For the better part of the bolt-action rifle’s history, the twin-lug design has dominated. But in recent years there’s been a new kid on the block challenging the time-tested configuration’s supremacy.
The tri-lug full-diameter actions, what Jon R. Sundra calls “fat-bolts,” have been sweeping over the rifle world. And why not? They’re stout as sycamores and tend to run well less — due to less machining — than more traditional designs. And, best of all, there are about a metric ton of options available to match nearly any shooter’s pocketbook.
With that in mind, here are five notable fat-bolt rifles worth a look. No matter if chasing deer or punching bullseyes, these guns will get the job done.
This iconic German rifle manufacturer’s least expensive rifle prior to this year’s introduction of the MHR-16 was the RX Helix, which starts at $3,295. This is an unabashed fat bolt rifle, which is how Merkel is able to produce it at a cost that’s not that much more than our domestic equivalents. I’ve tested this gun, and considering its quality and heritage, it’s pretty amazing they can offer it at a price of $799.
Sauer 100 Classic XT
Although this 100 Classic XT was introduced in 2016, it has become readily available just this year, so I’ve chosen to include it here. Another member of the fat-bolt genre, this rifle is noteworthy for the same reasons stated for the Merkel: It’s of German quality, yet it carries an almost unheard of price of $699. And except for the subtle Schnabel forend tip, its stock would look right at home on any American-built rifle.
Yet another fat-bolt tri-lug design, this Australian-made bolt-action imported by Legacy Sports (which also handles Howa rifles) is the work of that country’s military armaments supplier and represents its first venture into sporting rifles. The example I tested was quite impressive, but then its MSRP of $1,255 takes it well out of the “value-priced” market. It does, however, offer a few upscale features to justify the price.
E. R. Shaw Mark X
Announced more than 2 years ago, this controlled-round feed version of a Savage 100 series-type action is now available. It makes my list because, with a starting price of $1,399, it offers what is probably the highest degree of customization for the price. I’m talking choice of barrel length; contour and fluting; length of pull; metal finish; and a choice of more than 100 calibers. Unlike the Savage action, the Mark X features an integral scope mount rail and recoil lug, and no barrel lock nut.
Barrett Fieldcraft Rifle
Known for its .50-caliber sniper rifles used by our U.S. Armed Forces, as well as many other countries in the world, Barrett has thrown its hat into the sporting rifle arena with its ultra-light Fieldcraft. Nothing new here; it’s a Remington 700-type action — but it’s beautifully machined and finished to tight tolerances. Despite a soda straw barrel and a weight of just 7.25 pounds with scope, the example I tested in 6.5 Creedmoor was a genuine MOA rifle.