September 28, 2023
The Stag Arms lineup of AR-style rifles have long been standouts in the semiauto market, but now the Wyoming-based company is expanding its firearm portfolio with a brand-new bolt-action rifle: the Pursuit Bolt Gun. Like its Pursuit line ARs, the Pursuit Bolt Gun is built with the hunter in mind, but with so many premium components and such impressive attention to detail, this gun has the goods to make a dedicated long-range target rifle as well.
A premium rifle always has a good barrel, and the Pursuit’s pipe comes straight from Ballistic Advantage. That Stag Arms and Ballistic Advantage are both under the Aero Precision umbrella of brands bodes well for the Pursuit Bolt Gun, and Ballistic Advantage barrels have an outstanding reputation for accuracy. My test sample was chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor and came with a 20-inch barrel. (Other cartridge options include .308 Win. with an 18-inch barrel, and 6.5 PRC with a 22-inch pipe.) The spiral fluted barrel is precision machined from 416 stainless steel and the fluting helps to reduce weight. The added surface area also helps barrel cooling, and the muzzle is threaded 5/8-24 so attaching an aftermarket brake or suppressor is no issue. The barrel can be swapped for Zermatt origin-style or Savage Small Shank pre-fit barrels, so swapping out the barrels doesn’t require a gunsmith. The barrel has a smooth black cerakote finish that protects the metal and prevents corrosion.
Mated with the barrel is a Remington 700-pattern short-action push-feed receiver. The bolt is field strippable without tools and features a full-diameter three-lug design. This reduces bolt lift to 60 degrees and allows for faster cycling and no issues with scope clearance. When the bolt is lifted the bottom lug rides over the top of the magazine, guaranteeing reliable feeding, and the extractor is mounted on the outboard lug. Dual plunger-type ejectors ensure reliable performance, and the bolt head is easily removable. The action is treated with the same cerakote finish, virtually eliminating the risk of corrosion and adding lubricity. Not surprisingly, the bolt runs smoothly through the raceway. Precision machining on the action promises years of smooth, reliable operation, and the oversized bolt handle with four textured panels makes it easy to operate the bolt.
Chassis rifles are popular with hunters and shooters, but Stag Arms has developed a unique three-piece chassis system that enhances accuracy while offering a high level of modularity and customizability. The wide forend portion of the chassis has a flat base that keeps it planted, yet it’s comfortable to hold. Want bipod/tripod/sling mounting options? The Stag Arms Pursuit Bolt Gun offers a variety of options. There are M-LOK sections on the forend and a half ARCA rail plus QD cups and a Picatinny spigot that extends from the front of the forend. With so many options you can set your rifle up however you’d like, which is a theme with Stag’s new bolt action.
The midsection of the three-piece chassis features a bedding block and a magazine well that accepts AICS mags, one of which is included with each rifle. The side portions of the mid-chassis are machined down to reduce weight, offer a comfortable handhold on the rifle and give the Pursuit a stylish, modern profile. An oversized trigger guard is machined into the midsection of the chassis and is large enough to accommodate gloved hands when hunting in cold conditions.
The most innovative chassis section, though, has to be the buttstock. It utilizes an AR-10 takedown pin that can easily be removed, and that allows you to disassemble the rifle for travel or to swap out the buttstock section entirely. The stock is adjustable for length of pull and comb height. The near-vertical pistol grip offers a comfortable anchor point and complete control of the rifle. There’s texturing on the lower portion of the grip as well as a trigger finger channel. The rear lower portion of the buttstock features a pronounced cutout, and a removable bag rider is included. The recoil pad is comfortable and wide, and there are QD mounts on both sides of the stock as well as on the bag rider section.
A rifle with so many premium features requires a superb trigger, and Stag didn’t disappoint. The TriggerTech single-stage Primary Trigger comes with a PVD flat lever, 440C stainless steel internal components, and is user-adjustable from 1.5 to 4 pounds. The test rifle’s trigger broke cleanly and very consistently at just 2.7 pounds from the factory, and there’s no discernable creep. The trigger comes with a two-position rocker-type safety and the bolt remains operational when the safety is engaged. Other controls are easy to operate and include an ambidextrous magazine release located at the front of the trigger guard (push to release) and a bolt release that is tucked neatly into the left-rear portion of the receiver.
A topside Picatinny rail is included with each rifle for mounting optics. It’s removable, but since it’s held in place atop the receiver by four 8-40 screws, there’s no worry about the rail section shaking loose. Unloaded weight of the rifle is 8 pounds, 13 ounces, which is a bit heavy but still suitable for a hunting rifle. The Bolt Gun’s MSRP is set at $1,899, which also makes the Pursuit a great value when considering the sum of its parts.
At the Range
The toughest part of shooting a Stag Pursuit bolt-action is deciding how to configure the rifle for the task at hand. There are so many mounting options for accessories that you may have a difficult time arranging the gun the way you want. But that was one of the driving forces behind this rifle’s design. It can be configured as a hunting gun one day, an NRL Hunter gun the next, and then a dedicated long-range target rifle. And the Pursuit has the goods to serve in all those roles. And with the modular design and the ability to swap out parts, the decisions will only get more difficult in the future.
For range testing I mounted a Leupold Mark 5HD 2-10x30 scope on the rifle, and so equipped this gun is well-suited to a variety of tasks. This rifle impresses with its build quality and premium components, but perhaps the most impressive aspect of this gun is how well designed it is. Clearly, the team behind this rifle was familiar with what target shooters and hunters both want, and built it in a single package.
The stock is one example of this. The pistol grip is well-contoured and keeps the wrist in a comfortable position, and the finger naturally extends to the flat-face trigger. That natural hand and finger position combines with a built-in thumb shelf to help keep the shooter’s hand in the proper position for maximum control of the rifle. The adjustable cheek riser keeps the shooter’s eye in line with the scope and the broad recoil pad reduces setback.
In an effort to further reduce recoil (and muzzle blast), I added a Silencer Central Banish 30 suppressor to the test rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor. The short 20-inch barrel and minimal overall length (39.5 inches as configured) make this rifle functional in the field while wearing a suppressor.
“Functional” isn’t the word for this rifle, though. It’s well beyond that. The action is silky smooth, the durable finish looks good, and it’s loaded with all the features shooters want. But most importantly, this rifle shoots extremely well. The best three-shot group managed .48-inches with Hornady ELD match ammunition. With ELD-X hunting ammunition it still managed under an inch for three shots, which makes this an ideal gun for everything from varmints to predators out to any reasonable range. I didn’t have time to work up loads for this gun, but I didn’t need to. With groups ranging from .5 to .8 inches with factory ammunition, I didn’t need to.
The Pursuit bolt-action is going up against some serious competition, and there are lots of $2,000 bolt guns on the market today. But where the Stag Arms gun shines is in its level of refinement, range performance, and incredible modularity and customizability. Even with Stag Arms’ background in AR builds and the benefit of being a corporate partner of Ballistic Advantage, it’s still impressive to see any brand’s debut bolt gun perform so well. Lots of design time and testing went into this rifle, and it shows. Hunters and shooters can rest assured that the same level of quality that propelled Stag Arms to the top of the AR market can be found in their Pursuit Bolt Gun.
Stag Arms Pursuit Bolt Gun
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor (tested), 6.5 PRC, .308 Win
- Barrel: 416 Stainless Steel, Spiral Fluted
- Muzzle: 5/8-24 Threads, Thread Protector
- Action: 416 Stainless Steel, SA Remington 700 Footprint
- Bolt: Three-Lug Full Diameter Bolt, Dual Ejectors, Interchangeable Bolt Heads
- Stock: Three-part Chassis, Adjustable Comb and LOP, AR-10-Style Takedown Pin, ½ ARCA Rail, M-LOK, QD Cups
- Trigger: Trigger Tech Primary Flat-Face PVD, 1.5-4 Pounds User Adjustable
- Length: 39.50-Inches
- Weight: 8 Pounds, 13 Ounces,
- Magazine: 5-Round AICS
- Safety: Two-Position Rocker
- MSRP: $1,899
For more information, visit: stagarms.com
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