November 07, 2022
Until recently, capable long-range hunting rifles cost a lot. Decent ones started around $2,500 to $3,000, and the best of the type could range up to $7,000 or $8,000. Thankfully, several models that cost around $1,000 and provide legit long-range performance have recently been introduced.
In full disclosure, that’s 1K at the dealer’s shelf, not manufacturer’s suggested retail price. A couple of the models detailed below wear rather enthusiastic suggested retail prices. But if you shop sales and holiday weekends such as Memorial Day and Black Friday, you can often find them discounted south of a grand.
Before diving in, let’s quickly detail the “long-range hunting rifle” criteria these models all meet: First, they've gotta shoot. When it comes to shooting long, accuracy isn’t just nice, it’s absolutely necessary. All the models included here have proven track records in the precision department. How much accuracy is adequate? If we were discussing those 7K custom long-range rifles, I’d say half MOA. However, in reality, one-MOA accuracy is good enough—as long as it’s reliable and predictable. And that should be quite achievable: I’ve seen half-MOA accuracy from more than one of the models listed here.
Next, these rifles have to have ergonomics that maximize stability in field positions, and minimize human inconsistencies. As one crack shot friend of mine likes to say, “Most misses are caused by the soft tissue behind the rifle.” He’s right. In the long-range realm, rifle characteristics in the stock, grip, trigger, and so forth that help us variable humans be consistent are a big deal.
Finally, long-range rifles designed for hunting must be chambered in capable cartridges. No, that’s not your .308 (a discussion for another time). Modern cartridges designed to push cutting-edge high-BC hunting bullets are called for. Examples are the 6.5 PRC, 6.8 Western, 7mm Rem. Mag., 28 Nosler, and .300 PRC.
Enough verbal lather. Let’s take a look at some of the most capable entry-level long-range hunting rifles available.
This outstanding rifle is first by alphabetical default, but even if it hadn’t been, it would be my top choice. I’ve wrung out this model in 28 Nosler, .300 Win. Mag, and .300 PRC, and all shot splendidly.
It’s 100-percent reliable and feeds slick as butter—which can’t be said of many of the other models listed here. And although the configurable stock is injection molded (like most of the others detailed below), it’s engineered to be as rigid as human ingenuity can make it, enabling consistent shooting even in rapidly improvised, awkward field positions. Plus, every action comes glass bedded into its stock.
Rifles come factory-mounted with Browning’s aggressive, capable Recoil Hawg muzzle brake. Semi-heavy barrels are 26 inches in length, made of stainless steel.
Capacity in 6.5 PRC: 3 rounds. Rifling twist rate: 1:7. Weight: 8 lbs., 3 oz. Overall length: 46.12 inches. Suggested retail price: $1,480.
I used one of these fine rifles to take a good 6x6 bull elk on public land in Colorado. It shoots sub-three-quarter-MOA groups with handloaded Barnes 127-grain LRX bullets.
Four distinct characteristics set this rifle apart: It has a classic controlled-feed, Mauser-type action with massive claw extractor; its stock is made of ultra-strong, rigid laminate wood panted with a brown, black-speckled finish; and it’s got a relatively short, thin barrel profile for a rifle that’s called a Long-Range Hunter. Lastly, these rifles come with a detachable, AICS-type magazine with lots of capacity.
Savvy hunters that prefer controlled-feed actions will gravitate to this rifle. And while the Ruger Hawkeye action is challenging to glass bed, it’s worth noting that the laminated wood stock is both more stable and more receptive to bedding than any injection-molded stock.
Although their barrels are thin, these rifles tend to shoot quite well. Like most slender-barreled guns, they’re often picky about ammo, and require a tuned handload to get the best out of them.
Capacity in 6.5 PRC is 5 rounds. Rifling twist rate: 1:8. Weight: 7 lbs., 2 oz. Overall length: 42.25 inches. Suggested retail price: $1,569.
This is arguably the best modern Savage bolt-action rifle made. It’s light—scandalously light. That fact, of course, makes it awesome for mountain hunting. It’s undoubtedly the best in our lineup for serious backcountry work. The 110 action is aggressively skeletonized to reduce mass. It’s fit with Savage’s proven AccuTrigger.
Plus, the rifle has a genuine Proof Research carbon-fiber-wrapped 24-inch barrel with threaded muzzle. While Proof wasn’t the first to make this type of barrel, it’s absolutely the barrel company that won the hearts of discerning rifle shooters. Accuracy is a hallmark of Proof barrels, and the samples of this model that I’m familiar with shoot half-MOA groups with preferred ammo.
The AccuFit stock is configurable for length of pull and cheekrest height. Candidly, although it’s easy to fit to the individual shooter, the Ultralight’s stock is too flexible in my opinion, but hey, for under 1K you can’t have everything.
Capacity in 6.5 PRC is 2 rounds. Rifling twist rate: 1:8.4. Weight: 6 lbs. Overall length: 44.5 inches. Suggested retail price: $1,649.
Tikka rifles are made in Finland, and have an outstanding reputation for accuracy in sub-$1,000 rifles. It’s well deserved. The T3X Varmint was conceived to give long-range prairie-dog shooters an edge, but the features of the model lend themselves to long-range big game hunting too. Tikka added proper big game cartridges to the lineup, including the uber-capable 7mm Rem. Mag.
This rifle has a semi-heavy 23.7-inch barrel that’s threaded at the muzzle for suppressor compatibility. It’s free-floated in the broad fore-end of a no-nonsense black polymer stock. A near-vertical grip reduces shooting-hand torque in prone positions, and an adjustable cheek piece enables precision shooters to develop a proper cheek weld and consistent head position.
Capacity in 7mm Rem. Mag. is 5 rounds. Yep; 5. Rifling twist rate: 1:9.5. Weight: 8 lbs., 13 oz. Overall length: 43.9 inches. Suggested retail price: $1,529.
This simple but solid rifle wears a Grayboe stock; a distinction that savvy shooters will recognize. It’s arguably the best composite stock on any rifle in this lineup; only the Browning X-Bolt’s Max LR stock is in its quality category. Two included length-of-pull spacers enable the shooter to adjust LOP to perfection. A straight comb and thumbhook minimize recoil and maximize control.
Winchester’s excellent M.O.A. trigger system ensures a clean, crisp trigger pull. The semi-heavy barrel is stress relieved and given minimum headspace via a barrel nut. The muzzle is given a recessed target crown and is threaded for suppressor compatibility. Several good cartridges are offered, including the excellent 6.5 PRC and 6.8 Western.
Capacity in 6.5 PRC is 3 rounds. Rifling twist rate: 1:8. Weight: 8 lbs., 12 oz. Overall length: 44 inches. Suggested retail price: $1,199.