By Lars Dalseide | May 27 2014 15:46

American Rifles tells you why these hunting rifles are a steal

Affordable hunting rifle suggestions from NRA's American Rifleman magazine Never thought you could get your hands on a hunting rifle for a reasonable price? Well John Barsness is here to tell you why you're wrong ...

You can pick up a hunting rifle from four of the biggest names in riflemaking for around $300. Sure, that’s a great price, but is it really a bargain? You might be surprised.

Saying American riflemen tend to be conservative is like saying trees tend to grow wood. That’s why new trends in hunting rifles often encounter resistance. One supposedly new way of marketing such guns is by referring to them as “affordable” or “value-priced,” but most Americans simply think of them as “cheap.” That has caused a good deal of grumbling, especially on the Internet, yet another new trend. Since few gun stores feature wood stoves these days, the formerly traditional venue for rifle discussions, shooters whine where we can. Some things never change.

In autumn, Americans still follow the old traditions, including hunting, eating turkey, and throwing sales across the country. During the fall of 2013 the following prices appeared before, during and after big-game season in my part of Montana:

Mossberg ATR—$290
Remington 783—$320
Ruger American—$300
Savage Axis—$300

While these rifles don’t look like the ones many hunters grew up shooting, they do not mean the end of civilization as we know it. To prove that point, some historical perspective might be useful. In the 1958 issue of Gun Digest well-known writer Bob Wallack reviewed recent American factory rifles, and had this to say about the Remington 721 and 722, the long and short-action versions of the company’s post-war bolt-action rifle: “The motto at Remington these days … is ‘all for production,’ so their rifles are designed for ease of manufacture and to sell at a certain price. Every part that can possibly be banged out on a punch press is banged out on a punch press, much to the sorrow of any real gun bug. Such methods do not affect the handling qualities or functioning of a rifle, certainly, but neither do they add up to a gun that a guy’d want to own with pride.” Though written over half a century ago, the spirit of Wallack’s comments would fit right in among many Internet posts.

Mass manufacturing really began when practical steam engines were developed in the late 1700s, about the time the United States was founded. In the 20th century, electricity sped up assembly lines considerably by giving machine tools individual motors, rather than keeping them dependent on belts off an overhead, steam-driven shaft. As a result, average Americans could afford not only functional firearms and sewing machines, but Model T Fords and Frigidaire refrigerators. Yet many of us still somehow believe that any factory-made products from before right now were of much finer quality, the reason many shooters now call the 721 and 722 Remington's “classics.”


The Remington 721/722 appeared in 1948, but before World War II Savage made an even less costly and simpler rifle called the Model 23. The “action” was actually the rear end of the barrel, machined to take a bolt, trigger and detachable-box magazine. Designed for lower pressure cartridges, the Model 23 was chambered for the .22 Long Rifle, .22 Hornet, .25-20 Win. and .32-20 Win. Both the Remington and Savage rifles are just a small part of the long American of history of affordable, mass-produced firearms.

Like the Remington rifles, the Savages also shot accurately, and are now sometimes called classics. However, I own a Remington 722 and a pair of Savage 23s, and only their ages and walnut stocks might qualify as “classic.” Otherwise they were indeed designed to be made less expensively and hence sell for less than competing rifles. In fact, that is most of the reason for my Savage 23s in .25-20 Win. and .32-20 Win.: They’re still the least expensive rifles available in those “classic” chamberings.

Read the rest of John's picks for bargain hunting rifles on the American Rifleman website.


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