Selecting a Big Game Rifle: My Journey and Thoughts

Growing up in southern Ohio I never had much use for a rifle. Sure we could hunt squirrels with a .22 LR or even coyotes with tapered wall cartridges but it is something I never got into. All of my hunting experience is with a shotgun. Once I moved to Colorado it became apparent that I would have to broaden my horizons and begin learning the ropes when it comes to high powered rifles. I was not ready for how complicated this learning experience was going to be. Compared to shotguns, the options for high powered rifles seems endless! So let me talk you through how I arrived at my selection of rifle and caliber. I will preface this by saying everyone should independently research their needs and wants in a firearm. What I selected may not work for everyone and that is fine. All that matters is you select the firearm that will perform to your needs.

I know some basics about rifles and decided early on that I needed a scoped, bolt action rifle. Obviously I will be shooting at distances of 100-500 yards so the scope was essential. Bolt action rifles have a tendency to be more accurate as well. So with the basic idea settled, I had to decide my budget. Rifles can get expensive, fast. Even more so if you buy your optic and rifle separate (which in all seriousness is the best way to go). But I am not made of money so I settled on spending between $400 and $600 on a rifle that comes with an optic. There are lots of options in this range and making a selection was not easy. Virtually all rifle manufacturers have rifle packages in this price range. There are a few that kept popping up in my research though.

The gun I selected was the Savage 110 Engage Hunter. This rifle ticked off every item on my checklist. It is a reliable and time tested rifle built on Savage’s “110” platform. It came stock with a Bushnell 3-9x40 with a “drop-compensating reticle making it easier to place precise shots at longer ranges”. The 110 Engage, while on the upper end of my budget at $630, is still a solid utility rifle that sports some high end features. The Savage 110 Engage has a user adjustable trigger which allows the shooter to adjust the rifle to their preference. Not only that, but Savages has something called the "AccuFit" system. This allows the shooter to change the comb height on the rifle. This is important because it allows you to have the proper cheek to stock contact and aligns your eye to the optic. The finish on the rifle is no frills, matte black synthetic materials with a 24” barrel. Unloaded, the rifle weighs around 8 lbs so it won’t break your back packing it through the back country.

As I have not shot the rifle yet, I cannot tell you anything about the performance of this particular rifle. My range time is coming soon and I will be sure to document those experiences in detail. Also, you may have noticed I did not mention the caliber in this overview/initial impression. I plan on breaking down the reasons for selecting the 6.5 x 284 Norma round in a later review.

My initial impression with the Savage 110 Engage Hunter is good. It is a solid rifle built on a time tested platform. The bolt (action) of the rifle is smooth right out of the box and I have a feeling it is going to be an excellent hunting rifle for my deer and pronghorn hunts this fall. One minor concern is the magazine. It is a plastic magazine and I could see a scenario where the small tab that holds it into the rifle breaks. Only time will tell on that. There is a lot of information on the Savage website and I would recommend you go there for more technical data if you are interested in one of their firearms.

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