Whether you hunt with rifles or handguns, high-end or lower-budget, semi-auto, lever or bolt actions, 2017s class of firearms has something to offer America’s deer hunters. Some are just now hitting the market, while others are just now catching up with demand. With whitetail seasons around the corner, now is the time to make that new rifle selection. Here are five of our favorites.
1. The Budget Workhorse: Winchester XPR
With little fanfare, Winchester entered the budget rifle market already flooded with reasonable options like the Savage Axis II and Mossberg Patriot. Though initially introduced in a non-assuming, run-of-the-mill black synthetic not unlike all the others, the XPR sets itself apart in fit and function. The trigger is the same fully adjustable unit found in the venerable Model 70, exceptional on a rifle of this class and with a crisp break. A single stack, dropbox magazine and target crown on the 20- to 26-inch barrels are also sweet. They have also introduced a number of other models to the XPR family, including a pair of Mossy Oak options — Break Up Country and Mountain Country.
Compact models are available for smaller-framed shooters. Calibers run the gamut from .243 all the way up to .338 Win Mag with every popular chambering in between, including the short mag options as well. Price, regardless of caliber, is $549 black and $599 camo, with store prices even lower, making these rifles affordable, capable and accurate. Our test gun in 6.5 Creedmoor is sighted in with MOA accuracy and ready for both pronghorn and deer this fall. The Winchester XPR is proof you needn’t break the bank to for a quality deer rifle.
2. The Handgunner’s Ten: Remington 1911 R1 10mm Hunter Long Slide
Like the Winchester above, Remington is late to the long-slide 10mm hunting-pistol party, but in this case, better late than never. The Remington 1911 R1 is a near-custom-shop quality semi-automatic hunting handgun in a caliber with plenty of knockdown power for whitetails, and follow-up firepower favored for hogs as well. Its 6-inch match-grade barrel allows a long sight plane and the included Para irons are both adjustable and easy to acquire in low-light scenarios. Though not as applicable for deer, a lower rail allows mounting of a light or laser, nice for hunting other game where legal.
Weighing 41 ounces empty, the R1 is a handful but that means recoil is easily manageable, feeling considerably less than, say, a 44 Magnum. With an MSRP of $1310, the R1 Hunter 10mm doesn’t come cheap, but the adjustable skeletonized trigger is nice, and fit and finish on the gun is top notch. Pistol hunting is not for everybody and the price will limit its appeal, but adorers of the 1911 platform may find this a welcome addition to their hunting arsenal.
3. The 1,000 Yard Stud: Browning Hell’s Canyon Long Range
Looks alone let the Hell’s Canyon Long Range rifles steal the show at SHOT 2017, but hands-on time proved these rifles are much more than handsome. With 26-inch fluted heavy barrels and available in eight serious long-range calibers, from 6mm Creedmoor to .300 Win Mag, these bolt guns make ideal hunting companions for whitetailers who hunt over beanfields, large tracts, or better yet, western expanses.
A detachable rotary magazine with inline feed and adjustable feather trigger are just a few of the premium features. The threaded muzzle break is welcome in a long-range gun, and suits suppressed shooters as well. The cerakote Burnt Bronze metalwork and ATACS DuraTouch camo stock are distinct on the market, and have turned plenty of heads at both the shop and range.
Looks and long-range performance come with a retail price from $1229 to $1269, depending upon caliber. Those who like the look of the Long Range, but don’t need the barrel length and all the extras will also like the looks of the more reasonably-priced Hell’s Canyon Speed rifles.
4. The Nostalgic Performer: Henry Long Ranger
Introduced last year to higher demand than production, the lever action Long Ranger got an update for fall, coming with iron sights. Who would’ve ever thought a lever gun would be tagged as a long-range deer rifle? Henry, that’s who, when they paired old-school function and looks with modern distance shooting and accuracy demands. Available in three calibers — .223, .243, and .308 — we had success with the .243 on everything from whitetails to varmints at ranges exceeding 300 yards. Fed with a detachable box magazine, and wearing a 20-inch barrel and high-grade American walnut, the Long Ranger is defining its own class.
The Long Ranger is probably the most unconventional addition to this list, but also one of the most fun to shoot. MSRP is a few dollars over $1000, but not only includes the scope mounts and hammer extension, but also comes with Henry’s out-of-this-world customer service and made-in-America guarantee. There’s still something deeply satisfying taking down deer with a lever gun, made even sweeter reaching out to touch whitetails at serious ranges with the .243 and .308.
5. The Legit Hunting Black Gun: Savage MSR-10 Hunter
Modern sporting rifles are nothing new to the hunting market; MSRs are, however — that’s Modern Savage Rifles. Debuted along with a pair of .223s and a long-range platform, the Savage MSR Hunter is ideal for whitetail hunters who love semi-automatic black guns. With an adjustable gas system ideal for suppressor hunters, Blackhawk! furniture, and a quality trigger, the MSR is a pleasure to shoot.
Accuracy was exceptional with our .308 out to our max 500 yard target. The contingent of calibers drive the MSR-10 Hunter’s appeal, with options of .308, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .338 Federal. At a hair under 8 pounds empty, these AR-10 platform designs are significantly lighter than many in its class, making them easy enough to carry on a hunt. Coming from a more traditional bolt gun hunter, the MSR-10 Hunter was hard to put down, especially when paired with a can. The MSRP of $1481 seems steep, but actually quite fair for what you get, especially considering the prices of lesser AR-10s on the market.
Our best-of-the-class-of-2017 hunting arms for whitetail-sized game shows a mix of platforms, prices, and chamberings. The market may wax and wane year by year, with modern sporting rifles here or long-range bolt guns there, but this grouping offers deer hunters some serious choices. No matter the personal reasons for selection of new firearms, one thing is certain: hunters taking to the field with any of these fine arms will have the edge on their game.