What are the best five rifles for hunting deer? That is a debate that has been around a very long time. Most of the answers are determined by location and personal preference. There are in fact no wrong answers as each rifle will have its fans which will praise it's characteristics. There are however five main action choices which one seems to encounter most in the deer woods. These are the; lever action, bolt action, pump action, and single shot/break action. Each is very popular and used in a variety of calibers and manufacturers. Hopefully, by picking choices from each group we can satisfy most hunters.
- Marlin 336 30/30 – The first choice is perhaps the easiest. Since the Henry rifle was introduced around the time of the American Civil War the American shooter has been in love with the lever action. The 30/30, especially in the northern states, has become known as the classic deer rifle. It is perfect for those brushy, or swampy close range encounters with a large buck. The two main contenders in lever actions are the Winchester 94 and Marlin 336. They are so close in fact, that a coin toss could choose between them, and did.
- Ruger M77 Hawkeye Alaskan .270 Winchester. – The bolt action is perhaps the most popular action type of all and the Ruger Alaskan is a good example of it. With its synthetic stock and stainless steel construction it is well capable of handling all the weather the American continent can throw at the hunter. The synthetic stock also aids in keeping down the weight for those long days of packing the rifle. The .270 Win cartridge is a good choice where both close and long range shots may be encountered in the mountains, plains, or woods.
- Browning BAR 30/06 – The semi-automatic is the third popular choice with American sportsmen and the Browning BAR is among the best. With its roots in the genius of John Moses Browning's military BAR there is something almost patriotic to carrying a Browning BAR. The 30/06 Springfield has been a hugely popular caliber since it was introduced before WWI. It can be found in perhaps more loadings than almost an other caliber. It has loadings which are appropriate for any game animal on the North American continent, the possible exceptions being the smallest of small game.
- H&R Handi-Rifle .243 Winchester. – Many young hunters receive a single shot break action rifle to learn and hunt with. The Handi-rifle is, light, accurate, durable, and, well, handy. Part of its appeal is that one can purchase a rifle in one caliber, and then change caliber with a simple barrel change. There is added versatility in the fact that they make shotgun barrels which interchange also. The Handi-Rifle also breaks down for packing in a backpack to be easily carried when hiking into the woods. It can be had in synthetic stock versions also for weather resistance. The .243 Win is a popular deer cartridge choice with long range capabilities the hunter will appreciate.
- Remington 870 Express Slug gun 12 gauge – This is perhaps cheating a bit. However since many localities, especially near urban centers, do not allow rifles to be used, the shotgun is their only choice. And, technically, since it has a fully rifled barrel, one may argue that this arm blurs the line between shotgun and rifle. There are many choices in shotgun makers, but the Remington 870 pump action is one of the most popular out there. The 870 can be had in synthetic stocked versions and with both rifle sights and scope mounts. It is a fine weapon for the deer hunter, even if they are allowed to use rifles.
Best deer rifles? Perhaps, perhaps not, but these choices are excellent deer rifles. All are very popular with many admirers. Each has characteristics which make it an excellent choice. Each will serve the hunter well, if they take the time to learn to shoot and use the rifle to the best of "it's" ability. Good hunting…