Top 5 Deer Rifles: Something for Everyone

In the hunting world, there’s often a divide between the hunters who take their deer with bolt-actions and the ones who prefer AR platform rifles. Here’s the thing: There are a lot of rifles out there, and it would be a shame not to try them all. Rather than sticking with just one, why not branch out this year and try something new? We have some suggestions regarding where to get started. Check out our top 5 list of deer rifles (in no particular order).

lever action rifle
Whether you prefer lever-action, bolt-action, or semi-automatic, there’s a rifle for you. (Photo credit: Boone and Crockett)

Marlin 1895 Trapper

In many ways, lever guns are traditionally thought of as deer rifles. So it follows that Marlin, which was founded in 1870, probably has some experience with hunting guns.

Marlin 1895 Trapper, in list of top deer rifles
The Marlin 1895 Trapper is being made by Ruger, and it’s a beautiful gun that’s perfect for deer hunting. (Photo credit: Marlin)

Today, the brand is owned by Ruger, and they’re manufacturing models like the Marlin 1895 Trapper. This gun is chambered in 45-70 Gov’t and has a 5 +1 capacity. It’s beautifully made and a reliable performer in the woods.

Marlin 1895 Trapper adjustable Skinner Sights receiver-mounted peep sights
The Marlin 1895 Trapper has adjustable Skinner Sights receiver-mounted peep sights that are perfect for rapid target acquisition. And yes, they really do work well. (Photo credit: Marlin)

Peep sights made by Skinner Sights are mounted to the 1895 Trapper, and if you’re hesitant to hunt with irons, you’ll be happy to find this particular design is excellent. The gun has a black laminate stock and the barrel is made from cold hammer forged steel.  It’s accurate, cycles smoothly, and doesn’t produce excessive felt recoil despite its heavy chambering. This a durable, rugged, lever-action rifle and the perfect solution to the question of which rifle to use for deer this year (or any year).

Winchester XPR Extreme Hunter True Timber Midnight MB

Bolt-actions are yet another long-time fixture in the deer woods. The Winchester XPR Extreme Hunter True Timber Midnight MB is excellent for hunting and has a precision button-rifled barrel, MOA trigger system, and detachable box magazine.

Winchester XPR Extreme Hunter True Timber rifle, in list of top deer rifles
The Winchester XPR Extreme Hunter True Timber is available in numerous calibers. (Photo credit: Winchester)

A Tungsten Cerakote finish protects the barrel and receiver and the composite stock has a nicely done camo finish to help you blend into the shadows. The rifle is tapped for scope mounts, too, so it’s relatively simple to put an optic on it.

Winchester XPR Extreme Hunter rifle bolt action
The rifle is drilled and tapped, making it easy to mount optics to your gun. (Photo credit: Winchester)

One of the nice things about this platform is that it’s available in quite a few calibers, including:

  • 223 Remington
  • 243 Winchester
  • 6.5 Creedmoor
  • 7mm-08 Remington
  • 308 Winchester
  • 350 Legend
  • 6.5 PRC
  • 6.8 Western
  • 270 WSM
  • 300 WSM
  • 270 Winchester
  • 30-06 Springfield
  • 7mm Remington Magnum
  • 300 Winchester Magnum

The rifle has an Inflex technology recoil pad to help offset the felt recoil and barrel lengths between 22 inches and 26 inches, depending on the caliber. It’s well-balanced and reliable, plus it’s light enough to tote in the woods without trouble. This is a great bolt-action and considering the number of calibers it’s made in, odds are there’s one that will suit your needs and preferences.

Wilson Combat Ultralight Ranger

The AR platform is popular for hunting, and understandably so. After all, it’s a versatile, reliable option offered in a crazy multitude of calibers. Even the customization possibilities are endless. However, the AR-10 is often the preferred option over the AR-15, and it tends to be a much heavier rifle.

Wilson Combat Ultralight Ranger
The Wilson Combat Ultralight Ranger is an AR10 that’s designed to be a lot lighter and more portable than your average AR10. (Photo credit: Wilson Combat)

Wilson Combat created their Ultralight Ranger to solve that issue, making an AR-10 that doesn’t weigh a ton. Plus it has a 16-inch barrel, making it easier to maneuver.

Wilson Combat Ultralight Ranger, in list of top deer rifles
Not only is the rifle a stellar performer, but it’s also easy on the eyes, too. (Photo credit: Wilson Combat)

The one downside to this particular model is that it’s only available in two calibers: 243 Winchester and 358 Winchester. Features include a Wilson Combat Ranger Match Grade barrel, Smoke Composite carbon fiber closed shoulder buttstock, and the company’s Tactical Trigger Unit M2. This gun is not meant to be a safe queen, it was made to be used, and it’ll stand up to some serious use.

Savage Arms 110 Tactical

This rifle gives you the best of past and present designs. It’s a bolt-action—with tactical features and 6mm ARC chambering.

Savage Arms 110 Tactical
The Savage Arms 110 Tactical in 6mm ARC is the best of both worlds, past and present. (Photo credit: Savage Arms)

The Savage Arms 110 Tactical in 6mm ARC has it all, from a gray synthetic stock to an oversized bolt handle. You can bump this rifle on trees and subject it to the elements without worrying about damaging a wood finish, which is a pretty big plus. The gun has a detachable 10-round box magazine, so it holds plenty of ammo for a deer hunt, and has swivel points in place for the addition of a sling.

Savage Arms 110 Tactical with riflescope
The rifle has a Picatinny rail in place atop the receiver for easy mounting of optics. (Photo credit: Savage Arms)

The 6mm ARC chambering is an awesome choice for deer and also delivers greater accuracy than some other calibers. Of course, if you want something different, this model is also available in 6.5 Creedmoor, 300 Win Mag, 308 Win, and 6.5 PRC. It has highly useful features such as a Picatinny rail set atop the receiver, a user-adjustable AccuTrigger, and adjustable comb height and length of pull. Overall, it’s a nice gun to take on your next walk in the woods, whatever caliber you choose.

Henry — The Long Ranger

A modernized, updated lever-action in 308 Winchester? Yes, please! The Long Ranger from Henry Repeating Arms offers, according to the company, a “traditional lever action operation with an exposed hammer and forged steel lever but updated with a geared action and rotary locking bolt face for strong, consistent lock-up.” There are two versions of The Long Ranger, the classic original design and the Wildlife Edition, which features special engraving and other custom-quality features.

Henry Long Ranger rifles, in list of top deer rifles
The Henry Long Ranger is a modernized lever-action rifle offered in 308 Winchester, among others. (Photo credit: Henry)

The Long Ranger is considered by many shooters to be the best in its class thanks to its smooth cycling, quality design, and overall performance. In 308 Winchester it’s a great option for deer hunting, because who doesn’t love a traditional chambering?

Features include a 20-inch barrel made of round blued steel, a hard anodized black receiver finish, and an American Walnut stock. Swivel studs, a hammer extension, and a scope mount are included. The rifle has a four-round capacity. With The Long Ranger, you can use 308 Winchester outside of the bolt-action platform you might be accustomed to seeing it in.

What’s on your list of favorite deer rifles?

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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