great backcountry rifles from SHOT show

One of my more interesting assignments at the 2018 SHOT show was to ferret out any new and interesting backcountry-worthy rifles. So a’hunting backcountry rifles I went.

My criteria for a backcountry gun are simple. The rifles needed to weigh equal to or less than seven pounds bare. They should be comfortable and ergonomic to carry in hand and in a pack, and they should also be available in a reasonable selection of cartridges suitable for hunting big game. A sub-MOA guarantee was a bonus, as were superior-quality triggers and simplicity. Frills like flush-mount QD cups, three-position safety, stainless construction, and adjustable stock were deemed unnecessary but attractive. I did not weed out the expensive options—I’ll leave that to you to decide.

So here’s what I found, in no particular order.


Bergara Premier Series Mountain Rifle

This little gun is packed with features.
Barrel length: 22 inches (24 inches in .300 Win Mag)
Safety: 2-position
Mag Capacity: 4 (3 magnum)
Bases: Remington style
MSRP: $2,190

This little gun with a big name features most things any mountain hunter could ask for: Stainless Cerakoted barrel and action, carbon-fiber stock, TriggerTech trigger, and a sub-MOA guarantee—all in a 6.2 pound package (6.4 lbs. in 300 Win Mag). It is available in 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win, .280 Ackley Improved (awesome), .308 Win, .30-06 Springfield, and .300 Win Mag.


Mauser M18

This new rifle from Mauser is more affordable than their previous offerings.
Barrel length: 22 inches standard; 24 inches (Magnum)
Safety: 3-position
Mag Capacity: 5 + 1 (detachable mag)
Bases: Remington style
MSRP: $699

Exactly 120 years after the earth-changing Mauser 98 made its debut, Mauser announces the 6.3 – 6.6 lb. German-made M18. They are calling it “The People’s Rifle” and say they worked hard to produce a rifle that boasts the famous attributes of a Mauser rifle—but with an affordable price tag. The blued steel, synthetic-stocked M18 created quite a buzz at the SHOT Show. The trigger is readily adjustable. The rifle has a five-shot sub-MOA guarantee (compared to a standard three-shot sub-MOA guarantee). It’s available in .243 Win, .270 Win, 7mm Rem Mag, .308 Win, .30-06, and .300 Win Mag, with 6.5 Creedmoor in the offing.


Nosler M48 Long-Range Carbon

The optional muzzle break is not included.
Barrel length: 26 inches
Safety: 2-position
Mag Capacity: 3 (4 in the 6.5 Creedmoor)
Bases: 2-piece Remington style
MSRP: $2,995

Carbon-fiber barrels—especially those made by Proof Research—are all the rage these days due to their superior stiffness, resistance to heat, and light weight. Nosler mounted a 26-inch light Sendero Proof barrel on their M48 action and bedded the works in a Manners MCS-T carbon fiber stock (read: top shelf). They Cerakoted the metal parts Sniper Grey, added a Timney trigger, threaded the barrel, and created a backcountry beast. The seven-pound rifle is initially available in 6.5 Creedmoor, 26 Nosler, 28 Nosler, .300 Win Mag, 30 Nosler, and 33 Nosler. Optional muzzle break (shown) is not included.


Browning X-Bolt Pro Long Range

An addition to Browning’s existing and excellent X-Bolt platform.
Barrel length: 26 inches
Safety: Top tang
Mag Capacity: 4 (detachable mag)
Bases: X-Lock
MSRP: $2,099

Out-of-the-box accuracy is synonymous with Browning X-Bolt rifles. This new line-extension has everything it takes, from the threaded and fluted stainless steel Burnt-Bronze Cerakoted barrel glass-bedded in a carbon-fiber stock to the Inflex 1 recoil pad, rifle weighs less than 7 pounds and exudes backcountry attitude. An adjustable Feather trigger provides the finishing touch. Available in 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 WSM, 300 WSM, 7mm Rem Mag, 26 Nosler, 28 Nosler, and .300 Win Mag.


Montana Extreme X3

The image pictured is the Montana Extreme X2—a photo of the X3 was not yet available.
Barrel length: Short-action: 22-24 inches; Long action: 24-26 inches
Safety: 3-position
Capacity: 5 (3 magnum)
Bases: 2-piece Winchester style
MSRP: $1,495

One of the best handling rifles I’ve ever owned was a Montana Extreme X2. Now Montana Rifle Company is announcing its successor: the Extreme X3. The rifle looks identical, but is fully 14 to 16 ounces lighter, weighing in at 6.75 pounds for a short action and 7 pounds for long. They’ve accomplished this by changing the ingredients in their Kevlar-reinforced carbon-fiber stock, and by changing the bottom metal from steel to aluminum. Owner Jeff Sipe says this new rifle is just as rugged and reliable, but almost a pound lighter. That’s awesome. Two reasons put this rifle at the top of my list of favorites: 1) MRC makes every model in right or left hand versions, and 2) the array of available chamberings is nothing less than extraordinary. You can get an Extreme X3 in anything from .22-250 to 33 Nosler, with 31 other chamberings in-between.


Weatherby Mark V Camilla Subalpine

A new ultralight backcountry rifle for women.
Barrel length: 22 inches; 24 inches in magnum
Safety: 2-position
Mag Capacity: 5 (4 in 6.5 Creedmoor)
Bases: Weatherby
MSRP: $3,000

A couple years back Weatherby introduced the Vanguard Camilla–a fine rifle tailored and built specifically for women. It’s named after Roy Weatherby’s wife Camilla (the First Lady of Weatherby), and is indeed perfectly shaped for the fair members of our society. This new Mark V model offers the stability and weather resistance of a composite stock and Flat Dark Earth Cerakoted 22 to 24-inch chrome-moly barrel, with the classic 6-lug Mark V action. It’s offered in .240 Weatherby Mag, .270 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win, and .30-06—all in a sub-MOA guaranteed package that weighs less than 5.75 pounds.


Franchi Momentum

The first ever rifle from Franchi.
Barrel length: Standard 22-inch, 6.5 CM and .300 WM are 24 inches
Safety: 2-position
Mag Capacity: 4 (3 for the .300 WM)
Bases: 2-piece Remington style
MSRP: $609

A Franchi rifle? Yeah, I’d never heard of one either, and for good reason: there never was one. Before 2018, I mean. Franchi has debuted their uber-ergonomic, 6.6-pound rifle in a handful of well-selected cartridges, including .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., .308 Win., .30-06, & .300 Win Mag. It sports a blued barrel with your choice of a threaded or non-threaded muzzle, 2- to 4-pound adjustable trigger and two-position safety, hinged floorplate, and a recoil pad that’s touted to be just awesome. The Momentum looks to be a quality working man’s rifle, and is also available in a 150th anniversary walnut-stock edition for the hunter who prefers a classic look.


Tikka T1x Rimfire

The T1x is an excellent backcountry option for small game hunters.
Barrel length: 20 inches
Safety: 2-position
Mag Capacity: 10
Bases: Rimfire dovetail
MSRP: $499

Here’s another notable new arrival: Tikka’s debut into the world of rimfires. Backcountry suitable? Well, yes. Not every excursion into the backcountry is a quest for big game, and this firearm should make a good companion for any small game hunter or trapper. Boasting a crossover profile barrel (to maintain stiffness while reducing weight), a 10-round magazine, a stainless steel bolt, and a modular synthetic stock, this Tikka rimfire will be a super-accurate little rifle, if history is any indication. Better yet, it’s available in both 22 LR and 17 HMR.


Savage 110 Lightweight Storm

The best backcountry option out of Savage’s 110 line.
Barrel length: 20-inch
Safety: Top tang
Mag Capacity: 4 (detachable mag)
Bases: Savage
MSRP: $749

Savage Arms

A significant portion of Savage’s line of rifles has been upgraded with their new Accufit stock. The rifle I had my eye on (the 110 Storm) just barely missed the backcountry boat with a weight of 7.15 pounds. It features the new Accufit stock that is adjustable for length of pull (LOP) as well as cheek weld. The compact rifle that did make the grade (the 110 Lightweight Storm) did so by a significant margin, weighing in at 5.65 pounds. That model is available in .223, .270 Win., .308 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, and 7mm-08 Rem., sports Savage’s Accutrigger, and a LOP-adjustable stock.