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Old January 6, 2012, 05:25 PM   #1
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Good first hunting rifle?

I am looking for my first hunting rifle (cartridge discussion is up in the 'The Hunt' currently)

There are two different price ranges I'm looking at currently, and I am looking at two different price ranges for a reason. If I have a hard time choosing between two cartridges I have determined that I would be willing to purchase two 'intro' rifle of reasonable quality and scope them and shoot them both until I have a favorite. Failing that, I'll buy a slightly higher quality rifle that can take the woods abuse and love the everlivingcrap out of it .

That being said, these are the specific rifles I am looking at and the price from buds factoring shipping and FFL fees:

  • Marlin XL7/XS7 $300-400
  • Savage Axis $300-350
  • Savage Stevens 200 $350-400
  • Weatherby Vanguard $400-450
  • Marlin 336 $400-460

  • Tikka T3 $550-600
  • Tompson Venture $500
  • Howa 1500 $500-600
  • Ruger 77 $600-700
  • Remington 700 $550-700
  • CZ 550 $700-800
  • Browning A-Bolt $500-550
  • Browning XBLT $700
  • Savage 10/11/12/16/17/110/111 (omg what is the difference?) $450-600

Wow, that list got longer then I expected...

I'd greatly appreciate any direct comparison input from people that have shot any of these before (perceived accuracy/fit/finish, cartridge shot).

I'm not really looking at used rifles at the moment as I don't have many sources of used rifles in my immediate area and I don't really want to buy something used I haven't held in my hands before.

I'd also appreciate thoughts on Synthetic vs wood and blue vs stainless. I'm rather partial to the wood on stainless look..


Several have made comments about needing to know the specifics. I understand this, although I was really just looking for general comments about these rifles, I will happily supply the information. This is cut/paste from my post about cartridge and can be found at the link above:

Relevant points:
  • I'm in the South East (Alabama) and do not intend on hunting outside the area, but should I get offered a job outside the region when I graduate in May I may end up in a region were the deer are different enough to matter. Most of the hunting areas in my area are heavily wooded, but there are plenty of open meadows and power line cutouts where a longer shot would be necessary.
  • I am a new shooter. I've been shooting .22's for a few years now (CZ bolt action) and recently acquired a Mosin-Nagant 91/30 (7.62x54R for any not familiar with it). I don't own any rifles outside of these currently.
  • I am recoil sensitive. I am only good for about 5-10 shots out of the 91/30 before I am done. I don't really like this as when I go to the range on a Saturday I am there for 8hrs. One afternoon a gentleman showed up with his own CZ as well as a custom Remmy 700 in .308. We traded rifles around, after 4-5 shots in that .308 I had had enough. To be fair to the .308, it was on its way to being a long range target rifle and didn't even have a rubber butt pad. The biggest issue I had with it was almost taking the scope to the eye on every shot, I think my shoulder would have adjusted eventually.
  • I do not have a range longer then 100yards to practice at. I've been searching but I haven't found anywhere where I can safely/legally take a shot beyond 100yards yet.
  • I do not reload. I do not have the time or the room currently, although I would like to get into it in the future. I mail order most of my ammo on sales, but I do not particular like the idea of shooting an exotic cartridge that I HAVE to mail order. If I can't find a good hunting and a good range round locally, I don't really have an interest in it.
  • Price is an issue. I'm a big proponent of proper shot placement and I will burn at least 50rds every time I go to the range to ensure that I am one with my rifle.
  • I have not picked out a rifle yet. This is heavily determinant based on the cartridge chosen, all though it will be a bolt action (unless I choose 30-30) and most likely it will be an 'entry' level rifle that I won't feel bad about abusing. Unless I decide to cave and buy a CZ 550 if I choose .243 or .270 that is...

Cartridges I am considering:
  • .243
  • .270
  • 25-06
  • 7mm-08
  • 30-30

All that said, any thoughts on these (or any other cartridge you would like to recommend) would be appreciated.

Last edited by sneasle; January 8, 2012 at 12:47 PM.
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Old January 6, 2012, 06:43 PM   #2
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I think the Vanguard is probably the "best buy" (I got mine nib for $299.99 @ my lgs). I prefer Ruger bolt-actions. I currently have four of them and, though plenty accurate, a couple of them could benefit from some trigger work.

With regard toward blue vs s/s and wood vs synthetic, in terms of aesthetics, I much prefer walnut (not laminate) and blued steel. This has to be a personal choice in terms of function vs form. I may like the looks(form) of walnut and blued steel better but there's no question that s/s and/or synthetic and laminated stocks offer a more stable platform and less care needed for preventive maintenance (function).
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Old January 6, 2012, 06:46 PM   #3
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Get the Tikka T3. I have a Sako and it is so sweet. The trigger is wonderful and the bolt is smooth as silk. Shoots < 1MOA.
Killed a nice axis and a whitetail with it last month.
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Old January 6, 2012, 06:50 PM   #4
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Tikka T3 $550-600
Tompson Venture $500
Howa 1500 $500-600
Ruger 77 $600-700
Remington 700 $550-700
CZ 550 $700-800
Browning A-Bolt $500-550
Browning XBLT $700
Wow, that's just about the order of preference I would put them in!
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Old January 6, 2012, 08:09 PM   #5
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With regard toward blue vs s/s and wood vs synthetic, in terms of aesthetics, I much prefer walnut (not laminate) and blued steel. This has to be a personal choice in terms of function vs form. I may like the looks(form) of walnut and blued steel better but there's no question that s/s and/or synthetic and laminated stocks offer a more stable platform and less care needed for preventive maintenance (function).
I generally agree. I have a Ruger 77 .243, blued, nice walnut stock, glass bedded and free floated with a mediocre factory trigger; a Remington 700 BDL .270 left hand with a Brown Precision synthetic stock, glass bedded and free floated with a nice, carefully adjusted factory trigger; a Browning A-Bolt Stainless Stalker .300 Win Mag left hand with the Browning synthetic stock, glass bedded and free floated and factory trigger improved by a gunsmith. All three of these rifles shoot better than MOA with hand loads.

I recommend these three brands/models based on quality, reliability, accuracy and appearance. Of course, other brands at similar prices may be just as good.
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Last edited by lefteye; January 6, 2012 at 08:15 PM.
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Old January 6, 2012, 08:27 PM   #6
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I have personal experience with the Reminton 700 and the Ruger M77 MK2.
They are both good rifles, but I liked the features on the Ruger better, its a very good Rifle, that will continue to perform under adverse conditions.
It has controlled round feed, with a masave extractor, and a Standing ejector, if you work the bolt hard it will launch your fired cases several feet away from you, but if worked gently will drop them in your hand.
It has a positive safety that completely locks the striker, one of the best safeties ever made, the integral scope mounts are rock solid, and their new barrels that Ruger makes, are of superb quality. The Ruger I own is my most accurate Rifle.
I recomend the Ruger M77 Mk 2.

The Reminton 700 was also a good rifle, although push feed, but functioned well and was very acurate, also has a very smooth operating bolt, or at least used too. Hope this was of help.

OOPS, I forgot to mention that I hunted for several years with a Savage 110 30 06 I took lots of game with it, and it was every bit as accurate as the Reminton 700 I had, the Stephens 200 that you listed is the same rifle, in a synthetic stock. This rifle would also suit you well, and not let you down.
My preferance out of the three I tested is still the Ruger though, that gun is awesome ! ! ! ! !
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Old January 6, 2012, 09:02 PM   #7
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If you are looking at Buds Website the best gun for the money is this

At $705 this is a lot of gun. If that is too expensive here is the same gun in a cheaper stock for $579.

If you like stainless on walnut this is the only option I know of.

The Ruger is my 2nd choice. They are good, but the Winchester is better, for just a little more.

Wood/blue vs synthetic/stainless. Are you going to look at it or use it? I use my guns hard in harsh conditions and have had too many problems with wood. I use QUALITY synthetics on all my serious hunting rifles. Stainless is a little easier to keep than blue, but a blued gun will not fail on you in the field leaving you with a useless stick to hunt with like a wood stock can. I prefer stainless/synthetic, but blue/synthetic is not a bad option.

This would be about as ideal as it gets for me in the perfect all around hunting rifle.

But if on a more limited budget I could be very happy with the synthetic/blue model for $579 and add a quality sythetic from McMillan or one of the better stock makers later as I got the money.
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Old January 6, 2012, 10:25 PM   #8
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Tika would be my choice

Tika would be my choice.
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Old January 6, 2012, 10:46 PM   #9
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Weatherby Vanguard S2 for $450 Weatherby Vanguard $399 Howa 1500 $375

I have a Vanguard I bought for $399 7mm Rem Mag. I have shot 1" groups, mostly does 1-1.5" with me flinching like a little girl.
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Old January 6, 2012, 11:04 PM   #10
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You did not mention what you will be hunting, what conditions will you hunt under and limitations which may be placed on you by the applicable fish and game regulations. You also need to assess your limitations based on what you can handle.

Until you answer these basic questions you cannot decide on which rifle and caliber you need.

I would recommend that you chose a rifle which fits you physcially. Is comfortable to shoot. Availablity of ammo is a consideration. Variety of loads is not so much. I knew a WWI vet who shot his 03 springfield with 180 grain bullets all his life. He routinely knocked down jack rabbits on the run at 100 yards.

My son killed a spike buck in WV open sights stock enfield at 175 yds.

My point is select the rifle which best suits you. Also don't ignore used weapons.

Now with all that advice don't over look a 257 Roberts. It is an awesome round but it will require you to advance to the next level and start reloading. I find a great deal of satisfaction when I take a Prarie Dog or Coyote with my 722 Remington with its List Barrell and old Weaver K12 scope shooting my on reloads.

A neat rifle which is often over looked is the Remington Model 600. It is short barrelled but in 308 it will take just about anything in AZ.
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Old January 6, 2012, 11:34 PM   #11
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In your lower price range I really like the Weatherby. I got a Vanguard Series 2 in 243 Winchester and my first three groups were 1", 3/4" and 3/4" using handloaded Barnes 80 grain TTSX. Tough to beat that for the price.

I'll be scolded for this but I just don't like the looks of the Thompson, Tikka, and Savage rifles. From what I've read and heard they are shooters but I have to like how it looks when I'm putting my money down for it

A really nice point about the Remington 700 is just about everyone makes parts for them. Buy a cheapy ADL from Walmart for $400 this year and build it into the custom rifle you want over time.

Last edited by AllenJ; January 6, 2012 at 11:39 PM.
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Old January 7, 2012, 03:18 AM   #12
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I've only shot a few of the guns you've listed. Consider doing a site search for each here.

Savage Stevens 200 A good solid no frills rifle.

Marlin 336 A very good platform for the .30-30. Given that you say you're recoil sensitive, this is the .30-30 for you.

Remington 700 Lots of different variations to the 700. As Allen J mentiond, it's the chevy small block of rifles.

CZ 550 Very well made and can be had in the excellent 6.5x55

Savage 10/11/12/16/17/110/111 (omg what is the difference?) Well they're all different guns. The basic hunting rifle is the Model 10. It's usually sold as a package with a low end scope. The Savage is really popular on this forum. I have liked every one that I've had a chance to shoot. But that's pretty much true of every rifle I've shot.

It is harder to find a bad rifle than a good one. Most rifles are more accurate than the people who shoot them.

Possibly the most important thing is how a rifle fits. How naturally the sights line up when you put your cheek to the stock. How it balances in your hands. How comfortable it is to swing from one point of aim to another.

Try as many as you can on for size. Have fun.
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Old January 7, 2012, 06:22 AM   #13
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The first hunting rifle should be a .22LR.
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Old January 7, 2012, 08:09 AM   #14
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Sounds to me like he wants us to shop for him. CAN'T DO IT, MAN!!

You should buy the heaviest .243 win, so your shoulder won't hurt.

No really the .243 in the Weatherby Vanguard will be suitable for your purchase!
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Old January 7, 2012, 02:25 PM   #15
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Buzz makes two very good points. The rifle industry right now is very competitive and most guns are very high quality, barring the occasional lemon of course. Accuracy has never been reliably available in lower and mid level rifles like they are now.

And definitely shoulder as many different rifles as you reasonably can before making a purchase. A rifle that doesn't fit is like owning a jacket that doesn't fit.. it'll stay at home no matter how nice it looks or how well it performs.

Having said that, I own a Stevens 200 and a 336. For max of $300, I think the Stevens is a solid option, but if they are going for closer to $400 now, that's kinda high for me. I'm not a fan of the 336, but my grandfather gave it to me. Not sure why other than.. it just doesn't fit me. And over the years I've learned to really not like the .30-30 because it's more kick and noise for less accuracy and distance than most other deer-sized cartridges out there. I know it can do the job and has for many, many years.. I guess again, it just doesn't fit me. Weatherby Vanguard gets my nod in your <$450 category.

In your next category, I own an older Rem 700, have shot the Howa 1500 and Savages. The older Rem 700s I would whole heartedly recommend. Some of the newer ones it would depend on what you are getting. The BDL and CDL still seem to have a great reputation, but the standard, bottom of the line SPS has more complaints than I care to take a chance on. The SPS Varmint and Tactical have a great reputation, and if they fit (weight, length of barrel, etc) your hunting needs, that's probably a good option. The Howa I shot was surprisingly nice. Then I went home and looked up their price on the internet and saw how cheap they were! Savage does have a ridiculous amount of options, but we can use that to your advantage. All the 2 number names (10, 12, etc) are short action and the three numbers (111, 112) are long action. After that, your options does it come with Accu-trigger, quality of the stock, is it packaged with a scope and the finish.. either stainless, blued and I think they have some matte finishes.

I read some of your other post and I would recommend the .25-06. The .243 will definitely kill deer, but since you think the longer shots are possible, the extra energy will be good. .25-06 is a long action caliber. Since you say you are recoil sensitive, I would say the .270 is more than you should go for especially if you plan on shooting 50 rounds in a sitting. And I've already talked about the .30-30. 7mm-08 is a solid choice too, but it would have similar recoil to the .270 though.
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Old January 7, 2012, 03:48 PM   #16
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As was stated earlier, until you inform us of WHAT and WHERE you are going to hunt, the answer to your question will be all over the map.
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Old January 7, 2012, 04:18 PM   #17
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It is difficult to find a rifle on the market today that is not serviceable and accurate. That said we all have our pets, and peeves.

I require a rifle with a solid bolt and integral recoil lug. Of those models on your list the Thompson, Ruger, Howa, Marlin, and Vanguard are solid and integral. All the others have bolts that are either fused alloy, honeycombed, or pinned. I'm not saying that with modern materials and design that these aren't as strong as they need to be. I'm just a little old fashioned. I wonder what Peter Paul Mauser or John Moses Browning would say if you handed them a Tikka or MDL 700?

Any of the rifles you noted would IMO serve you well. Go and try to handle some, but which ever you choose practice and really learn to shoot it. Good luck.
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Old January 7, 2012, 05:11 PM   #18
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Me, I would buy a Stevens on the lower end..
And a Savage or Rem. 700 on the upper end.

If you ever plan on customizing, or upgrading...aftermarket stocks, triggers, optics mounts/bases....these are your two major players with the most options available.

Savage gets my $$ most of the time, then Remington.
The fact that I can rebarrel, including changing calibers, of a Savage at my bench with nothing but a wrench and a go-gauge just makes them all that much more of a value.
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Old January 7, 2012, 05:18 PM   #19
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Rem 700 in .308 or .06
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Old January 7, 2012, 05:40 PM   #20
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Vanguards are very well-made guns. Can't go wrong there.

Best bang for the buck in my opinion would be a Savage 10/110 11/111 or Marlin X7 series.
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Old January 7, 2012, 06:01 PM   #21
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I have Savage 111 and Rem 700 and am very pleased with both. One point in favor of Savage and Rem 700 is they have by far the most options available in aftermarket accessories and upgrade products, if that is of any interest to you.
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Old January 7, 2012, 06:25 PM   #22
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Tikka T3 in 308. Don't worry about recoil in your hunting rifle, you are only going to get one shot, and then the deer is running. While you're sighting it and training, take your time, if it's only 10 per session, that's ok. You typically have 50 weeks to get ready for season.
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Old January 8, 2012, 08:40 AM   #23
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You might want to look at a T/C Encore.
For 200-300 you can have a different caliber once you buy the first.
I have one in 7-08 and 22-250 and love it. 2 screws and a pin and I have a different caliber.

Just my .02
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Old January 8, 2012, 12:49 PM   #24
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@ Ronto and all others that have asked for specifics, please see my edit on the first post.

Thanks for far for all the input. I'm going to take some time later tonight hopefully and digest it all and post a comprehensive response.
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Old January 8, 2012, 12:57 PM   #25
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first off you should be asking yourself what are you hunting?
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