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AR vs. Bolt-Action: What’s the Best Deer Rifle?

by Brad Fitzpatrick   |  February 20th, 2014 4

Even though the AR platform is over 50 years old, you don’t have to be a market analyst to realize there’s been a major uptick in sales and manufacturing for these rifles in the civilian market over the last decade.

To say that ARs have risen in popularity would be a serious understatement. That popularity has prompted manufacturers to build an AR to suit the needs of just about every shooter, including law enforcement professionals, long-range shooters, 3 gun competitors and hunters.

Today, ARs and the various accessories that can be clipped, hung, snapped or screwed to them make up a major chunk of the shooting market. But the AR platform also owns a sizable—and growing—portion of the hunting market.

Until the rise in popularity of sporting ARs, the undisputed champion of American hunting rifles was the bolt-action—a simple, reliable and highly accurate platform which dominated hunting gun sales. Bolt guns are relatively cheap, easy to use and widely available, so their popularity makes a lot of sense.

Bolt-actions are still the most common hunting rifle platform today, though it remains to be seen if the rise in popularity of ARs will also dominate more of the hunting market. Each platform has tremendous upside, so it’s not always easy to determine which one best suits your needs.

If you’re in the market for a new deer rifle, it’s worth looking at both types of rifles before you make your next purchase. Here’s a quick rundown of how bolt guns and ARs compare in a side-by-side matchup.

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  • Megalith

    Lever action 30-30. It’s light, short, rugged, reliable, and it packs quite a wollop. This rifle has killed more deer than any other rifle in the history of America. Never overlook a lever action 30-30 as a legitimate deer hunting rifle. With the new Leverevolution ammunition from Hornady, shots beyond 150 yards are now realistic with this rifle.

  • PA Hunter

    My family has a pre 64 Winchester Model 88 in .308 Win with a 3×9 Bushnell scope that was won in a raffle in 1959. We kept a log of every deer ever killed, and this past season it killed its 75th Whitetail. Awesome lever action rifle, perfectly matched caliber for whitetail.

  • Fitzs.

    Two years ago I bought a rem-15 in 30 cal. So far so good with it. Harvest four deer with the rifle of which three were one shots kills. The deer that took two shots, leap ahead and my shot was a bit back, the deer stop behind some trees for a short time before laying down in plain sight of which I put a finishing shot in. Because he was only 30 yards I would have a problem with a bolt action in which he would have pick me off as I’ve be working the action, the noise from the action could therefore have giveing the deer time to escape. The sound of my first shot covers up the R-15 action.The deer did not know where I was and therefore I harvest him.

  • Erik

    I love my AR’s, but don’t hunt with them for 1 reason: I am a stalker/tracker, and I carry my rifle 1 handed at the balance point. THhat point is right at the bottom of the magazine on a bolt/pump/auto, and just in front of the lever on a lever gun. The AR magazine well prevents balanced carry in my preferred method.

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