Monday, May 20th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Monday, May 20th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Thinking of a new deer rifle? Good time to consider options in straight-walled calibers

The Ruger American Rifle is a favorite among hunters. The new and improved Generation II is now available in .350 Legend and other straight-walled cartridge calibers. (Photo by John Tertuliani)

For some, the definition of a deer rifle is MOA accuracy. Others just want a rifle that goes “boom.” Less negotiable is a rifle’s reliability. The next two cartridges had better feed into the chamber, every time.

About 10 years ago, those of us who were once obligated to use a shotgun or muzzleloader for deer hunting were able to use a rifle in Ohio. A pistol cartridge rifle for the most part. But who cared? We were thrilled. Giving little concern that most rifles in those calibers were the least expensive in the manufacturer’s line. Unless you were willing to spring for a lever action.

Soon the honeymoon waned for bolt actions. Perhaps some single shots, too. Complaints were not lost on some manufacturers. Changes were made, a few were a long time coming, but there are a bunch available in 2024. 

Here are two companies offering straight-walled cartridge rifles that are a step up from their base models.

The original Ruger American Rifle has a huge following. It is known for exceptional accuracy from Ruger’s most affordable bolt action. Many felt it is a great gun for the money, but not perfect.


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Improvements came with Generation II. This is a newly released version of the American platform, upgraded in several areas. As might be expected with upgrades, the Gen II costs more.

The three-position tang safety is a good place to start with the improvements. The bolt can be opened with the safety still on, in the middle position. The safety, when clicked all the way back, locks the bolt. The fire position is in the full forward position.

Another obvious change is the Cerakote finish and fluting on the barreled action. A large handle makes the bolt easy to open. Rounding out the receiver is an adjustable trigger. Crisp out of the box. Shooters accustomed to a solid trigger may need some time getting used to the two-stage trigger.

The stock is the platform from where the bullet begins, which is often overlooked for accuracy leaks. A flimsy stock is of no use to the hunter or shooter. The Gen II stock is beefed up for strength with what they call an integral bedding block system. The foundation secures the receiver while floating the barrel. The rear of the stock has modular pieces to adjust length of pull and comb height.

While accuracy was not a common concern with the original rifle, failure to feed a straight-wall cartridge was a problem for hunters. The solution is a new magazine, made with stainless-steel, welded, and coated. It appears to be designed for straight-wall cartridges, not a quick fix adapted from an established AR magazine.

The standard Gen II rifle comes with a 20-inch barrel, available in .350 Legend, .400 Legend, and .450 Bushmaster. The ranch version comes with a shorter barrel, just over 16 inches, in those same calibers.

Arthur William Savage started designing guns in the late 1800s. History credits him with inventing a rotary magazine. The radial tire is another one of his genius ideas. We still use rotary mags and radial tires in some form.

Savage bolt action rifles have been in use for generations. Its newest Savage products include straight-pull bolts. The first successful straight pull, credited to Ferdinand Mannlicher, was adopted for military use by Austria and Hungary in 1886.

None of the new Savage straight pulls are made for straight-walled cartridges. Not to worry, there are plenty of other options, in two broad platforms, the Savage Axis and the Savage 110.

Savage is highly respected for its barreled actions. The Axis is the base model, very popular with deer hunters for being a reliable gun you do not mind dragging through the fields. It has been proven to be all the rifle many hunters need and want. For those who want more, the solution is simple, move up to the 110.

Like the Ruger Gen II, the Savage 110 costs more. The increase in quality starts with the stock. A metal frame supports the stock, much like the chassis of a competition stock. The 110 comes with an adjustable trigger. Called the AccuTrigger, it has been around a long time, considered the first of its kind.

The Savage Axis is available in .350 Legend and .400 Legend. Barrel length varies with the caliber. The 110 is available in .350, .400, and .450 Bushmaster.

When choosing a rifle, it helps to know what is more important to you, such as price and performance. Are you willing to pay for added features?

Finding what you want or need now leaves plenty of time to find the scope and ammunition to go with it. You will be well on your way ready for deer season in the fall months.

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