Bolt Action Rifle Buyer’s Guide [2021]

Purchasing any firearm should be seen as a long term investment, so you should spend much time and consideration when choosing. This applies to all types of firearms including bolt action rifles. So, to help you make the most out of your investment, I’m going to review five of the best bolt action rifles and show you what to look out for.

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How to choose the best Bolt Action rifle?

Choosing a bolt action rifle is a process in which each individual will place greater weight on specific features than others, given the many variables that are at play. 

An obvious one is the different budgets some of you might have and thus some bolt actions might simply be out of your price range. Your budget is not going to change any features of the rifle you buy, but instead, determine which models are affordable.

That being said, within each price level there are going to be aspects of the bolt action rifles available that everyone will need to consider, so let’s take a look at them.

What Will Your Bolt Action Rifle Be Used For?

Arguably one of the most important factors to consider is what you intend to use your bolt action rifle for. Assuming it is a legal use, these can generally be broken down into two areas … hunting and target shooting.

Each of these disciplines as it were, requires a bolt action rifle to have features that lend themselves to their particular use. For example:

Hunting Rifle

  • Good Trigger Pull: Often personal preference but the cleaner and smoother it is the better
  • Robustness: You could be out and about in all weather and environments, so you want a rifle that lasts.
  • Muzzle Brake: Reduces the recoil especially on larger rifles.

Target Shooting Rifle

  • Accuracy: Not much point in target shooting if your rifle doesn’t help you hit the bullseye.
  • Weight: Holding your rifle and aiming for an hour or more at the range is not comfortable if your rifle is heavy.
  • Caliber: This plays a huge part in how accurate you can be, with my recommendation being 6.5 Creedmoor.

Is a Bolt Action Rifle Suitable for Personal/Home Defense?

In all honesty, a bolt action rifle would not be my first choice for personal defense but as they’re the weapon that many people own, it is better to have it than not. After all, if an intruder sees you with your bolt action rifle, chances are they are going to hightail it off your property.

That being said, bolt action rifles are not the quickest of weapons to load and fire, and they also have greater recoil than many other firearms that would be more suitable for home defense.

Three  Advantages Bolt Action Rifles Have Compared to Other Weapons

Anyone who knows anything about guns knows that no single type or specific firearm is going to tick every box, in every scenario and for every person who wants or owns a gun. In fact, this diversity in the types of firearms and guns available is what makes it such an interesting hobby and why I simply love writing about them.

As for the bolt action rifle, I know there will be some of you who won’t even consider the idea of owning one and I respect that. However, for those who might want to learn more or are keen to find out the reasons why you might want one, here are three of them.

Dependability

It might seem unfair of me to call a bolt action as a dependable old workhorse, but I say it as a compliment, not a slur. Bolt action rifles are one of, if not, the most reliable firearms you can buy. Not only that, if there was a weapon that you would want to depend on to fire when you pull that trigger, a bolt action rifle is very unlikely to let you down.

Accuracy

The dependability that I just referred to also applies to the accuracy of a bolt action rifle. Whether you are using it for hunting or target practice there are few firearms able to hit exactly where you are aiming more accurately than a bolt action rifle.

Versatility

With this I am not talking so much about usage but more to the range of ammunition that a bolt action rifle can fire. It is certainly capable of chambering a greater variety of cartridges than any AR-type rifle. This also leads me to point out that this diversity also allows you to use far more powerful ammunition in a bolt action rifle than most other guns.

Best Bolt Action Rifles

Now, let’s dive into some of the top bolt action rifles.

Savage Arms Axis II .223 Remington Bolt Action Rifle

Not everyone who reads my gun reviews is an expert or experienced gun enthusiast. In fact, many are completely new and looking to buy their first firearm. That is why when I come across a gun which is ideal for newcomers, I’m excited. 

SAVAGE AXIS II .223 REMINGTON BOLT ACTION RIFLE, REALTREE TIMBER

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The Savage Axis II .223 Remington Bolt Action Rifle certainly qualifies in that category, and even more so when you consider the value you are getting when you purchase this firearm, compared to some of the others.

While it might be a great starter rifle, that does not mean it doesn’t come with some impressive features. For a start, the trigger is one that I found to be exceedingly smooth and a match for many more expensive rifles. The fact that it can be adjusted to suit the individual user is also a big plus.

I’m also extremely impressed by how accurate this bolt action rifle is and that is surely in part due to the carbon steel sporter barrel that you’d normally expect to find on premium-priced rifles. The redesigned stock also contributes to this accuracy as it enhances the ergonomics of the rifle, to make it easier to hold and fire.

Pros

  • Beginner friendly
  • Great value – cost effective
  • Superior accuracy
  • Comfortable stock

Cons

  • More for beginners than professionals

Tikka T3X TAC A1 Long Range Tactical Rifle

For anyone looking for a rifle that has been manufactured to standards that few can compete with, the Tikka T3X Tac A1 Long Range Tactical Rifle is one which you must take a look at.

TIKKA - T3X TAC A1 LONG RANGE TACTICAL RIFLE

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For starters, it is a rifle that can be adapted in multiple ways to suit your own preferences including the pistol grips, the stocks, and the handguards. 

Its primary construction material is aluminum which gives it a fantastic balance between being durable and lightweight when carried. 

The stock can be folded when the rifle is in transit or storage. Its other features include the length of pull being adjustable, as is the height of the cheek piece, and once again shows this rifle is one that can be set up for each user’s preferences.

The bolt handle is oversized making it much easier to grasp. In addition, the two-lugged bolt is Teflon coated, which allows for much faster operation due to less friction, and it also reduces the chances of corrosion.

If you wish to mount a sight, the top rail provides you with lots of options in terms of its length, and you can also attach a monopod to the bottom rail.

This is a rifle that serious enthusiasts will consider, and possibly more carefully when they see its price. Nevertheless, you are getting a lot of top-shelf features for your money.

Pros

  • Versatile top and bottom rails
  • Low friction bolt + corrosion resistant
  • Foldable stock for transportation
  • Highly customizable

Cons

  • Top shelf price

Bergara B14 BMP 308 Winchester

I’m sure I am right in saying that everyone looks for quality when they buy a gun, but as with all types of products there are some manufacturers that take quality to a higher level. That’s exactly what Bergara has done with their B14 BMP 308 Winchester rifle.

BERGARA B-14 BMP .308 WINCHESTER RIFLE, BLACK

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It displays a level of craftsmanship that few other rifles can compete with and this is obvious the first time you see it, and even more so, the first time you hold it in your hands.

For starters, there is the barrel which is Bergara’s proprietary design made from chrome steel and has accuracy enhanced from the multi-step manufacturing process. 

The 3 lb trigger is curved and when you pull it to fire the rifle you can sense the smoothness and consistency. This is as crisp a trigger as I’ve felt in a long time, and further reveals the quality of this rifle.

If you plan to add accessories to this rifle you will find that it has already got the drilled and tapped screw holes for any standard Remington bases and mounts.

The stock is Bergara’s BMP Chassis model, and this can easily be adjusted to suit each individual’s personal preference.

Pros

  • Beautiful design & excellent craftsmanship
  • Extremely accurate barrel
  • Ideal for most standard bases and mounts
  • Customizable

Cons

  • Not available for left handers 

Howa 308 WINCHESTER USA FLAG 26″ NIKKO

This is one of the more distinctive rifles I have reviewed given its American flag markings and modern styling but as I am most interested in how it shoots ammo rather than how it looks, let’s look at its features.

HOWA LEGACY SPORTS INTERNATIONAL - 308 WINCHESTER USA FLAG 26" NIKKO STIRLING

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Its firing action is based on Howa’s own 1500 action that has been a firm favorite of rifle enthusiasts for many years. Machined billet steel is used for the receiver with a forged single piece two-lugged bolt and an integral recoil lug ensuring reliable and fast recycling.

The rifle’s chassis is made from high-quality aluminum and its extended length allows for ample slots for mounting any M-LOK accessories that you wish to add.

The buttstock is adjustable which means you will not only be more comfortable when using this rifle, but it will also enhance your accuracy, giving you greater control.

If you like getting your money’s worth, you will love that Howa gives you extras when you purchase this rifle that would normally set you back several hundred dollars. These extras include: 

  • Nikko Stirling 4-16x50mm Long-Range Scope
  • 6″-9″ Adjustable Legs 
  • Buffalo River Bipod With Cant Adjustment
  • M-LOK Bipod Adapter

Pros

  • Great value with lots of extras
  • Adjustable stock
  • High quality & lightweight chassis
  • Can handle lots of accessories 

Cons

  • American flag design is less than stealthy

Savage Arms 10BA Stealth

We come almost full circle by reviewing a rifle that I consider a great choice for newer rifle enthusiasts, not just because of its excellent price, but also for the number of excellent features it has and how easy it is to use.

SAVAGE ARMS 10BA STEALTH 6.5 CRD BOLT ACTION RIFLE

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The main chassis is made by Drake Associates from a range it calls Hunter/Stalker. The significance of this is that it is a quality piece of machined aluminum and is slimmer than other rifles in this category.  This makes it easier to carry, which for the hunters amongst will be welcome news.

Keeping with the theme of outsourcing components, Savage Arms has used a buttstock model called GL-Shock which is manufactured by FAB Defense. This buttstock has a cheek riser that can be fully adjusted, and it can also be adjusted for whichever length of pull you desire.

Savage Arms does stay in-house for the trigger and it is easy to see why. They use their own AccuTrigger which is one of the most outstanding triggers in the firearms industry. It can be adjusted from 1.5 lbs to 6 lbs and you will find it to be one of the crispest and smoothest triggers you have ever experienced.

Pros

  • Very easy to use
  • Excellent price
  • Fully adjustable buttstock cheek riser
  • Highly adjustable trigger 

Cons

  • Most components are outsourced to other manufacturers

Conclusion

I think you will agree that was quite a varied selection of bolt action rifles and for that reason, I am hopeful that there is one that will suit everyone who is considering buying one.

As always, I am tasked with choosing my top choice and given that a bolt action rifle is often the first firearm a gun owner buys, I am going to pick the Savage Arms Axis II .223 Remington Bolt Action Rifle, especially if you are a beginner. If you can afford it, definitely consider the Tikka T3X TAC A1 Long Range Tactical Rifle.

I feel this is the best bolt action rifle because it is basically the quintessential one from those I reviewed. It is easy to use, has a very crisp trigger, and better still the trigger can be adjusted.

It’s very accurate, which I assume everyone firing a gun wants, but more so with a bolt action rifle, as it is likely to be used for hunting or on a rifle range.

Finally, I am always happy when a gun I review is affordable for everyone, and in the case of this Savage Arms bolt action rifle, that is definitely true.

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