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The 7 Very Best Deer Rifles You Can Buy

Image source: pixabay.com

Image source: pixabay.com

There is nothing in the firearm world quite as personal as the deer rifle. There are almost more calibers, makes, models and optics than you can count.

From Grandpa’s model 94 that has seen faithful use for decades in the Appalachians or Maine North Woods, to the Ruger 77 Hawkeye carried by the black tail hunter on Alaska’s Seward Peninsula. From the classic Remington 700, to Savage’s model 11. This article is about what are, in my humble opinion, the best deer rifles you can own or purchase right now. But like the deer rifle that every hunter owns, every hunter has an opinion.

Bolt Action

1. Remington 700: With more than 8 million in circulation, to say the 700 is prolific is a bit of an understatement. The rifle is accurate, very accurate. In fact, the 700 action is used by the US military as the base for most of their sniper rifle platforms. Personally, I like the 700 chambered in either .308 or 270 for deer. But I won’t thumb my nose at a 700 chambered in the venerable .30-06. The rifle comes in several trims and options, with my choice being the BDL for stouter cartridges, while the CDL is much lighter and does fine with smaller chamberings.

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2. Savage Model 11: I like the model 11. And what’s not to like? Cheaper than the 700, and just as accurate. The Savage AccuTrigger contributes much to the rifle’s accuracy. In fact, just about every other hunting rifle manufacturer has copied the trigger, and many rifles today feature a similar trigger group. The Savage 11 has been one of my favorites for the past few years. With a synthetic stock and a good optic, this is a platform that is unbeatable. I use a Model 11 in .243 for white tails as well as coyote.

3. Ruger 77: The 77 is one of the most solid rifles available to big game hunters. This is another accurate, reliable and stout rifle. The 77 has a bit more craftsmanship and a higher build quality than most Remington 700s and the Savage 11. The 77 has a higher price tag than many other guns, but it is worth the cost. There is nothing as sweet as a .308 chambered 77 topped off with a Leupold optic; such a rifle will put any deer species in the freezer, from white tail to elk.

Lever Action

Image source: pixabay.com

Image source: pixabay.com

4. Marlin 336: The 336 is the second-most common lever gun, after the Winchester 94. Chambered in either .30-30 or .35 Remington, the 336 is seen slung over the shoulders of hunters, from the Pacific Northwest to the pine plantations of Georgia and Alabama. The 336 has solid action, and with its side ejection, allows for the mounting of a scope on top. In 2008, Remington bought out Marlin, and the quality of the 336 went downhill until around 2013, when it started to improve again. If you are going to buy a used 336, buy one that was built before 2008.

5. Winchester 94: The iconic lever action from Winchester has been around since, you guessed it, 1894. Like the 336, the model 94 is mostly found chambered in the .30-30 cartridge. All pre-1982 model 94s are top ejection, making the mounting of a side-mounted scope one of your only options. From 1982 onward it was built in a way that allows users to mount a scope on top of the rifle.

Overall I like both the 94 and 336, with perhaps an edge toward the 336 in .30-30 because of its receiver and the prevalence of .30-30.

Semi-Autos and Pump Rifles

I only included two in this section. Both models are from Remington, and both are great firearms.

6. Remington 7400 and 750: Two slightly different models, with the 7400 being produced from the early 1980s until 2006, and the 750 being produced thereafter. The 7400/750 are great rifles for hunters who need to have second shot available fast. You can mount an optic, but the rifle does fine without, especially for shots out to 200 yards.

7. Remington 7600/760: The legendary Larry Benoit and his sons took large trophy bucks mainly using pump action Remington rifles. The 7600/760 provide a reliable repeating rifle, built on a solid platform. These rifles are ideal for the still hunter tracking and stalking bucks over rough terrain. More reliable than a semi-auto, and much faster than a bolt action, this is a great rifle platform.

For a pump or semi-auto, I like a .270 or a .30-06 chambering.

That’s my list. What would you add or delete? Share your suggestions in the section below:

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11 comments

  1. Remington 700 is the best, because controls are well placed, its reliable, very accurate and clearly built for action.

  2. “Best” is quite subjective. What may be best for one environment may not be for another.

    Personally, I have a background that includes carrying and working on guns for a living since 1988. In that time I have spent weeks at various defense manufacturers like Colt Defense, FN Remington, etc. This has included being certified on systems like the M24 sniper system from Remington.

    That being said, even though I am a certified M700/M24?M870 armorer, I would not choose an off the rack Remington these days. The reason is quality control. Due to corporate profit making philosophies, the average quality of an M700 today is nowhere close to the quality of a 1970s built Remington 700.

    The one rifle company that has impressed me is Tikka. Who else (aside from their parent company Sako) offers a 3 shot 1 minute of angle accuracy guarantee on all their rifles. I promise you Winchester, Remington, Browning and Savage do not.

    With truly excellent out of the box accuracy, smooth actions and great triggers, the Tikka brand is a very logical choice for a hunting rifle. I have examples from late 1960s (LSA 65 30-06)to examples from 2015 T 3 .308 for my teen daughter. I believe I have 6-7 at the monet. Each has proven to be truly sub MOA accurate and very reliable.

    While best may be subjective, if you are in the market for a bolt action, Tikka is a smart bet.

  3. Thank you for your timely articals. With the scriptures Matt: Chap.24 vers 4 -22 and Luke 21: 5 -36 and more in mind I take comfort in the information you offer. Thanks again 🙂

  4. I would just say that 30.06 is the most popular cartridge in this country for over 100 years. It can be found everywhere. Oddball calibers must be avoided. Bolt action is ideal. Semi-auto can lead to missed shots due the thought a new round will load itself in a second. Do not be frugal when buying a scope either and learn how to use it. Then practice with 100s of rounds until your rifle is second nature in your hands. Clean the rifle diligently as if your life depended on it. Remington is good (I use one made in 1929 my grandfather purchased new) but the 700 has had a couple complaints so check them all out. Refrain from from large elephant gun calibers, you will never be comfortable with one. 30.06 can kill an elk at 300 400 yards easily. The only caliber you will need for big game. To have a successful hunt, find a spot with some cover and good views and sit down. Wait all day, you will never kill a deer or elk by walking through the woods, they hear you long before you see them. If you see one while walking you will be lucky to get a shot. A mule deer sometimes will stop running after you have spooked it to see what it was that spooked him and that is your best chance for a shot but you will be standing up with no rifle rest and will likely miss.

    • I agree with you ! I love the 30-06 i am almost 70 years old and have harvested well over one hundred deer with this one rifle alone ! I also own a .308 and a .300 weatherby mag. When hand loading the 30-06 I believe it has advantages over the 308 because of the much larger case! 1 love the 300 a lot also ! but my 30-06 has never let me down! I get up in my tree stand one hour before day light and stay till dark , I have stayed in that tree stand many days with the temps never hitting zero ! You can’t kill a deer if your not in the woods! I just don’t understand why anyone would take a 308 over a 30-06 ! I believe it is the greatest firearm ever developed ! It takes the large thirty caliber magnums a lot more powder with the larger cases to gain two or three hundred feet per second more ! And the price for there ammo is about three or four times higher then the 30-06 !

  5. sorry, not really. h&k model 770 308 cal beats them all

  6. I like 30-06 as much as the next guy, but why not use a .308? Nearly identical ballistics and the .308 is everywhere. Also the action is shorter. I’d never buy a new semi auto in 30-06. Would just assume use my garand.

  7. Thompson center has some real crazy bolt guns available now I am really looking hard. Check em out they really are something new. Thanks

  8. I have model 77 Hawkeyes along with the Marlin for big game. With my 243, 30-30, 30-06, and the newest edition the 375 Ruger I can hunt anything I want. I do reload so the sky is the limit based on versitility. The Ruger model 77 is far more accurate and reliable than I am as a shooter. The marlin is a great little gun also, I purchased it new in 2015.

  9. I shoot &shave shot a browning bar now the bar safari 3006 it’s better than any Remington u put up against it they are awesome rifles especially for deer hunting Remington don’t even come close to the browning safar 3006

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