While it’s more than a bit absurd to suggest buying a brand-new deer rifle every season, it surely is interesting to peruse the most recent yearly hunting rifle launches. While budget buys are not the name of the game this time around the sun, there are both show stoppers and a few surprises.
Here are our half dozen top picks in 2022’s new offerings for centerfire rifles that would do well on deer. As a side benefit, most have capabilities beyond big bucks.
Marlin 1895 SBL or Trapper
Not near as many deer hunters think of lever actions today as decades ago when red plaid roamed free – but they should, and for good reason. American-made lever guns once dominated the deer woods in rounds like .30-30 Winchester, .35 Remington, and, yes, even the harder hitting .45-70 Government.
After a storied hiatus and move to Ruger ownership, Marlin is back and better than ever. Their Model 1895 SBL and Trapper are some of the hottest guns of the year, period – not to mention heavy medicine for deer and bigger game as well.
The new 1895 SBL came first, with its polished stainless-steel metalwork and pepper-gray laminate outerwear. The spiral-fluted, nickel-plated bolt is pure class, while the large loop lever wins Western fans and gloved hunters. There’s a 19-inch cold-hammer-forged stainless barrel threaded at 11/16-24. The tubular magazine holds 6+1 rounds. The gun measures 37.25 inches overall with a 13.38-inch length of pull. The gun weighs in at 7.3 pounds empty.
While some lever guns forgo a manual safety, the 1895 uses a push-button crossbolt in addition to the half-cock hammer. While we’ve only fired the SBL thus far, an 1895 Trapper has already built a waiting list. The compact Trapper wears a shorter 16-inch barrel, satin stainless finish, and quality Skinner Sights. Hunters who pursue not only deer but also bears and even bigger game will be well-served with either of these big-bore lever guns.
Browning has been cranking out so many new and updated rifles that it’s difficult to keep track – and even harder to choose a favorite for deer hunters. In fact, almost any of the Buckmark-brand’s X-Bolt guns would be stellar for deer hunters who also seek double duty on longer range and Western-style hunts. However, in the spirit of something a bit different, our Browning selection this year is their upgraded semi-automatic BAR MK 3.
New for 2022, Browning’s proven autoloading centerfire is now finished in smoked-bronze Cerakote and mated nicely with the company’s own OVIX camo. The synthetic stock is shim-adjustable for a more custom fit, while the Inflex recoil pad aids in shooter comfort. There’s a hinged floor plate with a detachable box magazine.
Calibers include .243 Win, 7mm-08 Rem, .308 Win, .270 WSM, .270 Win, .30-06 Spfld, 7mm Rem Mag, and .300 Win Mag. For years, deer hunters have sought out semi-automatics like the Remington 742 and 7400 but the Browning BAR is one model that has continually proven itself time and again for reliability, lower recoil, and quick follow-up shots. The BAR remains in strong production for good reason, and any deer hunter would be happy to own one.
Nosler Model 21
Oregon-based Nosler cleaned house of many previously proven rifle models – including the Model 48s we always admired – making the new-for-2022 Model 21 the heart of the company’s centerfire rifle world. The Model 21 is built on a blueprinted action and dressed in a McMillan 100-percent carbon-fiber stock painted in all-weather epoxy.
Each barrel shows a precision recessed crown with a threaded muzzle and knurled protector. Other features include a self-indexing recoil lug, TriggerTech Field user-adjustable trigger, and threaded bolt handle. There’s an M16-style extractor and the fire control group is built for a tool-less takedown.
At a time when lightweight rifles are all the rage, the Model 21, depending on caliber, starts at 6.8 pounds. While weight is not a major consideration for average deer hunters, it doesn’t hurt to have a well-built rifle that can do double duty on other types of pursuits.
The list of calibers is long and more than covers deer hunting in any terrain, along with ample big-game whoppers, too: .22 Nosler, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .26 Nosler, .27 Nosler, .280 Ackley Improved, .28 Nosler, .308 Win, .300 Win Mag, .30 Nosler, .33 Nosler, and .375 H&H. That means hunters seeking a blazing new rifle can not only dominate on deer but longer-range game out West and beyond.
Savage 110 Carbon Tactical
While Savage’s big-news straight-pull bolt-action Impulse line continues to grab all the headlines, the company keeps cranking out more standard bolt-action hunting guns. With the well-proven Model 110 bolt action booming, additions come each year. One of our faves for 2022? The Savage Model 110 Carbon Tactical.
Though available in only three chamberings – .308 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 6.5 PRC – those rounds will more than get the job done on whitetails. In fact, the 6.5 PRC is one of the most underrated we’ve used to harvest Midwest whitetail with stellar terminal results. What’s more, the possibilities for long-range and tactical shooting are wide open with a model like the Carbon Tactical.
It uses a Proof Research carbon-fiber barrel, adjustable AccuFit and bedded AccuStock system, and AICS-style extended drop-box magazine. There’s a threaded muzzle, 20-MOA rail, and user-adjustable AccuTrigger. Whether choosing the Carbon Tactical or any of Savage’s other Model 110 bolt-action platforms, those bolt guns have long represented one of the finer bargains for accuracy on the modern market.
Bergara Premier Canyon
Bergara has been putting out a variety of quality bolt-action hunting guns, and 2022 marks some major launches for the company. While more long-range hunters and shooters gravitate to the brand for specialized models, there’s plenty to love for good ol' buck chasing as well. We opt for the Premier Canyon with its traditional feel of a hunting rifle. There’s a frictionless TriggerTech trigger, threaded and fluted barrel with an Omni muzzle brake, and AICS-pattern detachable magazine.
The AG Composite stock is 100-percent carbon fiber, and the rifle weights start at only 6.2 pounds. Mobile hunters will certainly appreciate both the weight savings and strength of modern carbon-fiber components. Calibers include 6.5 Creed, 6.5 PRC, .308 Win, .300 Win Mag, .300 PRC, .28 Nosler, and .375 H&H.
Regardless of the choice, sub-MOA groups are guaranteed. Hunters seeking a full carbon-fiber barrel and more customizable stock ought to look at the company’s Premier Divide bolt guns. Either of these are rifles light enough to carry on open country hunts. Whether pursuing deer or doing double duty on bigger game, the Spanish-made Bergara is a ready companion.
CVA Cascade and Cascade SB
Hunters know the CVA brand for its history of black powder muzzleloading firearms and affordable single shots. Yet, recent years have seen them enter the centerfire hunting game in a big way. The CVA Cascade is a serious hunter’s rifle, but somehow, it’s still flying under the radar, along with its SB variant.
There’s a carbon-steel barrel with a threaded muzzle. The four-round drop-box magazine is quick to load. The company’s synthetic stocks are glass reinforced with a SoftTouch finish and spacer-adjustable length of pull ideal for smaller-framed shooters. Dual forward sling swivels allow both sling and bipod mounting.
Calibers include .243 Win, 6.5 Creed, 7mm-08 Rem, .308 Win, .450 Bushmaster, .350 Legend, .300 AAC, .22-250 Rem, 6.5 PRC, 7mm Rem Mag, and .300 Win Mag. The newer and shorter SB Series Cascade – abbreviated for Short Barrel – comes in fewer caliber options but is built for tighter quarters like blinds and deer stands.
Regardless of the model and caliber selection, almost any Cascade makes a practical deer hunting rifle. What’s more, it represents one of the most pocketbook-friendly of 2022’s new rifle options.