So the last few days I've been all over town trying out bolt guns. It looks like there are really two tiers; the entry level around ~$300 and the mid-tier around $600-700.
ENTRY LEVEL (~$300 price point)
- Remington 770. I did not like this gun at all. Didn't fit right, mushy trigger, yuck.
- Savage Edge (MSRP ~$380 w/ scope). 6.5 lbs, 22" bbl, 43.875" overall. Great tang safety, stock fit nicely. No accutrigger, but the stock trigger weight felt like it was around 5 lbs and was pretty tolerable. It has gotten some positive reviews (Chuck Hawke's site and GunBlast). I don't like the narrow feed port; would be tough to remove a jammed round. Clearly the lowest price "best value" option though.
- Marlin XL7/XS7 (MSRP ~$400). The XS7 is brand new in .308 win; previous calibers were only the long-action ones only. I handled this and thought it was pretty darn nice for the money. It has an adjustable trigger and a nice open bolt making it easy to clear a jam. 6.5 lbs, 22" bbl, 42.5" overall. Also available in stainless (the XS7S).
- Weatherby Vanguard (MSRP ~$419). 7.25 lbs, 24" bbl, 44" overall. This rifle also handled nicely, with the desierable large open bolt. No complaints. A bit heavier. At Sports Authority these were coming in under $400
- Savage Hunter 11 FNS and variants (MSRP $591). Doubling the price gets you the accutrigger and large open bolt design with similar vital stats to the Edge; 6.5 lbs, 22" bbl, 41.75" overall. It retains the nice tang mounted safety that I like. Add $50 and 0.4 lbs for an accustock, and add another $50 for a scope package, or $50 and 0.25 lbs for a wood stock instead of synthetic.
- Savage 16FSS "Weather Warrior" (MSRP $699). Stainless bbl. Otherwise basically the same as the Hunter series. This gets a nice review from Hawkes.
- Tika T3 Lite Stainless (saw at SW for ~$650). 6.1875 lbs, 22.5" bbl, 42.5" overall. While Chuck Hawkes savages the Tika -- and I agree that his criticisms are legitimate -- the bolt on this is silky smooth. I have not yet found a more agreeable bolt in this price range. It really is a pleasure to operate. It has gotten some positive reviews as well. I dislike the narrow bolt opening and safety, however.
- Thompson Venture (mid $400s). This is almost an entry level rifle price-wise. I handled one; nothing remarkable, just a nice handling rifle.
- Remington 700. Remington has a ton of offerings in this price range. On paper, this and the Ruger M77 were top contenders. After trying some out, the Remington 700 just doesn't do much for me. It is an adequete rifle, but they don't seem to "fit" great. Likewise the bolt is not the smoothest, the trigger isn't the best, and theprice is not great. They tend to be heavier than the other models as well.
- Ruger M77. Similar feelings to the Remington. Their "ultralight" version comes in at 6.25 lbs -- with a MSRP of $888! Nothing about this firearm makes me stand up and say, "Wow, that's great!" There's no great safety and fit like from the savages, low price like the Marlin, or silky bolt like the Tika.
I'm not the only one thinking that way. There's a bunch of threads comparing these guns and they are direct competitors.