When assembling your survival armory, you will need to focus on buying guns that each fills a specific need. I recommend that at least one of those guns should be a bolt-action hunting rifle in a long-range caliber such as .308 or .30-06, fitted with a scope.
While a bolt action rifle may not be the gun that you use the most (in fact, it might be the gun you use the least in a SHTF situation), no gun collection or survival armory is complete without one. Let’s go over the reasons why you should own one, and then talk about the top five models to consider.
WHY OWN A BOLT ACTION RIFLE?
To many, a scoped bolt action hunting rifle with a blued barrel and wooden stock is the archetypal American firearm. That being said, there are still many more reasons to own a bolt-action rifle beyond trying to fit in with fellow preppers:
Big Game Hunting
First and foremost, a long-range rifle in a larger caliber does something that a smaller rifle in an intermediate caliber (such as an AR or AK) cannot do. It can take down big game. Granted, people use AR-15s in 5.56 for deer hunting all the time, but a larger round such as .308 or .30-06 is still a better choice. Especially if you plan on going after even larger game such as elk, bear, or moose.
Long-Range Anti-Personnel Weapon
All the same, you can also use the old hunting rifle you keep in your closet as a long-range anti-personnel weapon if you have to as well. If your home or property is being attacked by opponents at distances that are too far away for your pistols, shotguns, or even your AR-15, a hunting rifle in a bigger caliber will do the job. Yes, it has a slow rate of fire and reloading times, but it will still accurately reach targets at distances that none of your other weapons can.
Using a rifle as an anti-personnel weapon at great distances can be tricky, but one fellow writer (Reaper) breaks it down in his article “How to Shoot Like a Sniper”. In that article, he describes various techniques you can use to accurately engage targets at long distances. Since we’re on the subject of bolt-action rifles that can reach out to greater distances, check it out.
These days, there are plenty of semi-automatic rifles such as AR-15s, AR-10s, and FALs that are chambered in .308 Winchester. You might question why you need a bolt rifle when you could go with a semi-auto. When it comes down to it though, a bolt action is simpler. There are less parts that could fail. Simply load the magazine and chamber with a new round by manually cycling the bolt. If you’re out hunting and desperate for food, you simply can’t afford for your hunting rifle to fail. This is one advantage that a bolt gun provides over a semi-automatic.
For these three reasons, you need to have at least one bolt action hunting rifle with a scope in your survival armory. Your choice of caliber is up to you, but most survivalists would recommend that you stick with .308 Winchester or .30-06 Springfield. Both will kill practically any game in the United States, and they’re easy to find. Nonetheless, other calibers you could consider as well include the .338 Winchester Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, .270 Winchester, or 7mm Remington Magnum.
The next question then comes as to what specific manufacturer and model you should choose when looking for a traditional bolt hunting rifle. While there are a nearly limitless number of options, these five stand out above the rest:
REMINGTON 700 / OR REMINGTON 770
The Remington 700 earns a spot on this list simply because it’s the best-selling bolt action rifle of all time. Not only does that say a lot about its quality, it also means that spare parts and accessories for the rifle are incredibly easy to find.
The Remington 700 was originally introduced in 1962, with the first models chambered in Remington’s new 7mm Remington Magnum round. Since then though, the 700 has been made available for practically any major bolt action caliber you can think of.
When the 700 was first released, the Winchester Model 70 was the top selling rifle in North America. But the Model 70 had just one problem: it was expensive to make and, thus, expensive to buy. Hunters in need of a high-quality rifle for less money were naturally drawn to the new Model 700, and it became a huge success.
The Model 700 has gained a strong reputation for accuracy, ruggedness, and reliability. Subsequently, not only has it been used extensively by civilians, it’s also been adopted by a variety of military and police forces. It features a push feed action, single stage trigger, and a two-position safety, which differed from the Model 70.
Today, the Remington Model 700 is still an excellent all-around option for a hunting or a sniper rifle. They are produced in a countless number of variants with different lengths, finishes, and stock types available. It shouldn’t be the only rifle you consider, but it should at least be one of them.
The Remington Model 770 is very similar to the Model 700, but is a more basic model. The Model 770 is limited on its options compared to its counterpart (barrel size for instance), but is less expensive. Because of this, the Model 770 is a great option for preppers looking for a more inexpensive way to engage targets at longer distances.
The Ruger American is the budget option on this list. Reasonably priced in the $300 to $400 range (sometimes with a scope combination), it certainly doesn’t offer the same level of eminence as a Remington 700 or a Winchester 70. But it does offer you the best quality for the price range.
The Ruger American is a unique rifle because it feeds from a rotary magazine, which can also be removed from the gun, so you can swap out magazines in a tactical fashion if you want to. Even though it’s fairly low-priced, Ruger still invested much time into making the American rifle as good as it can be.
To this end, the Ruger American is installed with a hammer forged barrel that has been coated in a rust resistant black oxide finish with a tang mounted safety that’s easy to use. It has a fully adjustable trigger and a composite stock that’s available in a variety of colors.
In short, if you need the best quality bolt rifle you can get for less than $500, the Ruger American should be your first choice.
RUGER GUNSITE SCOUT
Another option for a bolt action rifle from Ruger is the Gunsite Scout Rifle. This is a short, carbine length rifle with a detachable 5 or 10 round magazines, a rail for adding scopes, and chambered in the .308 Winchester round. While the Gunsite Scout doesn’t have quite the range as the other rifles on this list due to its shorter length, the trade-off is it will be more nimble in tight situations and better suited as a brush or truck gun.
The Gunsite Scout is today offered in a number of different configurations, including synthetic or wooden stocks, blued or stainless finishes, and right-handed or left-handed bolts. It’s also available in 5.56x45mm NATO. The .308 version is far better suited for big game hunting.
WINCHESTER MODEL 70
Also, known as the “Rifleman’s Rifle”, the Winchester Model 70 is perhaps the most iconic bolt action rifle of all times. The models made before 1964, also known as the “pre-64” variations, are considered by many to be the finest rifles ever produced in history.
Facing tough competition from the lesser priced Remington 700, Winchester lowered the price of the Model 70 after 1964, but they also changed the design to use a push feed operation rather than the Mauser-inspired claw extractor that the pre-64 used. This new Model 70 was regarded as lesser quality, so Winchester returned to producing the “pre-64” type action (only using CNC machining techniques) in the 1990s.
Winchester briefly went out of business in 2006, but in late 2007 it was announced that FN would be manufacturing new Model 70s under the Winchester name due to licensing agreements. Winchester Model 70s have been produced by FN ever since, and have sold well.
The Model 70 is today offered in practically any caliber and configuration you can think of. Not only are they very sleek looking and smooth in operation, they’re also very durable and accurate. The Winchester Model 70 isn’t cheap by any means, but it truly offers the best you could ask for out of a production bolt rifle.
WEATHERBY MARK V
The last bolt action rifle that we will talk about is another highly influential design: the Weatherby Mark V. The Mark V was specifically designed to handle the biggest Magnum calibers there are. As a result, it uses a more durable receiver, bolt, and lugs. However, the Mark V is also available in more common calibers such as .300, .30-06, or .308.
Out of all the rifles on this list, the Mark V is easily the most prestigious and expensive. But you definitely get what you pay for, because the Mark V is specifically designed to last for many generations while also being able to handle the largest and hardest hitting calibers out there. If you want to find just the right blend between strength and luxury, and have the budget for it, the Mark V should be your top choice.
As with the other rifles on this list as well, the Mark V is available in wide variety of configurations, with different options for barrel lengths, stock types, and finishes.
In conclusion, every survival armory needs to have at least one rifle that uses a bolt-action operation and has a scope. Such a rifle will be the best gun to use for long-range anti-personnel use or for big game hunting. It’s also important that you select a rifle that will last you a lifetime and will deliver optimal performance, something that any of the rifles in this article will do.
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12 thoughts on “Top 5 Bolt Action Hunting Rifles for Survival”
I have a Winchester 70 in .300 Win Mag. I recommend NOT getting this rifle.
While the rifle itself is well-made, accurate and functions great, it’s too much gun. It kicks like a mule. I’ve taken it to the range a couple of times and come home each time with a bruised shoulder. I literally hate shooting it.
Mr Gray should install a muzzle brake (have it installed a gunsmith). It will reduce the recoil by about 1/3rd at least and will cost around $200.
My go-to is a Remington 600 Mohawk in .308 Winchester. Light and short, very much like that Ruger RAR mentioned above. Long discontinued, it continues to serve me well. 2.5x-8x Leupold scope on it has served well for many years now.
I have read and heard many good comments about the Tikka T3 Hunter. Priced to move too.
I share Mr. Gray’s opinions of magnum cartridges. Unless you have large animals with teeth or hooves or am VERY ANGRY at your target, no need for them. 308 – 30.06 – .270 is plenty of cartridge.
What is your opinion on a lever action 30.30?
lever action 30.30 is just not a 600 yard gun. I have a marlin and love it but you are talking apples to oranges
The lever guns are nice, light-weight, hold a good number of rounds, and are easy to operate under adverse conditions. Even during the ammo drought of the previous administration’s early years, 30-30 ammo was available in most places. Unfortunately, lever guns are more mechanically complex than bolt-action rifles and therefore more likely to fail in a SHTF environment. Besides, the article was specifically about bolt-action rifles.
Model 94 Winchester in 30-30 has killed more deer than any other rifle.
No argument, but I’ll wager that the vast majority of those deer were taken within 100 yards. I love my 30-30, but it is simply no match for .270, .308 or 30-06 at greater distances.
Those are all nice, but give me a good old Enfield 303 over all of them.
Tried, true and will give ANY modern rifle a schooling.
I respect each and everyone’s opinion on their choice of rifles. After all this is what it’s all about. I’ve done a lot of shooting in my time and shot many different rifles. Within a hundred yards or so the Winchester 30-30 is a decent choice of rifles however that’s not always the case. A weatherby fibermark in a .270 or 7 mm is plenty of rifle for most anything. I owned everything from whby. .270-.416 and all are great rifles!
I have found that the new 6.5 Creedmor is a more pleasant version of the .308/7.62×51. Less recoil and shoots flatter and further.
A scope on your long range rifle is indeed highly important. However, it is a good idea to have a decent set of backup “iron” sights in case something happens to the scope.