The concept of annual inflation is hard for many consumers (and hunters) to accept. In 1979, I purchased a bolt-action Remington Model 700—my first centerfire rifle—for a little less than 300 bucks. Almost 40 years later that rifle retails for almost three times that much, but I’ll forever value it and others like it, for what I paid for it way back when. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices in 2018 are 247.12 percent higher than prices in 1979. But have no fear, here are 10 accurate, reliable bolt-action rifles that all cost less than $600.
If you think you cannot get a good shooting and reliable bolt–action, hunting rifle for about three bills, you’re wrong. The Remington 783 has a high nylon fiber content synthetic stock, the Crossfire Trigger System, and a three-round or four-round detachable steel magazine. It’s available in 11 popular chamberings from .223 Remington to .300 Winchester Magnum. A version with a factory mounted and bore-sighted, 3-9X40 riflescope is available for an additional $45.
Continuing their long history of offering a lot of gun for the money, the Savage Axis II XP is a fantastic value. The rifle comes with the highly regarded AccuTrigger, button-rifled barrel, and a detachable magazine. It’s available in 10 chamberings from .223 Remington to .30-06 Springfield, and even includes the .280 Ackley Improved. But, just like on a late night infomercial, this deal gets even better. The rifle also comes with a factory mounted and bore-sighted, 3-9X40 Bushnell Banner riflescope.
There’s a lot to like about the TC Compass. It’s available in 6.5 Creedmoor and 10 other chamberings, with either 22- or 24-inch barrels that are ideally suited for everything from prairie dogs to moose. The Compass has a three-lug bolt, a three-position safety, a user adjustable trigger, and 5R rifling is standard. As far as your wallet is concerned, the Thompson Center Compass will help you find you way back to 1979, where this rifle would have sold for about $160.
This rifle changed the way American hunters looked at bolt-action rifles. Its ergonomic, lightweight, synthetic stock, combined with Ruger’s Marksman Adjustable Trigger, is more than enough to justify the price tag. Add in a one-piece, three-lug bolt, the patent pending Power Bedding System, and a cold hammer forged barrel, and you can see why these rifles don’t stay on dealer’s shelves very long.
An adaptation of the very successful Ruger American Rifle, the Ranch Rifle feeds from a detachable magazine and is available in 5.56 NATO, 300 Blackout, 7.62×39 or the pig-busting, straight-wall cased, .450 Bushmaster. The Ruger Marksman Adjustable Trigger is standard and suppressor-ready barrel threading or beastly muzzle brakes are optional. Perfect for farm hands, young hunters, or even professionals, it weighs in at a scant 5.5 pounds.
Available in 10 chamberings, with 22- or 24-inch, light, standard, or heavy barrels, this rifle is built on the famous, dual-locking lug one-piece bolt, Howa 1500 action. A two-stage HACT trigger is standard, and so is the Hogue OverMolded stock with its soft and comfortable non-slip grip. The rifle is also adaptable to the Howa 5-round or 10-round, Detachable Magazine Drop-In Kit, which retails for an additional $69.
This rifle offers the same guaranteed MOA accuracy of all Venture rifles with a more ergonomic design for small-stature shooters. It has a 12.5 length of pull, but comes with a one-inch spacer for larger stature hunters. It is chambered for the .223, .22-250, .243, 7mm-08, or .308, which are perfect options for predator, varmint, or big game hunting. It feeds from a detachable magazine, has a two-position safety, and weighs only 6.5 pounds.
This rifle is offered in 18 different variations, but for hunters who are looking for a lightweight, affordable rifle, the Compact model is where to start. A Pachmayr Decelerator pad, M.O.A. trigger system, bolt-unlock button, and a detachable magazine are standard features on a rifle that weighs in at 6 pounds, 12 ounces. This little gem is available in seven popular big game chamberings including the 6.5 Creedmoor and the hard-hitting .325 WSM.
This bundle of compact sweetness is available with an action that’s perfectly sized to the .223 Remington, 6.5 Grendel, or 7.62X39. It feeds from a detachable magazine, has a three-position safety, and a 20- or 22-inch barrel. And, all of this is fitted to an HTI synthetic, pillar-bedded stock. The Howa Mini-Action is an ideal walking around varmint, coyote calling, or medium game rifle.
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Out of the box, this walnut stocked rifle has a user adjustable trigger and a fantastically reliable and lightweight detachable magazine. Add a fluted, button-rifled, and free-floated barrel, and a spiral fluted bolt, and it’s amazing that this rifle can be had for less than $600. The Patriot is available in a variety of configurations for most popular big-game cartridges, up to the .375 Ruger. ––Richard Mann
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A Long-Range Option: Browning X-Bolt Max Long Range Hunter
Technically, Browning’s Long Range Hunter doesn’t qualify for this list because it costs well above the $600 limit (in fact, it retails for double that). However, consider that this rifle pulls double duty as an excellent option for big-game and predator hunting, plus it’s a practical gun to get you started in long-range precision target shooting. With that in mind, it hits all the requirements of a “bargain bolt gun.”
The rifle won our Great Buy award in the 2019 rifle test. Testers loved the price and also the accuracy—it averaged .743 inches for 5-shot groups, including a best group of .330-inches with Federal’s 140-grain SMK load in 6.5 Creedmoor. Browning’s classic X-Bolt action cycles smoothly and the rifle handles well. It weighs 8 pounds 3 ounces, which is on the heavier side for a hunting rifle but not bad at all (I carried this rifle on a mule deer hunt in Montana last fall and never felt weighed down. Browning is making the very nice and very adjustable precision-style stock itself, which helps save on cost. ––Alex Robinson