October 11, 2023
It was a sad day when “Big Green” closed its doors for good, and the iconic Remington 700 bolt-action rifle has left a massive gap in the market. It has sparked a lot of change, and it has given hunters a chance to start looking in different directions for a new rifle. Many have looked at the high end of the price spectrum, which obviously has a lot of amazing rifles to choose from, but many of the modern “budget rifles” can give the premium rifles a run or their money.
So, what should we look for in a modern hunting rifle? Reliability comes first, because there is nothing worse than missing the opportunity of a lifetime due to equipment failure in the field. After that, comfort is an important consideration. You might need to be on your gun for an extended time, and a good stock makes that a lot more enjoyable. Cartridge choice is a huge decision, and rifles lines with multiple options are great to tailor a rifle to your needs. On top of the core factors of a rifle, weight, finish, coatings, color and features play an important role in what makes a great hunting rifle. Whether you’re a new or experienced hunter, we’ve put together a list of our favorite affordable sub-$1,200 bolt-action hunting rifles that can still go toe-to-toe with the expensive end of the hunting rifle market.
Howa Carbon Stalker
The first thing you’ll notice about the new Howa Carbon Stalker is the weight. It’s available in a mini, short and long action, with weights ranging from 4 pounds, 10 ounces on the small end to 6 pounds, 12 ounces on the heavy side. Regardless of action choice, it’s a highly weight-friendly rifle. With multiple actions to choose from, you get a nice variety of cartridges to fit your needs. Firearms News writer Rikk Rambo took one of the new Howa Carbon Stalker rifles on a successful hunt in Alaska, and you can read his complete review here. This sub-$1,000 rifle is feature-packed and won’t let you down in the field.
- Available Calibers: .270 WIN, 6.5 PRC, 300 WIN MAG, 7MM REM MAG (long action), 6.5 Creedmoor, 7MM-08 REM, .308 WIN (short action), 6MM ARC, .223 REM, 6.5 Grendel, 7.62×39, 350 Legend (mini action)
Mossberg Patriot Predator
If you want one rifle that “does it all,” the new Mossberg Patriot Predator in 7mm PRC will take any game in North America. It features a fluted, threaded, 24-inch barrel and fluted bolt, and it’s easy to mount optics with a integrated Picatinny rail on top. The Mossberg stock comes out of the box with a Strata camo coating, and the barrel has a patriot brown Cerakote. With an MSRP of only $636, the Mossberg Patriot Predator in 7mm PRC is a highly affordable “does-it-all” rifle.
Browning X-Bolt Hunter
The Browning X-Bolt Hunter is the classic hunting rifle. With a classic black walnut stock, this rifle looks like what dad used growing up, but it has the modern touches we look for in a rifle. The factory trigger is clean and crisp, and the 60-degree bolt lift is nice for use with modern scopes. Weight ranges from six to seven pounds, depending on caliber choice, and the Inflex recoil pad soaks up recoil. With a price point between $939 and $1099, this is a great workhorse rifle that has a classic look.
- Available Calibers: .223 Rem., 22-250 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Win., 270 WSM, 300 WSM, 25-06 Rem., .270 Win., .280 Rem., .30-’06, 7mm Rem. Mag, 300 Win. Mag, 338 Win. Mag, 375 H&H
If you like having options in a hunting rifle, the Winchester XPR line has 25 different models to choose from. From classic wooden stocks to synthetic and camo stocks, the XPR line is feature packed. All the XPR models feature the Winchester MOA trigger system, Inflex recoil pad, sling swivel studs and detachable magazine. If you’re a lefty, you’ll appreciate several left-hand models. With prices ranging from around $570 to $1,240, the Winchester XPR line is affordable and has tons of calibers to choose from to hunt across the entire country.
- Available Calibers: .223 Rem., .243 Win., .270 Win., .270 WSM, .30-’06, .300 Win. Mag., 300 WSM, .308 Win., 325 WSM, 338 Win. Mag., .350 Legend, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 6.8 Western, 7mm Rem Mag, 7mm-08 Rem.
CZ-USA is probably one of the most underrated rifle manufacturers on the market. The CZ-USA 600 Lux brings a European look to the American market, and it actually comes out of the box with iron sights, though it does have Rem. 700 bases for mounting a scope. Available in .223 Rem., .308 Win., .30-’06 and 300 Win. Mag., the 600 Lux is good for a range of small to large game. MSRP is $999 for the 600 Lux, and it’s a highly accurate rifle that will stand out in hunting camp among a growing modern rifle crowd.
Colt CBX TAC Hunter
When we think of Colt, we think of revolvers and 1911s, but they’ve recently entered the bolt-action hunting market with its new Colt CBX TacHunter. Priced at $999, the CBX hunter features a 20-inch threaded barrel in .308 Win., and it feeds from a detachable five-round magazine. The forend has two sling-swivel studs to mount a sling and a bipod, and the gray stock features an adjustable cheek riser. The Colt CBX TacHunter is a great rifle for Colt enthusiasts looking to get into hunting.
Ruger American Hunter
An American Legend indeed, the Ruger American rifle is one of the most popular hunting rifles with new models and calibers coming out every year. The Ruger American Hunter boasts a lot of modern touches apart from the rest of the Ruger American line. The Hunter features a Magpul stock with M-LOK attachments. On top you’ll find a one-piece Picatinny rail for optics, and the bolt has a 70-degree throw which provides plenty of clearance to run with modern scopes. The trigger is adjustable from three to five pounds and it feeds from the well-established Magpul PMAG. If you’re looking for something simpler, the Ruger American line is one of the most extensive on the market, and there is something from everyone.
Weatherby Model 307 Range XP
The Weatherby Model 307 Range XP is a great example of a new rifle looking to fill the gap left by the Remington 700. Weatherby hit it out of the park with this new rifle, which is feature-packed and looks good. The OD Green stock has a rough texturing on the forend and grip that is perfect for gripping without being too rough and also features an adjustable cheek riser. The barrel is fluted and has a graphite black Cerakote finish and is available in multiple calibers with a matching fluted bolt. Sharing a lot of features of the classic Remington 700, the Weatherby Model 307 Range XP is compatible with many different aftermarket Remington 700 parts. Retail on the Model 307 Range XP is $1,200.
- Available Calibers: .240 WBY Mag, .243 Win., .257 WBY Mag., .270 Win., .280 Ackley Improved, .30-’06, 300 Win., .308 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 WBY RPM, 7mm Rem., 7mm PRC
Kimber Hunter Rifle
The John Wick movies have propelled Kimber into the spotlight for their 1911 pistols, but they also make a great line of hunting rifles. The Kimber Hunter is their entry-level model that is ideal for hunters looking for a simple but quality hunting rifle. Available in .308 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor, the Kimber Hunter weighs in at less than six pounds. With a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee, the Kimber Hunter is deadly accurate, and it’s a pleasure to shoot with its match-grade adjustable trigger. You can get a Kimber off the shelf for less than $1,000.
Savage Arms Model 110
Of all the rifle lines in this list, the Savage Arms Model 110 Line is without doubt the most extensive. There are literal dozens of different hunting models for the Savage 110, and almost all of them fall well below the affordable $1,200 mark. If you like modern features, the Savage 110 Apex Hunter XP comes out of the box with the proven AccuStock, AccuTrigger, modern fit, and it’s even pre-fitted with a Vortex 2-9X CrossFire II scope for just $739. For a more traditional look, the Savage 110 Classic has a nice walnut stock along with the modern AccuTrigger and stock. When it comes to what calibers are available for the Savage 110 line, it’s probably easier to list what is not available for what is. Point is, there is definitely a caliber offering to fit your needs.
About the Author
Jack Oller is a U.S. Army veteran, having served in the Military Police with one deployment to the Camp VI Detention Facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has extensive firearms training from military and civilian schools and is a passionate shotgun shooter and hunter. Jack has an English degree from Illinois State University, and he started his career in the outdoor industry as Associate Editor for Guns & Ammo magazine. After Gun & Ammo, he worked as Brand Manager for Crimson Trace and now is the Digital Editor for Firearms News.
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