Every new hunting season yields a new batch of beginning hunters ready to take the field. Going out with a buddy and borrowing a rifle works for a time or two, but as you develop as a hunter, you’ll want and need your own gear. A good hunting rifle doesn’t need to be expensive, but it should be quality. Keeping it well under $1,000, here are the best budget-friendly hunting rifles great for beginning hunters just trying things out or for experienced veterans looking to pull the trigger on something new.
A note on caliber selection: Deciding on which caliber is best for you will depend on a lot of factors, such as your intended game, environment, and skill level. Common choices include .30-30 Winchester, .243 Winchester, and .308 Winchester — .30-06 Springfield, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .45-70 Government are also great. Of course, there are others too. It seems like everyone has their favorite round derived from years of experience. The rifles I listed are typically available in slew of caliber options depending on your preference.
Savage Axis XP
When I think of a budget bolt gun, one of the first to come to mind is the Savage Axis XP. They are well made, accurate enough for most uses, and provide you with all affordability, performance, and precision in an amazing package for shooters of all abilities. The bolt action is smooth and reliable, and the box magazine makes for faster reloading.
Savage offers the XP in a number of different stock finishes from wood to camo, and even offers a package with a Weaver scope already mounted. The matte black finish on these tends to not hold up as well to rust as some of the others, but if you keep it oiled and maintained you should have no issues.
The Winchester XPR combines the proven concepts of accuracy and reliability from the legendary Model 70 with modern manufacturing technology to construct a fantastic rifle. The XPR is purpose built for the next generation of hunters and comes in at a very competitive price.
Winchester took the accurate and ultra-reliable MOA Trigger System, which boasts zero take-up, creep, and overtravel, and added a receiver that is precision machined from solid steel bar stock to deliver superior accuracy. To further enhance accuracy, the free-float barrel is button rifled with a recessed target crown. Further, the lightweight synthetic stock with textured grip surfaces gives you a positive hold in all weather conditions.
The Mossberg Patriot is an excellent choice when it comes time to put meat on the table. It’s an accurate and versatile rifle, offering shooters excellence with every shot.
The Patriot features a Lightning Bolt-Action Trigger, which is user adjustable from 2–7 pounds. Additionally, the button-rifled barrel is fluted and incorporates a recessed crown to ensure accuracy and durability shot after shot. Spiral-fluted bolts with a new bolt angle and knurl pattern ensure smooth, comfortable, and reliable cycling and the box magazine makes for convenient loading and unloading.
This lightweight rifle will impress new and seasoned shooters alike with its excellence in form and function. Don’t miss another opportunity to fill your freezer hunting season after hunting season with the Mossberg Patriot.
The 100% American-made, Ruger American is a lightweight and accurate rifle with quick and easy handling. Offered in short and long-action calibers, the Ruger American Rifle combines rugged reliability with award-winning ingenuity.
The Ruger Marksman Adjustable Trigger offers a crisp release with a pull weight that is adjustable between 3–5 pounds, allowing shooters to make the perfect shot. The ergonomic, lightweight stock blends a classic look with modern forend contouring and grip serrations. Further, the “Power Bedding,” an integral bedding block system that positively locates the receiver and free floats the barrel, produces outstanding accuracy.
If you’re looking for a great value in a quality rifle at a price that won’t break the bank, the Ruger American should be on your shortlist.
One great budget hunting rifle that may have escaped your radar, is the Connecticut Valley Arms, or CVA, Cascade. Currently available in some of the most popular calibers on the market, the Cascade is packed with features that most other companies charge a premium for.
The Cascade’s barrel and action are both given a nice cerakote finish to help protect them from the elements and the synthetic stock has swivel studs on the forend to accept slings and a bipod. Additionally, the rifle utilizes a removable box magazine and Savage AccuTrigger pattern scope bases. If you’re looking for a dependable rifle built to perform, take a look at the Cascade from CVA.
The name Weatherby has become synonymous with accuracy and quality, and although it’s considered the entry level rifle, the Vanguard is no exception to the reputation of producing fine hunting firearms. This hand-fit rifle features a one-piece machined fluted bolt body, accurate cold hammer-forged barrel, and adjustable two-stage match trigger. The Vanguard is offered in various synthetic and wood stock versions and all utilize precision-machined receivers made to provide superb mechanical repeatability. Although it tops the list in terms of price, you’re getting one of the best budget hunting rifles around.
Looking for something a little different? A lever-action may be for you. Rossi has a longstanding reputation for crafting dependable and precise firearms that are reasonably priced, and the R95 Carbine is no different. Perfect for ranching, target practice, or brush hunting, it boasts a vintage look and feel reminiscent of the rifles that triumphed in the Old West, but this is not your grandfather’s old lever-action.
The Model 95 is a traditional lever-action rifle for contemporary shooters, built with authentic craftsmanship, state-of-the-art engineering, and cutting-edge processes. The short-round style of barrel makes for a quick and maneuverable rifle. The lever action is precisely crafted, with rapid and smooth cycling for quick follow-up shots, and the side loading gate allows you to easily top off your magazine tube. Those who want the unmistakable look and feel of a lever-action rifle should look no further.
Finally, a good AR-15 or AR-10 pattern rifle can serve double-duty for defense and hunting, although, be sure to look into your local laws. Modern ARs are plenty accurate for typical hunting ranges and can be had in basically any caliber under the sun. You can outfit your rifle exactly as you see fit with all sorts of upgrades and customizations, or you can throw on a scope and run it stock. Additionally, you could use separate, individual upper receivers dedicated for your hunting applications.
If you don’t already have an AR pattern rifle to work off of, here are a couple to keep in mind. The Diamondback DB10 is one of the best AR-10s under $1,000. It’s durable, reliable, and provides plenty of room to grow as a shooter. As far as budget AR-15s, well, the world is your oyster. My preference is for the Ruger AR556, as I believe it gives you the best performance for the price. However, the S&W, Diamondback, and Springfield are all good as well.
Whether it’s your first or 100th hunt, any of these budget-friendly hunting rifles are sure to do the trick. Not only are they great right out of the box, they are something that can grow with you as a hunter and may be customized to your tastes. So, grab one of these and get out there, and don’t forget a good optic!