Top 10 Best Guns for Whitetail Hunting

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In most states, deer hunting season begins in the last months of summer, typically between late August and early September. As the summer approaches, hunters should prepare and ensure they have the best equipment available to hunt deer successfully.

Familiarizing yourself with the best guns for whitetail deer hunting in 2023 can help you harvest big this season, whether you are a novice looking for your first deer hunting rifle or an experienced whitetail deer hunter who wants to add a new rifle to the gun safe.

Savage Arms Axis II XP

The Savage Arms Axis II XP is the second-generation version of the company’s critically acclaimed Axis bolt-action centerfire rifle family. The primary differences between the modern Axis II and its predecessor are its stock and trigger system.

The Axis II features a redesigned, high-durability synthetic stock, offering improved ergonomics, a more comfortable shoulder pad, and a modern, angular look.

The heart of the Savage Axis II XP is its Savage AccuTrigger adjustable trigger system. The AccuTrigger lets the shooter adjust the trigger pull weight without bringing the rifle to a gunsmith.

It is as close to a custom trigger control group as a factory-installed trigger gets. This system improves the Axis II’s shooting comfort and lets shooters achieve more consistent trigger pulls for increased accuracy.

The Axis II XP comes out of the box with a factory-installed, pre-bore-sighted Bushnell Banner 3-9x40mm optic, making it ready to take on the range or the field.

As with the first-generation Axis XP, the Axis II XP comes standard with a 22-inch barrel and accepts detachable box magazines. It is available in a wide range of chamberings, from .22-250 Remington to 7mm-08 Remington. While virtually all are suitable for deer hunting, the best choices are .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, and 6.5 Creedmoor.

Winchester Model 70 Alaskan

The Winchester Model 70 is one of America’s oldest and most well-known bolt-action rifles. First introduced in 1936, the Model 70 has long been held in high regard by hunters, precision shooters, and other enthusiasts.

Although modern-day Model 70 rifles are produced by Browning, a subsidiary of FN Herstal, they continue to be made under the Winchester brand name. More than 10 versions of the Model 70 are currently produced, with the Alaskan version being one of the best and most versatile for deer hunting.

The Model 70 Alaskan is the version that most closely resembles the classic, pre-1964 version of the original Model 70. It features iron sights, a hooded front sight, a checkered Monte Carlo stock of premium-grade walnut, and a highly accurate, free-floating 25-inch barrel with a recessed target crown.

Winchester currently offers the Model 70 Alaskan in four chamberings: .30-06 Springfield, .300 Winchester Magnum, .338 Winchester Magnum, and .375 H&H Magnum.

Tikka T3x Lite

The Finnish-made Tikka T3x rifle family is among the most durable lightweight bolt-action rifles on today’s market.

The T3x Lite is an even lighter version of the T3x rifle, featuring modular synthetic stocks with interchangeable pistol grips and high-performance recoil pads, ensuring the shooter gets the most comfort and recoil mitigation, even with more powerful cartridges. All T3x rifles are available in either right-hand or left-hand configurations.

The T3x Lite features a pre-drilled and tapped receiver, letting the shooter install the Picatinny rails and optics of their choice for any application.

Tikka offers the T3x Lite in 19 different cartridges, from .22-250 Remington to 9.3x62mm, including American deer hunting staples like .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .300 Winchester Magnum, and 7mm Remington Magnum. More modern options, such as 6.5 PRC and 6.5 Creedmoor, are also available.

Ruger American Rifle Standard

The American Rifle was introduced in 2012 by the American gunmaker Ruger as a 100% new bolt-action rifle platform intended to perform one task: serve as the highest-quality low-cost hunting rifle possible.

The American Rifle features a Ruger trademark: a detachable, rotary box magazine, similar to the magazine used in the 10/22 and pistol-caliber rifles such as the 77/357. This choice allows the flush-fitting magazine to accept three to five rounds, depending on caliber, in a very short and slim body matching the rifle’s lightweight design.

The Ruger American Rifle is available in six calibers, all suitable for whitetail deer hunting: .30-06 Springfield, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington, and 6.5 Creedmoor.

Remington Model 700 Alpha 1

The Model 700 Alpha 1 was released in 2022, making it the newest version of the Remington Model 700. This gun is the first model since the original Remington company split into two entities: RemArms, which makes firearms, and Remington Ammunition, an ammo producer.

Although the Model 700 Alpha 1 feels familiar to shooters used to the Model 700 platform, it features numerous improvements. These include five-groove rifling, match-grade fitting tolerances, fluted barrels, and barrel twist rates engineered to optimize long-distance accuracy.

Smith & Wesson M&P-10 Sport

While the traditional bolt-action rifle remains the ideal deer hunting platform, American shooters today can access a wide range of options using different actions, including modern, semi-automatic sporting rifles such as the S&W M&P-10 Sport.

The M&P-10 Sport is Smith & Wesson’s AR-10 platform, the larger, more powerful version of the AR-15, as originally chambered in .308 Winchester. The standard version has a 16-inch barrel, a retractable M4-style stock, a 20-round detachable box magazine, a durable Armornite finish, and an optics-ready receiver.

Like most AR-10 platforms, the standard version of the M&P-10 is available in .308 Winchester. However, Smith & Wesson also produces a 6.5 Creedmoor version, fitted with a fixed Magpul MOE stock, a 15-inch free-floating M-LOK handguard, and a full-length 20-inch barrel for maximum performance on the field.

Marlin Model 1895 SBL

Lever-action rifles are at the other end of the spectrum of deer hunting platforms. Steeped in American traditions, many gunmakers continue producing classic lever guns in various historic chamberings today, such as the .45-70 Government or .30-30 Winchester.

The Marlin Model 1895 SBL blends the tradition of shooting large, powerful straight-wall cartridges in a classic lever-action with modern functions and amenities. These upgrades include a fluted bolt, adjustable rear and front sight, a threaded barrel, a stainless steel finish, and a full-length Picatinny rail to install any of your optics.

The .45-70 version is ideal for whitetail deer hunting and can accept six cartridges in the tube magazine plus one in the chamber.

Browning X-Bolt Stalker Long Range

Depending on the environment and local conditions, many hunters find themselves in a situation where they can see deer at extended distances but cannot engage them. While shooter skill can compensate, most deer hunting rifles simply aren’t sighted or prepared for long-distance shots of more than 200 feet.

Hunters looking for the best platform to engage whitetail deer at any distance, including long-range shots, should rely on a dependable rifle platform built for the task.

The Browning X-Bolt Stalker Long Range was designed for this type of hunter, featuring a no-frills synthetic stock with adjustable length of pull and comb height and a heavy 26-inch barrel fitted with a muzzle brake. This model also features a short bolt lift for faster cycling.

Pair this rifle with the long-distance optic of your choice for the best results on the field.

Benelli R1

While AR-15 and AR-10 platforms are among the most popular modern semi-automatic rifles for hunting, they lack the traditional look and feel of a bolt-action hunting rifle. Shooters looking for a blend of classic look and ergonomics with a modern, reliable semi-automatic action can try the Benelli R1.

The R1’s stock and handguard are available in either black synthetic or a more traditional AA-grade walnut. Benelli offers the R1 in four chamberings, all suitable for deer hunting: .30-06 Springfield, .308 Winchester, .300 Winchester Magnum, and .338 Winchester Magnum. Depending on the caliber selected, your R1 will feature either a 22-inch or a 24-inch barrel.

The R1 accepts detachable magazines with a capacity varying between three or four rounds, depending on caliber. All models are approximately 7.2 lbs., making it an excellent lightweight option for deer hunting.

Springfield Model 2020 Waypoint

Hunters are responsible for not pulling the trigger until they are certain the bullet will reach the deer’s vitals, ensuring a clean, humane shot. Choosing a highly accurate rifle platform for deer hunting helps eliminate uncertainty when shooting longer distances.

The Springfield Model 2020 Waypoint is part of a new, modern-manufactured family of bolt-action hunting rifles designed to offer accuracy and performance comparable to custom-built guns. Each Waypoint rifle comes with the manufacturer’s guarantee of 0.75 MOA accuracy or better when paired with quality factory ammunition.

The stock is made of carbon fiber, ensuring the rifle’s overall weight is under 7 lbs. regardless of configuration. All versions are designed to accept standard AICS-pattern detachable box magazines. Available calibers include .308 Winchester, 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 6.5 PRC.

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