For hunting or shooting, these bolt-action rifles are at the top of their game.
The top bolt-action rifles:
- Franchi Momentum
- Mauser M-18
- Bergara B-14 Ridge
- Mossberg Patriot Synthetic Cerakote
- CZ 557 Left Hand
- Savage 110 Storm
- Weatherby Vanguard First Lite
- Lithgow LA102 CrossOver
Things are getting really complex around here. From precision rifles with micro-adjusting stocks, to a flood of black striker-fired pistol options, to ARs with enough handguard attachment room that it’s quite literally possible to make that gun too heavy to carry — there’s a lot going on in the world of new guns right now.
Don’t break your neck reading too hard between the lines: Each one of those categories has its place, and I enjoy tinkering with all new guns more than most. But with all that happening, the classic bolt-action sporting rifle platform has been all but overlooked. And that’s a shame, because there’s nothing more therapeutic than slow-rolling a buttery bolt and watching a round slide up into a hungry, long-action chamber.
Here’s a nod to those who are not only keeping the sporting bolt-gun heritage alive, but who are making impressive improvements on a platform that was never broken to begin with.
Known exclusively for its waterfowl, sporting and upland shotguns, Franchi enters 2018 by not just dipping their toes into the sporting bolt-action world, but by going all in with their Italian influenced Momentum. Leading the momentum of the Momentum (sorry, couldn’t help it), is the stock, which combines raised curves and checkering in the hold areas of frequently used shooting positions.
Let me say it like this: Think about where you put your hands to support the rifle while shooting from prone, or kneeling, or sitting — or while shooting offhand. The Momentum features unique grips in each of these locations.
In addition, the tri-lug bolt is spiral fluted for a rock-solid lockup and features a short 60-degree throw. While I appreciate the convenience of a rotary box magazine, Franchi chose to go with the more classic hinged floorplate mag, which I like. During some shooting of the Momentum prototypes, I had suggested that Franchi etch an elegant “F” on the belly of the floorplate to further distinguish the fine Italian craftsmanship within, but I’ve yet to see that come to fruition. Maybe on a Gen 2 model?
I also appreciate that I could still operate the bolt with the two-position safety engaged, and the single-stage trigger is adjustable from 2-4 pounds and is built to impress — especially on a rifle of this price point.
Other features include a TSA recoil pad; and a cold-hammer-forged, chrome-molybdenum, free-floating threaded barrel. The 6.6-pound Momentum has an impressive offering of calibers right out of the gate — .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., .308 Win., .30-06, .300 Win. Mag. — and is available in three configurations: black synthetic, black synthetic combo (with a Burris 3-9x40mm riflescope) and a wood-stocked 150th Anniversary Limited Edition.
MSRP: $609/black synthetic; $729/combo; and $1,069/Anniversary
More than 120 years ago, the introduction of the M98 action transformed everything that was known about bolt-action rifle design. While the M-18 Mauser isn’t as monumental as the M98 was in its day, the level of quality Mauser has brought to the budget-friendly sporting rifle category is equally as jaw-dropping.
According to Mauser, the goal of the M-18 is to return the art of rifle building to its original form — pure, no-frills workmanship — by offering a genuine tool for genuine hunters with a sensational price-to-performance ratio.
Features of the M-18 include a three-position safety system that acts directly on the trigger lug, soft grip inlays on the grip and fore-end, a removable double-row five-shot magazine, cold-hammered barrel and an adjustable direct-action trigger.
Unique to the M-18 is what Mauser is calling a “multi-purpose-cap,” which consists of a quickly removable butt pad that opens to allow access to an in-stock storage compartment. As released in early 2018, the rifle is currently available in .308 Win. and .30-06. Come July 2018, .243 Win., .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag. and .300 Win. Mag. options will be added to the M-18 family.
If you’re seriously shopping for a bolt-action sporting rifle and have yet to look under the hood of a Bergara, your search simply is not complete. New for 2018, the B-14 Ridge features a molded synthetic, glass-fiber reinforced polymer stock, which adds as much strength to the rifle as is does beauty. A SoftTouch coating is then applied to create a soft yet tacky feel for exceptional grip. The Bergara 4140 CrMo steel barrel is finished in matte blue and available in a 22-inch (7.9 pounds) and 24-inch (8.1 pounds) configurations. B-14 Ridge stocks are bedded with integral pillars for stability and enhanced accuracy, and the barrel is threaded to accept muzzle brakes or suppressors.
And, of course, what would a Bergara rifle be without mentioning the Spanish Bergara barrel around which this rifle is built? The action is Bergara’s own B-14 Action, featuring a two-lug bolt with a sliding plate extractor and a “coned” bolt nose and breech to create ultra-smooth feeding and extraction. The Bergara curved trigger comes set at near 3 pounds, and the action is drilled and tapped to fit Remington 700 style rings and bases.
The B-14 Ridge is available in: .22-250 Rem., .243 Win., .270 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, .30-06, .308 Win., .300 Win. Mag. and 7mm Rem. Mag.
It’s been a handful of years since Mossberg first unveiled the Patriot, and the family of Patriot rifles has continued to grow each year since. To date, Patriot models include: Hunting, Vortex-scoped combos, Night Train, Youth, Predator and Revere — with stocks available in walnut, laminate or synthetic. For 2018, Mossberg added a Synthetic Cerakote option to the lineup.
The entire Patriot line is best known for Mossberg’s LBA (Lightning Bolt Action) Adjustable Trigger, which is adjustable from 2 to 7 pounds and designed to eliminate creep. The Patriot’s button-rifled fluted barrels are free-floated and have a recessed crown, and the spiral-fluted bolt features an ergonomic bolt angle and knurled bolt handle for quick cycling of the action. It’s a sweet-looking rifle.
Currently, the Synthetic Cerakote Patriot is available in .243 Win., though I expect that list of options to grow in the near future. The barrel is fluted — as is the bolt — and the rifle itself weighs 6.6 pounds, which is right in the mix of other rifles in this class.
Options for southpaws who demand a high-quality bolt-action rifle have historically been slim at best — and that’s not even bringing cost into the equation. Southpaws: Are you ready to have your cake and eat it, too?
The CZ 557 Left-Hand is built on the same sweet push-fed action as the standard 557 — except with the bolt handle now located on the wrong … er, left side. The Left-Hand model sports what CZ is calling an “American-pattern” stock of the 557 Sporter, but it also wears a 24-inch barrel to maximize the performance of the .30-06 and .308 Win. chamberings. Other features include a hinged floorplate magazine, a fully adjustable trigger, two-position safety, a 4-round capacity and stunning Turkish walnut stock. And for “normal” shooters out there, the CZ 557 is available in a large variety of models and chamberings to scratch any itch.
For rifle shooters, the Savage 110 is as much a household name as Remington 870 is for shotgunners. The 110 has seen its share of innovation in its 60-year reign, but 2018 perhaps marks the biggest advancements that the 110 has ever experienced.
New for 2018 is the Savage 110 Storm, which features all the tried-and-true guts of the Model 110 action, but with a completely different body centering around the AccuStock. The Savage AccuStock consists of a rigid rail system embedded in the stock that extends through the fore-end of the rifle, engaging the action three-dimensionally along its entire length. But here’s the tangible part: The AccuStock also features five comb risers and four length-of-pull inserts that are included to provide the perfect fit — and it’s all easily interchangeable and locked down by the buttplate screws.
And, with 17 chamberings available, finding a Model 110 Storm to “fit” your needs should be quite simple.
Since its first launch, the Weatherby Vanguard line has grown faster than a herd of backyard rabbits, with each generation a bit more innovative than the last. For 2018, Weatherby is offering the Vanguard in a First Lite edition.
Like all Vanguards, the First Lite edition boasts a match-quality two-stage trigger and a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee. Other features include a fluted, one-piece machined bolt body; Vanguard recoil pad; three-position safety; cold-hammer-forged barrel; hinged floorplate magazine; Monte Carlo stock with textured grip areas and a right-side palm swell; fluted barrel; Flat Dark Earth Cerakote finish; and Accubrake. The Vanguard First Light edition is available in .240 Wthby. Mag., .257 Wthby. Mag., 6.5-300 Wthby. Mag., .270 Win., .308 Win., .30-06, .300 Win. Mag. and .300 Wthby. Mag.
New to the United States market — though popular in Australia for more than a century — Lithgow Arms is now taking pre-orders on it’s LA102 CrossOver bolt-action rifle, which continues the form-following-function philosophy upon which the Lithgow brand was originally built.
The LA102 CrossOver features Lithgow’s reinforced polymer stock (walnut is also an option), broad/flat fore-end and Cerakote barrel and receiver. Because the American shooting public demands nothing less, the barrel is completely free-floated and threaded, and the action sports a “semi-match” chamber and tri-lug bolt. Unique to Lithgow is the three lever-style trigger module that’s user-adjustable for pull weight, sear engagement and overdraw.
Available in .223 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win., the CrossOver also features an adjustable length of pull with included stock spacers, a three-position safety, single-stack box mag, and a Picatinny rail integrated atop the length of the action.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Shooter’s Guide 2018 of Gun Digest the Magazine.
Gun Digest 2019, 73rd Edition is jammed full of comprehensive information that firearms fanatics crave. No matter if your passion is long-range rifles, fancy shotguns, gritty Old West single-action revolvers or sleek semi-auto pistols, Gun Digest 2019 delivers. Get Your Copy Now