As the air cools and leaves turn from green to gold, the minds of many people turn to pumpkin spice lattes and the coming holidays. For others, however, crisp air and multi-colored leaves can mean only one thing: deer hunting. This fall, before you hit your favorite tree stand, make sure you have a quality rifle. We’ve assembled a list of the best deer hunting rifles made today for every type of hunting, whether you’re chasing whitetails in a cedar swamp or scouting miles of open prairie for mule deer. There’s something to be said for having the right tool for the right job. Sometimes that means an extra-accurate rifle for making the long shot, or a lightweight rig for hauling up a mountain. And sometimes hunting regs won’t allow a centerfire rifle of any type. So for whatever type of deer hunting you do, you’ll find a perfect gun on this list.
10. Open-Country Stalker Nosler M48 Patriot
Nosler’s initial loads in this 6.5mm caliber are a 129-grain AccuBond Longrange at 3,400 fps and a 140-grain AccuBond at 3,300 fps. For a hard-hitting and effective long-range hunting round, it is difficult to do better.
All external metal surfaces are coated with the NIC Industries Cerakote finish. Designed to protect against rust and wear, Cerakote products can withstand tremendous impact with no coating loss, and can resist corrosion in a variety of tough conditions.
Caliber: .28 Nosler
Weight: 7 lb. 15 oz.
Trigger Pull: 2 lb. 14 oz.
Accuracy: 2.018 in
Smallest Group: 1.899 in.
Barrel Length: 26 in.
Overall Length: 46 1/4 in.
9. Savage MSP 10 Hunter
Hunter will require little to no upgrading gives these guns some serious bang for the over-punned buck. The features, accuracy, and quality make the MSR-10 Hunter a boon not only for big game hunters but target shooters alike. This is one rifle ready to go right out of the box, no customization required, other than stockpiling ammo, mags, and enjoying time on the range and in the field. All that’s left for this Hunter is some camo coating.
If you want to hunt with an AR-10 capable of sub-MOA groups and softer felt recoil thanks to its design and well-padded Blackhawk! Adjustable stock, this is the gun for you. The Hunter is the crown jewel of Savage’s MSR line, and well worth a closer look.
Caliber: .308 Win. (also 6.5 Creedmoor)
Receiver: Matte black hard-coat anodized (Melonite QPQ barrel)
Action: Direct-impingement, semi-auto
Barrel Length: 16.125 inches (18 inches in 6.5 CM)
Overall Length: 39 inches (41 inches in 6.5 CM)
Twist Rate: 1:10″ 5R Right-hand (1:8″ in 6.5 CM)
Weight: 7.8 lbs. (8 lbs. in 6.5 CM)
8. First-Timer Outfit H&R Handi Rifle
If you’re up for it, you can depend on these rugged evolutions of our original Handi-Rifle; to nail the shot. Fear no harsh environments or extreme weather conditions – their super-tough, high-density polymer stocks and fore-ends will persevere and help you make a deadly accurate shot through it all. And their smooth, simple break actions require very little maintenance and have minimal moving parts for the utmost in reliable function.
These rifles are as basic as they get. And basic is what one wants when putting a deer gun into the hands of a young or inexperienced hunter. The way the Handi Rifle operates couldn’t be simpler. The small lever on the back of the receiver unlocks the action, which pivots open on a hinge. When the shooter is ready to hunt, he drops the round in the pipe and closes the gun, and away he goes. Before the shot, the hunter cocks the hammer, and that’s it. There’s nothing complicated to remember or to mess up.
Model: Synthetic Handi-Rifle
Caliber: 22 Hornet (SB2-S24), .45/70 Govt. (SB2-S57)
Stock: High-density polymer, black matte finish, sling swivel studs, recoil pad.
Sights: Ramp front sight, fully adjustable rear, tapped for scope mount.
Length of Pull: 14-1/4″
Weight: 7 lbs.
7. Small-Plot Smasher Ambush 300 Blackout
Hunters on small parcels of private ground need a rifle with the ability to put an animal down quickly. This is a scenario where a large-caliber AR shines. A deer that makes it land where the hunter doesn’t have permission to search can be a nightmare to recover.
As for accuracy, the Ambush 300 Blackout was excellent with multiple consecutive five-shot groups measuring under an inch with three different loads. A large part of this was due to the excellent two-stage trigger that started with just a little bit of un-resisted take-up before breaking at just over 4 pounds.
Model: 300 Blackout
Caliber: .300 AAC Blackout
Action: gas impingement semi-auto
Receiver: 7075 Mil-Spec aluminum
Rifling: 1:8” RH twist
Barrel: 16” Cold hammer forged
Magazine: five-round PMAG
Sights: none, Picatinny rail for optics
Trigger: two-stage Geissele Super Semi-automatic; 4.39 lbs.
Stock: Magpul MOE Buttstock
Weight: 6.9 lbs.
6. Tikka T3x Hunter
The Tikka T3 Hunter is designed for the shooter who wants a rifle with both top performances as well as a classic style and feel. The T3 Hunter offers an extensive caliber selection for hunting and sport shooting purposes. It is built on traditional principles and modern innovation, providing you with a new level of accuracy, reliability, and enjoyment.
In addition to their modular stock options and rail attachment capabilities, these rifles are equipped with insanely strong steel recoil lugs to handle even the toughest calibers. Likewise, Tikka offers their pulls chambered in some of the most popular hunting rounds including .243 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, and even 7mm Remington Magnum.
Model: T3X Hunter
Caliber: .243 Win
Capacity: 4 Rounds
Barrel Length: 22.4”
Overall Length: 42.5”
Weight: Approximately 6 lbs.
5. Sako 85 Finnlight
The Sako Finnlight won Outdoor Life’s Editor’s Choice award a few years back due to its superb accuracy and reliability, which are not a given for rifles that have thin barrels and other weight-saving features. Lightweight often comes at the expense of performance, but that’s not so with the 6-pound Finnlight.
The Sako 85 Finnlight rifle is for those who foray deep into the wild to reach their goal. Hunters on mountain trails or long-distance treks prefer high-performance rifles that are full-sized, yet still lightweight. The fluted barrel of the Finnlight is just one of the many features that make it ideal for the hunter seeking a perfectly trimmed light rifle. The Sako 85 Finnlight is also an excellent choice for women and younger shooters.
Model: 85 Finnlight
Caliber: 260 Rem
Twist Rate: 8″
Barrel length: 20 1/4″
4. Remington 700 Long Range
A deer gun list wouldn’t be complete without a Remington 700. For a twist, consider the 700 Long Range in .30-06 Springfield (the cartridge a deer gun list wouldn’t be complete without).
The Remington 700 (which has been around since 1962) Long Range has many modern features including an X-Mark Pro externally-adjustable trigger, Bell and Carlson M40 tactical stock, and concave target-style barrel crown. The bottom line is, it’s a quality rifle backed by Big Green’s centuries of experience in the firearms industry.
Caliber: .30-06 Springfield
Stock: Bell and Carlson M40 tactical stock
Barrel: 26-inch heavy contour carbon steel barrel with matte finish
Twist rate: 1:10” RH
Trigger pull weight: factory set at 3.5 pounds (adjustable)
Overall length: 47 inches
Length of pull: 13 inches
Sights: None, drilled and tapped for scope mounts
Weight: 9 pounds (empty)
MSRP: $685.99 (in .30-06 Springfield)
3. Marlin 336c
It is the flagship of our Model 336 family and one of the most popular hunting rifles in North America. Featuring a 20” barrel with Micro-Groove rifling, richly blued finish and 35 Rem. Chambering, it is a timeless embodiment of dependability, accuracy and handsome looks.
He Marlin 336 comes standard with a folding rear sight and a ramp front sight, and there are several types of aftermarket peep or ghost ring sights available to use with it. However, one thing that sets it apart from most other lever-action rifles is the fact that it has a solid top receiver and utilizes side ejection instead of ejecting spent cartridges from the top of the receiver.
Caliber: 35 Remington
Barrel: 20-inch barrel with Micro-Groove rifling
Overall length: 38.5 inches
Length of pull: 13.5 inches
Sights:semi-buckhorn folding rear sight, ramp front sight
Weight: 7 pounds
2. Ruger American Magnum
Ruger has been manufacturing firearms for nearly three-quarters of a century, and during that time it has produced countless well-made long guns. As a result, there are quite a few models to choose from in their catalog, but there is one in particular that meets my criteria for an excellent all-around deer rifle: reasonably lightweight, reliable, accurate, and capable of delivering a clean kill from a variety of distances. I’m talking about the Ruger American Magnum.
This is a precision rifle. It’s made using Ruger’s Power Bedding process, an integral bedding block system that creates an exact fit between barrel and stock, resulting in superior accuracy. The bolt gun is topped off with the Ruger Marksman Adjustable Trigger, which has a smooth pull, clean break, and pull weight adjustable between 3 and 5 pounds.
Caliber: 300 Win Mag
Sights: None, includes installed top rail
Trigger: Ruger Marksman, adjustable
Trigger pull weight: Adjustable between 3 and 5 pounds
Barrel Length: 24 inches
Twist: 1:10″ RH
Weight: 7.5 lbs.
Overall Length: 44.5 inches
Length of Pull: 13.75 inches
1. Remington Sendero SF II
With a heavy 26-inch barrel, the Sendero is built to squeeze as much velocity as possible out of flat-shooting cartridges for long, accurate shots. The rifle is heavy—with a scope, it is going to weigh 10 pounds or more—but if you’ve got a short hike to your stand or don’t mind humping a beefy rig, the Sendero is ideal. The rigid HS Precision stock helps with accuracy.
You’ll be stunned by the degree of precision you get straight out of the box. The big game won’t be so lucky. The Model Sendero SF II is a finely tuned tack-driver created using input from serious shooters across America. The HS Precision stock is reinforced with aramid fibers and features contoured beavertail fore-end with ambidextrous finger grooves and palm swell. Twin front swivel studs accommodate a sling and a bipod. Full-length aluminum bedding blocks create accuracy-enhancing platforms for the barreled actions. The 26″ heavy-contour barrels are fluted for rapid cooling.
Caliber: 300 Winchester Mag
Barrel Length: 26″ Heavy Barrel
Capacity: 3 + 1
Trigger: Single Stage
Length: 45 3/4″
Weight: 8 1/2 lbs
It’s the responsibility of every hunter to make a clean kill, and that’s best done with a high-quality rifle. Whatever rifle you use—bolt-action, semi-auto, lever-action—take the time to practice. Remember, one shot, one kill. Now get out there and hit the deer woods.