“Only accurate rifles are interesting” — so said the late Colonel Townsend Whelen. While that may be debatable (AK-47s, for instance, are very interesting and effective rifles, but not particularly known for their accuracy), there is nothing in this world like being able to shoot a sub-MOA (minute of angle) group with a rifle.
The term “sub-MOA” means that a rifle will shoot a group of three to five shots at 100 yards that measure less than one inch from their farthest two outermost points. Fifty years ago this was the stuff of legends, but modern rifle makers have gotten better at building rifles, and — more importantly — are selling them for a fraction of what they were.
Many of us come to expect that out of a long-range tactical gun, but what about bargain-priced bolt-action hunting rifles?
We found five models that have that ability and all come in under $600.
1. Savage Model 14
I used to walk past these rifles sitting on racks for $399 because I was only guided by the price tag and a lifetime of hearing how you had to buy a stripped receiver, fit a custom crowned barrel, target trigger, free float the barrel, bed the action, square the stock and turn a bolt-action rifle project into the price of a classic car restoration when all was said and done. I owned rifles that cost five to 10 times the price of the Savage and scoffed.
That is, until I fired a friend’s rifle and achieved a 0.70-inch group at 100 yards.
With the AccuTrigger coming standard on these and the ability to perfectly adjust your trigger squeeze, I wondered why I overlooked them for so long.
2. Mossberg Patriot
When I think of Mossberg, I typically think of their shotguns, but if you have not seen their bolt-action rifles, then you are missing out.
I had a chance to play with their MVP in 223 Remington and walked away extremely impressed. Along the same theme is their Patriot line.
The line is impressive, and at last count there were more than 60 variants. Not bad for a rifle that is only a few years old. Stocks can be had in adjustable configurations and a wide variety of color schemes and materials. You can go with iron sights or optics ready, and I have seen some of these rifles available for as low as $350 at a big box store.
3. Browning AB3 Rifle
Probably the most expensive rifle on the list, the Browning AB3 has a lot going for it in the forms of a perfect factory trigger, premium barrel, and an excellent two-position safety. The barrel features button-rifling for precision and is constructed from cold-rolled steel. The walnut stock is optional but really classes up this budget rifle.
Best of all is that you can open the action with the tang mounted safety engaged.
Browning offers a lot of factory packages in this one, from installed optics to hard use cases. The MSRP is $599.
4. Winchester XPR
I always fall back to Winchester rifles when all else eludes me, and in this case it’s the budget-priced XPR. The rifle uses a push-feed type of action, and the bolt features three locking lugs machined from chrome moly steel that are nickel Teflon plated.
This makes for an amazingly smooth bolt travel. It is silky smooth, and coupled with an MOA trigger may make you think something is wrong with the rifle.
I was originally skeptical of the detachable magazine, as they do not enjoy a very good reputation for reliability, but this one seems to work well. Like the Browning, the safety and ability to open the action while safe is present here. I hope to see this option for more bolt rifles.
They retail at $549.
5. Remington 783
At $399, a rifle snob may turn his nose up at the Remington 783, but this rifle has some of the tightest tolerances found on a factory rifle. The stock is a dual-pillar bedded to the action, and the button-rifled barrel is fully free-floated.
The stock is plain black nylon, but Remington has always done these a bit better than everyone else in the strength and rigidity departments. Each rifle utilizes Remington’s proprietary CrossFire trigger, which is fully adjustable for your needs.
Again, we see another bolt-action hunting rife with a detachable magazine that holds four rounds in short and long calibers, and three in the Magnum calibers. Hunters and shooters have been clamoring for these for years, and it’s nice to see the manufacturers actually listen.
These budget-priced precision rifles are excellent for short- to medium-range hunting with the proper optics, and all are about half the price of a decent AR platform rifle.
They are definitely something to consider when rounding out your firearm preps.
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