Big Game Rifle Roundup
January 08, 2018
No matter your tastes, the game you hunt or your budget there's a big-game rifle here for you
In the last several years there hasn't been a class of new hunting rifles as diverse as the one that highlighted this year's SHOT Show- the shooting industry's big trade show- and that's a good thing. One look down this list shows there's something for virtually every hunter, whether you're looking for a budget-friendly deer rifle or need a gun for that once-in-a-lifetime mountain hunt.
But there is one common thread that runs through many of these guns, and that's the inclusion of what may be the biggest hunting cartridge to launch in decades: the 6.5 Creedmoor. It seems this mild-mannered hunting round has won the support of the industry, and several manufacturers are adding 6.5 rifles to their lists- plus fans of the classic 6.5x55 (and even 8x57) will find a number of new models to their liking, all of them imports.
On the other end of the spectrum is a really big boomer, with Ruger offering two new rifles in .450 Bushmaster. And while synthetic stocks still dominate, there are a dozen new guns with walnut stocks. So no matter your tastes, the game you hunt or your budget there's a rifle here for you (You can download our buyer's guide in PDF here).
Barrett is best known for its ARs and .50 caliber offerings, but the brand launched a new bantamweight mountain rifle this year. The Fieldcraft features a lightweight carbon fiber stock that is bedded to the action, and the barrel and receiver are made from 416 stainless. The bolt is made from 4140 heat-treated steel that is NP3 coated and spiral fluted, and each rifle is scaled to the specific caliber to keep weight and overall length to a minimum- between five and six pounds depending on caliber. Short- action chamberings come with a light contour 21-inch barrel, and standard, .30-06-length-action rifles have a 24-inch pipe.
Blaser's straight-pull R8 is now being offered in an Intuition model designed specifically for women. It has a Monte Carlo stock with a lower recoil pad and a shortened length of pull to accommodate female shooters, but internally it's still the same R8 action. The action features a radial lockup design that secures directly to the barrel and doesn't require rotary motion, and it has a tang-mounted safety that doubles as a decocker. The Intuition stock is available on Blaser rifles that have a wooden stock, and there are a number of different caliber options.
Also new from Blaser is the R8 Success Individual that comes with a grade 4 to 7 walnut thumbhole stock with leather accents on the comb and the pistol grip. Other features on that rifle include an ebony fore-end tip, matte receiver with gold R8 logo and an optional fluted barrel.
John Moses Browning was commissioned by the U.S. Army to develop a semiautomatic rifle for World War I, and in just three months he turned out the first BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle). Now, a century after the gun's release, Browning is releasing a special BAR Safari 100th Anniversary Model. Limited to 100 rifles, this special run of BARs features a Grade V Turkish walnut stock with engraving, special engraving with a military scene on the right side of the receiver and a hunting scene on the left side, a 22-inch polished blued barrel and gold accents. It's available in .30-06 Springfield.
Also new to the BAR family are the BAR Mk3 DBM, BAR Mk3 Stalker and BAR Mk3 Mossy Oak Break Up Country. The multipurpose DBM version has an 18-inch barrel, black matte finish, black composite stock and a Picatinny rail as well as a 10-round detachable box magazine. The Stalker and Mossy Oak Mk3s are designed primarily for hunting and have barrels ranging from 22 to 24 inches. All of the BAR models share the same gas operation system, seven-lug bolt, rigid action bars and buffering system to prolong the life of the rifle.
Browning has some big news on the bolt-action side, too. The X-Bolt Pro features a second-generation carbon fiber stock with a palm swell, a fluted barrel with removable brake and spiral fluting on the bolt body and bolt knob. The stock and metalwork have a Cerakote Burnt Bronze finish.
Also new is the X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Long Range Model. The Long Range has an A-TACS AU camo stock with Cerakote Burnt Bronze finish and comes with a fluted heavy sporter contour barrel with removable brake. Browning also launched the X-Bolt Medallion Safari Grade this year, which features Grade IV/V wood, a polished and engraved receiver, gold accents and more.
Christensen Arms builds accurate rifles, but to this point those rifles have come with a high price tag. At $1,295 the new Mesa isn't exactly cheap, but once you start reading through the standard features found on this rifle- carbon fiber composite stock, match chamber, hand-lapped button-rifled barrel, a match-grade trigger and more- you quickly realize it's quite a bargain. The Tungsten Cerakote metal finish and black stock with gray epoxy webbing look good but also make this rifle impervious to the elements.
Weights range from 6.5 pounds for the short-action model up to just 7.3 on the long-action version. Other features include a spiral fluted bolt with skeletonized bolt handle, 416 stainless billet construction, a seamless radial brake, Invar pillars and much more. There's a sub-m.o.a. accuracy guarantee, but this rifle has the DNA to shrink those groups even more.
CZ rolled out plenty of new rifles in 2017, including its newest version of the push-feed 557, the Varmint. But don't let the name fool you. Chambered in .243 and .308, the Varmint, with its heavy barrel and high-comb walnut stock, is a long-range hunting tool perfect for big game hunters who don't have to climb much or hike far (the rifle weighs just a shade under 11 pounds).
On the lighter side of things are the new additions to CZ's 527 rifle lineup including the 527 American Walnut in two new chamberings (7.62x39 and 6.5 Grendel), a suppressor-ready 527 with a synthetic stock and a 16.5-inch barrel, and a Rustic version that wears an aged beechwood stock. All of the various 527 models have CZ's Micro Mauser .223-length action and features like cold hammer-forged barrels, a two-position safety and a single-set trigger.
Daniel Defense's Ambush .308 is an AR-10 rifle built with features hunters will appreciate, so much so RifleShooter put the gun on its January/February cover. The rifle comes with a Kryptek Highlander camo finish, an 18-inch free-floated cold hammer forged barrel, Daniel Defense's Superior Suppression Device Extended, KeyMod handguard and Geissele Super Semi-automatic trigger. The gun features a charging handle that can be set up with an extension on either side to ease operation when using scopes, so there's no more fumbling under your scope. The barrel connects to the upper receiver and handguard via Daniel Defense's 4-Bolt system, and the newly designed bolt carrier group has improved geometry and a low-friction coating. The rifle weighs in at 8.6 pounds
Japanese manufacturer Howa has added several variations to its 1500 rifle series. There are two new models with Kuiu camo pattern options (Vias and Verde), and they are available in a variety of chamberings and barrel lengths and contours. The light-contour versions of the Howa 1500 Kuiu rifles weigh in at just seven pounds, while the magnum-action rifles with No. 2 barrels tip the scales at a pound more. All versions have Hogue pillar-bedded stocks, the Howa 1500 push-feed action, HACT trigger, and Cerakote Gun Metal Gray finish.
Also new this year from Howa is its Long Range. It, too, is based on the 1500 action, but on this rifle that action is mated with a Bell & Carlson Varmint/Tactical stock with vented fore-end in either desert tan or green and a 26-inch heavy threaded barrel with a cap protector. The Long Range is also available as a package with a Nikko-Stirling 4-16x44 scope.
Kimber's 84 controlled-round-feed action forms the basis for the company's three latest hunting rifles. The first, the Kimber Montana, was already in the lineup, but this year it's treated to a dark green carbon fiber stock and a threaded muzzle. If the six-pound Montana is too heavy for your liking, there's the new Subalpine, which features a stainless barrel and action, a carbon fiber stock with Gore Optifade Subalpine camo pattern and a fluted barrel with a threaded muzzle. The Subalpine weighs four pounds, 13 ounces in the .308 chambering, and the Subalpine has a match chamber for superb accuracy.
Also new from Kimber is the Open Country. The Open Country's camo carbon fiber stock is matched with a fluted heavy barrel for maximum accuracy at long ranges and a large target-style bolt knob. All of Kimber's rifles are backed by a sub-m.o.a. accuracy promise.
Marlin has endured some rough times in the past couple of years, but parent company Remington has been working diligently not only to get production back up to speed but also upgrade manufacturing technology. This year Marlin is reintroducing several models of the 1894. These include the standard version, which features a 20-inch round barrel with adjustable iron sights and an American black walnut stock, and the 1894 Cowboy, which comes with a 20-inch octagon barrel.
When chambered in .44 Mag., these rifles are perfectly suited for close, fast shots, making them equally well-suited for hunting eastern whitetails and Texas hogs. With overall lengths under 39 inches and an unloaded weight of just 6.5 pounds, these rifles are light, compact, and handy- features that have made this rifle a favorite for well over a century.
Mossberg continues to expand both its MVP and Patriot lines of bolt actions with new offerings for 2017. There are two new Patriot models this year: the Patriot Predator, which features a flat dark earth synthetic stock and a fluted and threaded barrel; and the line-topping Patriot Revere, which comes with a premium 2.0 grade European walnut stock with rosewood fore-end and grip caps and maple spacers that give the gun a classy, high-end look. The latter was featured on this magazine's July/August cover.
Both models feature Mossberg's push-feed bolt-action design with a spiral-fluted bolt body and the LBA bladed trigger. In addition, the black synthetic Patriot rifle is now chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor.
The MVP line has grown as well, offering new combination scope/rifle packages and adding additional cartridge offerings for 2017. Line extensions include the MVP Predator and Varmint models, which come with laminate stocks and 18.5-inch barrels (20 inches in 6.5 Creedmoor), and the MVP Long Range with its benchrest-style stock with green Mosscoat finish and stippling.
Additionally, the Mossberg MVP Flex is now available with the TLS system that allows the shooter to replace the stock and recoil pad by simply lifting or pushing the TLS latches. It comes with either black or tan six-position adjustable stocks. The MVP line features the same LBA trigger system and bolt design as the Patriot with the added flexibility of using M1A/M14 and AR-10 magazines.
Nosler is rounding out its bolt-action rifle family with the addition of the Model 48 Long Range. This rifle utilizes the same dual-lug, push-feed action found in other Model 48 rifles and mates it with a 26-inch stainless steel Shilen match grade barrel, single-stage Timney trigger and a Manners MCS-T stock with glass and aluminum pillar bedding.
The Manners stock also comes with textured surface for easy gripping in wet weather, dual front sling studs, a palm swell, and a dense recoil pad that is designed to mitigate the recoil of even the hottest Nosler rounds. A Cerakote finish helps protect the metalwork against the elements, and the barrel is threaded and comes with a muzzle brake and a thread protector cap. Like other Model 48 rifles, this gun includes a hinged floorplate, two-position rocker-type safety, and it is backed by a sub-m.o.a. guarantee when shooting prescribed Nosler ammo.
For 2017 Remington introduced a version of its budget-friendly 783 with an American black walnut stock. Like the other members of the 783 family, it features a minimized ejection port for added rigidity and accuracy, a Crossfire adjustable trigger and Remington's SuperCell recoil pad to help mitigate kick. There's also a package version of the 783 Walnut that comes with a mounted and bore-sighted Vortex Crossfire II scope, a package gun that's ready to hunt right out of the box.
Also new this year from Big Green is the Model 700 CDL Stainless Fluted Limited Edition rifle, which is chambered in the potent .300 Wby. Mag. and comes with an X-Mark Pro externally adjustable trigger and a 26-inch barrel.
Ruger's betting big on big bores with the launch of two .450 Bushmaster rifles to complement existing lines of rifles. One is the Gunsite Scout .450, which comes with a walnut stock and a forward-mounted Picatinny rail for adding a long-eye-relief scope. There's a rear aperture sight and a blade front if you prefer irons, and the 16.1-inch heavy barrel is topped with a Ruger Precision Rifle hybrid muzzle brake. A detachable box magazine holds four rounds of powerful .450 Bushmaster ammo, and the action employs the same non-rotating Mauser-style controlled-round-feed extractor borrowed from the Hawkeye line.
The other big boomer in the Ruger war chest is the new American Ranch in .450. Like the Gunsite rifle, it comes with a detachable box magazine (the American holds only three rounds) but utilizes a three-lug push-feed bolt design. With its lightweight flat dark earth synthetic stock and stubby 16.12-inch barrel, the American Ranch .450 weighs in at just 5.5 pounds, so you'll be thankful it comes equipped with a Ruger muzzle brake. There's a top rail for mounting optics, and the Power Bedding stock free floats the barrel for maximum accuracy.
Also relatively new from Ruger is the Hawkeye FTW Hunter rifle, which debuted last year and was on RifleShooter's November/December 2016 cover. It's a standout with its Natural Gear camo laminate stock and contrasting matte stainless metalwork. The stock comes with spacers that allow you to adjust the rifle's length of pull, and there's a detachable muzzle brake and included thread cap and barrel weight.
Like other Hawkeye rifles, it features integrated scope mounts that are machined directly to the receiver, a Mauser-style controlled-round-feed action and a three-position safety. Additionally, it's available in several left-handed models.
The new S100 Classic XT represents a chance to have German engineering at an entry-level price. The turnbolt rifle has a partially enclosed receiver and a three-position rocker-style safety. Other features include an Ergo Max polymer stock and Ever Rest action bedding, and the rifle feeds from a double-stack magazine. We've got a feature article on this rifle scheduled for next issue, so stay tuned.
Savage unveiled four all-new ARs this year, and its hunt-ready MSR 10 Hunter is based on a compact AR-10 platform. It features a Melonite QPQ-finish barrel with 5R rifling (16.13 inches in .308, 18 inches in 6.5 Creedmoor), a custom-forged upper and lower, a free-float M-Lok handguard and a Blackhawk Blaze AR trigger. The Blackhawk Axiom stock is adjustable for varying lengths of pull and allows you to shorten the stock when wearing heavy winter clothes, and the Knoxx AR pistol grip offers a secure hold on the rifle in wet conditions. The .308 version weighs in at 7.8 pounds and has a 1:8 twist rate while the 6.5 Creedmoor model tips the scales at 8 pounds with a 1:10-twist barrel.
The company's new 11/111 DOA Hunter XP package features include Savage's floating bolt head design and thread-in, zero-tolerance headspacing system as well as a button-rifled barrel, detachable four-round box magazine, black synthetic stock, AccuTrigger and button-rifled barrel.
The rifle comes topped with a bore-sighted Bushnell Trophy Scope with DOA drop-compensating reticle mounted in Weaver Grand Slam rings. The package rifle weighs between 7.25 and 8.25 pounds scoped, so it's light enough for hiking in steep country. The DOA Hunter XP is available in over a dozen calibers.
Last year Tikka launched the new T3x line, successor to the T3 rifle that has been so popular with hunters. The T3x rifles offer a number of upgrades, including a new modular stock system that allows you to switch grips and fore-end width on synthetic-stock models, a redesigned ejection port that maintains the original rifle's accuracy-enhancing stiffness while making it easier to top load the rifle, a robust new recoil pad, a foam insert in the stock to reduce sound and an improved top rail that has extra holes for attaching a Picatinny rail.
There are a wide range of T3x options available to hunters, and these rifles are all backed by a sub-m.o.a. accuracy promise. In addition, many of these rifles are available in left-handed versions so southpaws won't be left out in the cold.
This year Winchester expands on the affordable XPR line with the addition of the XPR Hunter Mountain Country Range rifle, which mates the push-feed, three-bolt XPR barreled action to a synthetic stock with Mossy Oak Mountain Country Range camo. The metal surfaces of the XPR have a PermaCote matte blued finish to reduce glare and protect the rifle and a newly redesigned Inflex recoil pad helps channel recoil away from the shooter's face. Like other XPR rifles, this model has a two-position safety, a bolt release button, detachable box magazine and a steel recoil lug, and since it weighs between 6.75 and 7.25 pounds depending on caliber, this is an all-purpose hunting rifle that's deadly accurate and surprisingly affordable.
Winchester also unveiled two new compact versions of the XPR this year. The XPR Hunter Compact has a short 13-inch length of pull, 20-inch barrel (22 inches on WSM rifles), black synthetic stock and weighs between 6.25 and 6.75 pounds. Additionally, there's a new XPR Hunter Compact with a Mossy Oak Break-Up Country stock
The Vanguard has been a big hit because it offers Weatherby performance at a price anyone can afford. Starting with a sub-m.o.a. guarantee, the gun is packed with features, such as a great two-stage trigger, fluted bolt, cold-hammer-forged barrel with integral recoil lug and a hinged floorplate.
New this year is the Camilla, a gun designed with women in mind. Its Monte Carlo stock has a 13-inch length of pull, and the grip angle has been changed and made slimmer- as have several other dimensions to make it a better fit.
There's also a new Synthetic Compact that offers an injection-molded stock with a removable spacer, enabling buyers to adjust length of pull from 12.5 to 13.5 inches- a great option for a youngster because the gun can grow with the shooter.
On the Mark V side is the new Accumark, which now features a more comfortable stock, crisper trigger and a hand-lapped barrel. The Mark V is Weatherby's flagship, and it features a six-lug (standard) or nine-lug (magnum) bolt lockup for a short 54-degree lift. The barrel on the Accumark is fluted stainless with a No. 3 contour and a recessed target crown.
You can download our buyer's guide in PDF here.