Bolt Action vs Semi-Auto for Hunting: Which is Better?

Among all the studies and tests, we question whether one is better, the semi-automatic rifle or the bolt action rifle? The majority go with the bolt action rifle due to the accuracy over comfort and style of the semi-automatic rifle.

However, there are factors on both sides that make each argument interesting. It leaves the buyer coming up with a tough decision on which rifle is the better one. Perhaps we can help.

Are Semi-Automatic Rifles Good for Hunting?

Yes, semi-automatic rifles are an excellent choice for hunting. It also depends on what is being hunted. Naturally, one would not use a semi-automatic for hunting small game.

When the bullet comes out of the barrel, it is spinning at a high velocity and severely damages the meat as the bullet enters and exits the game. A game like deer, wild hogs, turkey, and other larger animals are fit for semi-automatic rifles.  

Facts About Using a Semi-Automatic Rifle for Hunting

  1. A semi-automatic with a magazine allows for error on a missed shot. In a split second, the empty cartridge is ejected, and the next bullet is automatically in the chamber, ready to fire. This ensures the clean kill.

  2. When hunting dangerous game, semi-automatic rifles are the best for hunting. When I am hunting, the last thing I want is to get caught trying to load my rifle when about to be attacked. Many animals who are grazed with the first shot can become aggressive. A semi-automatic offers as many bullets in little time as necessary to keep the hunter safe.

  3. The semi-automatic hunting rifles have 2,700 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. This offers more than enough power to fire off the bullet for a clean kill. 

  4. When firing at the target game, the effective range is good for up to 600 yards. Once again, this allows the hunter to come home with the game. 

  5. For each pull of the trigger, one bullet is fired. This also allows to recover a missed or grazed shot when hunting. Within a split second, a second-round can be fired. It is good because the shooter will not have to go for long trials to find the dead game. It will be guaranteed both quick and safe. The animal will not have to suffer long and the hunter will not have to go all over the woods in search of the game. It will drop immediately with a clean kill.   

  6. It takes a total of one to three seconds to reload. This allows the hunter to correct a shot if they miss the first one. The rifle ejects the empty cartridge and puts the next bullet in the chamber.  

Are Bolt Action Rifles Good for Hunting? 

Bolt action rifles are an excellent choice for hunting if you are a skilled hunter who rarely misses a shot. It takes three to six seconds for the proficient user to exchange the empty cartridge for a new bullet. It can take up to ten to 15 seconds, if not longer, for the inexperienced. The user must remove the cartridge and replace it with a new bullet manually, which takes longer than a semi-automatic. 

Facts About Using a Bolt-Action Rifle for Hunting

  1. The most popular rifle statistic-wise is the Remington 700, which is a bolt-action hunting rifle. Since they were released on the market, they have been at the top of the hunters’ list, even over the semi-automatics. It is good for the lightweight, easy to load and shoot. It is also one of the most accurate bolt action rifles. 

  2. The accuracy for a bolt-action rifle is 1,000 yards. This is equivalent to ten football fields. It is one of the longest-range shots made available to hunters. 

  3. A bolt-action rifle is powerful enough to kill bison and bears with a single shot to the head. The bolt-action is a mid-range weapon. This means it will only take one shot to kill if hit in the right spot. Most of the time, it takes a headshot to kill powerful creatures. It is good because the hunter remains safe with a quick and clean kill. Once the large animal is injured, they become deadly and very dangerous. A powerful rifle such as the bolt action will keep the animal from suffering before death and the hunter will also live to hunt again. 

  4. When it comes to any game, the first shot is the one that matters. If the first shot is missed, chances are you lose the game because of the time frame it takes to reload the chamber. Everything is done manually, which takes longer. The fun part of this rifle is the skill it takes to shoot and hit the target. That is the thrill of the hunt. 

Can a Semi-Auto Be as Accurate as a Bolt Action?

Semi automatic vs Bolt acvtion rifle

Much debate has taken place on whether a semi-automatic is more accurate than a bolt-action. As it stands now, bolt-action has the upper hand when it comes to accuracy.

However, there are different variables to look into that have many hunters wondering. The factors are with the firearm itself and the ammunition used. Listed below are the arguments that leave questions if the semi-auto can surpass the bolt action.

  • Moving components
  • Gas release
  • Recoil

Moving Components

Considering the moving components between the two rifles, it deals with the preference of the shooter. The bolt actions have a single moving component operated only by the hunter, while the semi-auto has more than one from the lower and upper receiver. The support hand can cause the rifle to move up, down, or side to side. This involuntary movement affects both rifles’ accuracy. 

Gas Release  

The gas release from the bullet fired from inside the chamber of a bolt action plays a role in accuracy. The amount of force coming from the burning charge and the gasses expanding send the bullet down the barrel. Some of that energy is projected from the shooter. For the semi-auto, the energy used to send the bullet is part of the cycle.  


The recoil has only one stage once the trigger is pulled, and it comes from the back of the rifle to the shoulder area. Three stages of recoil come from semi-automatic rifles when the trigger is pulled, the back of the rifle as the bullet leaves the muzzle, one more to the back of the rifle as the bolt hits the buffer, then the bolt slams in a forward motion as it takes another cartridge.

Do Hunters Prefer Bolt Action? 

Once again, it depends on the preference of each individual. Perhaps looking at the pet peeves of the hunter could deliver the best answer. If the hunter prefers accuracy with a single action, they will choose the bolt action over the semi-automatic.

On the other hand, if the hunter likes the idea of not worrying about the chamber and reloading if they have a magazine, they will go with the semi-automatic. 

Once again, beginners would prefer a better second chance if they miss. Some skilled shooters prefer second chances. However, those in it for the target will like the bolt action better.

Should I Get a Bolt Action or Semi-Auto? 

Whether you are a beginner or a skilled shooter, always weigh your options with the pros and cons.

Pros Bolt-Action 

  • Dependable: They are reliable rifles
  • Accurate: More accurate than a semi-auto
  • Versatile: Any caliber rifle can be found on the market

Cons Bolt-Action

  • Recoil: Kicks like a mule
  • Pain in the Shoulder: Hurts the shoulder after firing
  • Rate of Fire: One bullet at a time

Pros Semi-Auto

  • Recoil: Does not kick as hard
  • Rate of Fire: With a magazine, there is no need to reload until empty

Cons Semi-Auto

  • Range: Accuracy is slightly off on the long-range
  • Dependability: Too many mechanical problems reported
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