Best Hunting Rifle Under $800: A head-to-head comparison
We bought and reviewed the best hunting rifles under $750 and compared them in terms of practical accuracy, build quality, and more. We included guns like the Bergara B-14, Kimber, Tikka T3x, Weatherby Vanguard, and Howa.
After spending our own money (because no one can buy a Backfire review) and spending a hundred man-hours out in the sun to test these guns, we have a pretty conclusive list of what the best hunting rifle is under $800. If you would like to know what the best hunting rifles are under the $400 range, be sure to check out our other article (and YouTube video) which can be found here.
How We Tested The Rifles
- We used 4 shots for Grouping
- Used 3, sometimes 4, different loads, including Match Ammo
- We cooled the barrels between each group
- Vortex Razor HD Gen II for Consistency
- All shooting was done at 100 Yards
It’s quite difficult to say which gun is the best shooter, but we did our absolute best by measuring each of them by best group, by the best of our worst group, by the mean group, by the median group, and then we averaged all of those results for a composite score.
NORMAL 4-Shot Group Size (Match Ammo)
|Tikka T3x Superlite||0.98″|
For each gun we gave them a rating based on accuracy, build, trigger, action, use, and the price… and then we totaled it all up. This way we could give you, as buyer and user, the best understanding of just how good these guns were.
If a gun didn’t do great, and it was underwhelming, the gun is given a 0 in the chart below. If it did as expected, it gets 1 point. And if it did fantastic and stood out from the crowd, it gets 2 points.
|Tikka T3x Superlite||2|
As a disclaimer, it’s important to note that recording the accuracy of these tests is extremely difficult. Though we tried our best, there are a few aspects of shooting that make testing very hard.
The most difficult problem to combat was the heat. Though we allowed our barrels to cool down between groups, as soon as shooting a gun five or six times, or if it’s hot outside, that can change the accuracy of tests like the ones we performed.
We noticed that if the conditions are cool and ideal, it was easy to shoot a three-quarter inch group at a hundred yards pretty consistently. But after shot four or five, or if it was hot outside that day, we were more likely to see flyers after the third shot.
And at the end of the day, these guns are models and might not work the same way your model of the gun does. That’s why we gave the Savage 110 a 0. It’s the cheapest on the market and it’s one copy of one model of the Savage 110, so it’s not indicative of the others. While there are Savage 110’s out there that shoot great, (which is fantastic) all we could do is review what was in front of us.
In the end, though, we all shot so many hundreds of rounds that we all felt like we gave each gun a fair chance at proving itself.
Let’s talk about the high-end first. We put the Weatherby Vanguard and the Bergara B-14 in the high end of the Build section because they needed to stand out in some way, which they did.
Ignoring the hideous badlands camo of the Weatherby Vanguard, it turned out to have one of the best stocks. It feels stiff and solid in the hand, it has the Monte Carlo shape to it, and the Cerakote coating, which is what I prefer compared to the blueing.
While the Bergara is blued, the stock is fantastic. It has a soft touch to it, it looks good and stiff, and it even has a metal trigger guard. Overall it is just well constructed.
With the Tikka T3x Superlite and the Kimber Hunter were two solid builds. While there wasn’t any texture on the Tikka, it was a very stiff stock and we liked the fluting on the barrel.
With the Kimber, there was something lacking. While the magazine flops in really easy and the stock is nice and stiff even on the forend, the issue that I had was that the aesthetics were plain and the trigger is a reach to comfortably pull. That wasn’t an issue I found on any of the other guns.
The rest of the models were on the lower end of the build spectrum. This wasn’t a surprise with the Ruger American. Neither was it a surprise with the Howa 1500 Hogue as it was a cheap, cheap polymer stock, which feels like a giant bouncy ball. It was an inexpensive gun compared to the other models, so we didn’t expect it to be a better stock, but it does show.
|Tikka T3x Superlite||2||1|
Smallest Four Shot Groups Achieved (Not Average)
|Tikka T3x Superlite||0.785″|
While we measured the trigger pull weight by lbs, which is listed in the table below, these all have adjustable triggers. About 80% of trigger people buy and never adjust though, so we did somewhat take into account the out-of-box weight.
|Bergara B14 Hunter||2.25|
|Kimber 84M Hunter||3.75|
|How 1500 Hogue||3.7|
|Savage 110 Switchback||3.3|
The Howa 1500 Hogue, the Ruger American, and the Kimber 84M Hunter are as good as, or better, than the lower-end rifles, so they are fine triggers. But the problem was that they all had noticeable, perceptible take-up. Whether it is a single-stage or a two-stage trigger, you’re going to get to that stage where it should just break cleanly, and then there is a little bit of creep. For high-accuracy type shooting, that is going to be a factor you need to take into consideration.
Something to note about the Ruger American is that while, as stated in our article about Hunting Rifles Under $400, we stated that it had a good trigger, which it did for that category. But in this category, it doesn’t quite stack up.
Another thing is that the Kimber has a little bit of a creep if you’re really splitting hairs and really looking for it.
But the reason I put it down in the lower category is that the blade of the trigger is really curved. So much so that it puts you at an angle on the trigger. I want to be able to pull that thing straight back, which I don’t feel like I can. If someone had a much larger finger than I do, the pulling of that trigger could also be an issue.
The rifles on the higher end, Bergara, the Weatherby, and the Tikka, have amazing triggers. They are very light right out of the box at around 2-2.5lbs triggers, and they all have very clean breaks. There isn’t any perceptible creep, they’re just smooth, which does a lot for your accuracy.
In the middle, the Savage 110 Switchback and the Remington 700, the triggers were good, it was just that the out-of-the-box weight was a little bit higher, which is always adjustable.
|Tikka T3x Superlite||2||1||2|
For the action, we needed to put the Savage 11-Switchback at the bottom in the individual reviews. Two of us ran into major issues with it not ejecting or loading in at times. After a good cleaning, we found that there weren’t as many issues, though it did catch once or twice.
With the Ruger American, the Howa, and the Remington 700 the action was fine, but it didn’t stand out as anything impressive. And as for the Kimber, the magazine is what bumped it up above all the other guns. It was really nice to use and loads really easy.
|Tikka T3x Superlite||2||1||2||2|
It’s hard to describe this category, but essentially we took into account how nice the gun was to shoot and to carry. We only handed out 0s or 1s for this category, as nothing really grabbed our attention in terms of usability.
The winner for the lightweight category is the Kimber Hunter, which is under 6lbs, it’s a couple of inches shorter than the other guns, and if you need to hike 20 miles over hills, it’s your best bet. Strap it on a pack and it won’t catch on branches deep in the woods.
With shootability, all of the guns were reviewed with a 6.5mm Creedmoor (they all are available for purchase in different calibers) so be sure not to buy the Kimber Hunter in a heavy caliber, because it will beat you up.
It’s the same kind of story with the Tikka T3X Superlite. While just over 6lbs, it kicks substantially more than any of the other guns on this list. It simply just had a lot more recoil. This is because it has a longer barrel, and you’re getting about 100ft per second extra, so it’s going to give you that little extra bit of recoil.
The Weatherby and the Bergara are heavier rifles, more in the 7.5lbs range, so they can handle a heavier caliber much better. Still, though, they are fairly lightweight and fun to shoot on a Saturday. They aren’t going to kill you carrying them around the mountains, but they aren’t going to be as lightweight as a Tikka or Kimber.
|Tikka T3x Superlite||2||1||2||1||1|
Some may question why we decided to include some guns that were much less costly than the other ones. Simply, we didn’t want an apples-to-apples comparison.
The Ruger American and the Tikka Superlight are very different in price, but it is what you guys asked for when we asked what you wanted us to use in our next comparison. It’s also what you’re going to commonly see at the store, so they are realistic comparisons.
|Tikka T3x Superlite||$749.99|
Price needed to be taken into account when it came to these guns. For example, if you look over some things with the Ruger American, like build quality and cycling, you may find that the price is incredible for the way it shoots. You could go ahead and save yourself $300 by not minding the fact that it’s not as nice as the guns at the top end of this list.
|Tikka T3x Superlite||2||1||2||2||1||0|
So on paper, we might think we see which gun is the best. But by chopping it up into categories, you don’t have an accurate picture what we would choose after spending so much time with each of these guns.
|Tikka T3x Superlite||2||1||2||2||1||0||9|
Voting a rifle out, I personally would vote out the Savage 110-Switchback. Even though it was a great, affordable option, the stock wasn’t the best, accuracy wasn’t that great, and there were cycling issues.
Brad voted out the Howa-1500 Hogue as it was heavy, and it doesn’t shoot that well. And Ricky voted out the Remington, which just isn’t what it should be for the price. Especially when there were so many better rifles at the same price point.
Just to be clear, any of us would have been fine with any of the guns that any of us chose, but for myself, the best gun was the Weatherby Vanguard. What I loved about that rifle was the cerakote, and the fact that the stock is so stiff (it feels like concrete.) I also really loved the Monte Carlo design. And the fact that I would feel comfortable shooting it at heavier calibers because of how nice the stock is is really cool.
For Brad, his pick was the Bergara B14. What set it apart for him was the action. It’s that much more smooth that than any of the other picks.
And as for Ricky, his choice was the Tikka T3X Superlite. That was because it was that much lighter than the other rifles. If he was buying a hunting rifle, particularly in this cartridge, the 6.5 Creedmoor, if he went with a 7mm rem mag, he would want to go with something that had a stronger kick.
Overall, after shooting all of the guns on this list, he felt the most comfortable with the Tikka. He also liked the stainless steel barrel and the fluting on the barrel as well.
Sadly, because I hate ties, we couldn’t come up with an overall winner. But hopefully, we have given you enough information to allow you to make up your own mind about which of these rifles is the best. If you’re looking to shoot something more lightweight, our choice is the Tikka.
If you want something larger, keep an eye on the Bergara or the Weatherby.
Watch This Article On Youtube
If you want to see our test shots, see what each of the guns looks like, and see just how sunburned we were after spending all day out shooting, click on the video below.