Budget Rifles

Over at Gun World, Brad Fitzpatrick talks about the change in gun manufacturing, whereby “budget” (“cheap”) no longer means “can’t hit the inside of a barn”, and gives his take on various offerings from some well-known American gunmakers.  He likes them all.  Here they are, in no specific order:

From what Fitzgerald writes, and as I see it — because I’ve never shot any of them myself — all the above are great value for money, in that they combine a “sensible” price with outstanding accuracy straight out of the box.  (As for long-term reliability, of course, we’ll have to see in a decade or so’s time because they’re all relatively new and haven’t been through the hell that we riflemen subject our guns to, yet.)

All the above companies have taken the lessons learned in their respective experience and applied those when using new (and improved) manufacturing techniques, to what seems to be a great advantage for us gunnies.

Nothing wrong with any of that.

However — and you knew there was going to be a qualifier from me, didn’t you? — I think that this new Kraft Durch Technik  stuff has led to a bunch of guns that all look the same, and are not that great-looking withal.

Once again, let me reiterate:  if I were looking to buy an inexpensive bolt-action rifle in .300 Win Mag to take to the Cairngorms in Scotland for a deer stalk with Mr. Free Market, Doc Russia and Combat Controller, every single one  of these rifles would be on my short list, in the same way that if I were looking for a budget-yet-well-made vehicle to take on a long drive trip across the United States, I’d certainly consider cars from Toyota, Nissan, Honda and so on.

But paraphrasing Jeremy Clarkson’s famous question:  would you get a thrill every time you took it out of the gun safe / saw it in your driveway?

I wouldn’t.  I’m sorry, but as much as I have said, and believe that guns are tools and cars just means to get from A to B, I just cannot reconcile myself with the blandness of modern products, and these budget rifles don’t do it for me.  Something like this one does:

It’s a Mauser M18, and in .300 Win Mag as pictured it retails for about $750 at Euro-Optic (~$300 more than the Winchester XPR above).  Yeah, it’s a “budget” Mauser.  My  kinda budget.

Update:  It appears that I screwed up and used the wrong pic (of a new Mauser 98), as the M18 is only available with a plastic stock.  Ugh.  So much for that thought.  Okay, let’s go with an older “budget” rifle in .300 Win Mag, the Savage 110 XP with the wonderful Accu-Trigger:

This one’s on sale at Bud’s Gun Shop for just under $600, and while it’s no Mauser, it will probably do just fine.

[exit, kicking sand]


  1. The guns from the article would be the ones to get a trophy you can show off to your friends.

    That Mauser is a rifle that you could show off to your friends while you show them your trophy.

  2. By the same token, you probably wouldn’t want to subject that Iovely Mauser to a sleety day in a tree stand waiting for a deer to stroll by while it wouldn’t bother you to subject one of the plastic rifles to such treatment. Yeah, the budget rifle may not make your heart skip a beat when you look at it, your heart also won’t skip a beat if you fall into a stream while carrying it.

  3. Most all of my rifles are blued steel with wood stocks and of course my most accurate rifle has a heavy barrel with an after market synthetic stock. I would be willing to bet that the average centerfire, deerslayer, bolt action never sees more than one 20 round box of ammo through the barrel each season, a couple of trips to the range for sighting in and a few trips to the field. Any of these rifles will last a lifetime of that type of use and if cleaned from time to time and stored properly last several generations. They should all shoot minute of deer out to 150 yards where most of those critters are taken.

    The Mauser you show above does not look at all like the M-18 which comes with a synthetic stock as best I can tell. I don’t know what model of Mauser that is in your picture but with the barrel mounted sling swivel and the express sights it might even be a larger cal. than .300 mag, whatever it is I would love to have it.

    1. > They should all shoot minute of deer out to 150 yards where most of those critters are taken.

      If they’re using modern manufacturing techniques and materials those rifles should shoot minute deer out to 5 or 600 yards.

      1. I use some nice equipment and shoot at the 500 yard range in Kerrville once a month. With my buddy for a spotter I can get on target at 200 yards with a first cold shot within ten inches, after that depending upon wind and weather and ballistics chart it takes me a few shoots at 300 yards and beyond to hit the small hanging 10 inch metal diamonds.

        Not saying it can’t be done but without a range finder and good loads a person needs to be experienced to take a shot over two hundred yards at a live deer, at least that my thinking my furtherest deer out was one at 220 and it was a one shot kill but I felt as if I was stretching the limit. I have worked up some nice loads for my CZ 6.5×55 with a Leupold scope and it is good to 300 yards but I would not count on my first cold barrel shot and I do know others have more skill and might feel confident.

  4. Kim, that gorgeous M-18 in your pic can’t be a $750 rifle – surely the stock alone is more than that. All the stuff I saw at the link is synthetic stocked.
    When I first read your comment and saw that pic, I was already reaching for my wallet. ;>(

    1. Strange… I got that pic of the Mauser off their website — under the “M18” pull-down. Are Mauser lying to me?

      As for the price… sheesh, I already HAVE an M12, and it cost about $2,200 in 6.5x55mm Swede.

  5. Got one of the Mossbergs in 300 win mag. Stainless and laminate stock. Should last a long time.

    Now to find something to shoot with it.

  6. .300 Winmag for European deer? I’mna thinking either they’ve grown considerable the last 35 years or you’re contemplating shots well in excess of .30-30 territory… Of course I was never much of a hunter. My hunting generally involved 120mm projectiles and multi-million dollar fire controls on critters that shot back. Without success, I might add. 😉

  7. Scratch the Axis 2 off the list, it’s junk.

    I’ve only got a sample size of one, but it’s action is awful and the stock is cheap, hollow, light plastic.

  8. This is where I would like to see all seven manufacturers provide Kim with a shooting sample of each, as pictured.

    Shall we agree on .30-’06 as a common caliber, for testing purposes?

    Five different brands and weight of ammo, just to test them all across a range of external ballistic factors.

    I would truly be interested in the results of the tests… surely, out of those seven, there’s an “everyman’s rifle” that stands out a bit above the fray.

    Bonus: More of Kim’s writing, fueled by high-octane shootyness.

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

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