At a time when rifles are made with such lightweight materials as kevlar, titanium, and carbon fiber, it’s easy to forget that, not too long ago, high-quality lightweight hunting rifles weren’t all that easy to find.
Anyone wanting a true ultralight rifle generally had to turn to custom or semi-custom gun makers such as Melvin Forbes of New Ultra Light Arms (NULA), who turned the hunting world on its ear in 1985 when he unveiled rifles weighing less than five pounds. There’s still demand for those guns, as NULA and others, such as Christensen Arms, Proof Research, and MG Arms, will happily build ultralight rifles with your selected options if you can afford them.
Early efforts to lighten things up with factory rifles were characterized by guns that were little more than standard-issue rifles with pencil-thin or lopped-off barrels and chopped-off stocks. That approach reduced weight, but often resulted in rifles that weren’t terribly accurate or well balanced, or were only suitable for people of smaller stature.
Over time, better options in factory lightweight hunting rifles appeared, thanks to advances in materials and manufacturing techniques. To appreciate just how much today’s production rifles have slimmed down, it’s worth remembering that one of the original lightweights, the Winchester Model 70 Featherweight, weighed around 7 ½ pounds when first introduced. Now, virtually every major manufacturer offers a hunting rifle weighing less than seven pounds. The list gets shorter when you limit weight to 6 ½ pounds—and even shorter if you want a factory rifle weighing about 6 pounds or less.
There can be a steep price to pay for many of these rifles—in terms of both cash and increased recoil—and many people can’t shoot lightweight hunting rifles as accurately as heavier, more stable platforms. If you’re willing to pay the price, here are 14 production rifles that will get the job done without weighing you down. —Mike Dickerson
1. Kimber Mountain Ascent
Kimber has long been known for making lightweight hunting rifles, but one model tips the scales at a new low. Starting at 4 pounds, 13 ounces in rifles chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor, 308 Win., and 7mm-08 Rem., the Mountain Ascent is billed by Kimber as “the lightest production bolt-action big game rifle available today.” Weight does go up, by necessity, if you choose other caliber options ranging up to 300 Win. Mag. Some of these guns, in long-action versions in magnum persuasion, can weigh up to 6 pounds, 7 ounces.
The rifle shaves weight by use of fluted barrels, bolts, and bolt handles along with a hollow bolt knob. Unlike some other companies to offer mountain rifles, Kimber doesn’t sacrifice barrel length with these guns—they measure 22 to 26 inches—but the stainless barrels are rather thin and can heat up quickly. Stocks are made of reinforced carbon fiber and have a Gore Optifade Open Country soft-touch treatment (other versions have a moss green or subalpine camo finish).
The Mountain Ascent’s stainless steel action is pillar-bedded to the stock, and it has a Model 70-type wing safety and a Mauser claw extractor. The rifles have factory-installed muzzle brakes and Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pads to moderate recoil. Triggers are adjustable, and that’s a good thing because the rifles ship with a trigger pull weight setting of 3.5 – 4 pounds. Although the gun comes with a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee, you will likely want to lighten up the trigger pull if you want to realize the rifle’s potential. MSRP: $2,040 —M.D.
2. Weatherby Mark V Backcountry Ti
In 2019 Weatherby announced a new rifle—chambered for an entirely new cartridge—that is unlike any Weatherby that came before. At 4.9 pounds, the new Mark V Backcountry Ti is the lightest hunting rifle Weatherby has made yet. The gun is built around a titanium action and represents a significant departure from past Weatherby designs. Non-traditional features include a new TriggerTech trigger, a Slim-line Accubrake ST muzzle brake, a carbon fiber stock from AG Composites, and a patent-pending lightweight Weatherby 3D HEX recoil pad. To further shed weight, the rifle has a spiral-fluted bolt with a scalloped bolt sleeve and hollowed-out bolt handle.
The new cartridge is based on a non-belted, non-venturi shoulder case with a rebated rim and is called the 6.5 Wby RPM (Rebated Precision Magnum). As you might expect, this new entry in the crowded 6.5 field is all about speed. Initial factory loads include one with a 140 gr. Hornady Interlock bullet and muzzle velocity of 2,975 fps, another with a Nosler 140 gr. Accubond at 3,075 fps and a third with a Barnes 127 gr. LRX at 3,225 fps.
If you find the price tag of the Backcountry Ti too steep, you can get a new Backcountry steel-action version, weighing 5.3 pounds, for considerably less money. There’s also a new MK V Weathermark LT, which weighs 5.9 pounds and replaces the Mark V Ultra Lightweight.
The Backcountry Ti was designed to handle inclement weather with a protective flat dark earth Cerkaote finish on the barrel, muzzle brake, receiver, and trigger guard, while the bolt, bolt knob, and safety have a black Cerakote finish. Barrels are fluted and measure 22 to 26 inches in length, depending on caliber. In addition to the 6.5 Wby. RPM, the rifle is chambered for a number of standard and Weatherby magnum cartridges from 6mm Creedmoor to 300 Wby Mag. The gun has a three-shot, sub-MOA accuracy guarantee with Weatherby factory or premium ammunition. MSRP: $3,349. —M.D.
3. Barrett Fieldcraft
Barret may be best known for its military and law enforcement rifles, but the company also makes a fine lightweight hunting rifle called the Fieldcraft. In the standard version, the rifle weighs just 5.2 pounds and is available chambered in 243 Win., 6mm Creedmoor, 22/250 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, 308 Win., and 7mm-08 Rem. A threaded-barrel version is offered in the same chamberings.
The rifle saves weight primarily through the use of a scaled-down receiver, a fluted bolt, and a hand-laid carbon fiber stock which is said to be patterned after a Melvin Forbes design. Narrow-contour barrels, made of 416 stainless steel, are shortened a bit at 21 inches in most chamberings, and have rates of twist that are generally optimized for stabilizing heavier hunting bullets. The action is pillar-bedded to the stock, which has a Pachmary Decelerator recoil pad. The capacity of the rifle’s blind box magazine is five rounds.
Other versions include the Fieldcraft Sport, which weighs a few ounces more but has a 24-inch barrel and is chambered for 270 Win., 6.5X55 Swede, 25-06 Rem., and .30-06 Rem.
The rifle is guaranteed to shoot sub-MOA groups with select ammo. MSRP: $1,879. —M.D.
4. Browning X-Bolt Mountain Pro
The X-Bolt Mountain Pro is the latest lightweight hunting rifle from Browning. They took their popular X-Bolt platform and dropped it in a foam-filled carbon fiber stock for a ¼-pound weight reduction when compared to previous models. This plus a fluted bolt and barrel put the rifle at just under 6 pounds. The rifle is also fitted for the Recoil Hawg muzzle brake, which Browning says will reduce up to 77 percent of felt recoil. For such a light rifle, this is a big plus as it allows shooters to comfortably handle magnum cartridges like the .300 Win Mag and 300 WSM. The rifle is also chambered for Browning and Winchester’s latest cartridge, the 6.8 Western. —Matthew Every
5. Sako 85 Carbonlight
Excluding rimfires, the Sako 85 Carbonlight is the lightest hunting rifle Sako has ever built. It’s Built on the company’s respected 85 action, and it weighs as little as 5.29 pounds in rifles with short actions—6.1 pounds for long actions.
The rifle has a fluted barrel and a carbon fiber stock with a soft-touch surface. Weight variances are due to differences in barrel lengths (measuring 20, 22, and 24 inches), as well as differences in the lengths of actions, including the L, M, S and new XS actions. Rifles chambered for L action cartridges come with a muzzle brake.
There’s something for everyone to like with this rifle. It’s chambered for 16 different cartridges ranging from 223 Rem. to 300 Win. Mag., and it’s available in a left-handed version with the S action. The barrel, action, and detachable magazine body are made of stainless steel, and the trigger guard and magazine plate are made of aluminum. The action is a controlled-round-feed design and has a non-fluted bolt with three locking lugs. When engaged, the safety locks both the trigger and the bolt, but the gun has a bolt release button that lets you cycle rounds through the action with the safety engaged.
The rifle’s staggered, two-row magazine has a capacity of six rounds in the XS action (.223 Rem. only), five rounds in the S and M actions, and four rounds in the L action. MSRP: $3,175. —M.D.
6. Savage Model 11/111 Lightweight Hunter
The remarkable thing about the Savage Model 11 Lightweight hunter isn’t the fact that it weighs only 5.5 pounds. It’s the fact that it weighs so little while retaining an attractive, oil-finish walnut stock, albeit in modified form. Beneath the forearm of the stock, you will find four pairs of thin rectangular bottom cutouts, neatly executed, that pare some weight from the stock while retaining a standard length of pull. The recoil is dampened by a soft rubber recoil pad.
Other weight savings are achieved by use of a slender-contour, 20-inch barrel along with aggressive spiral fluting of the bolt and machined flats and recesses in the sides of the action, which is pillar-bedded to the stock. The rifle feeds from a detachable four-round magazine, and has a three-position tang safety that allows you to cycle rounds through the action with the safety in the middle position.
The Model 11 Lightweight Hunter is chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, .243 Win. and .308 Win., while the Model 111 version weighs 6 pounds and is chambered in .270 Win. and .30/06 Springfield. All rifles have the adjustable Savage AccuTrigger.
When I tested a rifle chambered in .270 Win., the gun shot mostly sub-MOA groups, with a Federal Trophy Copper load routinely turning in 0.5 to 0.7 in. groups. I used the same load to make a terminal impression on a nine-point Texas management whitetail. MSRP: $1,009. —M.D.
7. Kimber Hunter
Kimber’s second entry on our list, simply named the Hunter, was introduced a few years ago as an affordable alternative to Kimber’s higher-priced rifles. True to its pedigree, it is a very light hunting rifle. Depending on barrel length and chambering, weight varies from 5 pounds, 7 ounces to 5 pounds, 13 ounces. The controlled-round-feed action and barrel of the rifle are essentially the same as those found on other Kimber rifles, but cost savings were realized by use of a composite stock with a detachable magazine and no bottom metal.
All rifles have adjustable triggers, and barrels measure 22 or 24 inches, depending on caliber. Chamberings for the Hunter include 243 Win., 308 Win., 7mm-08 Rem., 270 Win., 280 Ack. Imp., 30-06 Springfield, and 6.5 Creedmoor.
Kimber says the Hunter should meet a three-shot sub-MOA accuracy standard. When I tested one, chambered in 270 Win., two of five tested loads produced sub-MOA average groups. Surprisingly, both were with affordable hunting rounds versus the premium stuff. I also found that muzzle velocities were slightly faster than factory-stated speeds, indicating the rifle had a somewhat “fast” barrel. MSRP $891. —M.D.
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8. Springfield Armory Model 2020 Waypoint
I had a chance to hunt with the Waypoint in Colorado, and while I didn’t get a shot at an elk with it, I did carry it up and down some pretty big mountains. At around 6 pounds 12 ounces, the rifle didn’t weigh me down. Because of some features borrowed from competition rifles, like a flat forend and swelled pistol grip, the gun is easy to hold on target. And because those features are built into an AG composites carbon-fiber stock, the gun is still lively enough to take snapshots when you’re stalking through timber.
The Waypoint is also a tack-driver. From the bench, I was easily putting 3-inch groups on paper at 300 yards. Its carbon fiber barrel is different than other wrapped carbon fiber barrels because it isn’t wrapped. Instead, a thin stainless barrel is tensioned in a carbon-fiber sleave. According to Springfield, this offers the accuracy of a traditional barrel and better cool-down times so you can put in some serious work at the range. And If you don’t want to pony-up for the carbon-fiber barrel, Springfield also builds the rifle with a fluted stainless-steel barrel at a reduced price. MSRP: $1699 – $2399 —M.E.
9. Nosler M48 Mountain Carbon
Tipping the scales at 6 pounds, the Nosler M48 Mountain Carbon rifle carries one of the heftiest price tags of the rifles on our list. It also shoots like nobody’s business. When I recently tested one chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, I found it didn’t much care for 120 gr. bullets, producing average groups of 1.27 inch for two loads with 120 gr. bullets. That’s fine for hunting, but bullets in the 140 gr. class were a very different story. Three loads turned in sub-MOA average groups, and the best groups for those loads were eye-opening. All were well under half an inch, and two rounds grouped bullets into single ragged holes. That’s quite an accomplishment for any hunting rifle, let alone one that weighs so little.
Based on the Model 48 push-feed action, the rifle has a 24-inch cut-rifled, match-grade, carbon-wrapped barrel that Nosler describes as having a “light Sendero” contour. The action is both pillar-bedded and glass-bedded to the stock, which is a carbon-fiber, aramid-reinforced design. Equipped with an excellent Timney trigger, the gun has a two-position safety. An aluminum hinged-floorplate magazine holds four rounds in the short-action version and three rounds in long-action guns.
The rifle is offered in some stout cartridges, including 26 Nosler, 28 Nosler, 30 Nosler, and 33 Nosler, as well as 300 Win. Mag, so it’s a good thing the barrels are threaded to accept a muzzle brake. If you don’t want to go that route, the guns are also chambered for 6mm Creedmoor and 6.5 Creedmoor. The rifle has a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee with prescribed Nosler ammo. MSRP: $3,140. —M.D.
10. Savage 110 Ultralight
If you’re used to the Savage 110 platform, you’re going to like this new version. The 110 Ultralight gets its ultralightness from a PROOF Research carbon-fiber barrel and a skeletonized blue-printed receiver and bolt. It looks like Savage took about as much metal off of this gun as they could to bring the rifle down to a scant 6 pounds. Just like other Model 110 rifles, the Ultralight has Savage’s Accutrigger and Accufit stock, which give a shooter the ability to adjust length-of-pull and comb height at home. Savage brings all of this together for an MSRP of $1545, which is a good deal for a rifle with a carbon-fiber wrapped barrel. —M.E.
11. Tikka T3x Superlite
Fans of the old Tikka T3 Lite Stainless rifle were disappointed when the model was discontinued. It was a reliable, accurate, affordable, and lightweight hunting rifle that people like to tinker with, adding things like aftermarket bolt shrouds and trigger guards.
That light-rifle Tikka niche is now being filled by the 5.9 pound T3x Superlite, which is one of the more affordable options on our list. Tikka does not list an MSRP for the rifle, but versions made for Bass Pro and Cabelas with stainless barrels and 02 Octane camo stocks sell for $929, and rifles with black synthetic stocks sold through Sportsman’s Warehouse sell for $750.
Changes to the T3x line are extensive. They include a modular stock with interchangeable pistol grips, a new recoil pad, foam inserts in the stock to reduce noise, and a redesigned ejection port that makes it easier to load one round at a time. There’s also an improved rail attachment, a new metal bolt shroud, and a steel recoil lug.
Actions are made of stainless steel, as are the fluted barrels, which measure 22 or 24 inches in length depending on the chambering. The rifles have a two-lug bolt with a 75-degree lift for scope clearance, a single-stage adjustable trigger, and a single-column polymer magazine. The gun is chambered for 12 cartridges ranging from 223 Rem. to 300 Win. Mag. —M.D.
12. Browning X-Bolt Pro Tungsten
No, the Browning X-Bolt Pro Tungsten rifle is not made of tungsten. It takes its name from the tungsten hue of the protective Cerakote finish on the stainless steel barrel and action. Weighing in at 6 pounds, 1 ounce in rifles chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win., the rifle achieves most of its weight savings with a carbon fiber stock and a fluted, sporter-contour barrel.
The gun is chambered for nine additional cartridges, including some you might not expect, such as 6.5 PRC, 28 Nosler, 30 Nosler, and 300 Rem. Ultra Mag. Barrel length varies by caliber, from 22 to 26 inches, and so does the weight. Some of the heavy hitters will tip the scales at 6 pounds, 10 ounces, and magazine capacity in those guns is reduced from four rounds to three.
Should you choose one of the more potent chamberings, the rifle comes with a threaded barrel and muzzle brake. I have tested this rifle’s sibling, the X-Bolt Pro, in 300 Win. Mag., and found it quite comfortable to shoot. Browning calls the gun a “semi-custom” production rifle, due in part to features like a spiral fluted, three-lug bolt, a bolt handle with an enlarged knob, and a barrel that has been subjected to a proprietary lapping process. The gun still has all the attributes of the standard X-Bolt, including a 60-degree bolt throw, a bolt unlock button, Inflex recoil pad, and the Browning Feather trigger. I am a confirmed fan of the X-Lock scope-base mounting system, which doubles the number of mounting screws from four to eight. The trigger is adjustable within a range of 3 to 5 pounds. MSRP: $2,069.99. —M.D.
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13. Bergara Premier Mountain
The Spanish firm of Bergara made its reputation as a barrel-maker by marrying button rifling, an older technology, with state-of-the-art machinery and processes under the consultation of Ed Shilen, a legendary barrel-maker. Bergara started making U.S.-built custom guns in 2012, and followed that success with a couple of lines of high-quality production rifles.
I’ve had the pleasure of testing and hunting with a couple of Bergara rifles. They unfailingly shot sub-MOA groups with ammo they liked, but I found myself wishing that Bergara made some lighter rifles. That wish has come true in the form of the Premier Mountain rifle. Depending on the chambering, the rifle weighs 6.2 to 6.4 pounds. Like others on our list, it has a carbon-fiber stock and 416 stainless steel barrel and action, but it also has many features not commonly found on production guns.
The action, for example, uses a fluted, stainless steel bolt with a floating bolt head that ensures proper contact with lug abutments. The bolt nose is cone-shaped for smooth feeding, and the bolt handle, head, and shroud, along with the gas shield, have been given a nitride treatment to increase durability and lubricity.
The rifle comes with an adjustable TriggerTech trigger. Chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, 270 Win., 280 Ack. Imp., 308 Win., 30-06 Springfield, and 300 Win. Mag., barrel lengths vary from 22 to 24 inches. The capacity of the hinged-floorplate magazine is four rounds in standard chamberings and three rounds in the one magnum offering. MSRP: $2,190 —M.D.
14. Ruger American Go Wild
Okay, we fudged a bit on our self-imposed weight cutoff to get this rifle on our list. The Ruger American Go Wild rifle weighs 6.6 lbs. That’s not quite in the ultralight category, but this the most affordable gun here, and what you’ll get for your money is quite impressive. It is designed to withstand the elements with a synthetic stock, sporting a Go Wild I-M Brush pattern camo finish, and a bronze Cerakote protective finish on the barrel and action. The threaded muzzle comes with an effective 360-degree radial muzzle brake attached, and the rifle uses AI-style detachable, three-round magazines rather than the rotary magazine used on other Ruger American models.
The action, which has a full-diameter bolt body and three-lug bolt, is bedded to the stock via an integral bedding block that free-floats the barrel. The two-position safety does not lock the bolt down, and the gun has a Savage-like trigger with a blade safety. The rifle is chambered for seven popular cartridges. All have 22-inch barrels with the exception of guns chambered for .300 Win. Mag., which have 24-inch barrels.
I used one of the rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor to take a burly West Texas desert mule deer. At the range, the rifle grouped five different factory loads into one inch or less, with two loads producing best groups well below half an inch. That’s stellar performance for a hunting rifle of any weight at any price. MSRP $629. —M.D.