Savage Axis II XP
Savage has built their reputation by providing incredibly accurate guns at rock-bottom prices. The Axis II XP is a purpose-built hunting rifle for those who want an accurate, dependable gun without having to spend a lot. The exceptional accuracy potential of this rifle is made possible via a quality carbon steel barrel mated to the action with a barrel nut and the incorporation of Savage’s game-changing AccuTrigger. Available in calibers from .22-250 up to .30-06, there’s very little game this rifle won’t handle. At $485 it’s a certified value gun, especially considering it comes topped with a Weaver Kaspa 3-9x scope that’s been bore sighted.
The Stoeger M3000 utilizes an inertia operating system, and like all inertia guns reliability is a product of simplicity. With three primary moving parts (a rotating bolt head, a bolt body and a spring) there’s very little to go wrong here. Gases travel out the barrel, so there’s less fouling gunk floating around in the guts of the M3000. The 20 gauge version (the M3020) weighs just five-and-a-half pounds and the 12 gauge comes in at a pound more making this one of the easiest shotguns to tote for all-day upland hunting. I used an S3020 20 gauge in Argentina and ran something like 3,000 rounds through the gun in three-and-a-half days. You probably won’t abuse your Stoeger like that, but it’s nice to know you can. MSRP: $599.
Ruger American Rifle
Ruger’s goal with the American Rifle was to give hunters everything they needed and nothing they didn’t, and in doing so they built a hunting rifle that is as affordable as it is accurate. On all American rifle models (and there are eight now) you get a cold hammer-forged barrel mated to a receiver with a minimized ejection port for maximum rigidity, and all come with a three-lug, 70-degree lift bolt. Ruger’s Marksman Adjustable trigger is also included, and it breaks cleanly between three and five pounds. The safety is located on the tang—a useful setup—and Power Bedding rounds out the list of features that make this a gun with MOA capabilities with a starting price of $485.
TriStar Viper G2
The Viper is a Turkish-made, gas-operated semi-auto available in a number of configurations. Gas guns have been around since the middle of last century and they’ve proven to be reliable. And although the gas system is more complex than inertia setups the channeling of gas to cycle the action helps reduce recoil impact for softer shooting. Turkish guns vary in quality, but the Viper is solidly constructed. In basic black this semiauto starts at $535, but if you can pony up a few extra bucks the Viper G2 Bronze gets an excellent wood stock and an eye-catching bronze Cerakote receiver for a couple hundred bucks more.
It’s no longer a secret that the Vanguard is one of the most accurate out-of-the-box production rifles you can buy, and it’s certainly a great value. The Select version comes with black synthetic stock and has an MSRP of $599, and like all other Vanguard rifles it comes with a minute-of-angle accuracy guarantee. But all of the Vanguards are excellent values, from the light Backcountry with its weather-beating Cerakote finish to the field-ready package rifle that comes topped with a bore-sighted Leupold VX-2 3-9x scope. There’s also the new Camilla version that is designed specifically for female hunters and carries an MSRP of $849. All of these rifle come with a superb two-stage trigger, a three-position safety and a dual-lug bolt design.
Stevens knows how to build a reliable field gun at a modest price, and the tough-as-nails S1200 is the company’s take on an affordable inertia-operated semi-auto. Available with black synthetic or walnut stocks or full camo dips (Mossy Oak Shadow Grass or Bottomlands), the 12 gauge S1200 semi-auto weighs in at 6.6 pounds, is available with either a 26 or 28-inch barrel and accepts Beretta Mobilchokes so changing constriction is fast and easy. MSRPs start at just $573, so this is one of the most cost-effective ways to delve into the world of inertia autos, and with so many options this gun is ideal for the duck hunter, clay shooter, or upland hunter. It’s a slick, sleek shotgun that won’t break the bank.
Browning A-Bolt III
The A-Bolt III is the newest member of the famed Browning A-Bolt line, and it’s also the most affordable. But that doesn’t mean it’s cheap, and this gun looks and shoots like guns that cost much more. The three-lug design allows for a short (60 degree) bolt lift and the two-position top tang safety is well-positioned. In addition, there’s a bolt release button that allows you to safely load and unload the rifle with the safety engaged. The free-floated, hand-chambered barrel is one of the best on any budget rifle and that translates to superb accuracy. In addition, the AB3 has other creature comforts that the price-minded hunter will appreciate like functional grip panels, a right-hand palm swell, crisp trigger, and the Inflex recoil pad that is so effective at absorbing recoil. I’ve hunted deer with the “Trey Bolt” in Oklahoma and Arkansas and was very pleased with the gun’s design and construction, from the slick action to the sturdy, robust drop box magazine. With MSRPs starting at $599 it’s certainly one of the best budget guns out there.
Mossberg International Silver Reserve 2
I’m a fan of over/unders, both for competition and hunting, but it’s sometimes hard to find an affordable stack-barrel that lives up to expectations. The Silver Reserve 2 is a gun that doesn’t disappoint. It’s available in 12, 20, and 28 gauge and .410 as well as combo guns in 12/20 gauge and 20/28 gauge, and every model has classy-looking wraparound scroll engraving and a well-figured black walnut stock. The field guns come with extractors, which helps keep them affordable, and the Sport and Super Sport models feature ejectors. Every model comes standard with five choke tubes. There’s also a Bantam model that has a short length of pull for small-statured shooters, perfect for introducing kids to the world of clay shooting and upland hunting. I used these guns for breaking clays and hunting doves and it was easy to forget that this is one of the most affordable over/unders on the market, for it looks and feels like guns that cost much more. MSRPs start at $773.
Kimber has long been known for their high-quality rifles and pistols, but many of those guns carry a four-figure price tag. The new Hunter rifle is an exception, coming in at $891. For that price you get the time-tested Kimber 84M controlled round feed action with Mauser claw extractor, a crisp trigger and a three-position wing safety. In addition, the stainless metalwork is tough enough to stand up to the elements and synthetic Flat Dark Earth stock is equally durable. Accuracy-enhancing features include a match-grade chamber, a pillar-bedded stock and a great barrel that allows Kimber to promise sub-MOA accuracy from this rifle. As an added bonus the Hunter weighs less than six pounds, perfect for all-day hunting in rough, uneven country. The drop box magazine is well-designed and there’s a one-inch recoil pad to help mitigate recoil. It’s available in many of the standard hunting calibers like .308, 7mm-08, .243, .30-06, .270 and the popular 6.5 Creedmoor, but you can also purchase this gun in .257 Roberts and .280 Ackley Improved, two versatile and greatly under-appreciated hunting cartridges.
No list of great budget guns would be complete without a mention of at least one hard-working pump shotgun, and the CZ 612 fits that bill. The 12-gauge Field model comes with a Turkish walnut stock, 28-inch barrel, and three choke tubes, the do-all shotgun for those who hunt ducks, doves, upland game and like to break clays. If you’re a dedicated turkey or waterfowl hunter check out the Magnum camo versions with a 3 ½ inch chamber. Likewise, there’s a 620 (20-gauge) Youth version, a Big Game slug gun model with cantilever optic base, and even a Trap model for those who like a shotgun with a sporting persona. One of the real advantages of these sleek pumps is that they are so robust that they can stand up to a lot of abuse, and that rugged dependability comes at an extremely affordable price. MSRPs start at just $349, so you won’t have to break the bank in order to break some clays and down some birds.