Firearms come in a great many shapes, sizes, and configurations. For example, some of them – flintlocks- have become relegated to history, reenactments, or museums – while other designs, like lever-action rifles, have become niche hobby pieces.
But there is a type of firearm which has remained popular and relevant since their invention in the mid 19th century – the bolt action rifle.
Bolt action rifles are an alternative to the semi-automatic rifles that have been popular in recent decades. These accurate, sturdy rifles can take game animals at a great distance and are some of the best long-range competition rifles out there.
While based on an over a century-old design, a modern bolt action is a fantastic firearm option today.
In This Article:
Bolt Action Rifle Comparison
Below is my list of the best bolt action rifles for 2022. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.
Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of rifles.
Bolt Action Rifle Reviews
1. Best Overall: Ruger Precision
What we liked:
- In 6.5 Creedmoor, an excellent long-range and hunting caliber
- Comes with a 10 round detachable magazine
- M-Lock slots on the handguard for adjustability
- Picatinny rail and modern stock to accessorize the rifle
What we didn’t:
- Heavy at almost 11 pounds
- Not a hunting rifle
On top of our list is the Ruger Precision rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor. This rifle is a more modern take on the bolt action concept. You get the inherent stability & accuracy of the classic concept with modern niceties like M-lock slots, a 10 round mag & a precision adjustable recoil pad.
At its core, this is a flat shooting bolt gun in a modern caliber with a 24-inch barrel that can provide consistent accuracy out to (and beyond) any distance that you challenge yourself with. In many ways, Ruger nailed a mass-produced version of what was, until recently, only available at much higher price points: a chassis-based precision rifle that is easily good into four-digit yard ranges.
Interested in the 6.5 Creedmoor? Check out our guide to the best 6.5 Creedmoor rifles.
This rifle isn’t dainty – tipping the scales at over 11 pounds – but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing given its intended purpose: precision shooting.
If you want long-distance, precision shooting performance – or are interested in competition shooting – the Ruger Precision is a fantastic choice.
2. Runner-up: Savage Arms 110
What we liked:
- Highly customizable trigger
- .450 Bushmaster is an excellent big game round
- 5 round detachable box magazine
- An 18-inch barrel keeps the weight down
What we didn’t:
- Shorter barrel length might sacrifice long-range accuracy
- Some take issue with the forward scope mounting format
Bolt action rifles have been the most popular hunting firearm since T. R. was in the White House. Models like this Savage 110 keep that tradition alive with some modern touches. Chambered for the .450 Bushmaster, this rifle is more than capable of taking even the largest game.
Striking a balance somewhere between a scout rifle and a safari rifle, the 110 gives you a forward Picatinny rail mount for optics and a five-round detachable box magazine.
Our experts like this rifle because it comes with an adjustable Savage AccuTrigger, which allows you to dial in length-of-pull to suit your preferences. It may seem trivial but can make a big difference in follow-up shot accuracy at medium to long distances.
Some people may find the synthetic stock a little too light for the stout cartridge, which can translate into more felt recoil. We think the 110 will be more than capable in any environment – and the weight savings will save your back and knees on lengthy treks; more than enough benefit to offset any additional recoil.
3. Also Great: Remington 700
What we liked:
- Classic, familiar design
- Comes with a Hogue stock for added comfort
- The excellent trigger is great for consistent shots
- Lightweight – comfortable to carry long distances
- Viable hunting rifle
What we didn’t:
- Fixed magazine will slow down reloads
- Needs to be drilled and tapped for a scope
The Remington Model 700 needs very little introduction. It has been one of the premier bolt action rifles for a generation. In recent years, Remington has done a lot to update the platform and bring it into the modern era, and many of these innovations are present in this model.
In .308 Win the Remington 700 Tactical rifle offers a performant long-range caliber, lightweight profile, and 4-round fixed magazine of its predecessors. The new bits are the trigger and stock. In the former, you’ll find a user-adjustable trigger that can be set to your preferences, which helps to dial the rifle into your needs.
Additionally, the Hogue stock is super light: this can increase felt recoil for some due to the lower overall mass, but you will appreciate the weight savings on hunting trips, which is where the Remington Model 700 really excels.
In addition, the Tactical version of the 700 includes a threaded barrel, which makes installing a muzzle device (be it a suppressor or muzzle brake) quick and easy.
4. Modern Classic: Savage Arms Axis II Precision
When many picture a bolt action rifle, we envision a classic-looking firearm with a wood stock. But sometimes, you’re looking for something lighter and more durable – something like good ol’ black polymer.
This Savage Axis II is chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, so it pairs a lighter material with a round that offers some of the best modern ballistics. Additionally, it comes with a detachable magazine so you can unload and reload quickly and easily.
This Savage model has a pre-mounted scope, which makes the package a great value. All you’ll need is to zero it in, and you’ll be ringing steel in no time.
5. Best for New Shooters: Ruger American
For the last entry on this list, we’re going with something a little bit different. Rather than a rifle meant to take game or hit targets at 1000 yards, we think it’s essential to consider rifles that make it easy for new shooters to embrace the sport.
One of the best ways to learn shooting is with a caliber that is unintimidating 0 and few rounds let anyone take a crack at a paper target like the .22 LR.
This bolt action rifle from Ruger will help your new shooter start right. There are a few advantages to training with a gun like this. First and foremost, you can load it one round at a time, which will make it much safer for new or skittish shooters and help them take their time.
The .22 LR round doesn’t have much recoil – so it helps new shooters avoid anticipating the shot. This is a rifle we wish we had learned about years ago. It comes in a durable black finish and an embedded stock makes that makes it a solid all-rounder. For training or for small game, it would be hard to beat the Ruger American.
Why a bolt action rifle in the 21st century?
In the era of the AR-15 and the AK-47, bolt actions can seem like a historical novelty. I can assure you that this is not the case, and in some instances, a bolt action rifle is still my choice over more contemporary designs.
1. Maximum Accuracy
First, bolt action rifles tend to get the maximum accuracy possible from a given cartridge. This is due to the lack of moving parts compared to semi-automatic firearms — for example, the bolt stays locked when the rifle is fired. These are the rifles of choice for long-range, high-accuracy shooting and are very common as a favorite hunting rifle.
Additionally, bolt actions tend to be accurate because their components get more attention during the manufacturing process. Their specifications and tolerances are considerably tighter than what you typically find in self-loading or semi-auto rifles. Those tight tolerances between components create a solid lockup, which helps eliminate inconsistencies from shot to shot.
Add to that further optimization like lapping the bore, a jeweled bolt body with precision fit lugs, or a free-floating barrel, and you’ll turn an accurate bolt action rifle into a long-range tack driver that will have you putting multiple bullets through the same hole.
2. Ultimate Reliability
Also, because of that lack of moving parts, fewer parts on a bolt action rifle can break. This adds to the reliability of the weapons system. If you disassemble your bolt action, you’ll find that most of its parts are simple, easy to replace, and are likely made to last.
Bolt action rifles are some of the most reliable firearms available. This is due to the fact they have few moving parts, and you, the operator, does all the moving of the bolt via the bolt handle.
The simplicity of the design means – if there’s a round in the chamber – these things tend to fire. This makes them ideal hunting weapons.
For a combination of those two factors, accuracy and reliability, I think bolt action rifles are still the way to go for long-range target shooting and make an excellent choice for hunters who want to take game at longer ranges.
Despite the age of the design, this consistent performance is why bolt action rifles are the choice for long-range shooters and snipers the world over. Age isn’t always a bad thing: people have been innovating on the basics of the bolt action for over 100 years, and that innovation shows in the rifles we review here, both for precision and hunting rifle applications.
Essential Bolt Action Rifle Features
- Purpose Fit. The first question you should consider when trying to nail down the best bolt action rifle is what you plan on using it for. They come in a wide variety of calibers, stock materials (like synthetic or classic wood & walnut stocks), barrel lengths, and form factors. Some are excellent tactical rifles that would be great for target shooting from a bench. Others are among the best hunting rifles or sniper rifles out there – and many are available in both right and left-handed orientations. Some variations offer fluted barrels or carbon fiber components for weight reduction. We’ve also included a recommendation for one of the best guns specifically for training new shooters. There’s a bolt action rifle for any and every shooter’s goal – just keep the caliber, features, and purpose you intend in mind and we’re sure that you can find a bolt action that suits those needs to a tee.
- Stock. I also consider the stock type when looking at a bolt action rifle. While it’s certainly possible to replace a stock with a chassis, or a wood stock with a polymer one, it can be a lot of work, hassle, and expense. Thus, for us, it makes the most sense to define the purpose of the specific rifle and then buy one that matches that in terms of the overall format. For instance, a heavy aluminum chassis rifle will be supremely accurate but pretty onerous to carry into a tree stand.
- Sights & Optics. kinds of sights that will be best for the gun’s intended use and whether the rifle is easily compatible with them. For example, a Springfield 1903 is one of the best-looking firearms of all time, and it still holds up well in terms of accuracy more than a century after its introduction. With that said, it does not have the means to mount contemporary optics without a lot of gunsmithing, so something like a new Ruger American is likely a much easier choice for getting a scope on the gun for practical uses such as hunting.
- Trigger. One of the most critical components of a bolt action rifle is the trigger. In the past, it was common for competition shooters and serious hunters to have the triggers on their rifles custom-tuned by gunsmiths. This is still common today, but the market has responded by providing many options for triggers that are either user-swappable or adjustable with simple tools. I prefer a light trigger on my rifles, but tastes do vary. The important thing is the consistency to help keep your shots consistent over time.
- Accessory Support. Finally, I consider accessory compatibility to be an essential feature of a rifle I plan on taking hunting or to the range to shoot super-accurate groups. Nowadays, many rifles come with some Picatinny or M-Lock sections on the forward section of the rifle’s front. I like this over older ways of doing things in that it makes mounting sling swivels and bipods a lot easier than it used to be. Similarly, if I need to lighten the gun, quickly stripping it of all accessories aside from the sights is an excellent option.
Types of Bolt Action Rifles
Many of the bolt actions rifles you’ll find on the market today follow a format that’s been largely unchanged since about 1900. These rifles will have fixed internal magazines and often come in wooden stocks most of the time. Traditionally, they also had iron sights.
More modernized takes on these, such as the Ruger American come without iron sights in some cases, and instead of scope rings, have sections of Picatinny rail to which you can attach optics. These are the standard bolt action hunting and target rifles favored by many.
Contemporary bolt action designs often come in a chassis format. While they certainly look pretty different from traditional models, the mechanics are the same.
Where chassis systems shine in terms of performance is twofold. First, these designs typically have a free-floated barrel, which keeps anything from interfering with the barrel’s harmonics, and thus accuracy. Additionally, many of these, such as the Ruger Precision Rifle, are super-adjustable by the user, meaning that you can get the rifle to fit you perfectly. Chassis-mounted guns are the most contemporary update on the old concept of bolt action.
It’s still possible to find military service rifles, such as the SMLE, Springfield 1903, Mosin Nagant, and Mauser Gewer 98 design variations. These, for many shooters, military surplus rifles were my first introduction to bolt action rifles. If we’re being honest, they don’t live up to modern standards of accuracy, but many of them are rugged designs that were built for and did, serve in some of the worst conditions imaginable. These excellent older rifles will always have a place in the firearms community, even if they aren’t doing one-inch groups at 1,000 yards.
Surplus firearms were also the cheapest way to get a bolt gun for several decades because many nations made millions of them during the first and second World Wars. These flooded the US market post-war, making a 1903 or a Mosin a common hunting rifle for much of the 20th century. Sadly, this meant that many of them were “sporterized” by adding different sights, cutting down of handguards, and so on.
Sporterizing can be done well and result in practical, good-looking rifles. Other cases are true travesties to historical artifacts. Either way, these are still a commonly encountered bolt action rifle in the field and on the range.
Bolt Action Rifle Pricing
- Under $500. For under $500, it is possible to get an affordable hunting rifle, likely without optics. Here, we’re thinking about the Ruger American in particular. Until recently, surplus military rifles also fell into this category, and you can still find some decent deals on them at local gun stores and estate sales. Still, prices have been creeping up for the last several decades, but it’s far from impossible to find a quality, affordable rifle.
- $500-$1,000. At about $700, it’s possible to get a complete rifle that might well come with an included optical sight that is worth using. Some used rifles that come in a chassis can also be found, but people tend to hold onto their super-accurate rifles for decades.
- Over $1,000. In this range, you’re into the territory of the nicest factory rifles commonly available, though it is entirely possible to spend well north of $5,000 on a custom rifle or special edition guns.
Overall, a bolt action rifle can still be an affordable way to shoot, and even for a modest budget, you can expect good accuracy and performance. For the best accuracy, though, you’ll likely be spending a fair bit of money even before you get into custom gunsmithing, match ammunition, or high-quality optics for these excellent rifles.
In this article, we’ve tried to take a look at some of the best bolt action rifles in the market in order to help you find the best one in the firearms space. Overall, we think that the Ruger Precision Rifle is the best option out there today.
Chambered in the 6.5 Creedmore, it is a flat shooting rifle that is good out to as far as you are willing to push it — be it for big game hunting or precision pursuits.
Further, the fact that it is easy to customize to fit you makes it a good choice for a wide variety of shooters. Even more, being able to make use of both Picatinny rail as well as M-Lok slots mean that you will be able to customize it into your ideal rifle.
That’s not to say that the other rifles on this list are slouches by any means. If you want a light, handy rifle, it’ll be hard to beat the Remington Model 700. Classic styling and great shooting can be found in the offering from Savage Arms, and it is very hard to beat a .450 Bushmaster in large game shooting.
Finally, the Ruger American in .22 is one of the best training rifles that we can think of. We hope that you’ve found something useful in this article to help you pick the bolt action rifle that’s right for you, but don’t hesitate to grab a test rifle and get out there with a few of these fantastic bolt guns to determine the best on for your purposes.
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