Picking the right hunting rifle is no walk in the park, no matter how much experience you have. Every hunt requires the right tools, which means shooters need to consider different rifle styles, calibers, ammo, actions, and more. Furthermore, shooters must also take into account the many laws and regulations. For instance, some states regulate barrel length, caliber size, and magazine capacity just to name a few. Similarly, picking the right firearm, caliber, and ammo comes down to your target animal and expected distance. So, let’s get down to it and check out (just) some of the best rifle options for your next hunt.

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308 Rifle

The .308 Winchester cartridge is considered one of the more versatile as far as hunting is concerned. Although it is probably most often used for taking down hogs, 308 is effective for a wide range of midsize to large game, including sheep, goats, deer, bear, caribou, and elk. There are plenty of excellent 308 rifles to choose from, but I’ve gotta show my love to the Bergara B-14 HMR. Between its crisp 3 lb. trigger, fully free-floated barrel, smooth as silk action, and coned bolt nose and breech, the B-14 is in a league of its own.

B14 HMR
Bergara B14 HMR
  • Model: Bergara B-14 HMR
  • Caliber: .308 Win
  • Capacity: 5-Rounds
  • Barrel Length: 20”
  • Overall Length: 39.5”
  • Twist Rate: 1:10
  • Weight: 9.15 lbs.
  • Finish: Matte Black
  • Sights: Scope Mount Fits Rem 700 Rings & Bases
  • MSRP: $999.99

223 Rifle

.223 Remington is a high velocity, small caliber round perfect for small game hunting. However, because of its tremendous versatility and broad grain weight, it can be used for everything from varmint like prairie dogs to intermediate game like small whitetail. As one of the most traditional and beloved hunting cartridges, you can be sure there are countless high-quality 223 rifles out there. It’s hard to beat Browning when it comes to classic .223 rifles, and I’m particularly fond of their X-Bolt series. In addition to their super accessory-friendly design, the X-Bolt rifles are remarkably reliable, fast, and durable.

Browning X-Bolt Rifle
Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint
  • Model: Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint
  • Caliber: .223 Rem
  • Capacity: 5-Rounds
  • Barrel Length: 26”
  • Overall Length: 45.6”
  • Twist Rate: 1:8
  • Weight: 9 lbs. 3 oz
  • Finish: Matte Blued
  • Sights: Drilled and Tapped for Scope
  • MSRP: $1,429.99

243 Rifle

243 Winchester is a mid-range hunting cartridge that isn’t as popular as it once was, though it is still managing to stay relevant. While it is somewhat capable of taking down deer at short range, it is most effective as a long-range varmint and predator shooter. Although I don’t have so much experience with 243, I can safely say that the Tikka T3X Compact is one of the best options out there for a modern hunting rifle chambered in the classic cartridge. Tikka markets their flagship firearm as the rifle that fits like a glove and that’s no exaggeration.

Tikka T3X
Tikka T3X Compact
  • Model: Tikka T3X Compact
  • Caliber: .243 Rem
  • Capacity: 3-Rounds
  • Barrel Length: 20”
  • Overall Length: 40.2”
  • Twist Rate: 1:10
  • Weight: 6.5 lbs.
  • Finish: Stainless Steel
  • Sights: Open
  • MSRP: $999

30 30 Rifle

The .30-30 Winchester cartridge has been a staple of American shooting since late the 1800’s. The fact that it’s still used today attests to its remarkable versatility and ability to withstand the test of time. Though not as popular today, the small-bore cartridge is surprisingly capable of taking down game as large as black bears, feral hogs, and whitetail deer given the right distance. Because .30-30 is most commonly used in lever action rifles, it’s hard to not opt for a Henry. These redesigned classic rifles are fun to use and are mighty reliable, making them a great option for hunting.

Henry 30 30 Rifle
Henry 30 30 Steel
  • Model: H009 Steel Lever Action
  • Caliber: .30-30
  • Capacity: 5-Rounds
  • Barrel Length: 20”
  • Overall Length: 39”
  • Rate of Twist: 1:12
  • Weight: 7.0 lbs.
  • Finish: Blued
  • Sights: XS Ghost Ring Rear / Blade Front
  • MSRP: $850.00

30 06 Rifle

I gotta say that .30-06 Springfield is probably my favorite hunting cartridge because it’s pretty darn accurate at long distances and offers serious power. It can take down the majority of medium and big game plus is offered in a nice variety of grain weight range. I happen to love the waves Savage Arms has been making in the rifle market, particularly with their ultra-affordable Axis model. Keeping mind that you get what you pay for, these are great guns for beginner hunters.  

Savage Axis Rifle
AXIS II XP Stainless
  • Model: AXIS II XP Stainless
  • Caliber: 30-06 SPFLD
  • Capacity: 4-Rounds
  • Barrel Length: 22”
  • Overall Length: 43.9”
  • Rate of Twist: 1:10
  • Weight: 6.8 lbs.
  • Finish: Matte Stainless
  • Sights: Bushnell Banner 3-9x40mm
  • MSRP: $579

Conclusion

Best of wild boar hunting | Top kill shots compilation – Ultimate Hunting
Best of wild boar hunting | Top kill shots compilation – Ultimate Hunting

There’s no doubt that there are many others amazing calibers and rifles for hunting, but this is just a sampling from my experience. That being the case, we’d love to hear about your picks for the best hunting rifles and calibers.

Sam M

Sam is an avid firearms enthusiast who loves sharing his knowledge and experience with fellow gunivores.

Let us know what you think in the comments section!

For suggestions, collaborations, or requests, contact sam@gunivore.com.

5 Comments

  1. Sam, where did you find so many left handed bolt guns (and lever)? Photoshop?

    For $400, Ruger’s American is a solid economy rifle in most of these calibers. I’ve had a .243, and currently a .30-06. Reliable, well built to the budget, nice trigger, and accurate enough to suggest a scope that is more expensive than the rifle. While any hollow polymer stock is utilitarian at best, if you don’t mind a little extra weight to dampen recoil, they fill easily with lead shot and polymer or mortar based mixtures; check YouTube for how-to’s. (Or just shove a sock filled with led weights into the shoulder stock and screw the butt plate back on!)

    Everybody should have a lever Henry, Unerti, or Marlin 336, because, you know, ‘Murrica.

    1. Ha, that’s a good eye! The Truth is that many of them are not left-handed bolts, I often flip the image because I like the aesthetic outlook better.

  2. My Dad and four brothers all came home from WWII wanting to get back to hunting, but especially to shooting ground hogs, a grand sport in Maryland back then, when some local taverns had competition regarding who could bring in the most “Whistle Pigs”. When civilian rifles again were available, following the WWII lay off of any civilian rifles being produced, my Uncle Arthur got a new Winchester Model 70 in 220Swift. Dad opted for a Remington 722 in 222Rem. Both were mounted with 10X Varmint Master scopes and both were very accurate for that day.
    Growing up around those guys, I wanted only rifles that were accurate and with which one could get high MV to cut down on bullet drop down range.
    After owning and using many rifles, my pick for the four calibers that are a must for anyone’s battery of hunting rifle cartridges are: 22 Long Rifle, 22-250Remington, 280Remington, and while at my age I no longer have any plans to go after dangerous game, for those who would want to go for dangerous N. American game, I’d suggest a rifle in 300WinMag.
    Briefly my reasons for picking each are:
    (1) Having a rifle in 22 Long Rifle needs no explanation.
    (2) 22-250Rem. Since I have owned and shot a fair number of varmints with various varmint cartridges, I believe that the 22-250 is superior in reaching out and killing, at a greater distance than most riflemen can handle. I only pick it over 223Rem. because of it’s greater effective range.
    (3)280Rem. Using modern bonded bullets, we no longer need the greater bullet weight to cleanly and humanely kill elk, moose and other larger deer types. A 7mm 160gr. Barnes Solid will provide a wide, deep wound channel that will drop the largest bull elk within 400 yards. Why 400 yards? Because if a hunter knows good field craft, he can get that close to a bull elk, or closer, in order to make the shot. Further out, gets into the realm of long range target shooting, as being that far away from game, robs the game of any chance of using his natural abilities to avoid getting shot. Ballistically, using bullets as heavy as 175gr. shows that the 7mm bullet is superior to the same weight 30 cal. bullet.
    (4) 300Win.Mag. Again the choices of modern, bonded bullets means that we no longer need the heaviest bullet available in order to get a wide wound channel and penetration needed to cleanly kill the largest bear in N. America.

    1. Thanks for sharing!

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