There is no rifle that is perfect for every hunter, and you will not see all the top hunters using the same rifle.
This is because all humans are different, with different sized hands, arm length, and strength. There are also many different terrains and conditions people will be shooting in.
One rifle might be amazing shooting at short distances in the woods in fine weather, but it may handle poorly in wet conditions when shooting long distance on a prairie.
We are lucky that you can buy good rifles to match any budget nowadays, and it lowers the barrier of entry for hunting.
This is especially true with short range hunting, where even straight out of the box factory budget rifles do perform very well.
If you are doing medium or long-range hunting then precision rifles do come into their own, and you will have to spend a little more on those.
At the end of the day, and taking it down to the base level, all you need to consider is does it shoot straight, is it reliable, and will it be able to handle harsh weather.
I have been hunting for decades and I have tried and tested a lot of rifles over the years. So, here are my favourites and ones I have had successful hunts with:
This is not an elegant looking gun, which you could display in your home and people would marvel at its beauty.
It is all steel and plastic, it is a gun for people who hunt and hunt a lot, you can pick it up, go on a hunt, bag a prize, come home, through it in your shed, and it will be perfectly ready for use the next time you need it.
If you do a lot of your hunting in the woods, then this is an excellent stalking rifle for beginners to the more advanced. I have hunted deer, varmint, and wild boars with this rifle.
It is a relatively short rifle, that is compact, well balanced, and easy to use. There is room for customisation too, for example you can adjust the pull weight of the trigger.
The only stand out drawback, that is worth mentioning; is that it does tend to heat up pretty quickly, so it isn’t the best rifle for rapid shooting.
I don’t find this an issue because I only take shots, I am confident I will be successful with but if you are practising at the range just be careful with how many shots you are taking.
The Steyr Mannilicher Pro Hunter Rifle is very robust, it is very reliable in all weather conditions, it shoots damn straight, and it does all that with a very reasonable price tag.
So, in my opinion it provides excellent value for money, and you get a lot of bang for your buck.
If you are doing most of your hunting over 300 yards, then the Seekins Precision Havak Pro Hunter would be an excellent option for you in my opinion.
It looks and feels like a long-range competition rifle, and I have actually won competitions with it.
However, it is one of those rare breeds that is also practical and effective for long-range hunting and I have taken down many animals upwards of 1000 yards with this rifle.
Most competition rifles are too heavy to take out on a long multi-day hunts, but this rifle comes in at just over 7 pounds which is more than acceptable for a long-range hunting rifle.
The barrel spiralling nearly put me off from buying it, but I decided to give it a try and I was so glad I did.
Some guns just give you confidence when you pick them up, you can’t describe it, they just feel right.
This is one of those guns, the Benelli Lupo just looks mean and dangerous to me. It looks like a bare-knuckle boxer, forged on the streets but it is actually a very futuristic rifle that is highly customisable.
This is not for a beginner popping their cherry on a first hunt, this is for hunters that know what they like and know how to get it.
This rifle is excellent for moulding it just right to your own personal dimensions, you can adjust the spacers, shims, stock, cheek weld, finger reach, pull weight of the trigger, and much more.
I went for the 24-inch barrel as I like to use .300 Winchester Magnums.
With a price tag around the $1700 mark, it is not something I would recommend for newbies, but I would recommend it for people, who like to tinker with their rifles to get them just right.
Everyone has heard of Remington, right?
For good reason, they have been making high quality guns for forever seemingly.
My father owned the Remington 760 and I own the updated 7600. He will swear the 760 is better and he still takes down a lot of deer with it, but he is wrong ha-ha. Mine is better!
The Remington 7600 excels when hunting deer in big woods, where you are stalking, and then taking shots at those moving bucks through the trees.
In big woods hunting your rifle needs to be compact, light, but hit like a sledgehammer.
This rifle covers all those bases, even a big buck hit by one of the heavy cartridges this rifle offers will just lay down for you. They know they are done.
Aesthetically it appeals to me to, it looks traditional but contemporary at the same time.
I do most of my hunting with the .300 Win Mag, but I do recognise that other calibres are useful depending on what you are hunting, and if you do like to regularly use different calibres then this is the gun for you.
You can use a range of calibres between the .222 and .300 which is pretty cool, what is even cooler is you can quickly change these calibres yourself without any tools needed.
I don’t like to review a rifle on its ability to do quick multiple shots as they shouldn’t be needed regularly.
However, multiple shots are sometimes needed, and this rifle excels at quick multiple shoots.
The recoil is super light, so you can follow that bullet straight into the animal, which means you still have the animal lined up if you need that second shot.
Not everyone wants, needs, or can afford a customised hunting rifle. They are expensive and might not be needed for most hunters, although they are the gold standard in my opinion.
For most people who like hunting a factory-built rifle that allows a bit of adjustment will be more than sufficient, and that is what the Browning X-Bolt Max Long Range Hunter offers.
With its adjustable stock, comb, and trigger you can make some small tweaks that have big results.
At over 8 pounds it isn’t heavy but its certainly not light, but I don’t mind that.
When you pick it up it feels like it is made of stern stuff, there is nothing worse than picking up a nice-looking rifle, but it feels like it is made from cheap plastic.
So, I don’t mind a few extra ounces to get a gun that feels like a gun, and not a toy.
When you have been hunting for as long as I have you think you have seen it all.
Then I found the Sig Sauer Cross, my first impression is that it looked like a cross between a paintball gun and a laser gun from the future where John Conner is dealing with some pesky murderous robots.
However, once I investigated the specs and design, I knew it could fill a gap in my arsenal. It is excellent if you want to do some long-distance backcountry hunting.
It is a hyper light rifle that folds down to a mere 25 inches. That’s small enough to consider it for a bug out bag or a survival bag.
This will certainly start conversations around the campfire, and you will probably get a bit of ribbing for it, but it will hang with pretty much any rifle anyone else has brought with them.
This rifle was passed down to me by my father and you would think it was made in 1895, it has that classic look.
A look that if you asked anyone to draw a rifle it would probably look like the Marlin 1895, and it makes you feel like an old-fashioned gun slinger.
This is no movie prop though, and if you want a gun that is easy to load, easy to point, and easy to shoot then get your hands on one of these.
It packs a surprising wallop, and you can easily reel off multiple shots.
So much so, if I had a bear charging at me and I could only choose one of my rifles then I would probably choose this one. I would rather not test this theory out though obviously!
Overall, it is a nice gun for a beginner or for someone who likes a bit of old-school style.
This is a great rifle if you have a bit more money spare than for the budget models but cannot justify the premium rifles and their eye watering price tags.
The Henry Lever Action X Model .45-70 is a mid-priced allrounder that will not let you down. It looks modern, menacing, and brutal but handles softly, has light recoil, and is beautifully balanced.
Yet, it never truly excels at anything and is a little forgettable in my opinion.
Whilst all hunting is serious and should be taking seriously, some hunts are more serious than others. Some of my hunts are all about the kill, as I want that meat in my freezer.
Some hunts are more of a holiday for me, where I like to get out into nature, do a bit of wild camping, get a bit of exercise in, and of course practise my hunting skills.
Therefore, the Savage 110 Ultralight is a great option for me when I want to get away for an adventure in the mountains, where hunting is part of the trip but is not the sole goal.
Hopefully, this article has given you some nice options, so you can make an informed choice on what rifle you would like to buy.
However, at the end of the day it is going to come down to your personal choice.
There are a lot of good rifles out there for any budget, so you will need to think about what the likely conditions is you will be hunting in most of the time, and what animals will you mostly be hunting.
Then let that guide your decision.
You might be best buying a premium allrounder gun that will do well for all hunting types, or you might be better off buying 2 budget guns which excel at the 2 different styles of hunting you envision doing.
Finally, you should always try before you buy. A rifle could win everything ranking you see, it might be used by a lot of top hunters, it might look better than your wife, but it might not suit your dimensions.
So, always test it out first.