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Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup

From affordably priced basic bolt guns and exciting mountain rifles to tactical-style hunting rifles built for long-range performance and straight-pull hunting rifles, you are sure to find a big game gun in this roundup for your specific hunting needs.

Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup

This article was originally published in the September/October 2021 issue of RifleShooter.

It’s been a year unlike any other in the firearms industry. While rifle shooters are still wishing there was more ammunition on shelves, there is a brand-new crop of hunting rifles ready to go for fall. There are a handful of affordably priced basic bolt guns and a couple of exciting new mountain rifles. There continues to be interest in tactical-style hunting rifles built for long-range performance. But, perhaps most interestingly, we see a couple of new straight-pull hunting rifles on the list, one from a major domestic manufacturer, as well as some double rifles.

Every year there seems to be an overarching theme with new hunting rifles. Not so long ago, manufacturers were racing to release the least-expensive bolt gun possible, and more recently, long-range hunting guns were all the rage. This year’s group is smaller than rifle classes from years past, but it’s also far more eclectic with a little bit of everything.

Benelli

The stylish Lupo adds three short-action cartridges this year: .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win. The rifle has a chassis-style construction and a synthetic stock that incorporates the company’s Progressive Comfort recoil-reduction system and Combtech cheek pad. The gun has a CRIO-treated, free-floating barrel and bedded metal-to-metal into the alloy chassis. The result is a gun that promises sub-m.o.a. accuracy.



Browning

Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup
Browning X-Bolt Mountain Pro Burnt Bronze

The folks at Browning never let much grass grow under their feet, even during a pandemic. While other brands were reeling back their product rollouts, Browning was busy launching new lines of its X-Bolt rifles. New for 2021 are the Mountain Pro and Mountain Pro Long Range with a choice of either Tungsten or Burnt Bronze Cerakote finishes and the new Recoil Hawg muzzle brake.


Mountain Pro rifles feature such amenities as carbon-fiber stocks with accent graphics, spiral fluted bolts and barrels along with other X-Bolt family features like Inflex recoil pads, a bolt unlock button, Feather Trigger and Browning’s slick rotary magazine. The new X-Bolt Pro rifle comes with a carbon-fiber stock, Recoil Hawg muzzle brake and a Cerakote Carbon Gray Elite finish.

As with the Mountain Pro, there’s a standard version of the X-Bolt Pro with a sporter contour barrel and a Long Range model that features a heavy sporter contour barrel. All X-Bolt Pro rifles come with spiral bolt rifling and skip fluted contour barrel, which gives these guns a stylish, modern look.

Also new in 2021 is the X-Bolt Pro McMillian, which utilizes the same barreled action as the X-Bolt Pro and adds a McMillian Game Scout carbon-fiber stock in Sonoran Carbon Ambush Camo and a 20-m.o.a. Picatinny rail with integral bubble level.

Of course, the big news from the Browning/Winchester camp is the introduction of the 6.8 Western cartridge which propels heavy-for-caliber, high ballistic coefficient 0.277-inch bullets over 2,800 fps. Energy figures from that cartridge are on par with, and even greater than, the .300 Win. Mag. at 500 yards with considerably less recoil. All these new Browning rifles are chambered in 6.8 Western.





Chapuis

Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup
Chapuis Elan Artisan

Chapuis may be an unfamiliar name to some hunters and shooters, but the company has been producing high-quality firearms near Saint-Etienne, France, for more than a century. Chapuis is now owned by Benelli, and as such its high-end rifles will be more accessible to buyers who live in the States.

The Chapuis catalog of products includes single-shot, straight-pull and double rifles, and while they are anything but cheap, these guns are built to exceedingly high standards by master gunmakers and are on par with fine guns coming out of England and Italy.

For 2021 the company is offering two new side-by-side rifles for the U.S. market: the Elan Classic and Elan Artisan. The Classic is designed to be a working double suitable for professional hunters and other hunters who face dangerous game daily and features a boxlock action with laser engraving, AAA satin walnut stock, and express sights regulated to 300 yards.

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As stunning as the Classic is—especially for a “working” rifle—the Elan Artisan is even more striking with its hand-engraved receiver and AAAAA satin walnut stock. Both rifles come in a hard case, and both allow the owner to mount EAW or Recknagel scope mounts to the rifle without modification.

Available chamberings include the biggest names in dangerous game, including .375 H&H Flanged, .450-400 Nitro Express, and .470 Nitro Express. Fine European doubles aren’t cheap, but they’re fun to own, and nothing offers a faster one-two punch on dangerous game.


Christensen Arms

Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup
Christensen Arms MPR

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell precision bolt-action rifles from hunting rifles these days. Case in point: the Christensen Arms Modern Precision Rifle. The MPR is a chassis rifle that’s dripping with carbon fiber and offers all the features precision shooters love, like a detachable box magazine, threaded muzzle, 20-m.o.a. top rail and a fully adjustable stock with pistol grip.

Though these guns have many of the same features as high-end competition guns, they aren’t as heavy as dedicated range rifles: The use of carbon-fiber materials keeps weight as low as 6.9 pounds, which places this gun in the sporting rifle weight class. The MPR is available in a long list of calibers with barrel lengths ranging from 16 to 27 inches. Speaking of barrels, buyers can choose either a #4 416R steel barrel or 416R carbon fiber wrapped barrel, and with caliber options ranging from 6mm Creedmoor to .338 Lapua you should be able to find a chambering that suits your hunting needs.


CZ-USA

There’s a new addition to CZ’s 557 family of push-feed rifles for 2021: the 557 Eclipse. It features a rugged black synthetic stock and comes with a two-position push-to-fire safety, adjustable trigger and dual front sling studs for mounting a bipod and sling separately. Available in three popular and versatile chamberings, the 557 Eclipse comes with a short 20.5-inch barrel, which makes it ideal for hunting in the close confines of a blind or tree stand, and the receiver comes with machined 19mm dovetails.

Despite its modest price tag, the CZ offers such amenities as CNC-machined billet action and CZ’s cold-hammer-forged and lapped barrel. The 6.5 Creedmoor version comes with a 5/8x24 threaded muzzle and thread cap so you can easily add the muzzle device of your choice. The 557 Eclipse rifles perform as well as some rifles costing considerably more money, and that makes them a smart buy.


Franchi

The Momentum is not new, but the .350 Legend chambering is. The rifle has a one-piece, spiral-fluted bolt and a matte-finished cold-hammer-forged barrel that’s threaded 5/8x24. While its 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 stablemates are available with gray or flat dark earth stocks, the .350 Legend version comes in the latter color only.


Kimber

Kimber’s Hunter line of rifles offers the company’s reliable Model 84 controlled feed action in an affordable package. The original Hunter was an excellent rifle and a good value, but its tan polymer stock wasn’t exactly inspiring. This year, Kimber released the Hunter Pro Desolve Blak rifle, which also comes with a synthetic stock but with the Desolve Camo Blak pattern.

Although primarily designed as a tactical pattern, the Desolve Blak stock looks great with the Kimber’s satin stainless steel metalwork. Desolve says the pattern is designed to break up the silhouette of an object in low light. I don’t know about that, but I can assure you this rifle is light enough for your next high-elevation hunt. Depending upon caliber, the Hunter Pro Desolve Blak weighs between 5.5 and 5.75 pounds unscoped.

Kimber guarantees these rifles will shoot under an inch at 100 yards, and the sample I’m currently working with managed to do better than that at the range. Although designed for high mountain hunting, the lightweight, handy Hunter Pro Desolve Blak makes an excellent choice for hunting whitetails and other game in dense cover where shots may come fast and longer guns could be a liability.


Mossberg

Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup
Mossberg Patriot Walnut .350 Legend

Mossberg continues to expand its popular Patriot line of rifles for 2021. This year the company has added the Mossberg Patriot Walnut .350 Legend rifle, which comes with a well-figured walnut stock with vented black recoil pad, a detachable box magazine, a spiral fluted push-feed bolt and a fluted sporter-contour barrel. Mossberg’s bladed LBA adjustable trigger comes standard, as do Weaver-style bases, making this a great option for any fan of the new straight-walled .350 Legend cartridge.

Also new this year from Mossberg is the Patriot Youth Super Bantam Scoped Combo in Muddy Girl Wild. Ideal for short-statured or growing hunters, the rifle comes with a stock spacer that allows the owner to adjust length of pull from 12 to 13 inches, and it also comes packaged with a 3-9x40 scope mounted on Weaver-style bases. Like the Patriot Walnut, the rifle features an LBA trigger and detachable box magazine, and it’s ready for the range the moment you pull it out of the box. Mossberg has built a reputation for building reliable guns at a reasonable price, and both of these American-made rifles are excellent values.


Nosler

Nosler introduced the M48 Mountain Carbon Ultra Lightweight Rifle in Granite Green in 2019, and the gun was an immediate hit with hunters. Sporting a carbon-fiber barrel and weighing in at just six pounds, the Mountain Carbon was easy to carry and deadly accurate. This year, Nosler is adding a Shale Gray version to the Mountain Carbon family, and as the name implies, the 100-

percent carbon-fiber Mountain Hunter stock is gray, which looks great with the Tungsten Gray Cerakote action and bottom metal.

The blueprinted Nosler 48 push-feed action is mated to a 24-inch Proof Research carbon-fiber barrel with a 5/8x24 threaded muzzle and thread protector. These rifles are glass and aluminum pillar bedded, and Timney triggers come standard.


Savage

Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup
Savage Impulse Hog Hunter

While other companies have had rather quiet 2020s, Savage has been on a roll, releasing what is undoubtedly the most groundbreaking rifle the brand has offered in recent memory. The new Savage Impulse is a straight-pull centerfire rifle, and while straight pulls have been popular for some time in Europe,  they’ve never really caught on stateside. Then again, no major American brand has been willing to take a risk by releasing a straight-pull centerfire on this side of the pond, and it seems as though the decision to do so is paying off for Savage.

You can read the details elsewhere in this issue, but here’s a quick overview. At the heart of the Impulse action is Savage’s Hexlock design where six hardened steel bearings lock the bolt in place inside the receiver’s barrel extension. What’s more, the Impulse doesn’t look radically different from a bolt-action rifle at first glance, so the gun’s aesthetic won’t be as jarring to American hunters as some Euro straight pulls.

There are three different Impulse models available for 2021: The Predator version features matte black metal and a Mossy Oak Terra Gila AccuStock; the Big Game comes with a Hazel Green Cerakote finish on the metal and a Kuiu Verde 2.0 AccuStock; and the Impulse Hog Hunter features an OD green AccuStock with black metal. All three models feature the company’s adjustable AccuTrigger.

Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup
Savage 110 Ultralite

Savage also added a new version of the 110 Ultralite, the 110 Ultralite Camo, part of the company’s Backcountry Xtreme line of rifles. It features the same Proof Research threaded carbon-fiber barrel, Melonite skeletonized receiver, 1.5- to four-pound adjustable AccuTrigger, and factory blueprinted Model 110 action found on the 110 Ultralite, but the Ultralite Camo version comes with a Kuiu Verde 2.0 synthetic stock with soft-touch overmolded surfaces and AccuFit stock with interchangeable comb and length-of-pull inserts for a custom fit. Weighing in at six pounds or less and chambered in a variety of cartridges from 6.5 Creedmoor to .30-06, the 110 Ultralite Camo is an ideal mountain rifle.

Also new to the Backcountry Xtreme family is the new 110 Timberline, which comes with factory blueprinted action, fluted barrel with omni-port brake, 1.5- to four-pound adjustable AccuTrigger, and detachable box magazine. The AccuFit stock features a Realtree Escape Camo pattern that looks great with the OD Green Cerakote finish on the barrel and receiver. The 110 Timberline is available in left-handed models in all the same chambering options as the right-handed version, too.


Springfield

Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup
Springfield Waypoint 2020

The Springfield name has a long association with sporting rifles, so it was big news late last year when the company announced it was releasing a brand-new bolt-action hunting rifle. Dubbed the Waypoint 2020, Springfield’s new bolt gun has the look and feel of a tactical sporting rifle with a list of features you’d expect to find on a custom gun.

The hand-laid 100 percent carbon-fiber stock is pilar bedded and combs with your choice of a fixed or three axis adjustable cheek comb, and the recoil lug is machined directly to the cylindrical action.

The Waypoint’s two-lug bolt runs effortlessly through the EDM raceway, and spiral fluting on the bolt body and dual cocking cams make for even faster, smoother cycling. Buyers choose between Evergreen or Ridgeline hand-painted camo patterns for the stock as well as a steel fluted or BSF carbon-fiber barrel. Five QD attachment points are standard, as is Springfield’s removable SA radial brake.

Other standard amenities found on Waypoint 2020 rifles include AICS-pattern magazines, a 2.5- to five-pound adjustable TriggerTech Trigger, Picatinny rail, and removable bolt handle. Lock time is a mere 1.9 milliseconds, and these American-built bolt guns come with a 0.75- m.o.a. accuracy guarantee. Despite its long-range rifle aesthetics, the Waypoint isn’t bulky. The carbon-fiber model weighs as little as six pounds, nine ounces, and that makes this gun light enough for high country hunting.


Strasser

Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup
Strasser RS 14 Evolution Tahr

Not familiar with the Strasser name? You will be. These Austrian-made straight-pull rifles are built to very exacting standards, and the modular design makes this one of the most versatile hunting rifles to hit the market. Like other Strasser rifles—including the RS 14 Evolution Consul reviewed on page 64—the new RS 14 Evolution Tahr allows you to quickly swap barrels and change calibers in the field thanks to its revolutionary BEST (Barrel Exchange System) design. In fewer than five minutes you can swap out its barrels and, if needed, the bolt face of the rifle, and because there are dozens of chambering options you can use a single rifle for everything.

The Tahr comes with Strasser’s gray laminate stock with adjustable cheekpiece and the stock pairs nicely with the rifle’s black laser- engraved side plates black receiver with integrated Picatinny rail. The 45-degree bolt handle allows for lightning-fast cycling.

The removable trigger assembly allows you to adjust trigger weight without tools, and the safety decocks the rifle for added security and peace of mind. Smooth, fast cycling, unmatched modularity, a superb trigger, clever engineering throughout, and meticulous attention to detail are just a few of the many reasons to love this rifle.

Because the RS 14 Evolution Tahr can be broken down, it’s much easier to transport in its short case that doesn’t scream “I’m traveling with a firearm,” which could potentially make you a target of thieves. The Strasser isn’t cheap, but engineering of this quality never is.


Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup
Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup
Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup

Tikka

There are three new additions to Tikka’s T3x Lite family for 2021. The T3x Lite Veil Wideland and T3x Lite Veil Alpine camo rifles both feature Cerakote finishes, threaded muzzle brakes, and a new heavy fluted barrel profile. The bolt handle has been enlarged and the bolt body is now spiral fluted, which adds a touch of class while reducing weight. Detachable box magazines and 2- to 4-pound adjustable triggers are also standard.

If you like these rifles but don’t want to pay extra for the Veil camo and Cerakote there’s also a Roughtech version of the T3x Lite that comes with a tan Roughtech stock and blued finish.


Weatherby

Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup
Weatherby Weathermark Limited

The team at Weatherby is offering a handful of new rifle options this year, including the eye-catching Mark V Accumark Limited, which comes equipped with spiral fluted No. 3 contour barrel with removable Accubrake ST muzzle brake and a hand-laid composite stock with aluminum bedding blocks. The receiver and the barrel of the Mark V Accumark Limited come with a Cerakote flat dark earth finish while the spiral fluted bolt and bolt knob and safety sport a Graphite Black Cerakote finish, and the black composite stock comes with a matte gel coat and brown and gray accents.

Also new to the Mark V family is the Weathermark Limited, which also features a spiral fluted barrel with Accubrake ST and a hand-laid composite stock with brown and gray accents, though the Weathermark’s barrel features a slimmer profile than the Accumark and the receiver and barrel sport a Burnt Bronze Cerakote finish with Graphite Black on the safety and spiral bolt and bolt handle. Both rifles are available with Weatherby’s six or nine lug action (depending upon caliber), and both are equipped with TriggerTech externally adjustable flat face triggers. These rifles not only look great, but they’re guaranteed to shoot three-shot groups of .99 inch or less at 100 yards.

The team in Sheridan, Wyoming, announce the addition of two new Vanguard bolt-action rifle model this year, too. The Weatherby Vanguard Hush Edition rifle, which comes with a No. 2 contour straight-fluted barrel with a threaded barrel and an Accubrake ST and a thread protector. Hush Edition rifles have gray Monte Carlo composite stocks with black accents.

Also new to the Vanguard line is the High Country, which comes with a black composite Monte Carlo stock with green and brown accents and a flat dark earth finish on the metalwork, and a straight fluted No. 2 barrel with removable Accubrake and thread protector. I used a Vanguard High Country for hogs and deer and found that the gun performed exceptionally well.

All Vanguard rifles guarantee sub- m.o.a. accuracy and feature adjustable two-stage match-quality triggers, three-position safeties, integral recoil lugs and one-piece machined bolt bodies. Both the Hush and High Country versions are available in a wide variety of Weatherby and non-Weatherby chamberings.


Winchester

Ultimate Big Game Rifle Roundup
Winchester Model 70 Extreme TrueTimber

As with Browning, the most significant news from Winchester is the launch of the 6.8 Western, a cartridge that has the resume to make a great long-range hunting and target cartridge. Winchester added 6.8 models to a slew of its rifles, but there are two completely new models for 2021.

Joining the Model 70 family this year is the new Extreme TrueTimber VSX MB model which features a Tungsten Cerakote finish on the receiver and a Bell & Carlson stock with TrueTimber VSX camo finish. The free-floated barrel comes with straight fluting and a threaded muzzle with muzzle brake, and like other Model 70s, it features a CRF action, three-position safety, and MOA adjustable trigger.

New to the XPR line of bolt-action rifles is the Extreme Hunter TrueTimber Midnight MB. Built on Winchester’s reliable—and underrated, I think—XPR push-feed action, the Extreme Hunter comes with a Tungsten Cerakote finish on the fluted barrel and receiver and a synthetic stock with TrueTimber Midnight camo. As the MB designation implies, these rifles come equipped with a threaded muzzle brake for reducing recoil.

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