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You’re at the goods section of the store, staring at a vast collection of hunting rifles. The rifles come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, prices, and brands. Which one will give you the best experience on your hunting trip? Choosing the right one is often an overwhelming experience.
To choose the most suitable rifle, you should use backward induction. Backward induction is essentially a game theory sort of thinking. First, you should visualize your desired result and then work backward until you get to the best first decision. In our case, the result will be hinged on your answer to, “What game do I intend to hunt?”
In this guide we are primarily looking at the European Hunting Rifle market, they have by far some of the most real quality rifles on the market. I’d say that the US market has a ton more fun rifles but Europeans are bringing the real quality.
Do Your Homework
Once you’re clear on your needs, you should kick off the buying process by researching and reading reviews. Settle on the models that you like and then examine them. Consult knowledgeable friends, expert opinion, user experiences in online forums, and manufacturer sites.
Opt for the Appropriate Rifle Cartridge
Your choice of the cartridge will impact how your hunting trip goes. It’s also a vital aspect of any rifle. Guns are designed to shoot given cartridges. So if you’re going for the big game, you need a hunting rifle that shoots cartridges that are powerful enough to take down game humanely with one shot.
Which Action Plan Do You Prefer?
The rifle action determines how the fired cartridges are kicked out and how new cartridges are loaded into the gun’s chamber. Typically, hunting rifles come with action plans that enable them to fire repeat shots or single shots.
Some hunters prefer a single shot which pressurizes you to shoot accurately in your first shot. Others, especially new hunters, like repeat shots, which allow you a few more chances if you don’t get it right in your first shot.
Single-shot options include break-open, rolling-block, falling-block, and trapdoor rifles. Conversely, if you prefer repeat shots, you can go for block action, pump-action, automatic, and level-action rifles. To determine which of the two action plans suits you best, you get hands-on experience with various guns.
The good news is, hunting rifles come in various price points. However, to discern which one is fantastic but affordable, from the cheap but plain and uninspiring rifles, you need to evaluate the materials used. To make the right investment, you should go for quality stock materials.
The metal components and barrel of hunting rifles are mostly built using either carbon steel or stainless steel. Of the two materials, carbon is cheaper, but it’s more likely to rust. But with regular maintenance, that shouldn’t be an issue.
When it comes to stock, you will need to choose between fiberglass and wood. Both materials work great as long as you maintain them well. If you opt for wood, you should settle on a suitable species. For instance, stocks made of walnut may be pricier than other types of wood, but they remain in great shape for longer.
Include Optics in Your Budget
Many newbie hunters make the mistake of buying a fantastic hunting rifle without budgeting for the rifle’s scope. So plan and set aside funds for your optics – that’s if you don’t want to have an excellent hunting rifle that you won’t get to use. A scope will cost 50 to 100 percent of the amount you’ll use to buy a scope in terms of funds.
You also need to budget for other vital gun accessories like a sling and a cleaning kit. A sling is an excellent thing to have if you’re to carry your hunting rifle for a long distance. They are also pretty cheap, so there isn’t a reason you shouldn’t get one for your hunting rifle.
Also, for any gun you own, you need to get a corresponding gun care kit. Your kit should include a solvent, lubricating oil, bore snake, or a brush to clean the barrel.
Best Hunting Rifle for Hog Hunting
The Blaser R8 is renowned for its patented and legendary straight-pull action. Its other standout features include the design, which makes it short and light, as well as its innovative quick-change features that allow you to swiftly exchange bolt faces and exchange barrels so that it suits various circumstances. You can also break it in half, which is great when you’re traveling.
Blaser R8 is by far the most popular rifle you see on hunts in Europe, it’s a fantastic weapon that bring a ton of quality. You really ought to try one out to get a feel for it!
- Fast and Slick Action: The R8 comes with a straight-pull action system that is super-slick and fast. It’s amazingly fast speed, and compact design is thanks to how the bolt handle is positioned. It seats in an action casing where the bolt which connects to the back end of the barrel is situated.
- Brilliant ergonomics: Its front end has small grooves that give you an excellent grip and an upright pistol grip, which provides you with a reliable grip. Besides, its “hole” is wide enough for you to glide in and out even if you’re wearing gloves. Its recoil pad is also fantastic for scope use, the comp is high and straight, and the recoil pad is made of slim and soft rubber.
- Ingenious Removable magazine mechanism: The mag is released alongside the trigger blade and thus activates trigger pivot. This means you can’t shoot the R8 while the mag is out. This makes it very safe.
- Fast bolt action coupled with reliable and safe operation as well as an excellent trigger.
- Great accuracy
- Excellent ergonomics
- Silent and quick recocking system
- To keep your deer hunting legal, use the appropriate ammunition
The Blaser R8’s solidly built stock design, brilliant quick-change features, straight-pull bolt action, and its phenomenal stability and handling make it an excellent hog hunting rifle.
Make sure you check out our huge beginner’s guide to hog hunting.
See our full review on the Blaser R8.
Best Hunting Rifle for Bear Hunting
Sauer 202 Avantgarde Grande
This Sauer rifle is as good as it gets in terms of mechanical excellence when it comes to bespoke rifles. The standout feature of the rifle is that it’s super-customizable.
- Takedown model: The customizable nature of this hunting rifle is enhanced by its ‘Takedown’ feature, which allows you to change calibers and interchange parts without needing tools.
- Hammer forged barrel: This means the Sauer barrels are more complicated, mild choked, and more accurate.
- Grade 4 walnut wood stock: The premium quality wood gives this hunting rifle an elegant look, and the Monte Carlo Cheek bit and the palm swell are entirely and strikingly crafted for clear sighting and an exceptional grip.
- Easy to customize
- You can interchange parts without tools
- Super hardy
- Its hammer-forged barrel makes it super accurate
- Elegantly designed with grade 4 walnut wood stock
- It takes a bit of time before one gets a handle of the safety catch
The Sauer 202 Avantgarde Grande is beautifully built, easily customizable, and super slick, which makes it an excellent bear hunting rifle.
Best Hunting Rifle for Deer Hunting
Merkel RX Helix
Merkel is a renowned German luxury shotgun and hunting rifles manufacturer. The RX references ‘Repetierer’ – a German pull-action rifle. The Helix is a straight pull-action rifle that comes with a striking wood finish and a grade 6 walnut stock.
- Fully switchable and easily portable: You can easily interchange the Helix bolt head and barrel for another caliber. It takes at least 5 seconds to interchange the barrel. Besides, this Merkel rifle weighs 6.75 lb, and it is 40in, which makes it compact and light and, therefore, ideal for driven boar shooting and deer stalking.
- Excellent ergonomics: The Helix’s straight cut stock makes it perfect for fast target acquisition. Its palm swell and chequered pistol grip provide a solid grip, and the robustly built cocking level is nicely placed for the thump.
- Good accuracy: At 100 yards, this Merkel hunting rifle shoots all bullet weights with 0.75 to 1 accuracy – this is more than enough for its intended use.
- Built using excellent quality wood
- Quicker action than most of the equivalent rifles
- Easy to take down
- The short pull action bolsters stability when shooting
- Quickly switchable system
- Well thought out design and ergonomics
- The release button is a bit fiddly
If you need a portable rifle that allows you to switch barrels, if you often hunt running games smoothly, the Helix will get the job done.
Make sure you check out our guide for how to hunt deer with dogs.
Best Hunting Rifle for Pronghorn Hunting
For decades, Mauser has been a well-respected brand in the shooting world, both for its cartridges and rifles. Wars have been wedged using Mausers, and renowned hunters have used them in their hunting expeditions.
The Mauser rifles are not only high-quality but also pricey. However, while M18 maintains the quality associated with Mauser, it carries an accessible price tag.
The M18 is an ultra-modern bolt-action rifle. It incorporates features that hunters and rifle shooters demand – excellent trigger pull, hammer-forged barrel, three-lug bolt, and outstanding synthetic stock. Conversely, the hefty price tag, the polished blue metal, and the walnut stock is gone.
- Light Bolt lift: Usually, opening three-lug bolts takes more effort; it comes down to mechanics. But the M18’s bolt lift is relatively light; you can easily mistake it for a two-lug bolt.
- Stiff and sturdy stock: Most synthetic stocks have a cheap look. But the M18 stock is thick and sturdy, and it has textured and soft gripping surfaces nicely shaped at the handholds.
- Chambered for the most preferred hunting cartridges: The M18 is chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor, .243 Winchester, .300 Winchester Magnum, and other usual suspects. But the most noteworthy is the 6.5 PRC. The 6.5 PRC is a “Precision Rifle Cartridge” that was introduced in 2012. This cartridge is now renowned for its flat trajectory and superb accuracy, which makes it perfect for medium-game hunting.
- Excellent black burnished metal finish
- Excellent ergonomics
- Reasonably priced
- Doesn’t come with the walnut stock like the pricier Mauser rifles
Don’t miss our beginner’s guide for hunting Pronghorn antelope
Best Hunting Rifle for Duck Hunting
Browning A5 Stalker
This is the only american on the list but I just find this to be the absolute best shotgun there is, I have never tried any shotgun that compares to my lovely Browning.
The Browning A5 is now for its legendary reliability. This semi-automatic shotgun is recoil-operated. Recoil operations are more straightforward compared to gas operations. When it comes to guns, simpler translates to more reliable.
While the A5 Stalker has a striking resemblance to the old Auto-5, the Browning team has managed to recreate an innovative, versatile, fast-cycling hunting gun.
- Functional receiver profile: Browning A5 retains the old Auto-5’s famous receiver profile. The profile elongates the sight plane and aids natural light alignment, which, in turn, boosts accuracy and target acquisition.
- Portable: Unlike the old Auto-5, the A5 is built using super-light and rugged aircraft grade alloy, which makes it lighter.
- Excellent ergonomics: The A5’s recoil pad is built using Inflex II Technology so that you can take the pounding of magnum. Besides, Dura-Touch coating bolsters its overall feel and grip in extreme weather.
- Fast cycling: The A5’s Kinematic Drive cycles flawlessly, you don’t need to adjust it.
- Recoil-operated, versatile, and fast cycling
- Super-light aluminum receiver
- Very reliable
- Some might think the recoil is too hard
The Browning A5 is reliable and accurate. It has a decent grip, which allows you to hold it and pivot it comfortably, so you can nail a duck fast and easily.
We have an extensive beginner’s guide for duck hunting here.
One gun that really ought to have a spot on this list is the Tikka T3x, we will write an in-depth guide on it later. It’s a fantastic hunting rifle, even though produced in europe it was meant for the american market.
When choosing a hunting rifle, you should first consider the game you want to hunt. If you’re quite sure that you’ll hunt deer, you’re halfway through the decision-making process.
One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is to buy a hunting rifle that can kill the most significant game they can think of. Bigger is not always better. You also need to think of the terrain in which you’ll be hunting. A long-range rifle (typically with a long barrel) won’t be of much use if you are trudging through thick forests.
Conversely, if you’re confident you’ll need a hunting rifle with excellent long-range accuracy, a short-range short-barreled rifle will leave you frustrated. So when it comes down to it, you should go for a gun that’s the dependable and high-quality gun and suits your personality and your hunting needs.
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36 years old, been hunting and fishing my entire life – love the outdoors, family, and all kinds of hunting and fishing! I have spent thousands of hours hunting hogs and training hunting dogs, but I’m always learning new stuff and really happy to be sharing them with you! hit me up with an email in the contact form if you have any questions.