Defending the Entry Level Bolt Action Rifle

By Randy Wakeman

The Ruger American, a typical economy rifle. Photo by Randy Wakeman.

Manufacturers have spent a great deal of research, development time and tooling to reduce the manufacturing cost of a rifle. The reason they have done this is simple, for many consumers want inexpensive hunting rifles. Hunting rifles must be price competitive in the market place and being manufacturable is part of the design criteria.

Most of these entry level, economy rifles are economical push-feed actions with thermoplastic stocks and rough matte metal finishes. They are not the best looking rifles, to be sure.

It is simple. For many casual deer hunters who are not "gun nuts," a deer rifle may be used once or twice a year. To many hunters rifles are simple tools that are not in need of styling and profiling at the range every weekend. All that is necessary is "minute of whitetail" accuracy and most economy rifles today do far better than this.

When you are outfitting your entire family, dollars count. I grew up in a family with five kids and one income. There was no magic money tree for entertainment purposes. My personal healthcare premium is around $14,000 a year, so it is hard to get really excited about fifty dollars either way for a rifle.

Yes, it often costs me more just to review an entry level rifle than the full cost of the rifle. The scopes I use are more costly than the rifles themselves, sometimes two or three times the price. My Beeman R9 .20 caliber pellet gun is more expensive than many .270 Winchester or .30-06 bolt action rifles on the market today. My annual vet bills decidedly are, as well.

Let's get Mom and Dad out in the field with the kids, without destroying school supplies or the college fund. Most of these guns are capable of one shot, clean kills at 50 yards, 100 yards, 200 yards, or even 300 yards in the hands of a good and careful shot. From that perspective, they are far more than adequate.

If a rifle is safe, sufficiently accurate and reasonably reliable, it is huntable. I started hunting when I was five years old, with a shotgun. When I started deer hunting I was eleven and used a rusty old .38-55 with nasty buckhorn sights. Today, for $225 - $300, your kids are comparatively living large.

The point is to enjoy the day, enjoy the hunt, enjoy your family and enjoy the venison. The more sophisticated, prettier, better finished guns can wait until your finances improve, or your kids develop a passion for the shooting sports.

My first motorcycle was not top of the line, much less the first automobiles that I bought. I was delighted to have them, though, for they got me where I wanted to go.

This is the message of the entry level bolt action rifle. To the extent that it helps get more families out in the field and more food in the meat locker, it is a very good thing.

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Copyright 2017 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.