25 Greatest Deer Rifles Ever | Outdoor Life

25 Greatest Deer Rifles Ever

See if your favorite deer gun made our list

Winchester deer gun

Winchester Model 76
Though the model '76 sold fewer copies than either of its predecessors (Models 1866 and 1873), it was the first to deliver Winchester's promise of a truly high-powered hunting rifle. Whereas the Models 66 and 73 had been chambered for what was essentially rimfire and centerfire handgun cartridges, the M-76 was available in the more powerful calibers, making it a truly legitimate deer rifle, even by today's performance standards, and paving the way for Winchester's coming successes with Winchester's lever-action big-game rifles. Teddy Roosevelt had three M-76s, and Buffalo Bill Cody liked them too.

Fast Fact: The Model 1876 was also known as the Centennial Model, since its introduction coincided with the U.S. Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia in 1876.

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Marlin Model 81
Though marlin already enjoyed a 20-year reputation as a builder of fine sporting rifles, its Model of 1881 founded a dynasty of well-finished lever-action rifles. Offered in powerful cartridges such as the .45/70 and more expensive than Winchester's lever rifles, it incorporated innovations and refinements that appealed to discriminating riflemen.

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Winchester Model 86M
Considered by many to be Winchester's greatest lever action, the 1886 was the ultimate blend of hand-craftsmanship and mass-production techniques. Offered in a wide range of calibers, from the .38/56 Winchester to the whopping .50/110 Express, the Model 1886 was certainly equal to all North American big game, and then some.

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Krag .30/40
America's love affair with bolt-action rifles flowered when the Scandinavian-born Krag/Jorgensen rifle was adopted by the U.S. military in 1892. And the rifle won immortality in the hands of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders charging up San Juan Hill. Following the military's adoption of the '03 Springfield, surplus Krags""many of which, such as this amateurishly sporterized sample, were cut down and customized for deer hunting""were sold to civilians.

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Marlin Model 93
Featuring a powerful locking system by legendary gun designer L.L. Hepburn, the Model 93 Marlin had side ejection and a solid top receiver, making it a favorite of early users of telescopic sights. The solid-top, side-ejecting receiver remains a hallmark of Marlin rifles to this day.

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Winchester Model 94
With more than 5 million Model 94's sold during 100-plus years of manufacture, the greatness of this gun is self-evident. Think "deer rifle" and the Model 94 automatically comes to mind as the image of the classic North American deer gun. Except for stoppages during war years, the Model 94 remained in continuous production until the closure of Winchester's New Haven, Conn., plant in 2006.

For more, check out Range365: Gun of the Week: Winchester 1894

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Winchester Model 95
Perhaps best known as one of the rifles used by Teddy Roosevelt on his famous African Safari, the John Browning""designed Model 95 is unique in being the first box-magazine lever rifle and being chambered for modern high-powered cartridges such as the .30/06. Of the nearly 426,000 Model 95s manufactured, more than half were chambered for the 7.62mm Russian round and sold to the tsarist Russian government.

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Mauser Model 98
Doughboys and GI's who brought these captured German battle rifles home from the World Wars found that their souvenir Mausers were also great deer rifles, and thousands remain in use even today, in both original and sporterized form. The original 8x57mm cartridge is excellent for deer and other North American game, and the Mauser rifle is easily converted to other calibers, making it a worldwide favorite among custom riflemakers.

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Savage Model 99
Introduced in the final year of the 19th century, this Savage lever rifle was ahead of its time. Distinguished by its streamlined, hammerless profile, slick-feeding rotary magazine and innovative calibers, such as the .250/3000 and .300 Savage, the 99 is one of America's immortal deer rifles.

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Mannlicher-Schoenauer
Sold mainly by carriage-trade gun houses and with its elitist image further burnished by its role in such literary works as Hemingway's "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," the slick-working, beautifully finished Austrian-made Mannlicher was ideally suited for American-style deer hunting. Its signature caliber, the 6.5x54, remains one of the finest deer calibers of all time.

Fast Fact: The graceful butterknife bolt handle is a hallmark of Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles.

Fast Fact: Mannlicher has become the generic term to describe full-length rifle stocks.

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Springfield Model 1903
From the trenches of Belgium to the mountains of Alaska, the '03 Springfield rifle has been the standard bearer of American gun making and marksmanship. The passing years have only added to the legend of this great rifle. What more can be said?

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Enfield SMLE
Though it wins few awards for beauty, Canada's beloved equivalent of the American '03 Springfield, the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield was and is the staple rifle of thousands of Canadian deer hunters. Once available on the surplus market for less than $10, the rugged SMLE was well suited to the North Woods, and its cartridge""the .303 British""has probably accounted for more Canadian deer, moose, caribou and bears than any other caliber.

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Remington Model 8 Autoloader
Remington staked its claim as the Autoloading Rifle Company more than a century ago with the introduction of the Browning-designed Model 8. Revolutionary for its time, the reliable Model 8, and its Model 81 successor, proved that a large number of American deer hunters favor a self-loading rifle. Winchester's attempt at autoloaders never caught up with the lead established by this square-backed classic.

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Remington Model 14
"Can a pump-action rifle compete successfully with a lever rifle?" This question must have been foremost in the thoughts of Remington executives when they introduced the Model 14. Though pump-actions by other gunmakers had largely failed, Remington's solidly built, slick-working Model 14 sold well and established Remington's dominance in the slide-action market place.

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Winchester Model 54
Knowing that any bolt-action rifle would be critically compared to the popular '03 Springfield and Mauser of 1898, Winchester overcame the challenge successfully in 1925 by combining good features from both. Offered in a full range of popular calibers from the .22 Hornet to the .30/06, the Model 54 raised the bar on rifle accuracy and incorporated distinctive features and styling that were later inherited by Winchester's Model 70.

Fast Fact: The .270 Winchester was introduced as a new cartridge in 1925 and first offered in the Model 54.

Fast Fact: The Model 54 was offered in a heavy-barrel sniper model, most of which were chambered in .30/06.

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Winchester Model 64
Sometimes referred to as a Model 94 in a tuxedo, with its slicker-working action and hand-tuned trigger, the Model 64 was Winchester's response to deer hunters who demanded an upscale lever rifle. A deluxe version of the Model 64, with a hand-checkered stock and other refinements, became a favorite in blueblood deer camps.

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Winchester Model 70
With a well-earned reputation as "the rifleman's rifle," because of its accuracy, reliability and stylish wood and metal, Winchester's Model 70 became the icon to which other American-made bolt rifles are still compared.

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Marlin 336
A worthy successor to Marlin's well-finished lever rifles of earlier generations, the 336 had a solid top receiver and side ejection that adapted easily for use with telescopic sights, a factor that hampered top-ejection lever rifles during the postwar boom in optical sights. Available in the ever-popular .30/30 and .35 Remington calibers, the 336 is a staple in America's deer woods.

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Remington Models 721 & 722
Rather than compete head-on with Winchester's popular Model 70, Remington rewrote the rules with its postwar Models 721 and 722. This lower-priced line of bolt rifles, available in a wide range of calibers and featuring the innovative "three rings of steel" strength, was comparatively inexpensive to manufacture yet proved to be astonishingly accurate. The best-selling of the 721s and 722s were patriarchs of today's immensely popular Model 700s.

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Remington Model 760
Using innovative cross-model-integrated manufacturing techniques, Remington reestablished its dominance in the slide-action rifle market with the Model 760. Gradual modification of the 760 has resulted in today's M-7600, with the combined 55-year production of the 760 "Game Master" and its descendants in the millions.

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Remington Model 740
Utilizing Remington's post-war integrated manufacturing systems and a gas-operated self-loading mechanism, the Model 740 was the founding model of an autoloading deer rifle dynasty. The M-740 and its variations continue to this day, with millions sold in total.

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Savage Model 110
Introduced a half-century ago as an economical alternative to more costly bolt rifles, the 110 quickly earned a reputation as a solid performer and in succeeding generations has evolved into one of the most respected and enduring of America's hunting rifles.

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Remington Model 700
Utilizing the "three rings of steel" security and accuracy-enhancing features inherited from Remington's Models 721 and 722, the Model 700 in its many forms, variations and calibers has become the dominant bolt-action rifle of modern times.

Fast Fact: The 700 has been offered in 47 different cartridges by Remington since it was first introduced.

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Browning BAR
Heir to battlefield legends of World Wars I and II, the slickly finished and stylish Browning Automatic Rifle, now in its fifth decade of production, has been available in a variety of calibers and grades and has earned distinction not only as "the other autoloader," but also for its reliability and accuracy.

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Ruger Model 77
Combining ancient casting techniques with classic styling, Ruger made the term "investment cast" respectable and established a popular line of bolt-action rifles now in their fourth decade of production.

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Here are our picks for the greatest deer rifles ever made. Let the arguments begin.

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