Firearms

Best Rifles for Older Shooters

M14 in action

During the past few months, we have taken a hard look at some of the better choices for older shooters. There are many older shooters — I am one of them.

Some of us have lost a bit of body mass, strength and even visual acuity. Some of us have nagging injuries that become more aggravating as we age.

Just the same, none of us are willing to give up and let age or injury stop us from shooting — far from it. There are rifles that offer plenty of performance, but which are easy on the shoulder and easy to use well.

We looked at the best choices and used several criteria in choosing these rifles. A fairly light rifle is important. A decent trigger action is important.

The rifle should not be a problem for the shooter to hold firmly. Ergonomics are vital. This means easy loading and unloading, and a safety that isn’t difficult to manipulate.

The sights should be easily picked up or the rifle should have an optical sight. Recoil should be modest. Recoil tolerance varies a great deal among shooters.

Most of us feel the .223 Remington is a light kicker, but after a few hundred rounds it adds up. The 6.5 Creedmoor is something of a wonder cartridge as just one example.

Let’s look at some of the best rifles.

Ruger 10/22

This is the classic American .22. Light enough, dirt-tough, proven and reliable, the rifle is practically an icon. The 10/22 as issued, is fine for most uses.

The Ruger 10/22 may be upgraded to a tack-driving target rifle for competition use. It is even well suited for tactical practice. Don’t discount the .22 LR for personal defense.

A rifleman skilled in the use of this firearm has saved his life or his family’s on more than one occasion. The 10/22 is the default rimfire rifle in my opinion.

If you pay less, you may not get as great a rifle, but you may get a useful rifle. If you pay more for a .22, be certain you get something for the money.

The 10/22 may be upgraded with match-grade barrels, trigger groups and stocks. Optics options are limitless. Load it with the Winchester Super X hollow point and rest easy.

Ruger 10/22 Best Rifles
The Ruger 10/22 is among the best rifles on the planet.

Thompson Center T/CR22

The T/CR22 is similar in operation to the 10/22. The trigger action is good, the sights are excellent, and the rifle uses Ruger 10/22 magazines.

The supplied ten-round magazine offers a hold-open latch for the last shot, an important improvement. The T/CR22 comes with a Magpul stock standard.

I enjoy this rifle very much and it is my go-to rimfire rifle. My personal T/CR22 has fired over 2,000 rounds of Winchester Wildcat with excellent reliability, and a lesser quantity of Winchester M22 with good results.

Thompson Center T/CR22
The Thompson Center T/CR22 is an outstanding all-around rifle.

Chiappa Double Badger

OK, this isn’t exactly a rifle, but it is a combination gun with a .22 LR caliber barrel over a .410 bore shotgun. The rifle is available in both .22 Long Rifle and .22 Magnum.

The Magnum would be a crackerjack option. Just the same, the .22 Long Rifle is the classic small-game cartridge. The Double Badger is a fast-handling rifle and quite accurate.

The sights feature a fiber-optic front and a highly-visible, fully-adjustable rear sight. A one-inch group for five shots at 25 yards with Winchester’s .22 Wildcat ammunition is average.

The Super X hollow point is just as accurate. As for the shotgun barrel, it is tightly-choked and will put a load of Winchester buckshot into less than three inches at 15 yards.

The Winchester .410 slug will group into an inch and a half at 25 yards. I like this little rifle a lot.

Chiappa Double Badger
Chiappa’s Double Badger folds for storage. It is one of the best rifles on the list for people with limited storage.

Traditions Crackshot XBR

Many older shooters grew up with single-shot .22 rifles. The Traditions Crackshot XBR is an easy to use break-open, hammer-fired rifle.

This friendly .22 is affordable, accurate and a light burden in the field.

Traditions Cracshot
Traditions Crackshot is offered as an arrow-firing model as well.

Winchester Model 1894

I don’t know if Frank Hamer really said ‘everyone needs a gun that won’t jam’ in reference to the Winchester 1894, but lawmen and hunters have kept a Winchester on hand for more than 120 years.

The Winchester is simple and easy to use well. Load the tubular magazine, press the lever forward, snap it shut, and the rifle is loaded. Press the trigger, repeat.

If you want to carry the rifle around loaded, carefully lower the hammer to the half-cock notch. Mine is loaded with the new Hornady LEVERevolution.

Winchester Model 1894
Winchester’s Model 1894 is a classic rifle everyone should own and is one of the best rifles ever made.

Savage 110 Storm

The Savage 110 is a consistently accurate and reliable bolt-action rifle. The heavy nut affixing the barrel results in excellent accuracy. A well designed bolt-action rifle is a joy to use and fire.

The Savage rifle is offered in many calibers. A strong favorite for deer-sized game is the Savage 110 Storm in 6.5 Creedmoor. This makes for excellent accuracy and good results. Hornady’s ELD-X offers excellent performance.

Savage 110 Storm
The Savage 110 Storm stainless steel 6.5 Creedmoor is among the author’s favorite rifles.

Remington Model 783

For those on a budget, an affordable ‘package gun’ is attractive. The Remington Model 783 is often offered with a quality rifle scope at an affordable price.

Despite its modest price, the 783 is often as accurate as higher-priced rifles. Available in a wide range of calibers, my personal rifle is chambered in .308 Winchester.

With the Winchester ‘White Box’ economy load, the rifle has put three shots into 1.2 inches at 100 yards — and a little better with hunting loads.

The rifle is topped with a Bushnell rifle scope.

Remington Model 783
Remington’s Model 783 is an underappreciated rifle and one of the best rifles.

Mauser M18

The ultra-modern Mauser M18 is a fine successor to a long line of proven rifles.

The M18 offers a chambering that is a Godsend to older shooters wishing to own and use a powerful hunting rifle, but who are not as likely to handle .30-06 Springfield or 7mm Remington recoil as well as we once did.

The 6.5 PRC is a powerful loading. Hornady’s 143-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter loading has demonstrated excellent accuracy.

Every rifle I have tested in this caliber has been capable of 1 MOA accuracy and the Mauser is no exception. It is also a very good buy.

Mauser M18
The Mauser M18 features a smooth bolt, good trigger action, and solid safety features.

Remington Model 700

The Remington 700 offers a smooth action, a nice adjustable trigger, and superior handling. The rifle is usually very accurate.

The Remington 700 is available in a variety of chamberings, including those particularly attractive to older shooters such as the .223 Remington, .243 Winchester and .308 Winchester.

The author’s .223 Remington has been paired with Hornady Black loads for first-class accuracy.

Remington 700
Remington’s 700 is among the most useful rifles of all time.

Savage Model 12

The Savage Model 12 is among my favorite rifles for accuracy. It may be a bit heavy to carry in the field, but this is also an aid in controlling recoil in long firing sessions.

Even in .308 Winchester, I find recoil modest. The Model 12 is a fine all-around bolt-action rifle.

Savage Model 12
The Savage Model 12 is an upgrade over most bolt-action rifles. This example is super accurate.

Springfield SAINT

If we are discussing ergonomics, high accuracy potential and easy recoil, we cannot leave out the AR-15 rifle.

The 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington is affordable, readily available, and offers a formidable rifle for hunting varmints and mid-size game with proper load selection.

It is also a good choice for personal defense. The Springfield SAINT is becoming a modern classic with much to recommend.

From Winchester White Box loads to the new Hornady Black, the rifle has proven reliable, accurate and controllable. This is a modern classic.

Springfield SAINT AR-15
Springfield is following a long tradition of best rifles with their SAINT line.

Ruger American

A rifle that I have enjoyed very much is actually a full line of rifles, from rimfire to .450 Bushmaster and others. This is the Ruger American.

These are affordable, friendly, accurate and easy to use well. The rifle is available in calibers with modest recoil. Some of these calibers are excellent short-range deer killers.

The 7.62x39mm is more accurate than you would think when paired with a quality bolt-action rifle. The 7mm-08 Remington is a superlative cartridge to 200 yards or so.

This is something of a wonder cartridge. However, I would not stretch the truth to say the Ruger American is comparable to rifles costing quite a bit more.

Ruger American
The Ruger American is a modern classic. It is affordable and offered in several calibers well suited to older shooters. This is one of the best rifles for those on a budget.

Conclusion: Best Rifles for Older Shooters

There are just a few favorite rifles for older shooters. There are others, many others, but these are great choices that are in use every day with shooters across the country.

What is your favorite rifle to shoot? Has it changed as you’ve aged? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (41)

  1. Good article; at 73 years of age, I have acquired and enjoy shooting the 22 Mag caliber rifle, (American Rifle) as well as the Kel tec 22 mag simi-auto pistol. My American rifle is a bolt action, and can drive nails, and the Kel Tec’s mag holds 30 rounds and is very accurate. Love shooting both guns!

  2. The often overlooked, easy to shoot, light weight, simple manual of arms, now sight optional perfect civilian tactical carbine ever manufactured, the M-1 .30 Carbine. Outdated, yes. Good to 100 yards, yes. The simpler the better for untrained non-combatants.

  3. I inherited a Remington 700 chambered in 22.250. I have taken everything from varmints to white tail deer with it. For an older man with bad shoulders the kick is minimal and the accuracy is amazing. I highly recommended it. For hunting in Texas it is my go to rifle.

  4. Enjoyed the article. Have to say, though, that the statement “The 7mm-08 is a superlative cartridge to 200 yards or so” is a bit of an understatement. If you consider 500 to be “or so” I guess. With 150gr bullets it’ll do anything a .308 loaded with 168gr will do with less recoil. When is the last time you heard that a .308 was useful to 200 yards or so?

  5. With all the craziness going on, I knew I wanted a shotgun but was worried about the recoil. I’m also 200 lbs. Regular shotguns were too long and ther stock wouldn’t clear my armpit. I ended up with a youth size 20 gauge and just love it.

  6. Remington 1917, 30.06
    Some idjit “sporterized” it many years ago but it didn’t affect accuracy any. Finally tapped it and mounted a old Redfield on it (old eyes!)

  7. I’m 77 and in good shape. At 74 I backpacked the Grand Canyon, North Rim to SouthRim in 4 days.

    For Nevada I chose the 6.5 PRC as a “magnum 6.5 Ceedmore” without a lot of recoil. My rifle is a Browning X-Bolt Pro with carbon fiber stock, stainless barrel and action, factory lapped nd fluted barrel, fluted bolt and handle, burnt bronze Cerakote on metal and stock. A true “semi-custom rifle.

    The scope is a Bushnell Elite LRTS 4.5 – 18 x 44, FFP, mil/mil, G3 illuminated reticle and it sits in Talley rings with a bubble level in the top of the rear ring.

    We have long shote here in Nevada thus the 6.5 PRC and the Elite class LRTS scope.

    My competition rifle is a Ruger PR in 6.5 CM with Bushnell ERS 3.5 – 21 x 50 scope & H59 reticle. Easy to shoot and accurate.

  8. I have owned my 10/22 for 33 years and wouldn’t trade it for your wife. It still shoots better than I can. It has seen countless configurations, but is still my 10/22, and still out shoots me.

  9. Shoot, this is a good overall list for any age, if you ask me. I’ve enjoyed the Ruger 10/22 since I was a younger man, and Savage is also my favorite brand, for accuracy and reasonable price. I really wish there was still a decent M1 carbine on the market now, though, I’ve never enjoyed a pistol sized round in a carbine as much as that one. The only thing I can think of that is close is the Ruger 9mm semi-auto carbine that uses standard magazines, like the ones that fit the Glock. That one would just be a fun shooter, and the ammo price can’t be beat.

  10. I can see why someone would write an article like this, but in general the topic doesn’t make any more sense than talking about guns that are best for female shooters. The gun anyone should choose or that works best for them is entirely based on factors such as physical stature or strength, capability, experience and health, among others. While it’s true that some older shooters have les strength or capacity for recoil, it varies by the individual just as it does for females. Age, unless you’re talking about a gun for a child, in and of itself, is not a determining factor any more than gender. It would have been better to talk about guns for infirm shooters or shooters with physical limitations. Having said this, I did appreciate the very brief discussion of ergonomics. In the end, it is an entirely individual based discussion.

  11. I have a Styer 25-06 I purchased 25 years ago. I absolutely love it. Not anticipating a big kick, I can more pinpoint my shot. I do have a question I would like to see posted for us older guys wearing bifocal glasses. While shooting with a scope, do you wear your bifocal glasses or a different pair?

  12. I’ve owned a M-1 Garand for close to 40 years. I think it’s accuracy is outstanding and very little kick being gas operated. I have a friend that has a bolt action Remington 30-06 that we put two stock cushions on it and it still kicks like a mule.

  13. At age 65 I graduated (down) from 30-06 to 25-06. Fast as a .223, light recoil, great accuracy. I should have done it sooner. I’m now 75 and still love the 25-06.

  14. Marlin Camp 9. I have owned this rifle for over 30 years and it is always a pleasure to shoot. Slight recoil and very accurate. I have found some 20 round magazines that fit right in and that is the way to go.

  15. Two comments: first, after owning five or six 10/22’s, and modifying them, I have never found them to be even close in accuracy to a decent bolt action .22. Second, one of the least expensive, and most useful accessories for older shooters, are bifocal shooting glasses, They come in all colored lenses and different strengths. Mine are +2.0 and since I own several pair, the lens color depends on the weather. When I have to adjust a scope, out on the range, they are a godsend!

  16. I try to keep my .22 caliber “old age shooting” pretty much confined to the CZ 452 Grand Finale, Sako Finnfire II,and Steyr Zephyr II (along with the rare 2020 full stock Shot Show model) plus with other CZ 452’s. With the ever popular Ruger 10/22, by the time a person might spend replacing almost all parts to build a better rifle, the cost can be considerably more than the above mentioned rifles with no changes. Also–the above are steel and walnut plus having pride in ownership. I find other brands of .22 cal rifles look “clunky” and are not pleasing to the eye. Opinions are just that–opinions.

  17. You left out a great cal 7\57=7mm ,in a old Kaiser
    Or winchester,and river chambered it
    I use it exclusively with Barnes 150 x Burkett
    Talk about a cal will take any game,life recoil
    Just a thought
    Brent Sample texas

  18. My neck limits the recoil I can tolerate. The CZ 527 varmint in 223 is exceptionally accurate. I have killed a deer at 160 paces with a heart shot. Thanks to the single set trigger I really trust this rifle. I bought this before the Grendel was available.

  19. Does the adjustable trigger on the Remington 700 have a setting that keeps the piece from discharging without being pressed?

  20. I am 78 and live in Idaho. If you like going to the range and shooting very small groups the 17HMR is a real wonder. I have one of the first Marlin bolt actions, added a thumbhole stock, lightened the trigger spring, and added a BSA sweet 17 scope. I have taken ground squirrlles and Rock Chucks out to 300 yds while watching impacts through the scope. A rifle stocks drop and offset have a great deal to do with felt recoil, for this reason I have left my Ruger M77 MKII .280 Remington totally original. It shoots extremely smooth with hand loaded Sierra 140 grain and IMR 4831. This load has taken 4 Elk and 2 deer, one 7×8 non-typical Mulie at 385 yds. At my age recoil can be painful so I also use a shoulder pad with the .280 and .308, also in Ruger M77 MKII.

  21. All of the calibers noted are great. I really enjoy my 6.6 creedmor and the ability for some longer range shots. One caliber that was not mentioned is the .224 Valkarie. This is one of the most exciting rounds I have ever fired. Fast, minimal recoil and a true joy to shoot.

  22. Live my old Ruger M77 7mm Magnum, used it on every hunt. But age says it punches harder than it used to….then again, maybe I should dial my reloads back to suggested factory loads. What can I say.
    My take along backup Winchester 94 (Trapper and standard) is a bit easier on the shoulder but shares the same reloads problem….maybe the problem is a stubborn ol’ cuss.

  23. At 70 I decided I no longer liked the recoil of 7 mags and 348 win mag. After spending time researching my options I narrowed my choice down to 7mm08 or 6.5 creedmore. The 6.5 won and I couldn’t be happier. Light recoil and accurate.

  24. I have the 10/22 but my Excel Accelerator in 22 WMR is good then my Ruger PC Carbine, and soon to purchase a 38/357 in a lever action.

  25. the 1st pic shows a grey haired shooter looking through peep sights, he may have grey hair but his eyes are 20-20. I no longer buy open sight anything. If it can’t mount a red dot or scope it stays in the store.

  26. I’m 57 years old, I have several over 50 problems, and let me say this here and now, if ANYBODY thinks I need a rifle for an ” older shooter” you are sadly mistaken, yes I wear glasses, yes my eyes aren’t what the used to be, neither is the rest of my body , BUT, I have a mossen Nagant carbine…….if I can see you I can drop you….with the iron sights, no scope, and trust me I can see a long way with my glasses on, a .22 is nothing more that a squirrel rifle, I use a 22 to get rabbits and squirrels on my property to eat, simply because its a waste to use a 7.62×54 r on a rabbit LOL

  27. Pistol caliber rifles are also a good choice for older shooters. While 9mm PCCs are all the rage, the new HENRY/MARLIN lever action .357 mag rifles are a great alternate. HENRY “X” rifle in .357, with a Linear Compensator, is an ideal rule breaker for those states that won’t allow “Black Guns”.

    When ANTIFA goons come to tell you they want your home/business to burn, hard for DEM AGs to claim that your “Cowboy” gun is a weapon of war.

  28. How do you miss the most obvious choice? The 30 carbine is perfect for this demographic. Light recoil. Handy size with a weight of around 6lbs. When using a modern handguard that has rails makes putting on a red dot sight a breeze. Add in the right ammo and you now have an effective home defense gun. Like all ammo right now finding it might be a a bit of a pain but on the plus side reloading this round is a breeze with it’s straight wall cases. I like the Sierra Pro-Hunter Rifle Bullets .30 cal, 110gr soft point roundnose #2100 with some Hodgdon H110.

  29. I didnt notice any of the .257″ calibers being mentioned. Great for deer and mild recoil and perhaps silmilar ballistics to some of the ~6mm calibers that are popular now?

  30. I have a 10/22 bolt action which I really enjoy. Nice smooth action and as accurate on any given day as I am! At 63 I still get a nice feel from the old M1 though, love the power of the 30-06! I also agree with the comments about the Rem 700, my 308 is a sweaty! Cut my teeth on the 700 in advanced marksmanship in the U.S Army in the 70’s and have loved it since!
    As for the 22lr for defense, any round to the neck head area will mess up your day!
    God bless and happy shooting!

  31. I’m 70 now and slowing down a bit. Not nearly as much muscle mass as in earlier years. My choice for big game hunting is a Remington 700 with a 26″ barrel in .300 WinMag. Not to worry. 20 or so shots out of that thing will have me wearing a heat pad the next day but ONE shot is all you need to drop the big critters that roam around my state.

    I’ve had a Marlin 60, the Remington Nylon 66 and a Ruger 10/22 but these days, I use a Sig Sauer .22 Pellet breakbarrel rifle with a 9-16x scope for anything smaller than a Caribou. No kick, cheap available ammo and wicked accurate.

  32. The .22 long rifle is great for older shooters but why not up it a notch and go for a .22 Mag – its got twice the power of a .22 long rifle with virtually the same kick. Better yet go to the .223 Rem as it has way more power and in a AR15 type rifle the kick is nothing. Just my opinion as I’m an older shooter and this is what I got and really am happy with it.

  33. I have an old Mossberg 151M(b) I traded for 50+ years ago. I shoot CCI Mini Mags in it and it does anything I ask of it so far as accuracy. While it would be nice to have a new Ruger 10/22 the old Mossberg still shoots so good I just cannot justify replacing it with something else. My favorite centerfire rifle is a 7mm Chilean Mauser rechambered to 7.62x51Nato. I can hit dead center on a target at 100 yds with it using the original open sights.

  34. I have had a Ruger .22 LR semi auto for 30 years, and I love it. We go out to the pond and shoot the twigs at the water line at 30 yards or so. All kinds of positions, standing, sitting, prone, etc. with careful and hasty (2 second) aim I can get 38 for 40. Easy to get a neck shot if needed for defense. Got a raccoon once but had a difficult time finding a decent recipe, just treated it like lamb. Delicious.

  35. Recoil never bothered me until a shoulder replacement at age 76. I bought a sled for the 30-06 at the range but decided on less recoil for hunting. A 308 feels comfortable to me, with the Springfield Saint or M1A at the top of the list.

  36. Why would you pick the Traditions Crackshot XBR the darn thing comes with a 10pound trigger pull. I have only seen one writer bring this up. There is no reason any gun co. should bring out a new firearm ( Rifle ) with that bad of a trigger. I own one but wish I didn’t. Make one wonder what kind of trigger pull there new nitro force has.

  37. I’ve owned a RUGER 10/22 years ago a great little rifle but I didnt like the fact that it didnt have last round bolt hold open on it.I bought a T/CR22 when they first came out and its great.Accurate,light great sights for my aging eyes and bolt hold on the last round.I hung a can on the front and with sub sonic ammo its very quiet.We have used a lot of different ammo in it both with the can and without and so far no issues.I have a few after market mags that were for the RUGER 10/22 and they have worked good as well.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit exceeded. Please click the reload button and complete the captcha once again.

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.