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What works well for a Pronghorn antelope hunter in Montana will not work for a deer hunter in Ohio. Yet, not all of us hunt exclusively in our home state. Many hunters travel to different areas in search of different game and their hometown rifles may not do the job in their new location.
Whether you are a first time hunter or a seasoned nimrod, it is to your advantage to see which rifles are gaining in popularity.
Using Gun Genius, a database repository based on sales through Gunbroker.com, we compiled a list of the most popular big game hunting rifles for the first two months of the year 2018 in order to give you a 500’ view of what trends are going on with big game hunting rifles.
The Henry rifle was invented by Benjamin Tyler Henry while he was employed as a gunsmith by Winchester in 1860. Although the current company manufacturing these rifles has no direct connection to Henry, the design elements are all there.
Henry’s Big Boy is a lever action rifle chambered in 44 Magnum. Other models are chambered in 357 Magnum, 327 Federal Magnum and 41 Magnum, but the 44 version has proven to be the best seller so far this year.
With its 20” barrel, the Henry Big Boy is an accurate and reliable lever action capable of taking big game animals at close range. A rifle such as this firing a straight-wall cartridge is the one you need when hunting in the congested Mid-West or North-East where bottle neck cartridges are banned in a few states.
Its caliber and configuration also make it acceptable for use in Cowboy Action Shooting competition, so long as you shoot 44 S&W Special through it instead of the Magnums.
Our preference for lever action rifles are those which load via a loading gate on the rifle’s receiver. Henry rifles load through the front of the magazine tube.
While the rifle is beautiful to look at and a classic American design, the brass colored receiver is shiny, not easily camouflaged and may the finish may take abuse from use in the field. If your heart is set on this type of lever action as a hunting rifle, you may want to look at the blued steel version instead.
Another company with a storied history in America is Savage Arms and it was no surprise that their Bolt Action Model 10 or 110 came in second on this list.
The Savage Model 10 is available in a variety of calibers from 223 Remington to 308 Winchester and for years this rifle was one of the best kept secrets in the hunting world. A long action version of the rifle called the Model 110 is available in 300 Winchester Magnum and 338 Lapua Magnum.
One of the keys to an accurate rifle is having a good trigger. Savage rifles ship with what is known as an Accu-Trigger that can easily be adjusted by the user to his or her desired trigger pull weight.
We find Savage’s factory synthetic stocks to be a little lacking and usually have to upgrade them with a better stock. This adds a little more cost to the rifle.
When we were thinking about this article, we imagined bolt action rifles would dominate the list. We were pleasantly surprised to see a few lever action rifles close to the top completely disproving that the lever action rifle is a thing of the past. Marlin offers two lever action rifles that tied for third place with their 1895 and 336.
The Marlin 1895 is chambered in the powerful straight wall 45-70 Government round, which has been in use since 1873 and was infamously used to decimate the buffalo herds of the American West. The Model 336 is its slightly smaller brother chambered in 30-30 Winchester or 35 Remington.
Unlike the Henry rifles, Marlin’s lever action rifles load into the rear of the magazine via a loading gate in the side of the receiver. This allows for quicker loading of the rifle and gives the hunter the ability to quickly top off the magazine tube.
Marlin lever action rifles feature a solid top receiver, which makes them excellent for mounting a scope if you do not care for the factory iron sights.
Introduced in 2003, this bolt-action rifle was known as the “poor man’s Remington 700”, because it was based on an earlier “poor man’s Remington 700” known as the Model 788. In our estimation, that appellation does a disservice to both rifles.
Available in a number of calibers from 243 Winchester to 300 Winchester Magnum, the Model 783 retails for around $450.
Like the Savage Model 10, the Remington Model 783 features an adjustable trigger preset at the factory to 3.5 pounds. The end user can adjust this up or down to how he or she prefers it.
Mounting a scope is a simple affair and the mounts in question are the same as two front mounts for a Remington Model 700.
We have two nits to pick with this rifle. First of all, we find the stock a bit too light and cheap feeling. We understand that this is to keep the cost down, but we had to put it out there. If you absolutely hate the stock you will need to go with an aftermarket one and you are looking at adding $200 + to upgrade a $400 rifle.
Secondly, we are not a fan of the two-position safety, because while it does allow removal of the bolt in order to unload the rifle while the safety is engaged, it can also cause the bolt to open while you are walking through the woods with it and have it drop out of your rifle.
Rounding out the list is a budget version of Remington’s Model 700. The Remington Model 700 SPS is built on the Remington 700 action which has been the standard for US military sniper rifles since the 1960s.
The Remington Model SPS can be had in a multitude of calibers from 223 Remington to the shoulder busting 300 Remington Ultra Magnum.
You can tell when a manufacturer is valuing customer feedback when they incorporate an adjustable trigger instead of one with a fixed pull weight that can be variable from rifle to rifle. The X-Mark Pro is truly on the level with custom triggers and has no creep with a completely adjustable break.
The Remington Model 700 SPS incorporates what is known as the “3-rings-of-steel”. The first of these is a recessed bolt face that completely encloses the cartridge head to protect against case rupture. Secondly, the barrel is threaded into the receiver, which is machined from a billet of hardened steel. Lastly the barrel completely surrounds the bolt shroud.
There are a host of aftermarket accessories made specifically for this rifle to allow the shooter to squeeze the most accuracy out of it.
Like we mentioned on the Savage Model and the Remington Model 783, we are not fans of the stock. While better than the stocks found on the other two rifles, we prefer a custom stock on our hunting rifles.
By the way, if you're brand new to hunting, visit our Hunting Guide to learn the basics of what it takes to get started.