I was recently asked what I would suggest for a deer hunting rifle while adhering to a $1000 budget. While that’s not a tremendous amount of money when it comes to firearms, that budget can go a long way. For perspective, I picked up my first deer rifle for around $300 which came with a factory mounted scope. Anyway, the question got me thinking. If I had $1000 for a deer rifle, what would I get?
Before I answer that, I want to say that I fully expect for folks to disagree with me and offer alternatives. That’s fine. I encourage that. There are a lot of good value priced options that a new deer hunter can use to put food on the table. Also, my hunting experience has been limited to terrains where a good harvest opportunity might require a good shot at distances of up to 350 yards give or take a football field. As such that will heavily influence what I would get.
Let’s start with the rifle. I’m going to suggest an entry level bolt action rifle. Specifically, the Savage Arms AXIS II (which is also available in a left hand configuration). The MSRP for this rifle is $459, but one can realistically expect to find these going for about $300 to $350 street price. For a starter value priced rifle, I really like what Savage offers. The action on is solid. The AccuTrigger is, in my opinion, one of the better factory triggers available without getting into premium triggers found on higher end bolt actions. One could opt to save a few bucks and go with the original AXIS, but that would not include the AccuTrigger which is the main reason I think the AXIS II is a great option. Another good thing about this particular rifle is that variants are available for many popular deer hunting cartridges such as, but not limited to, 22-250 Remington, 243 Winchester, 25-07 Remington, 270 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, 308 Winchster, 6.5mm Creedmoor, and 7mm-08 Remington.
For those with an even tighter budget, one could opt to spend an additional $80 and opt for the Savage Arms AXIS II XP. The XP includes a Bushnell Banner 3-9x40mm scope which is a very common size and magnification range. While I’m not a fan of budget scopes, I have to admit that they will get the job done. Unfortunately, the AXIS II XP is not available in a left hand configuration.
Assuming I went with the AXIS II and spent around $300 to $350 of the original budget, I’m still going to need a scope, rings, and base.
Let’s start with the base because it’s necessary and likely the lowest cost part. A base like a Leupold Rifleman 1-Piece Base will work just fine and set us back about $10. I tend to prefer higher end bases like the Mountain Tech Scope Rail from Warne Manufacturing, which would set us back about $60, because I think its a good investment for a higher quality foundation on which to attach quality optics. However, given we are working with a budget I can go either way here. Either way, we are looking at an additional $10 to $60 for the base which brings the total between $310 and $410.
Scope rings are something I also don’t like to skimp on, especially when attaching a high end scope to a rifle. I’m a big fan of the Precision Matched Riflescope (PMR) rings from Vortex Optics and they are what I rely on for mounting high quality scopes to my rifles. The PMR rings will set one back about $150. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the Pro Series rings from Vortex as well and wouldn’t object to these rings either. The Pro Series rings will set one back about $60. That means we are looking at an additional $60 to $150 for scope rings and that brings the running total between $370 and $560.
Based on the running total we have about $440 to $630 left to work with for a scope. I’m going to look at some options from Vortex Optics because I believe they make great scopes and their pricing results in a lot more scope for the same amount of money when compared to other rifle scope manufacturers. There are a lot of options I would consider in this range from Vortex. Here are some of them:
- Diamondback 3-9x40mm for about $200
- Diamondback 4-12x40mm for about $200
- Crossfire II 3-12x56mm for about $300
- Viper HS 4-16x44mm for about $550
- Viper HS 4-16x50mm for about $600
Out of those I would personally opt for one of the two Viper HS scopes as the Viper HS is a higher end product line than the others and keeps us well within the budget if we opt for the more budget friendly base and ring options. I firmly believe that spending more on a better scope will yield a better overall hunting experience. Furthermore, I find taking a $70 loss for a $210 base and ring upgrade later a much easier pill to swallow than taking a $200 loss for a $600 scope upgrade later. Also consider that going with the better scope, rings, and base brings the total spend to $1160 ($350 rifle + $60 base + $150 rings + $600 scope) which isn’t a ridiculous overage beyond the original $1000 budget.