August 17, 2023
There are loads of bolt-action rifles designed for every use and discipline, from precision shooting to dangerous game hunting. But perhaps the most specialized of all bolt guns is the dedicated mountain rifle. These guns need to be both light enough that they won’t burden the hunter at thin-air elevations, yet accurate enough to make cross-canyon shots on elusive game animals like sheep, elk and goats. You’ve likely spent a great deal of time, energy and money to get into position for a shot on one of these animals, and you don’t want your rifle to ruin your chances of punching a tag.
What follows is a rundown of eight of the best mountain hunting rifles available today, guns that we’d happily carry in the high country and trust to make the shot of a lifetime.
Rifle weights are based on rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor
1. Bergara Ridge Carbon Wilderness
- Weight: 6 pounds, 6 ounces
- Price: $1,599
Why does Bergara’s new Ridge Carbon Wilderness get the nod as their best lightweight rifle when the Premier Mountain 2.0 weighs less than this gun? The Mountain 2.0 is a fantastic gun with an AG Composites stock and lots of other great features, but it only weighs about 3 ounces less than the new Ridge Carbon Wilderness rifle and the RCW carries an MSRP that’s about $700 lower. Both are great guns, but if you aren’t pinching every ounce then the Ridge Carbon Wilderness is a great buy. It’s available in chamberings from 6.5 Creedmoor to .300 Win. Mag., and it comes with a quality Bergara carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel, a Bergara B-14 action and is backed by a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee.
2. Seekins Havak Element:
- Weight: 5 pounds, 8 ounces
- Price: $2,795
Seekins is based in Lewiston, Idaho and their American-made rifles are designed for serious hunters and shooters. I’ve been impressed with every Seekins rifle I’ve shot, but the Havak Element is my favorite. Weights range from 5.5 pounds for the short action to 6 pounds for the long-action model. 416R stainless spiral-fluted barrels have 5R rifling and range from 21 to 22 inches, making them suitable for shooting with suppressors. A 20 MOA rail with bubble level, 2.5- to 5-pound adjustable trigger, detachable magazine, carbon composite stock and 4-lug bolt with removable bolt head all come standard, and these rifles shoot very accurately. They might well be the best all-around hunting rifle at their price point, but get on the list now if you want one because demand exceeds supply.
3. Weatherby Backcountry 2.0 Ti Carbon
- Weight: 5 pounds, 4 ounces
- Price: $3,849
The Backcountry 2.0 Ti Carbon blends a titanium Mark V action with a long list of premium features: a lightweight Peak 44 Blacktooth carbon fiber stock with 3DHEX recoil pad; grey-and-white sponge paint; a tensioned #4 carbon fiber threaded barrel with 30 port Accubrake ST removable brake; crisp, adjustable trigger; and Graphite Black Cerakote finish on the metalwork. Despite this long list of accuracy-enhancing features, the Backcountry 2.0 Ti Carbon weighs as little as 5.3 pounds, making it a premium rifle for the mountain hunter. Weatherby promises three-shot accuracy less than .99-inches with prescribed Weatherby ammo, which is superb for a light rifle. It’s available with Weatherby’s 9- or 6-lug actions, but to my mind the 6-lug version chambered in the new .338 RPM cartridge is perfect. It comes with a 20-inch barrel that makes it easy to mount a suppressor, and the recoil pad helps reduce recoil of this powerful cartridge.
4. Kimber Mountain Ascent
- Weight: 4 pounds, 14 ounces
- Price: Starting at $2,370
If you’re looking for an extremely light mountain rifle with a robust action, then Kimber offers just that in the Mountain Ascent. At the heart of this hunting rifle is Kimber’s 84/8400 action, which utilizes a full-length Mauser-style claw extractor for unquestioned reliability. This year these guns come in two new camo patterns—Caza by Pnuma and Skyfall by Kryptek—and their stainless-steel metalwork now receives a Kimpro II black protective finish. The three-position safety allows for loading and unloading these rifles with the safety engaged and the 7/16 x 28 threaded muzzles come with both a radial brake and a thread protector. Kimber backs these rifles with an accuracy guarantee, so if you’re looking for a lightweight high-country hunting rifle the Kimber is a great option.
5. Christensen Arms Ridgeline FFT
- Weight: 5 lbs, 4 ounces
- Price: $2,399
The ridgeline FFT is a high-tech mountain rifle from Utah-based Christensen Arms and it utilizes a whole host of high-tech weight-saving materials to create an extremely accurate mountain rifle. FFT stands for Flash Forged Technology, a monocoque stock design that limits weight and reduces waste. Carbon fiber monocoques have been used in racecar technology for years because the monocoque allows the outer surface of the object to add strength and rigidity without weight (just like an eggshell). This technology, combined with the Ridgeline FFT’s carbon-fiber-wrapped 416R stainless barrel, keeps weight right around 5 pounds. Heck, even the bolt knob and magazine floorplate utilize carbon fiber. The Ridgeline FFT comes with a long list of premium features including a removable side baffle brake and top rail and it is available in a variety of colors and camo patterns. Most importantly, it is accurate and reliable, and the quality of the materials and construction here warrants the price tag.
6. Savage 110 Ultralite
- Weight: 5 pounds, 13 ounces
- Price: $1,649
Savage has stepped up their premium rifle offerings in recent years and in doing so has created a line of rifles that can compete with any other gun on the market. One of their new premium rifles is the new 110 Ultralite, which blends a 110 push-feed action with a PROOF Research carbon-fiber threaded barrel and a lightweight polymer AccuStock with AccuFit for a custom fit. The bolt is spiral fluted, which is a classy styling touch that also helps keep weight to a bare minimum, under 6 pounds. I carried one of these rifles in .280 Ackley improved on an Alaskan Arctic caribou hunt and found it to be the perfect weapon. It was light to carry and, when topped with a Leupold VX-6 scope, custom-rifle accurate, allowing me to make a killing shot on a big bull at 300 yards just before the animal crested a ridge and disappeared to parts unknown. I still have that rifle and count it among my favorite mountain guns. I especially like the safe, easy-to-adjust AccuTrigger that makes it easy to wring sub-MOA groups from this rifle.
7. Howa Super Lite
- Weight: 4 pounds, 7 ounces
- Price: $1,400
If you want lightweight rifles this list has lots of options, but if you want a gun that’s super light then you’ll have to turn to Howa. As the name suggests, the Super Lite offers a barely-there mass of as little as 4 pounds, 7 ounces, which is less than some hunting handguns. But Howa didn’t just make this gun light, they also made it very accurate thanks to tight headspacing specs, bolts that are trued and squared to the chamber, and the HACT two-stage trigger is crisp and clean. A one-piece Picatinny rails come standard, as does a threaded (1/2 x 28) barrel. Part of the weight savings is thanks to the Stocky’s Stock, which is equipped with a Limbsaver recoil pad to help mitigate setback from this barely-there gun. It’s available in 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester, two versatile and effective mountain hunting cartridges.
8. Browning X-Bolt Mountain Pro SPR
- Weight: 5 pounds, 14 ounces
- Price: starting at $2,659
Browning’s X-Bolt rifle has been around a while, but the Mountain Pro SPR shows that this company is good at modifying its existing products to meet the needs of modern hunters. Mountain Pro SPR rifles come with shortened (18 to 22 inches) spiral-fluted barrels with Recoil Hawg muzzle brakes. The brake does an admirable job cutting weight, but it’s easy to remove if you want to add a suppressor, and even with a can in place the overall length of the rifle remains manageable. The carbon-fiber stock features accent graphics and helps cut weight, and there’s a Picatinny rail section on the forearm with integral sling stud for mounting a bipod. The metalwork is protected with a Cerakote finish (Burnt Bronze or Tungsten), and you’ll find features on this rifle that make the original X-Bolt so desirable, like Browning’s Feather Trigger and rotary magazine and a bolt unlock button that allows you to load and unload the rifle safely. As mountain rifles go, the Browning is extremely well-appointed, and it’s an excellent option for serious hunters.