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An Introduction to the Best Hunting Rifles

Choosing a hunting rifle shouldn’t be all that difficult, but with so many choices and so many calibers, it can seem a daunting challenge. Of the hundreds and thousands of guns produced over the years in the hunting rifle category, perhaps ten spring to mind as candidates for the perfect hunting weapon. Part one of this article will highlight five of the best hunting rifles available. Part two of this article will highlight five more of these excellent hunting weapons. Also, look for in-depth reviews on each of the weapons highlighted in coming articles.

The act of hunting is about as deeply personal as an event can be; it goes without saying that a hunter’s bond with their gun likely extends far beyond simply a tool with which they gather food. It’s not uncommon to see the family’s rifle treated with the utmost of respect, even receiving more care than the kids at times. When a hunter has to trust their life and the sustenance of their family to their hunting weapon, it leads to an extraordinary friendship between man (or woman) and their gun.

Modern hunters tend to have whole arsenals of guns for hunting, and just about every animal has a perfect caliber with which they can be dispatched easily and which does not overdo it. There are several different types of actions, some favoring certain styles of hunting more than others. We will cover all different action types and pick ten different calibers, each focusing on hunting a specific animal.

Action Types

In this article we’re introducing three bolt-action weapons, one falling-block weapon, and one lever-action repeating rifle. A brief explanation of each of the actions is probably in order.

The bolt action: The bolt action is an action manually actuated (loading and removing the cartridges) by the hunter. Most often an internal magazine holds two to five cartridges in a position to feed directly – tension from the magazine pushes a cartridge up so that it is held in place in the magazine. From an open bolt position (meaning the bolt is not locked and is fully moved to its rearward position), the carrier notch on the breech face of the bolt comes in contact with the rim of the cartridge, and the forward motion feeds the cartridge into the chamber as the bolt is rotated and locked into place in its forward position. The extractor seats itself on the interior lip of the cartridge. After the round is fired, the bolt is then manually drawn back again to its open position, this time still clutching the fired round in its extractor as it moves back into its full open position. An ejector is positioned opposite the extractor to push on another part of the cartridge rim, pushing the cartridge towards the outside of the gun.

The falling block: The falling-block action, one of the oldest actions in existence, also uses an all-manual action. A small lever is pulled down from the trigger housing area, which releases a breechblock that acts as the breech face holding a cartridge in place when one is loaded in the chamber. The user then facilitates the action by loading a cartridge into the open chamber manually, then repositioning the small lever back into its place around the trigger area. This forces the breechblock to lock the cartridge into the chamber and readies the gun for action. An extraction/ejection process occurs upon re-releasing the small lever around the trigger. In the oldest models the cartridge had to be removed manually, though in most modern falling-block actions the cartridge is automatically displaced as a result of mechanical parts.

The lever action: The lever action, while possibly not the first repeater (it’s debatable between the lever action and the Colt revolving action), is certainly the long-standing favorite, the more accurate, and the more durable of the repeating-action rifles. Popularized in the old West as the fast-shooting and accurate rifle with myriad purposes, the lever-action repeating rifle has been around in the mainstream since at least the early 1890s. The action uses a series of mechanical connections to perform several steps to a loading and reloading process in one fluid motion. After cartridges are loaded into the rifle magazine (usually a round tube magazine underneath the barrel) the lever is swung forward from its resting position into an open position roughly 65° from the bore line. As the lever is pulled down, a cartridge is removed in the process and placed onto “fingers” within the action that will eventually lift the cartridge into the barrel ramp. At the exact same time, a bolt and carrier are moved towards the rear of the gun, opening up space for the cartridge to be loaded into the breach. As the lever is closed into its normal resting position, the cartridge is manipulated up into the ramp area of the chamber while simultaneously the carrier and bolt push its rim on the bolt’s front breech face into the chamber. A final seating of the round is achieved by securing the lever into its full quarter lock position. The gun is now ready to fire.

Now that we have discussed the three types of actions that will be featured today, it’s time to introduce the guns. Each of these weapons is an excellent choice, provides a proven value, and is specifically suited for a particular cartridge and a particular animal.

The first five guns:

  • the Remington 700
  • the Browning A-bolt
  • the Winchester 70
  • the Ruger falling block
  • the Marlin lever action big bore

*Important note: undoubtedly each gun connoisseur will have their own thoughts either supporting or disagreeing with the author’s. The goal isn’t to spark a debate, but rather to showcase an excellent weapon and an excellent cartridge so that a hunter can determine if those guns or those cartridges make sense in their personal plans. The purpose of the article set is not to highlight strengths or weaknesses or compare the guns relative to each other. Certainly each of these manufacturers makes many different types of weapons; each perhaps makes an excellent contender in each different style listed here. The goal is to highlight the popular weapons of our time used for hunting. Also remember that this is simply an introduction to these weapons; in-depth reviews will come in the following weeks.

The Remington 700

The Remington 700 has been continuously made since 1962 and remains largely unchanged. It is a bolt-action rifle with a three-to-five-round detachable or fixed box magazine. It is currently made in calibers between and including .17 Remington and .458 Winchester Magnum.

The Browning A-Bolt

A rifle made continuously since 1984, it uses a non-rotating bolt design and holds three to five rounds in a magazine that is either detachable or fixed. It is made in all mainstream calibers and several specialty calibers.

The Winchester 70

The Winchester 70 has been produced almost continually since 1936, with only a few years not producing a model. It also uses a three-to-five-round magazine with detachable or fixed boxes and is made in a wide variety of mainstream and fringe/specialty cartridges.

The Ruger Falling Block

Introduced in the 1960s, this single-shot rifle is made in a wide variety of calibers, with an aim at long-range hunting accuracy.

The Marlin Lever-Action Repeating Rifle

Introduced as a redesign in 1936, the model 336 (one of several lever actions available in the brand) retains many of its classic design cues and is one of the more popular lever actions of all time. It is chambered in substantial rounds such as .30-30 Winchester and .35 Remington, as well as .44 Magnum and .357 Magnum (for non-336 lever-action variants), and it features a tube magazine.

These rifles are all popular styles or specific versions of weapons; they are all capable designs, workhorse hunting companions, and well made and finished. In the following articles, we will discuss a specific hunting rifle design, a specific caliber, and an animal it is well suited to. Remember, it’s not a hard and fast definitive list; rather, it is a good look at a variety of hunting oriented topics that fit well together. In the end, the rifle, caliber, and animal you hunt are always going to be a personal choice or dictated by an uncontrollable set of variables. A list like this will only really serve as a good introduction to the different attributes of the content. Check back over the next few weeks as we dive into the specifics of each of these great rifles. Enjoy!

©2011 Off the Grid News

© 2008-2014 Off The Grid News

25 comments

  1. this article is about hunting rifles, supposedly, BUT in the picture the man has a pump action SHOTGUN, wonder who selected this picture

    • Off The Grid Editor

      The authors do not select the pictures for the articles. Other people on the OTGN team do. This was a mistake compounded by the the stock photo company’s description labeling this a hunting rifle. In fact, this photographer’s entire bird hunting series has this gun mistakenly labeled as a rifle. We apologize to our readers for the mistake and have corrected it.

    • NO it looks to me like a Model 70 Winchester brushed stainless with a boss on it. But it is not a pump shotgun.
      Look at the way the forend curls and the one piece boss, definitely a winchester
      What think ye?
      The Col

  2. “…with so many choices and so many calibers, it can seem a daunting challenge….” As an introduction, this is nicely done but with an introductory statement like this, may we expect some discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of certain configurations and calibers? For example, falling block rifles are stylish and expensive, not to mention almost worthless for self protection. As this article appears in a forum for self-sufficiency, shouldn’t one lean towards rifles of more universal and practical use, particularly those chambered for military calibers? Rare and expensive calibers are likely to be the first to become useless in ammo shortages, hard times and government interference in commercial logistics. How about after market add-on’s that increase utility, such as caliber conversion barrels easily installed by the hunter/user without gunsmithing–such as the barrel-nut system used by Savage Arms (not mentioned above)?

  3. You’ve got a good selection for the bolt action rifles and marlin is a good lever gun but you left out pump rifles and automatics, both are faster getting off additional shots and many are as accurate for all practical purposes. They also would double as good self defense weapons, especially the autos. I seems like someone who doesn’t know much about guns wrote an article about guns for people who don’t know much about guns, This article could lead those reading it to make bad decisions with scarce and hard earned money and leave them less prepared. Please know what you are talking about before giving advice on such an important issue.

    • With respect Mark, this is an introduction article to a series of ten specific articles. I myself (the author) am a gunsmith of almost 20 years, with 10+ years of experience training special forces teams on weapons integration for areas requiring new weapons, three brothers in SPEC-OPS and a long history as an expert witness in litigation and high profile cases on ballistics and weapons. Certainly I know a thing or two about weapons… I currently run a company focused on risk management for domestic companies operating in war torn countries, where we help them set up security teams and protocols to avoid major issues with rogue militant groups, terrorists, and other such entities.

      I have shot every mainstream production gun on the planet (with the exception of very few) and have made custom AR-15′s, military rebuilds, and other customs like raceguns/race wheelguns, not to mention working in southern California as a supplier and contract provider to 12 different SWAT and law enforcement groups as the head of a family business here (since 1958) for the last 12 years.

      My designs have been adopted by the military and major channels of Law Enforcement, and my work has been part of some of the most impressive teams in development for such items-including suppressors, add-ons and composite material weapons and accessories.

      Is my resume not impressive enough to extract some sort of useful knowledge? The goal of the article series was to highlight the different capable weapons, not to tell everyone that they should shoot the same thing as I do.

      I personally shoot many different weapons:

      I have taken a pig from a helicopter over Catalina Island with an unmodified SKS, and used a FN FAL to take a deer at 450 yards, but that doesn’t mean that every person will want to adopt my style of shooting and my choice of weapons. In a large percentage of the United states and other areas, bolt actions are considered THE ONLY hunting weapon-and while I could extoll the virtues of a semi auto military weapon for its versatility, add-ons, and capability, it doesn’t mean it’s the only way.

      Wait for the other 11 articles, then factor in that we have a set amount of words that we can work within in each article, and then tell me that we aren’t trying our best to entertain and inform a large cross section of the survivalist population. (by the way I did not select the picture) I myself am an OTG’r and a very accomplished survivalist, with a lot of training in the specifics of the genre.

      I know I have the chops, and while occasionally I wish nothing more than to explain how to glass bed a rifle, or build a suppressor for $25, or tell the readership how to make a completely composite gun which can pass airport security and shoot for over a thousand rounds before its usable life is over, it’s simply not part of the job most of the time. But we do receive many requests for comparisons of DIFFERENT (not just .308 or .223 or 12 gauge) calibers, different rifles, and basics about animals which might provide a good sustainable food supply for a family living off the grid in VARIED areas of the world. MY personal aim is ALWAYS to favor utilitarianism and value over all else, and I want everyone to know the value of their choices in a gun, not just what I have deemed to be appropriate or top notch.

      I enjoy the comments, but please remember just as I don’t know your credentials, it would be a bit unfair of me to blast your work on first glance. I am sure, that if you look through my body of work and pick up a copy of one of my books on guns-which I would be happy to give a free copy of after the most recent one is published, that you will see, I am certainly not some staff writer picked up because I read a few Guns and Ammo magazines or a copy of field and stream. I have MANY years of up close and intensive experience.

      Please let me know if you would like a copy of my newest book when it’s released: worthen (dot) ben (@) gmail (dot) com. By the way, I have 6 books being published this year, with 3 more being advanced now, and have already ghost written over 9 books this year in similar categories.

      Thank you all for the feedback.

      • Dont take it so personally Ben, I have been in the service longer than some of my Captains have been alive!!! They still have very valid and convincing arguments on “why they are smarter than me…” but the one argument they cannot beat is “I’m still alive from thinking and acting the way I do….” And if that doesnt work the Eagle on the collar at least quiets them down, however it NEVER stops them……..and I never kid myself that it convinces them completely. The only thanks I get is when I get an offhand salute from a young enlisted guy….. “Yeah I’ll take the old man! He knows when to shoot and follows orders….!?!” That may be as good as it gets…..
        Oh well, even Jesus, wasnt a prophet at the Nazareth High school reunion……… we cannot expect better treatment than that, can we?

  4. The thing I like about the marlin is the reason that I bought my Henry rifle. It’s chambered in hand gun ammo. In my case 44mag. It matches my 44 mag ruger redhawk nicely. When hunting I have a potent round for my rifle and my back up. I don’t need to carry different ammo for both.

    • Common practice in the Old West so you didn’t have to carry two kinds of ammunition, but it somewhat limits the range and power of the rifle compared to rifle ammo.

  5. Ammunition would be the bottleneck in tough times, and the easiest method for government to implement to restrict use of guns. As Reticent Rogue said, normally scarce ammunition would become even harder to obtain in an ammunition shortage. Extremely common or military calibers might still be available on the black market.

    Black powder weapons might be a good backup if ammunition became unobtainable. Black powder can be made at home if you can’t purchase it. Primers might still be a problem unless you had an actual flintlock. (or could develop your own electrical ignition system).

  6. Wow!…I have more “Faith” in tha comments than tha Article….Everyone is different and lives in a different locality. So tha focus should be on tha “majority” of tha readers, Auto-loading, military style rifles seems to be tha consences of modern men. Two calibars command looking at, .223 and .308, both will be found more readily than all tha rest. Both have exellent records, but keep in mind that tha .30 calibar will bring down “anything” in N.America.
    Why should we limit our-selves to one?
    Two pistols, two bolt-guns, two shotguns, two semi-auto carbines…just for starters….
    PS
    Get a Marine to write tha next article…

  7. A person with a limited budget can cover all rifle needs with 2 AR platform rifles, one in .308 and the other in .223. Both are as accurate as any other type, bolt-lever-pump-etc., and far more versatile depending on the situation. A 5 round mag can be used for legal hunting and 30 rounds mags for when the balloon goes up. A single good quality scope one a 20 moa base can be moved between both rifles’ flattop rails and provide accurate ranging to the limits of the cartridges. A good quality .22 pistol such as a Ruger with a 3″ bull barrel gives rifle accuracy in a small package that can be carried in the bugout bag without taking the place of the .45 on the hip, but those are the subjects of future articles.

  8. From the article:The lever action: The lever action, while possibly not the first repeater (it’s debatable between the lever action and the Colt revolving action), is certainly the long-standing favorite, the more accurate, and the more durable of the repeating-action rifles

    Not to be too nit picky, but the bolt action is a repeating rifle and generally more accurate than a lever action. A lever is a bit faster to cycle though for most people.

  9. well i like my rem mod700 in 7mm rem mag when i first got the gun i took down a bull moose with it but for most of my deer hunting i like my 308 rem semi auto but if you want just a few guns to cover most of your hunting needs then id say a good shooting 22lr a 12ga shotgun and a 308 or 7mm or 30-06 will handle about anything in northamerica thats my thoughts on this

  10. When you get more than a few winters on you and things like hands and fingers begin to stiffin up , a semi-auto , which you did not mention can be a real boon . I hunt with a very old winchester model 100 in 308 caliber and since I fill my magazine in advance the stiffness , whether from old age or the cold or a littlie of both , makes things a lot easier .

  11. The AR-15 is a good mdel for self defense and we have several. We also have a couple of shotguns. One is a 12 ga. Ithaca pump and the other a 12 ga. double barrelled job. We also have numerous .22 cal. rifles along with more than pleny of ammo. My favorite though, is the Mosin Nagant 91/30. We have 3 of those and the ammo is Russian surplus. The 7.62 X54R ammo is relatively cheap, comes in sealed “Spam” cans and is made of steel. Very good penetration in a defensive situation. I also have plenty of 203 grain copper plated lead core ammo for hunting. The Mosin Nagant is capable of ‘reaching out and touching someone’ at considerable distances although I am accurate to around 350 to 400 yrds. They say it is able to go to approx. 2000 meters or better, but not in my hands. Mosin Nagants are plentiful and inexpensive as is the ammo. but latest word is that the prices will be going up very soon if they haven’t already. That is just my opinion though. Your mileage may vary.

  12. A .22, a shotgun, and a rifle – pump or lever. They will bwcoming after semiautos first by confusing them with full autos. Fit the firearm to the intended use not the other way around. If the balloon goes up, you don’t want to attract atttention by throwing a bunch of rounds around…!!!

  13. I agree that the .308 and 5.56mm should not have been left out and would add that we should not forget the Beretta Tikka. I have personally had the privilage to test all of the firearms mentioned in the story, and under adverse conditions, the Tikka out performed all of the other brands mentioned. And for the price of $649.99 one can purchase an insanely accurate stainless steel rifle with bases, rings and a synthetic stock. They go on sale often for $599.99 at Gander Mountain and other retailers. One may argue that it is gun not manufactured in the USA, but the fact of the matter is that the Browning and Winchester are not manufactured here either. And the bottom line here is to have an accurate and dependable gun at a reasonable price. At this price point only the Remington can come close and in accuracy it still does not compare.

  14. I think these are all great comments: BUT It’s a 12 part series, with 11 parts still to come. Only the first five have been mentioned, I promise there is a lot more to come! Of course semi auto’s and military weapons suitable for hunting will be covered. I myself (the author) am not a fan of at least 3 of the guns mentioned in this first article from a practicality standpoint and I am a gunsmith of 20 years almost, and have seen/used/shot everything out there. BUT…to be fair and to highlight specific cartridges that all of the OTGnews readers may be interested in, it was necessary to talk about different weapons. I tend to favor the .308 .223 and the .300 WM for North American hunting (in everything from an M!A to a HBAR custom AR to a Remington Sendero), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t others available that can do the job. There are lots to come.

    • Ok Mr W., I will keep my pen locked up for now, I wish you would have written your quals in advance, would have given us a better understanding.
      For myself, I’m 52 years of well seasoned accumilated knowledge, Few people older than me (60 +) seem to care or are even aware of what may come, same thing with the younger generation (-25) with exception of my Son and the readers with children. We have shot the old stuff, but we have the luxery of buying new, this includes Polymer pistols, black stock/high capastity anything, and ammo by the case, heck, I have more optics than most people have weapons.
      I have lived most of my life next to the Largest accumilation of Military Might in the world, I know things as well…
      Looking foward to your next article…

      • I couldn’t agree with you more: I remember being one of the first gunsmiths in California to go through the full armory training presented from Glock and H and K, and thinking to myself: this is the game changer. The polymer frame had already been famous for 3-4 years at the time, but it was still relatively unknown in the states outside of a few elite groups (mainly swat teams). At the time, I couldn’t yet own a handgun even-I made a vow then, that my “luxury guns” would always be the very best technology, and that I would eschew tradition and classic lines for versatility, toughness and newer technologies. It has been an easy ride for me as a result. But as I talk with the men who have forgotten more than I could probably remember in two lifetimes about hunting(yourself probably a contender on that list)…it always comes full circle. I feel like a British redcoat learning how to scalp someone and wondering why the savage American Indians wouldn’t just fight in formations and “respectfully”. All is fair in love and war I guess…and I finally realized that there was more than one way to skin a cat. As I’m realizing, functionality and versatility will always trump everything else.

        I still own all my modern and mil type weapons, and always they win out when I need to make a versatile and safe option with relatively inexpensive ammunition, but I certainly love to shoot my .375 H and H, and my .300 win mag (a Ruger #1 and a Remington Sendero respectively). They are both better hunting guns outside of the U.S. than anything else I have (aside from a couple of dialed in .308′s), and they certainly get me in less trouble than the .338 Lapua tactical rifle I have. I can’t get away from MY roots, just as many of the people I meet can’t get away from theirs (Winchester 70, Marlin 336, etc., etc.), so I promise some great basic reads, followed by some really exceptional articles about more modern and utilitarian things. Im an AR nut by the way: my company purchased 650 lower receivers and 4000 30 round mil mags just prior to the California Assault weapons ban (#2). I’m a modification freak.

        I love good debate, and am certainly open minded, and willing to change my opinion should something better come out. I remember getting laughed at, hunting with an Armalite AR10 (.308) on my first big hunt…UNTIL I was the only one to drop the animal in one shot, and able to assist with a follow up shot on a wounded animal for a hunting partner. To this day, that story lives on. All in all, I agree with the vast majority of the comments, and I certainly will know what this audience appreciates a bit more as I write new content. Thanks All of you, you make this work so enjoyable.

      • It is the same question of what vehicle is better Chevy, ford or dodge. The only real answer is: Whichever one you have that is paid off. I shoot an M4 over here, but I know how to use my oponents AK’s, SKS’s, and RPGs, better than they do, cause I can hit them and they always seem to miss me. I like things about their wpns better than the M4, but it is paid for, I have plenty of ammo, and the license to use it. Cant go wrong with that combo. Just learn to fire what you can afford and you will ahead of the game.
        Do not get drug into us Old Farts and afficianados rants, if you can shoot your gun, from experience and living to tell the story, it is better than a better gun in the hands of someone who isnt so good.
        Practice, Practice, practice
        The Col

  15. I appreciate the article. There will probably be as many opinions as there are different guns. Everybody has their favorite manufacturers, models and calibers. As a police firearms instructor for 25 years as well as a police sniper, I have had the chance to shoot many different guns with different calibers, however, I will keep my personal opinions to myself until the last article. I appreciate the author’s first article because it is designed for people that haven’t thought about it before, to initiate a desire to research the subject, not for those that are already knowledgeable. Thanks Ben, I look forward to the rest of the series.

  16. Good intro article,hope the rest in the series go into some more detail on calibers,sights and optics,and reasons for bolt/lever/pump rifles,-vs- semi-auto rifles.
    I hope that some of the newer,inexpensive,but accurate bolt actions rifles are discussed in future articles,like the Marlin and Savage lines,as well as some of the interchangeable barrel rifle/shotgun combo guns available,all good choices for beginners.
    Just my opinion,but I like the Ruger Gunsite scout rifle in the way of newer semi-auto’s that are not A-R platform rifles.

    I tend to favor having rifles in .308, 30-06 and 5.56/.223, keep a 12 gauge shotugn, and a 9mm handgun as these all use the most common ammo calibers/gauge on the planet.

    Another thing to consider is what part of the country you live in,as the popular hunting calibers vary from region to region,and should be considered when choosing caliber.
    For instance-in the mountains of PA and W.Va. the most common deer rounds are 30-30 and 30-06, out west there are more .300 Win mags, .338′s 45-70′s etc.
    Hunting ammo will be available for some time in an extended “emergency situation”, due to many people having some ammo for their hunting rifles stocked up, and may be available by bartering other supplies for it. (same with military/law enforcement calibers)

    Looking forward to the rest of the series.

  17. Ben, keep up the good writings, they stimulate thought among the readers and that counts for much. So many styles and calibers of firearms are available, that it’s hard for folks to pick and choose. Having been raised by people who could more than qualify as shooters, I have an old school mindset on arms and their use as tools, but do enjoy the advances technology has made available. Even though we live in the heart of some best hunting country in America, I don’t mess with it, we like beef, pork and chicken. That doesn’t deter me from enjoying our arms. Need be we can feed ourselves and defend as we have to [Heaven forbid]. Selection ranges from .22 to .458 mag, with my favorites being the .22 and 30-06. 5.56 nato is a good one too and has a huge following. Keep up the good work and thank you. God Bless to all.

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