Having the best deer hunting rifle is one of the most important pieces of gear in a deer hunter's arsenal.
The thing is...
Deer hunting comes steeped in national, regional, and familial traditions. Calling a deer rifle simply a piece of equipment might be sacrilegious to some of us.
Not only that...
A major tradition is the type of rifle that is used, and for some, their rifle has been used for several generations.
For such an important piece of equipment, potential buyers should be aware of what makes a rifle well equipped for hunting deer.
In this article, we will go through some important traits of a rifle that should be taken into consideration when searching for the right one for you.
A lot of shots to bring down a deer are taken at significant distances at a few hundred yards. Open sights just aren't going to cut it.
To get a better idea on what kind of scope you should have, take a look at our list of scopes that are perfect for deer rifles.
With all of this in mind, we present our list of the top 5 deer rifles, including both traditional and newer models.
What Makes The Best Deer Hunting Rifle?
There are a lot of factors that make a particular rifle one that you would want to have with you when there's a Boone and Crocket buck standing broadside in your crosshairs.
The type of terrain you are hunting, the distance you think a lot of your shots will be at, and how your rifle handles should all be taken into consideration when selecting the right deer rifle.
Let's look at several characteristics you should be thinking about when making your selection.
Hunters who are traveling and then putting in a lot of walking miles might go for a lighter rifle.
Lighter rifles are also easier to get into shooting position if a deer happens to spring in on you unexpectedly.
Hunters who might be hunting heavy brush might also go for a lighter rifle due to the decreased barrel length making it easy to navigate.
The heaviest portion of the deer rifle is the barrel. As we will see next, the length of the barrel affects several different shooting characteristics.
The type of material that is used in the stock can also affect the weight of the rifle.
Deer rifles should never be over 10 pounds in weight. It's not that you wouldn't be able to handle 10 pounds of rifle, but it makes it a lot tougher for you on extended hunts.
The length of the barrel is the biggest contributor to the distance a bullet can travel. This can be confusing, but typically a longer barrel will provide more accuracy over distance.
Longer barrels provide more speed and spin to the bullet before leaving the rifle. Both of these factors provides a flatter trajectory, making it more accurate at father distances.
With the right scope, you can reach out to a deer with a good rifle at 350 yards.
Now, a lot of this depends on the skill of the hunter, but a good deer rifle can get the right bullet there with no problem.
The most common action for deer rifles includes bolt, lever, and semi-auto. A majority of deer rifles, and most on our list, are bolt action.
The reason for this is the reliability of a bolt action and the ease of maintenance.
Regardless of the action, a good deer rifle should be able to eject and chamber cartridges effortlessly without the risk of jamming up.
When deer hunting, you want a rifle capable of utilizing cartridges able to drop a deer cleanly.
Some of the best deer rifle calibers include .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington, .30-06 Springfield, and .30-.30 Winchester.
With that said, the various calibers and their pros and cons for deer hunting are beyond the scope of this article.
For now, you need to know that deer rifle models are often available in different chambering to handle the more popular calibers.
Your decision should be based on your needs and preferences.
For most seasoned deer hunters, the recoil of a rifle is not going to be a huge factor in purchasing the right rifle for you.
For smaller shooters and beginners, hard recoil could be intimidating. Generally, shorter barrels have a more severe recoil.
You can't get rid of recoil completely; we have to stay within the laws of physics, but a good deer rifle will have the technology in the firearm's design to reduce the amount of recoil as much as possible.
Top 5 Best Deer Rifles
The Remington 783 is a bolt-action centerfire rifle. It comes from the 700 line of Remington rifles, and any deer hunter knows these are steeped in American deer hunting tradition.
The 783 has a synthetic stock that can be in black or a camo pattern.
The 783 also features the CrossFire Trigger System which allows hunters to adjust trigger pull to fit their personal preference.
Cartridges are loaded into a box magazine at the bottom of the stock and sits flush upon attachment. The magazine will hold four cartridges of standard calibers.
This model can come chambered for a wide range of calibers. The preferred caliber will result in some small changes to barrel length and the weight of the rifle.
The range of calibers this rifle can be fitted to gives a lot of options for hunters to customize this weapon to fit the type of deer hunting they plan on doing.
The overall length of this rifle ranges from 38.625 inches to 44.5 inches with a weight range of 8.25 to 8.625 pounds.
Reviews looking at the range and pattern of this rifle all point towards continual accuracy with excellent groupings between 100-500 yards.
The 783 can be purchased through Remington already scoped with a 3-9x40 mm riflescope at an MSRP of $399.
Given the price and performance, this is considered the all around best rifle for deer hunting.
Savage 11/111 Trophy Hunter XP
In our list of rifles, we wanted to include one rifle that is excellent for those looking to burst into the deer-hunting scene.
The Savage M11 Trophy Hunter is perfect for the new hunter. It is also the best youth deer rifle that you can get.
It comes out of the box with a 3-9x40 Nixon mounted scope that has already been bore sighted, making sighting the rifle for beginners much easier.
Depending on the chambering, the barrel length ranges from 22-24 inches with a weight ranging between 7.25 and 8.25 pounds.
A detachable, metal magazine holds three cartridges and will sit flush with the bottom of the stock when attached.
It also has an AccuTrigger system that allows the user to adjust the pull of the trigger between 2-6 pounds.
This Savage model is bolt action and is easy to both use and maintain. It also utilizes a three-point safety system to lock both bolt and trigger, bolt only, and full fire.
The stock and grip are a synthetic material with excellent gripping surfaces.
This Savage 11/111 comes in several models that can chamber all of the more popular deer hunting cartridges.
This rifle runs around the $630 mark for retail price and given the quality and the out of the box readiness, it is a great rifle for someone looking to get into the sport.
This is a classic looking and feeling deer rifle.
It’s also classical in the sense that it chambers 30/30 Winchester cartridges, one of the most used cartridges for deer hunting in North America.
The 336C is a lever action with a tubular magazine able to hold 6 rounds.
This model has a barrel length of 20 inches with an overall length of 38.5 inches. Weighing in at 7 pounds, it is one of the lighter deer rifles on our list.
The stock of the 336C is made from beautiful black walnut wood with grooved gripping surfaces and a steel receiver.
The 336C also uses a hammer safety system that is easy to control when in the shooting position.
This is a great deer rifle for those planning to do most of their hunting in heavier woods and brush.
While not known as a long-range deer rifle, a scope can be mounted since spent cartridges are ejected from the side of the receiver.
For hunters that feel the need for a deer rifle with a little more punch, the 336C model is available to chamber .35 Rem cartridges.
Winchester Model 70 Featherweight
The Winchester Model 70 is one of the longest running models of deer rifles in the United States, and it is for good reason.
These are durable and reliable rifles and have even earned the nickname "the rifleman's rifle."
The Model 70 comes in a variety of versions that can chamber specific cartridges and come in various lengths, weights, and prices.
The Featherweight is available in multiple chambering options with a 5 round box magazine that sits flush to the underside of the rifle. All models use a smooth and reliable bolt action.
The trigger on the Featherweight also features an adjustment system and might be one of the smoothest trigger pulls of available deer rifles with little slippage.
The Featherweight has a barrel length between 22 and 24 inches and a weight range from 6.75 pounds to 7.25 pounds, making this an excellent gun for extended hunting trips and traveling.
The Featherweight’s stock and forearm are made from satin finished walnut with a polished steel receiver and barrel. It also sports a three-point safety system with visual representations of the level of safety applied.
This gun can be purchased from the manufacturer at an MSRP of $980.
Ruger American Rifle
The Ruger American Rifle is a bolt-action rifle and comes with an underside rotary magazine of the same synthetic stock material. It can hold four rounds of standard calibers.
The rotary magazine might be the stand out portion of this rifle, offering excellent round retrieval and chambering.
The forearm and grip are grooved and can be handled confidently even in the worst weather conditions.
Like all of the rifles listed, this rifle can be bought to chamber multiple calibers. The rifle has a barrel length between 22 and 24 inches with a weight of 6.2 to 7 pounds.
However, the synthetic material does not hold up as well to the elements and abuse as other rifles on the list.
It's Ruger Marksman Adjustable trigger allows adjustment of the pull between 3 and 5 pounds. The safety mechanism is an on/off tang system located on the top of the firearm behind the receiver.
With a retail price of $489, this rifle performs with the higher end deer rifles. It does have the most severe recoil of the rifles listed but performs well in all other categories.
As we stated at the beginning of this article, there are many competitors for best deer rifle for the money.
While there are several great guns that will get the job done consistently, it is a matter of personal preference and experience with different firearms and calibers that should guide your decision.
As you gain experience with certain models, you will begin to get a feel for what you are the most comfortable and confident in using.
It is important that whatever rifle you choose, you familiarize yourself with it on the range before heading out to the woods.
We have provided you with five of our top deer rifles and discussed what traits of these rifles make them worth buying.
The five rifles we have listed are excellent deer rifles, but they are only a small fraction of the available deer rifles that are out there.
For example, the Remington 700 is a classic choice that many experienced deer hunters gravitate towards. It's been a popular platform for military, law enforcement, and hunters alike. The folks at Surviving Prepper put together a great article on it.
However, we felt the Remington 700's price isn't necessarily friendly to the average hunter, so we didn't include it in the list.
We also discussed some of the major factors you should consider when selecting a deer rifle and we hope it provides a good foundation for making your own decisions when looking for the next family heirloom.
Once you have your rifle, you are well on you way in deer hunting. Some more tips include hunting times and also attractants.
And once you've made the kill, we have a great guide on what to do after here.
Have a great hunting story with your favorite rifle? Let me hear about it in the comments below!