2016's Bolt Gun Bonanza (Wood Is Back!)

It was tough to see any major themes for 2016’s new bolt guns, but get ready for lighter weights, new calibers and classic wood.
2016's Bolt Gun Bonanza (Wood Is Back!)

At the 2016 SHOT Show, held this past January in Las Vegas, gun makers rolled out their newest bolt action rifles for the hunting market. No big and obvious trends were apparent in the 2016 offerings. The new bolt guns were scattered across numerous price points with features many and varied, including a good mix of traditional wood and synthetic stocked versions, suggesting that wood was making a bit of a comeback in what had been a noticeable shift to man-made materials the last few years.

One small trend we noticed was that the 6.5 Creedmoor round is making a strong showing among new bolt guns.

Browning’s Newest X-Bolt: One “Hell’s” Of A Rifle

At SHOT Show 2016, Browning showed off its newest long gun, the lightweight X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Speed rifle. Built on the popular Browning X-Bolt platform, the Hell’s Canyon Speed offers significant upgrades, including a rugged composite stock done in the new Browning Speed AU camouflage pattern.


The barrel is fluted, while the receiver and bolt are Cerakoted in Burnt Bronze. The rifle comes standard with a threaded muzzle brake and will be chambered in all standard calibers from .243 to .300 Win Mag, including 6.5 Creedmoor and 26 Nosler.

The rifle looks cool and should appeal to many younger shooters. The better news? It actually shoots great.

I had the chance to try out a Hell’s Canyon Speed chambered in .30-06 SPRG on a recent deer hunt. Once sighted in, the rifle pegged three-shot groups at SUB-MOA all day long, at 100 yards. Then, after four days of hunting, I bagged a 200-pound mule deer with the rifle at about 125 yards with a single shoulder shot. The mulie dropped where he stood.

The bolt came up easily and racked back smoothly, while the 60-degree bolt lift kept my thumb and fingers clear of the scope when cycling the action. The Inflex recoil pad redirects recoil down and away from your cheek, while the muzzle brake further reduces felt recoil. I’d guess the combination of the recoil pad plus brake reduced the usual 30-06 recoil by 30 percent. The flat, Cerakote Burnt Bronze finish aids in concealment while protecting the barrel from the elements. The stock is textured for a secure grip from forearm to pistol grip.

The rifle is magazine fed, so hunters can carry an extra loaded magazine for a fast reload. Magazine capacity is four rounds for standard calibers, three for magnums. The Hell’s Canyon Speed does not come with sights, but it is drilled and tapped for optics.

The rifle weighs from 6 pounds 3 ounces up to 6 pounds and 13 ounces for heavier magnum calibers. Barrel lengths are available from 22 to 26 inches and the MSRP is $1,199.99 for standard calibers and $1,239.99 for magnum calibers.

Thompson/Center’s New Compass Points To Big Sales

With the new Compass, Thompson/Center jumps into the entry-level-priced hunting rifle market with a bolt gun that has many features you’d expect on a much pricier rig.

TC Compass

At the center of the rifle is the T/C Compass’ aluminum pillar bedding design, which positively secures and centers the receiver — and free-floats the barrel — for outstanding accuracy. In fact, T/C is so sure of that accuracy, the Compass is backed by the company’s Minute of Angle (MOA) guarantee. The MOA guarantee promises each rifle will deliver a 1-inch, 3-shot group at 100 yards with the use of premium ammunition.

The Compass features a three-lug push-bolt design with 60-degree lift. The bolt cycles smoothly — aided by an oversized bolt handle — and the 60-degree lift creates plenty of clearance between bolt and scope.

The T/C Compass’ user-adjustable single-stage trigger can be set for a trigger pull between 3.5 and 5 pounds, with minimal over-travel. The barrel is button-rifled in 5R rifling.

For fans of suppressors, each T/C Compass comes standard with a factory threaded barrel, which can also be used to attach a muzzle break or compensator. A thread protector is included.

To handle the worst field conditions, the T/C Compass features an ergonomic, lightweight classic stock design with modern contours and textured grip panels. Operating controls on the rifle consist of an easy-to-use three-position safety with bolt lock. The Compass is not only drilled and tapped for optics, but it also comes with scope bases. Ammunition is fed via a detachable rotary magazine (5+1 in standard calibers and 4+1 in magnum calibers) that fits flush with the stock.

The Compass is available in 204 Ruger; 5.56mm; .22-250; .243; .270; 7mm-08; 7mm; .308; .30-06 and .300 Win Mag. Barrel Length is 22 inches for standard calibers and 24 inches for magnum calibers.

All  of this for an MSRP of $399.00? The Compass looks to be an outstanding value in a rifle that will be in stores by the end of summer 2016.

Mossberg Ups the Ante With An Upgraded Scout

Last year, O.F. Mossberg and Sons debuted the gun maker’s entry into the growing Scout rifle market with its general-purpose MVP Scout 7.62mm NATO (308 Win) bolt-action. This solid, compact rifle not only worked great, but it was also among the lowest-priced Scout models on the market — in some cases, half the cost or less than some competitors.

For 2016, Mossberg now offers the MVP Scout Vortex-Scoped Combo, selling the Scout as a package with the new Crossfire II Scout 2-7x32mm scope made by Vortex. If you put a scope on a Scout rifle of any sort, an extended eye-relief optic is required. Optics manufacturer Vortex stepped up to the plate and engineered the Crossfire II Scout with longer eye relief with Scout-type rifles specifically in mind.

The scope features Vortex’s V-Plex reticle, has fully multi-coated lenses and comes complete with resettable MOA turrets. Vortex Viper rings are provided to mount the optic on the MVP Scout’s extended top rail as well.

The MVP Scout rifle features Mossberg’s patented Dual Push bolt and patented Dual Latch designs that accept and reliably-feed from both M1A-, M14- and AR10-style magazines. Key features of a Scout rifle, as defined by the legendary Colonel Jeff Cooper, are standard on the Mossberg MVP Scout rifle, including an 11-inch receiver-mounted Picatinny rail and two side-mounted short Picatinny rails for the addition of optics and accessories, an integrated rail-mounted Ghost Ring rear sight paired with a barrel-mounted fiber optic front sight for added versatility and a compact 16.25-inch medium bull barrel, threaded and equipped with an A2-style suppressor (a protective thread cap is also provided).

MSRP for this ruggedly-built, all-purpose platform is $962.

Going Long: The ELR From Christensen Arms

For 2016, one new rifle being made by Christensen Arms of Gunnison, Utah, is the Enhanced Long Range rifle. The ELR is a carbon-barreled bolt-action that promises to limit your range as a hunter to the capabilities of your cartridge — and your own skills as a shooter.

The core of the ELR is Christensen’s proprietary machined twin-lug bolt-action, mated with a 22-inch 416 R Match-Grade, button-rifled Barrel with a 1:8 twist rate. The bolt operates smoothly and locks up tight. The target barrel is carbon-fiber wrapped to provide superior strength while reducing weight. An integral, full-length 1913 rail sits atop the receiver, providing a fast and easy mounting platform for optics.

“Our whole concept with this rifle — all our rifles, actually — is you buy one of our rifles and completely by-pass the gunsmith,” says Kyle Brown, Christensen’s marketing manager. “The rifle comes with a quality Timney trigger, two sling studs under the forearm, a high quality stock and our own muzzle brake. So forget the gunsmith and head right to the range or the field with the ELR.”

The rugged composite stock is built with an enhanced, higher-than-normal Monte Carlo cheek piece for a superior cheek weld. The machined aluminum hinged floorplate has a magazine capacity of four rounds. Average weight (depending on if the ELR has a long- or short-action length) is a nifty 7.5 pounds. The ELR comes in at an MSRP of $3,499.

Savage’s 16/116 Lightweight Hunter

When I lifted the rifle off the rack, I was sure I’d grabbed a .22 rimfire, which also meant the folks at Savage Arms who set up this gun rack at the 2016 SHOT Show had placed the wrong rifle in the slot meant for the Savage’s 16/116 Lightweight Hunter.


I was wrong — on both counts.

Savage’s 16/116 Lightweight Hunter is a true lightweight centerfire rifle, coming in at just 5.65 pounds in the rifle I got my hands on (chambered in .223 Rem.), and no more than 5.8 pounds for the larger calibers — perfect for a hunter hiking and climbing in rough terrain. Even with a full load of ammunition (four rounds, held in a detachable box magazine) and scope with mounting hardware, a hunter will be toting maybe 7 pounds of rifle.

This flyweight is compact, too. With its 20-inch barrel, the overall length of the 16/116 comes in at 40.25 inches — a great fit inside a tight hunting blind.

Even so, the rifle still has all of the standard features found on heftier Savage rifles, including a user-adjustable AccuTrigger, a stainless steel barrel and a rugged synthetic stock. The bolt on the model I handled worked smoothly and didn’t rattle a bit (something I noticed on older Savage models). But even then, most Savage’s I have shot have been damned accurate and I would expect no less from the 16/116 Lightweight Hunter.

A fair question is what the recoil might be like in the larger calibers, especially the .270 Win and .308 Win. I wouldn’t expect the recoil to be punishing in these calibers, but the laws of physics tell me it has to kick more than their seven and eight pound brethren. With the 20-inch barrel, I’d also expect it to bark pretty loudly in all calibers, though today’s safety-conscious hunters also don’t go afield without hearing protection. The rifle carries an MSRP of $729.

A Pair of Very Accurate Rifles From Bergara

For years, all we in the States knew about Spanish gun manufacturer Bergara was that it made some fine barrels, like the ones used on the various model of CVA Muzzleloaders. Last year, though, Bergara introduced complete rifles to the North American market in the form of the bolt-action B14 series.

B-14 WOODSMAN with logo

For 2016, Bergara USA, a division of Blackpowder Products, Inc. of Duluth, Georgia, has added two new rifles and many new calibers in the B-14 Performance Rifle Series: The B-14 Woodsman with a traditional wood stock and the B-14 Hunter Synthetic.

I had a chance to use both and they are extremely accurate rifles. MOA groups were the norm in my time shooting the two rifles. But once I became familiar to the rifles, I was shooting ½-inch groups at 100 yards with both, with each of them chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor.

The B-14 rifles feature the Bergara B-14 Performance action with a coned bolt nose and breech, ensuring consistently smooth feeding and a sliding plate extractor for proper alignment. The Bergara 4140CrMo steel barrel is finished in matte blue and is available in 22 inches (Short Action) and 24 inches (Long Action).

The B-14 Woodsman rifle is built on a classic style, oil-finished walnut stock, with a checkered pistol grip and forend. The Woodsman comes with either the Bergara B-14 Long or Short Action, a Bergara Performance Curved trigger and is available with a hinged floorplate or a detachable four-round magazine. Caliber offerings include .30-06; .300 Win Mag; .270; 7mm-Rem Mag; 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win. Every Bergara B-14 Rifle is guaranteed to produce sub-MOA groups and have an MSRP starting at $945.
The B-14 Hunter rifle is essentially the same rifle as the Woodsman, with a rugged sporter-style synthetic stock, and it is also available with a four-round detachable magazine. The B1 Hunter comes in .300 Win Mag; .30-06; .270; 7MM Rem Mag; 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win. Like the Woodsman, it is guaranteed to produce Sub-MOA groups. It comes in with an MSRP starting at $825.

  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Magazine capacity: 4

Montana Rifle Hits The Prairie

The new Prairie Runner by Montana Rifle Company is a looker thanks to the sleek lines of its Boyd’s Thumbhole Varmint Stock. Available in right- or left-hand models, the Prairie Runner is debuting in 22-250, with .223 Rem and other varmint calibers to come in the near future.

The barrel and action are 100 percent stainless steel, while the 24-inch, number 5 contour barrel with a 1:9 twist rate (and Montana Rifle Company’s fine reputation) promise this will be one tack-driver of a varminter. The barrel is also tipped with the company’s proprietary Flats Muzzle Brake.

The stock is offered in Forest Camo, Pepper or Nutmeg with an MSRP of $1,416.

Not Exactly New, But Improved

Several rifle lines have been upgraded for 2016, including Nosler’s M48 Custom, M48 Liberty and M48 Heritage, each of which will now be offered in the all-new 30Nosler chambering and the 6.5 Creedmoor.

NoslerHeritage rifle

Rifles from Savage Arms are getting a 6.5 Creedmoor shot in the arm, as the flat-shooting caliber is now an option in nine Savage rifles: The new 16 Lightweight Hunter; AXIS; AXIS LH; AXIS XP; AXIS XP Camo; AXIS XP Stainless; AXIS II XP; AXIS II XP Stainless and AXIS II XP Hardwood.

Remington Arms Company has taken its bargain-priced Remington 783 and further dropped the MSRP to $399 for the basic black model and added a scoped combo package to its 783 offerings, with the scoped 783 in black coming in at just $399.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.