September 11, 2020
It’s no secret that hybrid target/hunting rifles are all the rage right now, but despite that, it’s amazing the variety manufacturers are offering this year: a single-shot in .303 British; revolutionary new chassis-style sporting rifle; a titanium rifle weighing five pounds; and two traditional sporters priced under $600.
I think this is certainly the most diverse—and perhaps the most exciting—list of new big game rifles we’ve seen in the last decade. (Ed. note: In an effort to keep the chart manageable, not every gun described in the article is found on the chart. In these cases you’ll find the prices given in the main article.)
Benelli is best known for making shotguns, but this year the Italian brand is diving into the bolt-action rifle market. Its new rifle, the Lupo (wolf in Italian), offers shooters the same level of customizability you get with a Benelli shotgun, which means you can alter comb height, length of pull, drop, cast and more. The Lupo’s tubular steel action sits in an aluminum lower receiver, so it’s sort of a chassis gun dressed as a sporter. The styling is fashion forward—maybe even a bit radical to some—but it’s a practical and user-friendly design.
The stainless steel, polished three-lug bolt is fluted to reduce friction and allows for an additional round to fit in the magazine. The tang safety is easy to access, and the Lupo borrows some features from Benelli’s popular shotguns like the Progressive Comfort recoil-reduction system and a Crio cryogenically treated barrel that helps improve accuracy. All three loads I tested with a .30-06 sample averaged under an inch. Three calibers are available for 2020—.270 Win, .30-06 and .300 Win. Mag.—but you can expect the Lupo family to grow soon.
Bergara continues to turn hunters’ heads with its growing list of accurate, affordable, feature-rich rifles. This year, the company is adding three new B-14 Wilderness bolt-action hunting rifles: Wilderness Terrain, Wilderness Hunter and Wilderness Ridge. All come with painted camo polymer stocks and Wilderness series barreled actions with a Sniper Gray Cerakote finish. All Wilderness-series rifles accept Remington 700 scope bases.
The Terrain features a mini-chassis stock, Bergara Performance trigger, No. 5.5 contour barrel, AICS box magazine and a seamless omnidirectional multi-ported brake that reduces felt recoil by up to 35 percent. The Ridge has the same trigger and brake but features a lighter No. 5 contour barrel, sporter-style stock and hinged floorplate.
The Wilderness Hunter is more of a traditional sporter, with a No. 4 contour barrel and starting weight of just 7.1 pounds. It has the same trigger and hinged floorplate setup as the Terrain, but there’s no muzzle brake.
The new X-Bolt Western Hunter offers many of the features that shooters love about the X-Bolt line—including a three-lug bolt, Feather trigger, a trim action, tang safety and what is likely the best rotary magazine in the business. The Western Hunter comes with Browning’s new simple-to-operate comb adjustment system and a sporter contour barrel with removable brake.
The A-TACS AU camo composite stock looks good with the blued barrel and receiver, and if this gun is anything like the X-Bolts we’ve been shooting for over a decade, you can count on it being reliable and accurate.
The new X-Bolt Hunter Long Range Browning is profiled elsewhere in this issue. It’s an ideal rifle for those who want to extend their maximum effective range without sacrificing the look of a traditional gun.
The Utah-based company is adding two new titanium action rifles to its lineup. The first is the Mesa Titanium Edition, a lighter-weight version of the company’s popular Mesa bolt gun. This was RifleShooter’s cover story last issue. It features a titanium action, featherlight contour stainless steel barrel with removable seamless brake, spiral-fluted bolt and a composite stock with Limbsaver recoil pad. The rifle weighs as little as 6.1 pounds, and the trigger is set between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds.
This light, handy sporter is aimed at the mountain hunting crowd, but even if you don’t scale cliffs in pursuit of game, it’s still light, accurate and tough as nails. Plus, at $1,795 it isn’t much more expensive than some titanium actions alone.
The Ridgeline Titanium Edition also incorporates Christensen’s lightweight titanium action but pairs it with the company’s carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel. The Ridgeline Titanium weighs as little as 5.8 pounds, and like the Mesa Titanium it’s backed by a sub-m.o.a. accuracy guarantee. (The Mesa Titanium I tested performed considerably better than that.)
Franchi launched its first bolt-action rifle, the Momentum, a few years ago, and now it’s expanding the family with the addition of the Momentum Elite. These guns offer three new synthetic stock/Cerakote metal finish options: a Hunter Gray stock with Cobalt Cerakote, a Realtree Excape stock with Burnt Bronze finish, and a True Timber Strata with Midnight Bronze. The Elite rifles also come with muzzle brakes and one-piece Picatinny top rails. Like the standard Momentum, the new Elite guns come with a three-lug spiral-fluted bolt and a TSA recoil pad.
Kimber is jumping on the carbon-fiber bandwagon with its new Open Range Pro Carbon rifles. These guns come with Kimber’s time-tested 84M controlled-feed action and a 24-inch Proof Research carbon-fiber-wrapped stainless steel barrel with a thread protector and brake. The pillar-bedded stock is also made of carbon fiber, and as a result these guns weigh as little as six pounds, so they’re ideal for hunting the high country.
Other key features include a black KimPro II finish on the stainless steel receiver, a three-position safety and a factory trigger set between three and 3.5 pounds. The rifles feature a match-grade chamber, and Kimber promises sub-m.o.a. accuracy. There are currently two models listed: one with a granite stock and the other with a Gore Optifade Open Country camo.
This year Marlin is giving its lever guns a stylish look with the introduction of the Dark series, which debuted with the Model 336 last year. All three of Marlin’s major lever-action families—the 1894, 336 and 1895—will now be available as Dark guns. They feature black-painted stocks with black spiderwebbing, 16.25-inch barrels with threaded muzzle and thread caps, Parkerized metal finishes, XS Lever Rails and ghost ring sights, oversize lever loops with paracord wrap and a paracord sling.
The 1894 Dark is chambered in .38 Special/.357 Magnum and .44 Special/.44 Magnum. The 336 Dark series is chambered in .30-30, and the 1895 Dark Series rifles are available in .45-70 Gov’t and .444 Marlin.
Also new from Marlin is the new 150th anniversary .444 Marlin rifle ($1,899), which comes with a C-grade American black walnut fore-end and pistol-grip stock, a 24-inch half-octagonal, half-round barrel, Skinner ladder sights, and intricate receiver and lever engraving with gold inlays. These rifles are limited in number and come with original checkering, a special box and a special serial number—all features that will appeal to the collector. But regardless of whether this is your first Marlin or 50th, this beautiful, well-balanced, seven-pound .444 Marlin is a superb hunting rifle.
The big news for 2020 is the introduction of the Patriot LR Hunter, a gun that borrows some target gun features and incorporates them into the successful Patriot bolt action line. The LR Hunter comes with a wood core stock with a gray polymer exterior surface and black spiderweb pattern. (Ed. note: We learned that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the delivery of these stocks has been delayed and will hold up gun shipments to dealers until early fall.)
Mounting an optic is easy thanks to the large top rail, and the fluted barrel is threaded for maximum versatility. And unlike some hybrid hunting rifles, the Mossberg weighs in at a very manageable 6.5 to 7 pounds. Other key features include an oversize bolt handle, fluted bolt body, two-position safety and Mossberg’s adjustable LBA trigger.
Mossberg has added new cartridge options across the Patriot line. The Patriot Predator FDE is now available in .450 Bushmaster and 6.5 PRC. The Patriot Cerakote Strata rifle ($540) is available in 6.5 PRC as well this year. There were several cartridge additions to the affordable Patriot Synthetic rifle line, including .350 Legend, 7mm Rem. Mag., .300 Win. Mag. and .338 Win. Mag.
The Patriot Synthetic Vortex Scoped Combo rifles ($567) are now available in 7mm Rem. Mag., .300 Win. Mag. and .338 Win. Mag. this year. The Patriot Synthetic Cerakote models ($468) add these calibers as well, and the .338 Win. Mag. version comes with adjustable iron sights.
The Patriot Walnut also adds 7mm Rem. Mag., .300 Win. Mag. (includes iron sight option) and .338 Win. Mag. models ($573) to its ranks, and there’s a Vortex scoped combo package with walnut stock available, too—one of which is featured on this issue’s cover.
Last, the Mossberg Patriot Youth Super Bantam Scoped Combo rifle is now available in .350 Legend. It comes with a 3-9X scope and stock spacers—making it the perfect rifle for younger or small-statured deer hunters, whether they live in straight wall-only states or not.
Each year Remington rolls out a new limited edition Model 700 CDL SF model, and this year that gun is chambered in .300 Savage. The rifle combines an American black walnut stock with a stainless steel 22-inch fluted barrel with satin stainless finish. The limited edition CDL SF also comes with special engraving, and these guns are popular with Remington collectors. However, the .300 Savage is a wonderfully versatile, mild-recoiling round that makes this a great gun for deer-size game.
The American family is adding a new member. The American Rifle Hunter has a Magpul gray adjustable stock, Marksman trigger, a heavy-contour barrel with Ruger Precision Rifle Hybrid brake and a tang-mounted safety. A Picatinny scope base comes standard, and the American Hunter comes with a Magpul PMAG 5 7.62 AC detachable box magazine. Though it’s rather heavy (around nine pounds), it is a well-appointed hunting rifle that’s accurate and affordable.
The Hawkeye Hunter was introduced last fall, and it’s already getting new calibers and some left-hand versions for this year. It features Ruger’s controlled-feed action with claw extractor, LC6 trigger, a three-position safety, walnut stock and a hinged floorplate. The stainless steel barrel and receiver have a satin stainless finish that looks good and stands up well to the elements, and the 20 m.o.a. rail gives you plenty of elevation to reach out and makes it easy to mount optics. New calibers include 6.5 PRC and 7mm Rem. Mag., and lefties will appreciate left-hand actions in 6.5 Creedmoor and .300 Win. Mag.
Also last year Ruger introduced the Long Range Hunter, which comes with an adjustable two-tone composite stock, LC6 trigger radial muzzle brake and AI-style magazine. It, too, features a 20-m.o.a. rail.
There are two new 110 rifles this year. The first, the Model 110 Classic, comes with a traditional walnut stock that is adjustable for length pull and comb height so it’s easy to customize the gun to fit the individual shooter. The 110 Classic has a carbon steel barrel with threaded muzzle, a detachable box magazine and the AccuTrigger. This gun seamlessly blends classic styling with the modern conveniences, and having shot the gun, I can attest to its superb accuracy.
Savage’s other new rifle this year is the new 110 Ultralite. This forward-thinking rifle combines a Proof Research carbon-fiber-wrapped steel barrel with a blueprinted Savage 110 action. The receiver features a Melonite finish and has been skeletonized to keep weight to a minimum.
In addition to the AccuTrigger, the rifle features Savage’s AccuFit system that allows you to adjust the stock and length of pull by swapping out the modular polymer stock inserts. The Ultralite weighs in at just six pounds—or less depending upon caliber.
The new Cross rifle isn’t just another rehashed turnbolt hunting rifle but rather a radical departure from the guns we’re used to seeing. The goal of this gun, as the name implies, is to blend the light weight and portability of a dedicated hunting rifle with the accuracy potential of a precision competition rifle.
Its one-piece aluminum receiver eliminates the need to bed the action, and the fully adjustable stock folds away with the push of a button. The stainless barrel is enveloped by a free-floating handguard with M-Lok slots; AICS mags; a two-stage match trigger that’s externally adjustable from 2.5 to four pounds; a three-lug bolt with 60-degree bolt lift; and an AR-style ambi safety selector.
Available in .308 Win. and .277 Fury with 16-inch barrels and 6.5 Creedmoor with an 18-inch barrel, the Cross folds down as short as 25 inches for easy transport and weighs as little at 6.5 pounds. Finish choices include black anodized or First Lite Cipher Armakote.
Thompson/Center’s new Compass Utility rifle is the least-expensive rifle on this list with its suggested retail price of $359. It is surprisingly well-appointed for a budget gun and comes with a flush-fit rotary magazine, three-position safety, three-lug bolt and a 5R rifled barrel. And in case you’re thinking T/C doesn’t believe this gun is every bit as good as some rifles costing hundreds more, the company backs the Compass Utility with a lifetime warranty and promises sub-m.o.a. accuracy.
T/C is also rolling out the Compass II and Venture II rifles—the latter featured on RifleShooter’s March/April cover. The main difference between these II guns and their predecessors is the addition of the Gen II bladed triggers that are lighter, cleaner, and far better than the previous-generation triggers.
The Compass II and Venture II are both backed with the same sub-m.o.a. promise as the Compass Utility rifle, and the Venture II comes with T/C’s legendary Weather Shield coating that protects the metal from even the harshest elements. Also new this year, both Compass rifles are available as combos with pre-mounted scopes for ready-to-hunt simplicity.
Uberti is offering up what is without a doubt one of the coolest hunting rifles of 2020. Known as the 1885 Courteney Stalking Rifle, this gun blends the falling block action of a Winchester 1885 with one of explorer/hunter/soldier Frederick Courteney Selous’ favorite cartridges: the .303 British. It features a Circassian walnut stock with an African heartwood fore-end tip, case-hardened receiver, a scope-mountable quarter rib and more. It’s a cool, head-turning gun.
Weatherby’s Mark V flagship has gotten a major makeover that includes TriggerTech triggers, new Cerakote finish options, carbon-fiber stocks, and more adjustable-comb models. The Mark V family is now broken down into six distinct collections: Weathermark, Carbonmark, Accumark ($2,071), Backcountry, Camilla and Dangerous Game ($3,200).
Not all are detailed in the accompanying chart because they’re existing rifles and there are just too many to list, but do note that in addition to the internal component upgrades, the Mark Vs are also chambered to the hot new 6.5 RPM cartridge.
This same cartridge is at the heart of two completely new designs: the Mark V Backcountry guns. These feature carbon-fiber stocks for reduced weight, and the Backcountry Ti comes with a titanium receiver that’s 42 percent lighter than competing steel receivers. The Backcountry Ti weighs as little as 4.9 pounds, but the steel version ($2,522)—which was on the January/February cover—isn’t exactly heavy at five pounds, six ounces.
Weatherby’s budget-friendly Vanguard family is also adding a few new rifle models to the lineup as well: the Vanguard Weatherguard Bronze and Vanguard MultiCam. The Weatherguard Bronze combines a gray synthetic stock with a Burnt Bronze Cerakote finish on the metalwork while the MultiCam version comes with Flat Dark Earth Cerakoting on the metal and a MultiCam camo composite stock. Both rifles are guaranteed to shoot m.o.a. or better at 100 yards.
Wilson Combat is offering both its Ranger and Ultralight Ranger rifles chambered in .350 Legend for 2020. Both models come with Wilson’s billet flattop upper and billet lower receivers, the company’s four-pound Tactical Trigger Unit two-stage trigger and an SLR adjustable gas block.
Both the Ranger and Ultralight Ranger come with 16-inch fluted barrels with Wilson’s superb Q-Comp brake/compensator, Wilson .350 Legend Lancer mags and durable Armor-Tuff finishes that stand up to the worst elements.
The Ranger ($2,300) comes with a Wilson/Rogers six-position adjustable Super-Stoc while the Ultralite Ranger features a Smoke Composites carbon-fiber fixed stock. The Ultralight Ranger weighs around six pounds in .350 Legend, making it a lightweight, compact semiautomatic alternative to .350 Legend bolt guns.
The new XPR Renegade Long Range SR (Suppressor Ready) is a long-range hunting rifle featuring a Grayboe Renegade stock. It’s featured elsewhere in this issue.
Also new to the XPR line is the sub-seven-pound Stealth SR, which has a short 16.5-inch heavy barrel with threaded muzzle and a Picatinny rail for mounting optics and a Perma-Cote finish. The new XPR Thumbhole Varmint SR sports a gray laminate thumbhole stock and a 24-inch threaded barrel, and since it weighs less than eight pounds and is available in a variety of big game calibers, it’s a great choice for any game.
There are also two new XPR package models available for 2020—the XPR Scope Combo and XPR Compact Scope Combo—that come with pre-mounted, bore-sighted Vortex Crossfire II scopes.
On the Model 70 side there are several new options, including the Model 70 Extreme Tungsten. It has a Tungsten Cerakote finish on the barrel and receiver, a muzzle brake, and a charcoal gray Bell & Carlson synthetic stock with textured finish.
Other new Model 70s this year include the Featherweight Stainless, the Featherweight Stainless with dark AAAA maple stock ($1,548), Model 70 Super Grade Stainless, and the new Model 70 Super Grade French Walnut ($1,975).
There are numerous aesthetic upgrades on the lever-action side. The Model 1894 is now available in a Deluxe Short Rifle version ($1,850) with beautiful color case-hardened finish and grade V/VI walnut. There’s also a new 1892 Deluxe Trapper Takedown Case Hardened model ($1,740) that, as the name implies, comes with a case- hardened finish and breaks down into two parts for easy transport. The 16-inch octagon barrel is blued, and the grade III/IV oil finish walnut stock has a pistol grip.
The new Model 1886 Deluxe ($1,740) also features case-hardened metal, a grade III/IV walnut pistol grip stock and octagonal 24-inch barrel and is chambered for a classic American big bore cartridge: the .45-90.
The 1873 also receives the Deluxe ($1,823) treatment this year with case-hardening and grade V/VI walnut as well as a half-round, half-octagonal 24-inch barrel.
The 1885 High Wall Hunter is now available in a High Grade version with an octagonal barrel, grade III/IV walnut, a Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad and a Talley scope base.
The Model 1895 celebrates 125 years this year, and to celebrate Winchester is offering a special 125th anniversary model ($2,500) with engraved nickel receiver and magazine, a straight-grip grade V-VI walnut stock, traditional cut checkering and a Marble Arms gold bead front sight and buckhorn rear sight.
2020 RifleShooter Big Game Gun Guide