Cheap vs. Expensive Hunting Rifles: Which is Right for You? Latest

I was just talking to a young hunter the other day. I asked him, “If you could buy either a few hundred dollar or a few thousand dollar hunting rifle, which one would you buy?”

What did the man say back? “If I had to choose, I’d always go for the version that costs a few hundred dollars.”

He said that he was looking for a used gun that was both good and old. Since I also love Winchester rifles made before 1964, I might be able to guess what he was getting at.

Then I asked, “What if you were going to have to hunt Sitka Blacktail deer on the coast of Alaska where it was going to rain all the time and the air was salty?”

He felt like his head was going to spin when he thought about his prized antique Winchester getting rusty. Given the situation, we decided that the best choice would be a rifle with a composite stock and a stainless steel barrel.

When he didn’t answer, I threatened his rifle with sub-zero temperatures and said that a cheap injection-molded composite stock could break if it hit a rock or tree trunk. The look on his face was like that of a deer caught in the headlights.

Lastly, let me add this to our made-up situation: You bought a new gun, planned a hunt for a trophy Sitka deer on Kodiak Island, and spent most of a week scouting the area for bears while looking through a scope for big bucks. You should have seen a big buck like this sooner.

But he is now 482 yards away, across a canyon, and getting farther and farther away from you.

You can’t get any closer to get a better picture, no matter how hard you try. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance to get a premium buck.

If you want to kill him without doing any extra damage, you’ll need a gun that can hit a very small target from a long way away with a shot that kills.

Now that we’ve talked about all of that, I’ll ask the same thing:

Do you think it’s worth it to spend a lot of money on a hunting rifle, or would you rather save the money?

Cheap Facts and Expensive Realities

I, for one, don’t think I’ll ever need a gun that costs several thousand dollars quickly. We can buy a weapon that can do 85% of the jobs we give it for less than a fourth of that price.

Cheap vs. Expensive Hunting Rifles

But if you want to go on serious hunting trips, a cheap rifle won’t be enough. I see no reason why not. Let’s look at what a $450 gun and a $2,250 rifle have in common and what makes them different.

The Lowdown on Cheap Rifles

In all honesty, companies can’t spend a lot of time and money making a cheap gun. Barrel, action, and stock parts must fit together like Cheetos rolling off a production line.

Where exactly is the button? It should be as easy to make as a set of plastic cutlery, but it should be just as complicated.

The irony is that Cheetos taste great, plastic dinnerware works well enough, and cups from gas stations do the job.

In the end, they’ll get what they want. But a steak shouldn’t be eaten with plastic forks, a gas station cup isn’t made to last, and Cheetos won’t give you more energy.

Most of the time, cheaper barrels don’t work as well as more expensive ones, cheaper actions aren’t as smooth and reliable, and cheaper stocks are more likely to break when they’re being used. Even the best people can be pushed over the edge by one simple thing.

Cheap vs. Expensive Hunting Rifles

But is it possible to kill big animals with a basic, cheap rifle? You can do that, no problem. Whitetail deer can be hunted successfully with a cheap rifle from box blinds at 200 yards or less.

Even elk in the Rocky Mountains, pronghorn on the plains, and mule deer in the sagebrush can’t get away from this kind of gun. Most of the time, it will work perfectly.

The things that make a gun cheap to make and buy are the same things that make it bad for hunting. If you take it outside in bad weather, the poor finish will rust right in front of your eyes.

When a grizzly bear is thinking about eating you, thrills from a factory might not be enough. Plastic stocks not only don’t work well when it’s hot, but they can also break when it’s very cold.

When exposed to bad weather, rough living conditions in the backcountry, and repeated bumps and bruises, the rifle is not likely to keep its factory-like accuracy.

And that’s why, buddy, you need more than a cheap gun if you want to go hunting in the woods.

The Upshot on Upscale Rifles

The saying “You get what you pay for” applies to rifles just as much as it does to everything else. When you buy a hunting rifle for a few thousand dollars, it’s like getting a perfectly cooked steak. When you open up a clean cloth napkin, you can see a sharp knife and a shiny stainless steel fork.

Also, the drink you choose is served in beautiful crystal glasses (or a sturdy tin cup alongside a smoky campfire; your preference). You know what I’m talking about.

The action and barrel of most high-end rifles are made of stainless steel. All metalwork is usually covered with a coating that protects it from wear and corrosion. The milling process was done with great care, which led to a system that works smoothly and reliably.

Most likely, the bore was also hand-cut and hand-lapped to make sure it was as accurate as possible. Before the gun is put back together, the trigger assembly is swapped out for a high-quality one and fine-tuned.

The assembly is then put in a composite stock made of hand-laid fiberglass, carbon, or aramid fibers and epoxy. From the recoil cushion to the muzzle, it is well made and made to last.

Is this gun deadlier than the average hunting rifle? No. On the other hand, when it comes to killing animals, this rifle is more likely to work than the cheaper one.

It will be easier to shoot, last longer, and work better. The composite material is not affected by water or high or low temperatures.

Both the metal and the hole will be resistant to the weather and take a long time to rust. The process will be easy to understand and use. The gun might make you a saint right away.

What Will You Buy?

In the end, it’s up to you to decide. If you don’t plan to go on serious hunting trips, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a rifle.

If you take good care of it and don’t shoot too far or at grizzly bears, it should last you a long time. The T/C Venture II, the Mossberg Patriot, and the Winchester XPR are all great rifles for the price. They’ll take at most $450 to $600 out of your wallet.

On the other hand, if you’re the kind of hunter who wants to go backpacking for mule deer where sawtooth peaks cut the sky, horsepacking for late-season elk in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, or chasing caribou in the Arctic Circle, you should probably buy a high-priced rifle.

Three of my favorite guns are the Browning X-Bolt Pro, the Kimber Mountain Ascent, and the Weatherby Backcountry. Everything costs between $2,000 and $2,500.

Cheap vs. Expensive Hunting Rifles

As a note from the author, I think that old, “cheap” weapons can be interesting. Even before they started making guns with stainless steel and composite stocks, gunmakers made some very good guns. Each action was fine-tuned by hand, and each barrel was polished and blued to keep it from rusting.

The right triggers were put on. The barreled actions are then put back together with good walnut stocks. Even though they aren’t as accurate as guns made today, these guns were and still are very cool.

Due to worries about possible legal consequences, gunmakers eventually made the parts of the trigger so fragile that they could only be pressed with a pair of vice grip pliers.

Quality control in making things and working with metal got worse. This trend has led to the “value” weapons that are made in large numbers today.

My point is that you can find an old Winchester Model 70 or Remington 700 and buy it for a thousand dollars or less if you look hard enough.

It doesn’t last as long or shoot as well as modern guns, and it can’t handle high temperatures. Still, it will make a great rifle for hunting.

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