By Todd Burgreen
Stag Arms arrived on the scene in 2003. The company gained a solid reputation for manufacturing quality AR-style rifles that offered “more bang for the buck”—pun intended. In addition to building AR-pattern rifles for righties like everyone else, their niche-filling left-handed ARs set them apart in the market and helped them quickly build their brand. White Wolf Capital Group became the controlling interest in Stag in 2016. I bring this up to point out that Stag gained a collaborative advantage when it became part of the White Wolf Capital portfolio, which includes the firearm companies Ballistic Advantage, Aero Precision, and VG6 Precision. This pooling of resources is evident in one of Stag’s latest offerings, the Pursuit Bolt Action Rifle.
Many of the bolt-action rifles coming online today reflect more of a target shooting influence, some weighing more than 13 pounds and far from measurements conducive to carrying afield. The Stag Arms Pursuit Bolt Action, chambered in 308 Winchester, used for this review is a pleasing 8.5 pounds. Aside from the venerable 308 Win, the Pursuit is available in 6.5 Creedmoor and 6.5 PRC. The Stag Pursuit Bolt Action Rifle in 308 Win measures 37.5 inches in overall length with an 18-inch fluted 5/8×24-threaded Ballistic Advantage barrel. A five-round Accuracy International style detachable magazine feeds rounds into the Pursuit’s chamber. The magazine is a single stack design allowing for centerline feeding reliability as well maintaining as much stock material as possible to support the action for better potential accuracy.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
My initial exposure to the Stag Pursuit Bolt Action came at an October 2023 media event. When queried about being one of the few companies offering a genuinely new product introduction in 2023, Stag Arms’ Ryan Donahue, Torrie Roodhouse, and Aimee Botkins disclosed the Pursuit had been under development for years and was finally ready for its introduction. This implied a strong sense of confidence that the bolt action weapon would garner attention in a market dominated by modern sporting rifles. Stag is also a player in the MSR market, producing their own Pursuit line of AR-style rifles.
Stag did not position the Pursuit Bolt Action to be an entry level offering. Donahue indicated the Pursuit Bolt Action is designed to appeal to the long-range precision shooter who hunts, who is not tied to tradition, and who appreciates the nuances offered by high-end production rifles. The Pursuit’s $1899 price compares favorably with other similarly featured rifles in its class which command $2,500+. While the Pursuit Bolt Action uses a proprietary action, it does follow the Remington 700 pattern which when combined with Stag/Aero’s expertise in producing quality weapons at scale, assists in managing costs. Using a 700-pattern action also opens up a plethora of aftermarket accessory options for the Pursuit.
The Pursuit’s action is machined from billet 416 stainless steel. Stag’s sister company, Aero Precision, makes the action in-house. A pinned recoil lug is part of the action. A removable 20 MOA biased Picatinny scope base comes mounted. The receiver, bottom metal, barrel shank, and muzzle brake are Cerakoted. The bolt receives the coating for extreme durability, as well as for its self-lubricating properties. The bolt is slick to operate, and the action ejects empty cases vigorously.
Ballistic Advantage makes the Stag Pursuit’s barrel. The decision to go with an 18-inch barrel will be well received. While a 20-inch barrel would not have been frowned upon, a 16-inch barrel is just too short for a bolt-action hunting rifle. BA starts with highest quality 416R steel for the Pursuit’s barrel. In preparation for the button rifling process, barstock is cut to length then drilled, reamed, and rifled. Using custom designed blanking tools, every production barrel from BA carries match-grade tolerances with a bore uniformity of .0003-inch or better. It’s normal to see barrels coming off the BA line at less than .00015-inch variation through the entire blank. The barrel is spiral fluted and Cerakoted.
The Stag Pursuit’s Hybrid Hunter stock is what catches your attention. The Hybrid Hunter stock is modular. It’s comprised of three main components, a rigid center section made of 7075 aluminum that forms a seat for the barreled action with a forend and buttstock connect to it on either end. Aero Precision also manufactures the Stag Pursuit’s stock. The stock has a height-adjustable comb and an adjustable length-of-pull to create a comfortable, stable, and repeatable rifle fit. The buttstock is removable without tools, allowing for convenient pack carry. The Stag’s flat forend comes with an M-Lok compatible rail embedded under it, giving offering options for sling and bipod attachments. A Picatinny rail spigot protrudes from the front of the forend. An M-Lok-to-ARCA rail adapter arrives with the Stag Pursuit as well as an attachable bag rider for the bottom of the buttstock, all adding to the rifle’s flexibility when used afield. The multiple QD sling attachment points in the Pursuit’ stock allow for flat-against-the-back or more traditional shoulder carry. The QD sockets and embedded M-Lok slots keep the stock clean with no protrusions.
With all that said, the stock’s greatest attribute is the way it feels, both in your hand and when pressed into your shoulder. Thanks to a savvy mating of components, the Pursuit balances near the front of the receiver. This is important for any hunting rifle because it allows the rifle to be carried comfortably and confidently in one hand when scouting or moving around with the chance of jumping game.
The last piece of the Stag Pursuit puzzle was the inclusion of the Aero Precision Lahar-30 suppressor. The Lahar-30 is made using a laser-welded combination of 17-4 stainless steel for the blast chamber and secondary baffles with an Inconel blast baffle to provide increased performance under hard use. The Lahar-30 has no minimum barrel length restrictions and is full-auto rated. It is designed for use with calibers up to 300 Win Mag and weighs 15.4 ounces.
TriggerTech’s excellent Primary model trigger is installed in the Pursuit. It features the TriggerTech-patented Frictionless Release Technology free floating roller for outstanding shooter-to-rifle interface. The Stag Pursuit Bolt Action’s 1.9-millisecond ignition is industry-leading and one of those attention-to-detail items that produce accuracy. The benefit of a good trigger cannot be underestimated when wringing the most accuracy out of a rifle. A low profile, non-snag, frictionless, two-position safety is found on the right side of the Pursuit’s receiver.
We mated a Trijicon Accupoint 2.5-12×42 mm optic to the Stag’s upper receiver rail with 30 mm Talley rings. The Trijicon Accupoint offers versatility with its wide power range while minimizing weight and bulk with reasonably sized objective. The 42 mm objective gives you reduced weight and a lower mounting profile with outstanding glass clarity. The Trijicon Accupoint is one of the best scopes on the market in terms of its value.
We initially sighted the Stag Pursuit in at Echo Valley Training Center’s (EVTC) Range 2 with a 100-yard zero. Different 308 Win loads were fired from the bench to determine a base accuracy level. We used various hunting and match loads from Hornady, Black Hills Ammunition, SIG Sauer, and Federal to explore the ballistic flexibility of the Stag Bolt Action and the 308 Win cartridge itself. Examples of the specific loads we shot include Federal Premium 168-grain Sierra MatchKing Gold Medal Match, Black Hills Gold 150-grain Hornady SST, SIG Sauer 165-grain Controlled Expansion Tip, and Hornady 178-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter. Subsonic loads from Engel Ballistic Research and Corbon were also brought out for use with the Lahar-30 suppressor. A suppressed bolt-action rifle using sub-sonic loads provides a “Hollywood quiet” level of discreteness.
|Avg. 3-Shot Group 100 yds (in.)
|Best 3-Shot Group 100 yds (in.)
|SIG Sauer 165-gr CET
|Black Hills Gold 150-gr Hornady SST
|Hornady 178-gr ELD-X Precision Hunter
|Federal 168-gr GMM Sierra MatchKing
After the bench work was performed to test innate accuracy, we worked from a bipod and pack, firing on clay pigeons at 300 yards from “dug in” positions offered at EVTC. We shot the Stag Pursuit Bolt Action as fast as we could, popping 4.33-inch clay pigeons as quickly as possible. The 308 Win cartridge combined with the ergonomic Stag Pursuit Bolt Action proved a potent pairing. Other range work consisted of shooting B-27 paper targets at 600 yards on EVTC’s known distance range. The Stag Pursuit with premium ammunition and the clear Trijicon Accupoint optic enabled easy center mass hits. We included a Kopfjager tripod in this test, as well. The Stag Pursuit handled well whether it was being carried or it was shooting targets from standing or kneeling positions.
Further field testing consisted of taking the Stag Pursuit Bolt Acton deer hunting in both Virginia and West Virginia. We also brought it along during various coyote calling forays during which the Aero Precision Lahar-30 suppressor and Kopfjager tripod were much appreciated. The Stag Pursuit handled more sveltely than its 8.5 pounds might suggest.
While by no means is 8.5 pounds considered heavy for a rifle, the Stag’s felt and handled like a much lighter beast in the field. This is a credit to its ergonomics. Many will contend that the versatile 308 Win cartridge chambered in an accurate and well-handling rifle like the new Stag Pursuit is the epitome of a modern bolt action rifle. At the end of our evaluation, we have to agree.
|37.5 in. (with comp)