Steal These Guns

The 10 best secondhand deer slayers you can buy

Guns Photographed by David LawrenceField & Stream Online Editors

Not all babies are beautiful, not all dogs are smart, and not all used rifles are good buys. But some of them are terrific bargains because shooters and hunters are as nuts as any other hobbyists and constantly trade firearms.

If you are looking to buy used guns, the first thing you need to know is that they fit into one of six categories, depending on their condition:

  • [BRACKET "Poor"] The gun is pitted and rusted, may not be in working order, and may not be safe to shoot. Forget it.
  • [BRACKET "Fair"] It works and is safe to shoot, but it has taken a beating. Consider only if it's dirt cheap and you don't mind paying to have it touched up, or if you want to do the refinishing yourself, or if you want something to knock around.
  • [BRACKET "Good"] It's in fine working order, but repairs or replacement parts may be needed. It should have 80 percent of its original finish.
  • [BRACKET "Very Good"]The gun should have more than 90 percent of its original finish, be in perfect working order, have no replacement parts, and need only very small repairs, if any.
  • [BRACKET "Excellent"] Just short of brand-new, it shows only the most minor signs of wear and use.
  • [BRACKET "NIB (new in box)"] It's just as it came from the factory, with all the tags, stickers, labels, and everything else. This category is more for collectors than shooters.

The prices for the guns that follow are only for those in good, very good, or excellent condition. Fair or poor guns cost considerably less, and for a reason. Also, these firearms are my personal favorites. There are lots of great bargains out there besides these.

The 10 Best Used Guns

**Browning A-Bolt Shotgun **
This 12-gauge slug gun, made from 1995 to 1998, had a 3-inch chamber and came in a Stalker model with a graphite-fiberglass composite stock and a Hunter model with a walnut stock. There were two versions of the A-Bolt. One had a 22-inch full-length rifled barrel, the other a 23-inch smoothbore with a screw-on rifled tube for the muzzle.

I shot only one-a full-length rifled Stalker-and never forgot it. It was the most accurate slug gun I've ever used. The only reason I can think of for its short production run is its price-it cost $700 to $800 new. People were probably not willing to spend that, to their loss. You should be happy to find one with either a od or synthetic stock and the rifled barrel. I doubt the smoothbore would shoot as well.
GOOD: $400 VERY GOOD: $550 EXCELLENT: $650 [NEXT "Browning High-Power Bolt Action"] ******Browning High-Power Bolt Action **
This gun was made by Fabrique Nationale in Belgium (on Mauser actions) from 1959 to 1975, and by Sako (on its actions) from 1961 to 1975, and was chambered for everything from .222 to .458 Winchester. There were three grades: Safari (the plainest), Medallion (fancy), and Olympian (very fancy). You are interested in the Safari grade because the other two are sought after by collectors and cost a lot.

Be aware that Browning used salt-cured wood for the stocks on some High-Powers. (I have no idea why.) This is certain to cause rust and can't be fixed, nor are replacement stocks available.

As for calibers, look for a .270 or . 30/06. My recollection of the High-Power is that it was a hard kicker in the bigger calibers.

Although they are plain, the Safari grades are fine guns-excellent metalwork, good wood, hand checkering, and a general reek of quality, not to mention true Mauser and Sako actions. Light and reliable, they handle well. If someone were to make one today, it would cost $2,000.
GOOD: $575 VERY GOOD: $750 EXCELLENT: $900 [NEXT "Marlin 1895G Lever Action"]

**Marlin 1895G Lever Action **
The 1895G (G is for Guide) came out in 1998 and won our Best of the Best Award that year. Chambered for the ancient but useful .45/70 cartridge, it is short (18¿¿-inch barrel), light (7 pounds), and handy. Though it is still in production, it is listed because the price for a new blue-steel version is only $668. Used ones go for much less.

This is a rugged little gun with two personalities. Used with factory ammo, it's effective and surprisingly light kicking. With souped-up, cast lead¿¿¿bullet loads such as those made by Garrett, it will open a can of whup-ass on anything. Hang on.
GOOD: $170 VERY GOOD: $300 EXCELLENT: $400 [NEXT "Savage 99 Lever Action"]

Savage 99 Lever Action
This great gun had a 100-year run (1899¿¿¿1999), and there are a lot of them out there. The 99 comes in two versions, one with a rotary magazine and one with a detachable box magazine, which was introduced in 1965 as a cost-cutting measure. If I were in the market for a 99, I'd look for the rotary: It is the ultimate in lever-action class and cannot be made today at a competitive price.

Caliber? Go for a .250 Savage, although you'll pay for it. Other than that, a .300 Savage or .308. If you should find a .284, pass it up. The ammo is hard to come by.

The surest indicator of the 99's worth is that collectors have glommed on to it. Because there are so many variations, and so many factors affecting prices, let me quote a devoted 99 collector:

"I continue to buy 99s in good condition in modern hunting calibers. Top price so far for a cherry-condition late .308 was $400. Two days ago I was pleased to get a good-condition 99 for $275. The average cost of the 99s I've bought for speculation is $320. But prices are going up."

[NEXT "Remington 788 Bolt Action"]

Remington 788 Bolt Action
This dead-plain rifle, made from 1967 to 1983, was accurate all out of proportion to its modest price. I used to have one in 6mm Remington, and a better-working gun you couldn't want. I note that prices for 788s are starting to rise, as people are becoming aware of its many lovable qualities. One point to consider: A number of 788s were chambered for the 7mm/08 cartridge, which I consider highly desirable, and for which you can add 20 percent to the figures below. If not that, then look for a .308. GOOD: $375 VERY GOOD: $425 EXCELLENT: $500 [NEXT "Remington 760 and 7600 Slide Action"]

Remington 760 and 7600 Slide Actions
I don't think rapid fire is necessary in a deer rifle, but there are many who feel differently, so here's a pair of fast shooters that I can live with. The Model 760 appeared in 1952, morphed into the 7600 in 1982, and is still alive and well. Yes, it has a poor trigger pull, and the slide wobbles. On the other hand, slide actions can really make the lead fly, and they're far more reliable than the average auto and surprisingly accurate, too. There are many variations and calibers; these are general prices for both models.

For cartridges, look for .30/06, .270, the underrated .280, or if you can find one, a .35 Whelen.
GOOD: $250 VERY GOOD: $300 EXCELLENT: $350 [NEXT "Remington 700ADL/BDL Bolt Action"]

Remington 700ADL/BDL Bolt Action
Introduced in 1962, this is one of the most successful designs ever. There are hundreds of thousands of 700s out there, in scores of models and variations. The ADL is the plainer grade, the BDL the fancier one. The latter comes with a hinged floor plate and other bells and whistles. Beware of Model 700s that have had their triggers diddled. Many people have tried to adjust them and most have botched the job. If you have one with a trigger that pulls less than 3 pounds, you have an accident waiting to happen. Take it to a gunsmith and have him fix it. These prices are for the ADL; for the BDL, add $50 to $100.

The 700 has been chambered for every cartridge known to man, but you're best off with the same choices as for the 760 and 7600.
GOOD: $200 VERY GOOD: $250 EXCELLENT: $325 [NEXT "Winchester Model 70 Bolt Action"]

Winchester Model 70 Bolt Action
Let's first rule out the pre-1964 Model 70. All you have to do is mention it and people get all teary eyed and start hauling out outrageous sums of money. Believe me, some of those guns were real dogs. The worst example I've come across was a Model 70 Alaskan in .375 H&H;, offered NIB at a price of $4,500 (twice its legitimate value), that would not feed from the magazine.

Let's stick to the post-1964 Model 70s made by the U.S. Repeating Arms Co. and forget the push-feed vs. controlled-feed nonsense. If the rifle works, it works, and who cares? I think the best bargains right now are the Sporter, the Lightweight, and the Black Shadow, which is finished in a matte black. Prices are for all three models, but the Sporter may run $50 more, grade for grade. As for calibers, why get fancy? Go with a .308, .30/06, or .270.
GOOD: $250 VERY GOOD: $300 EXCELLENT: $350 [NEXT "Weatherby Mark V Deluxe Bolt Action"]

Weatherby Mark V Deluxe Bolt Action **
A bargain does not only mean getting a good rifle cheap. It can also mean getting a fine used rifle for half what you'd pay for a new one. Let us now dwell upon the Weatherby Mark V, which wActions

I don't think rapid fire is necessary in a deer rifle, but there are many who feel differently, so here's a pair of fast shooters that I can live with. The Model 760 appeared in 1952, morphed into the 7600 in 1982, and is still alive and well. Yes, it has a poor trigger pull, and the slide wobbles. On the other hand, slide actions can really make the lead fly, and they're far more reliable than the average auto and surprisingly accurate, too. There are many variations and calibers; these are general prices for both models.

For cartridges, look for .30/06, .270, the underrated .280, or if you can find one, a .35 Whelen.
GOOD: $250 VERY GOOD: $300 EXCELLENT: $350 [NEXT "Remington 700ADL/BDL Bolt Action"]

Remington 700ADL/BDL Bolt Action
Introduced in 1962, this is one of the most successful designs ever. There are hundreds of thousands of 700s out there, in scores of models and variations. The ADL is the plainer grade, the BDL the fancier one. The latter comes with a hinged floor plate and other bells and whistles. Beware of Model 700s that have had their triggers diddled. Many people have tried to adjust them and most have botched the job. If you have one with a trigger that pulls less than 3 pounds, you have an accident waiting to happen. Take it to a gunsmith and have him fix it. These prices are for the ADL; for the BDL, add $50 to $100.

The 700 has been chambered for every cartridge known to man, but you're best off with the same choices as for the 760 and 7600.
GOOD: $200 VERY GOOD: $250 EXCELLENT: $325 [NEXT "Winchester Model 70 Bolt Action"]

Winchester Model 70 Bolt Action
Let's first rule out the pre-1964 Model 70. All you have to do is mention it and people get all teary eyed and start hauling out outrageous sums of money. Believe me, some of those guns were real dogs. The worst example I've come across was a Model 70 Alaskan in .375 H&H;, offered NIB at a price of $4,500 (twice its legitimate value), that would not feed from the magazine.

Let's stick to the post-1964 Model 70s made by the U.S. Repeating Arms Co. and forget the push-feed vs. controlled-feed nonsense. If the rifle works, it works, and who cares? I think the best bargains right now are the Sporter, the Lightweight, and the Black Shadow, which is finished in a matte black. Prices are for all three models, but the Sporter may run $50 more, grade for grade. As for calibers, why get fancy? Go with a .308, .30/06, or .270.
GOOD: $250 VERY GOOD: $300 EXCELLENT: $350 [NEXT "Weatherby Mark V Deluxe Bolt Action"]

**Weatherby Mark V Deluxe Bolt Action **
A bargain does not only mean getting a good rifle cheap. It can also mean getting a fine used rifle for half what you'd pay for a new one. Let us now dwell upon the Weatherby Mark V, which w