Throwback Thursday—Entry Level Bolt Action Rifles

Picture shows a Ruger American bolt-action rifle with a moss green synthetic stock.

It used to be that precision bolt-action rifles were firearms you had to save your pennies for in order to to afford. In the past few years however, the price of an entry-level bolt gun has fallen to the point that almost anyone can afford to purchase a high quality accurate rifle. In many cases, a durable 3-9x40mm scope is also included in the package, outfitting new shooters and first time hunters quickly. Here is a rundown of some of the best values we have found among entry-level bolt-action rifles.

Picture shows a Ruger American bolt-action rifle with a moss green synthetic stock.
As its name indicates, the Predator will appeal to coyote and varmint hunters alike with its new threaded 22-inch heavy barrel.

Ruger American Rifle

In 2011, Ruger asked a team of designers and engineers to develop a hunting rifle that was not only reliable and accurate, but also affordable to the average hunter. Ten months later, this team presented the Ruger American Rifle to executives. Inspired by reliable popular bolt-action rifles of the past, Ruger added plenty of its own innovative features to the American at a price point you would be lucky to find any other bolt gun that rivals it.

Admittedly, Ruger cuts corners and costs by offering the American only in a lightweight synthetic stock. Instead of investment casting the American’s receiver is made from bar stock steel on CNC machines. However, that is where the noticeably value-lined features end. The Ruger American Rifle has a clean, smooth trigger that is user adjustable from three to five pounds, a three-lug 70-degree bolt throw that allows you to cycle the action quickly and clears a low-mounted scope with ease, and Ruger’s patented Power Bedding system. The Power Bedding System incorporates insert-molded stainless steel bedding blocks, creating a lock-tight fit and a free-float barrel. It uses the celebrated flush-fit detachable rotary magazine.

The all-American made American is currently available in eight different models—the Ranch, Predator, American, American All-Weather, Left-Handed, Scoped, Compact and All-Weather Compact—in both long- and short-action. All popular hunting calibers are represented from the classic .243 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield to 6.5 Creedmoor and the popular new predator caliber the .300 AAC Blackout. The Compact rimfire models start out priced lower than $250, while the standard American Rifle in a caliber suitable for medium-sized game starts at $100 more. Feeling much more like a custom bolt-action rifle than factory, the Ruger American Rifle achieves one-inch or less groups at 100 yards straight out of the box. The American exceeds where most value-priced, entry-level hunting rifles simply just work.

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Savage Axis

Picture shows a black scoped bolt-action rifle with a synthetic stock
Based on the old faithful Savage 110 action, the Axis II XP is the perfect beginner hunter’s bolt-action rifle.

By far the best bang for your buck, the former Savage Edge, renamed the Axis features a silky smooth bolt and 22-inch free-floating tapered barrel topped with a matching 3-9x40mm scope. Dual pillar bedding further enhances the consistency of the barrel. It is only available in long action, but is able to handle both long and short action cartridges. It is available with a variety of calibers ranging from .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, .25-06, and .308, on up to .270 Winchester and .30-06. MSRP is set at $396, but dealer prices are hovering slightly over $300. The Axis’ synthetic stock is available in your choice of black or camo.

The Savage Axis is not just a rehashed Savage 110. While there are similarities between the two designs such as the bolt head, the few differences such as the bolt handle are easy to spot. The new handle is a skeletonized version of the 110 bolt handle and adds some visual interest to the Axis. Like the 110, the bolt action on the new Axis is smooth and shows no indication of binding. It uses the same dual bolt lugs as the 110, the even pressure on the bolt face ensuring that the cartridge is perfectly aligned with the bore every time. Unlike the 110, the Axis uses a different action and trigger. Gone is the much loved Savage AccuTrigger, but don’t despair. The Axis trigger is still a very nice crisp trigger with a “glass rod” break right at five pounds. While the new trigger is not adjustable, a gunsmith can still fine-tune it.

Easily shooting 1.5 MOA, the Savage Axis is more than accurate enough to serve as a deer rifle. Any beginning hunter would do well to consider this rifle as a great starting point.

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Mossberg 100 ATR

Picture shows a scoped, black synthetic Mossberg ATR bolt-action rifle
Based off the Japanese-built Howa 1500 action, the Mossberg Model 100 ATR is a simple to use rifle with minimal controls.

Based off the Japanese-built Howa 1500 action, the Mossberg Model 100 ATR is a simple to use rifle with minimal controls—bolt, safety and bolt release. Unlike most other budget rifles, the ATR has an internal box magazine. The Mossberg 100 ATR holds four rounds, plus one in the chamber. The polymer stock is tough enough to stand up to harsh field conditions while still light enough to make this seven-pound rifle easy to carry on long stalks. Sling inserts are molded directly into it the stock, making it simple to attach swivels and a sling or bipod.

The “keep it simple” design used on the ATR makes it easy to quickly learn the controls well enough to operate by touch, allowing the shooter to keep their eyes on the target and not fumble around searching for the safety. The Mossberg 100 ATR sells for less than $300 to $350 with a scope and is available chambered in .308, .243, .30-06, and .270 Winchester.

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Picture shows a Mossberg 4x4 bolt-action rifle with wood stock.
The highlight of the 4×4 is in the action. The LBA “lightning” trigger breaks right around 3.5 lbs.

Mossberg 4×4

The newer Mossberg 4×4 is a step up from the ATR. While much nicer than the ATR, the 4×4 does not cost much more, with pricing right around $450 depending on configuration. Chambered in .25-06, .270, .30-06, 7mm Remington Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, and .338 Winchester Magnum, the 4×4 has a detachable box magazine that holds four standard or three magnum cartridges.

The highlight of the 4×4 is in the action. The LBA “lightning” trigger breaks right around 3.5 lbs. as set from the factory and is user adjustable down to a very light 2 pounds. The bolt moves effortlessly and locks securely into place with two lugs. The two-position safety placed just behind the bolt handle blocks the trigger, but still allows the bolt to open with the safety on.

The 4×4 is available with a wide range of stock and barrel combinations. Mossberg’s futuristic looking skeletonized stock is available in synthetic or laminate, while walnut stocks are similar to the skeletonized stock or in a traditional classic design. All of the stocks offered have a Monte Carlo-style raised cheekpiece built in to better position the shooter and enhance cheek weld. Barrels are either tapered or fluted with a traditional blue matte finish, or with Mossberg’s proprietary Marinecoat stainless satin finish. Ported muzzle breaks are also available to help reduce recoil.

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Marlin XL7

Picture shows the black synthetic stocked Marlin XL7 bolt-action rifle
Marlin engineers took a proven bolt-action design and refined it until they came up with the XL7—a rifle that is supremely accurate as well as it is reliable.

The Marlin XL7 is a minimalist bolt-action rifle built around tried and trued designs. Marlin engineers took a proven bolt-action design and refined it until they came up with the XL7—a rifle that is as supremely accurate as it is reliable. The Marlin XL7 comes with a Pro-Fire fully adjustable trigger system and incorporates a trigger safety to help prevent accidental discharges. Additional safety devices include a standard two-position safety located behind the bolt handle and a red indicator behind the bolt for a visual confirmation that the rifle is cocked. A fluted bolt makes the action very easy to quickly open and close, and the bolt movement itself is silky smooth.

Like the Mossberg ATR, it utilizes an internal box magazine that holds four long action cartridges. Though it does not include a scope, the Marlin XL7 does come with a one-piece scope base.

The XL7 is available in .25-06, .270, and .30-06. and dealer prices for the XL7 range from $300-$400.

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Picture shows a scoped Remington 770 bolt-action rifle
The Remington Model 770 is an updated and much improved version of the Model 700-based 710 rifle.

Remington 770

Well-known rifle manufacturer Remington made quite a reputation for itself with its line of Model 700 rifles. Available in a wide range of configurations and finishes, the Model 700 is easily the best selling bolt-action rifle in the world. Variants of the Model 700 are the rifle of choice for military and SWAT snipers.

The Remington Model 770 is an updated and much improved version of the Model 700-based 710 rifle. Improvements include a modified detachable magazine release, redesigned stock with raised cheekpiece, and the addition of texturing to the grip. A mounted and bore-sighted 3-9×40 scope is included with every 770.

The Model 770 is available with a black synthetic stock and blued barrel, or in stainless with a Realtree patterned camouflage stock. You can be find it in long action chambered for .30-06, .300 Remington Magnum, and .300 Winchester Magnum or short action chambered for 7mm-08 and .308 Winchester. A recent addition to the 770 line is the 770 Compact Model chambered in the mild-recoiling .243 Winchester, making it perfect for youth.

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Whether you are an experienced hunter looking for the perfect beginner rifle for your young hunter or a new hunter looking for an inexpensive rifle to take your first deer, there is an entry-level rifle out there to fit your budget and your needs perfectly.

Do you own any of the above firearms? Which one do you recommend? Tell us about your affordable bolt-action rifles in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (14)

  1. I have the Remington Model 783 .270 caliber. It was a early Christmas gift from my girlfriend. I shot my first deer with it just a few days ago. I used Winchester 150 grain ammo. It brought the 8 point buck down with no problem. It may be a budget type rifle but,it knocks them down with no problem. I like my rifle very much right now

  2. It’s one in the same! I sometimes shorten Alaska to its abbreviation .. AK.
    My bad, I’ll stick with Alaska, sorry

  3. @Secundius
    The Shot Log for that day says I was using factory Barns Vortex 300 , .300 WinMag. Bullet is the 165gr. TTSX/BT (BC about .470) they like the Fed GM215M primers. I do not know what powder they used but given that it’s MV is around the 3150 to 3200 FPS envelope I would guess maybe an IMR 4830 or 4350 at maybe 94 to 97 % load density, but, that’s just a guess based on my own loading for this bullet.

    It wasn’t a 300 Savage but a .300 WinMag
    The Barns factory ammo shoots nearly as well as the several loads I have worked up for the Mossberg and Tika. Both platforms do very well with the 165gr TSXBT factory load so it is my backup when I don’t have my own loads.
    Additional info from that shot: late afternoon, shot was west to east, 3:18pm, low sun at my back. Slight downhill maybe 1.5 % max, wind east to west, 47 degrees F, 53% humidity, wind les than 3 MPH Just of left of Muzzel. Shot was BiPod supported from prone position, Distance: Ranged 384M, Hold: R/L- n/a, Elevation- 384m/0/+8″ optics set: x9.
    Impact: left chest, slight downward angle, 4″ in and 8″ (approx) down from left shoulder, lung and aorta impacted, recovered bullet in intestinal cavity
    above ribs.
    It was a slightly downhill shot into a shallow valley. Had maybe 35 or 40 animals spread out over several hundred meters.

    FYI – for reloads I use one of three powders RL19, IMR 4831, and IMR 4350. For the most part I either lost 165 or 185 Barns TXSBT for the .300WBM. Charges run between 70 and 74 grains with load densites between 94 and 99%. The 4831 provides the best MV/fps but the best LD performance seems to be the 4350. I also use the Federal GM215M primer as Barns does.
    Hope this answers your question!

    1. @ Pete in Alaska.

      MY BAD!!! I didn’t see the Magnum reference at the end of the .300 Winchester. I thought you were talking about the 300 Winchester Savage (7.62x47mm or 7.8×47.5mm, actual) round. My apologies too you. I stand corrected and humbled. Head down in shame…

    2. @ Pete in Alaska, and/or AK.

      Are twi different people in the same state, or one person using two pseudonyms. Because, frankly I can’t tell. Your clarification would be much appreciated…

  4. The Ruger American in 30-06 was my Christmas present from my wife a year ago just before I injured my right shoulder in a fall at work. They operated on it this last July and I’m hoping to get to use it and the American again this year but they say it’s doubtful that I’ll ever shoot it right handed again.

    I mounted a scope on it and it put rounds on the cross hairs at a hundred yards. Since my shoulder is now held together with staples and two wires I’m having to relearn to shoot left handed which is a real pain with a right handed rifle. I’ve been hinting to Santa that they have a left handed model.

    I love mine with the Winchester 150 grain ammo. It’s well balanced, has a smooth trigger, an apparent novelty out of the box these days, and a good recoil pad that makes it fun to shoot. The doc thinks it’s doubtful I’ll ever shoot right handed again. Does any one know what it would cost to convert it to left hand operation or if that’s even possible?

    1. @Hank Alverez
      I’m very sorry to hear of your troubles, there but by the grace of a higher authority goes each of us. Have you thought about going to a lighter deer caliber with less recoil as an option and still shoot right handed? My opinion on a conversion if it comes to that is that it won’t be worth it even if it can be done. My guess is it would be cost prohibitive. I’d sell or keep the one you have and aquire a Left Handed rifle. Good luck with what ever path you may take. I applaud your desire not to give it up just cause of an injury!

    2. @ Hank Alvarez.

      If I might put my two-cents worth in, Ruger does make a Left-Handed American in .30-06Sprnfld. livery… In fact they make quite a few models in left-handed action.

    3. @ Hank Alverez.

      I don’t whether or not you might be interested. But I found THREE rifles all Left-Handed Bolt Action Rifles, and all in the $900.00 USD. price range, but being “private party sales”. on the ArmsList Firearms Marketplace.
      1st) Savage-based in .30-06Sprnfld. livery.
      2nd) Savage Model 12 Vlp. Dbm w/Mille 4-16×50 scoped in .308Win. livery.
      3rd) Savage Model 10 in 6.5 Creedmoor livery.

      And if all possible get a Venous Duplex Ultrasound on your Right Arm. This will determine whether or not, enough Blood Flow into the arm. Giving a “modicum” of hope and too assure any “viability” for the foreseeable future any usage, if any for your Right Arm. Take Care, My prayers too you and your family and I hope you DO have usage for you arm. It took me three-years of therapy, to regain partial usage of both my legs. Take care of yourself, my “Head-Bucking” friend.

    4. The best hand surgeon team in the US told my husband he would never shoot another bow after he lost his left thumb and grip. Instead it made him more determined. He now holds 3 National Titles. Never say never. AI have also watched a disabled pro who shoots for Matthews pulls the bow back with his teeth. Best of lock to you. I ‘m sure shooting is in your future in one form or the other, just do not get into too big of a hurry and damage the healing process.

  5. @ Pete in Alaska.

    For your 384-meter kill shot (Nice shot, by the way), what was the Powder Charge Weight. The reason why I’m asking, is because the .300 Savage. Came in THREE different Powder Weight’s. There was the .308Win (7.8x47mm, the 7.8x49mm and the 7.8x51mm). If you use the Lesser of the Three, the 7.8x47mm (7.8×47.5mm, actual). That might explain why it 8/9-rounds to bring it down, from 384-meters.

  6. I gifted a model 1917, 30-06 to a friend that cost me $300 with a 3X9 Leopold. It took all of 5 rounds to zero at 300yds. I never hunted with it but my friend gets his buck every year. As I am partial to semi’s I looked til I found what I wanted. Weight has never been an issue. I take what I need to take what I need.

  7. I have gifted two of the Rugers, an All Weather and a Ranch both in .308. They have gotten rave reviews and their new caretakers are very pleased with them. Both live in the lower 48 one in Colorado the other in Arkansa.
    One of my favorite long guns in my stable is the Mossberg 4×4, chambered in .300 Win Mag.
    Laminated stock, SS Fluted barrel with a factory Muzzle Break topped with a Burris 3-9×40 MultiPlex scope. It’s not quite an UltraLite like my Tika T3’s but it’s close enough that it’s just about as easy to carry all day in the bush as they are.
    Bought it on the spur of the moment when offered a hunt and didn’t have a long gun with me. It was one of two .300 that the shop had and the other was a very nice but very heavy Remington. They had the Burris optics I like and along with two box’s of 165 gr Barns TSX walked out of the shop after their Smith mounted the scope for a total of $608 an change. Both the rifle and optics were on sale!!
    Laser zeroed the scope then out to the range where it took 7 rounds to re-zero for 250 meters. Got two very nice Caribou on that hunt one at 230 meters and the other at 384 meters (ranged) with rounds 8 and 9. 230 folded up like Origami, 384 jumped, looked around to see what stung him took three steps then just laid down. Although my Tika’s are my more often reached for long guns the Mossberg always goes along. It’s been my camp rifle, a “loaner” to others, and aa solid backup to my primaries. I would recommend it to anyone who wants quality, reliability, and accuracy in a long gun that won’t break the bank.

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