Looking for first deer rifle in 20 yrs... Help!


January 3, 2012, 12:23 PM
Hey everyone, thanks for looking!

I used to hunt back when I was a teen with my step-father. Long story short, that was 24 years ago and I am getting back into hunting again next season. I have been doing some research and trying to narrow down a list of rifles to try out and see what is even available anymore.

As for the specifics... I will hunt deer in central to northern Missouri, so everything from lots of brush to open corn fields. I personally am comfortable taking shots to 300-400yds, though I prefer much closer and will generally try to stay under 200yds. I prefer bolt action rifles over semi/pump/single. I love wood stocks, though hunting in Missouri means wood stocks get nicked hiking through the woods. Synthetic stocks aren't a problem for me.

As an adult, I have had two massive shoulder surgeries so I am looking for something with less felt recoil than I would have cared about 24 years ago, haha. I have great eyesight (thanks to LASIK :) ) and can shoot with optics or irons.

While I haven't hunted in over two decades, I have been shooting competitive pistols during that time frame so I am not new to firearms in general. I am used to 1.5lb/3lb triggers in my competitive pistols and 6lb/8lb triggers in my carry pistols. I will spend the next 10-11 months learning my rifle, practicing, and shooting weekly/monthly in preparation for hunting season. I will be shooting hundreds of rounds through my new rifle prior to taking it hunting... so ammo needs to moderately affordable.

And of course the big question... how much $$ do I have to spend for the rifle and optics? I would prefer to stay in the $1,000 range for both rifle and scope together. That is not a huge budget when you include glass, I know... but it is what I can work with right now. Especially considering I have to purchase all hunting gear along with it between now and next season.

So your help and recommendations are greatly appreciated!!!

Thanks and God Bless!

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Ky Larry
January 3, 2012, 12:35 PM
Look at a Savage in .243 Win. Probably the best bang for your buck.

January 3, 2012, 12:40 PM
As for cartridge choice, I think 7mm-08 would be a good choice for your shoulder, but the ammo for it is about $10 per box more expensive than .308 or .243 which would be my other recommendations. The nice thing about the 7mm-08 is that with most factory ammo the trajectory and energy past 200 yards of a 140gr. bullet is pretty darn close to the energy and trajectory of a 150 gr. bullet from a .30-06, while the .308 drops off a little bit. The .243 shoots flatter than all of them, but the retained energy of a 100gr. bullet at 200 yards is less than that of the 7mm-08 at 300 yards

January 3, 2012, 01:19 PM
Look at a Savage in .243 Win. Probably the best bang for your buck.

This is what I did, and I couldn't be happier. They have a nice recoil pad they call the P.A.D. for something or other. Nice and squishy, hardly feel it in recoil.

100 grain bullets that leave the muzzle at 2800fps or faster will be still retaining 1000 foot pounds at 400 yards. That's plenty for what you're talking about.

You can certainly get a rifle and good scope for well under what you are talking about. $400 or so for a package 10 or 11 rifle, pull off the Bushnell and use the same rings and bases with a decent scope like a Nikon Prostaff or something similar for under $200, and there you are. $550, and 5/8" 3 shot groups (my handloads) from the bench at 100 yards. What else do you need from your rifle, really?

January 3, 2012, 01:32 PM
I would go with a weatherby s2, howa m1500, or savage in either 243 or 7mm-08. Although Howa does do the 6.5x55 and ruger does a 6.5 creedmoor. Those would be excellent too.

January 3, 2012, 01:42 PM
Excellent! Thanks for the feedback everyone. Based on my research and the feedback here, it looks like .243 is a great round for me. Now to find the rifle and glass! We have a couple gun shows coming up this month that I want to check out and see what sort of deals I can find on new or used rifles.

I handled a Savage yesterday with a AccuTrigger and I really liked it, while dry firing at least. I have read some threads here about the AccuTrigger and the division it can cause so I tread lightly here.. haha.

Any recommendations on the Savage models with the AccuTrigger (or any manufacturers with a comparably smooth trigger really) to try out? I'll need to find the right fit obviously, but having a few models to seek out first seems like a good place to start.

Thanks again for the great info so far!

January 3, 2012, 02:01 PM
Under $1000 is easy...lots of choices out there.

I'm going to suggest a different caliber than .243 though for the ability to shoot heavier bullets. I feel that the .260 Rem or 7mm-08 are about as perfect of a deer caliber that you can get. Another good caliber that is harder to find is the 257 Roberts. Any of these offers the ability to shoot heavier projectiles over the .243, with little added recoil. The 25-06 is another caliber to consider.

If Cabelas still has any of the $150 Bushnell Elite 4200 3-9x40s on sale, I'd snatch one up if I was looking for a good hunting scope. You WILL NOT beat the quality of that glass for under $300...not going to happen.

Ruger's Hawkeye is a nice gun, as are the Weatherby Vanguards/S2s, Savages, etc. I wouldn't rule out the used market either. You should easily be able to get a nice setup for well under $1K.

January 3, 2012, 02:10 PM
Thanks for the suggestion on the Bushnell Elite... I'll be stopping by there on the way home and checking online as well now.


January 3, 2012, 05:12 PM
The next month or two would be a good time to start looking for the used rifle sections everywhere. Deer season is on it's way out, and tax time is coming. Some are buying and some are selling.

If you like to shoot, reloading is a good way to work up accurate loads, and loads that are a bit easier on the shoulder. Plus it gives you a lot more trigger time, which is always a plus. Might be good to budget a little cash to get into that as well. :D

January 3, 2012, 05:48 PM
I'd second the post above about used rifles. When people ask about "which is the best for .........", my three answers are used, used, and used. I worked in a gun shop. It's amazing how many rifles are traded in that have very few if any rounds thru them.

Guys get all cranked up about this caliber versus that caliber. Doesn't matter. Do you REALLY think a deer knows if the bullet came from a .270 or 30-06??

Most anything in a higher velocity round .243 up to maybe a .270 will do what you need. I just got a Savage 11 in .308 with Accu-trigger. Not because I'm in love with .308 or Savage. It's because I could get a good rifle for $250.

Buy the best glass you can after getting a decent rifle. I put a $600 scope on the $250 rifle. Bushnell Elite 4200 is an excellent scope. I have two.

January 3, 2012, 07:02 PM
Since recoil is a small consideration, choosing a long action cartridge will add a few ounces, thereby mitigating recoil a bit. Cartridge choices would be 257 Roberts, 25-06, 270 Win and 280 Remington. There are a slew of other choices, but I think these will give a nice blend of cost and bullet selections.

As for the rifle, take a pick. There are dozens of choices in the $450-550 range. My top picks would be the Winchester M70, Savage M14/16? and the Ruger M77 Hawkeye. All will give 3+ lifetimes of service, are readily available at almost all gunshops, are available in the above mentioned cartridges, are available with Walnut stocks and all weigh in at around 7.5lbs.sans rings and scope.

Other notables for you to check out would be T/C Icon, Remington M700 and the Howa 1500/Wheatherby Vanguard.

And as for optics again take your pick. Luepold, Nikon and Burris all make fantastic scope in the $450-500 price range that will last as long as the rifle will.

My setup using your criteria:

http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=267957965 Ruger M77 Hawkeye. $559

http://www.opticsplanet.net/leupold-vx3-35-10x40mm-rifle-scope.html Luepold VX-3 3.5-10X40 $480.

Quick example. These prices can be beat.

January 3, 2012, 07:23 PM
Tikka t3 in 270Win and a dnz 1-piece mount + nikon prostaff 4-12 - about $750 all together - hard to beat that...

January 3, 2012, 07:30 PM
.270 or .25-06 are the cartridges I'd choose.

January 3, 2012, 10:08 PM
Since recoil is a small consideration, choosing a long action cartridge will add a few ounces, thereby mitigating recoil a bit.

that would work better if he uses managed recoil loads

January 3, 2012, 11:21 PM
I got my son a Weatherby Vanguard in 7MM-08 last year for deer hunting. Very accurate and not much recoil. Factory ammo is expensive, but if you reload, it is no big deal. Plus, unlike the .243, it is adequate as a medium range elk rifle.

January 3, 2012, 11:33 PM
With recoil considerations I think the 7-08 is a great choice. Good enough for any deer at extended range and could be used on even larger animals at moderate ranges.

Lots of rifles and scopes that would work. I wouldn't suggest any scope much under $200. The Redfield Revolution, Nikon Buckmaster, Burris Fullfield II, and Vortex Diamond back are all $160-$200 and are good enough. Figure $50 for bases and you leave $750 for a rifle.

Lots of good choices in that range. The best of them is a Winchester Featherweight at around $700. Other good choices are Ruger Hawkeye ($650ish), Tikka (around $600), and Weatherby Vanguard(around $400).

If you want to spend a lot less I'd take a look at the new Ruger American rifle that Ruger just announced today. It looks promising as a budget gun and should sell for under $400.


January 4, 2012, 11:16 AM
I think the .243 is a bit light for 300-400 yards deer hunting. 200-250 yards is NO problem.

In the ".308 Family" I'd go with a .260 Rem, or 7mm-08. The 7mm-08 might be too much recoil for sensitive shoulders, but would be my choice if larger than whitetail is ever an option.

The .25-06, .25 WSSM, and 6.5 Creedmoor are also VERY good options. .25-06 and .25 WSSM are ballistic twins. The 6.5 Creedmoor is the twin of the .260 Rem.

.243 and .25-06 ammunition are going to be the easiest to find at WalMart.

For well under $1000 you can get a Savage Model 11 and a Burris Fullfield II 3-9x scope.

Dylon Fisher
January 4, 2012, 04:05 PM
Remington 700 any model you like all good. Just get 700 not 770 or 710. I like .270 and .308. I like savage and Winchester rifles too, but Remington gets my #1 spot.

January 4, 2012, 04:54 PM
.243 is noce to shoot. Slap a $300 Leupold on it and you have the ability to dispatch deer and other big game out to as far as you can shoot. I would be more focussed on the glass than the rifle personally. I have a Remington ADL in .270 that shoots sub MOA groups that I bought new for less than $300 in 1982-ish. I put a 3x9x40 Leupold on it and haven't had to do anything to it since. You can still get ADL's and other 700 actions for a reasonable price and with very little tuning and good glass they'll get er done.

January 4, 2012, 07:33 PM
I picked up a tc icon in 243 for 500 last year. That rifle is simply amazing for the price. The same rifle can also be had in 6.5 creedmoor, but I don't recall ever seeing one on sale. The tc has several advantages over savage, remington, etc.

To name a few. You get three built in recoil lugs, built in picatinny rail, three lug bolt, 5r barrel, aluminum bedding block, user adjustable trigger, etc, etc.

Top that rifle off with a bushnell elite 3-9 or weaver grand slam, and you will be in business for many years. Don't skimp on the rings though, seekins or warne would be my choice.

January 4, 2012, 07:50 PM
You just described the new Ruger American Rifle pretty much. Minus the wood stock and rail, but good rings and bases can be had for a decent price.

January 4, 2012, 08:16 PM
Well - since recoil is an important consideration....tikka t3 in 260 Rem....everything else as mentioned before, including price.

January 4, 2012, 08:20 PM
I picked up a T/C Icon in .308 and put a Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40 scope on it last year for a little over $1K after tax. I absolutely love it. It's a bit heavier and slightly longer than other similar rifles, but the added weight will reduce felt recoil somewhat. In .243 you'd have yourself a fine deer rifle that you'll enjoy taking to the range every week and taking to the woods come fall.

I was really impressed with the craftsmanship of that rifle compared to the the other rifles that I looked at in a similar price range.

Speaking of recoil, I put a Sims Vibration Labratories slip on recoil pad on my Remington 870 a couple of years ago and wow what a difference. No more bruises sighting in with slugs. :) You might check out something like that as well.

I hope you enjoy whatever you find.

Good Hunting.

January 4, 2012, 08:27 PM
Get a .308 rifle that fits you well. There are a lot of first rifle purchase posts below with a lot of great information. I'd lean toward a Tikka in .308 with a Nikon or Leupold on top if the Tikka fits you well and you like how it handles. Savages are also thought of very well around these parts, primarily for their accuracy.

January 4, 2012, 09:35 PM
Its always good fun telling other people how to spend their money. For roughly $1000 budget & your criteria, I'd look at that new Winchester Model 70 in 25-06 that Buds Gunshop has advertised for $716. Optics Planet has Leupold VX-2 in 3-9x40mm currently at $270. Combine the 2 with some rings & you will have a quality deer hunting rig that you will be happy with for ever, costing around $1000.

January 4, 2012, 10:06 PM
Its always good fun telling other people how to spend their money. For roughly $1000 budget & your criteria, I'd look at that new Winchester Model 70 in 25-06 that Buds Gunshop has advertised for $716. Optics Planet has Leupold VX-2 in 3-9x40mm currently at $270. Combine the 2 with some rings & you will have a quality deer hunting rig that you will be happy with for ever, costing around $1000.


You will also be able to shoot the rifle all day long without a flinch, or the worry of a sore shoulder.

January 5, 2012, 11:32 AM
Wow, thanks for all the great info everyone!

I am now the proud owner of the Bushnell Elite 4200 scope that several of you recommended... now I just need a rifle to mount it on, haha. Fortunately we have a decent sized gun show this weekend, so I am hoping to pick up a mate for the scope there.

I am hoping to pick up a higher quality rifle by looking at the used stock at the show. All things equal, I don't care if someone else shot her first.. as long as I shoot her last.


January 5, 2012, 12:20 PM
Everybody else is making good suggestions, I just thought i would add something. I dont know how much shock your shoulder can take, but take a hard look at rifle weight. Even a .243 in a 6.5-7lb gun can come back pretty sharply. A friend who has had shoulder work done will shoot my 7mm a dozen times or more but it weights a whole bunch. He will only shoot my softer recoiling .243 once because its alot lighter, and comes back alot quicker.

January 5, 2012, 12:53 PM
Exactly LoonWulf!

My shoulder is great for daily activities after the AC joint resection surgery (http://www.orthogate.org/patient-education/shoulder/osteoarthritis-of-the-acromioclavicular-joint.html), I am just not sure how extended rifle sessions will feel afterwards. I have had several people recommend the Sims Limbsaver recoil pads so I'll be looking at those as well. Hopefully the Limbsaver will allow me to shoot any caliber I look at more comfortably.

I am definitely comfortable with a heavier rifle and I prefer the wider stocks/grips and the bull barrels, so I think finding a slightly heavier rifle won't be a difficult task.

January 5, 2012, 01:11 PM
with the current crop of "tactical" riflels and carbines around i dont think youll have an issue :D I have a limbsavers on my .300 and it does do a pretty good job of smoothing out some of the whack. Another option if weight DOES become an issue is to get a break fitted. Ive only shot a few braked guns, but from my experience they work. You really need to be good about putting in hearing protection when your going to fire tho.

January 5, 2012, 01:33 PM
One thing you may want to consider investing in is a Leadsled for extended shooting sessions, regardless of caliber that you select. Any gun that's over 7 1/2lbs, shooting a projectile less than 150 gr, at less than 2800 fps is going to be fairly soft recoiling.

While I'm not a huge fan of the Browning A-bolts/X-bolts, I have found that they are surprisingly light recoiling despite their light weight. I can only guess that this is due to the very low drop in the stock....the more straight line the stock is, the better it does at sending the recoil to the recoil pad and not into the cheek.

January 5, 2012, 07:18 PM
Since you are somewhat concerned with recoil, check out this recoil table. Notice it has the gun weight, bullet weight and muzzle velocity as well as recoil in ft/lb and recoil velocity.


This might give you an idea of what you'd be looking at BEFORE making a purchase.

January 5, 2012, 08:08 PM
I don't know how correct that table is. I can shoot my buddies 450 Marlin over and over and over.
I can shoot my father's 197x's Browning BAR with 1980s Federal Hi-Shoks about 10 times and I am sore. I can shoot the 30-30 with 170 grain bullet about 40 times, and I start getting sore.

I know the 450 Marlin is pushing a 350 grain bullet around 2000 fps, and it should bruise me up pretty good after a tube full. Maybe I just get really amp'd up and enjoy the 450 more. :)

January 7, 2012, 11:40 AM
Thanks for all the info everyone.

This morning I was talking to my father-in-law, an avid hunter, and he offered me his first deer rifle... a Remington 760 Gamemaster pump action .270. It is in great shape, sans one scar he picked up on a hunt. I am eager to hit the range with it and test her out!

January 7, 2012, 11:46 AM
Dandy rifle. Congrats!

January 7, 2012, 12:55 PM
Dandy rifle. Congrats!
Yes it is... A very nice looking rifle as well. I have never hunted with a pump action before, but it feels great on my shoulder. After a few months of range time it should work out great.

Right now it has a Redfield 2x-7x scope on it, with iron sights. I may change that out to my new Bushnell 4200 Elite 3x-9x after I play with both to see which I prefer. I may also add peep rings to use irons if it ever comes into play.

January 7, 2012, 01:01 PM
Leave that old Redfield on. Those were great scopes. My dad still has his from the 70's on his Browning BAR .30-06. I have never seen him adjust his scope ever, and he never misses.

Most likely that scope is still zeroed.

January 7, 2012, 01:16 PM
Another option would be the howa talon thumbhole combo. The stock reduces felt recoil like crazy and would be great for someone with a shoulder problem. I have been toying around with the idea of one in either 7mm rem mag or 6.5x55 but I don't really need another deer rifle. That said you should definitely check it out the howas shoot awesome. check out the howa m1500 thread.

January 7, 2012, 04:30 PM
Im kinda with Eb1, deffinetly take a look thru the redfield before pulling it. Ive used quite a few of the old ones, and besides the stupid tv view most were pretty good. I think the 4200 will be better, but the glass on those seems to be just about right for my eye. Those 760s are nice rifles, If you havent run across them yet, check out accuracy systems international. They do so neat stuff with the 760's. Also, if i remember correctly you can get prefit recoil pads for those.

January 7, 2012, 06:49 PM
I love my 760, my wife used my 'good' rifle (788) opening day so I used my old 760. One offhand shot at ~60 yards and my season was done. I used that while leaving the Kimber in the safe, doing what it does best...look good.
Plus it has 45 year old cheap glass on it, a newer scope would look funny on that old rifle.

January 8, 2012, 10:18 PM
As you shoot that 760, take note of how you feel the recoil? There is a fair bit of drop in that stock, so it will raise up a bit more than a stock with a more modern straight comb. Also, keep a log book on how different 270 rounds & bullet weights feel, and their relative accuracy from this rifle. It will soon become apparent which ammo you and the rifle like :)

You can add a "Decelerator" pad in place of the OEM pad and that will help. With squishy pads, store the rifle muzzle down so the pad does not take a set from resting in the cabinet.

But, the most significant help in protecting your shoulder will be PAST pad in your hunting vest. They are patented and they really do help spread out and absorb the load. With a properly fitted PAST pad, you may be able to take full house loads without any problems.

You can also install an inertial recoil tube in the stock. Mercury tubes are quiet, they add a few ounces to the overall gun weight, but they soak up the peak of the recoil energy very well. They work especially nicely on those older Remington stocks which seem to be the driver in the old days for recoil reduction.

That is a fine rifle and a family heir loom now. 760s have taken loads of game in North America. You know all about the 270 and it's got its following. A well respected cartridge.

When you get some range time, come back and let us know how it went :)

January 9, 2012, 11:51 PM
A .260 Remington, a 6.5 Credmoor or a 6.5x55 Swede are easy on the shoulder. Just about any 6.5 will do the trick for deer without jarring your teeth loose.

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