The Best Deer Hunting Rifle at Every Price Point

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The Best Deer Hunting Rifle at Every Price Point
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What makes a good deer hunting rifle? On one hand, the answer to this question is simple: the best deer hunting rifle is the rifle you already own.

On the other hand, if you're a new hunter or aren't happy with your current setup, the volume of options can be overwhelming. If almost any rifle can be used to hunt deer, how are you supposed to narrow things down and pick just one?

If you've been struggling with that "other hand," you've come to the right place. We've selected the best deer hunting rifle at every price point (along with a few honorable mentions), and we also developed a set of criteria so you can choose your own.

What We Look for in a Good Deer Hunting Rifle

If none of the rifles on our list strike your fancy, that's OK. There are more good deer rifles out there than we can fit in one article. To make your own choice, consider the three "C's":

  1. Comfort
  2. Cartridge
  3. Cost

The rifle should be comfortable to shoot, chambered in a deer-appropriate caliber, and it shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg. Most whitetails are shot within 200 yards. I'd be willing to wager the same is true of muleys, but I wouldn't wager quite as much. Point is, this rifle doesn't need to win the next PRS national championship. Mark Kenyon once told me that, growing up, he was satisfied with any rifle that could put several shots in a row on a paper plate at 100 yards-and that dude has killed more whitetails than some hunters have ever seen.

The Deer Hunting Rifles We Recommend

What Makes a Good Deer Hunting Rifle

Alliterative lists aren't just for Sunday sermons. Keep these three "C's" in mind when you're looking for your first (or next) deer gun.

  1. Comfort

  2. This is a catch-all category to emphasize that the rifle should be comfortable to carry and shoot. A rifle with an adjustable stock, for example, ensures the rifle conforms to your body and helps you quickly achieve a clear sight picture.

    A good trigger is also a must. Most hunters miss because they pull the rifle ever so slightly the moment they squeeze off a round. A relatively light trigger with a crisp break can keep this from happening.

    You should also consider barrel length, especially if you'll be hunting from an elevated position. I like a shorter barrel on my deer guns (a max of 22 inches) because I also hunt with a suppressor. There's nothing worse than trying to finagle a broomstick of a rifle into a good shooting position when a buck is walking by.

    Finally, consider the rifle's weight. A too-heavy rifle can be extremely difficult to shoot from a standing position or rested against a tree. But a too-light rifle can produce too much felt recoil, especially in a large caliber. That's why I look for something between 6 and 8 pounds.

  3. Cartridge

  4. When you select your rifle, be sure it's chambered in something deer-appropriate. Almost any cartridge can take down a deer, but some are too small to do so reliably, and some offer more power than you need. Mid-power cartridges are easier to shoot, cheaper to purchase, and perfectly capable of taking down the largest buck in the forest.

    This list isn't exhaustive, but it's a great place to start: .243 Win., .30-30 Win., 308 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., 7mm-08 Remington, and .30-06 Springfield.

  5. Cost

  6. You can spend as much or (almost) as little as you want on a deer gun. As you climb the MSRP ladder, the rifles will be more accurate, more durable, more comfortable to shoot, and offer more features. But that doesn't mean a bargain-bin $350 rifle can't get the job done. It can, as long as you acclimate yourself to it and understand its limitations.

Deer Rifles We Recommend

Last Shot

If you ask me (and since you're reading this article, you don't have much choice), the sweet spot for deer hunting rifles is the $600-$900 price range. Most hunters can afford to lay down that kind of money, but the rifles will still be accurate, smooth, safe, and, most importantly, effective in the deer woods.

And no matter how much you spend, remember that the rifle is only one small part of what it takes to be a good deer hunter. For all that other stuff, be sure to check out the Wired to Hunt Podcast, The Element Podcast, and all the other deer hunting tips and advice we publish weekly.

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