work. The right rifle for you is what matters, nothing else.

Critically think about the type of hunting that you want to do. Hiking in and out of a mountain range is a lot different than using an ATV to get to a deer blind.

The type of game also matters — elk need a lot more energy on target than javelinas do.

All of the rifles we’ve listed here have their pros and cons, the right rifle for you will depend on what you’re doing and what your budget is.

Let’s break down what factors and features you should pay attention to.

Factors To Consider When Buying a Hunting Rifle

Weight: When you’re out hunting, weight matters. If you’re trekking up mountains, lighter gear is a lifesaver. But if you’re just sitting in a deer stand, it’s not such a big deal. However, lighter rifles can sometimes pack a punch, like that Barrett Fieldcraft in .308 Winchester Model. That’s where a threaded barrel comes in handy. It allows you to add a muzzle device, which can help soften the recoil. It’s a small upgrade that can make a big difference in how comfortable your rifle is to shoot.

So, for hunters on the move, a lighter rifle is a plus. But if you want to manage recoil, consider adding a threaded barrel and muzzle device for a smoother shooting experience.

Overall Length: The overall length is rarely going to be a make-it-or-break-it quality of a rifle. The only time you really need to keep it in mind is when you’re planning on traveling with your rifle. Make sure to get a rifle case that is long enough to hold your rifle, plus at least a couple of inches for padding. 

Caliber: Most medium to large calibers will work for almost any North American game, so I recommend not overthinking about the caliber of your gun when you get your rifle. Look for something that’s powerful enough for your ideal game and range, but also make sure that it’s not too powerful. Otherwise, you won’t be able to shoot it comfortably or consistently. 

Feel and Fit: A rifle is an investment, so you are going to want one that fits you just right. The ideal-size rifle should come up to your shoulders and work smoothly when you use it. It should also feel right in your hands, so always make sure to try out the model before making a final choice. 

Barrel Length: Think about how barrel length affects your hunting rifle. Longer barrels can boost velocity and range, but they might feel cumbersome in thick woods. Despite what some think, barrel length doesn’t directly mess with accuracy. For hunting within reasonable distances, a shorter barrel works just fine. Like a 6.5 Creedmoor with an 18” barrel, it keeps the velocity and gives you a lighter, more handy rifle. So, when you’re picking out a barrel length, think about how it balances with your need for velocity and your comfort in the field.

Trigger Styles: Triggers come in two types: single stage and two stage. Two stage triggers have a smooth initial pull until you hit a “wall,” where the pull weight increases before firing. Single stage triggers start at this “wall” with no initial smooth pull. Precision shooters often prefer single stage triggers for a cleaner pull, while two stage triggers are common in hunting rifles for safety. Neither is inherently better; it’s all about preference. However, if you tend to get shaky when aiming, consider a two stage trigger for its added safety feature. Ultimately, try both to see which feels right for you.

Threaded barrels: I touched on this earlier, but threaded barrels are really useful. Even if you don’t necessarily “need” a muzzle brake, having the option is convenient. Also, having the option for a suppressor is even better. It not only makes hunting quieter but also safer. While it might not completely protect your hearing, it definitely makes shooting more pleasant. With the ATF opening E-forms for suppressors, getting one has become a lot easier. In banned states like mine, suppressors aren’t an option, but muzzle brakes still serve their purpose. I find muzzle brakes invaluable for their ability to make shooting easier and allow for faster follow-up shots.

DBM or fixed magazines: It really won’t matter what you choose here. I like detachable box magazines to make unloading easier, but even with a fixed magazine, unloading your rifle isn’t hard.

The major plus to a DBM is that if you want to use the rifle for any type of competition also, a DBM gives you the option to have more rounds on tap with a larger magazine. I normally hunt with a 5-round magazine, but shooting my local PRS club matches I use a 10- or 12-round magazine. With a blind or fixed magazine, that simply isn’t an option.

Extra features: When considering hunting rifles, it’s important to look at the extra features they offer. For instance, a folding stock isn’t something you see every day, but it’s incredibly handy for tasks like bolt removal and cleaning, especially when you’re on the move or getting ready for a shot. While it may not be a game-changer, it’s definitely a nice bonus to have. Additionally, features like radial brakes can help reduce kickback, while cheek risers make aiming more comfortable and flexible. Although not essential, having adjustable cheek risers can be really handy, and if you’re in a pinch, you can always improvise with some foam. Overall, these extra features significantly enhance the functionality and comfort of hunting rifles.

Conclusion

A good hunting rifle can be the deciding factor of a successful hunt, so finding the one that’s the right fit for you is very important. That said, there’s no rifle that does everything, and the best fit for you is the one with the most important features for your hunting style. Busting out a spec sheet is great, but my advice is to try shooting a few rifles and get a feel of their action to find the best fit for your needs. Happy hunting.  

Best Hunting Rifles – FAQs

What should I look for in a hunting rifle?

A hunting rifle should function smoothly while handling the rigor of your hunting style with easy-to-use controls like safety and magazine release. It should also be simple to load and unload, with a consistent trigger break.

What is the best hunting rifle to use?

I’d say the Sig Sauer Cross. We have rated this #1 on our list for its lightweight and compact design, which makes it ideal for hunting and bushwacking. Its threaded barrel is of a perfect size, and the folding stock makes it easy to store and travel with. 

What is the most accurate hunting rifle caliber?

The .308 Winchester is the best caliber for hunting mainly because of its proven track record. It’s well balanced with inherent accuracy and moderate recoil. It’s also widely available with a great bullet selection.

What should I know before buying a hunting rifle?

The most important things about a hunting rifle are: its length, weight, durability, accuracy, and range. Your rifle needs to withstand rough conditions and should be easy to handle on hunting grounds. As for accuracy, a 100-150 yards range with an accuracy of 2-inch groups works decent for hunting.

What is the best rifle to hunt deer?

Browning X-Bolt Speed could is an excellent choice for deer hunting. However, it’s important that you consider your preferences and try out different rifles to find the one that best suits your needs and feels comfortable to use.

What is the average cost of a hunting rifle?

The average price range of a hunting rifle falls between $500-$1000, but it can go up to $8,000 if you’re looking for a long-range, supreme-quality rifle. Our list of Best Hunting Rifles featured firearms within a range of $700-$2500, so you can take your pick depending on your preferences.

What is the best rifle for a very large game?

SIG Sauer Cross is a great option as a big game hunting rifle. It’s lightweight, compact, and portable so you could easily carry it in the woods. It also has enough stopping power to take down large game. 

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About David Lane

Learning how to shoot at a young age in the Boy Scouts, David now spends most of his time working on or with firearms. Be it shooting, upgrading, building, tinkering, or writing about them -- sharing his passion and knowledge of firearms with others is an everyday occurrence.

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  1. This gun is quality.. It is well made and very heavy. I only wish it at had come with two magazines but since I found it on Amazon cheaper than Sig Sauer sites I already bought an additional magazine that came with three belts. I installed a sight on the rail and this is spot on. I can’t put it down. I just bought the Sig pellet trap that resets tonight and couldn’t wait to get home and shoot. If you’re on the fence about the price, you won’t be disappointed.

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