Best Bolt Action Rifle for the Money

Many new hunters, or those looking for a second rifle, want a firearm that will consistently perform at a minimal cost. A nice bolt action rifle doesn’t need to break the bank and there are plenty of options that retail for under $500.

In this ranking system we kept the needs of these prospective buyers in mind, so while you won’t find any high grade walnut stocks at this price point, you will find some really good rifles for a great value.

KEY
POOR
AVERAGE
GOOD
VERY GOOD
EXCELLENT
RANK
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Product Name Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic Howa 1500 T/C Venture Marlin X7 Ruger American Stevens 200 Mossberg 4×4
Overall Rating
MSRP $649 $539 $629 $391 $449 $420 $471
Accuracy
Durability
Ergonomics
Fit/Finish
Loading
Recoil
Reliability
Safety
Scope Mounting
Trigger
SPECIFICATIONS
Overall Length 44″ 46.5″ 43.5″ 42.5″ 42.5″ 44.75″ 46″
Barrel Length 24″ 22″ or 24″ 22″ or 24″ 22″ 22″ 24 24″
Length Of Pull 13.625″ 13.75″ 13.5″ 13.25″ 13.75″ 13.75″ 13.25″
Weight 7.5 lbs 7.75 lbs 7 lbs 6.75 lbs 6.25 lbs 6.75 lbs 7.25 lbs
Magazine Type Fixed Fixed Detachable Fixed Detachable Rotary Fixed Detachable
Chamberings 14 15 16 6 4 8 13
CAPACITIES
243 Win. 1:10 1:10 1:10 1:10 1:09 1:09:25 1:10
270 Win. 1:10 1:10 1:12 1:10 1:10 1:10 1:10
308 Win. 1:12 1:12 1:10 1:12 1:10 1:10 1:10
30-06 Sprg. 1:10 1:10 1:10 1:10 1:10 1:10 1:10
300 Win. Mag. 1:10 1:10 1:10 N/A N/A 1:10 1:10
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Ranking Factors

Ergonomics

The area of ergonomics is always tough. How a gun is shaped has a lot to do with how well you use it, but how you are shaped determines what you like. With these rankings we’ve tried to give more points to the rifles that stick closer to traditional lines in their stocks without unduly penalizing new the designs that may appeal to some.

Trigger

The ratings for triggers are higher for models with adjustable units because, while a non-adjustable trigger might be great, you’re stuck with what you get. A first-time buyer shouldn’t be discouraged by poor accuracy brought on by a lousy trigger pull. It is easier to learn and have fun with good equipment.

Recoil

Recoil is another tough area to grade, but we’ve based our ratings here on our personal preferences for recoils pads and stock design. No two people ever seem to agree on how much a rifle “kicks”, but our chart should give you an idea of how much some people think these guns will belt you.

Safety

The rating system for the safeties needs a bit of explaining to avoid any kind of confusion. The ratings have nothing to do with how well the safeties on any of the given rifles work — they all work. The rating is based on little differences, like the number of positions. We assume three-position safeties are both preferable to, and more safe than, two-position safeties. The ergonomics of accessing the safety for off-hand or snap shooting also entered into the ratings even though this has a lot to do with the size of the shooter’s hand. It’s a matter of preference, but we have to grade somehow. It has been said many times, but we’ll say it once more here: the only real safety a gun has is the user. Find a rifle with a safety you like and that fits you well, but follow the rules of safe handling so you never have to trust it.

Accuracy

Our ratings for accuracy are based on what these rifles should deliver given their design features, intended use and, to a certain extent, which company made them. Regardless of make, model or manufacturer no one can say how the rifle you bring home will shoot. These ratings are really just the best educated guess we can offer.

Loading

For our loading ratings we have given higher ratings to well-made magazines that are easy to access. If the magazine seems a little junky or prone to rattling we’ve deducted points. Seeing as these are rifles for first-time shooters who need trustworthy equipment we’ve also deducted points from magazines that stray from time-tested designs.

Reliability

Our grading in the areas of reliability and durability are linked. We’ve offered our best guess as to how well the rifle will take a beating (reliability) and how many times you can give the rifle a beating without compromising functionality (dependability). This could have been more than a guess but, for some reason, no one ever wants to give us free guns to destroy.

Also see: Best Bolt Action Rifles