Here at Backfire, we bought seven different rifles and spent over 100 man-hours testings them in seven different categories. After way too much time in the sun, the results are in on these various rifle models. While no rifle was best at everything, we were still able to pick two winners.
The best overall rifles were the Weatherby Vanguard, Bergara B14 Hunter, and Tikka T3X Lite. They had high marks in multiple categories and should be considered the best at this price class.
The Ruger American, the winner of the budget models, is included in this test only for comparison since it is a much less expensive rifle than the rest.
Each rifle, save the Howa 1500, has its review. This article will focus on the 18-minute comparison video where we showed you each rifle side-by-side. All test rifles were chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor.
1st Place (T): Weatherby Vanguard
This was my personal favorite of the group. And yes, before you ask, I know the action and barrel are made by Howa. However, it fared much better in my evaluation based on the stock, finish, and individual accuracy of the model we tested.
The Weatherby Vanguard shot the smallest group during the testing, and while this is a sample of one, that still needs to count for something. The stock is rigid and has a comfortable profile.
Our rifle has a 22″ barrel and weighs 7.25 pounds without a scope. It is fed by an internal magazine with a hinged floorplate.
The individual review for the Vanguard can be found here.
- Excellent stock for the price
- Worry free finish
- The camo pattern isn’t my favorite, but there are other options available.
1st Place (T): Bergara B14 Hunter
Brad chose the Bergara B14 as his favorite rifle of the seven. It is an excellent rifle with many things going for it. The action and build quality are excellent for a rifle of the price, and while it didn’t shoot groups as small as the Weatherby Vanguard or Tikka T3 Superlite, it is still sub-MOA.
The rifle came with a blued finish and has a stiff, well-made stock. The color of the stock may remind you of a non-slip garage floor though.
Our Bergara B14 Hunter has a 22″ barrel and weighs 7.1 pounds without a scope. It is fed by an internal magazine with a hinged floorplate.
The individual review for the Bergara B14 Hunter can be found here.
- Excellent Action
- All around well made
- Ugly stock (see below)
3rd Place: Tikka T3x SuperLite
The Tikka T3x SuperLite is a great rifle and was chosen by Ricky as his favorite. For all real-world applications, it shot as well as the Weatherby Vanguard though technically it came in second place.
This is a much lighter rifle than most of the others, and had a sharper recoil. Consider this if you want a harder kicking cartridge than a 6.5 Creedmoor or want to shoot long practice sessions.
Our tested model has a 24″ barrel and weighs 6.5 pounds without a scope. The T3x uses a detachable box magazine.
The individual review for the Tikka T3x SuperLite can be found here.
- Light weight
- Very smooth action
- Sharper recoil when compared to the other rifles
4th Place: Kimber 84m Hunter
The Kimber 84m Hunter is a flawed rifle but still has some upside. It is very lightweight, and if that is important to you it is worth your consideration. If not though, skip this rifle entirely.
With a very slim barrel profile, shooting groups will result in flyers if you don’t take long breaks between shots. The trigger has an odd profile and can feel awkward to some shooters. The stock design also makes it quite a reach from the grip to the trigger.
Our rifle has a 22″ inch barrel and weighs an incredible 5.5 pounds without a scope. It uses a detachable magazine.
The individual review for the Kimber 84m Hunter can be found here.
- Very lightweight
- Good action
- Odd trigger shape and stock profile
- The rifle produces lots of flyers during routine practice sessions
5th Place: Howa 1500
The Howa 1500 is a good rifle for the price and was the least expensive of the bunch (excluding the Ruger American). The action and trigger are its high marks, while the stock shares a common ancestry with dodgeballs. It didn’t shoot as well as our Weatherby Vanguard even though Howa made both barrels.
I’m not saying the Howa 1500 shouldn’t be considered, but if your budget can afford a better rifle it would be a wise long-term investment.
Our model has a 22″ barrel and weighs 7.85 pounds without a scope. It uses an internal magazine with a hinged floorplate.
- Good action and trigger
- Good price
- Funky, flexable stock
- Didn’t shoot that well
6th Place: Remington 700 SPS
This isn’t your dad’s Remington 700 and our model distinguished itself as the worst shooting rifle of the group. Its smallest 4-shot group was 1.16″ and a 1.42″ group is normal for this rifle with match ammo. For a rifle at this price point, no other factors can make up for results like these.
Consider a different rifle.
This rifle sports a 24″ barrel and weighs 7.25 pounds without a scope. It is fed by an internal magazine.
The individual review for the Remington 700 SPS Hunter can be found here.
7th Place: Savage 110 Switchback
Coming in at last place is the Savage 110 Switchback. Ours suffered from major reliability issues and was less accurate than other models. In its defense, it was the cheapest Savage 110 model we were able to find. Also, the accutrigger is excellent.
I fully accept this rifle is a sample of one, but when it can’t feed ammo or eject spent casings, it needs to go in last place. For accuracy, the best group this rifle shot was .967″ and the normal group with match ammunition was 1.35″. It was beaten by the Ruger American in the accuracy department.
We didn’t like our model but your mileage may vary.
The barrel is 22″ long and weighs 8.25 pounds due to its medium profile. It uses a detachable magazine.
The individual review for the Savage 110 Switchback can be found here.
- Excellent trigger
- Reliability issues
- Below average accuracy
Honorable Mention: Ruger American
The Ruger American punches above its weight class in a few ways. It shoots extremely accurately for a sub-$350 rifle and was the winner of the budget rifle competition.
The Ruger was included not to have a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, but instead to show what $350 buys you. This may be all the rifle you need. The Best Hunting Rifle Under $350 can be found here, and was Backfire’s first video to hit 1 million views!
While it is very accurate, there are some downsides. The stock is a decent injection molded model but doesn’t compare to the more expensive rifles we tested. Also, any upward pressure on the magazine can cause feeding problems.
Our Ruger American has a 22″ barrel and weighs 6.2 pounds without a scope. It feeds from a detachable magazine.
The individual review for the Ruger American can be found here.
- Cheap stock
- Feeding issues when pressure is applied to the bottom of the magazine