The Demise of the Budget Single Shot Rifle

By Randy Wakeman

It has not been widely noticed, much less commented upon, but the budget priced, single-shot rifle has quietly almost vanished. LHR Sporting Arms has ceased operations, despite the fact that their initial product was the excellent LHR Redemption muzzleloader. The H&R/NEF Handi-Rifle, once quite popular, is history and the sales of competitive products has dwindled to a trickle.

What happened? The major factor is the crowded field of entry-level bolt-action repeating rifles. The Savage Edge, quickly renamed the Savage Axis due to trademark issues, happened. There has been a long laundry list of entry-level-priced rifles that have been introduced and then have quickly faded into oblivion, but the Savage Axis did not. Right now, for 2015, retail on a standard Savage Axis .30-06 is $362.00, less than a quality air rifle. Street price on a new Axis runs about $300, set by the respective retailers.

It does not make much sense to search for a cheap single-shot when you have a large number of bolt-action repeating rifle choices that sell for the same (or less) dollars. Following Savage, Ruger, Remington, Mossberg, T/C, Marlin, Browning and other brands have introduced low priced models. Some brands have launched, discontinued and relaunched a new low-priced spread. Many of the low-cost bolt-action rifles come with generous rebates. Right now, for example, the T/C Venture has a $75 rebate through December 31, 2015.

There is also a movement to change deer hunting regulations to allow the use of high power rifles in states where they have previously been prohibited. Note the following 2015 Indiana DNR proposal.

312 IAC 9-3-3: Makes the following changes governing deer hunting equipment:

Allows additional rifles to be used by reducing the bullet size required to .243 and eliminating the maximum rifle cartridge case length. This will allow high-powered rifles such as the .30-30 and .45-70 during the deer firearms seasons. Full metal jacketed bullets would be unlawful, because they do not expand when fired and therefore do not kill as humanely. The DNR believes the change can be made now for the following reasons:

  • There are currently no limits on rifles that are legal to use for species other than migratory birds, deer and wild turkey.
  • Muzzleloaders have evolved to the point that with smokeless powder (which is legal to use), they are essentially a high-powered rifle (accurate 500 yard gun).
  • They are legal in several nearby states, including Kentucky, Michigan (the northern part of the state) and Pennsylvania. There has been no increase in hunting-related accidents as the result of the use of rifles, neither in Indiana nor in several other states where they are allowed.
  • There is not a need to limit the equipment that can be used to take deer in order to manage the deer herd. The deer harvest was a record in 2012 and the DNR is managing the deer herd through other means.
  • Rifle cartridges that fire a bullet at least .243 in diameter and have a minimum case length of 1.16 inches long can safely and humanely kill white-tailed deer.

Some of the statements by the Indiana DNR ridiculous, such as for notion that muzzleloaders are essentially high-powered rifles and typically, "500 yard accurate." There is no mainstream manufacturer of smokeless muzzleloaders today.

In any case, the Indiana proposal is unlikely to pass for 2015, as the Indiana DNR is now recommending against it, citing social issues. In this case, they were for it before they were against it. Currently, their position is, "The changes to the rifle proposal and statewide sunfish bag limit were not approved by the Natural Resources Commission."

Nevertheless, the trend is to loosen up nonsensical hunting regulations in many states, particularly those east of the Mississippi. In those states that allow shotguns, muzzleloaders and rifles chambered for certain handgun cartridges for deer hunting and need to attract more hunters, the writing is on the wall. Like it or not, the legalization of high power rifles for deer hunting in these states will decrease the demand for lower-pressure rifle actions (cheap single shots and some lever-actions, for example) and their sales will continue to dwindle.

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Copyright 2015, 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.