WHY DOES RIFLE WEIGHT MATTER?
Your rifle weight can ruin a hunting trip or a trip to the range. Just like driving an 8 second drag car to get groceries, some things are better when they’re built with a purpose. Nobody wants to carry a 20 lb rifle on an elk hunt. We’ll go over when you might want that kind of weight and what might be better for those long mountain hunts.
The weight of a rifle will change the recoil characteristics as well as the handling. A heavier rifle will heave less felt recoil than a lighter rifle of the same caliber. This means it is easier to keep on target at the bench, but can be harder to handle in alternate shooting positions.
Too light of a rifle can have a lot of effect on felt recoil. It can also be difficult to hold the rifle steady in windy conditions.rifle weight
HUNTING RIFLE WEIGHT
A hunting rifle generally weighs between 5 and 8 lbs before the scope is put on. These rifles sometimes rarely see the light of day before hunting season. When they finally do get to stretch their legs, it’s usually just to check the zero from last year.
When deer hunting, you generally have around an 8 inch target for a nice clean shot. Most factory rifles now have a 1 MOA guarantee from the factory. This level of accuracy is usually overkill for people that rarely use their rifles at over 100 yards. There are a lot of factory options under 8 lbs before you mount the glass.
Several Remington, Ruger, and Savage rifles perform very well for this kind of use right out of the box. They have tactical versions as well; while these might be great for tack driving from a bench, they get heavy really fast on a longer excursion.
This is where a light rifle is worth it’s weight in gold(or more depending on the markets). Companies like Nosler and Proof Research have changed the game when it comes to lightweight hunting rifles. Aftermarket triggers, as well as carbon fiber barrels and stocks straight from the factory make these rifles a new breed entirely.
Nosler’s new M48 Mountain Carbon Rifle comes in at 6 lbs and is amazingly balanced. In calibers like 6.5 Creedmoor, 300 Win Mag, and 33 Nosler, there’s a cartridge that will get the job done. The carbon fiber wrapped stainless steel barrel is fully free floated. This allows the barrel to be consistent regardless of the weather or time of year. This rifle comes in at 6 lbs across all models.
Proof Research took this even farther with their Elevation rifles. The Elevation is chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and weighs only 5 lbs before you mount your optic. Designed to be a small to mid-size trophy harvester, this is the lightest rifle in their hunting lineup.
These rifles can be great for stalking or a backwoods elk hunt, but may be a bit punishing at the range with larger calibers.
RIFLE WEIGHT WHEN HUNTING FROM A STAND
If you generally hunt from a stand, there are a lot of factory options that may fit your needs. Tikka makes a lot of very reliable rifles with a sub MOA guarantee. If you’re partial to Ruger or Savage, they also offer rifles with plenty of accuracy at a great price.
The Tikka T3X rifles have a mouser style action and directly feed the round into the chamber. The extractor on this style of rifle is generally much stronger than the Remington 700 style. The T3X Superlite comes with an adjustable trigger, and their module grips. This allows you to tailor the rifle to the shooter which improves comfort and consistency. Their Superlite models weigh in at around 6 lbs depending on the model.
Ruger has a great lineup with their American line of rifles as well. The standard version comes in at less than 6.5 lbs, while the American Hunter line is just over 9 lbs. These rifles all come with the Ruger Marksman Adjustable Trigger and are user adjustable between 3 and 5 lbs of pull.
The Ruger’s Power Bedding is an integral block that free-floats the barrel. This block makes a great home to their triple lug, dual cam bolt. Ruger uses a cold hammer forged barrel which provides great barrel life as well as exceptional accuracy.
AR platforms are commonly used for varmint hunting as well as wild hog control in the lower states. The weights of these rifles can vary widely as well. Some people want the lowest weight they can get and are under 6 lbs on their rifles.
Others like the Falkor Petra offer an AR platform rifle chambered in 300 Win Mag. Even with the carbon fiber barrel, this monster of a rifle weighs in at 10 lbs before an optic. A semi-auto rifle chambered in 300 Win Mag might seem like a great idea to anyone that’s ever been bear hunting.
LIGHTEST RIFLE FOR BACKPACKING
Sometimes you don’t think you’ll need a gun and don’t carry one because of it. This is exactly when Murphy will show up and you will wish you had. Even a single shot 22LR can be a life saver in a survival situation.
The Henry AR-7 is a semi-auto 22LR that packs away in it’s own stock. At 3.5 lbs and just over 16” in length this rifle is a featherweight ready for your backpack. Accurate and reliable, this rifle will be there for you in a pinch.
If you don’t mind adding an extra pound to your pack then you may be interested in the MAGPUL Backpacker for the 10/22 Takedown rifles. When stowed, this rifle hides 2 spare magazines under the cheek piece as well as a sealed area in the handle to stow a small survival kit or fire-starting supplies. You can find this stock here.
Either of these rifles can be a great option for a lightweight rifle to throw in your backpack for your next trip.
HOW MUCH DOES A BENCHREST RIFLE WEIGH?
This is where things start to get interesting. And heavy. Depending on the style of shooting, some rifles may weigh over 20 lbs. This includes lighter calibers like .223 Remington. The extra weight reduces felt recoil as well as barrel rise which gets you back on target faster after each shot.
An aluminum chassis is often used on competition and bench rest rifles. An aluminum chassis can add to the stability as well as the rifle weight. Some companies make weights that will attach to your mlok rail system and increase the weight of the rifle even more.
Different classes have different rules, so make sure you look them over before you start your build.
LIGHTWEIGHT TRUCK GUN
Just to be clear, everybody has a different picture in their head for this one. A truck gun is usually something cheap, so you don’t care that it’s getting banged around. It also needs to be reliable enough to take that abuse and keep sending rounds. What really makes the difference in this category is the overall length of the firearm.
The Mossberg 500 Tactical weighs 6.75 lbs and comes with an adjustable stock to shorten the pull by up to 4”. You can get a folding stock as well for the states that allow it, making the package even smaller.
V Seven offers an AR pistol chambered in 300 Blackout that weighs in at under 4 lbs. If you like the idea of a Ruger 10/22, a carbine with the synthetic stock comes in at 4.4 lbs. The price difference between these two may just bring a tear to your eye.
The weight of your truck gun really depends on your needs as well as how much you’re willing to pay for a rifle that you plan on abusing more than any other you own.
HOW MUCH SHOULD MY RIFLE WEIGH?
At the end of the day you want the lightest rifle that you can handle effectively for the situation you have chosen. If you can handle the abuse of a 300 Win Mag that only weighs 5 lbs for hours at the range, that rifle will be great during hunting season as well.
You may even end up building a few rifles just because you find your favorite bench gun so lacking in the woods when you’re hunting for whitetail deer. Pick a purpose for your rifle and build with that goal in mind. And never judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree.
I built a rifle to use as a long range hunting rifle. All said and done, a Remington 700 in a MAGPUL Hunter 700 Chassis weighs in at just over 10 lbs when topped with the Vortex glass. More on that build here.