Going into the field with the intention of taking a long-range shot isn’t the right mindset. A good hunter gets as close to his or her quarry as possible, and in the vast majority of situations, that’s inside distances most rifle shooters would describe as "long range."
However, there are situations that present an opportunity to take a shot at 400, 500, or even 600 yards. Open country antelope hunting sometimes rules out a close stalk. For some, a shot at a once-in-a-lifetime sheep across a canyon might also justify a long-range attempt, as might a trophy elk on the last day of the season. Taking the shot is ultimately a judgment call based on your perception of your abilities and risk, which will differ drastically depending on who you are.
But if you find yourself in a long-range scenario and you decide to pull the trigger, you want a rifle that can get the job done. Your success will depend far more on practice and preparation than your firearm, but if you’re going to take a shot at 400 yards, you’ll appreciate every advantage you can get.
Jump to: Long Range Rifles We Recommend
A cartridge determines a rifle’s long range capability more than any characteristic of the rifle, but there are some rifle features that facilitate more accurate long range shots.
An accurate barrel is at the top of that list. Any inconsistencies at 100 yards will magnify at longer distances, so if you want to hit a six-inch vital zone at 600 yards, your rifle should shoot a one-inch group (or better) at 100 yards. Wind and awkward shooting positions will make you less accurate in the field (so don’t assume that six-inch group will translate to the plains of Nebraska), but a sub-MOA gun is a good baseline for a “long range rifle.” All the rifles on this list have that level of accuracy potential or better. You might need to test different bullet weights to find something the rifle likes, but you’re unlikely to get a lemon from any of these manufacturers.
After you choose an appropriate long-range cartridge and find yourself an accurate gun, the rest of the rifle’s features should help you take more comfortable, consistent shots.
A good trigger is a must. You’re most likely to pull a shot at the moment when the trigger breaks, so you want a bang lever with zero creep and a crisp, clean break. The idea is to minimize rifle disturbance as much as possible. Most modern production rifles come with great triggers, and the guns on this list are no exception.
An adjustable stock or chassis system allows you to fit the rifle to your body and relax behind the rifle while peering through the scope. These systems also allow users to attach accessories like a bipod. Stabilizing both the front and back of the rifle is essential if you’re going to take a long shot on an animal, so being able to easily attach a bipod and other accessories is a handy feature.
The rifle’s weight depends on your preferences and physical abilities. Heavier rifles are easier to shoot at long distances since they recoil less and can offer greater stability. But open country hunts often involve a lot of hiking, and you may not want to lug a 10-pound rifle up and down a mountain. All the rifles in this list are between six and eight pounds, which I think is a good range to stay within.
Ultimately, accuracy is the most important thing we look for in a long-range hunting rifle. That might mean spending a little more than you normally might, but with a trophy mule deer in your sights at 500 yards, it’ll be worth it.
Jump to: Product Notes
Tikka T3x Ember
Sig Sauer Cross
Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic
Seekins Havak PH2
Top of the Line
Savage 110 Apex Hunter XP
|Barrel Feature||Fluted, Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||Cold Hammer Forged||416 Stainless Steel||Carbon Fiber||Carbon Steel|
|Trigger||1-stage, 2-4 lbs||2-stage, 2.5-4 lbs||2-stage, 2.5-4 lbs||1-stage, 2.5-5 lbs||1-stage, 1.5-4lbs||1-stage, 2.5-4 lbs|
|Weight||7.125 lbs||6.5 lbs||7.5 lbs||6.9-7.2 lbs||7.625 lbs||7.67 lbs|
|Chamberings||6.5 PRC, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm Rem. Mag. (+ 6 others)||.308 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 277 Fury||.30-06 Sprg., .270 Win., .308 Win. (+13 others)||6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .300 Win. Mag. (+7 others)||6.5 PRC, 7mm PRC, 300 PRC||6.5 PRC, 7mm PRC, .300 Win. Mag. (+18 more)|
|Field Notes||Field Notes||Field Notes||Field Notes||Field Notes||Field Notes|
You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get an accurate rifle capable of making long-range shots. Tikka’s T3x rifles are a case in point, and the newest model–the Roughtech Ember–is one of the best in the line. The stainless steel barrel features a medium-heavy profile for increased accuracy and flutes for decreased weight. The Roughtech texturing offers additional grip in tough weather conditions, and the modular stock features interchangeable grips.
MeatEater’s Steven Rinella has opted for the new Tikka chambered in .300 Win. Mag.
"I like something with more oomph for my primary big game rifle, so I generally hunt with a .300 Win Mag," he said. "Lately I’ve been shooting a Tikka Ember in an MDT HNT 26 chassis in that caliber, and I’m loving it. I can’t wait to spend a fall with that thing in the mountains."
It’s also worth noting that, according to MeatEater’s Garrett Long, T3x rifles have become a favorite among long-range competitive shooters. Long tells me he and other competitors don’t even bother changing the factory barrel with an aftermarket product. They simply swap the factory stock for something like an MDT XRS and hit the course.
Known for its tactical gear and military contracts, Sig Sauer entered the hunting rifle category in 2020 with the Cross rifle.
"The Cross might not look like your grandpa’s deer rifle, but it checks all the right boxes," said MeatEater’s Janis Putelis. "It has a great trigger, a buttery smooth action, and it’s super light, which makes it a great choice for backcountry hunting or for those who just don’t enjoy carrying a heavy rifle."
The biggest knock on the Cross is that Sig only offers 16-inch barrels for the .308 Win. and .277 Fury, and an 18-inch barrel for the 6.5 Creedmoor. This does limit velocity, but with most 6.5 Creedmoor loads, the bullet will still be traveling nearly 1,800 fps at 600 yards. Slower bullets are more impacted by wind, but that’s fast enough for full expansion. There are also benefits to a short barrel. It makes the rifle lighter, and it’s more manageable with a suppressor. Plus, if the barrel length really bothers you, there are now plenty of aftermarket options available.
Weatherby’s Vanguard line of rifles give everyday hunters a top-of-the-line option at an affordable price. MeatEater’s Mark Kenyon usually prefers archery tackle in the whitetail woods, but when he does pick up a rifle, he reaches for his Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic chambered in .30-06 Springfield.
"It’s the nicest rifle I’ve ever owned, although that’s not sayin’ much since all the rest of my rifles are hand-me-downs from my grandfather," Kenyon said. "Nonetheless, this is a tack driver and a gun that’s made me realize I’m a better shot than I used to give myself credit for. A high quality rifle can make even an average Midwest shooter pretty damned competent."
The Vanguard Synthetic is very reasonably priced, but still features an adjustable two-stage trigger, a cold hammer forged barrel, a fluted, one-piece bolt body, and of course, Weatherby’s sub-MOA accuracy guarantee.
Once a boutique gun maker serving mostly western hunters, Seekins Precision has broken into the mainstream–and their Havak line of rifles is leading the way. Lighter (and less expensive) than their HIT line, Havak rifles are premium firearms constructed in Seekins’ shop in Lewiston, Idaho.
The PH2 model is especially drool-inducing. The bolt and bolt body are made from USA-certified pre-hardened stainless steel, and the spiral-fluted 5R barrel is made from 416 stainless. Despite all this high-quality metal, the short-action rifles still clock in at less than seven pounds thanks to Seekins’ carbon composite stock. These rifles will shoot sub-MOA all day and with different ammo brands and bullet weights, making them one of the best options on the market for long-range hunting.
Seekins’ rifles aren’t budget-friendly, but having a high-quality, American-made hunting rifle is worth saving a few pennies.
This is the spendiest gun on the list, but you’re getting some unique features you won’t find in any of the other rifles. The Nexus features a patent-pending quick-change barrel system that allows users to swap barrels with nothing more than a T25 wrench. This makes the gun what the company calls “future proof.” When the next new long-range cartridge heats up the market, Nexus owners can purchase a barrel and barrel extension and swap calibers at home.
The Nexus system also allows Gunwerks to use an aluminum action, which cuts weight and keeps the rifle at a very comfortable 7.5 pounds (depending on cartridge and barrel length). The stock isn’t adjustable, but the leather inserts are comfortable and give the gun a distinctive old-school look. And, of course, this gun is a tack driver. You wouldn’t expect anything less for a $6,000 gun.
Internet forums abound with tales of budget-friendly rifles shooting half-inch groups with factory ammo “out of the box!” These stories may or may not be true, but it’s safe to say that hoping for a super accurate, low cost rifle will always be a roll of the dice. You might get a tack driver, but you might not.
If you’d like to hunt long range on a budget, it’s best to go with a tried-and-true action with a history of solid accuracy. Savage’s Model 110 fits that bill, and the Apex Hunter XP comes with a Vortex scope and an AccuTrigger for a very reasonable price. The no-frills synthetic stock is lightweight, and users can adjust length-of-pull with a spacer.
The 110 Apex Hunter also benefits from decades of Savage chambering the 110 in different cartridges. The rifle is available in a whopping 21 different cartridges, many of which are great options for long-range hunting.