September 28, 2023
Affiliate Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. We earn from qualifying purchases.
It goes without saying that the last few years have been challenging, thanks to the impact of the Covid pandemic and subsequent upheaval that resulted from supply chain issues. Many companies are simply trying to fill massive backorder lists—a result of the dramatic uptick in firearms sales during the pandemic—and have pumped the brakes on new products.
But that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of new guns this year, and at no time since I have been penning the Big Game Rifle Buyer’s Guide have I ever encountered such a broad array of new firearms—from rifles inspired by the long-range shooting craze to the return of the Marlin lever gun and much more.
Whitetail, pronghorn, moose or sheep—no matter the game or the terrain you’ll find a gun on this list that’s ideally suited for your favorite pursuit. Let’s take a closer look at the big game rifle class of 2023.
The Benelli Lupo has been a runaway hit, and the line continues to evolve and expand. This year the company adds .308 Win. and .30-06 versions of the Lupo BE.S.T. walnut, which was previously only available in 6.5 Creedmoor and .300 Win. Mag. These rifles sport a 22-inch Crio threaded barrel and come with Benelli’s revolutionary BE.S.T. treatment that uses PVD and PECVD treatments applied at low temperatures
Most recently, I dragged a Lupo rifle through miles of deadfall on a DIY Alaska black bear hunt and, despite my getting scratches and nicks all over my gear and person, the Lupo came away from that experience without a single blemish.
The walnut version comes with an AA-grade, satin-finished stock and fore-end. While it’s a wood gun, the barreled action actually rides in a three-piece chassis. The stock is adjustable for length of pull, comb height and even trigger pull length, and the Progressive Comfort baffle-style recoil reduction system does an admirable job cutting back kick.
They’re backed by a 10-year warranty—25 years on the BE.S.T. treatment—and promise to shoot sub-m.o.a. Every one I’ve tested did that.
Bergara’s line of bolt-action rifles have become popular with hunters, and a trio of new Bergara rifles includes the Ridge Carbon, which is part of the B-14 Wilderness line of rifles. This bolt action uses Bergara’s one-piece B-14 push-feed action.
A No. 6 contour Bergara carbon fiber-wrapped 4140 stainless barrel comes standard with barrel lengths ranging from 20 to 24 inches. Ridge Carbon barrels are threaded 5/8 x 24 to simplify adding a muzzle device like a suppressor.
The straight-comb soft-touch stock has a painted camo finish that looks good with the Sniper Grey Cerakote finish on the metalwork. Unlike many other rifles on this list, the Ridge Carbon features a hinged metal floorplate, and the light carbon-fiber barrel and synthetic stock keep weight as low as 6.4 pounds, perfect for a mountain rifle.
Also new to the Wilderness family of B-14 bolt actions is the HMR (Hunting and Match Rifle) Carbon, which offers features that match shooters demand, like an adjustable molded mini-chassis stock with QD cup attachments and a bag rider cutout near the toe of the stock. Despite taking inspiration from match rifles, the HMR carbon weighs in at as little as 7.5 pounds, making it practical for most field applications.
Like its Ridge Carbon cousin, this gun comes with a soft-touch synthetic painted stock and No. 6 contour Bergara carbon-fiber-wrapped 4140 barrel with radial muzzle brake. Unlike the Ridge Carbon, though, these guns accept AICS magazines.
Another new addition is the Crest, which comes with carbon fiber monocoque stocks that are incredibly durable and light, and they also accept AICS mags. The B-14 action and fluted, threaded No. 5 steel Bergara barrel are protected by Sniper Grey Cerakote, and with weights ranging from 6.9 to 7.2 pounds these guns are certainly well-suited for mountain hunting. Barrel lengths for the Crest range from 20 to 22 inches.
The Crest, like the Ridge Carbon and HMR Carbon, is guaranteed to shoot sub-m.o.a. with premium ammunition.
As more hunters add suppressors to their rifles there’s a new market for guns with relatively short barrels, and Browning is jumping on board with three new X-Bolt SPR models with barrels ranging from 18 to 22 inches.
The new X-Bolt Mountain Pro SPR is available with either a Burnt Bronze or Tungsten Cerakote finish on the metal. Both versions come with Browning’s second-generation full carbon fiber stock with 360-degree braid construction. These X-Bolt rifles also have a compression-molded carbon fiber bedding block, and the stocks feature stylish accent graphics.
Spiral-fluted barrels are hand-lapped for maximum accuracy and are threaded 5/8x24. Rather than the traditional front sling stud, these rifles feature stocks with front rail sections with integral sling attachment points, making it easy to mount a bipod on the gun.
Also new to the SPR line is the X-Bolt Pro McMillan LR SPR, which has a McMillan Game Warden 2.0 carbon fiber stock with raised cheekpiece and a vertical pistol grip with thumb rests. The lightweight carbon-fiber stock also comes with accent graphics, and the medium heavy threaded barrel features a cool skip-fluting pattern.
These are all light guns, so Browning has included its Recoil Hawg Muzzle Brake—which reduces recoil up to 76 percent—on all three. They also feature Browning’s excellent Feather trigger.
The Chapuis Iphisi .375 H&H double rifle introduced last year is a wonderful gun, but how many $10,000 doubles can one company possibly sell? All of them, apparently, and now Chapuis is offering a slightly more affordable and—dare I say—versatile double gun, the X4.
The new X4 comes with all the trappings of a classic European double rifle like AAA-grade Circassian walnut stock, a scalloped and engraved receiver, and twin articulated triggers. Although we hardly think of double guns as revolutionary since the general design has remained largely unchanged for over a century, the X4 might be the most revolutionary rifle on this year’s list.
Traditionally, double rifle barrels are joined to the rifle’s rib and regulated for a single load, which severely limits ammunition choices for rifles with an already limited supply of ammo. The X4’s left barrel is joined to the rib, but the right barrel is free-floated and affixed to the rib via a guiding ring that makes it much easier to re-regulate barrels and switch loads.
Built on the company’s Progress 28-gauge action with 22-inch barrels, the X4 is chambered in 9.3x74 and .30-06. With an overall length of 40 inches and a weight of 6 pounds, the X4 is a handy double gun. The rib design accepts Recknagel scope bases, so mounting an optic is simple.
RifleShooter covered the Modern Hunting Rifle (MHR) in the May/June issue, so here’s the short version. It’s a bolt action that uses an aluminum mini chassis with a V bedding block and features Flash Forged Technology stocks, grips and fore-ends that are interchangeable. The button-rifled, carbon-fiber-wrapped 416R stainless barrel comes with a match chamber and removable brake.
Actions are Remington 700 compatible and have a black nitride surface treatment. A proprietary TriggerTech trigger comes standard, as does a hinged floorplate, although you can change that out to handle AICS magazines. Comb height can be adjusted without the use of tools, and length of pull spacers allow you to adjust the rifle for a perfect fit. It’s an impressive rifle.
The Cascade XT (X-Treme) is the next evolution of CVA’s flagship bolt gun. The XT version comes with a No. 5 contour steel barrel with a removable radial brake. Metal finish is black Cerakote. The synthetic stocks are dressed in Realtree Hillside camouflage. The action features a two-position rocker-type safety, and the bolt sports an oversize knob.
Rail sections are included on these rifles, so optics mounting is easy, and the heavier barrel taper will help cool the barrel at the range. Except for the two magnum offerings, these guns come with 22-inch barrels, which makes them handy woods rifles. They’re guaranteed to shoot sub-m.o.a. with premium ammo.
The big news from Franchi this year is the inclusion of the new Momentum All-Terrain Elite—a light, handy bolt-action rifle that incorporates some elements of Jeff Cooper’s Scout rifle. At the heart of this rifle is Franchi’s proven Momentum push-feed action with a full-diameter spiral fluted bolt and three locking lugs up front.
The action is mated to a medium-contour 18-inch barrel with 5/8x24 threads capped with a radial muzzle brake, and the rifle’s metalwork is protected by a Cerakote Midnight Bronze finish.
The blade front sight is adjustable for elevation, and there’s a windage-adjustable aperture rear sight that flips down. The top Picatinny rail is extended and can handle both traditional scopes and Scout-style extended eye relief scopes—as well as red dots and similar sights.
The TrueTimber Strata camo polymer stock has soft-touch inserts in the pistol grip and fore-end and a soft raised comb insert. There’s also a TSA recoil pad that does a good job stamping out recoil. The crisp Relia Trigger adjusts from two to four pounds, and the gun accepts AICS-pattern magazines.
Resembling a thoroughly modern take on Cooper’s Scout or Remington’s venerated Model 600, this is one of guns I’m most excited about.
Also new from Franchi is the Momentum Elite Varmint TrueTimber Prairie, a premium bolt-action rifle. Like the All-Terrain, it features a top optics rail, soft touch comb and grip panels, three-lug bolt and spiral-fluted barrel. Don’t let the Varmint moniker fool you: The rifle is chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win and makes an excellent big game rifle.
Both are backed by a sub-m.o.a. accuracy guarantee and seven-year warranty.
Gunwerks’ founder and CEO Aaron Davidson is always looking for ways to make better guns. To that end, his team created a new double-stack, flush-fit magazine design for the Nexus rifle that wasn’t limited to the dimensional constraints of a Remington 700 box magazine.
He paired this new magazine with a new aluminum action, the NXT, and a created a six lug bolt—three sets of two lugs—that shortened bolt lift to just 65 degrees. You can also remove the bolt head by knocking out a single pin, so it’s easy to swap calibers. Changing barrels is simply a matter of removing two screws, and the bolt locks into position in a steel barrel extension.
The bolt head/extension lockup is secure and powerful, and that allows for the use of aluminum for the action. Further reducing weight is the liberal use of carbon fiber that is used to construct the stock and wrap the barrel.
Optic rail sections are machined directly into the receiver, and the new stock comes with a vertical grip, full-length ARCA rail, front Pic rail for bipod mounting and—perhaps most striking—leather inserts in the pistol grip and on the cheekpiece. A directional brake also comes standard.
I tested the Nexus at Gunwerks’ Sheep Mountain shooting course, and my report on the rifle is coming soon.
Henry is offering a Henry Deluxe Engraved 25th Anniversary Edition of its iconic .44-40 lever-action rifle. It features a hand-selected rosewood stock, bronze crescent buttplate and receiver, and scroll engraving on the receiver.
It’s 43 inches long with its 24.5-inch barrel and weighs an impressive nine pounds. A ladder-style rear sight is included, and a blade front sight sits atop the octagonal barrel. Only 2,500 of these rifles will be made.
The other big news at Henry is the planned launch of lever rifles chambered in .360 Buckhammer. Details were too sketchy at press time to include it on our buyer’s chart, but Henry is likely to convert its Steel Lever Action .30-30 to .360.
Howa is combining its Japanese-made 1500 series push-feed barreled action with a Hera H7 chassis stock. The rifle is profiled elsewhere in this issue, so if it’s of interest you can check it out.
Howa is also expanding its Super Lite line of rifles with the addition of Stocky’s carbon fiber stocks in gray, tan and OD green. At just four pounds, seven ounces the Stocky’s versions are the lightest bolt-action hunting rifles on the market. These rifles feature bolt faces that are trued and squared to the chamber, top rails for optic mounting, a HACT two-stage trigger and M-16-style extractor/ejector. A wood-stocked version is slated to come this year as well.
Even though there’s nothing completely new to the Kimber rifle family this year the brand is refreshing its popular Mountain Ascent with either Kryptek Skyfall or Pnuma Caza camo stocks. Also new is a KimPro II black finish for these rifles that is a departure from the silver finish found on most Kimber mountain rifles.
They’re based on Kimber’s venerable 84 series controlled feed action, which has proven itself to be extremely reliable. The Caza and Skyfall Mountain Ascent rifles will be available with 84M and 84L actions, but you can expect to see an 8400 magnum-length action addition as well. These are exceedingly light—just four pounds, 13 ounces for the 84M rifles and five pounds, six ounces for the 84L guns.
The addition of an extra front sling stud makes is easy to mount your sling and bipod separately on this rifle, which is a feature that many mountain hunters—myself included—very much like. They’re backed by a sub-m.o.a. guarantee.
Last year Marlin rolled out the first new lever action from its Mayodan, North Carolina factory, the 1895 SBL. The brand has been busy since then, adding several other new models as its production schedule allows.
Late last year the company unveiled the 1895 Trapper, a .45-70 rifle with a laminate stock, oversize lever loop and stainless steel construction that is designed with the guide or trapper in mind. However, with its Skinner adjustable rear peep sight and blade front sight, durable satin stainless finish and 16.2-inch barrel with a 11/16x24 threaded muzzle the 7.1-pound Trapper is also an ideal big game rifle.
Following on the heels of the Trapper came the revived 1895 Guide Gun—previously known as the 1895 Guide Big Loop, or GBL, to Marlin aficionados—in late 2022. It’s chambered in .45-70 and comes with a rugged laminate checkered stock, 19.1-inch cold hammer-forged threaded barrel with thread cap, and a glass bead blasted satin blue finish.
Traditional semi-buckhorn adjustable sights are standard, and the large lever loop makes it easy to operate this rifle with gloved hands. Tubular magazine capacity is six rounds, one more than the Trapper.
Undoubtedly the biggest news coming out of Marlin’s Mayodan factory, though, is the revival of Marlin’s classic 336 Classic lever-action rifle chambered in .30-30. That rifle is featured elsewhere in this issue. Oh, and one more bit of good news: Marlin has teased the release of a new 1894 that should land in mid-summer.
Mossberg’s major launch this year was its Patriot Long Range Tactical rifle, but the company is offering one new rifle that’s designed specifically for hunters: the Patriot Predator 7mm PRC. As the name suggests, this rifle is one of the first hunting guns to be offered in Hornady’s hot new 7mm PRC round.
The new 7mm PRC version comes with a 24-inch threaded, fluted 1:8 twist barrel. There are two model options, one with a synthetic flat dark earth stock and blued metal and another version that comes dressed in a TrueTimber Strata camo stock and features a brown Cerakote finish. Both rifles are equipped with Mossberg’s bladed LBA trigger that adjusts from three to seven pounds, a two-position rocker-style safety, detachable box magazine and a top rail for mounting optics.
These rifles weigh 6.5 pounds, which is light enough to carry but not so light that the powerful 7mm PRC’s recoil becomes abusive. If you’re looking for an affordable way to lay your hands on a 7mm PRC but demand a rifle that is solidly built and performs well in the field, the Mossberg Patriot Predator is a good option.
We make it a point to avoid adding heavy target-style chassis rifles to the annual big game roundup since many of those guns aren’t practical for most field applications, but the Nosler 21 Carbon Chassis Hunter has made it onto this year’s list because even though it has the look and styling of a target gun it weighs just around seven pounds, making it practical for the field.
It combines a modified Mack Brothers EVO push-feed, dual-lug action with a Proof Research carbon-fiber barrel with a Nosler muzzle brake. The Model 21 CCH barreled action is mounted in a 26-ounce MDT carbon fiber chassis with a full-length aluminum bedding block. A TriggerTech Field three-pound trigger is standard on the Nosler, and the rifles accept AICS magazines.
One of the most clever features on this rifle is the folding stock that makes it easier to transport the rifle. The Model 21 CCH isn’t cheap, but this is a highly advanced hunting rifle.
AR-10 rifles in .308/7.62x51 offer plenty of range and power for most big game hunting, but they’ve traditionally been excessively heavy to carry in the field. Ruger has changed that with the release of the SFAR, or Small-Frame Autoloading Rifle.
Chambered in .308, these rifles are proportionally closer to AR-15 rifles and therefore are lighter and easier to carry. The SFAR with a 16.1-inch barrel weighs in at 6.8 pounds while the version with a 20-inch barrel weighs 7.3 pounds, making these guns at least a pound lighter than most of their AR-10 counterparts.
SFAR rifles feature 4140 chrome moly steel barrels with 5R rifling, and the 5/8x24 threads and are topped with Ruger’s two-port Boomer muzzle brake. An adjustable gas block allows it to shoot a variety of ammunition with or without a suppressor.
The 15-inch free-floated aluminum handguard offers M-Lok attachment points at three, six and nine o’clock and there’s a QD attachment point as well. The stock is an adjustable Magpul MOE SL, and there’s a Magpul MOE pistol grip as well.
Ruger’s Elite 452 two-stage trigger helps you wring the most accuracy out of this rifle, and its compact footprint and reduced weight make it the most appealing 7.62 AR hunting rifle on the market.
This year, Sako of Finland is launching its new S20 Hunter Fusion rifle. It’s based on its existing S20, which is a totally new look and feel for Sako guns. The front and rear portions of the stock are removable and replaceable. The barreled action rests in an aluminum chassis within the stock, and the bolt has traditional Sako style extractors and ejectors.
The Hunter Fusion model naturally comes with a more field-friendly design, which includes a thumbhole stock and a rounded fore-end piece. Length of pull and comb height are adjustable, and integral scope rails are machined into the receiver. Sako’s detachable box magazines are included, as is a muzzle brake that attaches to the 5/8x24 threaded barrel.
The stock comes with First Light Fusion camouflage and the metalwork has a Tungsten Cerakote finish. Barrel lengths range from 20.1 to 24.4 inches, and weights range from 7.9 to 8.2 pounds. All rifles come with crisp, single-stage triggers and cold-hammer-forged barrels, and they’re all backed by Sako’s five-shot m.o.a. guarantee.
A couple years ago, Savage gambled that American shooters would be willing to adopt a straight-pull hunting rifle, and that bet has paid off. Its Impulse rifle has been a big seller that performed as advertised, but the primary criticism levied against this rifle is that it was too heavy. Enter this year’s Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter, which mates the straight-pull action to a Proof Research carbon-fiber-wrapped rifle barrel. Details can be found in the review elsewhere in this issue.
While the Savage 110 Classic was announced last year, it’s only recently that they’re starting to become available. Layne Simpson reviewed it in the previous issue, but in case you missed it, it’s a wood-stock gun with a difference: Comb height and length of pull can be adjusted with the push of a button. It’s really a fine-looking rifle, and traditionalists will love most all of the cartridge offerings—a list that includes a lot of favorite standards.
This year, Stag Arms announced its brand-new Pursuit line of hunting rifles, and while you might expect this would include ARs, there’s also a new bolt-action Pursuit hunting rifle.
We’ll start with the autoloader members of the Pursuit family. Stag 10 Pursuits are based on the AR-10. Both right- and left-handed versions are available, and there’s even a version outfitted with a Cross fixed magazine that makes the guns state-compliant.
They feature an 18-inch nitrided barrel with VG6 Gamma brake and 16.5-inch Stag Slimline handguard. The 9310 bolt is also nitride-finished, and a Timney two-stage trigger is standard. Stocks are special Magpul CTr adjustable models with leather Pursuit cheek pads. Metal finish is Midnight Bronze Cerakote.
The Stag 15 Pursuits are on the AR-15 platform and include many of same features as the Stag 10 Pursuit.
Stag’s new Pursuit bolt-action, which is expected to hit dealer shelves later this year, will come equipped with a custom chassis and Remington 700 footprint. They’ll incorporate a TriggerTech Primary trigger and be available in OD green, flat dark earth, black or Sniper Grey Cerakote. The Pursuit bolt-action will weigh under eight pounds and barrel lengths from 18 to 22 inches.
Stevens has largely been known for its shotguns, but this year it has launched two new Model 334 bolt-action centerfire hunting rifles. The 334 Synthetic and 334 Walnut both have two-stage adjustable triggers, top rails with Savage 110 hole spacing, three-position safetie, and three-round detachable box magazines.
The rifles have free-floated, button-rifled carbon steel barrels with an 11-degree target crown. The three-lug bolt provides a 60-degree throw.
The more utilitarian synthetic version has a durable black polymer stock while the walnut version is fitted with a traditional Turkish walnut stock. Barrel lengths range from 20 to 22 inches, and weights vary from 7.2 to 7.4 pounds. If you’re in the market for a dependable, affordable big-game rifle, the Stevens might be well worth a look.
With more states allowing the use of straight-wall cartridges for big game, there’s growing interest in century-old lever guns for use in the deer woods. This year Uberti launched its 1886 Yellowboy Deluxe Rifle chambered in .45 Colt. With its 20-inch octagonal barrel, the Yellowboy measures just 36 inches long and weighs eight pounds, which makes it light enough to carry and handy enough to operate in the confines of a blind or tree stand.
The brass receiver is engraved with an acanthus leaf pattern and features a bugling elk. There’s even an escutcheon where you can add your own initials for a one-of-a-kind touch.
Also new from Uberti is the 150th Anniversary Edition 1873 lever action. The receiver engraving, which was inspired by engraving on an authentic 19th-century 1873 frame, is striking on the color case-hardened receiver. Like the Yellowboy, the 1873 anniversary edition sports a 20-inch octagonal blued barrel with adjustable iron sights and an A-grade stock. It’s available in .45 Colt or .357 magnum, making it suitable for big game like deer and hogs at close ranges.
The company rolls out its third action design ever, the Model 307. The new action is compatible with Remington 700 components and Savage scope mounts. There are two models, the XP and the Alpine MDT, plus the action will be sold separately. [Ed. note: Details arrived just as we were going to press, so the best we could do was add the models to the chart. We’re planning a review in a future issue.]
The new Ultralight Hunter rifle from Wilson Combat was reviewed in the previous issue, but here’s an abbreviated look. It’s an AR rifle with a mid-length gas system, a 16-inch stainless steel match-grade barrel, and a carbon-fiber adjustable stock made for Wilson by Smoke Composites.
Overall length is 34 inches, and weight is a mere five pounds, 2.5 ounces. It’s chambered in .300 Ham’r, a cartridge of Bill Wilson’s own creation that is designed to perform well on hogs and deer-size game.
The exterior of the gun is covered in a good-looking Armor-Tuff finish for years of tough hunting, and the nickel boron bolt assembly can be wiped free of gunk and debris quickly and easily.