Best Deer Hunting Rifle

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If you’re looking for a deer hunting rifle, congratulations! While Americans love hunting all kinds of game, from squirrels to moose, the most popular game animal in America is the whitetail deer, followed closely by the mule deer. Because these species are so similar, the same rifle can easily be used for both of them.

So what’s the best deer hunting rifle money can buy?

We’ve done our research, and come up with fifteen candidates for America’s best deer rifle. Because everyone’s needs are different, we’ve listed a variety of calibers, configurations and prices. Chances are, at least one of these guns will be ideal for you.

That said, there are a few things we looked for in a good deer rifle.

First off, we decided to limit ourselves to the most common deer hunting calibers: .30-06, .308, .300 Winchester Magnum, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .30-30 Winchester. While .223 caliber ARs are perfectly fine for deer hunting – under the right circumstances – they’re sporting rifles, and are often ill-suited for deep woods use.

Similarly, while the 6.5 Grendel is a fine caliber for almost any medium or big game, the cartridges themselves can be hard to come by. We wanted rifles that were both designed for hunting and chambered in calibers you can buy at your local sporting goods store.

We also chose to stick mostly with bolt-action rifles, with a few exceptions. Although semi-auto and lever-action rifles are just fine for deer hunting, they’re not nearly as common.

Ready? Let’s begin!

Best Deer Hunting Rifles Available Online

The Winchester XPR is a .30-06 bolt action hunting rifle with a 3-round removable magazine. It’s also available in 11 other calibers, ranging from a lightweight .243 Winchester all the way up to the powerful .338 Winchester Magnum. The XPR is based on Winchester’s famous Model 70, with some modifications to make it more affordable.

This primarily comes down to the bolt and the stock. First, the bad news: the stock on this gun is made of cheap, hollow plastic. To give it better balance, you’ll probably want to pack it with old socks or other padding. Thankfully, the butt pad is made from heavy-duty leather, which makes the recoil manageable.

The good news is that the new, 3-lug bolt works just as reliably as the Model 70’s more expensive Mauser bolt. It’s easy to remove for cleaning, using a small ridged tab on the side of the chamber. This gun is designed with right-handed shooters in mind. The safety is located just below the bolt on the right side of the gun, instead of on the center of the tang.

Pros:

  • Available in a dozen calibers
  • Easy to remove bolt for cleaning
  • Heavy-duty butt pad
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Right-handed only
  • Hollow stock

Why it’s recommended: The Winchester XPR is an affordable, reliable budget hunting rifle that will get you off your butt and out in the field.

The Winchester Model 70 bolt action may just be the most popular deer rifle in the world. This is partially due to the fact that it has so many iterations, making it ideal for a number of purposes when on the hunt. The Model 70 Featherweight is a throwback to the pre-1964 Model 70, which had a controlled round feed. However, it keeps the three-position safety that’s been standard on Model 70s since 1964.

This rifle has a beautiful walnut stock, with stippling on the fore grip for a better grip. It also has a recoil-reducing Pachmayr Decelerator butt pad, which you’ll appreciate in a .30-06 rifle. If .30-06 isn’t your thing, you can always choose the .300 Winchester Magnum, .308 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, or nine other calibers.

The Featherweight lives up to its name. It weighs only 7 pounds. While there are no iron sights, it comes drilled and tapped for a scope. The only real downside is the fixed, 4-round magazine. That should be plenty for deer hunting, but can be a pain if you want to take it to the range regularly. This rifle isn’t cheap, but it’s one of the most accurate lightweight rifles you can buy.

Pros:

  • Three-position safety
  • Lightweight
  • Controlled round feed
  • Available in more than a dozen calibers
  • Low-recoil Pachmayr Decelerator butt pad

Cons:

  • Fixed magazine
  • No iron sights
  • Expensive

Why It’s Recommended: All told, the Winchester Model 70 Featherweight may be the best hunting rifle on our list. The only real downside is the lack of an iron sight. And let’s be honest, you’ll want an optical sight for any serious deer hunting rifle.

The Ruger American Rifle is a lightweight, .30-06 hunting rifle with a 4-round removable rotary magazine. The free-floating barrel is well-bored enough to be accurate for medium-range shooting. Screw an optical sight into the pre-drilled holes, and you’ve got yourself a rifle that can’t miss.

While a lot of people are skeptical of Ruger’s rotary magazines, we find them very reliable. While the composite stock isn’t exactly beautiful, it’s well-designed with a solid feel that puts it head and shoulders above most cheaper stocks. That said, it has a hollow butt, which comes with the usual balance issues. Remove the butt pad and stuff it full of fabric to balance things out.

This rifle only weighs 7 pounds, and is available in both left and right-handed versions. Both versions come with an ambidextrous tang safety, so you can go shooting with your friends. It’s available in three other calibers besides .30-06: .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester, and .308 Winchester.

Pros:

  • Accurate, free-floating barrel
  • Left and right-handed versions available
  • High-quality composite stock
  • Available in four calibers
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Hollow stock

Why It’s Recommended: The Ruger American is the best deer hunting rifle you can buy on a slim budget. Thanks to the rotary magazine, jams are a rare occurrence, and the accuracy is excellent for this price range.

The Ruger American Predator is the most popular 6.5 Creedmoor rifle on the market, and it’s not hard to see why. To begin with, it’s very affordable compared to most long-range rifles. For another thing, it’s pinpoint accurate – with the right sight, you can hit a dinner plate at 1,000 yards 10 out of 10 times.

Like the Ruger American Rifle, the Predator puts most of your money into a high-quality, free-floating barrel, which is why it’s so accurate. It has a similar, well-designed composite stock that’s a little on the light side and may need to be stuffed. The whole package weighs 7.3 pounds, and comes pre-drilled for optical sights.

Also like the Ruger American, the Predator has an ambidextrous tang safety, and ships in left and right-handed versions. The external magazine holds four rounds. If you prefer a different caliber, it’s also available in .22-250 Remington, .223 Remington, .300 Winchester, .308 Winchester Magnum, and 6.5 Grendel.

Pros:

  • Accurate at long range
  • Lightweight
  • Available in several calibers
  • Left and right-handed versions available
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Hollow stock

Why It’s Recommended: The Ruger American Predator is the best deer rifle for long-range hunting on a budget. It may not be the prettiest gun out there, but you will hit your target.

The Savage Arms Model 12 is a 6.5 Creedmoor hunting rifle with a 4-round capacity external magazine. Be warned, though; at 11 pounds, this isn’t a brush gun. This is a long, heavy rifle for shooting from a stand or long-distance from a shooting mat. Part of this weight comes from the heavy, solid composite stock, which is well-balanced, and provides plenty of recoil resistance.

If you’re looking for a type of long-range hunting rifle that doubles as a target rifle, the Model 12 fits the bill. The trigger is adjustable all the way down to 6 ounces. We’re not sure if there’s a technical definition for “hair trigger”, but this fits the bill pretty well. Of course, for everyday shooting, you’ll probably be better off with the factory default 20-ounce trigger pull.

The ambidextrous tang safety is easy to operate, and the bolt can be removed for cleaning with a simple slide release. In addition to 6.5 Creedmoor, it’s available in .243 Winchester, .260 Remington. Our only real disappointment was the aluminum magazine, which is surprising on an otherwise excellent rifle.

Pros:

  • Extreme accuracy
  • Ambidextrous tang safety
  • Durable composite stock
  • 26” barrel for added accuracy
  • Adjustable, lightweight trigger

Cons:

  • On the heavy side
  • Metal magazine

Why it’s recommended: The Savage Model 12 is a beast of a hunting rifle at a price that won’t break the bank. Throw a quality sight on it, and you’ll be shooting within .5 MOA.

The Bergera B14 HMR is an ergonomic, bolt action rifle with a 5-round external magazine. At 9.25 pounds, it’s on the heavier side, and it’s also long, with a 26-inch barrel. The ergonomic stock has a shock-absorbing butt pad, as well as a cheek rest for added comfort when on the hunt.

This rifle is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s pinpoint-accurate out to about 400 yards. That should be plenty for most deer hunters, but it’s not a good long-range target rifle. The reason for this is that the barrel is designed for low ballistic coefficient rounds, meaning they’ll tend to drop off quickly beyond that range. Higher ballistic coefficient rounds won’t yield a good spread.

Pros:

  • Ergonomic stock and grip
  • Stock includes cheek rest
  • Comes pre-drilled and tapped for sights
  • Accurate, 26” barrel

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Only accurate with low ballistic coefficient rounds

Why It’s Recommended: The Bergera B14 HMR is ideal for short to medium range shots. This more or less negates the point of using the 6.5 Creedmoor, but it’s still a powerful, accurate gun.

The Winchester Model 70 Extreme Weather is a bolt action hunting rifle with a 3-round fixed magazine, chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum. If you prefer other calibers, it’s available in 14 others, ranging from .243 Winchester up to .338 Winchester Magnum. Like the Winchester Model 70 Featherweight, the Extreme Weather version features the pre-1964 extractor along with Winchester’s classic Mauser bolt.

The main selling point of this rifle is its performance in the cold and rain. The stainless steel barrel will stand up to the most miserable conditions, and the solid composite stock is designed not to affect your aim when it expands and contracts with temperature. The Pachmayr Decelerator butt pad is comfortable, and provides plenty of recoil reduction.

The only real drawback is the fixed magazine. This makes it inconvenient to reload at the range. That said, three rounds should be plenty for bagging a deer.

Pros:

  • Available in 14 different calibers
  • Solid composite stock
  • Pre-1964 extractor
  • Pachmayr Decelerator butt pad
  • Accurate, 26” barrel

Cons:

  • Fixed magazine
  • Expensive

Why it’s recommended: The Winchester Model 70 Extreme Weather is ideal for shooting in poor conditions. If you regularly go out in 40-degree, rainy weather, it will get the job done.