The Best Bolt Action Rifles

What are the best bolt action rifles available?

Firearms come in a great many shape, sizes, and configurations. Some of them, for example – 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 often take game animals at a great distance and are the best target shooting rifles out there.

A modern bolt action, while based in a design that’s over a century old, is a great firearm option today.

Quick List: The Top Bolt Action Rifles

  1. Best Overall: Ruger Precision Rifle
  2. Runner-Up: Savage Model 110
  3. Also Great: Remington Model 700 Tactical
  4. Modern Classic: Savage Axis II
  5. Best Starter Gun: Ruger American in .22LR

Best Overall:

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • Heavy at almost 11 pounds
  • Expensive

On top of our list is the Ruger Precision rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor. This rifle is a modern take on the concept of a bolt action rifle that updates the features of that classic concept with a lot of modern niceties like a snappy bolt throw & precision adjustable recoil pad. 

At its core, this is a flat shooting bolt gun in a modern caliber with a 24-inch barrel that will reach out to basically any distance that you may require.

This rifle is a heavy one, but for its intended purpose, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Our experts think that this rifle would be best suited for long-distance, precision shooting, especially in competitions.

In many ways, it is the 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. Thus, we think you’d do well to pick this up as a great bolt action rifle if performance is your bottom line.

Runner-Up:

Pros:

  • Highly customizable stock for a great fit.
  • .450 Bushmaster is an excellent big game round.
  • 5 round detachable box magazine makes this a light and fast rifle.
  • An 18-inch barrel is a handy option in the field.

Cons:

  • Shorter barrel length might sacrifice long-range accuracy.
  • Some will not love the scope mounting options.

Bolt action rifles are among the best hunting rifles on the market. Models like this Savage 110 keep that tradition alive in the modern world. Chambered for the .450 Bushmaster, this rifle is more than capable of taking big game.

Striking the balance somewhere between a scout rifle and a safari rifle, this one comes with the option to mount optics on a Picatinny rail and has a five-round detachable box magazine. 

One thing that our experts like about this rifle is that it comes with an adjustable stock that can be made to fit a wide variety of shooters. It seems like a small thing, but being able to adjust the length of pull can make a big difference when it comes to making follow up shots on game at medium to long distances.

Some people will find the synthetic stock a little bit light for the stout cartridge, but we think that this rifle will be more than handy in the bush, and we think the weight savings will be more than worth the extra recoil.

Also Great:

Pros:

  • Classic design that many are familiar with.
  • Comes with a Hogue stock for added comfort.
  • The excellent trigger is great for repeatable shots.
  • A lightweight rifle that would be good to carry long distances.

Cons:

  • The fixed magazine will slow down reloads. 
  • This rifle will need 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 now. In recent years, Remington has done a lot to update the platform and bring it into the modern era. Many of these innovations are present in this model. 

In .308 Win this Remington 700 Tactical rifle adds an even more performant long-range shooting caliber yet maintains the light design and 4 round fixed magazine of its predecessors. Where it becomes something new is in 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 might make felt recoil a little bit more intense due to the lower overall mass, but you will appreciate the weight savings when you carry this downrange to go hunting, 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.

Modern Classic:

When a lot of us picture a bolt action rifle, we picture a classic looking firearm with a wood stock. In a world of black polymer rifles, it’s refreshing to see that such rifles still exist.

But that doesn’t mean that wood rifles are out of date relics. This one is chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, so it takes advantage of some of the best modern ballistics. Additionally, it comes with a detachable magazine so you can unload and reload without having to work with often finicky internal magazines.

This package comes with a scope pre-mounted, so all you’ll need to to to get ready for the range is to zero it and you will be good to go. Some people won’t love the wood stock, as they can warp over time.

With that said, if you take care of them with a little bit of maintenance, this rifle will last you years of flat shooting and hunting.

Best for New Shooters:

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 important to do something a little bit different.

Our experts think that one of the best ways to train a new shooter in a way that is safe, effective, and will lead them to a lifetime of good shooting habits. 

To do that, not much would be better than a .22 bolt action rifle like this one from Ruger. There are a few advantages to training with a rife 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.

Also, .22 doesn’t have much recoil and thus shooters won’t be likely to develop a flinch over time. This one is great to do that training on, as it has iron sights and a great trigger: this is the rifle we wish we had learned on years ago. It comes in a durable black finish and is itself a great rifle: the bedded stock makes this an excellent shooting rifle. For training or for small game, it would be hard to beat the Ruger American.

Why get a bolt action rifle in the 21st century?

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. 

Additionally, bolt actions tend to be accurate in part 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 jewelled 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. 

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. 

What should I consider in getting a bolt action rifle?

The first question you should consider in getting a 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 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.

Conclusion

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. Overall, our experts 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 pish it. 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 700. Classic styling and great shooting can be found in the offering from Savage, 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.

Sources:

  1. Quora, Why are bolt action rifles more accurate?, August 18, 2020
  2. Firearm History, Bolt Action Rifles, July 6, 2010
  3. Hunting Mark, Cover Photo

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