After more than 3,000 votes per matchup, the Division I Elite Eight rifles are settled: The Model 70 crushed the 7600, the Savage bolt thumped the Marlin lever, the Vanguard put away the Encore, and in a mild upset, the Ruger 77 inched out the Browning X-Bolt. (I have to say I’m sad to see the X-Bolt go; it really has everything you could want in an all-purpose deer rifle from a practical standpoint. Oh well, thems the breaks.)
In the last post I invited you to talk smack about the rankings, and you did a fine job. I made a couple of minor corrections based on your input, and while I can do nothing to satisfy the many Tikka fans, I will acknowledge that you make a fair point. I can’t say the same for the 94 nuts. Hey, I love that gun, too. But it’s a brush gun.
Anyway, on to Division II. Knowing how many Savage 99 fans we have (myself included), I smell another mild upset. So again, check out the bracket (you can click here to print out a copy if you want to fill it out by hand). Then vote for your preferred all-purpose whitetail rifle in each matchup below to begin the first round of play for Division II. We’ll soon follow up with the Elite Eight contests, then the Final Four, and the F&S Whitetail All-Around Rifle Championship.
1. Remington Model 700: Perhaps the most popular American bolt action ever made, even though it’s a push feed. Its time-tested accuracy has only been enhanced by the new X-Mark Pro trigger.
2. Kimber 84M Montana: The lightweight champ of production bolt rifles. Its blind magazine isn’t for everyone, but hey, a gun weighing only 5 pounds, 6 ounces, has to have at least one tradeoff.
3. Sako Model 85 Hunter: This Finnish import has great lines, a lustrous finish, and a silky smooth action. It doesn’t come cheap, but it’s one fine rifle.
4. Thompson/Center Icon: A thoroughly modern firearm that is still pleasing to the eye, it is one of the most accurate out-of-the-box rifles on the market. If only it was a pound lighter.
5. Savage 99: A classic lever that was ahead of its time and remains in high demand despite being out of production for 15 years. It’s old-school cool. But mounting a scope is tricky on older models and the trigger is only okay.
6. Marlin X7: Loaded with premium features–adjustable trigger, pillar bedding, button-rifled barrel, and fluted bolt action–it’s a best buy at under $400.
7. Ruger No. 1: If you’re a really good hunter, this single-shot is all you need. A compact killer that looks as good as it shoots.
8. Browning BAR: Reliable and surprisingly accurate, it’s the gold-standard in autoloaders. But it’s a little clunky and no lightweight, especially in magnum offerings.
Sweet Sixteen Whitetail All-Purpose Tournament: Division II