First manufactured in 1824, and seeing the battlefield during the Civil War, many shooters have used the bolt-action rifle for close to two centuries. Bolt-action rifles are reliable and time-tested firearms, with many improvements and variances that developed over its two-century existence.
Bolt-action rifles are one of the most versatile firearms on the market; not only are they the best beginner action rifle, but many excellent marksmen favor it for hunting. There are two types of bolt-action rifles: the controlled round feed (CRF) and the push feed. They are available in many different calibers, from the .22LR to the .50 BMG. They can be used as a single shot or magazine fed firearms, which is great if you are concentrating on the fundamentals for the shooter rather than putting lead downrange. Accessories are available for most models to help with everything from stability, accuracy, and ease of transport. Many shooters, from the beginner to the advanced, will find this category of firearms a worthy addition to any collection or even a great choice to start out with!
Types Of Bolt-action Rifles
Controlled Round Feed (CRF) – Controlled round feed bolts will hold the round with the extractor, as you advance the round into the chamber. If one were to pull back on the bolt, the round would come back as well because the bolt is holding the round. This type of feeding mechanism prevents double feeds, which can occur with Push Feed systems, when the bolt is cycled backward and a second round can be fed into the chamber. It also prevents the inadvertent loss of rounds through fast movement with the ejector port open. The ejector is receiver-mounted, so the casing is thrown well clear of the ejection port, but the speed in which the action is cycled will determine how far the casing is ejected. This type of feed will typically not allow the loading of a single round into the chamber. Said mechanism would not be appropriate for situations, such as youth shooting sports, where the loading of rounds one at a time into the chamber is called for. While this can be worked around by using the magazine, the hassle may not be worth it to many instructors. CRF is well suited for hunting, especially dangerous game, where accidental double feeds or failure to feed a round could be deadly to the hunter.
Push Feed – The push feed bolt pushes the round into the chamber but does not exercise any other control over the round, aside from pushing forward without being able to move the round backward. This system is entirely reliable, but the shooter must be aware of the status of the chamber to prevent attempts to double feed and malfunction. The action allows for a bolt to surround the rim of the round with a recessed bolt face. The ejector tends to be smaller, which can cause a case to fail to eject.
Controlled Round Feed Vs Push Feed Styles
Both forms are functional for their purpose, so it’s important to know what you are going to use the rifle for. A reliable rifle is key, and both types of bolt will offer reliability. The shooter needs to be aware of the potential for malfunction, should fundamentals be forgotten.
When both style were tested from a prone firing position and turning over, so the firearm is upside down when chambering a round from the magazine, the style that performed poorly was the controlled round feed; this could be an issue, if engaging dangerous game, where you might forced to shoot out of a position that isn’t exactly what you would enounter on a shooting range.
The measurement of caliber refers to a round or cartridge size, based upon either metric units, typically abbreviated in mm, for millimeters, or in imperial, which is inches. For rounds or cartridges without a mm behind the size, this is in imperial. The bullet is the smaller projectile in the tip of the overall bigger round or cartridge. Both, cartridge and round, are correct terminology and can be used interchangeably.
.22 LR – The lowest available caliber comes with the smallest recoil of all the rounds. This size is a rimfire, which means the firing pin hits the edge of the case as opposed to the center. Said round is considered the most popular rifle round due to its size and high velocity. .22 LR sized rounds are ideal for hunting small game at a distance. Beginners and youth learn well on this caliber of a firearm, due to the low recoil and ease on the shoulder. Cost per round approximately $0.07.
A notable .22LR is the Ruger 10/22. It’s a highly customizable gun, which is ideal for anyone from the beginner to the advanced rifleman. The barrels can be switched in a few minutes with an Allen wrench, and the stock can be changed in a similar time frame, by removing the rear sling swivel. While being able to modify the stocks and barrel out with spares that can be purchased through Ruger, the 10/22 has a user-adjustable trigger pull weight, making this firearm an excellent choice for a small caliber gun. Their average cost is between $250 and $400.
.300BLK – A subsonic round that came to the market in 2011. It is reported to be quieter than a suppressed 5.56 mm. The recoil of this round is said to be similar to that of the 5.56 mm. Cost per round approximately $0.76
7.62x39mm – A Russian round that was developed for the AK-47 and SKS rifles. With the gaining popularity of this round, CZ developed a bolt action chambered in 7.62 mm. Recoil is considered to be moderate with excellent takedown power. This caliber is suited for game similar in size to deer and good for self-defense. Cost per round is approximately $0.20.
5.56x45mm/.223 – Standard round for the M-16, M-4 and AR-15. This round is similar in size to the .22LR; however, the velocity of the round is easily twice as fast. Cost per round is approximate $0.30.
7.62x51mm/ .308 has an extended range and larger kick than previous rounds, but also brings a larger takedown power, therefore favored by Hunters. The .308 is so popular that they are actually reasonably priced. Savage, Marlin, Remington, and Ruger models are available under $500 – some with extra options such as scopes, without running up the price point of the firearm too high. The cost for ammunition runs around the middle of the road compared to the other rounds costs, which make rifles chambered in this caliber an excellent choice, especially if the purpose of the gun is to hunt. Cost per round approximately $0.75.
7.62x54mmR is a popular Russian military round, which is commonly used in their sniper rifles and comes with a significant amount of recoil. The Mosin Nagant is chambered in this caliber and bears mention, as a popular cheap rifle costing between $75 and $150. Cost per round is approximate $0.60.
.30-06 is a very popular round for hunting and is more than capable of hunting any animal in North America, excelling with the takedown power. This round packs a lot of punch both out of the business end and at the shoulder. The cost per round can be pretty steep, at approximately $1.50 a round.
There are many .30-06 rifles available on the market, starting from $350 and ranging up to $2500 and above. There are plenty of different options available in this diverse price range, from a stock scope to adjustable triggers, available with the various options for stock and barrel. With the large cost variance and a wide variety of choices to choose from, this is a well-rounded category for individualization. The known capabilities and popularity will allow the shooter to “grow” and adapt the rifle to their individual tastes. The drawback of this particular caliber is the cost per round, as mentioned above.
.50 BMG – An enormous round, typically used for long distance targets in the sniper world. The round was used to engage a target well over 2,500 yards. These rifles can cost from around $3,000 to upwards of $12,000, depending on the manufacturer. Cost per round is around $3.00 – so not a play-on-the-range type of round.
There are three main options when it comes to stocks: wood, laminate and synthetic. For strength, modern laminate and synthetic stocks will be more durable than a wooden stock. Shooters need to consider the recoil of the firearm when they consider replacing a stock with a different material. If the recoil is light and does not bother the shooter, they could find a synthetic replacement that are lighter and stronger than wood; however, you as a shooter are going to feel more of the recoil because the weight of the firearm overall has been reduced, so it absorbs less of the force. If the recoil is too much, a shooter should consider a laminate stock. These are heavier than wood, and the even lighter synthetic stocks are just as strong, but their weight can help reduce some of the recoil. If you plan to carry the rifle a lot, maybe while hunting, it would definitely make sense to go for a lighter synthetic one. Additional available choices with regards to stocks are collapsible and fixed stocks. A collapsible stock can be retracted to put the shooter closer to the action, which helps in closer quarters or for moving from location to location with the firearm during a hunt. A fixed stock has a farther reach, which gives more eye relief to the shooter.
Barrel lengths vary from 18 inches to 26 inches. To measure barrel length, use a dowel with a smaller diameter than the barrel, and insert it into the muzzle end; this is the end the bullet comes out. Mark the end of the dowel where it protrudes from the barrel. The barrel length is measured from the end of the dowel to the mark you just made. The National Firearms Act requires that rifles have a minimum barrel length of 16 inches and an overall length of 26 inches or bigger with any collapsing stock all the way collapsed.
There are multiple options to prevent your new rifle from rust or at least slow the rust down long enough to allow you to clean and properly store the firearm in a dry and warm location, such as gun safes. The different options for your barrel are stainless steel, coatings and blued.
A stainless steel barrel can withstand more rounds than a traditional steel barrel, and it resists rust unless left in a wet location for an extended period of time.
Coatings are similar to paint that is bonded to the metal. Typically, these barrels are stainless steel coated to resemble traditional steel barrels.
For a blued barrel, a bluing agent is applied and allowed to sit on the steel for a set length of time until the metal takes on the desired appearance. The blued barrel is resistant to small scratches and reduces glare when looking down the barrel.
Triggers – The weight of a trigger pull can have an effect on a shooter’s aim and the feel of a firearm. Many models are available with an adjustable trigger, while other models can have their triggers replaced with differently weighted aftermarket versions. Please be aware that not all models will come with adjustable triggers, or, if they do, know there might not be an aftermarket version available. The best action you can take is to determine if you would like the ability to adjust your trigger pull, or make sure that your rifle offers the option to upgrade it with aftermarket versions.
Scopes – The integral part of your new rifle is the scope. Without a factory site, it will not be accurate. For long distance shooting or precision shooting, a scope is a must. Tons of different options are available, while the right one really depends upon the purpose of your firearm.
Slings – There are many designs for slings and carrying straps on the market today. The essential items you want to consider when selecting a sling are: adjustment, weight distribution and width. Ensure the sling or strap you choose can be adjusted, as a fixed size strap is a problem waiting to happen. The method to distribute weight is not too concerning in smaller guns; however, for bigger or heavier rifles, this is essential when hunting. Carrying your rifle around in the ready position can get heavy on your arms, as well as make you unable to use your hands for climbing or using other tools to scout. The widths can vary from 1 inch to 1 ¼ inch. With heavier firearms, a wider sling is recommended to help distribute the weight. Some weight distribution methods for slings involve thicker padding, similar to backpacks. Slings are made of different materials, but typically they are seen in leather or a nylon strap.
Best for beginners
Choose a rifle that feels comfortable in your hands. If you are just starting out in this sport, a small caliber will be best, especially for youth. Push feed magazine firearms are excellent, but also make sure that the rifle is capable of being fed as a single shot firearm, to allow the beginner to slow down their shooting and focus on fundamentals. As the shooter becomes more comfortable with the ability to use a magazine, reloading a single shot rifle can become tiresome and lead a new shooter to boredom, which makes a shooter less likely to want to continue to learn. Ensure you buy a rifle that will meet the immediate need while being able to “grow” with the shooter, as the investment is one many do not want to make more than once. The Ruger 10-22 is a fine example of a firearm that will “grow” with the shooter, allowing for concentration on fundamentals at the beginning, while adjustments can be made to the rifle as the shooter becomes more advanced, even without the need of a gunsmith. In addition the wide range of accessories make the Ruger a great choice for everyone that has fun on customizing his firearms.
It should be clear by now, that a bolt action rifle is a great choice for beginners, as well as advanced shooters. There countless of different options, brands and accessories that, in combination, result in a remarkable piece of equipment, found in almost every gun collection. You know the basics, so visit a local store and get your hands on some options. The decision which on its finally going to be is one, we can’t make for you, but definitely a fun one to make!