Guns > Muzzleloaders

10 Rifles for Today's Deer Hunter

When it comes to selecting a rifle, there's almost no end to the options available. Which models are the best on the market today? Check out Keith Wood's Top 10.

11/16/2012

10. Savage 111 Hunter XP
Times are tough right now and not everyone has a pile of money to spend on a rifle they may only use a few days out of the year. The Savage Hunter “package” is an accurate, durable and dependable rifle that comes with a Bushnell 3-9X40 scope and mounts right out of the box. This turnkey setup retails for just over $500 and, thanks to Savage’s reputation for accuracy, will likely outshoot many rifles available at twice the price.


9. CVA Accura V2 209 Magnum Muzzleloader
Some states don’t allow deer hunting with a center-fire rifle, so for those chasing whitetails in places like Illinois, a “deer rifle” has a ramrod. CVA’s flagship muzzleloader isn’t much of a handicap afield thanks to its stainless-steel Bergara barrel and 209 shotgun primer ignition. It’s quick to both load and clean due to its Bullet Guiding Muzzle and quick-release breech plug. Add a quality scope where the rules allow it and you’re ready to hunt.


8. Marlin 1895G “Guide Gun”
When deer live in thick brush and shots are quick and close, your deer rifle needs to be powerful, compact and easy to handle. Marlin’s Guide Gun in .45-70 is only 37 inches overall and feels lighter than its well-balanced 7 pounds. In its modern loadings, the .45-70 doesn’t lack for horsepower and the lever-action allows for quick follow-up shots. A great choice for when things are fast and close, my Guide Gun wears a set of X/S ghost ring sights and is my go-to for the thick stuff.


7. Hill Country Rifles “Harvester”
Custom rifles are great and there’s nothing that inspires confidence like a rifle that shoots bughole groups, but that kind of rifle often involves the equivalent of a few mortgage payments. Hill Country Rifles offers “accurizing” services for factory hunting rifles, but also produces semi-custom rifles it calls the Harvester line. You basically get a factory Remington 700 barreled action with a precision cut crown, pillar bedded into a McMillan fiberglass stock with a free-floated barrel. The trigger is also tuned and the barrel is inspected with a borescope. Each rifle is guaranteed to shoot sub-MOA groups at 100 yards with factory ammo. For the hunter looking for something in-between an off-the-rack rifle and a full-custom build, this is a great choice.


6. MG Arms “Ultra-Light”
Not all deer wander around on flat ground. Sometimes deer hunting means backpack hunting in the high country where every ounce adds up. MG Arms Ultra-Light rifles weigh in at as little as 4 ¾ pounds and are both accurate and reliable. Made from skeletonized Remington 700 actions with match-grade stainless-steel barrels, jewel triggers and Kevlar stocks, these rifles carry like a bag of feathers but hit like a bag of bricks. I’m currently evaluating one in .300 WSM and absolutely love it. Forget what you’ve heard about lightweight rifles being hard to shoot; these guns carry, point and hit with the best of them. At $3,695, they are not cheap, but it takes lots of skilled hand labor to turn out this kind of hardware.


5. Ruger M77 Hawkeye Compact
Deer rifles don’t have to be big to be effective and if you’re climbing in and out of vehicles and treestands, a full-size rifle can be an albatross. The Hawkeye compact is light and small, yet maintains a traditional “American Classic” appearance with its walnut stock and satin-blue finish. A 6 pound .243 or 7 mm-08 would be just about perfect for the majority of whitetail hunting in the East, and would be a treat to carry up the mountains out West. They retail for under $900 and include rings and bases, which saves you a few extra bucks.


4. Luxus Arms Model 11
Single shots are rifleman’s rifles—sleek, simple and classy. It’s rare that I’ve had a second shot at a deer so, for me, they aren’t much of a handicap. The Luxus Arms Model 11 is a petite take-down rifle capable of switching barrels to just about any caliber, but the real star of this show is the exhibition grade Turkish walnut that turns this little rifle into a head-turner. As the first guy to actually take one of these guns out hunting, they hold a special place in my heart. The best part is that, if you don’t see any deer, you’ll be happy just to stare at the stock.


3. Kimber 84M Montana
With rifles that are functional, accurate and trim, you can tell that Kimber’s design shop is full of guys who actually hunt. The stainless-steel and synthetic Montana is the most utilitarian of the 84M lineup—this rifle is built to get wet and dirty and sometimes that’s what it takes to get the buck of a lifetime. As much as I love the beautiful French Walnut on the Classic Select Grade, I wouldn’t give rain or snow a second thought with the Montana on my back. Chambered in short-action classic cartridges like the .257 Roberts and .308 Win., the 5 ½ pound Montana is lot of rifle for the money.


2. Echols Legend Sporter
If no expense is to be spared in the pursuit of big game, it’s hard to match the functional masterpiece that is the Echols Legend series of rifles. Painstakingly hand-built from Winchester Model 70 actions by Utah gunmaker D’Arcy Echols, the Legend is the epitome of understated perfection. Most people would expect that a custom rifle costing more that two dozen Savage 111s would feature garish engraving and inlays, but the Legend’s artwork is on the inside. Every surface is machined and polished, and most components are built from scratch. The synthetic stocked Legend doesn’t stand out from across the room, but those fortunate enough to own them swear by their performance afield.


1. Remington 700
You can argue over which deer rifle is the best, but with over 5 million rifles produced over the last 50 years, it’s hard to argue that the Remington 700 isn’t the most popular. I shot my first deer with a 700 and, though I hunt with other rifles, there’s not a season that goes by without me carrying one of my Remingtons afield. The 700’s diverse lineup offers about as many flavors as Baskin Robbins, but the classically styled CDL epitomizes the American deer rifle.


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39 Responses to 10 Rifles for Today's Deer Hunter

anthony davis wrote:
September 30, 2014

i shoot a savage 110 270 it is bad for whitetails

Jack Corbett wrote:
September 01, 2014

I have shot a Remington Model 725 in a 270 since 1961. The 725 preceded the the 700 and if the 700 is anything like the 725 it is accurate and a great gun.

Mr VJP wrote:
July 14, 2014

I'm glad to see the Kimber 84M Montana there. I think it should be #1, especially in 7mm-08.

Alan wrote:
June 30, 2014

Strange to me that no one ever mentions Steyr. Dead accurate out of the box every time and cost is no higher than most others. Quality product.

Tim Briand wrote:
April 27, 2014

Wat guns are good for hunting

charlie smith wrote:
December 20, 2013

Where is the BLR? It is; accurate, light, fast handling, handy visible saftey, quick second shot and dependable with a detachable magazine. How can anything be better?

Justin fisher wrote:
December 05, 2013

Where would you find a Echols Legend Sporter

colby page wrote:
November 24, 2013

Realy the top 1 was that! Ha:) I think the 270 bolt action rifle rightfully deserves that title. That gun will acully knock it off it's feet. While that pansy gun will just leave a scrach!):(

300wsm wrote:
November 17, 2013

I like the browning x-bolt 300 wsm it's in my opinion one of the top ten

Clay wrote:
November 06, 2013

I used 03 30-06 for years with devastating results then about 20 yrs ago at a close out sale I bought a Winchester 94 chambered in 7-30 waters and found absolute perfection for white tail deer! No recoil to speak of and out to 300 yards drops em in there tracks! Ammo was an issue but I got a friend to get me several boxes of shells and I kill 4-5 deer a season and never need a second shot unless there is a second deer!

Bret Whitlock wrote:
November 02, 2013

Hands down the best deer rifle ever is the model 700 mountain rifle chambered in 260 remington period.

Tom G wrote:
September 20, 2013

Savage bolt action 30/06 never fails so that can only mean it will always prevails....

Ghoastrider wrote:
June 29, 2013

My late father in law left me his favorite Remington 760 carbine in good 'ol 30-06 . I've learned to love it . Light loads for varmints , surplus for coyote's , 148 grn. Sierra BTHP Match Kings for whitetails and 180 grn. factories for Hogs . Recoil & muzzle blast are tough on this old man , even with the ' Limbsaver ' recoil pad installed . FYI - EVERY Redneck that has seen this rifle down in L.A. ( Lower Alabama ) wants to buy THIS model rifle to hunt HOGZILLA with . The old 2.5X 20 Weaver post & crosshair scope is period correct for the gun & oh so deadly in thick brush on them Hogs . I LOVE this rifle , but I always bring my HK91a4 & my favorite AK as a backup . Like to hunt deer? Try HOGS !!

Fred wrote:
June 06, 2013

I, too noticed the 'missing' winchester model 94 in 30-30. Great brush gun and with the new cartirides available, able to reach out and touch something. I will say that the Kimber 84M in .308 is awesome. I was in Cabela's in Kansas City almost ten years ago. Told the man at the gun counter I wanted a lightweight rifle I could carry all day, shoot a lot with easy to find and inexpensive ammunition, that would take down anything short of an elk. He handed me the Kimber and I bought it on the spot. With a Leupold VariX II 3-9, it will shoot the lights out of anything out there.

edward stolz wrote:
March 05, 2013

I would love to add a gun that im sure most people have never even heard of or had the pleasure to even see. My father taught me to hunt from a child starting with a 20 guage with slug.I always admired and loved the rifle he used.it is called a 30/40 krag. As I got older and I beleive I was around 20years old when he surprised me with my own. His was used and beat up but he managed to do a long time search and bought me one in mint condition.that model rifle was an old military rifle that held many many records and was later replaced by the .306. Although slightly heavy they are remarkable.the sweetest thing is it has no mag.it has a side trough that can hold 4 rounds and one chambered.the ease of loading and unloading is nice and the comfort and accuracy is also remarkable.most of these rifles still out in the world are really beat and abused because of their prior use and not in manufacturing for a long time.mine barrel was shortened etc....to make it from an old military rifle into a hunting rifle. I have successfully harvested over 60 whitetail along with other animals. Also my furthest kill to date was 347 yards with a clean textbook neck shot. I encourage people to look into them.its not like the modern day produced rifles but they are very interssting.again....the side load trough is very unique and wish other guns produced now days would use the same type.

LibShooter wrote:
February 18, 2013

Gotta agree with Barry. Most hunters aren't going to be able to afford some of those expensive rifles. The Savages, yes. The R700's, yes. Both fine rifles. Those MG's and Echols rifles? No way. Let's keep this affordable. Therefore, I would swap out MG or Echols with Ruger's new American Rifle. For the money, I gotta say it's a darn nice rifle, and pretty light, too. You can get it for $300 and change if you shop decently, top it with a $199 made-in-USA Redfield Revolution 3-9x40, and you're looking at a sweet little $500 huntin' package that mere mortals can afford. And all made in USA, which is important to me. That's kinda hard to beat. And with the money saved, you can get more reloading components, always a good thing.

Big John 88 wrote:
February 16, 2013

I used my Remington Woodmaster using 30-06 shells during this past season in my West Virginia mountains. Four shots fired 3 deer in the freezer.

donny wrote:
February 15, 2013

Having being blessed with the oppurtunity to hunt whitetails,moose,mulies and elk my vote goes to my dads old winchester model 70 pre64 chambered in 270 win. The accuracy and handling of this rifle are amazing. Take your time,use the right bullet and put that bullet in the boiler room and it will not let you down. Happy hunting.

Barry Maxwell wrote:
February 05, 2013

The 'best' deer rifles, n my opinion, depends on where your hunting- big woods vs open fields. In the Appalachians where I hunted for 30 years, a Remington 742 Woodsmaster, in 30.06 or 308, was the rifle of choice. A 30-30 was a close second. Most 'good ole boy' hunters couldn't afford the fancy rifles you name.

KW wrote:
February 04, 2013

Thanks for the comments. This list wasn't intended to be the "10 Most Popular Deer Rifles", it's my personal top 10 which reflects my personal tastes. I would expect others' lists to vary greatly. For those concerned with the lack of a Model 70, the Echols Legend is a high-tuned Model 70. Thanks for reading and for sharing your favorites.

Jim A wrote:
February 01, 2013

I have Kimbers, Rugers,Savages,Winchesters,Sakos, Remingtons, Enfields you name it. The fact is all will shoot well if one spends enough time knowing what a paticular gun shoots well. I love most all of my guns. I am a handloader and develop loads. Sometimes a combination of a bullet and powder will surprise you. Some guys are Ford people some are Chevy or Dodge and wouldn't be caught dead in any other, and so it goes with guns.Shoot a buddies gun. Shooters will not admit that after they have spent a lot of money for a gun that maybe another choice might have been better. My most accurate gun I have EVER shot was an out of the box Remington 700 in 22-250 with a 6.5 X 20 LEUPOLD. Sparrows and Starlings at 250-300 yds was a given. Everybody I loaned it too begged me sell it to them. Another friend told me he would not gotten his elk if he had a bolt, didn't have time to work the bolt for his second shot. He was using my pump Remington 760 in 30-06. My 4 other brothers have a mountain named after them by their Colorado elk guides because of their unbelievable long range shots made by their 760's.I have guns that cost a couple huundred dollars that far out shoot ones that cost hundreds more. Bottom line is guns are like old girlfriends we all have had many but their is always one that captured your heart!

Keith wrote:
January 27, 2013

I have two winchester model 70's. One is a .270 stainless with 4X12 leupold glass and a 30.06 blue and walnut with leupold 3X9 glass. I'm not a fan of remington but I have to admit I do most of my hunting in West Virginia with a Reminton Model 7 chambered in 7mm-08 with 4X12 Leupold glass. It's the perfect gun to pack and has enough long range for most West Virginia shots.

cook wrote:
January 27, 2013

Keith Wood TC Encore should be were Luxus is. No Browning or Winchesters???? These rifles are fine but if you looking for a top 10 you missed as MOST of us agree.

dick r wrote:
January 24, 2013

I bought a Remington model 760 .308 caliber in 1967 put a Simmons 3x9 scope on it in 1969 and have killed numerous whitetail, muleys , elk and antelope with it. if I ever draw a moose license I'll hunt with this gun.

Ed Nine wrote:
January 22, 2013

All of the rifles you have listed as the 10 best are excellent,but not for me.I still prefer the "Rifleman's Rifle",the Winchester model 70 in any caliber.I prefer 30-06 caliber as it has proven to be all I need for any North American game.

Andrew wrote:
January 01, 2013

I just recently bought a TC encore pro hunter, 270 it is by far the most comfortable gun ive ever shot!!!! Wouldnt shoot any other gun! Love it.

Bill wrote:
December 22, 2012

You have what I would call some fairly rare guns on your list. Everyone has their favorites. Personally, I used a Remington Model 760 in 30-06 as my primary rifle for years until I got my Browning Lever rifle (BLR model 81) in 308 Win. It is difficult for me to imagine a better deer rifle than this - Light weight, good caliber, very accurate, and fast with follow up shots when needed. Hard to beat!

Scott wrote:
December 16, 2012

I hunt with a Remington 700 in either .30-06 or .300 WinMag for deer, hogs or elk or a Remington 870 12 gauge for ducks and turkey. Honestly, why would you need to use anything else? You can pay a whole lot more but you will just be wasting your money. Use the money you will save to spend on glass.

James Konen wrote:
December 16, 2012

What? No AR-10?

Mark wrote:
December 07, 2012

I'm pretty fond of my Browning A-Bolt 7mm mag stainless and synthetic. No worries about weather. When I pull the trigger it goes bang, deer goes down,and the real work just begins.

Elmer Coblentz wrote:
November 29, 2012

My all time favorite deer rifle is a 1951 Remington Model 760 in 3006 with a Lyman 3X Post & Crosshair scope I have killed numerous deer with this gun. It is fast handling for short range in thick cover, yet will reach out and get them at long range as well I LOVE IT !!!

Loren Ameen wrote:
November 28, 2012

Brownings BLR .243 is my favorite deer rifle. I've killed 30+ bucks with mine and nearly everyone fell over dead. The Nosler bullet never exits the deer so all of the energy is exspelled in the deer not in the dirt some where. you usually find the bullet intact against the skin on the opposite side of the entry. The Rugar #1 in .243 is equally as good.

Wayne J wrote:
November 28, 2012

My most beloved gun is my Remington Model SIX I'v shot just about everything with that gun. I have many other bands as well can't have to many guns.

Dale wrote:
November 28, 2012

At least there was one lever action but, no 30-30 or .35 Rem. How about a Remington pump (7600 or semiauto (742-750)?

Dan wrote:
November 28, 2012

I have two model 700's. My deer hunter is a 30/06 and I just bought a 25/06 at a pawn shop for a song. They just don't make them any better.

richie wrote:
November 27, 2012

I hunt with a sporterized Springfield 03A3 I bought for $200 (with a Weaver 4x scope and a Timney trigger!). It is accurate enough for deer or elk. You don't have to spend a bunch. Search the pawn shops.

Barry Sensing wrote:
November 27, 2012

The Remington Model 700 is my favorite rifle period. I have a 700 BDL in 7mm Remington Mag. that I bought in 1986. This rifle has killed alot of deer over the years and is still my favotite "go-to" rifle. My next rifle purchase will definately be another Remington Model 700.

John wrote:
November 27, 2012

Savage should be #1 an Remington #10. Remington's quality has been cheap over the past 6 years unless you order from the custom shop. Savage you can take out of the box and it will shoot!

1SG Steve Newman USA (Ret) wrote:
November 20, 2012

I have a 308 caliber CETME Sporter semi-auto that has faithfully dropped everything from hogs to deer and an elk. I'll stick with the black gun as it does the job.