2014 Gun Test: OL Reviews and Ranks the Best New Rifles

If you’re in the market for a rifle this year, you’re in luck. The new guns of the Class of ’14 cover a lot of ground, both in terms of price and application for different types of shooting. There’s something for everyone here.

[See our 2015 Gun Test here.]

With new rifles, we continue to see an interesting variety of offerings. Shooters who like traditional lines and minimal recoil will want to shoulder the Henry Silver Eagle in .22 LR, and the Winchester 1885 Low Wall in the sizzling .17 WSM rimfire. For rimfire shooters looking for cheap thrills, there’s the aptly named Mossberg Plinkster, built on Mossberg’s Flex system, and the wonderful Ruger American Rimfire, which comes with a handy insert to adjust the length of pull. Both of these rimfires are an excellent value.

The innovative DPMS G2, the Rock River Arms X Series, and the Ruger SR-762 are three new rifles made for those who like their guns built rugged, black, and politically incorrect. The DPMS is light for a .308 AR, while the Ruger is a more beefy piston-driven gun. All are shooters.

The Complete Outdoor Life Rifle Review

Rating Guide:

1. Editor's Choice: Nosler Patriot

Photo by Jeff Wilson

Flat-shooting and deadly. That’s the promise of the 26 Nosler, a new cartridge that takes a 6.5mm bullet (.264 caliber) and propels it at eye-popping speeds. The launch pad for this little rocket is the Nosler Patriot, a rifle built on Nosler’s excellent M48 action.

The cartridge and rifle go together nicely, and our panel of shooters—all of whom are experienced open-country hunters—gravitated toward the pairing. The cartridge is stout, launching a 129-grain Long Range Accubond at more than 3,418 fps, based on our chronograph. We put all 200 rounds that Nosler sent us downrange, and the dopey grins on our faces could only be partially explained by the noticeable thump the rifle gave us when we took a shot.

The smooth action, stiff and well-designed stock, crisp trigger, and good accuracy all spoke to us, announcing in a clear voice that this is a true hunter’s tool. The beefy rifle has the right amount of heft for the 26’s recoil and is eminently shootable.

With a cartridge this hot, barrel life might be an issue. But for normal hunting chores and with proper care, the Patriot will give a lifetime's worth of service. This combination of rifle and cartridge earned our Editor's Choice award and will appeal to anyone looking for a premium big-country hunting rig. $1,695; nosler.com

2. Great Buy: CZ 557

Photo by Jeff Wilson

What a solid gem of a bolt-action CZ has created with the 557. This action, a new design, has been in the works for some time and was even previously announced by CZ, though not produced until now.

The action has elegant lines and subscribes to the less-is-more school of thought. The bolt-release tab, for instance, is tucked out of view, enhancing the receiver's clean profile. The two-position safety is as simple (and functional)
as could be.

The stock, too, has a straightforward geometry, with a straight comb and classic American style—as long as you overlook the non-­traditional checkering pattern.

The rifle runs as sweet as it looks. Ours was chambered in .30/06, though it is available in a variety of calibers. The action smoothly digested all the rounds we put through it, handling our shooting drills like a champ. Accuracy, good balance, and a nice trigger all contributed to the gun’s high performance score.

With a list price of $792, the 557 is an outstanding value. For the money, you would be hard-pressed to find an all-around bolt-action rifle as good. For this reason, the CZ 557 garnered our Great Buy award. $792; cz-usa.com

3. Proof Research Terminus

Photos by Rab Cummings

High-tech, accurate, and expensive. An impressive and innovative rifle. $5,690

4. Ruger American Rimfire

Fun to shoot and affordable. You can’t go wrong with this Ruger. $329

5. Winchester 1885 Low Wall

A classy and distinctive varmint gun in the intriguing .17 WSM rimfire. $1,470

6. Henry Silver Eagle

This slick-running lever gun in .22 LR was a test-team favorite. $849

7. Rock River Arms X Series

Another solid offering from Rock River Arms. A versatile .223/5.56. $1,450

8. DPMS G2

We need more forward-thinking rifles like this lightweight DPMS. $1,699

9. Browning AB3

A decent budget rifle, but nothing about it particularly excited us. $599

10. Mossberg Plinkster

Despite its awkward lines, this rimfire rifle was a blast to shoot. $275

11. Savage B-Mag

Another .17 WSM. Shot okay with 25-grain bullets, but didn’t wow us. $359

12. Ruger SR-762

A solid .308 AR, but we hoped for better performance for the money. $2,195

How We Test

The Outdoor Life rifle and shotgun test team gathered in Bozeman, Montana, to evaluate this year’s new sporting arms. Our panel of judges follows a strict and extensive protocol. We use detailed checklists to make sure every facet of the guns’ performance and construction is considered, placing heavy emphasis on how the guns handle drills based on real-world shooting. Rifles are shot with multiple loads to determine accuracy, shotguns are scrutinized for their feel and balance, and all the firearms are subject to hard use to ensure they make the grade. After putting thousands of rounds downrange, we tally the results.

See the results of the 2014 shotgun test here.