The Gun Shots Recent Posts
The Gun Shots
May 06, 2013
Best Rifles 2013: OL Ranks and Reviews This Year's New Rifles - 6
by John B. Snow
In February, our test team sequestered themselves on a Montana ranch with 12 of the hottest new rifles on the market and lots of ammunition. Here are the results of a week of objective evaluation and hardcore testing in the shadow of the rocky mountains.
SIG Sauer SSG 3000
This tactical rifle from SIG Sauer is doubly amazing. First, it is the most accurate rifle we’ve ever tested—it could shoot fleas off a dog. The average five-shot group—using a wide variety of .308 ammo in harsh conditions in Montana, meaning subzero temperatures and winds up to 25 mph—was 0.643 inches. Our best groups, with match ammo, ran between 0.3 and 0.4 inches.
This level of performance, while very unusual, isn’t unheard of from heavy-barreled rifles. What is unique to the SSG 3000 is its price: $1,499.
With its competitors costing twice as much (or more), the SSG 3000 establishes a new benchmark for precision .308s. Put simply, this rifle is a game changer. As such, the SSG 3000 was not only our runaway pick as the Editor’s Choice, but it also earned our Great Buy award—an unprecedented achievement.
SIG Sauer was able to accomplish the price cut by pairing the barreled actions, which are still being made in Germany, with a domestic-made stock.
There’s nothing not to like about this rifle. The action is smooth, the stock, with its hand-filling vertical grip and adjustable cheekpiece, is as comfortable as a pair of slippers, and the two-stage trigger is excellent.
The fist-sized muzzle brake on the AR30A1, combined with the rifle’s 13-pound unscoped weight, does an impressive job of taking the recoil out of this accurate .300 Win. Mag.—so much so that the shooter can easily reacquire a sight picture to see impact on the long shots this rig is designed for. While we enjoyed shooting this specialized rifle, we were left wanting more for the money, most notably a stock with greater adjustability. The quality of the bore on our sample was superb—one reason the rifle shot so well—and the old-school, Mauser-style safety was very positive and a good feature on an otherwise very modern design.
Bergara Medium Tactical BCR17
Bergara, known as a maker of quality rifle barrels, has jumped into full-fledged gun making in a big way. The BCR17 is one of four semi-custom rifles the company is producing by matching high-end components with their barrels. The BCR17 is built on a Stiller action and optics rail, a McMillan stock, a Timney trigger, and Badger Ordnance bottom metal. The accuracy of the stout rifle is very good, as you’d expect. At $4,100, the BCR17 will face a lot of competition from other precision rifle makers, but one can’t argue with this rifle’s DNA.
This rifle’s design was the most innovative of the rifles we tested, due to its unique switch-barrel system. The test team had many good things to say about the rifle’s balance and handling, even though its lines are a bit ungainly. Its accuracy was good, but it didn’t stand out in this year’s highly competitive field. Group sizes were probably hampered by the way the detachable forend puts pressure on the receiver. The trigger, smooth cycling action, and easy-to-load magazine earned our praise. It also comes in a synthetic version that retails for $300 less.
CZ-USA 527 American
With bluing on its metal and a traditional walnut stock, CZ’s 527, chambered in .17 Hornet this year, is a welcome respite from the synthetic materials and matte finishes that dominate new gun introductions. Best of all, the gun shot as sweetly as it looks, including one .279-inch group, the smallest of the test. The .17 Hornet, which is a fun little cartridge, has been giving gunmakers fits—but this CZ cycled it without any problems. The only hitch in the gun’s operation was an overly heavy and creepy trigger. Other than that, this rifle is a squirrel hunter’s delight.
Mossberg MVP Flex
The Mossberg MVP Flex combines elements from two recent successful introductions by the company: the modular Flex shotgun and the bolt-action MVP rifle. As with the Flex shotgun, you can can swap buttstocks and recoil pads in this rifle with ease to alter stock style and dimensions. Plus, it uses the same action as the MVP, meaning it runs on AR-type magazines. The rifle is quite versatile in these respects, but we found the action to be a bit rough to run, especially from the shoulder, and the lines of the rifle unlovely. That said, it was accurate off the bench, turning in a five-shot group average size of 1.046 inches.
The 783 from Remington is the latest bargain price big-game rifle to hit the market, offering a minimum of frills for the tightest of budgets. The accuracy of the rifle was certainly acceptable for big-game hunting (1.332-inch average five-shot group size), but the effort to cycle the action and the subpar trigger dampened our enthusiasm for the platform. The rifle features Remington’s good Super Cell recoil pad, metal bedding pillars in the stock, and a detachable box magazine. While the rifle didn’t exert any kind of emotional pull over the test team, we do consider it a very good firearm for the money.
SIG M400 Predator
This compact, handy little AR from SIG was one of the darlings of the test. Everything about this rifle is well thought out, from the Magpul buttstock to the suppressor-ready threaded barrel. The free-float hand guard, excellent Geissele trigger, and overall tight construction of the M400 contributed to its outstanding accuracy. According to the company, the barrels on the production rifles will not be fluted (which is a shame) and will have a matte finish (which is good). The ambidextrous mag release, BCM Gunfighter charging handle, and Hogue grip rounded out the M400’s terrific ergonomics.
Smith & Wesson Model M&P 10
Smith & Wesson is producing its first .308 AR-style rifles this year, and in the lineup are two models designed for hunters. The one we tested was equipped with a classic clamshell hand guard, a six-position stock, and a flash hider, all in matte black, though they are also making one in camo with a fixed stock and no muzzle attachment. The furniture on our model was pretty basic and gave the rifle an incomplete feel. However, it did shoot quite well, turning in sub-MOA groups with match ammo. The ambidextrous bolt lock and magazine release are handy features.
Stag Arms Model 8T
The new Model 8T from Stag Arms is the company’s first piston-driven AR rifle, and at $1,275 it is competitively priced. It is a tough, rugged rifle that can work for 3-Gun competition, personal protection, and hunting at moderate ranges. It didn’t wow us with its accuracy off the bench, but when we removed the optic and ran it with the Diamondhead open sights it comes with, the rifle really shined, nimbly taking on multiple targets during our drills. Our favorite feature on the rifle is the design of the hand guard, which has a low profile and is comfortable and attractive.
Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 Back Country
The Back Country is based on Weatherby’s Vanguard Series 2 rifle, which was last year’s Editor’s Choice winner. Equipped with an upgraded stock and a fluted barrel, the Back Country has shed nearly a pound in weight, tipping the scales at 6 lb. 10 oz., putting it at the upper weight limit of a true mountain rifle. We shot two samples, a .30/06 and the .240 Wby. Mag. Of the two, we greatly preferred the .240 for its milder recoil, better accuracy, and excellent ballistics. The strong, stiff stock and all-weather coating on the metal make the Back Country ready for the most challenging hunting conditions.
Winchester Model 1873
The classic Model 1873 Winchester is back and is being produced for Winchester at the Miroku factory in Japan. This rifle wooed us with its sexy lines, high-quality construction, and smooth operation. With each flick of the lever and downrange impact of the .38 Specials, our smiles grew wider. This faithful reproduction includes touches like the sliding dust cover on top of the receiver and the latch in the buttstock that holds the lever in place. Expect to see a version in .44-40 down the road, as well as a short-stroke kit for the .38/.357 for Cowboy Action Shooting.
See the best new shotguns of 2013.