Best Bolt-Action Rifles For Big Game Hunting

Posted by Mandu Moses on Mar 15th 2024

When it comes to hunting, bolt-action rifles have earned a reputable mark due to their remarkable precision and reliability in outdoor environments. They are also versatile in carrying larger calibers, which is not common for most guns.

Credit: mtorben

A bolt-action rifle is best known for its manual operation. The user directly manipulates the bolt through the bolt handle to cycle the cartridges. That means the user can rotate the bolt, pull it to the rear, and push it back into place. 

Not all bolt-action rifles are ideal for big game hunting. With a vast variety of rifles on the market, you might experience difficulty choosing one that best suits you. That is why we have sampled a few bolt-action rifles for big game hunting for you to start with. 



Remington Model 700

Remington 700 Alpha

Savage 110 Hunter

Savage 110 Hunter

Bergara B-14 HMR

Bergara B14 HMR

Mauser M-18

Mauser M18

Tikka T3x Lite

Winchester M70 Featherweight

Winchester Model 700 Featherweight

Our selection is based on quality, accuracy, reliability, and value for money, ensuring that you can make an informed decision when choosing your ideal hunting rifle.

How To Pick The Right Bolt-Action Rifle For Big Game Hunting

It can be a challenge getting one bolt-action rifle that can fit all your hunting desires. The market is now flooded with bolt-action guns coming from different manufacturers. To simplify your search, we have outlined what you need to look at when buying your first bolt-action hunting rifle. 

Calibers For Each Type Of Game Hunting

There are two major categories of game hunting: small game and big game hunting. 

Small game refers to animals weighing under 40 pounds. They include rabbits, coyotes, squirrels, and prairie dogs. Due to their small size, you only need to use smaller and lighter ammunition to avoid wasting a lot of meat. 

On the other hand, big game refers to animals weighing over 40 pounds. These include deer, wild boar, bears, elk, and pronghorn. 

Such animals require larger caliber rounds like .308 or 6.5 Creedmoor with enough velocity past 600 yards. 

Getting the right caliber for big game hunting is more of a personal choice. However, if you are getting into the game, we recommend 308 and 6.5 Creedmoor. 

You can consider these key factors: 

  • Maximum Point-Blank Range (MBPR) 

This is the range at which you can aim at a target without having to adjust for bullet drop. The feature is essential for big game hunting where precise shots are crucial. Bolt-action rifles with a longer MBPR offer better accuracy and are ideal for long-range shooting.

  • Recoil 

Recoil can affect your accuracy and shooting comfort. Bolt-action rifles with a higher recoil are less comfortable to shoot. Always choose a rifle with a manageable recoil for hunting.

  • Max Distance For 1000 And 1500 Ft-Lb Of Energy 

This refers to the maximum distance at which a bullet can still deliver a specific amount of energy to the target. Go for a bolt-action rifle that can deliver energy up to 1500 ft-lb at your preferred range.

  • Terminal Ballistics 

This refers to the bullet's behavior after impact on the target. It is crucial in big game hunting as you want a bullet that can take down the game effectively without causing excessive damage to the meat.

Barrel Length

Credit: Pinterest

A barrel length can determine how long the powder within the cartridge takes to burn off. Longer barrels are ideal for big game hunting as they allow more time for the powder to burn off. This accelerates the speed at which the bullet travels to hit the target. 

This does not mean all longer barrels are good for hunting. The longest barrels sometimes add more weight to the rifles by making the muzzle-end heavier. This makes it difficult to carry your rifle when moving around. 

Although most bolt-action rifles can have barrel lengths of between 18 and 26 inches, these lengths are not common for hunting calibers. Therefore, always choose your riffle depending on the distance you intend to shoot. 

For instance, shooting at distances from 20 to 300 yards does not require a longer barrel to maximize your bullet's velocity. 

Rifle’s Reliability Features

Bolt-action rifles are some of the most reliable hunting guns available. However, that does not mean any bolt-action rifle can work effectively in any outdoor condition. When getting your bolt-action big game hunting rifle, you also need to consider other components such as; 

Most rifles come with a manufacturer’s trigger. You can also get those with pre-installed aftermarket triggers. These can make shooting more comfortable and adaptable to different conditions. However, they need professional installation since they can make the rifle significantly unreliable. 

Most bolt-action rifles for hunting have two types of stocks: wooden and synthetic polymer stocks. 

Wooden stocks can withstand any tough condition with the right production. But they can also break easily if moisture gets into them or if they drop. 

Synthetic polymer stocks are also versatile and work better in both standard and extreme conditions. They are lighter than wooden stocks, making it easier to carry the rifle when moving around. 

Cheaper polymer stocks tend to crack when put under stress or in cold conditions. Moreover, lighter stocks can increase the felt recoil drastically. 

Generally, you can stick to the manufacturer’s stocks if they give you the best grip and gun control. Or, you can install aftermarket stocks to increase the rifle’s reliability. Always test your rifle in the range before taking it for hunting. 

Scope Mounting

Most traditional bolt-action rifles do not have iron sights or optics installed on them. Instead, they have dedicated points to mount scope rings or top-mounted scope bases. Others also have integrated upper Picatinny rails for modern optics mounting. 

mount scope on a bolt-action rifle

If you intend to mount scopes on your bolt-action rifle, always pick specific scopes that match the rifle’s mounting requirements. For instance, you cannot use a Remington Model 700 style scope ring on another rifle like SAKO.

When selecting a big game hunting rifle, it's crucial to choose a rifle that chambers the caliber you prefer. Invest in a high-quality rifle that will last for many years, even if it may cost more upfront. By taking into account these features, you can choose the most appropriate and reliable rifle for your big game hunting needs.

Best Bolt-Action Rifles For Big Game Hunting

Now that you know what to look for in a hunting rifle, let us look at some of the best bolt-action rifles on the market. 

The market receives different bolt-action rifles each year. Some have features of traditional firing mechanisms, while others have bits of modern functionalities that increase their adaptability. All you have to do is to vet each rifle to ensure it fits your hunting preferences.

Remington Model 700

Remington 700 has been around since its introduction in the late 1940s. Today, many manufacturers still make their modern rifles based on the Remington Model 700. That is because the model is known for its simple action that contributes to its undebatable power, speed, and precision. 

A hunter aiming his Bolt-action Remington 700 rifle

Credit: Remington Arms

Remington 700 can accommodate different calibers, barrel lengths, trigger groups, and stock setups. This makes it a versatile rifle for all hunting purposes. It also comes with varying magazine sizes to fit different state laws. This is essential in states that have limits on how much ammunition a rifle can hold. 

Generally, the Remington 700 is one of the simplest but still high-quality bolt-action rifle for hunting. You can use a near-endless supply of aftermarket accessories on the gun.

Key Features
  • 3-5 magazine capacity. 
  • An enlarged ejection port.
  • A spiral-fluted one-piece bolt body.
  • Toothless firing pin disassembly.
  • A Picatinny rail mount.
  • An 11-degree target crown.
  • Factory-installed Timney trigger.
  • Calibers: .270, .270 WSM, 7mm-08, 7mm Rem. Mag., .30-06 and .300 WSM etc.

Mauser M18

A hunter carrying M18 Mauser rifle on a hunting trail

Credit: Mauser on X

Mauser has been providing quality rifles for more than a century now. The Mauser M-18 is one of its best-selling rifles that has transformed the bolt-action scene with its better-quality control standards. The rifle comes with a polymer stock, soft grip inlays, and a cold-hammered 22-inch barrel, making it suitable for everyday hunting. 

What most big game hunters love about Mauser M-18 is its solid steel construction that can withstand any harsh condition. The double-row 5-round magazine also means the rifle is always ready for the task. Moreover, the dry-standing and adjustable direct trigger system makes the rifle reliable for both hunting and shooting competition. 

Key Features 
  • M15X1 muzzle thread.
  • An adjustable double-action trigger.
  • A three-position safety system.
  • A removable double-row five-shot magazine.
  • A state-of-the-art multi-purpose cap offers storage space inside the stock.
  • Compatible with varied caliber options such as .308 Win, .30-06, .243 Win, .270 Win, 7mm Rem Mag, and .300 Win Mag. 

Savage 110 Hunter 

A hunter carrying their Savage 110 Hunter as they scale the hunting trail

Credit: Savage Arms on X

Savage Arms has been in the gun-making industry since 1894. One of its popular bolt-action rifles that attracts almost every big game hunter today is the Savage 110 Hunter. 

The Savage 110 Hunter might be an entry-level hunting rifle due to its simple operations and affordability. However, it is one of the oldest, reliable, and continuously manufactured bolt-action rifles in North America. Maybe, this explains the claim "Built for any hunt - and any hunter" the company puts on it. 

Since its first production in 1958, the Savage 110 Hunter has seen various alterations in its design over the years. These changes have made modern versions more powerful, lightweight, and relatively cheaper. Therefore, the Savage 110 Hunter offers impressive value for a rifle with so many features with a price tag of below $1000. 

Key Features
  • 22-inch carbon steel barrel.
  • 4-round detachable box magazine. 
  • Patented AccuTrigger system that began with 1966 designs.
  • AccuFit modular stock system that allows for easy and personalized stock adjustments. 
  • The AccuStock rail system secures the 3-dimensional action along the entire length. 
  • Compatible with varied calibers with 17 chambering options. 
  • Caliber: .204 Ruger, .223 Rem., .22-250 Rem., .243 Win., .25-06, .260, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 6.5/284 Norma, .270 Win., .270 WSM, 7mm-08 Rem., 7mm Rem. Mag., .30-06, .308 Win., .300 WSM, .300 Win. Mag., .338 Win. Mag., .450 Bushmaster.

Bergara B14 Hunter Rifle

A hunter in a winter season hunt with their Bergara B-14 HMR

Photo Credit: Bergara

The Bergara B-14 HMR (Hunting and Match Rifle) has almost the same action pattern as the Remmington 700. The only difference is its higher quality control which makes it an outstanding rifle on the list. 

Bergara molds the B-14 HMR with the mini-chassis system to give it repeatable bedding and accuracy. The gun can also support a fully free-floating barrel to give it optimal precision. This makes it an ideal rifle for hunting and shooting competitions. 

The Bergara B-14 HMR, with a price tag starting from $1,149, is a premier choice if you want a rifle that ticks all your hunting boxes. 

Key Features
  • A 5-round AICS detachable magazine. 
  • 22-24-inch stainless steel barrel with Graphite Black Cerakote finish. 
  • Two-lug system.
  • Compatible with varied caliber options such as .308 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, 22-250, 300 Win Mag, and 7 PRC. 

The range of features and quality offered by Bergara for only $700 is a steal. 

Tikka T3x Lite

Tikka T3x Lite

Credit: Outdoor Channel on X

Tikka, a subsidiary of the legendary rifle manufacturer SAKO, is renowned for its lightweight, affordable, and accurate bolt-action rifles. Among its competitive hunting rifles is the Tikka T3x Lite. The rifle can fit any shooting scenario, whether you are going for small or big game hunting. 

The Tikka T3x Lite is an upgrade of the T3 with advanced components that give it enhanced strength and durability. Also, just like most rifles in this list, you can chamber many calibers in this rifle, ranging from rimfire to larger calibers. You can get this Tikka T3x Lite at only $749 if you are looking for a lighter hunting rifle. 

Key Features
  • 4-round magazine with two locking lug systems.
  • An excellent single-stage trigger that you can easily adjust its weight (2 lbs.- 4 lbs.)
  • 22-24-inch non-threaded barrel. 
  • Varied caliber options such as .223, .270, and .308. 

Winchester M70 Featherweight

Credit: Sportsman's Warehouse

Winchester Model 70 (M70) Featherweight is another great bolt-action rifle for big game hunting. The Winchester M70s were originally designed for military use and stayed in service from World War II to the Vietnam War before retiring. Even after retiring, the company still produced them for civil use, making them popular hunting rifles. 

Today, it is common to find the Winchester M70 Featherweight with customizable components such as wooden and synthetic polymer stocks. The rifle also has a substantial amount of aftermarket parts. This makes it an ideal choice if you want an easily customizable, durable, and versatile hunting weapon. 

The 24-inch barrel strikes the balance between accuracy and maneuverability. Although it offers only one caliber option, it is worth spending $1,129.99 to acquire it. 

Key Features
  • 24-inch barrel 
  • 6.8 Western caliber.
  • 3-round non-detachable magazine. 

Choosing the Right Bolt-Action Rifle for Big Game Hunting

Picking the perfect bolt-action rifle for big game hunting involves careful consideration of several crucial factors. Our top picks meet the criteria for optimal performance, accuracy, comfortable shooting, and superior terminal ballistics. In ensuring that you invest in a high-quality and long-lasting rifle, you will set yourself up for an unforgettable hunting trip experience that will stay with you for years to come.

The Bottom Line

Bolt-action rifles are some of the most accurate firearms today on the market. Their simple construction also makes them the best rifles for outdoor activities such as hunting. However, just like any firearm, choosing a bolt-action rifle for big game hunting calls for a keen consideration. 

Before buying a bolt-action rifle to fulfill your hunting desires, always ensure you can carry and shoot it comfortably. Alternatively, you can acquire the traditional piece and upgrade it using modern aftermarket parts. Only ensure any part you buy does not compromise the gun's functionality. 

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