The Colt M2012 is a gentleman’s tactical rifle. You probably didn’t realize that was an official class of firearm. Well, neither did I until I shot the Colt and made it up. The term fits, though.
The rifle straddles the hunting and tactical worlds, which in itself isn’t unique, but it happens to do so with unusually elegant looks. The M2012 is made for Colt by Cooper Firearms in Stevensville, Mont., and it bears the unmistakable mark of Cooper’s craftsmen.
A riflescope without a fancy ballistic reticle and multi-colored illumination seems almost quaint these days. But both award winners in the category this year are delightfully retro. They do one thing very well: They place bullets with repeatable precision without a lot of extraneous distractions. In the case of the remarkably bright Bushnell Legend, that job is aided by a class of glass that has never before been featured in the company's rifle-scopes.
As a utilitarian shotgun at a rock-bottom price, it’s hard to argue against the Weatherby PA-08 Slug Gun Combo. The combo comes with two barrels, one a standard smoothbore and the other a rifled slug barrel with a cantilever mount for attaching a scope or other optic. At $499, it is an excellent value. We found it difficult to load and cycle at times, and the accuracy with the slugs we shot was just so-so, with 3-inch groups at 50 yards.
The innovative Mossberg Flex is a shotgun that easily swaps out barrels, forends, stocks, and butt pads to quickly convert from one configuration to another. In particular, sportsmen with families will appreciate the ability to quickly change it from an adult-size gun to one sized for youths. This shotgun isn’t the most elegant gun on the market, but it ran very well, impressing the team with its durability and pointing.
This compact .223 bolt rifle is a solid predator gun that has the benefit of being able to use AR-style magazines to feed the action. Mossberg engineered a tab in the design of the bolt head that drops down to pick up rounds off the top of the magazine. The overall look and feel of the rifle didn’t wow the test team. The accuracy was adequate (1.081-inch average group size), but it was outclassed by the other .223s in the test.
Outdoor Life Editor Andrew McKean put it best when he said the Ruger American Rifle is a “screaming bargain.” Somehow the wizards at Ruger brewed up this innovative, accurate, and supremely functional rifle and are able to sell it at a profit at $449. How accurate is this .30/06? The 5-shot group average was just over 1 inch and it turned in two .840-inch groups, one with Federal’s 180-grain Trophy Copper hunting load—outstanding performance for a big-game caliber. The ergonomics of the rifle are as impressive as the accuracy.
We nicknamed this shotgun “the beast” because of the effortless (and merciless) way it tracked and shattered targets during the evaluation. The Velocity is designed for sporting clays competitors who prefer to start with a pre-mounted gun; as such, both the raised target rib and the comb on the stock adjust for a precise fit. The adjustable trigger reach is a nice addition on a semi-auto. It has handsome wood and engraving too.
It can be a trick to find a decent new over/under for less than $2,000, but Franchi has made one with the Instinct L, which goes for $1,149. This field gun is built on an attractive case-hardened receiver and comes with okay wood with functional checkering. The crisp mechanical triggers and tight lock-up are both indications of good workmanship. We would prefer to see a simple brass bead on the rib rather than the red fiber-optic bead.
The bold design of the Dimension aims to give hunters a fresh option for an easy-to-use multi-caliber rifle. The switch-barrel mechanism is ambitious (see Innovations, p. 42) but awkward to use. Gear-heads will take to this rifle, but the ungainly lines of the stock (which we found to be very comfortable) won’t appeal to everyone. Among the rifle’s virtues are its smooth operating action, smart ergonomics, and very good accuracy.
Windham Weaponry is a new gunmaker operating in the old Bushmaster factory in Maine (which was shut down by parent company Freedom Group) and being run by the old Bushmaster crew. They are building a full line of ARs, including this varmint model. We gave the rifle high marks across the board. It had no trouble shooting sub-MOA groups, but we wished it came with a less creepy trigger and had a larger charging handle.