It used to be that precision bolt action rifles were firearms that you had to save your pennies in order to be able to afford. In the past few years however, the price of an entry level bolt gun has fallen to the point that almost anyone can afford to purchase a high quality accurate rifle. In many cases, a durable 3-9x40mm scope is also included in the package allowing new shooters and first time hunters to get outfitted and up and running quickly. Here is a rundown of some of the best values we've found among entry level bolt action rifles.
Savage has a line of entry-level rifles that are marketed under the Stevens brand. These rifles have been around for decades and became quite well known when the Stevens line was sold through popular mail order catalogs such as Sears and Montgomery Ward. Savage later purchased the Stevens brand, standardized their parts and incorporated the rifles into their line up as budget-model firearms.
The Stevens 200 rifle
uses standard Savage Model 10/110 parts, making it easy to fix up and maintain. New, it is slightly more expensive than the Savage Edge, but significantly less than the 110. If you're looking to save a buck on an entry level deer rifle and are willing to put a little work into it, you can't go wrong searching gun shows and pawn shops for a well used Stevens 200 rifle. Given the abundance of Savage 110 parts, it is fairly easy to rebarrel and fix up an older Stevens 200.
Brand new, the Stevens 200 is obviously a budget entry-level rifle. It's not as finely finished as the more expensive 110, the stock is light weight and feels somewhat flimsy, but it has performance where it counts. The Stevens 200 shoots just fine right out of the box, easily grouping 2" or less at 100 yards. The bolt action is smooth without any binding, and the trigger is crisp and smooth with minimal overtravel. The Stevens 200 is available ready for you to mount the optic of your choice, or you can get it with a factory mounted scope in the 200 XP line.
Mossberg 100 ATR
The Model 100 ATR rifle
from Mossberg is largely based off of the Japanese built Howa 1500 action. This simple to use rifle has only minimal controls: bolt, safety, and bolt release. Unlike most other budget rifles, the ATR has an internal box magazine. Its 4 round capacity allows the rifle to hold a total of 5 rounds with one in the chamber. The polymer stock is tough enough to stand up to harsh field conditions while still light enough to make this 7 pound rifle easy to carry on long stalks. Sling inserts are molded directly into it the stock, making it simple to attach swivels and a sling or bi-pod.
The "keep it simple" design used on the ATR makes it easy to quickly learn the controls well enough to operate by touch, allowing the shooter to keep their eyes on the target and not fumble around searching for the safety. It can be found new for around $300-$350 with a scope and is available chambered in .308, .243, .30-06, and .270 Winchester.
The newer Mossberg 4x4
is a step up from the ATR. While much nicer than the ATR, the 4x4 is not that much more expensive, with pricing right around $450 depending on how it is configured. It is chambered in .25-06, .270, .30-06, 7mm Remington Magnum, .300 WinMag, and .338 Winchester Magnum and has a detachable box magazine which holds four standard or three magnum cartridges.
The highlight of the 4x4 is in the action. The LBA "lightning" trigger breaks right around 3.5 lbs as set from the factory and is user adjustable down to a very light 2 pounds. The bolt moves effortlessly and locks securely into place with two lugs. The two position safety placed just behind the bolt handle blocks the trigger but still allows the bolt to be opened with the safety "on".
The 4x4 is available with a wide range of stock and barrel combinations. Mossberg's futuristic looking skeletonized stock can be had in synthetic or laminate, while walnut stocks are offered in a sculpted style similar to the skeletonized stock or in a traditional classic design. All of the stocks offered have a Monte Carlo style raised cheek piece built in to better position the shooter and enhance cheek weld. Barrels can be found tapered or fluted with a traditional blue matte finish, or with Mossberg's proprietary Marinecoat stainless satin finish. Ported muzzle breaks are also available to help reduce recoil.
There's nothing particularly special about the XL7. It's a fairly plain bolt action rifle built around tried and trued designs. But don't let that dissuade you from buying one. Marlin engineers took a proven bolt action design and refined it until they came up with the XL7, a rifle that is supremely accurate as well as reliable. The Marlin XL7
comes with a Pro-Fire adjustable trigger system. The Pro-Fire system is fully adjustable by the user, and incorporates a trigger safety to help prevent accidental discharges. Additional safety devices include a standard 2 position safety located behind the bolt handle and red indicator behind the bolt for a visual indication that the rifle is cocked. A fluted bolt makes the action very easy to quickly open and close, and the bolt movement itself is silky smooth.
Like the Mossberg ATR, it utilizes an internal box magazine which holds 4 long action cartridges. Though it does not include a scope, the Marlin XL7 does come with a one piece scope base.
The XL7 is available in .25-06, .270, and .30-06. and dealer prices for the XL7 range from $300-$400.
Well known rifle manufacturer Remington made quite a reputation for themselves with their line of Model 700 rifles. Available in a wide range of configurations and finishes, the Model 700 is easily the best selling bolt action rifle in the world. Variants of the Model 700 are the rifle of choice for military and SWAT snipers.
The Remington Model 770
is an updated and much improved version of the Model 700 based 710 rifle. Improvements on the 710 design include a modified detachable magazine release, redesigned stock with raised cheek piece, and the addition of texturing to the grip. A mounted and boresighted 3-9x40 scope is included with every 770.
The Model 770 is available with a black synthetic stock and blued barrel, or in stainless with a Realtree patterned camouflage stock, and can be found in long action chambered for .30-06, .300 Remington Magnum, and .300 Winchester Magnum or short action chambered for 7mm-08 and .308 Winchester. A recent addition to the 770 line is the 770 Compact Model chambered in the mild recoiling .243 Winchester, making perfect for youth.
By far the best bang for your buck, the Savage Edge
features a silky smooth bolt and 22" Free-Floating Tapered Barrel topped with a matching 3-9x40mm scope. Dual pillar bedding further enhances the consistency of the barrel. It is only available in long action, but is able to handle both long and short action cartridges and can be found with a variety of calibers ranging from .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, .25-06, and .308, on up to .270 Winchester and .30-06. MSRP is set at $396, but dealer prices are hovering slightly over $300. The Edge's synthetic stock is available in your choice of black or camo.
The Savage Edge is not just a rehashed Savage 110
. While there are similarities between the two designs such as the bolt head, the few differences such as the bolt handle are easy to spot. The new handle is a skeletonized version of the 110 bolt handle and adds some visual interest to the Edge. Like the 110, the bolt action on the new Edge is smooth and shows no indication of binding. It uses the same dual bolt lugs as the 110, the even pressure on the bolt face ensuring that the cartridge is perfectly aligned with the bore every time. Unlike the 110, the Edge uses a different action and trigger. Gone is the much loved Savage AccuTrigger, but don't despair. The Edge trigger is still a very nice crisp trigger with a "glass rod" break right at five pounds. While the new trigger is not adjustable, it can still be fine tuned by a gunsmith if desired.
Easily shooting 1.5 MOA, the Savage Edge is more than accurate enough to serve as a deer rifle. Any beginning hunter would do well to consider this rifle as a great starting point.
Whether you are an experienced hunter looking for the perfect beginner rifle for your young hunter or a new hunter looking for an inexpensive rifle to take your first deer, there is an entry level rifle out there that will fit your budget and your needs perfectly. Most of these rifles come factory equipped with a 3-9x scope, making it that much easier to get your firearm on target out in the field.