Within the 1-2 years, something very interesting has been happening in the budget bolt action rifle market: more features. You could really point to the Savage 200 as one of the first of the new crop of decent bolt action blasters because while there were previous budget priced rifles, the 200 didn’t make many of the compromises of the past (I’m looking at you, rear-lugged Remington 788). It was a cheap, simple, no frills or features, solid bolt action rifle. I mean, that’s how it’s done in lots of industries, right? You need to buy the up-model Toyota to get leather seats and the 7 speed automatic transmission. But within the last 2 years, we’ve seen a feature war among the crop of budget bolt action rifles, and it’s been great as a consumer. Think of that Savage 200: it had a solid Savage 110 action, but a kind of crappy stock, blind mag, and basic trigger. It’s very feature-poor compared to what we have now:
Savage Axis: Detachable mag, now includes Accutrigger with the Savage Axis II, nice buttpad, pillar bedded stock
Remington 783: Detachable mag, great trigger, nice buttpad, pillar bedded stock, heavier magnum profile barrel
Ruger American: Detachable rotary mag, great trigger, nice buttpad, v-block bedded stock.
Those are features that were previously only really available on more expensive rifle models. Now, they’re offered on the budget versions, at budget prices. Continuing on this trek of offering more features and options at the budget level, both Savage and Ruger are now offering varmint versions and the Ruger version comes with a heavy barrel. Stainless versions are also available for the Axis, American, and 783. One has to wonder if this crop of value priced rifles from each manufacturer are going to turn into their mainstream offerings, with various models and flavors based off their budget blasters.
Personally, I think this is a good direction. Many traditionalists deride the plastic fantastic-stocks or the new, cost-cutting manufacturing methods, but personally, I think this is all great for the sport of hunting. It means that there’s less of a barrier to entry to the sport, and it also means that there will be more people buying these as backup rifles or in alternative calibers. It’s easier to afford to buy a big game hunting rifle AND a dedicated varmint rifle instead of trying to make do with just 1 do-all rifle. That’s a good thing, people will be using the right rifle for the job more often, and more people will own more guns (also great for the sport and industry.) Not to mention, most of these rifles are MOA-accurate right out of the box: something that can be hard to get out of a used rifle from previous generations. Hunters who in the past would have been stuck with a milsurp or borrowed rifle to get into the sport for cheap can now have an accurate, scoped rifle in a common cartridge.