Best New Hunting Rifles of 2015
January 28, 2015
Didn't make it to Vegas for the SHOT Show this year? No problem. We've compiled a list of some of the best new hunting rifles for 2015, from predator guns to elephant rifles. This year's SHOT Show debuted a number of new tactical products, but there were also a variety of new products designed specifically for hunters.
Some of the products listed here aren't "new" in the strictest terms, but rather represent updated versions of classic firearms from years past. Others, like the new Sako Carbonlight, are cutting-edge rifles that utilize modern manufacturing techniques and the latest materials to develop lighter, tougher and more accurate guns.
Some companies only rolled out one or two new products, while other brands like Mossberg announced dozens of new items for hunters. Some of the guns on this list are entries into the highly-competitive budget rifle market, while others are reserved for those who can afford the very best.
Regardless, whether you're a Midwest whitetail hunter, a Texas predator caller or a Namibian PH with a quota of cape buffalo and elephant, there's a gun on this list for you. And since you didn't personally make it to Vegas, you can spend the money you saved on a new gun, right? Makes sense to us.
Marlin Limited Edition | 1895
In a world full of new bolt guns and semiautos, lever guns often get overlooked. That's a shame, because the lever gun's balance and speed make it an ideal hunting rifle at moderate ranges, even in the face of stiff competition from ultra-modern platforms. For 2015, Marlin
is offering a limited edition of 1,500 1895
rifles in .45-70 with 24-inch tapered octagonal barrels, gold triggers, and Marbles iron sights. The classic B-Grade walnut stock comes with a classic S-grip design and high-quality checkering.
The receiver is treated with excellent engraving and has a 24-carat gold Marlin horse and rider on the right side and a gold elk on the left. Marlin has been working to upgrade the production quality of its rifles, and those improvements shine in the new limited edition 1895 rifle. The quality of the bluing, walnut finish and wood-to-metal fit makes this an excellent hunting rifle with a showpiece look.
Browning | AB3 Rifle
When I was hunting deer in Arkansas with the Browning AB3
last year, I was secretly hoping that someday the company would introduce a short action version of the rifle. Unbeknownst to me, plans for a shortened trey bolt were already in the works, and the new AB3 short action in .243, 7mm-08 and .308, as well as .270 and .300 WSM, debuted at SHOT in 2015. In addition, the rifle is also available with an optional walnut stock, a more traditional look for Browning's excellent budget rifle. Like the Winchester XPR and the Sako Carbonlight (and its stablemate X-Bolt), the AB3 has a two-position safety and a bolt release button, which allows the bolt to be operated while the rifle is in the "safe" position.
As budget rifles go, the AB3 is one of the best, with a light, crisp trigger, excellent barrel, and easy-to-use tang-mounted safety. The Inflex recoil pad is a nice touch, and it helps minimize the impact of recoil. If you want to buy your rifle with an optic already installed there's a new combo gun with a Redfield scope and ABS case as well. Prices start at $599, which is quite a bargain for the quality and options available with this rifle.
Weatherby | Arroyo RC
Now in the company's 70th year, Weatherby
is rolling out a wide variety of new offerings from their existing rifle lines. These include the 70th Anniversary Mark V, which sells for $5,900, a new Vanguard with iron sights in .375 H&H Magnum, and the stylish new Arroyo RC
. If you're new to the Weatherby brand, RC stands for 'œRange Certified," which means that the rifle will squeeze three shots into an inch at 100 yards with selected factory ammo, and each rifle is hand-tested and comes with signed documentation to verify the claim.
At the heart of the Arroyo is the Mark V action, which features a nine-lug push bolt design, 54-degree bolt lift and 'œthree rings of steel' (recessed bolt face, receiver, barrel) surrounding the cartridge case. The Monte Carlo stock is hand-laminated and covered with KUIU's new Vias camo pattern, and the action, bolt and barrel are protected by a Cerakote Desert Sand finish with Flat Dark Earth barrel flutes. An Accubrake comes with the hardest-kicking models chambered for cartridges like the mighty .338-378 Weatherby and .338 Lapua. If you're looking for a serious long-range rifle dressed as a hunting gun, this is it.
Mossberg | Patriot
reinvented their bolt-action rifle lineup with the introduction of the new Patriot
. And unlike other companies that leak a product or two each year with new intros, Mossberg filled their catalog with roughly five dozen different models and variants of the highly-acclaimed new Patriot right out of the gate. These include Bantam and Super Bantam versions with shortened and adjustable length of pull, Night Train versions with a decidedly long-range/tactical look and design, Mossy Oak Deer Thug combos, and rifles that come with factory bore-sighted Vortex Optics Crossfire II scopes with Dead-Hold BDC reticles.
There are Patriots with synthetic stocks, wood stocks and laminates. Stainless and matte blued finishes are available options, as are iron sights and fluted barrels. Caliber options range from .22-250 all the way up to .375 Ruger. At the core of all the different Patriot offerings, though, is the same reliable push-feed action with a spiral fluted bolt, dual locking lugs and a plunger-type ejector. Mossberg has invested heavily in this new rifle, and the results of that effort are apparent in the new rifles. MSRPs range from $386 to $811, so there's a Patriot for every budget.
Rock River Arms | Fred Eichler Series Predator 2
For those who prefer to hunt predators and varmints with an AR-style rifle, it's hard to beat the Rock River Fred Eichler Series Predator 2
. Available with either tan or Gunmetal Gray handguards and receivers, the Predator 2 comes with a forged LAR-15 lower, forged A4 upper, a mid-length gas system, RRS Operator CAR or A2 stock, a 'œWinter' trigger guard (deep enough to easily accommodate gloved fingers), a 16-inch fluted bead-blasted stainless barrel and a low-profile gas block.
The Fred Eichler Series Handguard (complete with coyote prints) has a full-length top rail and 2 ½-inch accessory rails at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions. The .223/5.56 rifle has a ported RRA muzzle brake, and the Hogue rubber pistol grip offers a secure and comfortable hold. Like the other Fred Eichler rifles that came before it, the Predator 2 is extremely accurate and ideal for delivering fast follow-up shots at coyotes, either in open country or up close and personal in the thick stuff.
Ruger | Hawkeye FTW Predator Rifle
One of the big stories in the semi-auto world was the introduction of the CMMG Mutant that hybridizes the AK and AR platforms. The new Ruger Hawkeye FTW Predator
is a hybrid for the bolt-action hunting crowd, a rifle that combines the many attributes of the company's excellent Predator rifle with the ergonomics of Ruger's Scout rifle. From the Predator line, it features a Green Mountain laminate stock, matte stainless receiver and light contour barrel (22 inches in .308, 24 inches in 6.5 Creedmoor).
The genetics of the Gunsite Scout rifle manifest themselves in the form of the rifle's soft rubber buttpad and trio of ½-inch stock spacers that allow for length of pull adjustments. The resulting rifle is a superb hunting gun, with an excellent two-stage target trigger, non-rotating Mauser-type claw extractor, and scope bases milled to the receiver, a tough finish and instant stock adjustment. From predators and varmints to big game, the Hawkeye FTP Predator's hybrid DNA makes it a great choice for the field. The rifle weighs about 8.12 pounds.
Steyr | Scout Camo Rifle
has announced the addition of a line of camouflage Scout
rifles for 2015. Steyr has long produced Scout rifles and worked with Colonel Jeff Cooper to develop a rifle that worked well in a variety of applications, and one of those applications is hunting, particularly in areas of thick cover where space is limited and quick shooting is required. The Steyr's unique stock comes with an integrated bipod and five different sling swivel attachment points, so you carry the rifle with a standard sling or Colonel Cooper's favorite 'œChing Sling.'
The stock is designed to allow you to carry an additional box magazine for backup, and like most Scout rifles the Steyr version is chambered in .308 Winchester. The long rail system allow the shooter to place a forward-mounted scope on the rifle and offers plenty of additional space for backup ghost ring sights. At 6.6 pounds and less than 40-inches long, the Steyr Scout Camo is an outstanding hunting rifle that is perfect for a wide variety of hunting applications.
Winchester | XPR
didn't exactly break cover at the SHOT Show, but it did appear in late 2014, so it's still relatively new and deserves a spot on our 'œBest of 2015' list. It's Winchester's take on the budget rifle, with a new push-feed style action with three locking lugs and a 60-degree bolt lift. The oversized bolt is made of chromoly steel bar stock, heat-treated for durability and coated with a Nickel Teflon. As a result, bolt travel is silky smooth and belies the Winchester's meager price tag. The MOA trigger is excellent, and the detachable box magazine is light and latches securely in place without a lot of fuss. Like the Browning AB3, the new XPR has a two-position safety with a bolt release button that allows you to load and unload the rifle in the "safe" position. The chromoly steel barrel is attached to the receiver via a barrel nut for accurate headspacing, and the barrel is free-floated to improve accuracy.
The black polymer stock has textured grip panels for a secure, comfortable hold, and the Inflex recoil pad does a good job preventing the recoil from pushing the stock up into the shooter's face, which is a major cause of discomfort and, consequently, flinch. It's available in .270, .30-06, .300 Win. Mag. and .338 Win. Mag. for a base price of $549. For an additional $50 you can have an XPR with a Mossy Oak Break-Up Country stock, and for $709 you can get the standard rifle with a Vortex Crossfire II scope. Winchester purists may howl that the XPR's push-feed design and angular stock is an abomination, but one trip to the range is sufficient to understand the draw of this rifle — it's affordable and sensationally accurate.
Sako | 85 Carbonlight Stainless
The 85 Carbonlight Stainless
is the lightest rifle that Sako has ever made, weighing around 5 pounds unloaded. To put that in perspective, if you dial the rifle's lightweight adjustable trigger up as heavy as it will go you're about a pound away from the total weight of the Carbonlight itself. In an effort to trim down their hunting rifle lineup, the Finnish engineers looked to CFRP technology, the same carbon fiber technology that has helped airplanes and race cars reduce weight while maintaining the required structural integrity. The results are one super-light rifle that is extremely tough and has a very modern carbon fiber look with a soft-touch exterior that provides a great gripping surface.
The classic 85 action is the engine that runs this racy Finnish rifle. It's the same three-lug design you'll find on Sako's other big game rifles, complete with a two-position safety with bolt release and a 2.2- to 4.0-pound trigger, and a stainless 20¼-inch fluted barrel further reduces weight. The 85 Carbonlight rifle utilizes the same integral tapered dovetail mounts you'll find on other Sako 85s and that rugged base design offers peace of mind that the scope won't shake loose under recoil. Available calibers include .22-250, .243, .260, 7mm-08 and .308. The 85 Carbonlight carries Sako's five-shot MOA guarantee.
Mauser | M98 Magnum
If the inclusion of the Mauser 98 on any "new" list of firearms leaves you scratching your head, bear with me. Yes, the design itself is well over a century old, and yes, it's been copied more than just about any firearm design short of Colt's 1911. But the original 98, true to the original design and built in Germany by Mauser, is once again available as a production rifle. The new Mauser M98 Magnum
isn't your typical production rifle, though, with features like plasma nitriding of all steel parts, pillar bedding and dual recoil lugs for reduced stress from magnum loads, a double square bridge action with swing-off scope mounts, windage and elevation-adjustable express sights with one standing and two leaves, and grade V walnut minimum.
The rifle is currently available in either .375 H&H Magnum (standard profile) and .416 Rigby (standard or heavy profile). One update is a new three-position wing safety with a firing pin block, a system which is easy to use and highly reliable. This is a purpose-built dangerous game rifle designed specifically for Africa, and it's beyond the purchase price for many hunters. But for the well-heeled hunter who demands to hunt with the very best bolt guns, this is it. At least the rest of us can dream.