As far as we know, Charles Dickens never aspired to be a gun writer, although his famous kick-off to A Tale of Two Cities–“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”–certainly seems an apt description of the state of the firearms industry these days. The bad news is all around us–we’re coming off a deep, protracted recession that has left our economy in tatters, and despite some flashes of good news, consumer confidence remains fickle and rises and falls at the merest provocation. The prospect of a dreaded “double dip” recession seems all too real. Manufacturers, themselves uncertain about what the future holds, have mostly taken a cautious approach to their businesses and have been unwilling to ramp up production for a consumer demand that might exist one day yet blow away like a seaside fog the next. THRIVING INDUSTRY
In the midst of this, however, the gun industry has thrived. Record sales–spurred on by the election of President Obama and the demand for arms and ammunition driven by our conflicts overseas–had assembly lines running nearly nonstop for the better part of the last two years. Shortages of certain types of guns and ammo seemed to fuel even greater demand and led to all kinds of parlor chatter in which conspiracy theories were aired about the difficulty of procuring .223 Rem. ammo, primers for reloading and other scarce items. Shown Left: The Legacy 28 semi-auto shotgun from Benelli and Nosler’s TGR rifle were two of the new entries tested during Outdoor Life’s annual review of sporting guns. Rifle and Shotgun Tests for 2009 >>
The simple truth is, while gun and ammo companies that found their products flying off the shelves were happy to rev up their manufacturing capability to the limit, they were not so bullish about the prospect of adding new capacity to their plants. If this led to long back orders–and it did–so be it. They reasoned that the gold rush fever for their wares would at some point subside, and they didn’t want to get caught with a bunch of fancy, and expensive, new machinery that was suddenly idle. NOT EVERYONE WINS
Further complicating the equation was the selective nature of the windfall. By and large, ammunition companies did extremely well during the boom times, as did gunmakers in the AR, tactical and handgun arenas. But gun companies making traditional hunting and sporting goods, whose sales were either flat or grew minimally, could only look on with envy as their more fortunate colleagues celebrated. All of which contributed to the curious mix of new guns introduced this year. The larger gun companies continue to devote energy and creativity in the black rifle and personal protection markets. The Bushmaster ACR was the star of the SHOT Show in 2010 for the multiple brands that make up the Freedom Group (which includes Remington and Marlin), while Remington’s big mid-year launch was the R1 1911 pistol. Ruger and Smith & Wesson added to their respective lineups of concealed-carry revolvers, and Winchester made a large push with the reintroduction of the 1894. Clearly, the attitude of these companies toward introducing genuinely new sporting arms–the focus of our annual gun test–is still somewhat cautious and is the reason none of these industry giants is represented in this year’s roundup. Pictured Left: Firearms makers have enjoyed record sales over the last two years, but the bulk of that activity–and new gun introductions–has been in the AR rifle and handgun markets.
But does that mean we suffered from a lack of new sporting rifles and shotguns this year? Not at all. Other companies stepped into the void and demonstrated a nimble ability to roll out smartly targeted guns for sporting enthusiasts. And while the firearms themselves are quite diverse–with rifles for predators, varmints, big game, small game and youth shooters; and shotguns for deer, turkey, sporting clays, upland birds and waterfowl–they exhibited a common focus on quality and on delivering a good value for the dollar, no matter their price, which resulted in the most impressive group of Price/Value scores in our test’s history. Another indication of the quality of this year’s entries was the performance of the rifles at the range during our accuracy tests. Without question, this is the most accurate batch we’ve ever reviewed–four of the rifles turned in five-shot groups at 100 yards that were .600 inches or smaller. And while I’d love to credit the ever-improving marksmanship skills of our judging panel, the truth is that almost across the board, these guns were flat-out shooters. And if accurate rifles don’t define “the best of times” for gun nuts, I don’t know what does.
HOW WE TEST – Trial by Fire “The method behind the toughest, most credible gun test out there” Time spent at the bench with a rifle is a critical piece of the Outdoor Life testing protocol. To give each rifle a chance to shine, we shoot multiple factory loads using a variety of bullet styles and weights. When possible, we’ll add match-grade ammo to the mix, which is why a good number of the new rifles we test are in cartridges such as .223 Rem., .243 Win., .308 Win. and .30-06. But we’re not just looking for that one magic load that a rifle might prefer in order to crow about its accuracy. If a rifle can shoot a variety of ammo well–and some do–that versatility wins it extra points. JUDGING FOR THE FIELD
Accuracy off a bench, while telling, isn’t the whole story. Ultimately, we’re more concerned with how the rifle will perform in the field at the tasks for which it was designed. To answer this question, we shoot rifles off-hand and from sitting or kneeling positions, running full magazines of ammo through the gun to gauge the slickness and performance of the action. During these drills we take careful notes on each rifle’s balance and handling and go over the geometry of the stock and the ergonomics of the trigger, safety, magazine catch and any other mechanical features with a critical eye. VETTING SHOTGUNS
This level of scrutiny applies to the new shotguns as well. How do they handle from a low-gun position? Can they perform on fast snap shots, long crossers, true pairs and triples? Are they easy to load and unload? Would their controls work as well in the cold with the shooter wearing gloves? (This last question was regrettably easy to answer, as our test took place in a deep February freeze in the Northeast.) Once the smoke has cleared and the barrels have cooled, the judges individually critique the craftsmanship of each gun like a jeweler grading a diamond. From muzzle to butt, the guns are scored on attributes such as wood-to-metal fit, quality of checkering and the finish and polish of the metalwork.
After getting a feel for the quality of the gun, we grade it for Price/Value, a measure of how much a gun delivers for the price. The shotgun and rifle with the highest overall scores win the “Editor’s Choice” awards, while those with the highest Price/Value score are eligible to be named a “Great Buy.” (I say eligible because if the winning gun isn’t deemed a truly outstanding value, we won’t give out the award, which has happened in the past, but not this year.) AVOIDING BIAS
During this process, the judges aren’t allowed to share their opinions. Each set of scores is arrived at individually, and by virtue of our panel judging system, we avoid having a single judge’s opinion hold sway.
All of this explains why Outdoor Life’s gun tests are unique in the world of shooting and hunting publications. No other magazine, website or television show delivers anything nearly as thorough, comprehensive or critically unbiased as our testing regimen–a comforting thought for readers who are thinking of investing hard-earned dollars in a new gun. Pictured Left: To get a valid read on a rifle’s performance we use a variety of factory ammo from various makers in different bullet weights and styles, including match-grade ammunition if possible. A rifle that shoots a broad sampling of ammo well earns extra points.
OL’s Gun Test Team ( Clockwise from top left )****
Shilen DGV
In the pantheon of prairie dog gods, the Grim Reaper probably uses not a scythe, but a Shilen DGV. This slick varmint rifle is about as perfect a gun as you could ask for when planning your next trip in pursuit of grass-eating rodents, starting with its outstanding accuracy. Sub-MOA? Forget about it. The DGV turned in cluster after cluster of tiny five-shot groups and made each of the judges long for a pasture full of varmints and a case (or two) of .223 to feed through it. We put half a dozen different types of factory ammo through the DGV, and when all was done, the average group size was .760 inches. With its favorite load, the Win. 55-grain BST, it shot under a half-inch. That it was the most accurate rifle of the test was only one of the reasons the DGV took top honors this year as our Editor’s Choice. The gun got nearly perfect marks for its well-thought-out design. The left-bolt, right-port configuration of the action allows for smooth operation, and the excellent stock rode the bags extremely well. The trigger on our gun broke at just over 2 pounds and was as crisp as a November morning in deer camp. All this would be for naught if the gun didn’t sport a good barrel–but, of course, barrels are Shilen’s primary claim to fame. Ours was finished and fitted to perfection, and the rifle’s performance is a testament to the skill that went into its construction. The DGV carries a price tag that befits a custom gun, but because it delivers so much for the money, it isn’t a surprise that it scored well in the Price/Value category, too. Testers’ Comments
– Superb trigger and workmanship
– Built like a Swiss watch
– Stock was too slippery for me
– Seemed impervious to barrel heating
– Had some minor ejection issues with some brass
– About as perfect a rifle as I’ve ever shot
– Bolt travel was smooth and slick
– Expert machining in evidence throughout
– Wish it were $1,000 less expensive so I could afford one
– Love all the extras that come with the rifle Overall Rating: 4 stars Workmanship: A
Performance: A+
Price/Value: B+ Price: $3,600; [ ]
T/C Venture Predator
Portability, accuracy and stealth come together in this newest addition to Thompson/Center’s lineup of bolt-actions, a trio of attributes T/C hopes will appeal to hunters who pursue coyotes and other predators. The all-camo treatment on the stock and metalwork–with the exception of the rubberized inserts in the forend and grip, and the butt pad, bolt and magazine–leave little doubt as to this rifle’s purpose. At just north of 7 pounds, it is light enough to carry on long treks into the sagebrush for coyotes, and comes chambered in the flat-shooting .22-250 Rem., which allows the shooter to reach out for long-distance shots with confidence. Five-shot groups from our sample averaged 1.240 inches using a number of factory loads, but it turned in its best groups with Remington 50-grain Accutips, including one that went .795 inches. The test team appreciated the creep-free trigger, and the rifle earned praise for the good ergonomics of the stock, which performed well shooting from off-hand and sitting positions. While the bolt travel was quite smooth when cycling the action, the effort required to cock the bolt was deemed excessive, even by the standards of the rifle’s three-lug design, which necessitates a steeper cocking ramp. The rifle won points for its integral scope-mounting bases and for the operation of its detachable magazine. What impressed the team most was the value of this rifle, which lists for $549, though the street price will be even lower. For that, the Venture Predator won high marks among some tough competition and earned our Great Buy award for 2010. Testers’ Comments:
– Nice, crisp trigger
– An excellent value
– Wish the mag release was a little larger for gloved fingers
– Rubber grip inserts a nice touch, especially for a walking gun
– Shoulders very nicely off-hand
– Bolt lift requires a lot of force
– Three-shot groups under 3⁄4 in. across all ammo types
– What’s the point of the shallow barrel flutes? Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Workmanship: B
Performance: B+
Price/Value: A Price: $549; [ ]
Caesar Guerini Summit Impact
Serious competitive shotgunners would strangle kittens if they thought it would help them break more targets, and smart gunmakers stay on the lookout for ways to give these hardcore shooters an edge. No company is more adept at keeping in tune with the clay-target-obsessed than Caesar Guerini, which has made a habit of responding to shotgunners’ needs with the speed of a Midi target rocketing out of a trap. The Summit Impact is built specifically for sporting clays and represents an interesting step in the evolution of the game, which is drifting further away from its traditional roots with each passing year. Originally meant to mimic hunting scenarios with dynamic, yet realistic, bird and rabbit targets, the sport has shifted to the point at which more targets move like nothing in nature and fewer shooters employ a low gun, opting instead to pre-mount their shotgun as in trap and American skeet. For sporting clays shooters who favor a high gun, the Summit Impact has a raised rib and stock similar to those on the company’s trap guns. The rib and stock are adjustable in every conceivable way, and the gun’s weight and balance can be tuned in an equally persnickety fashion by using recoil-buffering weights in the stock and an innovative system of rods that attach to the barrel at different points. Its excellent, crisp trigger also adjusts for weight, reach, take-up and over-travel. The gun’s heft–our sample weighed 9 pounds 3 ounces–and 34-inch barrels make it track, swing and hit with the authority of a wrecking ball on a crane. The result: “It crushes targets,” says OL Editor-in-Chief Todd Smith. This gun’s outstanding performance on clays, coupled with its lovely wood, well-executed checkering and all-around craftsmanship, earned it the distinction of being named the Editor’s Choice. Testers’ Comments:
– Almost infinitely adjustable
– Once it starts swinging, it keeps swinging
– A ton of extra value with the high-quality case and choke tube selection
– Lots of thoughtful features
– Hit the gym before lugging this beast around the sporting clays course all day
– Beautiful triggers, best I’ve ever felt on a shotgun
– Love the way the forend fills the lead hand
– Engraving is nicely understated
– Elegant wood Overall Rating: 4 stars Workmanship: A+
Performance: A
Price/Value: B+ Price: $4,995; [ ]
Mossberg 500 Deer/Turkey Combo
This shotgun is about as flashy as an 18-wheeler–no snooty double this–but that didn’t prevent us from rewarding it with stellar marks in the Price/Value department and a Great Buy award. Like the aforementioned truck, this Mossberg brings the goods and does so at a price that is sure to make hunters take notice. For slightly more than $500, this rig comes with two barrels–a ported barrel for turkey hunting and a fully rifled slug barrel for deer. The turkey barrel is topped with a bright and adjustable three-dot fiber-optic sight and comes with a tight (.670 inches) extended choke tube, while the slug barrel uses excellent open sights from Williams that are both tough and able to be dialed in with precision. Add in the full camo treatment and an innovative trigger, and it is no surprise that the phrase “a lot of gun for the money” appeared on every judge’s evaluation sheet. The trigger is a user-adjustable setup, and we turned ours right down to the advertised minimum of 3 pounds. For that alone, Mossberg deserves credit; it is by far the best shotgun trigger on the market for the price. We evaluated the gun off the bench with slug loads and it printed 3-inch five-shot groups at 50 yards with the open sights. The receiver is tapped for a scope mount, and its groups would in all likelihood shrink a bit with an optic on top. At the patterning board, it delivered killing payloads of No. 4 and No. 5 shot at 40 yards and, perhaps most surprisingly, performed well on the skeet field, with doubles and triples flying to bits as we rapidly cycled light target loads through the 3-inch action. Testers’ Comments:
– Love to see the blade-style trigger make its way on to a shotgun
– Best shotgun trigger for the price
– Monster value in a hard-working utilitarian package
– Strong two-season gun
– The gun’s fit and finish and camo job are a bit rough around the edges
– Has a weight-forward balance but did pretty well at skeet
– Open sights are good quality
– Patterned very well with turkey loads Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Workmanship: C+
Performance: A
Price/Value: A+ Price: $506; [ ]
Blaser R8
The Blaser R8 is a complex and expensive bit of engineering that rewards the shooter with an intuitive and easy-to-use straight-pull action that cycles with the speed of a striking cobra. This simplicity is enhanced by the ergonomics of the rifle. The gorgeous wood stock is blessed with excellent proportions (for right-handed shooters, at least) in the grip, forend and buttstock, and has nice checkering to boot. The result is a very shootable rifle that seems to point toward the target with a will of its own. The trigger is connected to the magazine and the whole thing drops out of the bottom of the rifle with a squeeze on the tabs located on either side of the trigger guard. This makes the rifle doubly safe–with the magazine removed there is no way to discharge the gun. If a removable magazine isn’t your thing, a tab on the inside of the unit locks the magazine and trigger in place and you can feed fresh rounds into the magazine from the top. The R8 swaps barrels as easily as Hollywood couples swap partners, providing a measure of versatility for those who want one rifle that can do it all. We shot our rifle in .308 and .30-06, with both barrels grouping around 1 inch for five shots. All of this comes at a price, however: $4,745 for the rifle and $1,053 for each additional barrel. Testers’ Comments:
– Super fast action
– Switches barrels easily
– Lovely wood
– Cocking indicator bright and visible Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Workmanship: A+
Performance: B+
Price/Value: C Price: $4,745; [ ]
CVA Scout
This newest rifle from CVA doesn’t offer much in the way of fancy extras, but it isn’t meant to. The main purpose of the Scout is to be an affordable first big-game rifle for a young hunter on a budget. It’s a single-shot break action that looks similar to other CVA rifles, except that it is built with a shortened length-of-pull (13 inches) and an easy-to-manage 34-inch overall length. Our sample was chambered in .243 Win., a classic “first rifle” cartridge, and unlike other CVAs that can switch barrels, the Scout is cartridge-specific. By eliminating the need to hold the Scout to the tolerances that go into a switch-barrel rifle, CVA pushed its list price down to $380. In addition to liking the budget-friendly price, the test team was impressed with the quality of the Scout’s trigger, which broke crisply at 2 pounds 13 ounces. The base that comes with the rifle simplifies the process of mounting a scope, and the included spur, which can screw into either side of the hammer, makes cocking the action easy for both righties and lefties. The lever positioned in front of the trigger guard used to open the action isn’t as elegant or smooth as those found on higher-priced CVAs, but it has a textured face that provides plenty of grip and gets the job done. The Scout averaged 2-inch groups, which is plenty accurate for shooting deer within 200 yards. Testers’ Comments:
– Good value
– Surprisingly good trigger
– Stout design
– Stock dimensions ideal for youth Overall Rating: 3 stars Workmanship: C+
Performance: B
Price/Value: B+ Price: $380; [ ]
CZ 455 American
At first blush, the CZ 455 American is so much like CZ’s 452 series of rimfires that you might wonder what all the fuss is about. But a look below the surface tells the story. The most significant change is that the rifle uses a single type of receiver in order to create a consistent platform for future versions of the 455. Consistency is one of the key ingredients for accuracy, and in this regard, to judge by our sample, the 455, chambered in .17 HMR, is off to a great start. Gear Editor John Taranto shot the smallest group of the test, a .439-inch screamer. This was no fluke, either. The 10 best five-shot groups from the rifle averaged .944 inches–an outstanding performance. This also allayed any concerns we had about whether the 455’s new one-lug design would be as accurate as the 452’s two-lug configuration. In the 455, the rear face of the bolt handle locks against a cut in the receiver. Though we could find no fault with our rifle’s barrel, yet another new feature on the 455 is the ability to swap barrels easily by loosening a pair of set screws located on the underside of the receiver. The 455 is a good-looking rifle too, with classic lines, sharp checkering and well-finished metalwork. The only sour note aesthetically is the clunky trigger and trigger guard, a holdover from the 452 that we hope to see refined in the future. Testers’ Comments:
– Rifle has nice lines
– Functions well, feeds easily
– So accurate!
– Creepy trigger
– Delivered great groups Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Workmanship: B
Performance: A
Price/Value: B+ Price: $504; [ ]
Nosler M48 TGR
The new Nosler M48 TGR is an easy rifle to like, especially for the hard-core big-game hunters on the Outdoor Life Gun Test panel. At $1,745, it isn’t inexpensive, but when you start looking at what the rifle offers–a hand-lapped custom barrel, Timney trigger, Bell and Carlson stock–that price starts to sound pretty good. To make the TGR (Trophy Grade Rifle) less costly than the Custom line, Nosler went with a less expensive (though still excellent) stock, opted for a blind magazine in lieu of a hinged floorplate and had the barrels built from chrome moly as opposed to stainless steel–none of which detracted a whit from the gun’s performance. Our sample, chambered in .308 Win,. turned in some outstanding groups, including one that went .540 inches with Nosler’s 168-grain Match ammo. There’s more to the TGR than a checklist of good parts and small groups at the bench, though. Like other Nosler rifles, it was designed by gunmakers who understand what hunters need. The rifle’s balance and ruggedness, the slick working of the action and the ease with which it can be cleaned and maintained in the field are among the qualities that earned it such high scores from our judges. Smaller touches, like the skeletonized bolt handle and the pleasing angles in the receiver and bolt shroud, bestow an aesthetic flair that elevates the TGR beyond being a mere tool and gives it the potential to become a cherished and trusted hunting companion. Testers’ Comments:
– Loved the trigger
– Has so many thoughtful touches
– Sweet shooter
– An awful lot of rifle for the money Overall Rating: 4 stars Workmanship: A
Performance: A+
Price/Value: B+ Price: $1,745; [ ]
Savage M111 LRH
The Long Range Hunter is a clever rifle that intelligently combines features to cater to the growing niche of hunters who enjoy shooting at distance. It starts with the strong foundation, common to many Savage centerfire rifles, that has built the company’s reputation for affordable accuracy: an excellent barrel, the “floating head” design of the bolt, the user-adjustable trigger and, new as of last year, the rigid and innovative Accustock. Savage took extra steps by adding a cheekpiece that adjusts for height, beefing up the stock and barrel (it weighs nearly 9 pounds) and chambering it in 6.5-284 Norma, a recently standardized cartridge that for many years was a successful wildcat in long-range shooting. But does it shoot? To the surprise of no one on the test team, the answer is yes. The Long Range Hunter turned in multiple five-shot sub-MOA groups with three different factory loads using bullet weights ranging from 120 to 142 grains, with a couple of groups at .600 inches or just under. One feature we liked on the rifle was the muzzle brake, which could be turned on or off with a twist. Accuracy with the rifle wasn’t affected either way, and the point-of-impact shift was minimal. And while the rifle isn’t going to win any beauty contests, Savage has a new style of barrel nut that is more elegant and graceful than previous versions. Testers’ Comments:
– Like the muzzle brake
– Great sendero rifle
– Usual nice Savage trigger
– Features deliver on rifle’s promise Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Workmanship: B
Performance: A
Price/Value: B+ Price: $934; [ ]
Benelli Legacy 28
As soon as Benelli’s sleek new 28-gauge came out of the case, the test team was drawn toward it the way setters are drawn to a covey of wild quail. The prospect of a gun that incorporates Benelli’s reliable inertia system into a sub-bore that weighs less than 5 pounds empty was a heady, and irresistible, enticement for our panel of gun nuts. After we got the gun assembled and loaded, it didn’t disappoint. Its nimble handling from a low-gun position gave the impression that no target–no matter how speedy–could get away, and it left little doubt that it would be an excellent choice for doves, quail, woodcock and grouse. Light weight in a shotgun, while great for portability, isn’t a virtue in itself, and this gun does run the risk of being overpowered by the shooter. The silver lining here is that the Legacy 28 will reveal flaws in technique more readily than a gun with more forgiving swing characteristics, and that knowledge is the first step toward shooting mastery–or madness, depending on your perspective. The gun’s styling is very Benelli, which is to say it boldly mixes colors and textures with an abandon worthy of van Gogh or Lady Gaga–again, depending on your taste. The Legacy doesn’t come cheap. Our model lists for nearly two grand, but it functioned without flaw and left each of us smiling after shooting it. And what price, really, can you put on such happiness? Testers’ Comments:
– Lovely gun
– Well finished
– Nice detail in the engraving
– Sweetheart of a shotgun
– A bit pricey Overall Rating: 4 stars Workmanship: B+
Performance: A+
Price/Value: B Price: $1,989; [ ]
Beretta A400 Xplor Unico
If there’s a rule that says an all-weather duck gun needs to be a homely contraption slathered in camo, Beretta chose to ignore it when designing the A400 Xplor. In keeping with the shooting public’s expectations for waterfowl, the A400 comes with a 3 1⁄2-inch chamber for the heaviest duck and goose loads. In a gun that weighs 6 pounds 15 ounces, the recoil from those loads would be a legitimate cause for concern, but the A400 tames their bite with its effective Kick-Off system. The recoil pad–a nice bit of engineering itself–sits atop a pair of spring-loaded dampeners that compress under recoil, spreading the jab of the recoil over a longer period of time. The gas system is also innovative. Beretta says the gun uses less gas to cycle the action than older designs, and this, along with some modifications to the piston, helps it run cleaner. That may be, but one indisputable claim Beretta makes for the gun is that it handles the full spectrum of 12-gauge loads, right down to the lightest target loads. The bolt didn’t always lock back on the last shot with the light loads, but the action never failed to cycle, no matter what we ran in it. The A400 also had the pleasing tendency to hit whatever targets we threw in front of it. The versatile gun won high marks for its performance and left the impression that it could do it all. Testers’ Comments:
– Great marriage of design and function
– Very well balanced
– Comfortable to shoot
– Feels lively in hand Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Workmanship: B
Performance: A+
Price/Value: B Price: $1,725; [ ]
CZ Upland Ultralight
The name of this shotgun is no idle boast. Despite its full-size, 12-gauge dimensions, the Upland Ultralight tips the scales at 6 pounds 1 ounce, a trick it manages thanks to its aluminum receiver and some judicious trimming of bits and pieces in its design. After shouldering it for the first time, everyone on the test team had nearly identical visions of crossing vast swaths of rolling prairie hills with this gun in hand as far-ranging pointers cast back and forth seeking a nose full of pheasant. That style of hunting favors a young person’s legs, and one other feature of this CZ that caught our attention was its modest price–one that will favor a young hunter’s wallet. Listing at just $749, the Upland Ultralight earned an “excellent” rating in the Price/Value category. To hit that mark, the shotgun was stripped of frills. There is virtually no ornamentation on the matte-black metalwork, and the wood, while nicely stained, is as plain as can be. The gun doesn’t even come with ejectors–but this isn’t meant to be a high-volume shooter, so that didn’t detract from its intended use. This isn’t to say that the Upland Ultralight lacks features. The geometry of the stock is very good and the forend fills the lead hand nicely. It has good mechanical triggers, comes with three screw-in choke tubes and has a well-designed butt pad that resists hanging up on your coat when those roosters burst from their cover. Testers’ Comments:
– Perfect for long-distance hikes for pheasants
– Simple good looks
– Great value
– Balances well
– Plain wood Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Workmanship: B
Performance: B+
Price/Value: A Price: $749; [ ]
INNOVATIONS – Smart Design Elements on This Year’s New Rifles and Shotguns This was a good year for innovations in sporting arms–as much for what you see here as for what you don’t see. Absent in the 2010 lineup of new guns are the superfluous gew-gaws that seem to sprout from some firearms like mushrooms in the damp corner of a cellar. Perhaps the challenging economy prompted designers to take an extra look before commiting to a new feature of questionable value. The seven innovations here are all worthy elements that enhance the firearms and offer clear benefits to the shooter. Shilen DGV action: The left-bolt, right-port configuration of the action on the Shilen DGV makes shooting off a rest while gunning for varmints more convenient. A right-handed shooter can maintain his grip while the left hand works the bolt and reaches over to chamber a fresh round.
Savage muzzle brake: The two knurled rings at the base of the muzzle brake on the Savage 111 Long Range Hunter let the shooter open and close the ports of the brake by hand. Accuracy was unaffected with the brake either on or off.
Mossberg LPA trigger: The triggers on most shotguns are bad enough to make you weep. Mossberg’s user-adjustable LPA trigger, which broke at 3 pounds on our model, elevates mass production shotgun triggers from the Dark Ages.
CZ Ultralight receiver: The plainly adorned receiver on CZ’s new ultralight is crafted out of aluminum and is the main reason this new shotgun tips the scales at a svelte (for a 12-gauge) 6 pounds 1 ounce, making it a pleasure to carry on long hunts.
Caesar Guerini balance weights: The metal rod weights located between the rib and the top barrel on the Summit Impact can be added and removed by the shooter to fine-tune the handling and balance of the shotgun.
Blaser R8 magazine/trigger: The magazine and trigger are combined into a single unit on the Blaser R8, and both work exceptionally well. With the magazine removed, the firearm is rendered inoperable, which is a nice safety feature.
Beretta A400 Xplor gas system: One traditional problem with gas-operated semi-auto shotguns is the inability to shoot the heaviest and lightest loads without changing settings. The A400’s new system handles the full spectrum of loads.
Click “Enlarge Photo” to see the large version of the table.