Deer of all variety have long been the number one game animal on this continent. However, just as no two deer are the same, no two deer rifles are, and we look at ten of the best.
Marlin has been in the lever-action business for over a century and their Model 30/336 line has been the final evolution of these rifles. Most popular in .30-.30, they are also often seen in .35 Remington, .308 Marlin Express, and other exotic rounds. Their solid top design has long been seen as perfect for scope mounts and their short 38-inch overall length has set them aside as a great brush gun for white tails.
Designed by the legendary John Moses Browning (father of the Colt 1911 and dozens of other iconic firearms) more than 7-million Winny 30.30's have left the assembly line and found their way onto gun racks across the world. The Winchester 1894 holds the record for best-selling high-powered rifle in U.S. history. In fact there are so many of these rifles out there that the .30.30 Winchester round most likely never cease production just to feed all of these buggers. There is good reason why so many have been sold-- they are just plain reliable, durable and will work season after season.
Birthed about the same time as the Winchester 94 and the Marlin lever gun, Arthur Savage produced a boxed magazine lever-action rifle that would allow stronger cartridges to be used as well as pointed bullets. It was offered in no less than 18 calibers including .300 Savage (of course), .243 Winchester and such obscure rounds as .38-55 Winchester and.32-40 Ballard. These have recently fallen out of production, but if you can find one you have a true gem.
Springfield 1903/Mauser Bolt actions
The Mauser bolt-action rifle was the top of the line military firearm from about 1888 through the 1930s. The US Army, looking to upgrade its Krag rifles after an embarrassing showing in the Spanish American War (against Spaniards equipped with Mausers), imitated the Mauser design close enough to get sued for it, but wound up producing the 1903 Springfield Rifle. This super accurate rifle in 30.06 fought throughout both World Wars and was sold off by the thousands as affordable surplus after 1946. Generations of hunters have used these old soldiers to take mule deer, whitetails and everything in between. While they are fast becoming collector's items, they can still put meat on the table when needed.
Invented in the Soviet Union in 1945, by the 1980s these guns were washing ashore at gun shows everywhere for $99 cash and carry. While the price has gone up a good bit since then, the more than one-million Russian, Chinese, Yugo, and Albanian SKS rifles are just brutally tough and made for rough service. While they are not accurate enough to make that 500-yard shot across the valley, they are plenty good enough to reach out and touch the sweet spot on a whitetail in the scrub. These really are 'the people's deer gun.'
Take a look at the other half of the list...continued in Part II of this series.