Best Deer Rifles – 2019 Buyer’s Guide Review

Deer are the most hunted large game in America. The market has responded with a seemingly endless selection of rifles for hunting deer.

Personal taste does play a large part in choosing a deer rifle; that said, not all deer rifles are created equal. Follow our guide to find the best one for you.

Comparison Chart of the Best Deer Rifles

Product

Rating

Price

Ruger American .308 Win. Black Composite Stock Rifle

Best Overall

Tikka - Tikka T3x 6.5 Creedmoor

Runner-up

Browning Ab3 Composite Stalker .243 Win Rifle

Best for the Money

Psa Gen2 Pa10 18" Mid-length .308 Win Rifle

Best Semi Automatic Deer Rifle

Savage 16/116 Trophy Hunter .270 Win

Best Youth Deer Rifle

Remington 700 Sps Tactical .308 Win Rifle

Best Long Range Deer Rifle

Henry Repeating Arms - Big Boy Steel 44 Magnum

Best 44 Mag Rifle for Deer Hunting

Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM .308 Win Kryptek Highlander Rifle

Best 308 Deer Rifle

Savage Axis Ii Xp Compact .243 Win 20" Rifle

Best 243 Deer Rifle

Henry Repeating Arms - Big Boy 20in 357 Magnum

Best 357 Rifle For Deer

What is the Best Caliber for Deer Hunting?

Practically every hunter has their own unique preference, based on what they're used to, what they've had the greatest success with, what has been available, or simply sentimentality. Things to look for are velocity, energy transfer, and availability. Any caliber from .243 up is good, though for deer there isn't much point in accepting the increased recoil and cost of ammo above .30-06.

In the USA, calibers that are current or former standard military issue tend to reign supreme. Foremost among these for deer hunting is the .30-06. Designed to outgun the Spanish over a hundred years ago, the .30-06 is one of the most popular and versatile calibers on the planet. It is great for larger deer, but not everyone likes the recoil.

This is where another favorite with a military background comes in, the .308. It is a classic mid-power round that shoots flat and is ideal for mid-sized game like deer.

Remington Model 783 .30-06 Springfield Hunting Rifle (Source)

The .243 design is based on the .308, but with the case necked-down to accept a smaller bullet for greater velocity. It is an excellent round, especially for smaller deer. The .243 gives you great versatility; it is perfect for everything from rabbits to deer, all the most practical game for the table. Like the .308, It is also an outstanding long-range round.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is a recent entrant into the deer caliber game, but it has taken the shooting world by storm. The ballistic performance is better than .308 or .243 in every way, but unlike those rounds, you won't find it in every rural mom & pop sportsman's shop in the country.

What Makes a Great Deer Hunting Rifle?

A lot of personal taste goes into choosing the perfect deer gun. Your regular shooting environment and local laws will also determine what rifle is best for you.

Many types of action are available from the rare pump action rifle to the lever action, from the semi-auto to the bolt action, to name a few. Bolt action rifles are the most common hunting rifles in the world today. They are extremely reliable, accurate and quiet to operate.

Lever action rifles have that old west charm and the benefit of never needing to change your hand position to chamber a round. The lever can get in the way when shooting prone, however.

As semi-auto designs have become more reliable and accurate, their popularity in deer hunting has increased. A good sportsman should be able to take a deer with one well-placed, clear, confident, and ethical shot. The need for a second shot ideally should not arise. Nevertheless, as the popularity of semi-autos increases, so do the options available.

Quick Take | Best Deer Rifles

Review of the Best Deer Rifles

Given the considerations above, we have done the research so that you don't have to. Read on for our picks for the best deer rifles available today.

PROS

  • Completely sourced and built in the USA
  • Highly engineered bolt has a 70° throw to easily clear scopes
  • Includes Ruger's Marksman trigger adjustable to either a 3 or 5-pound pull

CONS

  • Does not include sights

Ruger was founded in 1949 in Connecticut by Bill Ruger. The company has come to dominate the American market by offering affordable prices for very reliable and well-designed firearms. The Ruger American rifle is no exception. The main feature of this rifle is that it is one hundred percent sourced and built in the USA.

This version comes with a 22-inch cold hammer-forged barrel with a 1:10-inch twist rate with six rifling grooves. The barrel is bedded with Ruger's proprietary Power Bedding to free-float the barrel for the best possible accuracy. Sights are not included but a base is. The bolt is a full-diameter, one-piece three lug design with a 70° throw for ample scope clearance. The bolt also has dual cocking cams for smooth, easy cycling from your shoulder.

This rifle comes with a four-round detachable rotary magazine. The trigger is Ruger's adjustable 'Marksman' model with either a three pound or a five-pound pull. The rifle has a comfortable tang safety. The lightweight, black synthetic stock comes with a rubber recoil pad and sling swivel studs. The weight is a decent 6.12 pounds and the length of pull is 13.75 inches.

Bottom Line

This is a very affordable rifle and the ideal choice for the true patriot. Support American manufacturing with the Ruger American rifle. The top features of the Ruger American rifle are the highly engineered bolt, the adjustable trigger, and the great safety design.

PROS

  • Excellent Finnish design, quality, tolerances, and attention to detail
  • 6.5 Creedmoor is arguably the best mid-power rifle cartridge available today
  • The pistol grip and fore-end geometries are adjustable with aftermarket replacement parts

CONS

  • 6.5 Creedmoor is not as readily available as .308

This is my personal favorite rifle. Tikka was founded in Finland in 1893 but has been owned by Sako since 1983. Despite being a manufacturers' budget brand, Tikka surpasses the quality of most other manufacturers out there. Every rifle they sell is guaranteed to have 1 MOA accuracy straight out of the box.

This model has a detachable ten-round box magazine and a universal rail. The short 20-inch barrel has a 1:8-inch twist rate with four grooves of rifling. The rifle features a heavy-duty recoil lug to take pressure off the screws. The bolt shroud is also unusually heavy-duty to keep the moving parts safe.

Besides the fine workmanship on the receiver and barrel, the synthetic stocks on Tikka rifles are very highly engineered. They are foam filled to reduce noise caused by brushing foliage in the woods. They have a non-slip grip, but most importantly, they are modular. You can buy separate pistol grip replacements with various different geometries depending on your hand size and shooting style. The forend width can be adjusted in a similar way. A recoil pad is included. The rifle weighs a fairly normal 7.5 pounds.

Bottom Line

This is easily my personal choice in a great deer rifle and a great all-rounder. The quality can't be beaten anywhere near the price point. The best features of this rifle are the 6.5 performance, the adjustable stock, and the overall quality.

PROS

  • Low 60° bolt lift for rapid cycling
  • Bolt can be opened with the safety on thanks to bolt unlock button
  • Inflex recoil pad pushes the buttstock down and away from your face when firing

CONS

  • Only comes in black

Browning was founded in 1878 by everyone's favorite firearms designer, the god of guns, John Moses Browning. The company is now owned by the estimable FN Herstal, with which John Moses worked closely during his lifetime.

The AB3 is an upgrade on the legendary Browning A-bolt. It offers both high performance and affordability. The heart of any firearm is the barrel, and the AB3's 22-inch barrel is a work of art. It is made from cold-rolled steel that is then precision button-rifled with a 1:10-inch twist. It is triple-checked by quality control before the interior is finished and air-gauged to ensure a consistent diameter throughout the bore. The chamber is hand-reamed for the tightest possible tolerances and the most precise headspace.

This rifle comes with a 5-round detachable magazine. The bolt slide is chromed and the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope rings or mounts. The safety is top tang style for the best ergonomics and indexing. The bolt lift is only 60° for fast cycling and scope clearance. A special bolt unlock button allows the bolt to be opened with the safety on.

 The receiver is steel and finished with matte bluing. The stock gives a 13 5/8 inch length of pull and includes an Inflex recoil pad. The pad deflects the butt away from your face when shooting. The stock also features textured grip, a palm swell, and sling swivel studs.

Bottom Line

The top features of this rifle are the bolt throw and the Inflex recoil pad.

Best Semi Automatic Deer Rifle:
PSA Gen 2 Pa10 18" Mid-length .308 Win Rifle

PROS

  • Rigorously adheres to A2 and M2 mil-spec design standards
  • All internal components are included, including charging handle and BCG
  • Made to be compatible with the widest possible variety of AR-15 components

CONS

  • Loose tolerances
  • May not work with after-market stocks

Hunting with modern sporting rifles (i.e. AR-style rifles) has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. Palmetto State Armory is one of the biggest firearms retailers in the country, so they have the market data to know how to build the kind of AR that people want.

This turns out to be pretty close to mil-spec. This .308, AR-10 rifle has an 18-inch A2-style barrel including an A2-style muzzle device. The twist rate is 1:10 inches. The mid-length gas system uses a gas block integrated into the classically-styled front sight base. The forged 7075 T6 aluminum receiver is flat topped with a full rail. The receiver includes feed ramps, forward assist, and a dust cover. A charging handle is also included.

The bolt is made of 9310 steel and the carrier uses 8620 steel. Both are nitride treated. The gas key is treated the same way and is staked. The lower receiver is made of the same aluminum as the upper. It houses a single stage, mil-spec style trigger. A 20-round PMAG is included.

The handguard is a mid-length polymer unit. The grip is a classic A2-style. The buffer tube is aluminum and supports a classic M4-style 6-position telescoping stock. PSA's approach to the AR-10 is to give you compatibility with most AR-15 components.

Bottom Line

This is a great mil-spec, AR-15 compatible AR-10. It is also a great platform on which to customize your perfect AR-style rifle.

PROS

  • Comes with a 3-9x40 scope with a BDC reticle from Nikon
  • Finely manufactured barrel has market-leading out-of-the-box accuracy
  • The AccuTrigger trigger system is adjustable and offers a crisp trigger pull

CONS

  • Aesthetic details are a bit rough

Savage is a classic American firearms manufacturer founded in 1894. They have been through tough times but have bounced back. Now, they offer some of the most accurate out-of-the-box rifles available today. This rifle has many of the design features that contribute to that accuracy, such as Savage's crisp and adjustable AccuTrigger trigger system.

The one thing that contributes more to accuracy than a good trigger is the barrel, and this is where Savage really shines. This rifle has a free-floated, button-rifled 22-inch stainless steel barrel. The twist rate is one in ten inches. It is supported by dual pillars bedded into the stock. The rifle includes a four-round detachable box magazine. Weight is a bit high at 9.22 ounces and the length of pull is a standard 13.5.

The stock is black synthetic. Besides the accuracy, the major perk of this rifle is that it comes with a Nikon scope. The magnification range on the scope is pretty standard at 3-9x with a 40mm objective lens for good light transmission. The reticle is a bullet drop compensator, giving you multiple aiming points depending on the range you are shooting.

Bottom Line

If you want a practical, knock around truck gun that is super accurate but doesn't look like much, this rifle is for you. Many hunters rave about the .270 caliber and this is a great platform for it. The top features of this rifle are the accuracy and the included scope.

PROS

  • The rifle is relatively light in spite of its heavy barrel.
  • Stock has grippy Hogue over-molding, a wide beavertail fore-end, and a SuperCell buttpad
  • Heavy contour barrel offers great accuracy when you need to take shots at a high frequency

CONS

  • Does not include scope mount

Remington Arms of Hunstville Alabama was founded in 1816, making it the oldest firearms manufacturer in the USA. It has developed more cartridges than any company in the world and today it is America's largest producer of rifles and shotguns. The company's success has been bolstered by various cherry military contracts, including those to use this rifle, the Remington 700, as a NATO sniper rifle.

The barrel on this model is a 20-inch heavy-contour tactical-style model with a 1:10-inch twist. It is carbon steel, matte blued, and is threaded for flash hiders. Despite the heavy barrel, the whole rifle still only weighs seven and a half pounds. The barrel is dual-point pillar bedded. Metal surfaces on the rifle feature a durable, satin black oxide finish.

This rifle features Remington's X-Mark Pro externally adjustable trigger. The magazine is a four-round hinged floorplate design. The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. The black synthetic stock has high-end Hogue over-molding for sure grip. The fore-end has a tactical-style semi-beavertail for extra stability. There is a SuperCell recoil pad on the butt. The length of pull is a standard 13 3/8 inches.

Bottom Line

This is an excellent rifle if you like that modern military sniper rifle vibe. The top features of this rifle are the ergonomic stock and the overall lightness.

Best 44 Mag Rifle for Deer Hunting:
Henry Repeating Arms - Big Boy Steel 44 Magnum

PROS

  • Large tube magazine has a capacity of 10 rounds
  • Old West style buckhorn-style sight with a diamond insert
  • Surprisingly light for a reproduction of a 100-year-old rifle

CONS

  • Lever actions can be hard to cycle in prone position

Henry was founded in 1996 in Brooklyn by a father and son team. They have revived both the Henry name and the classic Henry designs, albeit with some mechanical updates. If you love that old west style and like to keep life simple by shooting the same ammo in your magnum revolver and rifle, this is the gun for you. It is a lightweight reproduction of B.T. Henry's classic 1860 rifle.

The lever action design gives a follow-up shot that is almost as fast as a semi-auto. Unlike the original rifle, this one has a round barrel rather than an octagon. It is 20 inches long and blued. The choice to update the old-timey octagon barrel is a major factor that helps keep the rifle down to seven pounds. The rear sight is an adjustable, classic semi-buckhorn with a diamond insert and the front sight is a simple brass bead. The receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope.

The tube magazine has a ten-round capacity, but for a long day of hunting you probably just want to load three or four to keep the weight down. The rifle has a transfer bolt safety. The furniture is made of chequered American walnut with a matte finish. It comes with swivel studs and a solid black rubber recoil pad.

Bottom Line

This is a great quality rifle with a classic flair. The top features are the low weight and large capacity. It is perfect for the straight-walled-cartridge hunting laws being introduced in some states.

PROS

  • Comes with a ten round detachable box magazine
  • The short 16-inch barrel is great for hunting in thick bush
  • Comes with a forward rail for easy mounting of long eye relief scopes or other optics

CONS

  • The front sight to rear sight aperture ratio means your target may be obscured at 100 yards

Few rifles can boast to be as much of an American classic as the Springfield M14/M1A. The M14 was standard military issue from 1959 to 1970, seeing service in the Korean War and Vietnam War. It was an attempt to update the venerable M1 Garand with a lighter cartridge for full-auto fire. This option was rarely if ever used.

After the original Springfield Armory was shut down, rights to the name were bought and the private Springfield Armory was founded in 1974. It has produced the M1A, exactly like an M14 but without full-auto, ever since. This SOCOM 16 model is designed to provide less felt recoil and less muzzle rise. It has a very short barrel at 16 inches, making it an ideal brush gun.

The barrel wears a proprietary muzzle break. The traditional M14 is a bit tricky to mount optics on, but this model has a forward rail to let you mount long eye relief optics with little trouble. This is not critical, however, as the stock iron sights are a solid, classic design that every American should probably be comfortable shooting. The front sight has an XS tritium insert to provide a clear sight picture at night. Magazine capacity is a comfortable ten rounds in a detachable box magazine.

Bottom Line

The top features of this classic American rifle are the forward rail and the short barrel.

PROS

  • Includes an excellent all-around 3-9x40mm scope from Bushnell
  • Engineered to be comfortable and lightweight for small-framed shooters
  • Savage's AccuTrigger system contributes to the rifle's overall great accuracy

CONS

  • Only comes in pink camo

As noted above, Savage is a venerable American firearms maker that produces some of the most accurate out-of-the-box rifles you can buy. This is a compact model in fabulous pink for that special lady in your life, or possibly for yourself.

It comes with a 20-inch, carbon steel button-rifled barrel with a twist rate of  1 in 9.25 inches. The chamber has thread-in barrel headspacing. The receiver is also made of carbon steel with a matte black finish. Like the Savage detailed above, this model comes with Savage's adjustable AccuTrigger trigger system. Just in front of that, there is a practical, 4-round detachable box magazine. This capacity is more than sufficient for most hunting scenarios.

Savage has updated the ergonomics on this model to make it comfortable for small-framed shooters. It offers a 12.75-inch length of pull. At 6.2 pounds it is also incredibly light, thanks partly to the synthetic stock. A big perk of this rifle is that it comes with a Bushnell Banner 3-9x40mm scope. This is a pretty standard all-around option. The rifle and scope should make a good pair as they are produced by subsidiaries of the same parent company.

Bottom Line

Savage is an excellent choice if you want an affordable, super accurate rifle. This is a great choice for smaller shooters, especially with the adjustable trigger and included scope. The finish may not scream luxury, but if you want a real tool that you can rely on and knock around a bit, you can't beat a Savage like this one.

PROS

  • Capable of firing both .357 Magnum and .38 Special cartridges
  • Traditional old west design approved for cowboy action shooting competitions
  • Attractive American walnut stock and fore-end look great with the brass receiver

CONS

  • Relatively heavy

This is another reproduction rifle for those hunters who want an old West look or have to deal with straight walled cartridge laws. In fact, this model is SASS approved for cowboy action shooting events.

The 20-inch octagonal barrel wears a classically styled, fully adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight with a reversible white diamond insert. The front sight is a simple brass bead. Under the barrel is a ten round tube magazine. The straight-grip stock and forearm are crafted from choice American walnut. This matches well with the brass barrel band and the iconic Henry brass receiver.

The weight is a bit high at 8.68 pounds. The action is crisp and smooth. As you might expect, this model can shoot both .357 magnum and .38 Special rounds.

Bottom Line

This is a gorgeous rendition of a classic American rifle. Whether you want to join a cowboy action shooting event or must abide by straight wall hunting laws, this is a beautiful choice. The lever action also gives you extremely quick follow up shots. The ten round mag makes it feasible for this rifle to work double shift in home defense. The top features are the classic aesthetics, smooth cycling and ability to shoot both .357 and .38 Special.

Conclusion

If you're like me, you have probably found three or four guns that really appeal to you and will spend some time clicking back and forth between their specs and pics, wondering how to decide. Whichever rifle you end up with, we wish you good luck and safe hunting.


Other Tips and Things to Remember

If there's one hunting subject that engenders different opinions, it's which deer rifle to choose. Let's bypass the "emotional imperatives", and try to settle on some generally-accepted facts:

There are many variables -- and therefore it's not ONLY the rifle that you have to consider when making a purchase, it's the weight of the bullet, type of action, scope... lots of things. While not everything can be covered in a short article, here are just some of the basics to consider in choosing the best deer rifle.

Who's Shooting?

The first thing to consider is WHO is going to using the rifle. Age and gender play a big role. For instance, no sane person is going to select a 45/70 buffalo gun with a 300 grain bullet for a kid or a woman (but sadly it does happen -- you know, the old, "Me Tarzan, You Jane" bit -- even though "Jane" may be poorly-equipped to handle anything even close to it and isn't going to be hunting for a T-Rex anytime soon).

If a young person or woman starts out by being handed a super-high-powered rifle, the first shot fired will be their last. The noise. The tremendous recoil. The missed target. These all will provide an immediate negative impact (literally and figuratively) on the first-time shooter. Don't give anyone a rifle that'll scare or frighten them. Make sure it's something that they can handle and "the caliber be damned." Many savvy hunters will start a kid or woman out with something as simple as a .22. The new shooter will be able to handle it, and recognize how its mechanism operates. And, after a bit of "break in," will then be able to emotionally and physically tolerate something bigger. Of course it's ESSENTIAL that any new shooter take a gun-safety course. That's a "gimme." Safety is "job one!" Never forget that.

OK -- we've now gotten past the initial "training" time, and are ready to move forward. General speaking, a .243 or .270 will work just fine in most instances for a kid or a woman, and it'll surely get the job done. These calibers have good range, and don't have the kick or recoil of something like a .30-06 or a 7mm mag.

Type of Terrain and Range of Shot

Select a deer rifle that's going to be right for the type of terrain you're generally going to be hunting. For instance, if it's going to be short range (25 to 50 yards), with heavy brush and cover, a good choice might be a 30/30 or .35 caliber. Stick to lever action, or auto-loader, and no scope.
These rifles work "fast" and "easy," and will get through heavy brush quickly and accurately. They're light, they're easy to operate, and pack enough wallop to bring down your deer.

The most popular caliber to use longer shots (100-200 yards) in generally open areas is the tried-and-true .30-06. Indeed, after over 100 years, many hunters and marksmen still consider the Springfield Model 1903, .30-06, bolt-action Army rifle to be among the most accurate rifles ever manufactured (all you lovers of the Mauser Model 98, or .308, or .300 mag notwithstanding). 

The '03 Springfield was updated in WWII, and used as a sniper rifle -- any of you who saw "Saving Private Ryan" will recognize that fact. If you can find one (they're classics and are not cheap), it's one heckuva deer rifle.

But most any other .30-06 bolt action rifle will work equally well. The '03 Springfield just happens to be a personal favorite. If you want something that'll work for even longer range (up to 600 plus yards), use the hot, flat-flying 7mm mag. (We know a deer hunter -- actually caribou in this instance ­ who nailed one with a 7mm mag at 650 yards -- with OPEN SIGHTS, standing position, in Quebec -- once-in-a-lifetime shot, but he says he does it all the time. Yeah. Right). Everyone has their favorite manufacturer --Remington, Browning, Winchester, Mossberg -- they're all good. Make sure, if you want super-accuracy, to use a bolt action only. Auto-loaders and lever actions work just fine, but they don't have the accuracy of the classic bolt action system.

As for scoping -- same general story: Nikon, Bushnell, Leupold all make excellent scopes and the cost can be very high -- depending on the light they draw in and their amplification. If you're going to do medium-to-long range shooting, you will need a scope. The new pinpoint laser scopes are terrific -- but can be expensive.

As for bullet weight, that'll vary. For short, heavy range cover, use 180-220 grains, which will blow through brush and thick cover. For mid-range out to 200 yards, 165-185 grains will be optimum (the '03 Springfield, .30-06, 172 grain bullet load is classic). For real long-range use a 150 grain bullet in conjunction with a .243, .270 or 7mm mag.

Hunting Area Restrictions

If you deer hunt in areas where RIFLES ARE PROHIBITED (and there are those areas in populated areas ­ so check carefully before you head out), you'll need to opt for a shotgun. A shotgun with a slug barrel. Nothing long range, but lots of deer hunters love to use these shotguns because the slug has tremendous stopping power.

Muzzle Loaders

Many deer hunters long for the days of Jeremiah Johnson, and prefer a muzzleloader, like a Hawkens or equal. One shot, big caliber, big stopping power, and with all the modern appurtenances in manufacturing, loading, and firing, it's quite accurate. Muzzleloaders can be used during regular deer hunting season, or the muzzleloader-only season, which usually occurs after the regular gun deer season.

Weight and Materials

The "newest of the new" rifles have composite materials in much of the construction. The rifle is lighter, less prone to erosion, rust or breakage.
Some like the "heft" of wood and steel. Others don't. It's strictly what YOU are most comfortable with, however, and there's no "right or wrong."

Final Thoughts

Before purchasing a deer rifle, do your "due diligence." Consult with those whom you know have been deer hunting for many seasons, and a local gun shop.
They sell them all, and they can give you specific tips and suggestions to help you in your decision. You'll get a very wide range of opinions ­ and, at times, some very heated arguments.

Do you need "bells and whistles", or a million other options? In the end,
choose the rifle that fits YOUR needs and YOUR abilities without regard for what someone else thinks is best.

The bottom-line is, getting that elusive Yooper's "30 Point Buck" ­ and, with the right rifle, you might! (By the way, someone actually got a legitimate 30 pointer this past season).

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