The Best Rifles of 2021
Get your first look at the new crop of 2021 long guns, including ultralight mountain rifles, long-range hunters, bargain bolt-actions, and a host of tack-driving rimfires
SHOT Show as we know it didn’t happen in 2021, but that didn’t stop companies from releasing new rifles and updating existing favorites. There aren’t as many brand-new guns this year, but there’s still plenty to get excited about, including a new straight-pull bolt-action from Savage, a host of ultralight options, and expanded chamberings for the hot new 6.8 Western cartridge from Winchester and Browning. There are bargain guns, long-range tackdrivers, and new and updated rimfire rifles, too.
The Best New Lightweight Rifles for 2021
Browning X-Bolt Mountain Pro
For 2021, Browning updates their line of bolt-action rifles with the addition of the X-bolt Mountain Pro. A new carbon-fiber stock, spiral-fluted bolt, and spiral-fluted, lapped sporter-contour barrel keeps the rifle under 6 pounds, and Browning added their new Recoil Hawg muzzle brake, which reduces recoil up to 77 percent to take the sting out of shooting high-power rounds in such a lightweight rifle.
The Mountain Pro shakes off bad weather with a stainless-steel barreled action protected by your choice of a Cerakote Brunt Bronze or Tungsten finish. A Picatinny rail on the fore-end is included for easy bipod mounting. The Mountain Pro is chambered for a variety of calibers, including 6.5 Creedmoor, .30/06 Springfield, and the new 6.8 Western from Browning and Winchester.
Nosler M48 Mountain Carbon Rifle in 6.5 PRC and .280 Ackley Improved
Introduced in 2019 and crafted of premium lightweight components, the Nosler M48 Mountain Carbon Rifle offers hunters supreme performance in a 6-pound platform. For 2021, the company has added two new chamberings for the rifle: the 6.5 PRC and .280 Ackley Improved. Mountain Carbon rifles are built around Nosler’s excellent Model 48 Action and feature a 24-inch Light Sendero Contour, carbon-fiber-wrapped, cut-rifled barrel that is glass and aluminum pillar bedded into a carbon-fiber aramid-reinforced Mountain Hunter Stock. All of that, combined with a Timney trigger, results in guaranteed sub-M.O.A. accuracy with prescribed Nosler ammunition. You can get the new M48s in a shale-gray stock in addition to the original granite-green.
Savage 110 Ultralight
COVID hasn’t slowed Savage. The company has more new rifles for 2021 than we can include in this roundup, but one of several standouts is the new 110 Ultralight, which combines a carbon-wrapped, stainless-steel Proof Research barrel to a skeletonized, blueprinted 110 receiver with spiral-fluted bolt. The result is a mountain rifle that weighs 6 pounds or a little under, depending on the model. Like all 110s, the Ultralight has the user-adjustable AccuTrigger and AccuStock with adjustable comb pieces and length-of-pull shims. The melonite-coated receiver adds weather resistance and reduces glare, and the muzzle is threaded for a brake or suppressor. A detachable box magazine feeds your choice of .308 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 28 Nosler, 6.5 PRC, or .30/06 Springfield. The 110 Ultralite comes in standard grey or a KUIU’s Verde 2.0 camouflage finish.
J.P. Sauer S404 Synchro XTC Camo Green Carbon Fiber Rifle
J. P. Sauer & Sohn, Germany’s oldest manufacturer of hunting firearms, updates their flagship series with the introduction of the S404 Synchro XTC Carbon Fiber rifle in camouflage-green. The hand-laid carbon-fiber stock has a thumbhole grip, adjustable comb, and a new finish that helps it disappear into the landscape. With a fluted, cold-hammer-forged barrel, the rifle weighs only 6.1 pounds. Another standout feature is the crisp trigger, easily adjustable from 1.2 to 2.7 pounds via a selector located just above the trigger. Rifles in the S404 series permit the changing of bolt heads and barrels for quick caliber conversions. Available chamberings include .243 Win, .30/06 Springfield, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Win, as well as a number of magnum calibers like the .300 Win Mag or the monstrous .404 Jeffery.
The Best New Long-Range Hunting Rifles for 2021
Browning X-Bolt Western Hunter Long Range
To build the new Western Hunter Long Range, Browning attached a heavy sporter-contour barrel to the tried and true X-Bolt action. The free-floating barrel is bedded at the front and rear of the action for stability and to help maintain barrel-to-stock spacing for consistent accuracy. X-Lock scope mounts feature a four-screw-per-base design, locking them down at all four corners for rock-solid scope mounting. The rifle also benefits from Browning’s new Feather Trigger, which provides a clean, crisp pull with no take-up or creep and minimal overtravel. Traditionalists will be pleased with the sporter-style stock, which integrates an adjustable comb system while maintaining a classic silhouette. While the Western Hunter Long Range isn’t a featherweight, it’s more than manageable at only 7.7 pounds. The new rifle is chambered for a dozen long-range rounds, including the new 6.8 Western.
Springfield Armory Model 2020 Waypoint
It’s clear that Springfield Armory drew on its experience manufacturing tactical firearms when it developed the 2020 Waypoint. The result is a custom-quality bolt-action hunting rifle with a .75-MOA accuracy guarantee. There are many options in the Waypoint series, starting with the barrel. You can choose from an all-steel version, or one that wraps the fluted 416 stainless-steel tube in a carbon-fiber jacket. Both are fitted with a removable brake. The Waypoint is built with an AG Composites carbon-fiber stock that’s pillar bedded to the action, with either a fixed or adjustable comb. The action contains a fluted bolt that operates smoothly in machined raceways and locks up securely thanks to dual lugs. The TriggerTech trigger easily adjusts from 2.5 to 5 pounds of pull. The Waypoint is available in 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, and .308 Win. With its impressive accuracy guarantee, we’re putting this one in the long-range category, but at just a little over 7 pounds in some configurations, it’s light enough for the mountain, too.
Winchester SHOT Show Special Model 70 Extreme in 6.8 Western
As a limited-edition (virtual) SHOT Show special, Winchester is offering the Model 70 Extreme TrueTimber VSX MB. The receiver and bolt have a Tungsten Cerakote finish; the Bell and Carlson stock has a sculpted cheek piece and wears TrueTimber VSX camo; and the free-floating barrel comes with a muzzle brake.
But the big news with the Model 70 (and other rifles in the Browning and Winchester lineups) is that it is now chambered for the new 6.8 Western. Since Jack O’Connor’s heyday, the Model 70 has been synonymous with the .270 Winchester. Fittingly, the 6.8 Western is a modern version of that classic cartridge—made with longer, heavier .277-caliber (6.8mm) bullets with higher ballistic coefficients in a slightly abbreviated .270 WSM case. Generally speaking, the Model 70 is more of a great all-around rifle than a long-range specialist, but in 6.8 Western, it will reach out there. By trading powder capacity for bullet mass, the new round delivers flatter trajectories with greater energy downrange for cleaner kills at a distance.
The Best New Affordable Rifles for 2021
CZ USA 557 Eclipse
CZ has made its popular centerfire bolt gun more weather-resistant for 2021. A new black, glass-reinforced polymer stock replace the wood furniture of the original rifle. This new version retains the strong pistol grip, slight palm swell, and high, flat comb and is finished with a Soft Touch surface texture that stands up to harsh conditions while providing a non-slip grip. The affordable new 557 Eclipse is available in .308 Win., .30/06 Springfield, and 6.5 Creedmoor. Both the .308 and .30/06 have a 1:10 twist; the 6.5 Creedmoor is rifled with a 1:8 spin.
All Eclipse rifles are built with CZ’s push-feed action and a 20.5-inch cold hammer-forged barrel, and the 6.5 Creedmoor model includes a threaded muzzle for a suppressor or brake.
Winchester SHOT Show Special XPRs in 6.8 Western
Winchester is offering three limited-edition XPRs for the 2021 SHOT Show. All have the XPR’s precision button-rifled barrel, M.O.A. trigger, and Inflex recoil pad. The TrueTimber Strata MB has a camo stock, protective Perma-Cote finish on receiver and barrel, and a threaded barrel with muzzle brake. The XPR Extreme Midnight MB is the same but with a Tungsten Cerakote finish and TrueTimber Midnight camo. The XPR Hunter Mossy Oak DNA has a different camo pattern, obviously, a matte Perma-Cote coating, and no brake. All come in a wide range of calibers, including the new 6.8 Western.
Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic Green in 6.5 PRC
Weatherby is adding the increasingly popular 6.5 PRC cartridge into the Vanguard family, including in the brand-new Synthetic Green model. The new rifle features a Monte Carlo Griptonite green stock with fore-end and pistol-grip inserts and a palm swell. The barrel is cold hammer-forged with a bead-blasted matte finish. All of the other features that have made the Vanguard series so popular are here, including the match-quality, two-stage trigger that breaks crisp and clean, plus guaranteed Sub-MOA accuracy out of the box.
Most Innovative New Rifles of 2021
Savage Impulse Big Game, Hog Hunter, and Predator
Savage is shaking up the bolt-action scene for American shooters in 2021 with the introduction of the Impulse Big Game line. While outward appearances are similar to a traditional bolt-action, the Impulse cycles rounds via a new Hexlock straight-pull action with free-floating interchangeable bolt head. This diminishes the time needed for follow up shots and makes it easier to work the bolt without removing your cheek from the rifle.
The new action will be initially offered in three rifles: Impulse Big Game, Impulse Hog Hunter, and Impulse Predator. Other Savage standard features are present in the new line, including the user-adjustable AccuTrigger and AccuFit stock with adjustable length-of-pull and comb height. All of the Hexlock receivers are machined with a built-in 20 MOA rail for long-distance zeros with day- or night-optics. The carbon-steel barrels come threaded for muzzle devices.
The Impulse Big Game has a fluted, medium-contour barrel to keep weight down. All exposed metal surfaces are coated with Hazel Green Cerakote, and the stock wears KUIU Verde 2.0 camo. The Big Game is available in 6.5 Creedmoor, .243 Win., .308 Win., .300 WSM, .30/06, and .300 Win Mag. All are fed via a five-round, flush-fit detachable box magazine.
The Impulse Hog Hunter has a heavy barrel to help mitigate recoil for quick follow up shots on departing sounders. A matte-black finish on the metalwork reduces glare and increases weather resistance. The Hog Hunter is available in 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win., .30/06, and .300 Win Mag.
The Impulse Predator feeds from AICS-pattern magazines to ensure that you have plenty of ammo on hand for a busy set. The matte-finished medium-contour barrel disperses heat created by high round counts without being overly heavy, and the Mossy Oak Terra Gila Camo stock helps the rifle disappear in open terrain. Available in the predator favorite calibers of .22-250 Rem., .243 Win., .308 Win, and 6.5 Creedmoor.
The Benelli Lupo
For 2021, Benelli is expanding the Lupo line of bolt-action rifles it introduced last year. To answer consumer demand, the Lupo will now also be offered in 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win., and .243 Win. Like its predecessors, the updated Lupo features chassis-style construction that cradles an alloy lower receiver in a recoil-reducing synthetic stock. The rifle has a CRIO-treated free-floating barrel to guarantee the same level of sub-MOA accuracy the Lupo is known for, and the modular stock design is adjustable to provide the perfect fit. If you’re looking for an accurate rifle with excellent ergonomics, patented adjustability, and plenty of recoil reduction, check out the Lupo.
The Best New Rimfire Rifles for 2021
Winchester Wildcat SR
Winchester makes their affordable .22 LR suppressor-ready with the introduction of the Wildcat SR. The upgraded striker-fired rimfire has ½x28 threads cut into the muzzle of the 16-1/6-inch button-rifled chromoly barrel. The barrel has a recessed target-style crown to protect the rifling, and a knurled cap protects the threads when a suppressor isn’t attached. All other features from the earlier version of the Wildcat are present, including the adjustable ghost-ring rear sight, ramped post front, and integral Picatinny rail. Dual sling eyelets and a Picatinny rail under the fore-end provide plenty of real estate for accessories. The skeletonized polymer stock keeps weight around 4 pounds. The Wildcat feeds from Ruger 10/22-style magazines, with an ambidextrous magazine release and spring-assisted ejection.
Savage Rascal Minimalist
If you know any young shooters, you’ve probably seen the Savage Rascal. Now you can see it with a new stock that has become popular on Savage’s other rimfires. The Rascal Minimalist features the same, safe, single-shot bolt action that has made the gun a staple of youth shooting programs, and it’s now set in a modern Minimalist laminate stock. The new layout is available in pink-and-purple or teal-and-gray versions that retain the 11.5-inch length-of-pull that makes it suitable for smaller shooters. Still, the downsized rifle includes a number of full-size features, including Savage’s user-adjustable AccuTrigger system. The 16-1/8-inch matte-black carbon-steel barrel is finished with an 11-degree target crown, and features ½x28 threads.
CZ USA 457 VPT MTR
Aspiring competitors can hone their craft with the Varmint Precision Trainer, which gets an upgraded barrel for 2021. The VPT MTR receives the heavy 16.5-inch barrel from CZ’s Match Target Rifle, mated to a match chamber for improved accuracy. The muzzle is threaded, and the carbon fiber Manners stock is shaped to ride the bench.