best hunting gear

The best hunting rifles and ammunition are the key gear for your hunting trip. The Editors and expert hunters at Hunt Alaska have selected their favorite firearms and ammunition to get the job done.

Best Hunting Firearms & Ammunition

best hunting rifle
Henry Long Ranger, 6.5 Creedmoor H014S

“Bolt-action performance with the speed of a lever action.” That is what Henry had in mind while developing the Long Ranger series of lever-action rifles. New to the series, the 6.5 Creedmoor version is sure to be popular. The Long Ranger features a free-floating 22” sporter barrel (for the 6.5 Creedmoor; the other calibers have a 20” barrel); flush-fit detachable box magazine so it can fire pointed bullets with a higher ballistic coefficient than tubular magazine lever actions can fire; beautiful, checkered walnut stock; either with or without iron sights; drilled and tapped for scope mounts; and a solid rubber recoil pad. The stock on our test gun featured surprisingly nice walnut. On our test rifle, we installed a Henry Picatinny Rail to which we mounted a Skinner Optics 1-6 x 24 scope. We also added a small pic rail at the fore swivel stud to enable the use of a Swagger SF-10 Bipod. The combination of the Long Ranger with the features mentioned above, plus the optic and bipod, resulted in a rifle that is very light and maneuverable, yet capable of reaching out much farther than your typical lever gun.

best hunting rifle
Oregon Mountain Rifle Co. Semi-Custom 6.5 PRC

For this semi-custom build, we started with a Savage 110 Storm in .300 WSM. We used the 110 Storm for the chassis as it is relatively inexpensive, and very adjustable (comb height, length of pull, and adjustable trigger). We sent the rifle to Oregon Mountain Rifle Co. (OMR) and had them install one of their match-grade, pre-fit, carbon-fiber barrels in 6.5 PRC. OMR added one of their 2.0 Stainless Steel Muzzle Brakes and shipped it back. Editor George Krumm mounted a Leupold VX-5HD 3-15×44 scope on it and headed to a range. During a hurried break-in/sight-in session just before a November deer hunt, the new rifle shot a ¾”, 5-shot group at 100 yards using factory Hornady Precision Hunter 143-grain ELD-X bullets. Who knows how well this rifle will shoot with practice and possible load development!

best hunting rifle
Black Hills Ammunition Black Hills Gold .243 Winchester 95 Gr. Hornady SST

While hunting in the southeast Alaska rainforest on Prince of Wales Island, Publisher Marcus Weiner had the chance to take a Sitka blacktail with the Black Hills Ammunition Black Hills Gold .243 Winchester 95 Gr. Hornady SST round. Without brown bears in the area, Marcus chose to hunt with a smaller caliber rifle than the standard .300 Win Mag that he uses on Kodiak. At 80 yards through some brush, this round had enough punch to knock over this mature blacktail buck. The round leaves the muzzle at 2,950 fps and produces energy of 1,835 ft-lbs. Consider this caliber for new shooters as the recoil is minimal.

HEVI-Metal Xtreme

Contributing Editor Scott Haugen spends many days hunting each year. After another year in the field, he shared, “I tested a number of shotgun loads last season, and the most impressive was HEVI-Shot’s new HEVI-Metal Xtreme. HEVI-Metal Xtreme is a layered load that consists of 30% HEVI-Shot’s original 12g/cc HEVI-XII tungsten pellets stacked over 70% steel pellets. The dense tungsten pellets are three shot sizes smaller than the steel pellets they are paired with which ensures both layers have equal, highly efficient, and complimentary downrange performance. And what pushes this stacked payload is one of the most revolutionary wads to ever come along, Federal’s FLIGHTCONTROL FLEX wad. I shot puddlers, diving ducks, and late-season geese with it, and it’s the best performing load I’ve shot. I’m hoping to try it next season on eiders.”