Skip to main content

Performance Versus Price in Deer-Hunting Rifles

Igniting a debate with a fellow deer rifle enthusiast is easy. All you need to do is claim your gun is a better choice than his or hers. The one reply you're sure not to hear is, "I agree."

NAWP-180100-SaurRifle

Regardless of our firearms choices, we seem to feel obligated to defend them. Same with ammo, bows, broadheads, camo or anything else we use in deer hunting. But anyone who's stalked the whitetail woods knows all sorts of products can help fill a tag. Walk into any camp and you'll see a range of gear in use. It's also that way if you read many of the success stories in the pages of this magazine. A lot of stuff can help you put a whitetail carcass into the cooler.

Some deer guns we use for reasons other than quality or functionality. Maybe they're hand-me-downs whose sentimental value trumps their performance. Others we use mainly because they were all we could afford at the time they were bought, and they've always done a serviceable job. Still other guns are just "different" and thus appeal to hunters who like to stand out from the crowd. (This mindset likely also explains the fascination with certain wildcat cartridges and broadhead designs.)


Whether due to an issue with an existing gun, a need to outfit a new hunter in the family or just to scratch the seasonal itch, now's the time of year many deer hunters go shopping for new rifles. Some know exactly what they want, and why. For others, the answer is murkier. But for all, the goal theoretically is simple: to find the sweet spot in performance vs. price.


The 100 Classic XT's bolt and safety designs bring to mind pricier rifles.

The hottest sellers these days are modern sporting rifles, many of them ringing the cash register at north of $1,000 even before adding optics or other accessories. These rifles tend to be quite accurate and fun to shoot. Then again, they're not always the handiest when slinking through a thicket or climbing a steep ridge. For the deer hunter seeking accuracy with less bulk and weight and for less coin, there are also many solid rifles of more traditional design.

Mossberg, Thompson/Center, Ruger, Winchester, Remington, Marlin and Savage, among others, offer bolt actions with street prices at or below $500. All shoot well — some even guaranteeing 1-inch (MOA) or tighter groups with factory loads, in fact. They're available in many deer cartridges, and their synthetic stocks can stand up to any briar patch.

We're also seeing bargains within brands widely viewed as more prestigious. For instance, Sauer (pronounced "Zower") and Weatherby are selling bolt guns — the 100 Classic XT and Vanguard Synthetic, respectively — that cost less than most MSRs but are extremely accurate and rugged.




These elite gunmakers didn't build their reputations on "budget" guns, but much of the same engineering and craftsmanship found in their high-end models also is seen in these more affordable versions. Part of the difference in price is because of the use of synthetic stocks instead of their usual nice wood. You can pocket that savings on the stock or perhaps roll it into a better scope. For deer hunting, I'd prefer a synthetic stock even if the price were identical.

When shooting a whitetail, confidence is always a factor. An older rifle you know still performs well isn't to be dismissed lightly. But right now there are some major bargains to be had within the category. Given these value-packed options, an upgrade might make sense. Then, when you shoot your first buck with that new rig, you can wear out your buddies telling them how you just made the smartest gun choice of all . . . and even had some folding money left over.



J.P. Saure & Sohn

100 Classic XT

Germany's oldest gun company, whose roots trace back to 1751, is best known for high-end hunting rifles. But many features of Sauer's top models also are found in the 100 Classic XT, which has an MSRP of just $699 U.S.

Available in a dozen cartridges from .222 Rem. to .300 Win. Mag., this rifle has a hammer-forged, fully bedded barrel, smooth bolt, adjustable single-stage trigger, 3-position safety and 60-degree bolt throw for quick follow-up shots. If you crave European quality without breaking the bank, give this one a close look.

sauer.de

Scope

Sig Sauer Whiskey5 2.4-12x56mm; SFP; 30mm; LevelPlex

sigsauer.com

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

How to Plant Food Plots on a Budget with Small Equipment

How to Plant Food Plots on a Budget with Small Equipment

Haynes Shelton debunks the common belief that you must have big, fancy equipment to plant food plots. That's simply not the case; he's how to plan and plant food plots on a budget with small equipment.

How to Control Predators on Deer Hunting Property

How to Control Predators on Deer Hunting Property

Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan discuss ways to help control predators on deer hunting property.

Planting Fruit Mast Trees for Whitetails

Planting Fruit Mast Trees for Whitetails

Learn how planting fruit trees can benefit your deer herd.

Deer Factory: Northern Climate Warm-Season Food Plots

Deer Factory: Northern Climate Warm-Season Food Plots

Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan discuss warm-season food plots on this deer factory in Minnesota.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Just like humans, whitetail deer need a well-rounded diet throughout the year. During different seasons, the nutritional requirements of bucks, does and fawns will vary slightly, but all three need water, protein, energy (fats and carbohydrates), calcium, phosphorus, sodium and fiber.Whitetail Nutrition Calendar: What Deer Eat and When Land Management

Whitetail Nutrition Calendar: What Deer Eat and When

Matt Haun

Just like humans, whitetail deer need a well-rounded diet throughout the year. During...

Even snow-white deer are fairly common in comparison to those that are abnormally dark in color.Rarest Whitetails Of All? Deer Behavior & Facts

Rarest Whitetails Of All?

Gordon Whittington - September 22, 2010

Even snow-white deer are fairly common in comparison to those that are abnormally dark in...

You can generally take as many does as bucks in a healthy heard, how many is too many?Balancing The Deer Herd Deer Behavior & Facts

Balancing The Deer Herd

Dr. James C. Kroll

You can generally take as many does as bucks in a healthy heard, how many is too many?

Making an extreme move to another state to chase public-land bucks worked out for Jake Bush.Would You Relocate Just to Hunt Big Deer? Whitetail

Would You Relocate Just to Hunt Big Deer?

Josh Honeycutt

Making an extreme move to another state to chase public-land bucks worked out for Jake Bush.

See More Trending Articles

More Guns

What separates the best North American states and provinces to rifle hunt big whitetails from the rest? 3 Key Factors Affecting Rifle Success on Big Deer

3 Key Factors Affecting Rifle Success on Big Deer

Gordon Whittington

What separates the best North American states and provinces to rifle hunt big whitetails from...

What's a The New Face of Deer Rifles Guns

The New Face of Deer Rifles

Gordon Whittington - January 25, 2017

What's a "deer" rifle? The answer seems self-evident. But the line separating one of these...

Whether muzzleloading on the range or in the deer woods, don't become a victim of a distracted mind. Heat of the Moment: Focus on Muzzleloader Safety Guns

Heat of the Moment: Focus on Muzzleloader Safety

Gordon Whittington

Whether muzzleloading on the range or in the deer woods, don't become a victim of a distracted...

Pat Hogan discusses the use of Smith & Wesson's new M&P 10 as a whitetail hunting option.On Target: AR's for Whitetail Hunting Guns

On Target: AR's for Whitetail Hunting

NAW TV - March 26, 2017

Pat Hogan discusses the use of Smith & Wesson's new M&P 10 as a whitetail hunting option.

See More Guns

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the North American Whitetail App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All North American Whitetail subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now