Back in the day, you would have to spend a lot of money to purchase a quality bolt action hunting rifle. Rifles such as the Remington Model 700 or the Winchester Model 70 were excellent firearms that served many hunters and shooting enthusiasts well, but were also not available to those on a budget (costing around $800 to 1,000 new).
Fortunately, those days are long gone. While the Model 700 and Model 70 are still produced, and remain very popular, these and other rifles in their same price range are not your only options anymore.
In fact, it is now perfectly possible to buy a bolt action rifle that is accurate, reliable, and dependable for less than $500, and sometimes with a good scope already installed.
In alphabetical order, here are the top five best budget bolt action rifles for hunting that are currently available:
Marlin is a gun company that is primarily known for their lever action rifles and their .22 carbines. The Marlin 336 .30-30 and Model 60 .22 in particular are two highly regarded weapons that have been popular for many decades and continue to make strong sales today.
Just because Marlin isn’t particularly known for making bolt actions, that doesn’t mean that they offer solid guns in this category. In fact, the Marlin X7 is a superb choice for those looking for a long lasting hunting rifle on a budget.
Marlin has been in the gun making business for nearly a hundred and fifty years, and they’ve taken what they’ve learned from that time and combined its recent advancements to craft the X7.
For example, the stock of the X7 is synthetic and pillar bedded with a cheek piece that makes it easier to look through the scope.
It also features a trigger that is fully adjustable as well, and can be lowered to break at as little as 2.5 pounds for as minimum creep as possible. The bolt is fluted, and very easy to take off of the gun for cleaning purposes, but can be quickly re-installed back into the gun and is held by a durable pin. Also, the two position safety is easily accessible.
All in all, the Marlin X7 is a superb choice for a shooter looking for a basic hunting rifle with some critical modern advancements. There are many models of X7s for you to choose from.
The Mossberg Patriot represents the latest advancements in bolt action rifles from Mossberg. Previously, they made the ATR and then the 4×4 rifles.
The Patriot is simply a 4×4 only one with an improved bolt handle and stock, in addition to being offered in a myriad of different calibers (all the way from .243 up to .375 Ruger).
While the Mossberg Patriot is ideal for those on a budget (scoped combos can be purchased for around $400 new), much work and effort still goes into the design.
The Patriot employs a barrel lock nut and a tubular receiver, for instance, while it also utilizes a fluted barrel to dramatically improve accuracy.
One of the Patriot’s most attractive features is that it uses an adjustable trigger that can be quickly tuned anywhere from two up to seven pounds (no one’s going to want a seven pound trigger on a hunting rifle, but at least it’s there).
Another attractive feature of the Patriot is its detachable magazine, which permits quick tactical reloads. In contrast to this, most other rifles of similar types have to be fed the rounds individually.
The magazine that ships with the Patriot is made out of a single piece of molded polymer, and is extremely lightweight while also being very durable. While only one magazine ships with the Patriot, you can easily purchase more.
The worldwide famous Model 700 is not the only rifle that Remington makes. The 783 is a very similar rifle but also incorporates elements of the Mossberg Patriot, including the fitment of the barrel and the fact that it utilizes a detachable magazine.
The receiver of the Remington 783 is much sturdier in comparison to other budget bolt actions. The ejection port is also noticeably larger to result in smoother extractions of spent shell casings. Wide ports are also required for bolt rifles made for the military.
The trigger on the 783 is also fully adjustable by the user, making use of Remington’s CrossFire adjustment system. The range of the adjustment is shorter than the Patriot’s however. While you can adjust your trigger to be from 2-7 pounds on the Patriot, you can adjust it to be only 2.5-5 pounds on the 783.
The safety is a two position version that will block movement of the trigger when engaged, but it will not lock up the bolt (unlike, say, the Winchester Model 70 that utilizes a three position safety system).
The magazine of the 783 is made out of both polymer and metal. What’s also interesting is that the magazine release is not located on the stock of the 783, but rather on the magazine itself. This will be either a pro or a con depending on what your personal preference is.
Last but not least, Remington has also installed a very cushioned butt pad on the 783 to help soak in recoil, which will especially be a relief for smaller statured shooters. The 783 will ship with a bore sighted 3-9×40 scope at an MSRP of just $400, which is an incredible value.
Probably the most influential bolt action design of all time was the Mauser K98 rifle, as it has been copied by almost every bolt action designer since.
This does not hold true for the Ruger American, however, which uses Ruger’s ninety degree bolt rotation system instead. This results in a bolt that is a little larger in comparison to other bolt actions, but that also requires less effort in order to cycle.
Another real standout of the Ruger American is its detachable magazine, which is among the finest of any detachable magazines for bolt rifles out there.
It’s constructed out of one piece of polycarbonate and uses a rotary action, meaning the follower rotates when a new round is loaded into the gun.
This essentially means the cartridges are held in the magazine in the shape of a C, resulting in a magazine that is easier to load, and smaller than those from other manufacturers.
The American uses an adjustable trigger called the Marksman from Ruger, but it has a relatively short range from just three to five rounds. The tang safety is a two position version that, when engaged, does not block the bolt but does block the trigger.
The Ruger American is available in seven calibers up to .30-06 Springfield, but is not yet available in any magnum calibers. The reason why is because of the design of the bolt.
So if Ruger does indeed decide to manufacture a bolt rifle that can fire larger rounds they will likely have to make an entirely new design.
The Axis is the least expensive rifle in Savage’s arsenal, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad weapon by any means. In fact, the Axis actually incorporates features found on rifles built for competition use, such as a minimal ejection port.
However, a point of difference between the Axis and Savage’s more expensive Model 100 variant is that there is no rear tang located on the receiver. The point of this tang is to anchor the trigger assembly into the gun.
To lower costs, the Axis simply has a receiver bridge that ends shortly. That being said, this design does not actually impact the performance of the rifle in any way.
In essence, the Axis is a Model 100 that has been trimmed down to lower costs, but not in a way that actually hurts how the rifle fires. The shape of the magazine is difference, as is the handle and the shape of the trigger guard.
One of the best aspects of the Axis is its price, being available for around $200-250 new and sometimes even with a scope. Previously for a quality rifle at this price range, someone would be forced to go with something like a surplus Mosin Nagant.
However, things change, and the Axis provides you with a brand new rifle in common calibers that can be purchased at the same price point.
In conclusion, there are many excellent models of hunting rifles on the market today that hold their value well, and offer you a lot for the money.
They may not be quite as finely furnished as a Remington 700 or Winchester 70, but for the price you simply can’t beat them. Any one of the five choices we have covered in this article will serve you well on your next hunting trip and for many hunting trips to come.