How to Breathe New Life into an Old Deer Rifle

(Photo courtesy of
(Photo courtesy of

Don't have the extra funds to replace your deer rifle? No fret, we have tips for you to bring your old deer rifle back to life

Driven by quantum leaps in the capabilities of rangefinders, riflescopes and super-accurate factory ammo, “average” hunting rifles have morphed into a much different beast than you’d see in deer camp even 20 years ago. Even so-called budget models offer outstanding accuracy and a few cutting-edge features, and upper-crust stuff from the custom and semi-custom rifle word sport features that increase accuracy to mind-boggling precision coupled with ergonomic features that assist skillful riflemen in milking the most out of their chosen tool.

But what if you don’t have $3,000-plus to drop on a premium hunting rifle loaded with bells and whistles and sporting match-grade components?

Not to worry. With a few dollars, a few evenings at the workbench, and some elbow grease you can exponentially increase the accuracy and the shootability of your existing bolt-action deer rifle. I did just that recently with an old Ruger M77 chambered in 7mm Remington Magnum.

The Project Rifle

Of the early tang safety design, it was a decent-enough rifle, but had a heavy trigger, no recoil pad to speak of, recoiled horribly hard courtesy of poor stock design, and just didn’t shoot the way I thought it should. Many times two shots out of a three-shot group would land close together, but the third would stray and open the group to 1.75 or 2.00 inches. The rifle wanted to shoot well, but was handicapped by that old wood stock and tough trigger. The action needed glass bedding, the fore-end needed free-floating, and heavens-to-Betsy, it needed a new trigger. Plus, there were a few other tricks I could turn to bring the best out of it.

To turn an old rifle into a modern tack-driver, you’ve got to enhance the rifle’s accuracy, and you’ve got to enhance the features that help you shoot it well. Here’s how I approached the project:


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