Who Makes the Most Accurate Bolt Action Rifle?

By Randy Wakeman

If there is one question perpetually asked, next to the omnipresent questions about recoil, it is who makes the most accurate rifle. The question of accuracy never goes away, but the answer is not all that clear.

Barrel makers suggest that it is the barrel that makes the rifle, stock makers suggest it is the stock, trigger suppliers suggest it is the trigger, scope-makers claim their scopes are the key to accuracy, ammunition makers suggest it is the ammunition. Reloaders like to think their hand-loads are the key component, and so it goes.

Some tout the esoteric notion of the "inherent accuracy" of a cartridge. Some claim a certain brand of rifle is always more accurate, because it is what they own. While they are not all wrong, they are all a long way from being entirely correct.

As you might guess, there is no one component that makes a rifle intrinsically accurate. Nevertheless, there are some clear trends based on the last one hundred center fire rifles I have tested, trends that are too clear to ignore. One MOA (one inch at 100 yards) three shot, center to center groups are no longer that big of a deal, for with the right ammunition, even economical hunting rifles that shoot into one MOA are not that unusual.

The best groups with modern rifles can be impressive. A recently reviewed Savage Axis chambered in .223 Remington shot inside 3/4 inch with several loads. A Savage Model 11FCSS Accustock in .270 Winchester shot 5/8 inches with Nosler 130 grain ballistic tip ammo and prior to that a similar model in .30-06 delivered a 1/10 inch group with its favored load. A recently tested Browning AB3 in .270 Winchester shot into 1/10th MOA at 100 yards, not just one hole but one round hole, with 140 grain Winchester Accu-Bond ammunition.

Not one of these rifles is my idea of an aesthetically pleasing rifle, not remotely close, but obsessing over accuracy once you get inside an inch at 100 yards with a big game hunting rifle is a waste of time. When was the last time someone walked up to a whitetail deer and claimed that if the bullet hole was a quarter of an inch to the left the deer would somehow be really dead?

While there are no guarantees on one individual rifle and ammunition plays a significant role in every firearm I have ever tested, Browning, Savage and Weatherby are the most consistently accurate center-fire rifles on the market, based on my extensive testing.

If accuracy is your obsession, they are all worthy of anyone's short-list. Of course, your preference should not be based on accuracy alone, for weight, handling, gun fit, design, quality, reliability, durability and ease of operation are very important.

(Normally, these factors are more important than intrinsic accuracy. See Hunting Rifle Accuracy: Enough is Enough! -Editor.)

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Copyright 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.