I'm gearing up to buy my first bolt gun. Well, my first center-fire bolt gun, anyway - I have a few .22LR bolts in the safe. For reference, I've had professional instruction in handgun a half dozen times and I shoot AR and shotgun regularly, but the precision world is a whole new ocean for me.

I think it's helpful to lay out my goals. The primary purpose of the rifle will be deer hunting. I've been a few times over the past few years, but I've always had to borrow a rifle - and a borrowed rifle really undercuts my confidence in making a humane kill shot. This year, I want to field my own rifle (with my own dope) so that I can be a lot more confident in my shots. I also want to use this rifle as an introduction to long(er) range shooting as I slowly push my comfort zone with it and learn the fundamentals; I don't think I've even shot more than 10-15 rounds with a magnified optic. 

I've pretty much settled on .308, based on availability and price of ammo as well as flexibility. This is a soft "decided," but I can put way more rounds down range with a .308 gun than I can with some of the "sexy" calibers, and I think the volume of practice will benefit me more than an upgraded caliber. 

Needs / Wants: The feedback that I have from other hunters at the lease is that I will benefit from a stainless / weatherproof finish on the rifle. Most of the hunters at our lease started off with blued or other finishes and are regretting it now as they deal with rust or upgrade their rifles to weatherproof finishes. I'm inclined to take the advice and list this as a need. My other "need" item is budget - I want the whole project to come in under $1000, and will be much happier at under $800. That's gun, glass, ammo, and any accessories (my only planned additions are a sling and possibly a bipod, though I'm open to other options). My wants include an adjustable trigger, detachable magazine, and threaded barrel - in that order, I think. 

For reference, I started with a read through an awesome thread here targeted at a first-time bolt gun buyer, but the original poster was starting off with a bit of a larger budget, and the thread was circa 2005. The market has shifted a bit since then. 

I've identified a few primary candidates. The two front runners are the Remington 700 ADL with factory scope (https://www.remington.com/rifl...less-synthetic-scope) and a Savage AXIS II XR Stainless (https://www.savagearms.com/con..._summary&s=57104). Both are available in packaged deals with a low-grade, factory bore-sighted scope, which seems like an appealing option due to the immediately accessibility, despite the lower quality optics. 

Remington 700 ADL

24" barrel, 1/10 twist, MSRP $640 ($530 at Academy); Pros: Remington 700 action, availability of aftermarket parts; Cons: I can't even find what manufacture makes the scope, or the size, magnification, etc, which fails to inspire confidence in the quality of the product

Savage AXIS II XR Stainless

22" barrel, 1/10 twist, MSRP $589 ($430 at Academy); Pros: Accutrigger, detachable magazine; Con: less aftermarket parts availability (Bushnell Banner 3-9x40 scope included)

Right now, I'm leaning towards the Savage. I've heard a lot of good things about the Accutrigger system, and the one that I have fired was quite nice. At least I know the included scope will be a Bushnell as opposed to a Chinese knockoff something. Plus, it's $100 cheaper, which I can put towards upgrading that scope in the future. 

Are there other, more attractive options that meet my needs better than these two rifles that I've overlooked? Is there anything about these two rifles that isn't as it appears, or that I need to know before I buy? I'm certainly open to the idea of buying a rifle and scope separately, but I'm less confident about my ability to get something fielded within my budget going that way, especially when you add in rings, mounting and bore-sighting, and whatever else I need that's not included.

I know very little about .308 ammunition. Any opinion on what's the best thing to look for in practice ammo? I intend to order 500-1000 rounds to start and invest in my skill more heavily than the equipment, but I don't want to be fighting the equipment. I'm also open to opinions on slings and bipods as well.

Original Post

Ok, since you mentioned the "precision world", but it sounds like you're looking for more of an entry level hunting rifle...

I'm bored so I'm going to assume since you mentioned the "P" word as it's an "intro" rifle that's more or less intended to be a hunter that you could grow with?...   A lot of guys start this way

Rifles - adhering to the above, the Remington isn't going to grow with you much and in 2020, the days of blueprinting and having somebody work your action over from the ground up are pretty much over (you can still get it done mind you) as the custom action market and the amount of "Precision hunter" rifles that could still be taken to regional PRS comps are increasing in number ( like the Sako T20 that dropped today).  Savage does have a loyal/cult following in the precision world due to the barrel nut design and guys wanting to do their own work.

While it's a touch out of your price range to set you up with a scope, the Tikka CTR is a TON of rifle for the money (especially if you look at the stainless model @ Euro Optic LE pricing).  That might be something picking up a few extra shifts and spending the extra couple hundred for.  

There's also cheap, good ol Mausers on Euro too:

https://www.eurooptic.com/Maus...n-Rifle-M180308.aspx

As per scopes...in the limited range, you may want to consider buying lower-mid level off of SnipersHide  rather than lower end new off the shelf.  Mind you this is all depending on your ultimate goals and how long you can go with that entry-level optic.   

 

Again, if you're just wanting the modern equivalent of GPa's 270 to whack a few deer with once a year, that Savage'd probably fit the bill.  IF your intent is more in line with what I'm talking about above, this may be one of those times where a few hundred now might save you thousands buying things over again down the road as you progress.  

Whenever the question was "What ____ should I get", Pat's answer was, "The mission drives the gear."  I don't think you've properly formulated your mission.

1.  You want to hunt deer, and you're in Texas.  So the fundamental questions are, how big are the deer where you will hunt, and what are the reasonable ranges at which you will be taking shots?  I grew up hunting moose in Alaska.  The largest moose.  Moose generally hung out in forest, brush, lots of uneven ground.  A hundred yard shot might present itself, but not very often.  Seeing your game animal is very different than being able to shoot one if you are a responsible hunter.  If you decide to shoot through shrubs and undergrowth with the hope that the bullet will somehow hit where it was intended and produce a humane kill, you aren't a good and responsible hunter.  The ammunition and caliber you need when shooting elk at 400 yds is very different than a 150lb white tail at 50-75 yds.  If you don't know the size of the deer in your area, or the likely ranges where you can get a good shot, ask around.  You might even consider taking a trip to the area and looking around.

2.  Cost of ammunition is not very important unless you are also intending to do a lot of shooting just for practice and fun.  .308 is a decent, generic choice, but very over powered for deer.  It also has a lot of recoil for a lightweight rifle.  Which is my next point.

3.  Weight.  You are going to carry that rifle a lot more than you are going to shoot it.  A lightweight bolt action that is more comfortable to pack around all day with all your other gear will kick a lot with a larger caliber.  That said, if you need a heavy caliber, toughen up.  You shouldn't be shooting more than 1 or 2 rounds at a time when hunting.  I like shooting longer, heavier rifles.  I like carrying shorter, lighter ones.

4.  The overwhelming choice for bolt action rifles are Mauser 98 or derivatives of those actions.  In most cases, they have a 5 rd fixed magazine.  I still have my rifle from when I was a boy.  A Winchester M70 in .30-06, manufactured in 1949.  It has a 4x scope on Weaver bases.  Steel buttplate that beat the shit out of my 12 year old shoulder.  It is not my recommendation for your needs.  With one exception.  The pre-64 Winchesters and some other actions used the old Mauser style extractor, commonly called a positive feed.  When the round is pushed out of the magazine by the bolt face, the rim slides up under the extractor.  When you pull the bolt to the rear, the base of the case hits a fixed ejector to kick it out.  If you get a dose of buck fever and fumble working your action, you aren't going to get a double feed.  The Remington is not a controlled feed.  I still recommend controlled feed. 

5.  Optics.  You can get a good scope that will suit your needs that will also fit your budget.  You aren't trying to shoot 1 moa groups at 1,000 yards.  I expect that you only need 3 moa for shots at 100 yds and under.  4x is as high as you need to go.  You need a good field of view so when the rifle comes up to your shoulder, you can see the animal, not just a patch of hair.  You want a large enough exit pupil so you are getting as much light as your eye can handle at dusk and dawn.  For the same reasons, a lit reticle is worth the money.  Game animals are smart.  They know when hunting season starts and when the hunters are flooding the woods during the day, they lay up during daylight and come out for food and water when the sun goes down.  So your best opportunity will be those twilight hours.  You need enough light that you can identify your target and see where you are going to shoot, and a reticle you can see in dim light.

When you complete your analysis, my expectation is that your deer average 150 lbs with a 200 lb buck on the large end.  Maybe a little larger if it's a mule deer.  Your range is likely under 100 yards.  Probably 50-75.  7.62x39 with actual hunting ammunition would be a good choice.  7mm Mauser is too, but it's a little over powered and getting a proper rifle in that caliber is more difficult.  Or 6.5mm Grendel.  And for the rifle, a CZ 527.

You want to hunt deer, and you're in Texas.  So the fundamental questions are, how big are the deer where you will hunt, and what are the reasonable ranges at which you will be taking shots? 
 

This was something I meant to include in my original post, but forgot. White tail deer, and I expect your 150-200 estimate is spot on. Most shots on this property will be in the 50-80 yard range. There may be a few opportunities for something in the 100-120 range, but those would be few and far between. 

I've hunted whitetail deer in Virginia and Tennessee for over 40 years.  I've mostly used bolt actions, a Remington 788 (no longer made) in .243 and a Winchester Model 70 in .30/06.  Never had a problem with either  and only had a few shots around 100 yards, usually in the 50-75 yard range.

I'm invested in both rifles and calibers, but if I were starting over, I'd try to find a Remington Model 7 in 7mm/08.  Light, handy rifle, in a caliber that handles any non-dangerous big game at reasonable ranges. 

There are a boatload of acceptable rifles, calibers and optics that will do the job for you.  The hard part is making your choices and not having second thoughts.  Make your choices and find a particular load that shoots well in your rifle.  Good luck!

Any scope on a package rifle can be assumed to be disposable junk, the same applies to rings, bases and slings in the package. Package deals are profit margin leaders for a reason.

The best factory rifle going right now is the Tikka T3X and CTR. In a slightly higher league is the Winchester M70 Classic. The Tikka seems to have the edge for aftermarket support, but the Winchester really doesn't need anything added. Those are on my short list. CZ also makes really solid rifles. Ruger would be a decent  choice on the more economy end of the spectrum. I am not a huge fan of Remington.  I am a huge advocate for stainless/synthetic in high humidity environments. It is not maintenance free, but is more forgiving than wood/blued rifles.

Tally, Warne and Leupold make single piece ring/base combo units that are pretty fool proof and offer nice streamlining. Leupold calls their model "BackCountry" The key to mounting is degreasing screws and holes, using blue loctite, and torquing the fasteners to the correct spec.

For optics at the level you are indicating, there is one brand. Leupold. There are three options: fixed 4x, 2-7/2.5-8x33mm and 3-9x40mm. Each will serve you well, each has strengths and weaknesses, I tend to like 2-7x for general hunting.

Caliber is pretty subjective.

.308 is a solid general purpose caliber and has the benefit of being able to shoot surplus military ball relatively cheaply for volume practice.

6.5 Creedmoor is a solid general purpose choice and is very popular. You can find ammo anywhere, and the popularity has driven price of ammo down to reasonable levels.

6.5 Grendel is a  neat little deer round in the CZ 527 American rifle.

7.62x39 is objectively fine, particularly in a neat little CZ527 carbine, but the caliber gives me a rash. If you are wanting to do some longer range paper or steel killing, the 7.62x39 is not your friend.
Of the four listed, the 6.5 Creedmoor is likely the best all around choice today.

Longeye posted:

Any scope on a package rifle can be assumed to be disposable junk...
The best factory rifle going right now is the Tikka T3X and CTR. In a slightly higher league is the Winchester M70 Classic. ...

 I tend to like 2-7x for general hunting...

Caliber is pretty subjective.

6.5 Creedmoor is a solid general purpose choice and is very popular. You can find ammo anywhere, and the popularity has driven price of ammo down to reasonable levels.

 

I gotta go with this.

I like either a compact fixed 6x or 2-7X because of their size on a light rifle. 

There have been a few deals lately on the Tikka compact and lightweight(?) models.  The Win 70 Featherweight( which it ain't) in stainless would be nice.

Let me add the .243 Win caliber.

Don't overlook .223.  With a good bullet in the right place things don't go far if at all but then  I don't pull the trigger  unless it's  certain. Varieties of loaded ammo for whatever need and if you reload it is even cheaper and more flexible.

I don't disagree with other posters on good or effective hunting calibers.  But I am reminded of one of the very few wise statements from Josef Stalin.  "Better is the enemy of good enough".  That is essentially an admonition for determining what you need vs. what you want, setting a budget for what you need, and then sticking to it.  There is nothing wrong with better except cost.  If you can get it, and want it, go for it.  The suggestions I made pretty much fit the niche you described, but are limited if you are also thinking of expanding what you want to do beyond deer hunting in Texas.  You can practice marksmanship and bolt gun handling skills at 100 or 200 yards with a minimal deer rifle.  But you'll never be long range, precision rifle capable with an adequate deer rifle, chambered for an adequate caliber, with adequate glass.  .308, 6.5 Creedmore, .243 or 7mm/08 are excellent cartridges that will be more than adequate for your deer hunting.  They can also give you options for other shooting beyond deer hunting.  Only you can determine where to draw the line at "good enough" and turn your back on "better".

Dorsai posted:

... determining what you need vs. what you want...

You've just stated the key to everything in life. 

Another thing is that a specialized rifle is just that, specialized.  The more you move to extremes ( in either caliber, bulk, weight, etc.,)  the more narrow the purpose.   

The same thing holds for scopes. There are some large optical wonders out there but their size and weight do not make for something you want on a nicely handling rifle. 

Jeff Cooper wrote many times that it is easier to specialize than generalize. 

Personally, prefer to err on the side of more compact/lighter than heavier and bulkier.  I had a Ruger 77 Ultralight in .250 Savage with a 6x compact  Leupold  that I felt was just about ideal for a general purpose rifle for me but it was unfortunately stolen. 

I miss it and would like to find something to duplicate it someday. 

I’m also from Texas and have hunted whitetail all over south and central Texas with the current lease being in the Hill Country. I’ve actually lost track of the number I have killed but I can tell you that my shortest shot was 2 yards horizontal and 5 yards vertical (out of a stand) while the longest was 161.


I’ve used at least 7 different caliber with  .243, .270, and 6.5 Grendel being the most common. All kill deer just fine out to further than I have ever shot one. Can’t believe I’m saying this but, based on friends and relatives use, I’ve started to believe 6.5 Creedmoor is the best cartridge with a wide variety of ammo availability for hunting deer-size game. Lighter recoil and flatter trajectory than many other common choices while still having enough range and energy if you have the chance to go out to West Texas for mulies or sheep (or pronghorn for that matter). It will also let you more easily and readily shoot out to distance for practice. This is particularly true of you don’t reload.

The biggest choice you probably need to make is how much weight  you are willing to lug around. With most stand hunting in Texas, weight is not much of a concern since you won’t be carrying it far. For true Western States hunting (elk, etc.), I would suggest a heavier caliber in a relatively lighter weight rifle with higher power glass than you need for Texas. My advice would be to start with a lighter caliber in a relatively heavier rifle that you can use for practice and learning. Later down the road, you can buy the “Western rifle”.

As to Rifles, there are many good options in what’s been written above. I have owned bolt action rifles (some still) from Remington, Sako, Savage, Tikka, Browning, and Ruger. As a result, I have come to some personal opinions. If I was starting over and expected to only buy factory rifles, I would probably just buy Tikkas. As it is, I have a reasonably vested interest in Remington 700s and have a hard time not including some version them in the mix.

As such, I generally recommend two rifle manufacturers to people who ask my advice:  Bergara (Remington 700 clone) and Tikka. If you just want a good hunting rifle, either will work fine and give you a good rifle in the $480-$650 range depending on brand and what you decide you want. I generally will not recommend anything less expensive as my experience with the rifles below this price range has been less than impressive in one way or another.

If you truly want to work your way up to long range and want to start with a reasonably capable rifle, my best advice would be either a Tikka T3x Varmint (currently $720 on GunBroker) or a Bergara HMR (Hunting Match Rifle) in 6.5 Creedmoor.

The T3x Varmint is a heavier barrel rifle that gives you most of the advantages of the CTR while being less expensive upfront and not having some of the perceived disadvantages. The stock is a reasonably acceptable stock to hunt with and to start practicing long range. There are also good options to upgrade it later if you want. The HMR is basically an entry level long range rifle with the stock to match. It’s about $110-$125 more than the Tikka, however. That said, upgrading the Tikka stock to something comparable to the HMR stock will cost around 3x that difference later on. If you aren’t in a hurry, you could wait for the new Tikka T3x UPR that was just announced. It’s basically Tikka’s version of the HMR but I have yet to see a price or expected availability.

One thing you may have noticed that was not mentioned in any of the above was stainless vs. blued. If you are in an extremely wet climate and expect to hunt in the rain for days, by all means go for stainless. Otherwise, I don’t think it matters if the rifle is cared for properly. In over 40 years of shooting rifles, the only blued rifles that have seen rust are those that were not cared for correctly. The only stainless anything I own, rifle-wise is the barrel on my 6.5 Grendel AR and that’s only because that particular was the only one that meet my requirements when I built the rifle.

For inexpensive scopes, the various Leupold VX-3i models seem highly regarded in the hunting world and I know a couple of owners who love theirs. That said, I have a SIG Whiskey 3 with Hellfire reticle that I ended up with by chance for the 6.5 Grendel that has impressed me greatly. To my eyes, glass is as good as my Leupold VX-R and a friend’s VX-3i while offering similar illumination to the VX-R and being less expensive than both. SIG’s warranty is as good as Leupold’s as well.

 

Just my $0.02. Take it for what it’s worth and, as always, YMMV.

I give this advice to people looking for a hunting rifle.  Focus on the optic first.  Rifle and caliber second.

Pretty much all the modern low end bolt actions are going to be more than adequate precision wise at typical white tail distances (sub 200yds).  But you can’t hit what you can’t see, and better optics make the late evening and early morning shots much easier.  If I had 1000$ to spend on a hunting gun, a 600$ optic over 400$ on rifle and mounts would be my preference over the reverse.

From there, a sling (a must for me), maybe a bipod, and you should be good.

Shooting wise, once you get that rifle zero’d, shoot from weird positions and use your sling to brace as much as possible.  I’ve braced shots off my boots, trees, hay bails, fence posts, dead deer, back pack, muddy road ruts, and had lots of shots standing on hillsides at weird angles with poor stances.  Keep an eye on your muzzle clearance when shooting close to the ground/objects.  Knowing your shooting skills let’s you know when to be a responsible hunter and pass on shots.  Runners and the way they bound are tough shots.

My closest whitetail was a buck in rut that probably wanted to mate with me.  I left powder burns on its fur.  Most have been in the 50-80 yard range.  Longest offhand was 225 which wasn’t a hard shot due to my offhand practice.  Your .22lr bolt guns are good practice tools for this.

Use a good bullet.  Also, use a good bullet.  In case this hasn’t been mentioned, use a good bullet.  You don’t want a ton of lead frag in a backstrap.  You want something that will expand, stay together, and punch through a shoulder.

Learn your shot placement.  Heart/lung, high shoulder, and if the animal is calm, head/neck are options.  High shoulder risks damaging backstrap but often drops the animal there.  Head/neck is a small target that moves but leaves the animal full blood wise.  Heart/lung typically means a bit of tracking.

I mostly hunt with a .308win with 130gr Barnes TTSX bullets or an AR with 50gr TTSX loads.  The AR doesn’t have much bullet to work with so I need to be careful on shots.  The .308 gives me a heck of a smack on a deer as I’m pushing the 130gr bullets stupid fast with my handloads, but the load isn’t built for shooting at range.

ruger and savage have been putting out some interesting budget hunting guns these last few years.   IMO tikka is about the best value in a hunting bolt gun.  I have two that shoot like lasers.  

t3 (older) or t3x (pre-2020) can be had fairly cheap right now because The new t3x is due to add some features and  $150-200 to sticker price.   $499 is a good price for a pre-2020 t3x.    Less for the t3.  I would pay up for stainless.    It’s unlikely you will need to do anything to it but you can tacticool it up layer if you like.  

$350 Leopold v3xi or some similar priced glass   
$30 claw sling

$60 DNZ one piece mount or tally rings 

As far as calibers, I am a eat and potatoes shooter.   If I can’t find a couple of flavors of it at the local Walmart, it is too exotic for me.  308 is a fine caliber.  You could get away with something lighter shooting for TEXAS deer but I wouldn’t say it is too much bullet for them.  6.5 creed is another option.  Softer shooting and has a lot of fans.   Both are great deer medicine and will even handle a mule deer or elk if you ever give it a try.  30-06 is the jack of all trades but more than needed for whitetails.   Magnums cost, more, kick more and aren’t really needed for deer hunting that close in.  Better to leave them for brown bear, moose and long shots.  

A lot of good advice here.

Way back when I lived in Africa, the local hunting guides used to say that you could always tell an American hunter from a European hunter, when they came over to hunt African animals.

The American hunter would have a $1000 rifle with a $100 scope, while the European hunter would have a $100 rifle with a $1000 scope.

Regards.

Mark

You can hunt any medium - large game animal in the lower 48 states with a .30-06. I recently was in the same boat as you regarding being a noob to the bolt-action centerfire world & bought a used Savage 111 in .30-06 off of Gun Broker. Savage's are known for their accuracy inherent with their barrel nut design. I topped it off with a Nikon Prostaff 3-9 x 40 Scope. Nikon & Leupold Scopes seemed to be ranked highly. Nikon Scopes represent a great value for the quality of optic you're getting. Nikon is discontinuing their sport-optic line & you may be able to get some very good deals in the near future. 

A Remington model 700 in .308 win. with a Leupold Vari-X II or III in the 3-9x40mm/50mm range will do all you need it to do for deer.  This is my recommendation after hunting in south Mississippi (among other southern states) for whitetail for over 30 years now.

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I'm in the Tikka / .308 camp for your first bolt gun.  6.5CM might be better for some things but for what you want to do, it's a tough to beat combo.  Tikkas are hammers.  They are smooth, accurate and reliable.

For optics, do not be ultra frugal with your cash.  Good glass makes a HUGE difference.   There are quite a few guys whose optics dwarf the price of the rifle itself.

Join snipershide if simply for their EE.  There are great deals to be had on hardly used gear.   Bolt gun guys tend to treat their stuff like hand blown crystal.  They shoot them but they maintain the hell out of them.  All three of my bolt guns and two of my three scopes came from there.  You will be able to find just about anything there.

FWIW,

I have a M70 Classic Featherweight .308 with full size stock, and a M70 Classic Featherweight .30-06, both with Leupold 2-7x33mm scopes mounted in Uni style rings. I prefer the 06 for balance and recoil reasons.

I also have an AR in 6.8 SPC with a Trijicon ACOG TA31 mounted. I like it, and have hunted with it, but end up using it more as an everyday ranch rifle.

The Winchester M70 .30-06 is just a pleasant companion to take to the bush here in Montana. it has low recoil, balances well, prints decent groups, and with its classic lines; offers pride in ownership. The 2-7 is a nicely sized scope that adds minimum bulk and offers ideal, realistic magnification. If an Alaska trip were in my cards again, I would buy a Win M70 Classic in stainless steel, still in .30-06 with the 2-7 Leupold, and probably in a McMillan or Manners HTG style stock.

While I like the Tikka rifle, and find it to be great value, the ability to field strip the bolt without tools has great value to me in this cold north country. For your TX needs the Tikka will be a solid choice. If you go this route, and want to add a CTR style stock, I have an extra CTR stock and magazine that I would part with reasonably.

My first centerfire bolt rifle was (and still is..) a Winchester M70 Featherweight 30-06.  Had Leupold glass- went to NF.

Spent 249.99 for the rifle, have 2K in the glass and rings.  Have had it over 30 years. Would not change a thing about it.

Eventually when I have to re barrel it - then I may have some things to think over...

Longeye posted:

...offers pride in ownership...

 I just came here to post something about that.  

Everyone has pretty much recommended a middle of the road sporter with a medium sized scope.    Several different calibers but then with todays modern bullets all have more than enough power for deer/medium sized game.

Only thing left is if a person really likes their rifle and is comfortable with the balance, feel, controls, recoil/blast, scope height and position.   If a person doesn't really like his rifle and handling it, he'll never invest the time dry firing, running the action, and become competent with it at the subconsciously competent level.

When you add in quickly  assuming the steadiest field position and using expedient shooting rests and  a shooting sling   whatever exact rifle/caliber used becomes largely irrelevant.

The only thing that is now missing is finding one good load and learning the windage and drop dope.

 

Longeye posted:

For optics at the level you are indicating, there is one brand. Leupold. There are three options: fixed 4x, 2-7/2.5-8x33mm and 3-9x40mm. Each will serve you well, each has strengths and weaknesses, I tend to like 2-7x for general hunting.

........

Of the four listed, the 6.5 Creedmoor is likely the best all around choice today.

For what it's worth, I found this reply extremely helpful. Is this the scope you're talking about? https://www.leupold.com/scopes...es/vx-freedom-2-7x33  If so, that's surprisingly approachable. I verified the price at $199 in-stock at two different gun stores today. 

I think I wanted someone to talk me into the 6.5 Creedmoor. Every rifle I've considered thus far has been available in that caliber, and I found a lot of good ammunition options for as low as $0.50/round for practice stuff. That's sufficient for me.

I went out this morning and spent a few hours driving around to several different stores and seeing what was actually on the shelf in my town and what the real prices were in my area. I was surprised. My favorite FLGS had the Tikka T3X Lite Stainless  in 6.5 on the shelf for $675 (a far cry from over $900 MSRP). I handled the Tikka, Bergaras, Winchesters, Remingtons, Savages, Mossbergs, and a few others. I really liked the Tikka in the hand. The Savage that I was eyeballing was ... less than stellar. The bolt practically drags across the scope when you run it. The stock was nice and light, but so much so that it felt really cheap. I'm not happy with it.

So, if the scope I identified above is correct (and appropriate), that's about $875 and tax for rifle and glass, plus another $85 or so for rings. I'm functional at just over $1k after taxes, etc. That still leaves me to have the scope mounted (I really don't have the tools or experience to be confident doing it myself) buy ammo and sling - call it $1300 total. Enough of a budget increase that I can't do this right now.

This is the plan I settled on over lunch: I'm going to make plan A to save for the Tikka/Leupold combo. That's a stretch for me right now, but November is a long way off. If I can get everything together, then I'll move on it. However, if I hit 9/1 and still can't reach the total, I'm going to adjust my target and get one of the budget rifles into service. I don't want to wind up stuck if I buy just the rifle and then can't save up for everything else. The Tikka will make an awesome second rifle if it has to. 

I really appreciate all of the feedback. There was certainly a wide variety of replies. My decision is not closed by any means, but I think having a plan for a hard date for the decision helps me. It's also easier to shoot for a higher-quality option knowing that there are a few "good enough" options out there that can be a safety net if I'm not going to make it. 

Texas deer run small. I shot a representative doe on the 5th, ran about 105lb. Bucks run about 150 unless it's a monster raised on a farm. I use a 100+yr old Mauser in 7x57. Any standard caliber will work down here. .243, .260,6.5 will all be enough.

 

An in law has killed everything from elk down across most of the US with a .308.

Look at the used rack. An Axis with a Burris scope will get you hunting and get you experience for $400.

I've taken shots from 50-275 yards,  100 being the average from stands. The last was 50ish, off shooting sticks kneeling after hopping out of a truck.

If you are not absolutely set on stainless and you have someone that has a FFL to do a transfer $460 sounds like a deal.   They recently had a sale on the stainless version.

https://lockedloaded.com/produ...etic-black-stk-blued 

As for mounting a scope if I can do it you can too so long as you know "lefty loosie, rightie tightie."  You'll do a better job than some dude in a gun store with a Stanley screw driver and  tobacco spit while oogling some fat girl's tattoo.

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You won’t regret the tikka.  Some really serious hunters with a lot more $$ to spend swear by them.  I was looking at tikka, browning, bergara, and Kimber when I bought m tikka.  Whitaker, locked and loaded and some online shops have good deals.    

I would encourage you to mount it yourself.   I did the gun counter monkey thing for my first bolt gun.   The guy didn’t use lock tight and had the eye relief set poorly.   I invested $40 in some wheeler tools and watched some YouTube’s and have mounted all my own since.   It is quite easy.   

If you go 2-7x optic, or in general, a good binocular/spotting scope may also be worthwhile.  It helps in glassing more areas with less movement.

Random side fact, deer vision in daylight sucks.  But they can see the optical brighteners used in most laundry detergents fairly well.  Optical brightener free laundry detergents are good for camo/uniforms in general. 

Have you thought about buying a used/ second hand gun? Maybe I am wrong (knowing only the German market), but there should be a lot of used "deer hunting rifles" around. 

If you are looking on the budget end... Remington M783 with 3-9×40 mounted and boresighted in .308 at Academy for $330 is about as "budget" as it gets and I believe it uses a detachable magazine.

You could do a LOT worse for a starter / first bolt rifle.

I know it doesnt have a glass bedded bull barrel in a carbon fiber stock made in zero G pure vacuum outside the space station and its not chambered in $5 or $10 bills... but it will let you get your feet wet fairly cheap without endangering your safety or wallet.

MrMurphy posted:

I wouldn't give a 783 to an Iraqi...

They're the bolt gun equivalent of a Rohm RG10. The "5 rounds a decade" shooter, spare boat gun type.

Lol.

Same thing was said to me by a lot of people when I bought my Win M70....

Must be that 1 - 10000 sample for either one of us at opposite ends of the spectrum.

I have fired exactly 2... new out of the box helping a co-worker figure out preferred ammo and get the glass dialed in so he and his son could finish the zeroing.

To me- they did reasonably well--- much better than I expected.

They weren't 1/2 MOA guns.... but then again... him and his son are about 5MOA shooters.

MrMurphy posted:

For a lifeboat in Alaska type thing sure,but I'd never suggest 1 for anyone serious about improving. 

Understood.

For someone wanting to get their feet wet in the bolt rifle world... they could do worse though. Pick it up, zero it, run it for a year, sell it off at the pawn shop / gun show / LGS for $ 275 and then move up to a 700, M70, Tikka, Sako etc. Notice I didn't mention Weatherby.... seems like anymore until you crack the $1500 bare rifle point- the weatherbys are kind of lacking.

Skaster03 posted:
Longeye posted:

For optics at the level you are indicating, there is one brand. Leupold. There are three options: fixed 4x, 2-7/2.5-8x33mm and 3-9x40mm. Each will serve you well, each has strengths and weaknesses, I tend to like 2-7x for general hunting.

........

Of the four listed, the 6.5 Creedmoor is likely the best all around choice today.

For what it's worth, I found this reply extremely helpful. Is this the scope you're talking about? https://www.leupold.com/scopes...es/vx-freedom-2-7x33  If so, that's surprisingly approachable. I verified the price at $199 in-stock at two different gun stores today. 

That scope is a good choice. It will serve you well.

I think I wanted someone to talk me into the 6.5 Creedmoor. Every rifle I've considered thus far has been available in that caliber, and I found a lot of good ammunition options for as low as $0.50/round for practice stuff. That's sufficient for me.

Do it. It offers a lot of performance in a very balanced round.

My favorite FLGS had the Tikka T3X Lite Stainless  in 6.5 on the shelf for $675 (a far cry from over $900 MSRP). 

The Tikka is likely the best value going right now. You can find them even cheaper on Gun Broker if you have a local FFL willing to handle the transfer. Most FFL's are happy to do this, and typically charge $20-30 for the transfer. It is good for them, because they don't have to worry about stocking something that may not sell quickly.

So, if the scope I identified above is correct (and appropriate), that's about $875 and tax for rifle and glass, plus another $85 or so for rings. 

Last I checked Tikka comes with Optilock rings included. If you buy the scope and rifle on site, the LGS is usually happy to mounted the scope for free. Mounting a scope is not rocket surgery, so if you decide to do it yourself, it is a pleasant job. Most local LFrs are willing to do this for free or a six pack, if you don't trust the LGS to do it.

 

MrMurphy posted:

I wouldn't give a 783 to an Iraqi...

The new 2020 model now comes with a bayonet lug so that you can throw the rifle like a spear and now have a chance of brining down your quarry.

Plus, it saves the expense of buying ammo.  

I'm with Halfneck. The Axis and Ruger American redefined "budget" rifles. You could happily whack deer for the next several decades with either of you got decent glass.

FWIW i set up a hunting rifle for my wife a few years ago, we're in Idaho so mule deer, elk, antelope and black bear are all possibilities. After lots of research and money being tight, I bought a Ruger American in 7mm-08, mounted a Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40 BDC in Warne rings and bought a realtree camo shrinkwrap kit for the stock because she wanted camo, and I wanted her to be excited about the rifle and hunting. 

The thing just flat shoots, the first group I shot after boresighting and scope adjustment flat pissed me off. .52" 5 shot group with factory ammo at 100 yards. I hunt (when hunting with a modern rifle) with a Kimber 84L Classic that is beautiful, .30-06 with a Nikon ProStaff BDC reticle 2.5-10x42, preffered ammo for big game is 150 GR Barnes TTSX. I have about $1500 in the gun and it is work to squeeze a 1MOA group out of it, the rifle is capable but lightweight rifles are not conducive to tight groups off a bench, different techniques required.

That f'n Ruger, $600 in it total out shot my Kimber with ease and I have since made 1st round hits out to 500 yds on steel with it. I love my Kimber, dont get me wrong and I have killed a lot of game with it, it carries excellent and pride of ownership is great. But in your shoes, starting out I would really consider the Ruger American, available in .308 if your set on it, but don't discount 7mm-08, it kills out of class for some voodoo reason.  I think they have built the ultimate "budget" rifle available right now and if you want to upgrade stocks down the road, Boyds, etc are finally inletting for them so thats an option.

Buy good glass, if it was me I would look at Vortex 1st, Leupold 2nd, I could have done better with my Nikon, live and learn. My Kimber has Talley lightweight rings which work great for that rifle, the Warne 4x4's worked great on the Ruger. A good sling is important if you will be hiking the rifle much, and buy one that works as a shooting aide. Learn to shoot from field positions, off a pack, etc. And pick a solid premium bullet that shoots well in whatever you end up with. Im partial to Barnes or Nosler Partitions. Best of luck. 

wildfire45 posted:

"

The thing just flat shoots, the first group I shot after boresighting and scope adjustment flat pissed me off. .52" 5 shot group with factory ammo at 100 yards. I hunt (when hunting with a modern rifle) with a Kimber 84L Classic that is beautiful, .30-06 with a Nikon ProStaff BDC reticle 2.5-10x42, preffered ammo for big game is 150 GR Barnes TTSX. I have about $1500 in the gun and it is work to squeeze a 1MOA group out of it, the rifle is capable but lightweight rifles are not conducive to tight groups off a bench, different techniques required.

That f'n Ruger, $600 in it total out shot my Kimber with ease and I have since made 1st round hits out to 500 yds on steel with it. I love my Kimber, dont get me wrong and I have killed a lot of game with it, it carries excellent and pride of ownership is great. But in your shoes, starting out I would really consider the Ruger American, available in .308 if your set on it, but don't discount 7mm-08, it kills out of class for some voodoo reason.  I think they have built the ultimate "budget" rifle available right now and if you want to upgrade stocks down the road, Boyds, etc are finally inletting for them so thats an option."

My friend had Kimber in 300 win mag and it wouldn't shoot to his satisfaction.  Kimber told him that it was good enough. I can remember the details but your rifle isn't the only one.

 

It's very similar to shooting a rifled barrel shotgun for groups, you have to have real firm grip on the forend in front of the bag/rest and really eat the recoil. Letting it "ride the bag" will result in shit groups, but if you buckle down they tighten up, its not a fun process but the rifle will shoot. Lightweight guns have a tendency to "jump" off a good rest otherwise, at least in my experience. I can only imagine the phenomenon would be exacerbated with a winmag over an '06. I have yet to notice any difference in field shooting fwiw. 

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