"Mountain rifles" for backpack hunting


Well-Known Member
Sep 15, 2012
Mojave Desert, Nevada
Let's face it,even with good year-around conditioning backpack hunting is still all about weight.

So lowering the weight of everything is important, including your rifle. That's why my .300 Win mag Browning A-Bolt stays home this year and my 6.5 Creedmoor Ruger Amer. Predator & 5- 15 x 42 SWFA scope goes with me into the mountains.

But with an unlimited budget I'd want the following:

1. .300 WSM (or similar short magnum including 6.5 PRC )
2. lightest 3-lug bolt action available, magazine fed
3. carbon fiber stock W/aluminum bedding block/pillars
4. Proof Research CF wrapped barrel and titanium muzzle brake (needed on a light rifle)
5. Vortex Viper HD AMG scope W/Nightforce titanium one-piece rings (Yeah, lighter quality scopes are available but this is my "wet dream" scope.)
6. MAGPUL nylon modular sling W/ flush cups

OR... one could just go to Christensen Arms and buy all of this "off the rack" except it will have a 2 lug bolt.

So... how about your UL mountain rifle, real or lusted after?

Eric B.

UPDATE: After looking around and looking at my likely budget I think I have come up with a compromise to a custom mountain rifle.
Namely a Browning X-Bolt, fluted barrel and optional carbon fiber stock. Chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor (or 6.5 PRC IF available)

I compared X-Bolt rifles to SAKO Model 85 rifles and like the Brownings better for several reasons. Amazingly I liked the new Browning 3 lever trigger better than the SAKO trigger. I have one hunting rifle with a Timney trigger and two with match grade triggers so I do know bit about trigger feel.
Also I felt the X-Bolt rifles were even smoother working than the Model 85 actions.
PLUS the X-Bolt bolts had a lug at 6 o'clock to help pick up cartridges from the magazine, like almost all other 3 lug bolts. The SAKO, strangely, had a lug at 12 o'clock. (?)
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I would really look into the MOA summit rifle from Bob Beck and Extreme outer limits. At 6 pounds for a 300 win Mag bare rifle it is great. I just bought one at the end of July and killed a B&C California Columbia Blacktail with it and will be taking it to BC Sept 8th for a Mountain goat.
After I returned from my first sheep hunt, where I carried a heavy .270, I built a .300WSM M70 that weighs 7lb 4oz and I can use on anything in NA.

Then I decided to build something more for just sheep and deer. That was a 270 M700 Ti. It weighs 6lb 2oz. It is crazy accurate and just about perfect. Took it to Kodiak Island a couple weeks ago and it works at low altitude too.

I prefer to shoot the rifles I carry a good deal. These powerful cartridges in very light guns no longer appeal to me. I'd rather run 20 extra miles a week and continue to carry my 300WM Sendero on 15 mile days in the mountains.

When I can't, it will be a smaller round and shorter ranges. I've got a 358 wildcat which out-performs the Whelen from a short action which is pretty light and kicks about like the heavier 300WM. That's good enough for me. Give up range but trade raw power for bullet diameter.
How about a mountain rifle for a limited budget?

Is there such a thing as a $1000 off-the-rack model?

Weatherby makes their Vanguard Wilderness which has a street price of around $750. Fluted barrel, carbon fiber stock, and the .308 weighs in at 6.5 lbs. I'd probably cut the barrel to 20" to shed a little more weight and put a Leupold FX 6x36 on it.


Downside is the Vanguard action itself is on the heavy side, so other rifles can come in lighter, and it's not offered in any other short action calibers like 7mm-08 or 6.5 Creedmoor. It is available in .270, .30-06, .300 mag and .257 WBY, but that's more weight and recoil.

Tikka T3 Lite is also available in stainless for $700, in .308, .270, or .30-06, it weighs in at 6 1/4 lbs.
ATH sez, "...when I can't (physically handle it) it will be a smaller round at shorter ranges."

Well, I'm 73 and still backpack hunt because I stay in shape for it as well as high altitude backpacking and skiing.

But, instead of carrying my .300 Win mag Browning A-Bolt and Burris Black diamond scope as I have done, this year I'm carrying a 6.5 Creedmoor Ruger American Predator and a SWFA 5-15 42 mil./mil. scope. (For mule deer and anterless elk.)

So now I'm thinking, since this rifle is so accurate, that I may later on put a Proof Research carbon fiber wrapped barrel on it. And, if available by then, a carbon fiber stock.

In any case I have gone more than one pound lighter than my Browning A-Bolt and still have the same trajectory. But with 143 gr. ELD-X bullets I'll limit my range to 600 yards.

** I have 10x Bushnell Fusion ! Mile laser range finding binoculars to assist me in accurate distance measurement.
But the "ballistic drop info" I've programmed into them from Bushnell's online charts is a bit off so I've had Vortex print me a "Drop Disc" for my ocular scope cap for quick reference. It has the true ballistics in it.

Eric B.
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So now I'm thinking, since this rifle is so accurate, that I may later on put a Proof Research carbon fiber wrapped barrel on it. And, if available by then, a carbon fiber stock.

I would speak with MPI. They will make you a custom stock for about any rifle. They made me a carbon fiber stock for a Savage long action. I could not buy that anywhere. Weight is 20 oz. I think the McMillan Edge comes in at 22 oz. The stock is light and extremely stiff. They do good work.

Seems aluminum bedding blocks are heavy in any stock. For a light stock for a mountain rifle it is best to avoid the bedding block IMO.

The first time I backpacked Wyoming's Rockies I carried a 10lb 7MM Rem Mag. The following year I had a Featherweight in .308 Win. After I bought that rifle, I learned that there are no free rides. That Featherweight shooting 165 grain bullets recoils at least as much as my much heavier 7MM Rem Mag. While I've killed mule deer with that Featherweight, I should have gone with a 7MM-08 Rem or even a .243 Win. Light rifles in large calibers will have noticeable recoil.

About four years ago I was at a So Cal range sighting in my .308 Win for a Utah mule deer hunt. There was a well put-up, studly dude of about 35 years shooting next to me. The blast of his rifle indicated he was shooting a big gun. It was a brand new Savage with a synthetic stock chambered for .300 Win Mag. I could see he was having recoil issues. I loaned him my rifle rests. He fired a few more times. He had an at least 6" group, high and left. I asked him if he were going to continue sighting in his rifle. He said he couldn't because his shoulder was too sore.

He was leaving the following day on a Montana mule deer hunt. He reflected upon his brand new rifle. He wasn't going to use it. He was going to use his uncle's .25-06 Rem.

In my opinion, killing big game is about confidence. Bench shooting builds confidence. Flinching screws with confidence.

On my last elk hunt, I killed a massive bull, a bull of a lifetime. I hit him through his heart with a 160 grain Partition from my 7MM Rem Mag. I saw his front legs buckle. I knew he was hit hard. My guide thought that I had missed. I told him that that bull was dead on his feet. He walked over to where the bull had been when I shot him. There was a huge blood spatter pattern on the exit side. He found the bull about a hundred yards from where I shot him, dead. The point is my .270 Win would have produced the identical outcome. So from here on out, I'll be hunting everything with a .270 Win. It's a lot lighter with a lot less recoil.
I agree that bedding blocks like I have in my HS Precision .300 Win mag target rifle do have unnecessary weight. That's been cleverly overcome by Ruger with its two V blocks that combine action bedding and pillar bedding. When I get a Boyd's Classic laminated stock (yeah, a bit heavy) for my Ruger Amer. Predator it comes with the two V blocks. I'll use Marine-Tex filled epoxy to bed them.

Maybe I'll get MPI to make me a CF stock with V blocks supplied by Ruger or Boyds. Thanks for the tip.

Yeah, I hear you regarding magnums, weight and recoil. My 6.5 Creedmoor Ruger Amer.Predator could be lighter if I had bought the regular American model with the lighter barrel. But the 140 gr. 6.5 Creedmoor is a lighter recoiling rifle than the .308 version and it will kill elk dead too with proper shot placement (within 400 yards).
Heck, with a lousy shot you can wound an elk with a .330 Win mag and it will get away so big calibers and magnum casings aren't always the answer either.

Gotta say, I'm becoming a believer in the flat shooting little 6.5 Creedmoor. I now have two rifles in that caliber, the Predator and a Ruger Precision Rifle. Yeah, I could get a super fast, super flat shooting 6.5/284 but then the recoil jumps way up. And for what?

Eric B.
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I built the only two mountain rifles I'll likely ever have over the last couple years. I just got both home about a month ago. I haven't drawn a western tag since 2013 so my hunting budget has gone into glass and these rifles, now I'm done buying and back to hunting! I have the next 4 years planned out if point creep doesn't nail me.

The first is Kimberly, a re-barreled Kimber 84L Montana. It was originally a 280 Ackley that I couldn't get to shoot under 3" groups. I bought it used and that's likely why it was for sale. I tried Nosler factory ammo in 140 and 150gr weights, plus several handloads and it was a consistent 3-5" gun. I had a great shooting but heavier Winchester M70 in 270 Win with a 25" #3 fluted Pac-Nor barrel. I talked to my gunsmith and he put the 270 barrel on the Kimber, turning it down at the base and shortening it to 24". It shoots as good as ever, and at almost the same speed with the Nosler 130gr Accubond factory loads at 2964fps, or my 2950fps 140gr Accubond handloads. I plan to shoot the 130's from it because the recoil on that load is significantly lighter and I shoot it better. The rifle weighs 6lbs 14oz with a Leupold VXIII 4.5-14x40 CDS scope in Leupold rings/bases. With ammo and a light sling it stays under 7.5lbs ready to hunt. The gunsmith added a little weight stiffening up the factory stock so the forend won't contact the barrel when using a bipod. It turned out exactly as I hoped, only thing I might do after hunting season is cerakote the stainless metal. I wanted to make sure it shot before spending the extra money on that.

On a side note the gunsmith had a Montana 25-06 #4 barrel he had ordered for a guy who never built a rifle that was already cryoaccurized. It found a home on my M70 and my wife has a new antelope rifle, plus I'll use it for windy day coyote calling. It is shooting excellent with 100gr TTSX factory ammo, might not even load for it.

The second is a Rifles Inc lightweight 70 in 300 win mag. I had it modified slightly going with a fluted #3 barrel instead of their standard lightweight barrel. I also had a Jewell trigger and extended magazine box installed. It weighs 7lbs 4oz with the Swaro Z5 3.5-18x in Talley rings/bases. It shoots the 180gr Accubonds at 2950fps and should be ideal for elk and larger critters. It has a brake to tame the recoil and I'll likely never shoot it without that brake. The stock is their brown camo, and the metal is cerakoted burnt bronze. It is a really nice shooting and feeling rifle, the little bit of extra barrel weight really seems to make it easier to shoot from field positions for me. It is a half inch gun if I do my part.

Having both they can be each other's back-up rifle on mountain hunts. I'll likely stick with the 270 for everything smaller than elk unless I'm hunting somewhere really thick where I might want the extra penetration of the 300 on a tough angle. Elk I'll plan to use the 300, but the 270 will do fine also with the Accubonds if I stick to broadside shots.

I don't see either as an extreme range rifle. If I want more reach I'll pack one of the heavier 264WM's I have with Bergers or ELD-X bullets that I have set-up for that. I have turrets on both of these light rifles and can hit my 10" gong to 500yds reliably. I paint the gong each trip so I can see my hits and make sure my groups are tight and centered. My last trip to shoot the gong I shot 350-500yds at 50yd intervals without a miss, next time I plan to shoot 450-600yds and see how they do. With this heat and the lighter barrels I only get so much shooting in each trip. In the field I'll let how steady I can get and the wind determine how far I shoot but will keep it inside the 600yd max for these rifles assuming they perform well at 600 in future practice sessions.
I like the discussions and for a long time I wanted a take down sheep rifle.I looked at the European stuff -too costly and pretty for a mountain hunter.Great quality though .A few years ago I bought a Browning BLR takedown and did many improvisions until I settled with a .270 win with a 19" barrel a shortened length of pull,overall 39".I put a Burris 2 to 7 Scout scope on it.This rifle always holds point of impact after reassembly,I can take it down and put it away in a storm and it's no longer than my 30/30.The 19"barrel still gets 3000 fps with a 130 Barnes lrx. Great take down experiment and it is my go to now for everything.Cheers
☝️Well that escalated quickly...

Anyways, I had my ideal hunting rifle built by GA Precision...it's basically a clone to their Xtreme Hunter, except I got mine in .300 WSM. Even with the Swaro X5 it weighs just under 10 pounds. That's enough for me to feel stable on long shots, but light enough to not bog me down humping up and down the mountain. Shoots 190 grain VLD's well into .5 MOA...

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