Hunter prepares his deer rifle
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The 8 Best Deer Rifles of All Time, According to a Hunter and Firearm Educator

If you’re going deer hunting with one of these rifles in hand, you’re in good shape.

There are many types of hunters, from waterfowl to small game, but deer hunting is by far the most popular type of hunting in America. In fact, eight in every 10 hunters identify as such, according to the National Deer Association.

All of these deer hunters have one thing in common: They need a firearm to hunt with—and ideally, a really, really good one. Of course, some folks prefer bowhunting, and others may be required to target whitetails with shotguns, depending on where they live. But most folks who pursue whitetails and mule hunt with a deer rifle.

Whether you target whitetail or mule deer, most hunters are quite attached to their chosen rifle. For some, it's because their beloved .243 first belonged to their father, and his father before that. For others, they've saved up for years to splurge on a modern rifle that's touted as the best-of-the-best. As someone who spent a lot of time picking out my first deer rifle and then a lot of time in the woods with it in the five years since, I know I am exceptionally proud of my Savage Axis rifle.

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The best deer rifle is not only one you've put a lot of thought into purchasing but also one that does the job quickly and ethically. With that in mind, one shouldn't take deer rifle shopping lightly. As both a certified firearm educator and a hunter, I know that features like weight, durability, materials, length of pull, caliber, and effective range really matter when hunting. But at the end of the day, the best deer rifle for any hunter is one you feel most comfortable shooting.

The 8 Best Deer Hunting Rifles of 2023

Best Overall Deer Rifle

Christensen Arms MPR Desert Brown 22in Bolt Action Rifle 65 Creedmor

Sportsman's Warehouse

Top Pick: Christensen Arms MPR

Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor | Action: Bolt | Weight: 6.9 lbs

When it comes to the best deer hunting rifle on the market today, Christensen Arms' MPR (modern precision rifle) is tough to beat. This lightweight, carbon fiber-reinforced versatile hunting rifle is in a league of its own—and not just because Christensen Arms invented carbon fiber rifle barrels. The MPR is the best deer rifle for several reasons.

For starters, the 6.5 Creedmoor caliber is excellent for ethical and precise deer hunting. This cartridge has been specifically developed with accurate and precise long-distance shooting in mind. 6.5 Creedmoor bullets have a flatter trajectory when compared to other calibers, especially at distances of 400 yards or more. Other calibers are not as reliable or ethical when taking long-distance shots on deer.

This deer rifle looks different than any other with an almost skeletal design. This only includes elements that are absolutely necessary, and the design is highly adjustable for shooters of different sizes. For example, the cheek rise and length of pull are both adjustable, so anyone can shoot it comfortably.

Additionally, the MPR has a chassis, which we love for precision shooting because it keeps attachment from touching the barrel, preventing any weight from being put on the barrel, which can reduce your shot's accuracy. What's more, the MPR's chassis is made from aluminum and has been precision-machined to exact specifications to provide a better surface for mounting an action and increasing accuracy. The chassis also has slots cut into it to easily attach things like mounted lights or bipods.

The attached pistol grip and detachable stock are nice features to make this firearm incredibly customizable.

If you're looking for your next precision rifle whose weight is just right and highly customizable, add a Christensen Arms MPR to your deer gun collection. This rifle is well-priced at under $3,000 to reflect quality materials without excessive bells and whistles.

  • Ultra-modern precision rifle that features some of the newest technological innovations in hunting rifles
  • Stainless steel and carbon fiber-wrapped barrel is much stronger than a typical rifle barrel
  • Easily adjustable cheek rise and length of pull
  • Christensen Arms invented carbon fiber rifle barrels
  • Available in 10 different calibers

  • Not available with a left-handed bolt

Christensen Arms MPR - $2,500

Best Budget Deer Rifle

Mossberg Patriot Synthetic Rifle


Top Pick: Mossberg Patriot Synthetic

Caliber: .270 WIN | Action: Bolt | Weight: 6.5 lbs

When shopping for budget-friendly rifles, the good news is most companies don't give up accuracy and precision in order to cut costs. Instead, they often sacrifice high-quality materials and instead make their rifles from less durable and stable materials in order to offer friendlier price points.

However, Mossberg's Patriot Synthetic rifle is an incredible bang for its buck. It's available in both wood and synthetic stock options, but the synthetic stock is more durable. It's also available in seven different calibers, but the .270 chambering is my favorite because it's a fantastic, straight-shooting deer hunting caliber, and this ammo is readily available nationwide.

The 22-inch long barrel, 42.75-inch total length, and 13.75-inch length of pull make it a rather long deer gun. As a result, it may fit larger hunters better. The barrel is matte blue, which decreases its ability to catch the sun on bright, clear days. However, the barrel doesn't have a weather-proof finish.

We also love this rifle because, at 6.5-pound overall weight, it's great for treestand, blind, and still hunting because it's heavy enough to help absorb recoil while being light enough to carry to and from your hunting grounds.

While the quality of the synthetic stock isn't exceptional by any means, it is lightweight and weatherproof. As a result, it's easy to pack into your favorite deer spot and will hold up in any weather conditions. And this deer rifle always shoots straight, even though it's manufactured from less pricey materials.

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight and durable
  • The magazine holds five rounds
  • Available in seven different calibers
  • Excellent trigger

  • Plastic stock and magazine feel a little substandard
  • Bolt isn't super smooth, but still works well
  • No weatherproofing on the barrel, so it's susceptible to rust

Mossberg Patriot Synthetic in 270 WIN - $468

Best Long-Range Rifle for Deer

Christensen Arms Mesa Long Range


Top Pick: Christensen Arms Mesa Long Range

Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor | Action: Bolt | Weight: 8.9 lbs

Christensen Arm's Mesa Long Range centerfire rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor is an awesome high-power, long-distance deer hunting rifle. I've seen it in action on elk and mule deer hunts, and it truly is impressive.

It is heavy at almost 9 pounds. However, because it has a durable composite stock, it can be carried over a mountain and packed in damp conditions.

Its stainless-steel barrel has a removable muzzle brake to help manage recoil. This gun's barrel is also free-floating, so there's no pressure put on the barrel at any point along it, which increases accuracy and precision. The barrel and the receiver are treated with a tungsten or burnt bronze Cerakote finish, depending on your preference, to keep your gun's metal rust-free and abrasion-resistant in wet and scratchy environments. Plus, the Cerakote finish looks beautiful.

Because the Mesa Long Range is heavier, it can be a bit tricky to heave around the mountains or plains. However, the 6.5 Creedmoor caliber is known for its recoil, and the weight of this gun, combined with the recoil pad, will help significantly decrease the amount of recoil your shoulder absorbs.

This gun's fit is also quite adjustable compared to other rifles. Hunters can change both the length of pull and the height of the comb so it can fit just about anyone.

While it's not the cheapest rifle on the market, it's also not the most expensive. Its price point makes it an excellent option for deer hunters looking for a really high-quality firearm that can shoot beyond 400 yards with precision.

  • Barrel length (26 inches) is optimized for shooting 6.5 Creedmoor caliber rounds hundreds of yards
  • Length of pull and comb height are adjustable by adding or removing a spacer`99ui
  • Very high-quality rifle
  • From a renowned manufacturer
  • Mid-range price point
  • Christensen Arms was the first firearms manufacturer to make rifles with carbon fiber reinforced barrels and carbon fiber composite stocks

  • Left-handed options retail for $200 more than right-handed options
  • Heavy, though the weight helps with steadiness and recoil management

Christensen Arms Mesa Long Range - $1,650

Best Semi-Automatic Deer Rifle

Benelli R1 Big Game 308 Winchester Black Semi Automatic Rifle - 308 Winchester

Sportman's Warehouse

Top Pick: Benelli R1

Caliber: .308 | Action: Semi-Auto | Weight: 7.1 lbs

Most deer hunting rifles are bolt action, but semi-automatic rifles allow for quicker, more ethical follow-up shots. This makes semi-autos a fantastic option for folks who typically shoot a deer more than once to fill a tag or perhaps struggle to reload quickly with action types that require manual manipulation.

Semi-autos are the best option for amputees and other folks with physical disabilities because they don't require users to use their hands to load another round into the chamber post-shot. Even though it's the heaviest action type, semi-autos also reload the fastest, which saves time when seconds count. This action type offers the best recoil management since the action absorbs the energy from each shot and uses it to reload the firearm.

Semi-auto deer rifles can be tricky to find, but the Benelli R1 is an incredible gas-operated, semi-automatic deer hunting rifle that's widely available. Benelli kept the classic deer rifle look in this gun's design. Its sleek synthetic stock doesn't look like other Armalite options on the market. This company has an excellent reputation, too, so you know you're getting a high-quality firearm when purchasing a Benelli.

Benelli's R1 hunting rifle is available in .300, .308, .338, and .30-06, but I prefer .308 and .30-06 calibers for deer hunting. The heavy-hitting calibers this rifle is made in aren't messing around when it comes to putting big game down quickly and ethically. However, remember that these calibers may not travel as far or as flatly as smaller, higher-velocity rounds like .270 or 6.5 Creedmoor.

  • Length of pull and comb on this rifle are customizable
  • Weight and semi-auto action mean this rifle will have very little recoil when shooting large rounds

  • Semi-automatic rifle actions are the heaviest action type, making for heavier guns
  • Benelli does not offer any left-handed R1 options

Benelli R1 Big Game 308 Winchester Black Semi Automatic Rifle - $1,500

Best Ultralight Deer Rifle

Benelli R1

Sportsman's Warehouse

Top Pick: Christensen Arms Ridgeline FFT Titanium

Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor | Action: Bolt | Weight: 4.8 lbs

If putting miles on your boots while packing gear in rugged country is your thing, the Christensen Arms Ridgeline FFT Titanium is the hunting rifle for you. At under 5 pounds, rifles don't get much lighter than this.

Christensen Arms was the first firearms manufacturer to make carbon fiber-reinforced rifles so it's no surprise they also aced developing the ultimate featherweight deer hunting rifle. Because it's a Christensen, this lightweight firearm is paired with exceptional quality. The receiver has a Cerakote finish, the barrel is carbon-wrapped stainless steel, the stock has a lightweight foam core and a carbon fiber exterior, and the Trigger Tech trigger takes just 3.4 pounds of pressure to pull. A deer gun this tough will last more than a lifetime in any hunting conditions.

This rifle is available in other calibers, including 6 mm, 6.8, 28, 7 mm, .308, and .300. However, as someone who regularly hunts with a .270, I'm under the impression that .308s and .300s are a little overpowered for whitetail deer hunting, and more modern long-distance chamberings are available. However, these more modern rounds may not be as widely available as classic rounds like .308. Ultimately, it's up to you when it comes to which chambering you'd like to purchase this rifle in.

This rifle comes at a price, but you'll never have to buy an ultralight rifle capable of shooting deer, elk, pronghorn, bear, and more ever again.

  • Lightest deer hunting rifle available
  • Available in a wide array of chamberings
  • Left-handed option available

  • Expensive
  • High-powered rounds will have considerable recoil in a rifle this light

Christensen Arms Ridgeline FFT Titanium - $3,400

Best Lever-Action Deer Rifle

Henry Big Boy X Model


Top Pick: Henry Big Boy X Model

Caliber: .45 Colt | Action: Lever | Weight: 7.3 lbs

Henry Rifles is known for its American-made lever-action firearms, and this Big Boy X Model is one of their newest additions. Henry's synthetic Big Boy X Model chambered in .45 is probably the coolest gun you could shoot a deer with.

Since it's made of synthetic materials instead of wood, it can handle tough, wet hunting conditions in scrubby places. The synthetic stock features sling mounts, which is nice because it makes installing a sling easy. It also has a rubber recoil pad that helps absorb shock, making it more comfortable to shoot, which is a big plus when you're sending a .45 Colt round downrange. This gun also has Picatinny and M-Lok accessory slots so that you can mount things like scopes, lights, and bipods to this gun.

The barrel has fiber optic sights, so you can be sure you're shooting straight, even in low-light conditions. The barrel's muzzle is threaded, so tools like muzzle brakes and suppressors can be attached to it. Henry's Big Boy has a tubular magazine that fits seven rounds. It's also got a side loading gate, so you don't have to reload it the slow way if need be.

This spectacular little lever action is bound to both impress your friends and ethically harvest deer in the woods at ranges less than 200 yards.

  • Highly durable, capable, customizable, and really fun to shoot
  • Henry Rifles is a classic American gun manufacturer that is renowned for building high-quality lever-action firearms
  • Light enough to walk with in the woods but heavy enough to absorb recoil

  • Lever actions aren't capable of shooting out to long-distance ranges
  • Plan on shooting this gun in places where your shooting lane will be 200 yards or less

Henry Big Boy X Model - $1,091

Best Deer Rifle for Women

Weatherby Vanguard Camilla Wilderness 


Top Pick: Weatherby Vanguard Camilla Wilderness

Caliber: .243 | Action: Bolt | Weight: 7 lbs

Weatherby's popular Vanguard rifle is available in a style designed by and for women: the Vanguard Camilla Wilderness. While women don't necessarily need a gendered rifle, rifles built with women's frames in mind help us shoot more accurately, intuitively, and comfortably.

This rifle features a high comb to meet women's cheekbones where they're at, so our eyes naturally align with the sights. The length of pull was shortened to 13 inches from 13.75 inches, which means it'll fit shorter-statured bodies better. The recoil pad was also repositioned at a downward angle and reduced in overall size to account for female chests and shoulders. Lastly, the stock's toe was canted away from the shooter's body to fit small shoulders more comfortably.

The Camilla Wilderness's fiberglass stock is tough enough to endure truly wild hunting conditions. This rifle also features an adjustable trigger that can be set down to 2.5 pounds. The blued steel barrel is matte-black and bead-blasted, so it won't gleam in the sunlight.

This Weatherby rifle is available in four chamberings: .243, .308, 6.5, and 7mm-08. We selected the .243 as the preferred caliber for this rifle because it has the lowest recoil, .243 bullets reliably travel long distances on a flat line, and the ammo is widely available. This caliber is more than capable of helping fill a deer tag.

  • Weight may be slightly heavy side, but it'll help absorb a significant amount of recoil
  • Chambered in .243, you will hardly feel a kick
  • Specifically designed with female proportions in mind
  • The Camilla is named after the first lady of Weatherby

  • Also available in a less durable wood stock for $100 less and a half-pound lighter

Weatherby Vanguard Camilla Wilderness - $999

Best Youth Deer Rifle

Ruger American Rifle Compact


Top Pick: Ruger American Rifle Compact

Caliber: .243 | Action: Bolt | Weight: 6 lbs

The Ruger American is a well-known, reliable deer hunting rifle. The American Compact is made with smaller frames in mind; in fact, the overall length of the compact model is over 5 inches shorter than the regular model, which means it's adjusted for young shooters looking for their first deer rifle. The .243 caliber is a very low-recoil caliber whose ammo is widely available and affordable, which means kiddos can send many bullets downrange during target practice without going home with a bruised shoulder. You won't have to scrounge local retailers for more ammo, either.

This rifle features a black synthetic stock that's durable enough to withstand the elements outdoors. The stock comes with a rubber recoil pad, too. The padding combined with this low-recoil caliber brings this gun's kick down to basically zero.

The Picatinny rail is perfect for attaching a scope, and a low-power scope may be just what your youth hunter needs to feel confident making that 150-yard shot on their first whitetail. Plus, at just 6 pounds, they'll have an easy time toting it to and from their hunting spot, too.

  • Affordable
  • Highly capable of ethically harvesting deer
  • .243 ammo is widely available and affordable
  • Pull length is 12.5 inches, which fits most youth shooters
  • Ambidextrous tang safety is easy for left and right-handed shooters to use
  • Weight of this rifle is good for younger shooters

  • This gun isn't necessarily built for adult shooters, but it'll fit short-statured, small-framed folks well.
  • Your child will most likely outgrow this firearm's length of pull

Ruger American Rifle Compact - $470