Rifle Review: OL Ranks the Best New Rifles for 2012

Our team of experts spent a week at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, where they torture tested the newest … Continued

Shooting each rifle is the heart of the evaluation for our 2012 gun test. Our goal is for each rifle to achieve a perfect score, and to that end we take great pains to get them to shoot their very best. Check out the results of our test and find the next new rifle to add to your collection. More from the Gun Test -Best New Rifle Scopes 2012. -Best New Shotguns 2012
Editor’s Choice Award: Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 The original Vanguard by Weatherby was a fine rifle by nearly every measure, but the trigger wasn’t very good and the bedding between the action and stock could be spotty. Well, with the latest Vanguard, the Series 2, Weatherby has worked out those kinks and added a couple of other upgrades. The result is impressive. The new trigger is as crisp as a ripe apple, the stock comes with rubber inserts to improve handling, and the action is smooth and easy to run. The Series 2 has a new three-position safety with a center setting that allows the rifle to be unloaded while on safe. Our test team of die-hard big-game hunters swooned over the rifle’s handling and accuracy. This is a rifle that doesn’t compromise anywhere in its construction. Among a field of impressive rifles, the Weatherby distinguished itself and earned our 2012 Editor’s Choice award. See video for the Weatherby Vanguard Series 2. Test Results Score: ★ ★ ★ ★ Price: $599 Design: A- Performance: A Accuracy: A- Price/Value: A Cartridge: .308 Win. Trigger Pull: 2 lb. 13 oz. Average Group/Smallest Group: 1.131 in./.859 in. Ammo: Nos. 165-Gr. Accubond Website: Weatherby.com
Great Buy Award: Ruger American Rifle 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. The three-lug action cocks smoothly, thanks to a smartly designed cocking ramp, and can be run from the shooter’s shoulder. Likewise, we all loved seeing a tang safety on a Ruger bolt-action once again, and the flush-mounted rotary magazine blends with the rifle’s lines and loads smoothly no matter how it is fed. This rifle sets a new standard for affordable accuracy. See video for the Ruger American Rifle. ** Test Results** Score: ★ ★ ★ ★ Price: $449 Design: B- Performance: A- Accuracy: A Price/Value: A Cartridge: .30/06 Trigger Pull: 4 lb. 10 oz. Average Group/Smallest Group: 1.062 in./.842 in. Ammo: Hrn. 168-Gr. M Garand Website: Ruger.com
**Rock River Arms Fred Eichler ** This 5.56/.223 AR is a handy little predator rifle. The round handguard has cute coyote prints on it (too cute, in the eyes of some testers). With its 18-inch barrel and collapsible stock, it is quite maneuverable and is light enough to carry with a scope mounted. The muzzle brake did a good job of keeping the gun on target, and the accuracy of the rifle (0.994-inch 5-shot average) should have coyotes quaking in their dens. See video on the Rock River Arms Fred Eichler. Test Results Score: ★ ★ ★ ½ Price: $1,395 Design: B Performance: A- Accuracy: A Price/Value: B Cartridge: 5.56/.223 Rem. Trigger Pull: 5 lb. 1 oz. Available Group/Smallest Group: .944 in./.470 in. Ammo: Win. 50-Gr. BST Website: Rockriverarms.com
Nosler M48 Professional The Professional is a new rifle built on the Nosler’s M48 action. It comes with a clever detachable magazine that is released by a tab similar to the one commonly seen with floor-plate magazines. The accuracy and craftsmanship of the Professional is exactly what one would expect from Nosler, which is to say excellent. This is a serious hunting tool and is a very good value even considering its hefty price. See video on the Nosler M48 Professional. Test Results Score: ★ ★ ★ ½ Price: $2,595 Design: A- Performance: A Accuracy: A Price/Value: B- Cartridge: .30/06 Trigger Pull: 2 lb. 14 oz. Average Group/Smallest Group: 1.090 in./.624 in. Ammo: Black Hills 155-Gr. A-Max Website: Nosler.com
Windham Weaponry Varmint 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. See video on the Windham Weaponry Varmint. Test Results Score: ★ ★ ★ ½ Price: $1,295 Design: B Performance: B+ Accuracy: A- Price/Value: B Cartridge: 5.56/.223 Rem. Trigger Pull: 5 lb. 12 oz. Average Group/Smallest Group: .965 in./.606 in. Ammo: Nos. 55-Gr. Varmageddon Website: Windhamweaponry.com
Thompson/Center Dimension 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. See video on the Thompson/Center Dimension. Test Results Score: ★ ★ ★ ½ Price: $679 Design: B- Performance: B Accuracy: B+ Price/Value: B Cartridge: .308 Win./.223 Rem. Trigger Pull: 4 lb. 10 oz. Average Group/Smallest Group: 1.249 in./.830 in. Ammo: Fed. 168-Gr. Sierra Matchking Website: Tcarms.com
Mossberg MVP 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. See video on the Mossberg MVP. Test Results Score: ★ ★ ★ Price: $649 Design: B- Performance: B- Accuracy: A- Price/Value: B- Cartridge: .223 Rem. Trigger Pull: 3 lb. 2 oz. Average Group/Smallest Group: 1.081 in./.057 in. Ammo: Win. 50-Gr. BST Website: Mossberg.com

Our team of experts spent a week at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, where they torture tested the newest rifles, sending thousands of rounds down range. See which guns scored the highest in our 2012 Gun Test.