Best Bolt Action Hunting Rifles – 2021 Complete Round-up

| Last Updated June 14, 2021

Bolt action rifles were the first revolutionary step towards the development of modern handheld firearms.

These rifles have been around for more than 150 years now, but are still used widely for hunting, sports, and military use.

This article will discuss in detail the prowess and desirability of bolt action rifles for hunting and other uses. While also reviewing some of the best models available today on the civilian market. 

Comparison of the Best Bolt Action Hunting Rifles

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Best 308 Bolt Action Hunting Rifle
  • Ergonomic and superior grip with over-molded panels
  • Adjustable trigger system for better response
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  • Suitable for mounting different optics
  • Impressive precision with t3x technology
  • Polymer stocks for all conditions
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What Makes a Bolt Action Rifle Great for Hunting? 

The three major aspects that make bolt action rifles great for hunting are their accuracy, reliability, and ability to shoot a wide variety of ammo including magnum calibers. There are a few more factors that’ll be discussed in detail further through this article. 

Bolt action rifles are renowned for their accuracy. Plus, it's only these rifles that are chambered in heavy calibers used to take down the biggest game walking on this planet. The relatively simple design with less complex parts and the ability to extract the full potential of a round is the leading qualities that make it perfect for hunting. 

These rifles fire only one shot and the action mechanism has to be reiterated for the next shot. But if you look at the nature of hunting, it is more like a game of precision. Where one stable and accurate shot is all you need to make a clean and humane kill. 

Another good characteristic of these rifles is their lightweight design. Since you don’t have to carry a bulky mag and unwanted extra accessories or design frills. There’s almost a negligent possibility of any malfunction or jamming, and even if it happens, the resolution is quick and easy. 

Review of the Best Bolt Action Hunting Rifles

This list may or may not include your favorite rifle. But it has been rounded up after evaluation hundreds of user reviews and factors that make up a great bolt action hunting rifle. 

Best 308 Bolt Action Hunting Rifle:
Remington 700 SPS

PROS

  • Adjustable X-Mark Pro trigger system
  • All-weather synthetic overmolded stock 
  • Responsive recoil pad mitigates recoil well
  • .308 caliber handles a wide variety of game
  • Very durable, affordable, and reliable design

CONS

  • Barrel isn’t free-floating
  • Slightly choosy with ammo

What Recent Buyers Report

The user reports for the Remington 700 SPS are a bit mixed. Many like its accuracy right out of the box. But some reports the rifle to be very selective on the kind of ammo. However, there’s a consensus on the good performance of the rifle and also its affordability. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Remington 700 has been a proven and widely used hunting rifle for decades now. This very model is chambered in .308 caliber that is capable of handling everything from varmints and up to a big game. The rifle’s design is simple and straightforward with no frills whatsoever. 

Mount a good scope of your choice and choose the ammo it works best with. The stock is truly weather-resistant and the rubber pad on the rear does a great job of mitigating recoil. A slight tweak to the trigger or even replacement is viable if you don’t like the pull. 

Bottom Line

The Remington 700 SPS is a versatile, all-purpose hunting rifle that’s chambered in a powerful caliber. The rifle can be used in the harshest weather conditions and delivers great accuracy with the right ammo. 

Editor's Pick:
TIKKA T3X

PROS

  • Matte black finish and drilled receiver
  • Super smooth bolt with 2-lugs & 75° lift
  • Affordable and guaranteed accuracy rifle
  • Single-stage, crisp, and adjustable trigger
  • Interchangeable pistol grip and ergonomic stock

CONS

  • Polymer magazine is a bit chintzy

What Recent Buyers Report

Tikka T3x is a popular rifle among sport shooters. This lightweight version of the T3x is impressing users with its accuracy, smooth-as-silk action, and crisp trigger. One small glitch reported by some was the barrel heating up after 4-5 successive shots, affecting sub-MOA accuracy. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Tikka T3x is a lightweight and slim rifle that can be carried for long distances in the backcountry. The rifle is very accurate and has a clean and crisp trigger with just 3.5 lbs of pull. The barrel is free-floated, hence aiding the accuracy. The bolt is super smooth and what you’ll expect from a Sako style bolt. 

The rifle has a slight jump but the recoil pad handles the jerk very well. You may like to put on a muzzle brake for further mitigation. The T3x is known for reliable and match-grade performance on hunting fields. 

Bottom Line

A very affordable and accurate rifle designed for shooters who cover a lot of ground when hunting. The gun has a slight recoil to it, but you can always choose a recoil pad of your choice. Great for silent and quick follow-ups. 

3. Bergara B-14

PROS

  • Chambered in flat shooting 6.5 Creedmoor
  • All-weather synthetic stock with camouflage
  • 4 round mag capacity with hinged floor plate
  • One-piece durable action and lightweight design
  • Proprietary and renowned Bergara barrel & trigger

CONS

  • Stock isn’t adjustable

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers seemed impressed with the overall ergonomic and weight of the rifle. Along with the smooth action and also the hinged floorplate magazine. The rifle is relatively new to the market so gathering reviews is a bit early business. But those who used it certainly loved it. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

A stout successor of the HMR version, the B-14 wilderness is a smooth, slim, and lightweight rifle. The hand-painted woodland camo finish reduces reflection and helps with concealment while hunting. Chambered in the 6.5 Creedmoor caliber, this rifle is capable of taking long range shots and also hunting game as big as moose. 

The next good feature of this rifle is its appropriate price that doesn’t break the bank. Bergara barrels are known for their world-class quality and so is their customer service. 

Bottom Line

The Bergara B-14 is a tested long range precision match rifle and this wilderness hunter version stays true to the model’s proven accuracy. The rifle is a great option for hunting most animals you’ll ever want to hunt. Expect for a few. 

4. Weatherby Vanguard

PROS

  • Fluted one-piece bolt with sleeve
  • Guaranteed sub-MOA shooting rifle
  • Adjustable two-stage match-grade trigger
  • Chambered in 300 Weatherby Mag to handle big game
  • Long 26-inch barrel, short LOP and weighs only 6.75 lbs

CONS

  • Slightly long barrel to handle
  • Expensive ammunition (if that concerns you anyway)

What Recent Buyers Report

The Weatherby Vanguard is a super accurate rifle with an extremely crisp and smooth trigger. It has got a long barrel and can handle the biggest game you want to shoot. The stock design is unique and comfortable. The gun is everything as advertised. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Vanguard is a popular series of rifles from Weatherby. Renowned all across Europe, these rifles are built to tight tolerances and impeccable quality. While also not putting too much burden on your pocket. The 26-inch barrel may feel slightly clumsy to handle, but it certainly does the trick with long range shots. 

Despite its length, the rifle is only 6.75 lbs in weight. The overall design and recoil handling capabilities are superb. Plus, the adjustable match-grade trigger allows it to be used for competitions as well. 

Bottom Line

The Vanguard is by far the most affordable bolt action hunting rifle that can offer match-grade accuracy. The rifle is lightweight and doesn’t compromise on recoil mitigation. LOP is great for women and young shooters. Good for big game, but shoots costly ammo. 

5. Ruger Precision .6.5 Creedmoor

PROS

  • User adjustable 2.25 - 5 lbs trigger
  • Fully adjustable and modular stock
  • Medium contour barrel with hybrid muzzle brake
  • Three-lug bolt with 70° throw & oversized handle
  • AR-style design with MOA handguard and full top rail

CONS

  • Slightly heavy for long trips
  • A bit expensive for budget buyers

What Recent Buyers Report

All you’re gonna hear about the Ruger Precision rifle is praise and positive comments. No buyers dislike it, especially for range uses. However, weight is a consideration for hunting. The accuracy is unquestionable and the tacti-cool design is the best you can expect from a bolt action. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Now a lot of hunters would be asking why a close to the 11-pound rifle was included on the list of best hunting rifles. Well, that’s subjective for every user. The Ruger Precision is not just best for the money rifle for hunters. It can serve multiple roles from simple range plinking to tactical operations. 

A tinge of AR modularity has been added to this rifle to tickle the taste buds of AR lovers. The weight wouldn’t be a deterrent if you plan on using this rifle with thermals for night hunting. Too much rail and accessory space there! 

The Ruger precision is certainly not a mountain hunting rifle. But it works great as a stalker. 

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a versatile bolt action rifle that can be equipped to handle any situation. The Ruger Precision is your answer. Chambered in the flat shooting 6.5 Creedmoor. The rifle has very little recoil and can tackle most critters.  

How Does a Bolt Action Rifle Work?

The basic principle of operation involves a bolt that has to be handled manually for cycling the action. The bolt is connected to a handle (straight or curved). When the handle is pulled backward, the bolt cocks the trigger hammer. Upon pushing it forward, the bolt head carries a round from the magazine (depending upon design) and seats it into the chamber. 

After pulling the trigger, the handle is again pulled backward. The bolt head extracts the spent cartridge and ejects it. The entire operation is fully manual. 

Bolt action rifles differ in their design depending upon the mechanism of cocking, magazines, feeding, bolt throw, and the action length. The most common action lengths are short and long. 

Photo credit: montana-wild.com

How Accurate is a Bolt Action Hunting Rifle? 

The accuracy of a bolt action rifle can be comprehended from the fact that some manufacturers guarantee sub-MOA accuracy (less than one-inch groups) at 100 yards. Plus, bolt action rifles are widely used in long range precision shooting competitions and also by elite sniper units in armies across the world. For example, the longest sniper shot world record is held by the Canadian Army McMillan TAC-50, killing an insurgent at 3,540 meters (3,871 yards).

The kind of ammunition, the type of rifle, and the shooter pulling the trigger play a big part in this. Some calibers like the 6.5mm, 7mm Remington, and 300 Win Mag are flat shooting and used for long range. 

Comparison Overview 

This bolt action review will be incomplete unless we make a few imperative comparisons. Giving you a better idea of why bolt action rifles are good. 

Bolt Action Rifle vs Semi-Auto

Bolt action rifles are considered to be more accurate over semi-auto’s. And they have proven this time and over with their performance. However, semi-auto rifles are useful for their quick follow up shots and larger capacity. 

It would be unfair to call one better than the other. Since the worthiness of each action type depends upon the situation they’re being used in. One advantage bolt actions have is the wide range of caliber options they offer, including magnum chambers. Additionally, bolt actions utilize the entire gas created in the chamber to propel the bullet. Unlike semi-auto’s that use a part of it to cycle. Hence bolt actions utilize the maximum potential and range of a bullet. 

Short Action vs Long Action Bolt Rifle

As the name suggests, these rifles differ in the size of their actions. Or in simpler terms, the length of the cartridges they fire. Short action rifles have an overall cartridge length of 2.3 to 2.8 inches. Whereas long action (aka standard actions) have an overall cartridge length between 2.8 to 3.3 inches. 

Short actions use a shorter bolt and are a tad quicker to cycle. Whereas long actions use bigger bullets with more powder and stopping power. However, at typical hunting ranges, the difference isn’t much to notice. But if you’re into long and extra long range precision shooting or big game hunting. The difference can be noticeable. 

Photo credit: GunMagWarehouse.com

How to Clean a Bolt Action Rifle 

Cleaning the bolt action rifle is a fairly simple job unless you plan to conduct a complete detailed disassembly down to each retaining pin. But to keep things simple, let’s break it down into steps. 

What you’ll need: A good gun cleaning kit relevant to your rifle’s caliber, cleaning solvent, rags, swabs/patches, and a small brush. 

  1. The priority is safety. Ensure the rifle is void of any ammunition. Double check it

  2. Now take the bolt out of your rifle. Many rifles have a bolt release button located near the trigger. But refer to your instruction manual for the exact spot. 

  3. While further disassembly of the bolt/rifle isn’t necessary. If you please, you can refer to the video below

  4. Take a cleaning rod and equip it with a cleaning solvent soaked paper patch. Run it by inserting it from
    the muzzle end and pulling it back from the same place. Repeat it twice if the patch ends up too dirty

  5. Now equip the rod with a suitable bore brush and run it through the barrel. Repeat it a couple of times. 

  6. Use a brush (you can use a toothbrush) to clean the action and the bolt of any grime or residue. 

  7. Clean all the exterior surfaces of the rifle with appropriate cleaning solvents and wipe the gun dry

  8. Inspect the barrel manually by looking through it. If it looks clean, you’re good to go

  9. Put everything back in place and your rifle is clean as new.

If you need a more visual guide, check out the video below:

Conclusion 

Bolt action rifles have been around for more than a century now and still going strong in terms of performance and desirability. These rifles are very accurate due to their simple design and have a wide choice of chamberings to choose from. A good bolt action rifle, if maintained well, will last for generations. 

People Also Ask

Resolve your doubts and queries about bolt action rifles and why are they considered great in terms of accuracy. Especially over long range. 

What is a Bolt Action Rifle?

A bolt action rifle uses a manually operated action where the user has to cycle the bolt to conduction the operations of ejection and feeding cartridges. Reiterating the bolt manually after each shot is fired. 

Are Bolt Action Rifles Obsolete?

Absolutely not. Bolt action rifles are the indestructible fortress of rifle technology. The world record for the longest kill is still held by a bolt action and many militaries across the world still use it for their elite sniper units. These rifles aren’t going anywhere soon. 

What is the Advantage of Bolt Action?

Simplicity, better accuracy over long range, more ammo options, availability in magnum calibers, and very easy to clean and maintain. Additionally, the lack of a gas system ensures that no energy is wasted in cycling and a round utilizes its maximum potential. 

Photo credit: gunsmagazine.com

Are Bolt Action Rifles More Reliable?

Yes. The clear reason for being their less complex design. Bolt action rifles have fewer moving parts and no gas system to handle. Their disassembly is very easy and quick. Plus since the bolt has to be cycled manually, you don’t have to worry about jamming issues if you seat the bolt properly. 

How Many Bullets Does a Bolt Action Rifle Hold?

This depends upon the size of the magazine of a respective bolt action rifle. On average, most such rifles hold four rounds in the magazine. Plus you can always carry one in the chamber. 

When Was the Bolt Action Rifle Invented?

The first bolt-action rifle was invented in 1824 by Johann Nikolaus von Dreyse. He refined his design which came to be known as the Dreyse Needle Gun in 1835 and was adopted by the Prussian Army in 1835.  

How to Reduce Recoil on a Bolt Action Rifle

The recoil produced by your bolt action will depend upon the cartridge caliber and weight of the bullet. Since these rifles don’t utilize gas like semi-auto’s. The best recoil reduction methods are using a muzzle brake, adding a good recoil pad, increasing rifle weight, and shooting in a better stance. 



My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.