For years, the term "budget hunting rifle" was a nice way of calling a firearm a piece of junk, but times have since changes, as manufacturers have discovered a largely untapped market that appeals to more hunters than ever before. Nowadays, not only can new hunters get a solid return on a reasonably priced, yet still high-quality hunting rifle, but the same rifles continue to gain more and more popularity as more offerings hit the market. While it's true most budget hunting rifles are a cut or two below some of the more expensive models out there, every rifle on this list is an extremely capable bolt-action hunting rifle when placed in the right hands. In fact, with the steady upward trajectory of production quality and technology, some of these budget hunting rifles are more accurate than the top-of-the-line models of yesteryear.
Regardless of whether you're hunting deer, hogs, elk, or any other big-game species in North America or Africa, all of the choices this list of hunting rifles deliver great performance at a reasonable price. Continue reading to learn all about our choices for the best budget hunting rifles.
Although Thompson Center largely known for producing high-quality muzzleloaders, it manufactures some nice rifles, too. While the Compass may not be the flashiest rifle in the world, it's as accurate as it is lightweight and efficient, featuring an adjustable trigger, a 60-degree bolt handle to facilitate rapid cycling, a detachable magazine, and a barrel threaded for a suppressor. There are few better chambering options out there for an all-around hunting rifle than .270 Winchester, which has proved for years to be a great, flat-shooting cartridge suitable for a wide variety of big game. It's also available in .223 Remington if you plan to exclusively target predators or varmints, but all things considered, the Compass is one of the best budget hunting rifles currently on the market.
Savage Arms made a name for itself over the past few decades by manufacturing budget hunting rifles for hunters who wanted a reasonably priced, no-frills rifle to take afield. The Axis has taken that brand image to the next level, offering hunters an even cheaper option without sacrificing much at all on the quality front. The Savage Axis will never win any awards in a beauty contest with its lack of bells and whistles, but it's incredibly affordable, lightweight, accurate, and practical for hunters on a budget. It also has a detachable box magazine ensuring its ability to take on any job. Additionally, when chambered in a flat-shooting cartridge like the 6.5mm Creedmoor, it'll really let you reach out there to a mule deer or pronghorn in wide-open country without a lot of recoil.
Mossberg developed a name for itself by building high-quality shotguns at a reasonable price, but made an excellent decision when it crossed over into the rifle market without losing track of its identity in the firearms market. The domestic brand was successful in its attempt to change the game with the Mossberg Patriot by producing a solid hunting rifle with a bevy of features at an irresistible price point. All Patriot offerings come standard with a drop-box magazine, a recessed crown, a fluted barrel, and an adjustable trigger. And, the most popular combo package includes a 3-9x40mm Vortex scope and a synthetic stock. If you decide to get one chambered in .308 Winchester, you'll find yourself well equipped with a rifle suitable for everything from whitetail deer hunting in thick timber to elk hunting in the backcountry.
Weatherby rifles are known traditionally for two things: being accurate and being expensive. Well, that changed with the Weatherby Vanguard Series 2. It still comes with a sub-MOA (less than 1 inch at 100 yards) guarantee, but the Vanguard Series 2 is significantly less expensive than the rest of Weatherby's bolt-action lineup. It also features an adjustable two-stage trigger, a synthetic stock, a lightweight composite stock with a recoil pad, a three-position safety, and a hammer-forged barrel. When chambered in a flat-shooting, hard-hitting cartridge like the .300 Winchester Magnum, the Weatherby Vanguard 2 may be the best budget hunting rifle for a hunter who needs to take longer-range shots at those true big-game targets.
The Ruger American has made quite the splash in the past decade, offering hunters everything they could ever want in a budget hunting rifle. Not only is it lightweight and reliable like any other Ruger hunting rifle, but it also features the Ruger Marksman Adjustable Trigger, guaranteeing top-notch accuracy. Though it doesn't come with the same sub-MOA guarantee as a Weatherby rifle, don't be surprised if your Ruger American delivers that level of performance. When chambered in a great all-around cartridge like the .30-06 Springfield, there isn't much this rifle can't do.
What do you think of our choices for the best budget hunting rifles? Did we miss any?
Enjoy the outdoors?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.