7 Old School Deer Rifles That Can Still Bring Home the Venison

I’ve been deer hunting since I was a teenager, so I’ve had the opportunity to see quite a few changes in the sport, especially when it comes to popular rifles and calibers. These days, at every SHOT Show, there are new deer hunting calibers or rifle models introduced. With the newer calibers, there seems to be a trend toward dual-purpose or multi-purpose use, as many of these new calibers can also be used for long-range shooting.

7 Old School Deer Rifles that still work on deer

However, as these new rifles are introduced, scores of older-style deer rifle models and calibers are beginning to fade out. It’s really a shame, as I’m old enough to remember when several of these old-school rifles were at their peak of popularity. It’s even sadder when I visit pawn shops or gun stores and see some fine examples of these older rifle models just gathering dust on the rack.

Here are 7 of my favorite “old school” deer rifles that can and will put some venison in your freezer. Keep in mind that these are just a few old-school models that I like, and there are plenty more that I haven’t mentioned or didn’t make my list.

Remington 7600 Pump Action Rifle

Remington 7600 Synthetic

Introduced in 1981, the 7600 was an updated version of the Remington Model 760 Pump. The 7600 was a pump-action centerfire rifle with a detachable box magazine. The standard 7600 model features a blued barrel and walnut stock.

The success of the original 7600 model led Remington to offer several variants, including the following:

  • 7600 Synthetic
  • 7600 Carbine
  • 7600 Special Purpose
  • 7600P Patrol Rifle
  • 7615 Police Patrol

The 7600 was available in many excellent deer-taking calibers, including:

  • .243 Winchester
  • .270 Winchester
  • .30-06 Springfield
  • .308 Winchester
  • .280 Remington
  • .35 Whelen
  • .35 Remington

In addition to these calibers, Remington also offered certain 7600 variant rifles in the following calibers:

  • .223 Remington
  • 6mm Remington

These rifles came equipped with open sights, but a scope could be mounted as well.

The pump action offered a quick follow-up shot or shots, and the 7600s were surprisingly accurate.

One of my uncles owned a 7600 in 30-06, and he swore by that rifle. He also used it to take deer, elk, moose, and an Alaskan Caribou. I eventually picked one of these up when I was younger, but it was chambered in .35 Whelen. While it was a great deer gun, I ended up selling it because the .35 Whelen ammo was somewhat hard to find (even back then).

Remington offered the Model 7600 up until they went bankrupt in 2020. When the original Remington Outdoors company went under and was sold, the new Remington Arms company has yet to reintroduce the Model 7600 to the public (at the time of this post).

Given the popularity of bolt action rifles, it’s possible that the pump-action 7600 rifle won’t be seen on the market again.

Over the years, I’ve seen several used and pre-owned 7600 models for sale, so they are still out there and available. For example, my last search for 7600s on Gunbroker showed 63 models listed for auction.

If you like a pump action rifle, the 7600 is hard to beat.

Remington 7400 Semi-Automatic Rifle or Model 750 Semi-Automatic Rifle

Remington 7400 Chambered in .270

Another old school rifle I like is the Remington 7400, which is a semi-automatic sporter rifle chambered in several popular centerfire calibers.

The Model 7400 was introduced by Remington in 1981 and was designed to replace the Remington Model Four rifle.

The standard 7400 rifles featured blued steel and a wooden stock. Remington would later introduce other 7400 variants, including:

  • 7400 Carbine – Which featured a shorter 18-inch barrel.
  • 7400 Synthetic – Instead of wood, this model features fiberglass stock. The 7400 Synthetic was offered in the standard 22-inch barrel and the shorter 18-inch Carbine barrel.
  • 7400 Special Purpose – This version was only produced from 1993 to 1994 and featured a special finish and sling swivels. The Special Purpose version is probably the least common of all the 7400 rifles.

The 7400 features a 3-shot detachable box magazine, so the rifle has a maximum capacity of 4 rounds.

Remington offered the 7400 in almost the same caliber options as its pump-action 7600 cousin above, including:

  • 6mm Remington
  • .243 Winchester
  • .270 Winchester
  • 7mm Remington Express
  • .280 Remington
  • .30-06 Springfield
  • .308 Winchester
  • .35 Whelen

Something worth noting on the 7400 rifles: they won’t cycle modern-day reduced recoil loads. I’ve tested this in a .243 and .270 Model 7400, and neither would properly cycle any reduced recoil rounds.

Remington produced the 7400 from 1981 to 2004. When the 7400 was phased out in 2004, Remington replaced it with the Model 750.

The Model 750 is basically a 2nd generation Model 7400 with an improved gas-operated action. The Model 750 was offered in three versions:

  • Model 740 Standard
  • Model 750 Woodsmaster
  • Model 750 Synthetic

With the 750 rifle series, Remington parsed down the caliber offerings to the following calibers:

  • .243 Winchester
  • .270 Winchester
  • .308 Winchester
  • .30-06 Springfield
  • .35 Whelen

Most of the 750 rifles feature a detachable magazine that holds between 7-10 rounds (depending on the caliber). In addition, some of the synthetic models came with an integrated internal box magazine with a three-round capacity.

Remington manufactured the Model 750 from 2006 to 2015.

Both of these semi-auto models are excellent deer rifles and have harvested thousands of deer over the years.

Ruger Model 44 Carbine (Deerstalker & Deerfield)

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Introduced by Ruger in 1961, the Model 44 Carbine was a semi-automatic rifle chambered in the .44 Remington Magnum. While the .44 Rem. Mag was a short-range caliber for deer; it was an effective deer cartridge at distances of 100 yards or less.

The Model 44 Carbine was initially called the Deerstalker, but Ruger was forced to drop that name based on a lawsuit from the Ithaca Gun Company. Ruger changed the name to the Model 44 Carbine until the rifle was discontinued in 1985.

The Deerstalker featured a 3-shot tubular magazine with a maximum capacity of 3+1. This design resembled a Ruger 10/22 (although the Model 44 Carbine predates the 10/22) or an M1 Carbine.

Although the Deerstalker model was discontinued in 1985, Ruger introduced a replacement model in 2000 called the Ruger Deerfield Carbine or Ruger Model 99/44. The Deerfield carbine was different from the Deerstalker as the Deerfield used a 4-shot rotary magazine (like the 10/22 rotary magazine).

Like the Deerstalker, the Model 99/44 was also only chambered in .44 Remington Magnum (also called .44 Magnum). The Deerfield rifle was manufactured from 2000 to 2006.

Although some modern-day deer hunters might have second thoughts about using a .44 Magnum for deer, I can attest that it’s an excellent short-distance deer caliber as I’ve witnessed several deer being harvested that that caliber.

These rifles have two potential drawbacks:

  1. Ruger no longer produces or offers any parts support for these models.
  2. These models are somewhat uncommon, so they sometimes command top dollar.

Remington Model 788

Remington 788 chambered in 270 Winchester

When most hunters or shooters think of a Remington bolt action rifle, they immediately think of the venerable Remington Model 700. However, Remington produced some excellent bolt action rifles besides the 700 series.

Introduced in 1967, the Remington Model 788 was offered as a more budget-friendly bolt action option to compete with entry hunting rifles from other rival gun brands. The 788 is basically a dressed-down Model 700 rifle minus some features.

The 788 was offered in the following calibers:

  • .222 Remington
  • .223 Remington
  • .22-250 Remington
  • .243 Winchester
  • 6mm Remington
  • 7mm-08 Remington
  • .308 Winchester
  • .30-30 Winchester
  • .44 Remington Magnum

While not all those calibers were optimal for deer hunting, several were outstanding deer calibers.

Remington introduced a few variants of the Model 788, including:

  • 788 Carbine with 18 ½” barrel (These were only available in the .243, 7mm08, and .308)
  • A left-handed version in 6mm and .308 calibers

Although the Model 700 was (and still is) Remington’s flagship bolt action line, the 788 rifles were highly accurate for the money.

Another interesting point with the 788s: they were one of the few bolt action rifles that were chambered for 30-30, and you can still come across one of the 30-30 versions occasionally.

Over the years, I’ve encountered several used 788 rifles in pawn shops and gun stores. In the right calibers, these are fantastic deer rifles just waiting to be taken into the woods.

Marlin 336 Lever-Action

Marlin 336 chambered in the classic 30-30 caliber

Honestly, there are several old-fashion lever guns that could fill this spot, including:

  • Winchester 94
  • Savage 99
  • Winchester 1894

However, I’m partial to the Marlin 336 because it was my first deer rifle and the rifle I used to take my first deer.

The 336 lever action rifle was introduced in 1948 and quickly became a top seller for Marlin Firearms. The 336 was designed as a less expensive competitor to Winchester’s Model 94. Over the years, Marlin has offered versions of the 336 in several different calibers, including:

  • .219 Zipper
  • .307 Winchester
  • .30-30 Winchester
  • .35 Remington
  • .338 Marlin Express
  • .356 Winchester
  • .375 Winchester
  • .44 Magnum

However, the 336 is the most popular and best known as a .30-30 lever gun, so .30-30 is its most common caliber.

In addition to being offered in several different calibers, Marlin also offered the 336 in several different versions and variants:

  • 336 Trapper – A carbine version with a shorter 16 or 18-inch barrel.
  • Marlin-Glenfield – These models were marketed under the Glenfield name and were a less expensive version of the 336. To differentiate between the 336 models, these were sold as a Glenfield 30 series and included some variants like a 30A and 30AW.
  • J.C Higgins – This was a 336 version Marlin did for Sears and was listed as a J.C Higgins Model 45 or Model 50 (depending on the barrel length).
  • Marlin/Wal-Mart – Marlin also offered a less expensive, plain-jane version of the 336 that was only sold at Wal-marts. This model was called the 336W or Model 30AW.
  • 336 SS – This was a stainless-steel version of the 336.
  • 336 XLR – The 336 XLR series was a specialty version from Marlin featuring a grey and black laminate stock mated to a stainless-steel action.

In 2007, Remington Arms purchased Marlin Firearms and continued to produce the 336. However, in 2020, Remington Arms filed for bankruptcy, so production of the Model 336 was halted. At the end of 2020, Sturm Ruger purchased the Marlin brand from Remington. Ruger reintroduced the Model 336 in 2022, but only in the classic 30-30 caliber.

The 336 (especially in the 30-30 caliber) has been used to harvest thousands of deer since the 1950s. It’s a great short-range rifle for shots in the 100-to-150-yard range. With modern 30-30 ammunition, it’s possible to extend the range of the 30-30 out to 250 yards.

The bankruptcy issue and Ruger acquisition of Marlin appeared to drive up the price of the older Marlin-made 336 rifles, so they are not a budget-friendly option anymore. However, you can still find some reasonable prices on used 336 rifles here and there.

Ruger Number 1

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Typically speaking, I’ve never been a massive fan of single-shot actions, although I do own a few. However, one single-shot model that sticks out in my mind is the Ruger No. 1. One of my uncles hunted with a friend who only used a Ruger No. 1 in .257 Roberts, and I can still remember him saying that it “only takes one shot, if you know what you’re doing.” And, over the years, I saw him take several deer with a single well-placed shot.

I always admired the challenge and level of confidence that was required to hunt comfortably with a single shot. Unfortunately, I don’t consider myself a great shot, so I rarely hunt with a single shot these days, especially as I’ve gotten older and my vision continues to decline.

Ruger introduced the No. 1 series in 1966 and still produces this rifle today. One of the really cool things I like about the No.1 rifles is the fact that they feature a tang-mounted safety, which I find much more convenient than a traditional cross-bolt safety.

From a caliber perspective, I doubt you’ll find a deer rifle available in a wider variety of calibers. At one time, the Number 1 rifles were available in nearly 75 different calibers ranging from a .22 Hornet up to several .400 caliber options (.458 Lott, .475 Linebaugh, etc.).

These days, Ruger has slowed down production on the no. 1 models and only offers a few styles in select few calibers each year.

In addition to the vast number of caliber options, the no. 1 rifles were also available in different versions, including:

  • Standard
  • Light Sporter
  • Medium Sporter
  • Varminter
  • Tropical
  • International

The biggest drawback to the Number 1 rifle is the cost. These rifles were relatively expensive when brand new, and since Ruger has slowed down production on it, the no. 1 rifles now command a pretty penny. So, expect to pay north of $1000 for a used one and even more for a rare model or one chambered in a rare caliber.

Browning BAR Semi-Automatic Rifle

Image Credit: Browning

When it comes to a semi-automatic sporting rifle that can handle magnum calibers with ease, the Browning BAR rifle is near the top of most lists. There aren’t that many semi-auto sporting rifles in production that can routinely handle loads like a .300 Winchester Magnum or a .338 Winchester Magnum.

Browning introduced the BAR rifle in 1967. From 1967 to 1976, the BAR rifles were manufactured in Belgium. Then, in 1976, Browning shifted production of the BAR models over to Japan. Having handled both Belgium and Japan-made BARs, I honestly can’t tell any difference between the two.

When the BAR sporting rifle was first introduced, Browning offered it in the following calibers:

  • .30-06 Springfield
  • .270 Winchester
  • .308 Winchester
  • .243 Winchester

Over time, Browning opted to offer the BAR in additional calibers, including:

  • 25-06 Remington
  • 7mm Remington Magmun
  • .300 Winchester Magnum
  • .338 Winchester Magnum

Browning also offered the BAR rifles in a few different versions, including the following:

Original BAR Models – These rifles were produced from 1967 to 1995. This generation of the BARs was also available in a Grade I and a Grade II. The Grade II models featured nicer wood and some engraving on the receiver.

BAR Mark II – In 1995, Browning introduced the Mark II version of the BAR. From an appearance standpoint, the Mark II models looked nearly identical to the original BAR models, except that the Mark II models were only available in one grade. In addition, some of the Mark II models were also equipped with a factory muzzle brake called the B.O.S.S, which stood for “Ballistically Optimized Shooting System.” The Mark II models were phased out in 2009.

BAR MK 3 – In 2010, Browning introduced the 3rd generation of the BAR series called the BAR MK 3. This series features a redesign of the rifle, so it looks more futuristic. Rifles in this series are available in either wood or composite stocks. The MK 3 series is the current series that is still in production at Browning.

I always found the BAR rifles to be on the heavy side but extremely well-built. In my experience, the BARs were not ammo finicky and would cycle almost any ammunition.

The Belgium-made models are the most popular and command the highest prices on the market. However, if you are interested in an older BAR, the Japanese-made models are less expensive and appear to be just as well-made.

There you have my top 7 old skool deer rifles that are still quite capable of putting deer meat in your freezer.