Best deer hunting rifles

In the U.S., there are several states that prohibit the use of high powered “bottle -neck” style cartridges for use in deer firearm seasons. The reasoning behind these laws point to safety concerns with high population density and the high number of deer hunters that participate in the firearm season.

For the longest time, shotguns with slugs or muzzleloading rifles were the only types of guns that were permitted in these states. However, in the last several years states such as Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, and Indiana have allowed for the use of “straight walled” cartridges.

Straight walled cartridges while still plenty accurate up to 250 yards, don’t have the same range and overreach of common bottle neck deer hunting cartridges like .30-06, .270, and .308.

As a result, straight walled calibers have gained massive popularity and firearms companies are following suit with new models for these calibers.

Lucky for us deer hunters, there’s more choice than ever, and if you hunt in or want to travel to any of those big-buck states that require straight walled cartridges, the investment is well worth it.

Straight Wall Cartridge Examples

Interestingly, before the high-power bottle neck cartridge we’ve come to know today, all rifle cartridges were straight walled.

Bottle neck cartridges have some significant ballistic advantages, but with many states allowing straight wall cartridges to be used, they’ve gained a resurgence of sorts.

Popular straight wall cartridges include 45-70 Government, 444 Marlin, 375 Winchester, 357 Magnum, 44 magnum, 450 Bushmaster, and 350 Legend.

For my recommendations, I’ve focused on rifles for .350 Legend, .450 Bushmaster, and 45-70 Government.

My reasoning behind recommending those calibers is that they are popular, so ammunition is plentiful and there are a variety of different loads to choose from. These cartridges are also high performing calibers.

While most straight wall cartridges have a good balance of range, accuracy, and stopping power, these calibers do it quite well.

Savage 110 Apex Trophy Hunter XP

  • Caliber – .350 Legend
  • Action – Bolt action
  • Barrel length – 20”
  • Magazine type and capacity – Detachable box with a 4-round capacity
  • Sights/Optic capabilities – Vortex Crossfire II 3-9x40mm riflescope (included)
  • MSRP – $709.00

It’s hard to beat a bolt action in the deer woods. They’re simple, reliable, and stupid accurate. That’s why the Savage 110 Apex Trophy Hunter is at the top of this list.

I recommend the .350 Legend caliber option because there are a lot of different and high-quality loads available now for this cartridge.

As a relatively small bore straight wall cartridge, the .350 Legend has great range and accuracy, while still packing plenty of punch to bring down those trophy whitetails.

The synthetic stock, Savage’s patented AccuTrigger, and the Vortex Crossfire II riflescope that’s included with this rifle is a huge bonus. Overall, I think this rifle offers an exceptional value for a go-to deer rifle.

Bear Creek Arsenal .450 Bushmaster BC-15 

  • Caliber – .450 Bushmaster
  • Action – Semi-automatic
  • Barrel length – 18”
  • Magazine type and capacity – Detachable box, commonly 5,10, or up to 30 round capacity
  • Sights/Optic capabilities – Picatinny rail for optics mounting
  • MSRP – $487.99

The .450 Bushmaster isn’t new to the straight wall game, but since it’s been around for a while as an alternative to the 5.56 for AR platforms, it makes sense it’s made the transition into being a common deer hunting cartridge.

With an AR platform, the options for optics and attachments are endless, so you can truly make this rifle custom to your preferences. With the relatively low price tag of this rifle, you’ll have plenty of extra cash for a high-end optic for precise shots.

Bear Creek Arsenal makes great quality and affordable AR rifles, and this one is no exception. With the powerful .450 Bushmaster cartridge and the super modular AR platform, you’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the field.

Marlin Model 1895 SBL

  • Caliber – 45-70 Govt
  • Action – Lever
  • Barrel length – 19.1”
  • Magazine type and capacity – Tubular magazine, 6-round capacity
  • Sights/Optic capabilities – Adjustable iron sights (included), picatinny rail for optics mounting
  • MSRP – $1,399.00

Last but certainly not least is the Marlin Model 1895 SBL chambered in the hard-hitting 45-70 Govt. After all, who doesn’t love a good lever gun?

With Marlin being recently acquired by Ruger, their new Model 1895 SBL looks very promising. The all-stainless steel 1895 SBL can withstand pretty much whatever you can throw at it, and the reliable lever action is a time proven classic.

Chambered in the massive 45-70 Govt, this straight wall cartridge will have no problem accurately taking down big deer, you just might have to ice your shoulder for a few hours afterwards.

The 1895 SBL also includes adjustable fiber optic standard sights, as well as a picatinny rail for mounting riflescopes and other types of optics. A treaded barrel is also standard for the use of suppressors, which is a nice added feature.

While this rifle commands a high price tag for a deer rifle, the overall quality and attention to detail Marlin put into this rifle is no joke. I’m sure this rifle will function perfectly for several lifetimes and not skip a beat.

Conclusion

With the growing popularity of straight walled caliber deer rifles, there’s more options for deer hunters to use an accurate rifle without breaking the law.

Gone are the days of not being able to hit the broad side of a barn with a 12-gauge slug, or your muzzleloader not going off because the power got a little wet. With new and improved straight wall cartridges and rifles, you can have yourself a dedicated deer rifle that you can count on to take down that buck of your dreams.

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Alex Johnson
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