Bolt-Action Rifle Selection Tips

  • Jack Collins

They’re one of the simplest, most abundant, and most useful types of firearms out there. No, we’re not talking about the Mark 19 automatic grenade launcher. Instead, we’re going to be talking about bolt guns. We’ll join SDI’s Dean of Firearms Technology, Jarred McNeely, as he explains what to look for when selecting your first bolt-action rifle.

Choosing Your First Bolt-Action Rifle

One of the most helpful pieces of information that Jarred shares right off the bat is that he’s not going to dive into a specific make and model of gun. Instead, he only intends to go over specific things to look for when buying a bolt gun.

Image courtesy of Auckland Museum

This is actually a pretty huge—and helpful—piece of information. If you’ve ever done research on the internet (looking at you, Reddit), chances are you’ll find some random stranger telling you a certain brand is “good to go” while another brand will explode like a grenade in your hands the first time you fire it. In reality, a lot of brands just come down to personal preference. Here are some more concrete factors to look at.


The first thing that Jarred mentions is a gun’s magazine. This essentially describes how the gun is fed. Some guns don’t even have magazines—they’re just single-shot. But for those that do, they fall into one of three categories.

Blind Mag Box: If you didn’t know it was there, you’d assume the gun had no magazine. You’ll load ammo from the top of the gun, where it will enter an internal magazine. Blind mag boxes are great from an aesthetic standpoint because they don’t interrupt the wood grain of your rifle.

Hinged Floorplate: Great from a utilitarian standpoint. You can open a trap door on the bottom of the gun that will allow you to add or remove cartridges from it.

Detachable Magazine: A detachable magazine is what you’re familiar with if you come from the world of semi-auto guns. You’ll load the magazine itself, then insert it into the gun to begin shooting. Detachable mags are great since you can carry more than one at a time.


Jarred makes some great points about how to choose a stock for your first bolt-action rifle. Some say wood is prettier than a synthetic stock. Others will swear by synthetic stocks since it’s easy to camouflage them for your environment. Ultimately, you should choose your stock based on your application.

Attachments and Accessories

Finally, Jarred mentions that you should consider what kind of attachments or accessories you want to add to your first bolt-action rifle. Sometimes, the super high-end, expensive guns have a pretty limited selection when it comes to scopes or a bipod. Make sure to pick a bolt-action rifle that will be able to use all the accessories you need!

Final Thoughts on Bolt Guns

Jarred has one big takeaway from his video. When it comes to choosing your first bolt-action rifle, you’re going to want to choose the best features for your own applications. Think about how you’re going to use the rifle, then work backwards from there.

Want to learn more about the best bolt-action rifle selection tips directly from Jarred? You can find his full video breakdown here.

Expand Your Firearms Knowledge with SDI

Choosing your first bolt-action rifle is an exciting step in your own journey with firearms. But it’s just part of the massive planet that is the gun community. And if you want to learn more about the world of firearms tech, SDI has you covered. Discover the degrees and certificates in firearms technology (and other exciting topics) when you explore our full list of available programs.

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