By David E. Petzal
Let us all praise the whitetail deer: eater of shrubs, wrecker of cars, biological miracle, inhabitant of dreams. I know men who can kill a charging Cape buffalo without a change of pulse rate but who become undone at the sight of a big whitetail buck. He is our national big-game animal, and as such he has had a lot of guns dedicated to his untimely demise. Some of them, over time, have become standouts. The best ones, traditionally, are light and handy and chambered for cartridges that do not cause seismometer needles to jump when you pull the trigger. The other kind, used for keeping vigil in tree stands, are long, heavy, and superaccurate. Here are the 10 deer rifles that I favor above all others. The Savage is my favorite; after that, it all depends on my mood.
1. Savage Model 99 Lever Action: The only lever action as advanced as this one--the Winchester Model 88--was not built until half a century after the 99 debuted in, unsurprisingly enough, 1899. This graceful rifle was chambered for high-intensity cartridges from the get-go. It takes naturally to a scope, can be very accurate, and has quite a decent trigger. The rotary-magazine 99s are more desirable than the detachable-magazine versions and command big money.
The first big-game rifle I ever got my hands on was a Model 99 in .300 Savage. The 99 combines most of the virtues of a bolt action with the strong points of a lever gun. How do you beat that?