Choosing a new hunting rifle style and caliber for deer hunting is quite an adventure. Everyone has an opinion, and that can make things more confusing.
We are going to look at what is offered and help you find the right fit.
I have been hunting deer in the mountains of Utah since I was 12 years old. Even better, I am a certified gunsmith and hold an FFL;
I can help you figure out the correct answer that fits YOUR needs, so let’s dive in and take a closer look!
Best deer hunting rifles in 2023
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3 position model 70-type wing
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Natural Fit for Rifles
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Matte Blue/Dark Gray
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Let’s take a look at 10 of the best deer hunting rifles in the market.
1. Savage Axis XP
The Savage Axis XP is a deer rifle that comes with synthetic stock and can be bought in a stainless finish.
With a stainless and synthetic setup, this rifle is not afraid of any weather challenges. It comes with a Weaver scope mounted and bore sighted from the factory.
If you want a better scope later, you can remove the Weaver scope and easily mount a new scope of the same diameter.
The bolt action on this rifle is smooth from day one and doesn’t seem to get rough to use; it gets better and smoother as it gets worked in form use.
The rifle is lightweight for a full-size hunting rifle, coming in at just over seven pounds, and it will be easy to carry all day, uphill, or while dragging out the monster buck you have been watching for months.
For ease of loading ammunition, the Savage Axis XP is equipped with a detachable box magazine.
Using the detachable box magazine makes loading and safely unloading the rifle a snap. Remove the box magazine and work the slide; the chamber is empty and cannot load another round.
The asking price for the Savage Axis XP is priced right in the sweet spot for new hunters or parents buying a rifle for a new hunter.
- Low cost
- Detachable Box Magazine
- Calibers range from 243 to 7mm-08.
- Weather fighting materials.
- Weaver scope
- Bore sighted from the factory.
- No magnum calibers are offered.
- The length of pull can be short for larger shooters.
- No wood option for stock, synthetic only.
- Sporter-style stock, no Monte Carlo option.
The Savage Axis XP is the best rifle for the money on the shelf. The bolt works smoothly, and they are accurate right out of the box.
Another great feature of a deer rifle is the weight., This rifle, barely over seven pounds, will be easier to carry all day. You will be delighted with this rifle.
Everyone that has bought one has loved it.
Savage Axis XP
The price of Savage Axis XP varies, so check the latest price at
2. Thompson Contender Compass II
Many hunters know Thompson Contender for the rifle caliber handguns they are so famous for, but they also offer a fantastic deer hunting rifle. Compass II has some unique attributes to talk about.
The barrel has what they call the 5R rifling design. The 5R design is made so the rifling does not cut into the copper jacketing of the bullet.
This feature of the 5R rifling will not deform the bullet, and it can stay true on its flight for a more extended period.
The barrel’s rifling will not foul as soon as a rifle is made to cut the bullet deeply, keeping the Thompson in the game longer and more accurate in the field.
Compass II uses a three-position safety. This will operate in the locked, lock and unload, and firing position.
The safety has a great tactile feel for knowing where the safety is and not taking your eyes off the target.
The bolt is a 60-degree rise, and nearly all scopes will fit. A fantastic old-school design uses the three-lug design bolt face pulling squarely into the breach, keeping the brass cartridge snug and square in the chamber.
The Compass II has a factory trigger that comes out of the box at 3-4 pounds pull. This rifle is easy to use, and its accuracy can compare to rifles that cost quite a bit more.
The rotary flush fit magazine is a final plus for the Thompson Compass II. The rotary magazine is removable, so loading and unloading are a snap.
Chamber check is simple, remove the magazine, open the bot, and take a look.
- True deer hunting calibers are available, from 243 to the heavy hitting 300 Win Mag.
- Affordable price
- Minute of Angle match grade 5R rifling
- 60-degree bolt angle
- 3 Lug Bolt head
- Synthetic stock for foul-weather hunting
- Detachable rotary magazine
- Threaded muzzle for compensator or suppressor
- The 3 – 4 pound trigger pull may be a bit touchy for new hunters
- Synthetic-only stock options, no wood option
- Does not come with a scope out of the box.
The Thompson Contender Compass II is an all-around deer rifle to its very core. The bot design is an old-school design that the modern rifles are headed back to; for a good reason, it works very well.
The 60-degree bolt angle will work with nearly all scopes. The 5R rifling design is the most advanced on the market, and it has out-of-the-box accuracy that cannot be beaten.
The price is very affordable. At a reasonable price, you will need to purchase a combo scope set, use a scope that you have in the locker, or buy a new one.
The calibers range from smaller deer calibers to long-distance big heavy magnum hitters. The rotary box magazine sits flush along the bottom of the stock and is easy to load and unload.
Thompson Contender Compass II
The price of Thompson Contender Compass II varies, so check the latest price at
3. Kimber Hunter Bolt Action
Kimber is mainly known for their handguns, but their hunting rifles are made with the same level of exactness.
The Hunter Bolt Action rifle is a fantastic offering for hunters and shooters that want a finely crafted firearm.
The Hunter Bolt Action comes chambered for all of the popular calibers. The Kimber does not come in magnum calibers.
The weight of the Hunter Bolt Action is nice and easy to carry at five and a half pounds, according to their spec sheet. If the rifle does weigh that little, it’s a good thing it does not come in the magnum calibers.
One piece of the lightweight puzzle is the stock material; it is a wood-colored synthetic. The length of pull is small for larger shooters, not a deal breaker, as that can be addressed with spacers behind the recoil pad.
The Kimber rifle has a very unique and fantastic bolt design. The bolt is made from stainless steel, so foul weather is not a problem.
The bolt is also modeled on the Winchester Model 70 (my personal deer rifle). The long Mauser-style extractor claw and the wing-style three-position safety are like the Winchester Model 70.
The rifle barrel has a twist rate of 1 in 10 and sports a four-groove style of rifling. This will make a hunting bullet fly very accurately.
The magazine is a removable box style for ease of loading and unloading. The trigger is light as well at 3.5 – 4 pounds of pull set at the factory.
- Stainless steel barrel and bolt
- Four groove rifling
- Polymer stock
- 1-inch recoil pad
- Removable box magazine
- Mauser Claw Extractor
- Model 70 wing-type safety
- Available in deer hunting calibers
- 3.5 – 4 pound trigger pull
- Cost is high for a first-time hunting rifle
- No optics included
The Kimber Hunter Bolt Action is a finely made, high-quality rifle. The available calibers are the most popular, even with the older crowd.
This rifle is built so well that generations from its purchase will still be hunting with it.
The adage “you get what you pay for” applies to this rifle. The cost and the quality is high for an entry rifle, but you will never regret the purchase if you can afford this Kimber deer hunting rifle.
Kimber Hunter Bolt Action
The price of Kimber Hunter Bolt Action varies, so check the latest price at
4. Bergara B-14 Hunter
From our Spanish friends, we have the Begera B-14 Hunter. Available in the heavy-hitting magnum and other more shoulder-friendly deer hunting calibers.
The Bergara rifles come with a fiberglass molded stock. If you are familiar with a Remington rifle the safety and two-lug bolt operation will be very familiar to you.
The trigger pull comes set from the factory at a crisp breaking three pounds of pull. The B-14 Hunter comes with either the hinged floor plate or a detachable box magazine. Either option makes unloading a snap and cleaning an easy chore.
The Bergara barrel is made from Chrom Molly, so a long life is ahead for this deer hunting rifle, the stock is formed with embedded steel pillars for accuracy.
The stock is also finished with a soft touch coating to ensure a solid grip on the slightly tacky surface.
- The price is fair, the quality is high
- Curved trigger, clean breaking operation
- Chrome Molly barrel
- Well-made, very comfortable stock
- Steel pillar inset in stock
- 24” Long Barrel
- The three-pound trigger may be light for new deer hunters
- No scope mounts with the package
- No scope with the package
This deer hunting rifle from a premium maker is fantastic. The Bergara manufacturing and attention to detail for optimum performance in a bolt action rifle are amazing.
Taking the bolt action and safety design from the Remington-style rifles, American hunters will have very little trouble operating this deer hunting rifle.
Bergara B-14 Hunter
The price of Bergara B-14 Hunter varies, so check the latest price at
5. Ruger American Standard
The Ruger American has a black synthetic stock with a well-defined and relieved pistol grip section. Its stock seems the most natural fit for rifles off the shelf, with gripping serrations for the fingertips.
The forend gripping area works excellent for shooting with gloves in cold and wet weather.
The American rifle comes in the standard deer hunting calibers from 243 to 30-06. The bolt has the old-school tri-lug lock-up to get the rounds tight and secure in the chamber.
The bolt has a 70-degree angle so that the scope will clear. The Ruger American comes with a factory-installed Picatinny scope mount. You will have to screw on the rings and then go sight the scope in.
The rifle comes from the factory with the barrel and action on bedding blocks, improving its accuracy before it leaves the store – amazing.
The ammunition is held in a removable magazine, making loading and unloading easy and cleaning a snap.
The trigger is a factory-adjustable pull with weights ranging from 3 pounds to 5 pounds. This deer hunting rifle will fit the shooter and their style of shooting more than most.
The safety is a tang-mounted style, making it easily reachable and visible from the shoulder. A tang-mounted safety is also very handy (pun intended) for left-handed shooters; everyone can reach it.
Speaking of left-handed shooters, the Ruger American rifle also has some left-handed options.
- Comfortable stock fit
- Adjustable trigger pull weight
- Left-handed option
- Deer hunting calibers available
- Removable magazine
- Factory bedded on pillars
- No scope is included in the package
The Ruger American Standard rifle is a whole lot of rifle for a reasonable price. When shooting and handling this rifle, it is very comfortable.
The stock and adjustable trigger work well with all levels of experience. The Ruger name and brand toughness will not let you down in the field.
Ruger American Standard
The price of Ruger American Standard varies, so check the latest price at
6. Remington 700 SPS
The Remington Model 700 rifle is world-renowned as one of the best.
The SPS rifle has a twist rate that matches the ammunition, so a 7mm Magnum and a 243 will have different twist rates to accomplish the highest accuracy possible from a major manufacturer.
The sock is synthetic, and the grip areas on the pistol grip and the forearm have a softer material inset for higher control and comfort when shooting.
The magazine is either the removable box type or a hinged floor plate, depending on the caliber and package you choose. Either way, the unloading is simple, and cleaning is a breeze.
The Remington 700 SPS also offers a compact version for younger shooters and hunters or smaller framed shooters.
The compact option does not come in the magnum calibers and only offers the short action calibers.
That is not a deal breaker, the 6.5 Creedmore is changing how everyone thinks about rifle ammo, and it is a short action round.
One thing about Remington deer rifles, they are one of the heavier you will find.
That is great for helping with taming recoil and can be a plus when holding on target, but hauling that eight-pound rifle around all day may be a pain in the shoulders.
- Well-built action and bolt
- Magnum calibers available
- Gripping insets
- Rifling twist rate mated to ammo
- Price for entry-level shooters
- No scope or mount from the manufacturer
I love the Remington Model 700 and one in the SPS even more. The history of safety malfunctions with the Remington 700 should make hunters leary.
Follow the safety rules, and no one will get hurt, but have the gun checked if you get one used.
Remington rifles are heavy to carry and heavy on the checkbook but worth the price of both when the time comes to take big game, and I will bet money that every hunting camp around the world has one or more in attendance.
Remington 700 SPS
The price of Remington 700 SPS varies, so check the latest price at
7. Mossberg Patriot
The Mossberg Patriot deer hunting rifle is an attention-getter that comes in long and short-action calibers.
Since many calibers are available, the deer hunter looking for the perfect fit gun is in the right place looking at the Mossberg Patriot.
The bolt is spiral fluted, looks very attractive, and works even better than it seems.
The magazine is detachable box style for easy loading, unloading, and cleaning, as I mentioned before.
The Patriot deer rifle is one of the first deer hunting rifles with a barrel recessed crowned. The recess crown is usually only used on target rifles.
Mossberg used it on the Patriot rifle to give the most remarkable accuracy possible.
Speaking of a new shooter or hunter looking for an exact fit with the Mossberg rifle, they offer the rifle with an adjustable trigger.
The adjustable trigger pull can be set from 2 pounds to seven pounds, and this gun will fit the shooter in every way.
Now for my favorite part: they offer the Patriot rifle with a walnut stock option. I like the synthetics; they are fantastic performers, maybe even better for a deer hunting rifle, but I am old school regarding rifle stocks.
On the note of wood rifle stocks, that translates into heavier rifles on the deer hunting trail. About halfway up the mountain, the synthetic stocks start sounding better and better.
- Wood stock option
- Heavy-hitting caliber options
- Adjustable trigger
- Box magazine
- Fluted bolt
- A wood stock option is expensive
- No scope in the package
- Target crown can lead to muzzle damage
How can you beat this rifle for a deer hunting tool? The stocks are beautiful, or weather resistant, whichever you feel is the right choice.
The calibers range from lightweight recoil rifles for beginners to heavy magnum deer hunting rounds.
The rifle looks terrific, and the cost is right in the middle of the pack, so everyone should be able to afford one.
The saving on the rifle will be a good thing when looking at scopes to mount for the deer hunt so that you can shop in the more expensive end of the aisle.
The price of Mossberg Patriot varies, so check the latest price at
8. AR-10 (Smith and Wesson)
The detachable magazine can be as large or small as you need. I would suggest the 5-round magazine, so the bottom of the rifle is flat an even.
The bolt is designed to lock up perfectly squarely, the barrel is floated inside the foregrip, and accuracy on an AR10 platform can be fantastic.
Today, many deer hunting calibers are offered in the AR10 platform as well.
If you decide to use the AR15 platform for deer hunting, check the deer hunting and big game laws, as many states will not allow the 22 caliber bullet for taking big game.
If you use a larger caliber, ensure the feet per second match the law set by the Division of Wildlife for big game.
Optics of every kind can fit on the AR10 platform with the correct scope mounts. The charging handle may get a little tricky to operate, so double-check before you lay out a pile of money on optics.
- Very competent calibers are available for big game.
- Every option available for optics
- Removable box magazine
- Flash hider
- Awkward for new hunters
- Stocks not made for hunting
If you have an AR10 rifle and feel competent to take it hunting, or it is your only rifle, nothing stops you from using it for deer hunting.
You will want to practice shooting it like a hunting rifle before you go to the field. What practice like a hunting rifle means is tracing a moving target or getting into position for taking big game is all.
When you take the AR10 to the field, you may want to leave the weapon-mounted lights and all the other stuff at home. The AR10 is heavy enough by itself.
AR-10 (Smith and Wesson)
The price of AR-10 (Smith and Wesson) varies, so check the latest price at
9. Browning X-bolt
Since I live in Utah, it may be the law that I include Browning in this article. The Browning X-Bolt Medallion is a fantastic deer hunting rifle. Browning rifles are like a Lincoln Navigator; they are lovely and expensive.
The Browning X-Bolt rifle is offered with a rosewood stock, carved and checkered to perfection.
The steel receiver is engraved and finished in glossy black from the tip of the barrel to the back of the action. See what I mean by a Lincoln Navigator of deer hunting rifles.
The barrel is freely floated from the factory, meaning the stock will not interfere with accuracy, wood, or synthetic options.
The bolt is at a 60-degree angle, and this rifle has a bolt release button that works with the safety in the on position.
The ammo feeds from a detachable box magazine for loading and unloading, along with cleaning ease.
The trigger has a three-level Feather Trigger feature. I almost forgot that the trigger is gold-plated, just for kicks and giggles.
- Beautiful, inside and outside
- Fit and function are impeccable
- Rosewood stock option
- Available in every center fire caliber
- Waiting list to get one
- No scope or other accessories in the package
This is the one if you need to brag about your deer hunting rifle. The attractive features in gold are lovely, but how this rifle is built is impressive.
The problem I have with the Browning X-Bolt Medallion is taking it to the field and scratching it on tree branches.
With all of that said, I love mine! Nothing feels better than polishing the rosewood and hitting the gold parts just a little more.
And, to top it off, I had to put a Leopold Scope on it with the gold ring around the objective lens.
The price of Browning X-bolt varies, so check the latest price at
10. Henry Long Ranger single shot
Usually, in an article like this, the author will talk about a lever gun or two. Lever action deer hunting rifles have been around since deer hunting became a sport.
I am going to go a different route. I am going to talk about a single-shot rifle.
The Henry Repeating Arms Long Ranger Single Shot rifle is a true work of art and an even more valid test of the deer hunter. You have one shot; make it count.
The falling-block style action opens with a lever moved to the side on the rear tang of the rifle. The rifle does not use an external safety, and the hammer will not touch the primer unless the trigger is held back intentionally.
Henry deer hunting rifles come with a limited caliber selection 308 and 6.5 Creedmore, or the shoulder bender 45/70 for some extremely heavy-hitting ammo.
A scope or other optic can be mounted on the chamber like a bolt action rifle. Since the barrel does not move from the action, this gun is a fully locked shooter when the falling block returns to battery.
- Solid shooting platform
- Easy to operate
- Easy to clean
- Only one round, so make it count
- Nearly impossible to operate the hammer with a scope and gloves
The deer hunt will take on a different challenge when you carry a single-shot rifle.
Try one of these single-shot offerings from Henry rifles when you feel you have reached a level at deer hunting to change the playing field.
Most rifles are in pistol calibers, and a few are in deer hunting calibers. The stock is straight back like the old days, so recoil will help wake you up when dragging out the deer you were able to take with one round.
Henry Long Ranger single shot
The price of Henry Long Ranger single shot varies, so check the latest price at
Find out the best scope for 7mm-08 rifle, Click here to read it.
My answer to this question is in a 30-caliber family. My exact choice is the 30-06, but that is a family tradition. I have seen this caliber as the most effective in years of hunting. Smaller calibers may not get the job done without good shot placement.
The most used deer rifle is probably the Remington Model 700 in 30-06 or 270 calibers. Most of these guns have been handed down through generations. New purchased rifles are probably the Savage family in 308 Winchester.
An excellent deer hunting rifle for a beginner is the Savage Axis XP in 308 Winchester. The basic package comes with the optics installed and bore-sighted. The caliber is big enough to get the job done, the ammo is abundant, and the recoil is manageable.
Deer hunting is a great outdoor activity. Memories made on the mountain and at deer camp will last forever.
Make sure your deer hunting rifle fits your needs, and never overspend for the rifle. Any quality deer hunting rifle will serve your needs for the rest of your life if you take care of it.
Make sure you know how to take the rifle apart and deep clean it before storing away. Deer hunting happens at the time of year when moisture or plain old rain and snow will get everywhere.
Debris from the trail will be lodged in places where you had to spend time and tools to get it, clean and oil it, then put it away.
Always use quality ammunition in your deer hunting rifle. Use the same ammunition to hunt with that you sight the scope in, or it will perform differently in the field.