Rifle recap: Our favorite hunting rifles of 2018 (VIDEO)

01/21/19 10:30 AM | by

The Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie puts the .224 Valkyrie chambering on the map. With an 18” barrel, FDE Cerakote finish, quality furniture, and two-stage trigger, this thing shoots as good as it looks. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

If only accurate rifles are interesting, then 2018 was a fascinating year. As we bid adieu to the year defined by a meteoric rise in all things long-range or Creedmoor-named, hunters were certainly not overlooked by gun manufacturers.  In fact, it was difficult to narfrow down this list with all the new introductions.  The name of the game is accuracy and quality, though looks are on the side of most of these long guns as well. Here are our top picks, in no particular order.

1. Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie

The Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie puts the .224 Valkyrie chambering on the map. With an 18” barrel, FDE Cerakote finish, quality furniture, and two-stage trigger, this thing shoots as good as it looks. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

It’s refreshing to find a hot rifle and chambering not named Creedmoor.  In fact, the .224 Valkyrie is, at long last, one of those new rounds with some serious staying power. The Savage MSR-15 is our rifle of choice because it’s one of the first to the party from Savage, the Valkyrie’s co-creator in conjunction with partner-company Federal ammunition. The MSR-15 Valkyrie wears a sexy FDE Cerakote finish, Magpul UBR Gen2 buttstock, Hogue pistol grip, and turnable muzzle brake. The 18 inch barrel partners with a sweet two-stage trigger to produce a rifle that we shot with great accuracy from 100-500 yards, and no doubt, there’s more in the tank, as this is an advertised 1,000 yard shooter. The nice thing for hunters is that the .224 Valkyrie works well for everything from prairie dogs and coyotes with 60-grain bullets on up to deer and hogs with 90-grainers. Match shooters will revel in Hornady’s 88-grain options as well. Ammo comes from Federal, American Eagle, Fusion, Hornady, and Underwood with more on deck, while rifles and uppers are already manufactured by more than a dozen companies.

2. Browning X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Long Range

If looks could kill, the Browning X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Long Range rifle would have a wall full of trophies. But this rifle’s fine appearance is only a small part of the package from the muzzle brake to the adjustable feather trigger, this thing shoots. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

The Browning X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Long Range is a lengthy name for an equally long-range rifle.  Not only does it look the part of a western/mountain gun, but it backs that up in performance and accuracy.  Our test rifle came in 6.5 Creedmoor and made tightly-grouped handiwork of premium factory ammunition. The longer 26 inch barrel is both fluted and threaded, a nice touch for suppressed hunting. Burnt Bronze Cerakote covers all metalwork, including the bolt, making this rifle both concealable and all-weather. The DuraTouch rubberized finish on the stock offers extra grip in adverse conditions.  Browning’s Feather trigger breaks crisp and clean, while the bolt unlock button is yet another sweet feature on a serious hunting rifle. The HCLR is available in a number of the most popular longer-range hunting rounds: 6mm Creedmoor, .270 WSM, .300 WSM, 26 Nosler, 7mm Rem Mag, 28 Nosler, and .300 Win Mag. The MSRP of $1,229 may sound steep, but that packs some custom-shop quality in a factory production rifle.

3. Weatherby Mark V Camilla

Weatherby’s Vanguard Camilla was a nice women’s rifle, but the new Mark V version is the real deal for the most serious huntresses who desire a rifle built for a woman’s physique but not short on quality or features. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

Weatherby was onto something when they launched their Vanguard Camilla rifle for women in 2017, yet hardcore huntresses wanted something more. Enter the Mark V Camilla in both Deluxe and SubAlpine versions, now the premier gender-specific hunting rifle on the market.  Our Mark V Camilla Deluxe is a serious rifle with a 24” barrel, LXX premium trigger, and a stock built to fit a woman’s smaller frame.  The AA-grade Claro Walnut stock has a short 13” LOP in addition to a slimmer build at both the pistol grip and forend.  In addition, the exaggerated Monte Carlo stock design is intended to better get the eye in-line with the optic. Though we longed to see the .257 Weatherby Mag on the list of chamberings, we settled for the harder-to-come-by .240 Weatherby Magnum. Shooting MOA at 100-yards with Nosler and Weatherby premium factory loads was a snap, even from the sticks. Trading in the premium wood of the Deluxe for the synthetic SubAlpine model also shaves some weight off for mobile hunters seeking a light rifle. Weatherby limits their market by calling the Camilla a woman’s rifle, because this is one that works equally well for any smaller-framed hunters.  Quality from the all-American, family-run Weatherby comes at a price, with MSRP on both the Camilla Mark V Deluxe and SubAlpine models $2,700, but this is a lifetime kind of gun.

4. Savage Model 110 Predator

Our Savage Model 110 Predator shot the best groups of any gun this year, hands down. Partner that with the fully customizable AccuFit stock, AccuTrigger, and Accustock system, and the new 110’s easily win this hunter’s gun of the year. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

How do two Savage rifles make the best-of list? By being the best, that’s how. The new-for-2018 line of Savage bolt action rifles use the prefix “Accu” to shake things up in the factory production rifle world.  For example, our 110 Predator model makes use of the adjustable Accutrigger, the aluminum-rail “bedded” AccuStock, and the star of the show, the AccuFit stock system.  The AccuFit system essentially gives shooters a custom-fit rifle in every factory box by providing multiple spacers for adjusting not only length of pull, but comb height as well.  All of that equated to one of the finest shooting rifles we’ve fired, and not just this year.  The 22 inch fluted barrel is threaded as well, which is great for suppressed varminting. Realtree MAX-1 camo is ideal for a Predator rifle, while the steel box magazine is a nice nod toward durability.  With an MSRP of $899 and real world prices under seven bills, it’s hard not to want one of these accurate long guns in every caliber from .204 to 6.5 Creedmoor.  And if the 110 Predator is not exactly what you need, Savage concurrently offers similarly featured rifles in: Varmint, Scout, Long Range, Bear Hunter, Hog Hunter, Brush Hunter, Tactical, and Storm models. That all adds up to proof that in 2018, and beyond, hunters can get custom-fit and accuracy from a reasonably priced production rifle.

5. Mauser M18

The Mauser M18 sets new standards in the “budget rifle” market. A five-shot sub-MOA guarantee defines the no-frills, all-performance bolt gun from powerhouse Mauser. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

For 2018, the Mauser company known for its bolt-action military prowess and current high-end rifles, has jumped both boots into the budget hunting market with their new M18. This black-synthetic bolt hunter is utilitarian, built with solid steel construction and matte finish.  The 22 inch cold hammered barrel and adjustable trigger drive accuracy.  While most comparable rifles offer a three-shot MOA guarantee, Mauser ups the ante and backs up their claims with a five-shot MOA guarantee at 100 yards.  The Mauser logo on the buttstock is actually a removeable, rubberized buttpad with space for internal storage, ideal for a BoreSnake. What’s more, we found the M18 to have one of the fastest and easiest-loading dropbox magazines, and one that holds five rounds plus one in the chamber. The three-position safety is a nice feature as well.  The M18 is now shipping chamberings in: .243 Win, .308 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win, .30-06 Spfld, 7mm Rem Mag, and .300 Win Mag.  MSRP on the M18 in its variety of calibers is $699, a far cry from the $13,000+ price tag of the current production Mauser M98 Magnum.  Real world prices are closer to $525, which puts the M18 at the top of the hunter’s budget rifle market, though the gun continues to fly under the radar of many American hunters.

Conclusion

The year 2018 was a win for hunters. Whether after the smallest varmints, big game, or anything in between, these rifles have the bases covered. As we rock on into the new year, we’d like to hear from all the hunters and huntresses out there.  How would you rank the top rifles of the year? Which did you buy or are still on your wish list?

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