Best Bolt Action Rifle for the money: 2019 Guide & Review

This is an article about the best bolt action rifle options. In it, you will find a mix of different bolt actions that are applicable to many different shooting scenarios. From the great .22 caliber bolt actions to the biggest large caliber big game guns on the market, the bolt action is a strong, capable configuration that will give you the type of precision you need to get the job done.

The tried and true bolt action rifle has found its place in the lexicon of shooting history mostly as a hunting implement, but it has been at times the pinnacle of precision sharpshooting from a military and a competition perspective, as well as the most well balanced “first gun” for any shooter. In a sentence, the bolt action rifle is a robust, versatile and powerful option for just about any rifle shooting need.

There are still multiple variations of the bolt action rifle in service in modern warfare as a precision sniper tool, as well as being the king in the hunting world. Its simplicity is incredible; and the longevity of the design is timeless. 

This is not an article about why you need a bolt action. It is not an article about different calibers. This is certainly not a primer on why you’d want a bolt action over other guns. You’re here because you know that a bolt action makes sense for you. We are going to get to the point and simply list the attributes and selling points of the best bolt action rifles on the market.

CZ USA - 455 FS

Best .22 Caliber Bolt Action

CZ USA - 455 FS

A spectacular value for such an amazing rifle, this is the rimfire that every other gun is going after. The fit, finish and form of this rifle is unparalleled at the price point. It easily punches above its weight class.

The accuracy and attention to detail on this rifle is impeccable. Many rifles can state they are accurate, and many rifles can say that they offer a lot for the money, but this is a groundbreaking gun in the rimfire arena, because it is both high-end, and reasonably priced at the same time.

Usually the field of options in that segment of the market is polarized with ultra-cheap rifles on one end and ridiculously pricey guns on the other, and you just have to pick.

With the CZ 455 you get the best of both worlds with the high-end furniture, great metal finishing, tight tolerances and top-tier accuracy, while still not getting above $600 dollars, where the normal premium options usually start.

You won’t be disappointed in this rifle if you are looking for a bolt action rimfire that can look amazing in your safe and perform amazingly in the field.

Pros

  • Amazing furniture quality and checkering
  • Very accurate
  • Moderate price range for tons of creature comforts

Cons

  • No real CONS

This is best for

Any shooter. This is the type of rifle that bridges the gap and offers an experience that you cannot find from normal rimfire guns, that makes you feel like you are shooting something special. CZ has always offered value – they continue to be delivering on value with this rifle.


Honorable Mention for Best Bolt Action .22 Rifle

Because the caliber is so popular and the guns are both so good in their own right, there is enough room at the top for the two bolt action .22 rifles here on this list. This one is not as well finished or as pretty as the rifle detailed above, but it is a spectacular piece of work. Our second-place nod goes to the Savage FVSR Mark II.

SAVAGE ARMS - MARK II FV-SR

SAVAGE ARMS - MARK II FV-SR

For the sake of brevity, we won’t extol the virtues of the gun except to say its as good a bolt action .22LR as the Ruger 10-22 was a semi-auto .22LR, amongst its peer field. That’s a resounding, overwhelming endorsement in our opinion.


BROWNING - X-BOLT WHITE GOLD MEDALLION

Best High Velocity Bolt Action for Varmint Hunting

SAVAGE ARMS - MARK II FV-SR

Browning tends to change the individual variants of their X-Bolt series often based on market needs. In this case, it isn’t necessarily a long-term endorsement of this particular variant, but instead, of the combination of the X-Bolt Lightweight rifle with the .22-250 Remington chambering.

The caliber is blazingly fast, and perfect for coyotes. It offers one of the flattest shooting experiences of any cartridge in the range and gives flat trajectories even in wind out past 600 yards. The power curve on the projectile actually might be a bit of overkill for many of the smaller varmint targets, and at under 300 yards this cartridge can turn a 35 lb. coyote into a ball of dust.

The benefit of the cartridge is it allows both varmint exposure and larger animal exposure as well, depending on the factory load you pair with the rifle. That’s the greatest selling feature of this rifle and this caliber combination. It will digest any factory load well and give you a massive performance range without having to handload and without having to do a ton of research to get there.

Pros

  • Speedy round, fast bolt actuation
  • Silky smooth bolt
  • High quality Browning build

Cons

  • Some variants come and go in the X-Bolt line which makes this a hard gun to pin down specifically at times

This is best for

Those who want a legitimate varmint gun that can do more than the .223 Remington. This is worth every penny for those who are going to go whole hog into the varmint game, but still want something that can level up a bit and be sued for bigger game too.


RUGER - GUNSITE SCOUT RIFLE

Best Scout Style Bolt Action Rifle

RUGER - GUNSITE SCOUT RIFLE

The Ruger Gunsite Scout is one of the more interesting traditional remakes of a rifle in recent years. It follows pretty closely, the original Jeff Cooper Scout rifle formula (though there are some marked differences) and delivers better than most have in the past.

The practical uses of the rifle with the detachable magazine, the short swing and moderate barrel length and the intermediate caliber makes it a potent rifle for tactical and hunting use. It is a very good single rifle to have lying around.

If you want a utilitarian gun and aren’t into lever actions, and want something manual, this is a very good choice. It’s speedy to deploy, very accurate and easy to accessorize with modern optics, etc.

Pros

  • Comfortable to carry
  • Excellent utilitarian value
  • Strong caliber for preppers and mainstream shooters

Cons

  • Somewhat pricey for what is not necessarily a high-end build, even if it is a well-rounded concept

This is best for

Enthusiasts of Jeff Cooper. Users who want a single gun for multiple operations. Fans of the Ruger ecosystem. Those who want an all manual/mechanical take on the .308 rifle.


RUGER - PRECISION RIFLE

Best Precision Long Range Rifle for Target Shooting

RUGER - PRECISION RIFLE

​The incredible adjustability of the platform design and the flat shooting, now proven, 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge make for an interesting combination for those who want practical applications covered but prefer to get most of their work done on the range. The price point for the accuracy of this rifle is excellent.

You are getting mainstream market pricing for a gun capable of less than a MOA; with a cartridge capable of taking intermediate game and useful for tactical operations. With the combination of the wide variety of loads available and the great build quality of the rifle, you can make some impressive groupings at less than $2 a shot. You get range past 650 yards and stopping power for any reasonable target.  

Pros

  • Great adjustability and offers a truly custom fit for any precision shooter without the added expense of a custom piece of furniture
  • A round that will be important for several years and is getting a ton of R&D money thrown at it currently

Cons

  • It’s a reasonable price for what you get, but it does have a steeper entry point than traditional bolt actions

This is best for

Hardcore shooters that want absolute precision for long range sessions. Those shooters that want a gun that can go beyond the paper targets and into the field without being ridiculously expensive to shoot beyond 600 yards.


ACCURACY INTERNATIONAL - AXMC 338 LM

Best Tactical Long Range Precision Bolt Action Rifle

ACCURACY INTERNATIONAL - AXMC 338 LM

A modern, premium anti-materiel and anti-personnel rifle that is made by one of the most respected names in the field – Accuracy International. This is one of the new breed of legitimate sniper rifles. Not simply a well-tuned bolt action, but a purpose-built sniper tool. The caliber, the build quality and the historical performance of the brand and its rifles means this is a serious option.

With true 1500 meter potential, the .338 Lapua Magnum offers such stopping power and energy transfer for human sized targets that it has become the de facto standard for long range man-carried rifles in recent years.

Accuracy International takes it up a notch by offering a factory option for a rifle that wouldn’t ordinarily be available outside of special operations or law enforcement, and yet, is pretty accessible and intuitive. The strong support core and the adjustability of the stock and other components make this a serious rifle for serious precision shooting past 1000 meters. Make sure you’ve got good glass to pair with it.

Pros

  • Top quality build with excellent finishes and materials
  • Sub MOA
  • Top choice for sniper rifles with regards to the caliber (.338 Lapua Magnum)

Cons

  • Out of the reach of most normal consumers from a price perspective

This is best for

Serious tactical shooters, professional sharpshooters and those with unlimited resources.


FN - BALLISTA

Best Dedicated Bolt Action Sniper Rifle

FN - BALLISTA

​A true multi-use gun that has tactical operations written all over it. The core caliber combination is the potent .338 Lapua Magnum. With the legitimate stopping power and accuracy of the round (even though it can be exorbitantly expensive to shoot) you are starting with a serious rifle from the ground level.

The fact that you can change it up so easily, and that the ballista platform is already proven and comes from the well-known, well capable factory of FN, means you are getting something truly special.

The price you are paying is actually representing a value compared to other guns in the segment, especially since FN has such a good history of delivering on promises.

$7000 dollars is a steep entry price, but if you are among the target audience, you’ll entertain it.

Especially when you factor in the $4-6/per shot price to keep the thing running, and the likely 5-6k shot lifespan of the barrel.

This is for those who need to make every shot count, on targets that are dangerous and need to be done at more than 1k yards.

Pros

  • Proven caliber
  • Proven company
  • Proven materials and fit and finish
  • Multi-use/Multi-caliber potential.

Cons

  • Pricey

This is best for

Professional tactical shooters. Military and Law Enforcement sharpshooters. Someone looking for something few others have even heard of.


Thompson/Center Compass Centerfire Bolt-Action Rifle

Best Bolt Action Rifle for Under $400

Thompson Center Compass Centerfire Bolt-Action Rifle

The quality of Thomson/Center’s guns is well known, and this foray into a full mainstream bolt action rifle has proven to already be a huge success. Partially because it is well priced (at under $300 dollars depending on the promotion), and partially because the guns represent uncommon value and a mature take on the hunting rifle without adding frivolity into the mix.

You can expect good accuracy, solid build quality and good balance, not to mention uncommon good looks and a certain flair for the platform that only comes from an experienced company. It’s an excellent first product in the mainstream bolt action sector for the company.

Pros

  • Incredible pricing
  • Great build quality for the money

Cons

  • Not as polished as it could be, even though it does represent uncommon value

This is best for

The shooter who has never owned a bolt action, or who wants a new caliber but doesn’t want to shell out $500+ dollars for a new gun.


Browning X-Bolt Hunter

Best Bolt Action Rifle for Long Hunts After Big Game

​The light weight and smooth polish of the build makes this an ideal long trek hunting rifle for a variety of intermediate and large game targets. While the .308 might not be a perfect round for the specific game you’re going after, it is a round that has hundreds of load variants, and therefore allows a lot of options for those who want a single round for multiple targets.

Yes, it might not have the speed of some of the faster medium caliber cartridges, or the heft of some of the larger bore diameters, but it can work well for a large range of game animals.

Browning’s X-Bolt is a spectacularly built rifle that is lightweight without being wimpy; durable without being clunky and offers one of the more polished experiences of any bolt action on the market.  The slim barrel taper works well to cut down weight, but it doesn’t negatively affect accuracy because the rate of firing and the amount of shots going through the barrel is relatively low.

In all, it’s a brilliant middle ground for a hunter who might have to tromp through a high-altitude field for miles to stalk game, but needs to have an accurate gun when they take the shot. Light weight and high accuracy are what made this model so popular and has kept it relevant for so long.

Pros

  • Slim contours and light weight
  • The Browning name has its own special magic
  • Comfortable to shoot despite lighter weight build

Cons

  • A bit pricey

This is best for

Long hikes after big game (just as the title of the review denotes). Precision shooting for those who don’t want the extra weight of frivolous add-ons or robust build components.


Barrett Model 95 Bolt Action .50 BMG Rifle

Best 50 Caliber Bolt Action Rifle

Barrett Model 95 Bolt Action .50 BMG Rifle

​One of the most recognizable rifles on this list and throughout the world thanks to the military adoption of some of the Barrett guns. This is a heavy-duty gun that offers the best any civilian can get from a potency perspective, and still has some approachability.

Yes, it’s expensive to shoot and it’s overbuilt, and its ridiculously heavy (23.5 lbs.), but it’s seriously accurate, very well made and offers a better price point (even though it’s still extremely pricey) than most of its competitors.

When you need the best stopping power in a shoulder fired gun, this is the one. The .50 Caliber BMG round offers unreal performance and unmatched accuracy for the money at the longest distances. The fact that Barrett is the maker of the rifle just adds to the value of this offering.

Pros

  • No better all-around cartridge for long range, large target needs
  • Fantastic build quality
  • Impeccable accuracy

Cons

  • Super expensive; per shot cost is also high

This is best for

Shooters who want the most power they can get in a carryable rifle. Those who are looking for the best bolt action .50 caliber that is actually readily available.


SAVAGE ARMS - AXIS

Best Value Bolt Action Rifle

SAVAGE ARMS - AXIS

​The caliber on this rifle choice is inconsequential; though it offers a good middle ground for the gun and for most users. The fact that Savage has managed to cram a bunch of proprietary tech into the rifle for a small price point makes it an awesome candidate for the top spot on any number of this list’s parameters.

Notably, the excellent trigger package for this offering allows you a crisp, clean trigger for no additional cost (in fact, the rifle still manages to beat out most competitors significantly in price). The build quality for the money is hard to match, and the brand has made excellent strides in keeping production value high over the past 7-10 years.

This is a rifle that is easy to get into because of the low-end price, but easy to love because of the high-end feature set. Yes, it is not as polished an offering as some other bolt actions, but it is also half the price of the guns it is legitimately competing with.

Pros

  • Wonderful trigger
  • Good value offering
  • Very good accuracy

Cons

  • Not a super high-end build quality

This is best for

The first bolt action for any type of shooter. Any caliber change or addition that you don’t want to overspend on.


Remington Model 700 SPS Varmint Bolt-Action Rifle

Best Bolt Action Rifle for Those Who Only Want a Single Rifle

Remington Model 700 SPS Varmint Bolt-Action Rifle

​Because of its historical performance and the still very high value proposition of the Remington 700, this is the obvious choice for those who want a perfect entry point into the value of bolt action rifles on a whole.

The fine finishes; well-appointed build and comfortable balanced approach to design and aesthetic makes the Remington 700 SPS Varmint variant a nice option for a shooter looking for a well-rounded entry point into the market.

The composite stock is one of the most well thought out stocks on the market and the trigger (X-Mark Pro) is very crisp. The 26” barrel is a good length for high accuracy for most of the calibers the gun is offered in, and the matte finish is a perfect fit for most of the uses this gun is made for.

Pros

  • Great finishes
  • Superior composite stock
  • Very good trigger

Cons

  • A bit spartan in styling for some

This is best for

Anyone who needs a very good rifle at a good price and understands the longevity of the Remington 700 rifle series. A shooter who prefers subtlety and wants function over form. For as plain as this rifle is, it oozes functionality.


BROWNING - A-BOLT III COMPOSITE STALKER

Best Bolt Action Rifle for Deer Hunting

BROWNING - A-BOLT III COMPOSITE STALKER

​one of the best value bolt actions of the last 30 years and the penultimate deer cartridge of the last 50, this is a perfect combination for the hardcore deer stalker that wants to up their game with a precision masterpiece by a company that carries the name of perhaps the greatest gun designer in history.

The features of this rifle don’t matter once you’ve cycled the action and pulled the trigger, because everything else melts into the background as you feel the exquisite fitment of the bolt and the clean break of the tuned trigger. This is as accurate as it is well made, and it’s exceptionally well made.

The name not only implies top quality, but the implementation of the whole piece shows that Browning got this one right. You get a good mix of heft and balance, and yet, it is still lightweight enough to make it a comfortable gun on a sling or in the hand while moving through hard terrain after elusive bucks.

Pros

  • 6.5 Lbs. is heavy enough to keep felt recoil low and lightweight enough to keep fatigue low as well
  • Free floated at factory, this is an accurate gun for only having a 22” barrel
  • Priced exceptionally well for the perks that come with the rifle

Cons

  • No CONS to speak of

This is best for

Any deer hunter that wants solid performance at a great price that is well below what a rifle of this “caliber” should be priced at. Traditionalists that have never adopted a Browning rifle.


Conclusion

When you need a bolt action to get the job done, this list offers just about the best options on the market. Whatever you need a high-quality bolt gun for, there is a good candidate on this list. Did we miss one? Which of these fantastic rifles did you ultimately decide on? Let us know.

Best Bolt Action Rifle for the money: 2019 Guide & Review
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