While plenty of deer hunters head to the woods with milsurp semi-autos and ARs/AKs in intermediate calibers, there is a whole class of rifles meant just for the task. In fact, they have been around for over 100 years and are still chugging along.
Remington Model 8/81
Designed by John Browning and first introduced as the Remington Autoloading Rifle in 1905, this handy carbine was the first commercially successful semi-automatic centerfire rifle offered on the U.S. consumer market. Chambered in several fat period cartridges such as .25, .30, 32, and .35 Remington, the gun remained in production as the Remington Model 8 and 81 until 1950 while it was made by FN in Europe as the Model 1900. Today, they are solid collector’s items but can still put food on the table if needed, providing ammo is available.
With the advent of more modern calibers such as .308 Win and .30-06, Remington moved to retire the turn-of-the-century Model 8/81 for a new kid on the block. That rifle, with styling based on the company’s then-new Model 1100 semi-auto shotguns and a detachable 4-round magazine, was the Remington Model 740. First introduced in 1955, the 740 was soon replaced by the updated Model 742 Woodmaster which remained in production until 1980.
Ruger Model 44 Carbine
Just as the Remington 740 was based on that company’s shotgun internal design, Bill Ruger took his company’s 10/22 rimfire carbine and upscaled it to handle .44 Magnum via a 4-round tubular magazine. Introduced first in 1961 as the “Deerstalker,” it was billed as a good close-range brush gun for medium-sized game such as whitetail. In production until 1985 as the Model 44, a second-generation version was briefly produced by Ruger from 2000 to 2006 as the Deerfield Carbine with a more 10/22-like rotary magazine.
Winchester Model 100
First introduced in 1961, the Model 100 was Winchester’s answer to Remington and Ruger’s line of wood-stocked semi-auto deer guns. Chambered in .308, .243, or the harder to find .284 Winchester, the Model 100 was manufactured until 1973. We typically have several in stock.
Not to be confused with the U.S. military’s M1918 series light machine gun, which was fielded from World War I to Vietnam, the Browning Automatic Rifle sporting version, or BAR, was an invention of FN engineer Marcel Olinger and John Browning’s grandson, Bruce Warren Browning, hitting the market in 1968. Produced first in Belgium and later in Viana, Portugal, the commercial BAR has gone through three generations, with Mark Is ending production in 1976, Mark IIs being fielded since then, and the most current Mark III BARs introduced in 1993. Unlike most of the classic rifles on this list, the BAR is still in current production and can be purchased new in models such as the composite-stocked Stalker series.
Remington Model 7400
Big Green updated its legacy Model 740 design beginning in 1981 with the Model Four (not “4”) — with an enhanced walnut stock– and the more basic Model 7400. These rifles were made until 2006 and chambered in a variety of popular calibers such as .243, .270, .30-06, and .308. The gun was replaced by the Remington Model 750 Woodmaster carbine which was discontinued in 2015 as the company shifted attention to hunting ARs such as the R-25.
With the Soviet M43 series 7.62x39mm cartridge having similar ballistics as the common .30-30 Winchester, and boatloads of SKS rifles headed to U.S. shores in the 1980s, Ruger tweaked their already well-received .223-caliber Mini-14 to chamber the readily-available Russian round. Hitting their catalog in 1987, at a time when you could pick up a 1,300-round case of 7.62×39 for $99 (sniff), the Mini-30 soon proved itself against both feral hogs and whitetails, especially in the Southeast at ranges under 200 yards. It remains in favor, if sometimes forgotten, and like the Browning BAR is still in current production.
Valmet Hunter M88
Hailing from the forests of Finland, Valmet started making Kalashnikov-style rifles for that country’s military in 1962. This evolved into a series of commercial Kalash intended for the consumer hunting and sporting market. Constructed in small numbers, the Valmet M88 Hunter was imported to the states by Stoeger until the early 1990s. Russian companies such as Izmash later tried to see if lightning could strike twice with their own sporting Kalash-style Saiga and VEPR rifles and it did, until sanctions hit.
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