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March Madness: The Sweet Sixteen of Whitetail Brush Rifles

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March 28, 2011

March Madness: The Sweet Sixteen of Whitetail Brush Rifles

By Dave Hurteau

With the NCAA college basketball Final Four round now less than a week away, the time has come to tip-off our own March Madness, beginning with brush-rifle braketology. As your surely know, one subgroup into which deer rifles are commonly separated is the brush rifle—typically a light, quick-pointing gun that facilitate quick follow-up shots and is chambered for a short- to medium-range round sporting a fairly heavy bullet.

So we start with 16 contenders for the title of Best Whitetail Brush Rifle, which have been chosen, split into two divisions, and seeded by SHOT Business contributing editor Christopher Cogley, whom I chose to help with this, like year, so that I would have someone to throw under the bus if it comes to that. Cogley’s seeded selections (which I encourage you to take issue with) are as follows:

Division I
1. Winchester Model 94: The legendary Model 94—America’s best-selling centerfire rifle—has probably taken more deer than any other gun, ever. Enough said.
2. Marlin Model 308MXLR: All the qualities of a great brush gun with the flat-shooting ability of a long range rifle. Hard to argue with that.
3. Savage 99: It’s been out of production for more than 15 years and remains one of the most popular rifles in deer camp for one reason – it works.
4. Browning BAR: Browning set the standard in autoloaders, and today’s lightweight ShortTrac version makes a handy, very accurate brush rifle.
5. Remington Model Seven: For the hunter who really knows how to work a bolt-action, a light, quick-handling version works just fine in the brush. Just as all those Model Seven fans.
6. Mossberg 464: Mossberg’s new lever action shows promise to become a suitable successor to the Model 94. But it still has to prove itself in the hands of deer hunters.
7. Ruger 96/44: What Ruger lacks in options for lever-action rifles, it makes up for in quality. The 96/44 is light, quick, and compact, but used models of this discontinued gun can be tough to find.
8. Tikka T3 Lite: If you prefer a bolt action for the deer woods, the quick-handling T3 is a fantastic value.

Division II
1. Marlin 336: Marlin’s family of classic lever actions have been busting bucks for generations, and the hugely popular 336 has long been the shining sibling.
2. Remington Model 7600: A classic utilitarian, work-horse of a brush gun. You won’t find a more popular rifle in today’s north-woods deer camps.
3. Browning BLR: With the addition of the many new WSM options, the BLR might well surpass the classic lever actions in the deer woods. Some day.
4. Henry .30-30 (Steel with Round Barrel): A well-built, nicely-priced American made gun from the company that introduced the lever-action rifle about 150 years ago. A solid, smooth performer.
5. Remington Model 750 Woodsmaster: Although not yet time-tested, the 750 shows great promise as a new and more reliable version of the early classic Woodsmaster autoloaders.
6. Savage Model 11 Lightweight Hunter: With Savage’s excellent AccuTrigger and superb reputation for accuracy and value, this 5-1/2-pounder is a heck of a bolt gun for the brush.
7. Kimber Model 84M: The qualities that make the Kimber a fantastic mountain rifle also make it a great woods gun. But it ain’t cheap.
8. Remington Model R-15 450 Bushmaster: The styling is bound to turn off some traditional big-woods hunters, but at 7-1/2 pounds, with an 18-inch barrel, and big-bore wallop, this is a quick-pointing, legitimate brush gun.

So check out the bracket (you can click here to print out a larger copy if you want to fill it out). Then vote for your preferred brush gun in each matchup below to begin the first round of play for Division I. We’ll follow up with Division II in a couple of days, then move on the Elite Eight, Final Four, and National Whitetail Brush Rifle Championship in a couple of weeks.

Sweet Sixteen Whitetail Brush Rifles Tournament: Division I

 

Comments (29)

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from ALJoe wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

The Browning BAR and Winchester Model 70 will always be my first draft choices.

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from NHshtr wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Boy, not easy to choose in this round, and it looks like it will get tougher to pick as there are some great "woods" guns yet to come.

Even though I own a Tikka T3 and love it, I had to vote for the Win 94 because it's short and quick firing in the brush. Same for the Savage 99.

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from Beekeeper wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Fun! I look forward to the next round!

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from MaxPower wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I know much more about this bracket than I do the NCAA basketball bracket, which honestly isn't that much.

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from Sarge01 wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I only know of two types of rifles, bolt actions and all of the others.

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from bjohnston wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

YEAH, BABY!! (sorry, Dickie V.)

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from Proverbs wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

The Win 94 is a fine old rifle. I own two. But anyone who has actually hunted with them "in the brush" should know how the ejected shell interferes with your vision. Clearly not the best choice if you need a follow-up shot.

After only a couple hours practice on the timed range course, my then-new Tikka T3 in .270 was outscoring my well-used Win 94 on the stationary and moving 50-yard targets. The T3 cycles incredibly smooth and points like your index finger.

I'm looking for an upset in this matchup. After all, this a brush rifle competition, not a popularity/nostalgia contest.

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from country road wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Good to see so many great old guns listed. It's a shame any have to be eliminated.

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from jamesti wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

so glad to see the 99 getting some rspect! i have one of those and two 94's. can't wait for round two!

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from MLH wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Sigh ... just not enough M71s to make the cut.

Presuming the old Remington pumps are grouped with the 7600 - I prefer the old 760 and, especially, the Model Six over the 7600.

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from gautrey wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Now this is what I call "MARCH MADNESS".

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from Walt Smith wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I like it, all four of my pickswound up being in the lead, now if I could do as good in the basketball brackets! Nice to see the 750 Remington in there, too bad the 740 isn't!

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from kyka1865 wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

First, there isn't a bad gun on this list. I guess I vote kinda traditonal but thats alright. I was a little disapointed to not see the Marlin model 1895 in .45-70 but thats alright, I know you can't make everyone happy all the time.

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from BlueMNguy wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Would have liked to see the Remington 740 and the 742 in there.

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from Don Mitchell wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Hay Dave where is the print out button????? when i try to print, all i get is a blank page .this is a good one, and its time i win one for the gipper. HA HA

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from Pa deer hunter wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

All great guns. Maybe because i'm a south paw I just like the look and feel of lever guns.

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from New Age Bubba wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

We don't need no stinking imports!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from New Age Bubba wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

@critics of the W'94: Yes, it's an obsolete rifle and cartridge, but millions of dead whitetails could testify to the effectiveness of John Browning's clever design, if it weren't so deadly.

On the other hand, you could say that of a Ford pickup truck front fender, but that's not on the list.

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from retoohs wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Ruger, .44 semi-auto carbine. Hits like a sledge-hammer. Light, short. deer-slayer.

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from shane wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Why the MXLR? LR - Long Range. That thing has a 24" barrel. Should have went with the big bore Marlins instead. .45-70, .444, guide guns, etc.

The 99 and the 94 will head off too early in the tournament. Should have spread them out so we could have a proper final 4 of 99, 94, 336, and Remington pump.

The 99 is about the best rifle ever. The 94 is THE deer rifle. The 336 is its understudy. The Remington pumps have been chosen by so many hunters across the North Country, not to mention the Benoits. I think any rifle they choose must be a good one, eh?

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from apowers1031 wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

wheres the .35 marlin??

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from Scott Jones wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

My favorite brush rifle is my Ruger M77 International in 308.

I likely hunt more with my Marlin 1894 in 44Mag

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from Harry Mac wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I'm a stickler for the Marlin .35 Cal. The 200 gr bullet will go through the brush, not off of it and still reach out 100 yards. Used it for over 55 years. Never had to hit a deer more than once. Perfect for bending over in heavy brush and being able to bring it up easily. Course it's a 336 SC.

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from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Can't blame you, Harry. I have the same exact gun. Of course, I also have a Model 94 and a 99, so it's not so easy for me. I used to have a Rem. Model 760 in .35, too. Great big-woods round.

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from shane wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

The .35 Remington isn't being excluded. This is a rifle tournament, and some of the rifles here chamber the .35 Rem.

I have a 336 in .35 Rem, a 99 in .300 Savage, and a M94 in .32 Winchester Special. If I made this bracket it would be rigged to have them all in the final 4. My Remington 600 in .308 with a 18.5 inch barrel wouldn't be out of place here at all, either.

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from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Right you are, Shane. In fact, many of you will remember that last year's tourney was the Sweet Sixteen of Deer Cartridges--and I remember complaining myself that the .35 Rem was not among them.
As a side note, Shane, your gun cabinet sounds a lot like mine: I have a 336 in .35 Rem, an M94 in .30/30, a Savage 99 in .300 Savage, and a Model 70 Classic Compact in 7mm/08. At least, those are my brush rifles.

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from jamesti wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

dave, was it a pain to mount a scope on your 99 savage, if you did? i haven't been able to because of the slope.
who said the 94 was obsolete?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I bought my 99 with a Weaver J2.5 set in Stith mounts, which were designed specifically for older 99s.
It looks exactly like this: http://www.savage99.com/scopes.htm

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from shane wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Good stuff.

Them are some funky old-school mounts. I've seen a few older models with that setup and the old skinny angular scopes (space age design!).

Mine's a 99F, and the bases are just like they would be on a bolt gun, except the rear one is taller and contoured to the receiver so everything lines up. It used to have a Bushnell Scope Chief fixed 4x with post reticle (still laying around, might go back on), had a red dot for a while (don't hate me for this), now it's factory irons. The gun is just too pretty on its own.

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from jamesti wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

so glad to see the 99 getting some rspect! i have one of those and two 94's. can't wait for round two!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Proverbs wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

The Win 94 is a fine old rifle. I own two. But anyone who has actually hunted with them "in the brush" should know how the ejected shell interferes with your vision. Clearly not the best choice if you need a follow-up shot.

After only a couple hours practice on the timed range course, my then-new Tikka T3 in .270 was outscoring my well-used Win 94 on the stationary and moving 50-yard targets. The T3 cycles incredibly smooth and points like your index finger.

I'm looking for an upset in this matchup. After all, this a brush rifle competition, not a popularity/nostalgia contest.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from country road wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Good to see so many great old guns listed. It's a shame any have to be eliminated.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Sigh ... just not enough M71s to make the cut.

Presuming the old Remington pumps are grouped with the 7600 - I prefer the old 760 and, especially, the Model Six over the 7600.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from gautrey wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Now this is what I call "MARCH MADNESS".

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from New Age Bubba wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

We don't need no stinking imports!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from New Age Bubba wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

@critics of the W'94: Yes, it's an obsolete rifle and cartridge, but millions of dead whitetails could testify to the effectiveness of John Browning's clever design, if it weren't so deadly.

On the other hand, you could say that of a Ford pickup truck front fender, but that's not on the list.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from apowers1031 wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

wheres the .35 marlin??

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

dave, was it a pain to mount a scope on your 99 savage, if you did? i haven't been able to because of the slope.
who said the 94 was obsolete?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ALJoe wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

The Browning BAR and Winchester Model 70 will always be my first draft choices.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Boy, not easy to choose in this round, and it looks like it will get tougher to pick as there are some great "woods" guns yet to come.

Even though I own a Tikka T3 and love it, I had to vote for the Win 94 because it's short and quick firing in the brush. Same for the Savage 99.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beekeeper wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Fun! I look forward to the next round!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MaxPower wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I know much more about this bracket than I do the NCAA basketball bracket, which honestly isn't that much.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sarge01 wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I only know of two types of rifles, bolt actions and all of the others.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bjohnston wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

YEAH, BABY!! (sorry, Dickie V.)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I like it, all four of my pickswound up being in the lead, now if I could do as good in the basketball brackets! Nice to see the 750 Remington in there, too bad the 740 isn't!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kyka1865 wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

First, there isn't a bad gun on this list. I guess I vote kinda traditonal but thats alright. I was a little disapointed to not see the Marlin model 1895 in .45-70 but thats alright, I know you can't make everyone happy all the time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BlueMNguy wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Would have liked to see the Remington 740 and the 742 in there.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Don Mitchell wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Hay Dave where is the print out button????? when i try to print, all i get is a blank page .this is a good one, and its time i win one for the gipper. HA HA

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pa deer hunter wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

All great guns. Maybe because i'm a south paw I just like the look and feel of lever guns.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from retoohs wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Ruger, .44 semi-auto carbine. Hits like a sledge-hammer. Light, short. deer-slayer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Why the MXLR? LR - Long Range. That thing has a 24" barrel. Should have went with the big bore Marlins instead. .45-70, .444, guide guns, etc.

The 99 and the 94 will head off too early in the tournament. Should have spread them out so we could have a proper final 4 of 99, 94, 336, and Remington pump.

The 99 is about the best rifle ever. The 94 is THE deer rifle. The 336 is its understudy. The Remington pumps have been chosen by so many hunters across the North Country, not to mention the Benoits. I think any rifle they choose must be a good one, eh?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott Jones wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

My favorite brush rifle is my Ruger M77 International in 308.

I likely hunt more with my Marlin 1894 in 44Mag

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Harry Mac wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I'm a stickler for the Marlin .35 Cal. The 200 gr bullet will go through the brush, not off of it and still reach out 100 yards. Used it for over 55 years. Never had to hit a deer more than once. Perfect for bending over in heavy brush and being able to bring it up easily. Course it's a 336 SC.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Can't blame you, Harry. I have the same exact gun. Of course, I also have a Model 94 and a 99, so it's not so easy for me. I used to have a Rem. Model 760 in .35, too. Great big-woods round.

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from shane wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

The .35 Remington isn't being excluded. This is a rifle tournament, and some of the rifles here chamber the .35 Rem.

I have a 336 in .35 Rem, a 99 in .300 Savage, and a M94 in .32 Winchester Special. If I made this bracket it would be rigged to have them all in the final 4. My Remington 600 in .308 with a 18.5 inch barrel wouldn't be out of place here at all, either.

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from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Right you are, Shane. In fact, many of you will remember that last year's tourney was the Sweet Sixteen of Deer Cartridges--and I remember complaining myself that the .35 Rem was not among them.
As a side note, Shane, your gun cabinet sounds a lot like mine: I have a 336 in .35 Rem, an M94 in .30/30, a Savage 99 in .300 Savage, and a Model 70 Classic Compact in 7mm/08. At least, those are my brush rifles.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I bought my 99 with a Weaver J2.5 set in Stith mounts, which were designed specifically for older 99s.
It looks exactly like this: http://www.savage99.com/scopes.htm

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

Good stuff.

Them are some funky old-school mounts. I've seen a few older models with that setup and the old skinny angular scopes (space age design!).

Mine's a 99F, and the bases are just like they would be on a bolt gun, except the rear one is taller and contoured to the receiver so everything lines up. It used to have a Bushnell Scope Chief fixed 4x with post reticle (still laying around, might go back on), had a red dot for a while (don't hate me for this), now it's factory irons. The gun is just too pretty on its own.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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