Last year, the 2015 SHOT Show brought us two budget-priced rifles from major manufacturers: The Mossberg Patriot and the Winchester XPR. For 2016, there are expanded models and calibers of those popular rifles, as well as some updates and expansions on well-loved classics. There were also a few surprise newbies at the Show. If you’re shopping for a new gun this year, here are some of the best deer rifles we found for 2016.
Mossberg Patriot Super Bantam
This budget-friendly bolt-action is one of the best deer rifles we saw in 2015. It came on strong last year thanks to features like the company’s Lightning Bolt Action trigger, spiral fluted bolt, box magazine, 22-inch fluted barrel, and a wide range of stock options. This year Mossberg has added among other things, a Super Bantam youth model in Kryptek camo. MSRP on the Super Bantam Kryptek (pictured, bottom) is just $421, which is part of what’s made this line so popular.
Another budget option, the XPR debuted last year in four calibers. It’s got a nickel-Teflon coating on the bolt for smooth operation and corrosion resistance, bolt unlock button, free-floating chrome-moly steel barrel, recessed target-style crown, and the M.O.A. trigger, which Winchester claims has zero take-up, zero creep and zero overtravel. This year Winchester has added several calibers, including .243, 7mm08, .308, .300 WSM, .325 WSM, 7mm Rem Mag and .270 WSM. MSRP is $599 for the Mossy Oak BreakUp Country version.
Winchester’s celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and it’s releasing several commemorative special editions in honor of the occasion — including a replica of the 1866 Yellow Boy, the first rifle that ever bore the Winchester name.
Ruger American Rifle Magnum
This one’s another of the best deer rifles we’ve seen in recent years. It’s been going strong for a few years and comes in a bunch of different models and configurations. The big news for 2016 is that Ruger now offers the American Rifle in a Magnum model, chambered in 7mm Rem Mag and .300 Win Mag. The Magnum version features a single column box magazine, glass-filled nylon stock, a great recoil pad and a stainless, threaded barrel. MSRP is $699.
Weatherby Vanguard Wilderness
The Vanguard’s arguably one of the best deer rifles of our generation. It’s a classic, and this year Weatherby’s showing a Wilderness model (pictured, third) that should appeal to deer hunters. Designed for easy carry and harsh conditions, it weighs just 6 ¾ pounds and has a 24-inch fluted barrel. The hand-laminated, carbon-fiber composite stock with aluminum bedding plate and matte gel coat finish is durable and grippy. It comes in a variety of calibers from .240 Wby Mag to .300 Wby Mag. MSRP is $999.
Browning X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Speed
The X-Bolt’s been with us for quite a while, but this year’s Hell’s Canyon Speed version (pictured, top) deserves a fresh look. It’s got all the great X-Bolt features you love, with the addition of a fluted barrel with a threaded muzzle brake. All exposed metal (except the signature gold trigger) is Cerakoted in Burnt Bronze, including the bolt and receiver. It looks slick with Browning’s proprietary A-TACS camo on the stock. Barrel length depends on caliber, from 22 to 26 inches, and it comes in all standard calibers from .243 to .300 Win Mag — including 6.5 Creedmoor and 26 Nosler. MSRP is $1,199, little bit more for magnum calibers.
Savage Model 16/116 Lightweight Hunter
No discussion on “best deer rifles” would be complete without Savage. The company is showing a Model 16/116 Lightweight Hunter this year. Built to be easily carried over mountains and to survive harsh terrain and bad weather, it weighs well under 6 pounds. Savage achieved that low weight by using a fluted bolt, a light synthetic stock, and a 20-inch stainless barrel. Of course it’s got Savage’s famous AccuTrigger. MSRP is $991.
Savage is also offering the Axis and Axis II in 6.5 Creedmoor now, if you’re a fan of that caliber.
Sako tells me the A7 is a “hybrid between a Sako and a Tikka,” with a Sako barrel and that super-smooth bolt action the company is known for. The A7 has a five-shot MOA guarantee. It features three locking lugs, plunging ejector, detachable magazine, RoughTech stock for a good grip, full aluminum skeleton (one solid piece with no welds!), a Hi-Viz recoil pad and two 5mm spacers for a good fit. The trigger comes set at 3 lbs. but can be user-adjusted down to 2 lbs. or up to 4. It’s crisp and clean and breaks in the same place every time. Different models and stock options are available; deer hunters will want to look at the Big Game version with an MSRP of $1,275.
Remington R-25 GII
If you’re into semi-autos for deer hunting, you know they tend to be heavy. Remington addresses that problem with the R-25 GII, a .308 AR-10 that weighs just over 7 lbs. It uses Remington’s proprietary upper and lower and features a redesigned bolt, dual ejectors and a two-stage match trigger. It also wears AR-15 furniture for easy modularity. MSRP is $1,696.
Also, Remington’s Custom Shop is fully relocated to South Dakota now. Got a vision of what your own “best deer rifles” would look like? If you can dream it, they can build it for you, or they can restore or customize just about any Remington gun and a lot of Marlin guns as well. If you’ve got Great Grandpa’s old Marlin sitting around in sad shape and want to have it brought back to life, this is the place to call.
Webley & Scott Empire
Webley & Scott’s got a new bolt-action called the Empire (pictured, second), with a jeweled bolt, knurled handle, 22-inch barrel and a flush fit detachable box magazine. These guns are imported in the U.S. by Legacy Sports International. Right now the Empire comes in four primary deer calibers: .270, .30-06, .308 and .243. It’s got an Italian walnut stock with a cheek piece. You can get the Empire unscoped for an MSRP of $956 or with a Nikko Stirling scope for an extra $130 or so.
From the team at Steyr/Merkel comes a new bolt-action that actually doesn’t have a name yet, believe it or not. Stay tuned for that, but the gun has a cold hammer-forged barrel, a box magazine, a smooth full-diameter bolt with three locking lugs, and a nice wood stock. It comes in a wide variety of calibers, and the big news is the price. Remember, we’re talking about a Merkel. MSRP for the wood version is $799, $699 for synthetic.