The sport of modern shooting and hunting has evolved into a multi-million dollar industry, much of which is invested in conservation of land and the protection of animals. There are also as many options for gear as there are hunters. For the beginning hunter especially, all the products out there are sure to confuse an eager outdoorsman about what to purchase for a particular purpose. While hunting large game such as deer and bear requires some knowledge of which rifle and cartridge combination would be best suited, this guide will provide information on some of the better brands and models to go with. They can also be used in competition with equal effectiveness.
Despite the hype over brand names such as Winchester and Remington, a beginning hunter does not need to spend thousands of dollars on a single rifle to make a good match. Above all else, it’s how the rifle feels in your hands. Even if a rifle comes with a price tag of $3,000, it’s not worth the buy if you don’t feel comfortable holding it. That said, the other important choice to consider is cartridge size. While some large game can be taken with cartridges as small as .223 and .270, it’s better to go one size higher than what you think you may need, especially for game that can charge you such as bear. My recommendation for the beginner hunter would be either .308 or .30-06, and for those that can handle the recoil, anything in the .300 magnum range would be best for stopping power and distance. For competition purposes, either the .30-06 or .300 magnums are the best choice.
Even more important than the cartridge size is the rifle make and model. Generally all rifles made today are of great quality, but if you really want something reliable and proven while not breaking the bank, here are a few options which are sure to make any beginning rifleman/hunter happy. First off would be Remington’s new model 798. The reason this would be my top pick is that the action is a Mauser 98 style, which we all know is preferable for large and possibly dangerous game. The occurrence of case jamming will be much less and Remington’s barrels have been touted as some of the most accurate. It is the rifle manufacturer of choice for many of the military’s sniper classes. Along with the 798, anything in the model 700 range would be perfect for a beginner as well, such as the 700BDL or 700CDL. While these two have different actions, they will serve you well for all large North American game. Typically these rifles go for anywhere between $600-$800, and may just be the most economical rifles out there.
If you don’t mind spending a bit more money, go ahead and get a Winchester Model 70. The new plant just opened in South Carolina and is cranking out super accurate rifles just as they have always been doing. The Model 70 may be the most famous rifle out there, and its track record proves its effectiveness. It is also a top choice among military snipers, and especially for the .30-06 cartridge. At around $1000, the only major difference I see between the Winchester and the Remington’s is the difference in price and looks, but both are surefire picks which will depend more on looks and feel than anything else.
Two more excellent choices include the Savage 114 Classic, which has a fully adjustable trigger, and the CZ-USA CZ 550 model line. Both rifles go for around $700 and are the next up and coming brands that will rival Winchester and Remington in the near future. To note, the CZ 550 is a popular choice among African big game hunters, in cartridges starting at .375. If they can depend on it for world’s most dangerous animals, then you can too, anywhere else in the world. The CZ 550 model line looks sleeker and more stylish than the Savage, but if you want ease of use, and an excellent and highly accurate out-of-the-box barrel, then go for the Savage 114 Classic. Either one of these rifles will impress any shooter, and after that it’s all about how skilled you are at hitting targets hundreds of yards away. To summarize, in no particular order, the rifles a beginner should be paying attention to include the Remington 798 or 700 line, Winchester Model 70, CZ-USA CZ 550, and Savage 114 Classic. Prices and options aside, any of these will be some of the most effective rifles for taking large game and shooting long distances. You will not be disappointed.