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Top 25 Rifles for Hunting in the Last 50 Years

The Top 25 Rifles for Hunting is one of a three-part series of the Top 50 Guns for Hunting in the Last 50 Years.

Top 25 Rifles for Hunting in the Last 50 Years

CZ 550 Safari Magnum

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CZ 550 Safari Magnum

If you’ve ever been on safari in Africa, you know that CZ’s big bore rifles are by far the most common rifles used by both professional hunters and photo guides to protect their clients. The reasons are simple: these guns are well-made, durable, reliable and priced within reason. The 602 Brno, as it’s known internationally, is a full-size magnum action built on an adapted Mauser ’98 pattern. Available in .375 H&H, .458 Winchester Magnum, .416 Rigby, .458 Lott and the mighty .505 Gibbs, the Safari Magnum is capable of stopping the largest and deadliest game on the planet. — Keith Wood

Ruger American Rifle

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Ruger American Rifle

The Ruger American made this list for a specific reason: it represents today’s budget-priced hunting rifles, built using innovative methods to keep costs down and performance high. Though made primarily from investment cast steel and synthetic parts, the American is an accurate and useful tool for putting meat on the table. I’ve tested two examples and ended-up buying one of them. Two of the keys to the American’s performance are the three-lug bolt and v-block bedding arrangement, both of which contribute to its accuracy. Available in several different configurations and chambered in everything from .223 to 30-06, there’s an American for everyone’s needs. — Keith Wood

Sako 75

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Sako 75

The Sako 75 wasn’t the first rifle produced by the century-old Finnish arms maker, but it was one of the most popular. Released to commemorate the company’s 75th anniversary, the rifle was one of the first on the market to use three locking lugs on the bolt and a detachable box magazine. Chambered in everything from .222 to .416, 75s were known as one of the premium hunting rifle brands. To me, the Sako 75 epitomizes the pre-synthetic stock sporting rifle and remains a favorite of many. The examples that I’ve seen were well-finished with gorgeous wood. — Keith Wood

Dakota Model 76

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Dakota Model 76

A few decades ago, a commercial airline pilot and custom gun enthusiast named Don Allen set out to build the finest rifle that he could. The Dakota Model 76 was the result. The Dakota was based on the legendary Pre-64 Winchester Model 70, with a couple of unique innovations thrown in. Unlike most production guns, Dakota 76s are machined from bar stock rather than forged or cast. The result is a graceful and reliable design for hunters who aren’t afraid to put their money where their mouth is. Jaw-dropped walnut is common on Dakotas and the fit and finish is on-par with all but the best custom gunmakers. — Keith Wood


Blaser R93

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Blaser R93

This is an unconventional design that could only come from Germany. The Blaser’s straight-pull bolt action is a marvel of Teutonic engineering, designed for extremely rapid shooting on driven game. The beauty of this rifle, though, is its versatility. Simply by swapping a few components, the R93 can be chambered for any cartridge ranging from .22 LR to .500 Jeffrey. A small take-down case can house the rifle along with an extra barrel or two, creating an incredibly versatile and convenient package for the international hunter. The R93 was replaced with the newer R8 a few years back, but remains a favorite for many. — Keith Wood


Remington Model Seven

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Remington Model Seven

When I worked behind a gun counter, probably I sold more Model Sevens than all of my colleagues combined. The Model Seven is essentially a shortened 700 action that maintains virtually all of its virtues. These little rifles prove that you don’t need a magnum-length barrel to have an effective hunting rifle. Compact, relatively light and portable, these rifles are just the ticket for hunting from tree stands, in timber or in thick brush. Though Model Sevens were chambered in everything from the 17 Remington to the 300 SAUM over the years, examples in .260, 6.5 Creedmoor and 7mm-08 are my personal favorites, particularly for whitetails. — Keith Wood

Henry Rimfire Lever Action

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Henry Rimfire Lever Action

It can be a challenge to find products made entirely in the U.S. these days but Henry prides itself in that fact. Among its wide variety of lever-action rifles, the rimfire models stand out. These are guns for the entire family that can be used to teach safe and responsible use as well as put meat on the table. Over 1 million Henry .22s have been sold, which is a testament to their quality and reputation. Lever-action Henrys feed from a tubular magazine and are built with traditional walnut and blued steel. Light, handy and capable, this is a rifle that should probably be in everyone’s collection. — Keith Wood

Ruger Mini-14

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Ruger Mini-14

My first centerfire rifle was a Mini-14, so it sits in a special place in my heart. The Mini-14 has been around since 1973 and was developed with the help of James Sullivan of AR-15 fame. The Mini-14 is a scaled-down version of the M-1 Garand action and feeds from a detachable box magazine. These rifles are lightweight at just over six pounds, compact, handy and reliable. More recent examples are more accurate than their predecessors and offer additional features such as scope mounts. The Mini-14 has seen worldwide use by security forces and remains one of my favorite truck guns here at home. — Keith Wood

Bergara B-14

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Bergara B-14

When this rifle made a splash in America, gun-counter savants were wont to call it “the rifle the Remington 700 should have been.” Blasphemous though that may be to Remington disciples, the fact is the B-14 is an exceptional rifle and has garnered several national awards. Patterned much like the M700, it has a better extractor and bolt release. Manufactured in Bergara, Spain, the B-14 has quickly garnered a reputation for superb accuracy, thanks to the unrelenting quality of Bergara barrels. This reputation is supported by a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee. Versions range from true mountain rifles to heavy, configurable PRS competition guns. There’s even a B-14 R rimfire PRS-type training rifle. The $865 B-14 Ridge model shown here won the NRA Golden Bullseye Best Rifle award in 2018. It has a threaded muzzle, a composite stock with soft-touch finish, and integral epoxy-pillar bedding. It’s an excellent all-around hunting rifle that won’t let you down. — Joseph von Benedikt




Browning X-Bolt

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Browning X-Bolt

When Browning’s design gurus engineered the X-Bolt action, three criteria were paramount: best-in-class ergonomics, light inherent action weight, and inherent accuracy. The model delivers. It’s earned an enviable reputation for out-of-the-box performance that rivals custom precision rifles. Reliability is always stellar. The trigger is adjustable and extremely consistent. Configurations range from ultralight carbon-stocked models to heavy-barreled, configurable-stocked rifles adept at extreme-range shooting. The $1,190 X-Bolt Stainless Stalker shown is a workhorse hunting rifle that will shrug off all the abuse that Mother Nature and risk-loving backcountry hunters can dish out. — Joseph von Benedikt

Kimber 84L

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Kimber 84L

A slenderized action incorporating all the finest characteristics of the 1898 Mauser, Kimber’s 84L is the only lightweight controlled-feed action on the market. Built for standard-length, non-magnum cartridges such as the .270 Win., .30-06 and—my favorite—the .280 Ackley Improved, the all-steel 84L can be built into a 5-pound, 6-ounce sheep rifle appropriate for technical mountain climbing. Key is the very svelte diameter, which is about a quarter-inch smaller than competing bolt actions. Combine the 84L’s controlled-feed reliability with guaranteed sub-MOA accuracy, load it with a bone-breaking, deep-penetrating monometal bullet, and you’ve got an ideal rig for hunting mountain game in grizzly country. Beautifully manufactured of stainless steel and carbon fiber, the 84L Mountain Ascent shown is one of the all-time great mountain rifles. — Joseph von Benedikt

Tikka T3x

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Tikka T3x

When Tikka’s first came to America, I heard the Finnish biathlon team chose Tikka over Sako. That made me sit up and take note. A few years on the market proved Tikkas to be extraordinarily accurate and absolutely reliable, and to have quality and ergonomics on a par with rifles twice the cost. Now, the T3x model is a primary player on every scene, ranging from ultralight mountain rifles to match-winning heavy PRS competition rifles. The action is renowned for smoothness, the barrels for accuracy and longevity, and to this day Tikkas own a reputation for accuracy envied by every other production rifle company out there. — Joseph von Benedikt


Weatherby Mark V Backcountry Ti

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Weatherby Mark V Backcountry Ti

Recently introduced, the six-lug Mark V Backcountry Ti upholds Weatherby’s enviable reputation for innovation. Built of titanium, carbon fiber, and stainless steel, even long-action versions weigh fractionally less than 5 pounds! Critical to this achievement is the small action diameter; which is slenderized and optimized for high-performance cartridges such as the 6.5 Wby RMP and .280 Ackley Improved, which provide magnum-like ballistics is standard-diameter rounds. A true mountaineering-quality sheep rifle, every Backcountry comes with a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee. Cerakote finish adds a layer of protection against corrosion. Excellent ergonomics and a Trigger Tech trigger make the Backcountry Ti a joy to shoot. A 54-degree bolt lift enables speedy follow-up shots. — Joseph von Benedikt

CZ Model 527

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CZ Model 527

The CZ M527 is based on a slick little “micro-Mauser” control-round feed action with in-line detachable magazine. Introduced in 1989, various stock configurations and sights have been offered, but the real strengths of the 527 are that it’s a fast-handling, compact and lightweight rifle with a trim action. Accuracy is usually excellent, and the 527 is chambered to mild-mannered, effective, and downright useful cartridges with smaller cases, including several not commonly available in bolt-action rifles. Offerings have included: .17 Hornet; .17 Remington; .204 Ruger; .22 Hornet; .221 Fireball; .222 and .223 Remington; 6.5mm Grendel; .300 AAC Blackout; and 7.62x39 Russian. — Craig Boddington

Mossberg 464

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Mossberg 464

The Winchester Model 1894 has been the most popular sporting centerfire rifle in history. So, it’s not damning with faint praise to say the Mossberg 464 is “similar”—but it’s also an improvement! Introduced in 2008, the 464 has a round bolt and, from the start, all 464s have tang safety, side-eject, and are drilled and tapped for Weaver 403 bases. Configurations include straight-grip and pistol-grip stocks, with choice of sights between three-dot sights and traditional adjustable rifle sights. The SPX puts a modern face on the traditional lever-action, with six-position “tactical” stocks, Picatinny rail on fore-end, and threaded barrel with flash-hider. — Craig Boddington

Winchester Model 70 Classic

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Winchester Model 70 Classic

Known as “the rifleman’s rifle,” the famous pre-1964 M70 was out of production from 1964 until 1992, when the M70 Classic was introduced, returning to the pre-1964’s controlled-round-feed and long Mauser extractor, with improvements. After a short production break in 2006, since 2007 F.N. Herstal has produced the Winchester Controlled Round Feed rifles. Variants have included both blue and stainless steel, Featherweights, and left-hand bolt, with a wide variety of stock configurations…and, of course, the Super Grade. Traditionalists will always lament the loss of pre-1964 Model 70 but in terms of accuracy and function, many astute rifleshooters believe the current Model 70 to be the best ever. — Craig Boddington

Ruger Precision Rifle

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Ruger Precision Rifle

Introduced in just 2015, the Ruger Precision Rifle (RPR) was among the first production “chassis” rifles, incorporating AR-style vertical handgrip, adjustable buttstock, and handguard. Part of the system is a proprietary pre-fit barrel system, allowing use of drop-in Ruger barrels with headspace set using a proprietary barrel nut system. Variants now include a “Gen 2” with enhancements and a magnum version. Chamberings have included 5.56x45, 6mm and 6.5mm Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, .300 PRC, .300 Winchester Magnum, and .338 Lapua Magnum. Almost immediately legendary for accuracy, the RPR created a new wave of sporting rifle design…which seems certain to continue for some time. — Craig Boddington

Weatherby Vanguard

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Weatherby Vanguard

Although nearly 50 years young, the Vanguard was limited to “standard” (non-Weatherby) cartridges until 1988. Although it incorporates many features of the flagship Weatherby Mark V, the Vanguard is not a Mark V, with significant mechanical differences. Always priced economically, the Vanguard has long out-sold the Mark V. And, most important to its significance, quickly earned (and has kept) a reputation for outstanding out-of-the-box accuracy! The Vanguard has been offered in myriad configurations, with a variety of metal finishes and stock styles, including the unique “Camilla,” among few bolt-action sporters designed for women. Chamberings run from .22-250 to .375 H&H, and include Weatherby Magnum cartridges from .240 to .300 Weatherby Magnum. — Craig Boddington

Knight Muzzleloader

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Knight Muzzleloader

Tony Knight (1945-2013) was a Missouri gunsmith and hunter who wanted more accuracy and reliability from muzzleloaders. In 1985 he founded Knight Rifles and introduced the MK 85, the first muzzleloader with in-line ignition, with the nipple for the percussion cap at the rear of the barrel…closest to the powder charge! This was the start of “modern muzzeloaders.” Tony Knight and his Knight rifles revolutionized blackpowder hunting and, literally, expanded hunting opportunities for millions of hunters previously limited to shotgun slugs and less efficient side-hammer designs. Still manufactured in the U.S., Knight rifles continue to be offered in a wide variety of styles and configurations…a fitting tribute to the father of muzzleloading hunting as it is today. — Craig Boddington

New Ultra-Light Arms

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New Ultra-Light Arms

Big industry tried to kill him (more than once), but West Virginia gunmaker Melvin Forbes has persevered, and remains a leader in really light-weight hunting rifles that shoot straight! A Mel Forbes rifle is essentially built-to-order custom rifle, made to exacting standards…but always light. Starting in 1985, Forbes pioneered the trend toward extra-light hunting rifles, sparing of metal, trim of stock, yet a Forbes rifle remains rugged and accurate. Weight depends on cartridge, which determines action size and essential barrel length. Now operating as New Ultra-Light Arms (NULA), Forbes new Pathfinder rifle is the lightest yet, as light as 4.75 pounds. — Craig Boddington

DPMS Panther Arms AR

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DPMS Panther Arms AR

Defense Procurement Manufacturing Services, DPMS, started in 1985 in Osseo, Minnesota as a defense contractor, later moving to Becker, MN, and then to St. Cloud. As DPMS Panther Arms, the firm became one of the largest producers of both AR10 and AR15-platform rifles. Accurate and reliable, DPMS Panther Arms rifles attracted the attention of sportsmen and women and, in large measure, were responsible for the rapid growth of the “modern sporting rifle” in the hunting marketplace. DPMS Panther Arms were among the first to adapt the AR platform to versatile sporting cartridges such as the .260 Remington and .338 Federal. — Craig Boddington

Rigby Highland Stalker

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Rigby Highland Stalker

The Rigby Highland Stalker’s lineage is turn of the 20th century classic British. Slim lines with a rounded pistol grip define the stock—of course Grade 5 walnut is standard. The action is a modern, but original spec. Mauser 98 tapped to accept optics. The hammer-forged barrel sports traditional Rigby iron sights regulated at 65, 150 and 250 yards respectively. While available in several calibers, the only one that should be bought is .275 Rigby. After much soul-searching and unabashed admiration of bygone hunters such as Corbett and Bell, I bought one. I am completely satisfied with the purchase; my wife and our family’s checking account are not as pleased. $10,995; — Mike Schoby

CVA Paramount Pro

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CVA Paramount Pro

In the past a muzzleloader has significantly limited the effective range of the shooter. Well, no more. The PARAMOUNT Pro has revolutionized the world of muzzleloader hunting, allowing the shooter to extend their range. The rifle sports a Nitride-treated, stainless-steel barrel made by Bergara and has a VariFlame Breech Plug that uses a large-rifle primer. The rifle is built to function with “super-magnum” powder and can produce speeds surpassing 2200 FPS. Pair all that with the PowerBelt ELR bullets designed specifically for the rifle, and you have one accurate long-range muzzleloader. — Joe Ferronato

Springfield Waypoint

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Springfield Waypoint

It’s been a long time since Springfield Armory introduced a bolt gun, but that didn’t stop them from making one of the best bolt-actions built in recent years. And they did so with hunters in mind – another departure from the otherwise “tactical” gunmaker. This near-custom rifle features a carbon-sheathed steel barrel set into a carbon-fiber stock from AG Composites. Piller-bedded and hand-laid, the action features a design similar to the proven Remington 700, with the added benefit of a milled Picatinny rail for easier optics mounting. And accurate? They Waypoint comes with a .75 MOA guarantee, though my test rifle beat that by better than .25 MOA. — David Draper

Traditions NitroFire

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Traditions NitroFire

This rifle turns muzzleloading upside down, literally, but using Federal’s Firestick pre-loaded, blackpowder cartridge to load the charge from the breech. The bullet is still rammed down the muzzle, enough to make the rifle technically legal during muzzleloader seasons in many states. The Firestick is, admittedly, a safer, friendlier design, that make unloading an unfired gun easier at the end of the day. — David Draper

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