Best Guns of the Decade
These rifles, shotguns, and handguns defined a decade of gun making
The twenty-teens have come to a close. Before we speed forward to all of the new gun introductions of 2020, let’s take a look back, because it has been a hell of a decade for hunters and shooters. Here’s a list of 25 firearms that made a lasting impact over the last 10 years.
The trend in dirt-cheap rifles that shoot lights-out started with Savage under the leadership of Ron Coburn. Other companies took notice, but none ran with the concept like Ruger, which set a new threshold for the category with the Ruger American. Ruger took a hard look at how to combine accuracy-enhancing elements with efficient manufacturing techniques and created the American, a three-lug bolt action with an innovative bedding system that creates an extra-solid lock-up between the receiver and stock. Combined with a quality factory barrel, a good trigger, and a smooth-running action, you get a rifle that performs better than any other deer rifle at this price point. —JBS
The Fieldcraft has established itself as one of the finest production rifles for big-game hunting, but when it first came out it created some confusion. After all, Barrett was better known for making humongous .50-caliber rifles that only a muscle-bound jarhead would consider portable—and not svelte bolt-guns that would be ideal on a mountain sheep hunt.
As Barrett demonstrated, however, the company knows how to make a fine firearm, no matter its outward appearance. The action is of Barrett’s own design, a diminutive two-lug system with a push-feed mechanism that incorporates a plunger ejector and Sako-style extractor.
Barrett mated the action to a carbon-fiber stock, which is based on a Melvin Forbes design. It’s one of the best lightweight stocks made. The rifle is accurate, handy, and runs like a dream. Few production gunmakers can match the Fieldcraft for elegance and performance. —JBS
Walther Q5 SF
Based on its polymer-framed brothers, the Q5 Match SF differs in that it’s equipped with a steel frame. The Q5 SF has a ton going for it: fantastic trigger, enviable ergonomics, striker-fired simplicity, user-swappable grip panels, incredible accuracy—and the list just goes on. What’s most intriguing is the frame. While other manufacturers have been busy releasing Tupperware, Walther is headed in the opposite direction, and at the same time, may inadvertently be setting a trend. Competitors are taking notice and we predict the next development in the handgun segment will be alloy-framed strikers. You heard it here first. —CM
Bergara B-14 HMR
For someone looking for a do-it-all rifle, the Bergara B-14 HMR makes a pretty compelling choice. Weighing in at 9.5 pounds, it’s heavier than a standard hunting rifle, yet lighter than a typical competition gun. That said, it strikes a balance where it can be used in both roles and do a good job with either task. For use in competition, it employs AICS detachable-magazines, has a stock that can be tweaked for comb height and length-of-pull, comes with flush QD cups for a sling, a heavy (and accurate) threaded barrel that will stand up to long shot-strings, and a crisp trigger. The B-14 has a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee, and from personal experience I can say that it has no problem backing up that claim. The average groups from my rifle, chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, with factory ammo measured .833 inches and I had some five-shot groups that came in under 1/2-MOA. It’s a hell of a lot of performance from a rifle that has a real-world cost $950. —JBS
Seekins Havak Pro Hunter
Gun makers looking to make the ultimate hunting rifle have worked hard to blend elements of accuracy taken from the competition world into a platform that is usable for stalking game in the mountains or when setting up for long-shots in open country. No one has succeeded as well as Glen Seekins, the person behind the Havak Pro Hunter. Being both a serious hunter and competitive shooter, Seekins knew what he wanted: A lightweight rifle that could survive punishing treatment and was built to put shot-after-shot on target. He was also one of the first to chamber a rifle in 6.5 PRC, one of the most significant cartridge introductions of the last decade. He designed the stock with a broad fore-end, a nearly vertical pistol grip with ample palm swells and QD cups for slings and other attachments—all of which are common on competition rifles. The deep spiral fluting on the barrel keeps the weight of the rifle down but doesn’t have any adverse impact on accuracy. My rifle averaged .75 MOA with Hornady factory ammo shooting 5-shot groups. The rifle also runs flawlessly and looks great. For the price, ($2,200) it is an amazing value. —JBS
If there is a singular platform that best defines this concluding decade, it is the AR pistol. The introduction of the pistol stabilizing brace deserves full-credit for the surge of popularity of this once decadent variant of the AR-15 is enjoying. Short-barreled rifles (SBRs) have always had a certain sex appeal, but the cost of admission and draconian rules associated with them have been a turn-off for all but the most dedicated consumers. With braced AR pistols available off the shelf and without a wait, the ultimate compact, semiautomatic truck gun was reborn, and continues to unapologetically enjoy an ever-increasing level of popularity. —CM
Anschutz 1571 American Varminter
This little .17 HMR is the most refined and accurate rimfire I shot in the last 10 years. Every detail on the rifle is thought through—the contours of the stock, the adjustable reach on the two-stage trigger (which breaks at a sweet 6 ounces), the recessed crown on the barrel that is sunk below the treads on the muzzle, the easy-to-load steel magazine. Best of all, these individual qualities work together in a seamless fashion. When it first came out, the impression it left me and the other judges on our evaluation team was that it was a nearly perfect rifle. That opinion hasn’t shifted. It is a great .17 HMR. —JBS
When Glock introduced its Modular Optic System (MOS) in 2015, it solidified the red dot revolution we’re experiencing today. While early adopters of slide-mounted mini red dot sights baulked at the use of mounting plates in place of a milled pocket for a singular optic, we feel Glock ultimately made the right call for the market at the time, by engineering their system to accept most miniature red dot models available. This, in-turn, opened the doors for users with varying budgets, and interest levels to try the system without an aftermarket investment. The future of the next decade is red dot sights on all pistols, and the Glock platform is responsible for bring it mainstream. —CM
Ruger LCP II
We kicked this decade off with an industry clamoring for a single-stack 9mm pistol for everyday carry that was lightweight, reliable, easy to shoot and carried more rounds than an equivalent sized wheel gun. We initially received everything on our wish list, but in .380 ACP. While it created some disruption on the internet, the Ruger LCP, and later the LCP II, received a warm welcome by those seeking the ultimate in a deep concealment, hideaway pistol. It quickly developed a cult-like following that ultimately paved the way for the compact, single-stack and micro-compact 9s we are enjoying in the latter-half of the decade. —CM
Caesar Guerini Revenant
If you told me back in 2010 that one of the most significant firearms introductions in the coming decade would be an ornately engraved over-and-under I would have head-slapped you for talking such nonsense. And yet here we are. The Revenant is remarkable because it represents a new high-water mark for a machine-made firearm. Look closely and you’ll see a level of fit and finish, to say nothing of the stunning engraving, that previously was only associated with hand-built guns with price tags in the six figures. However, this shotgun is more than just a pretty face. It handles as well as it looks, embodying the fine balance and other characteristics of a London Best game gun. At $13,000, this isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t make the accomplishment any less significant. —JBS
When I first laid eyes on the SX4, I wasn’t smitten. The shotgun’s lines don’t flow. The oversized safety and bolt release are ungainly, and who’s going to swoon over yet another black plastic stock? After busting clays with it, however, I felt ashamed for having been such a shallow, judgmental cad. Almighty does it shoot. Those extra-large controls make the shotgun more useable for its intended environment, which is a frozen duck blind in a pissing ice storm. And they don’t take away one whit from the fine swing and nimble handling that the SX4 has—which actually gives it the additional utility of being a terrific upland gun as well. Since it was first introduced in 12 gauge, Winchester has added a 20-gauge receiver to the line. Both are tremendous values, especially in light of their multi-purpose capabilities. —JBS
SIG Sauer P365
Once the industry received the single-stack it had been jumping up and down about, it realized what it got wasn’t enough and began howling for more – more bullets that is. SIG Sauer took the momentum the single-stack 9mm had garnered, turned it on its head and created an entirely new category: the micro compact. The introduction of its P365 seemingly changed the definition of what an EDC pistol should be. The P365 shares virtually the same dimensions as the single-stacks it crushes, yet boasts a 30%+ increase in capacity. Why carry a pistol that holds 7 rounds, when you can carry 10 or 12 rounds in the same package size? Us either. We predict the single-stack 9mm will go the way of the dodo and the micro compact will dominate. —CM
I couldn’t keep this rifle off the list for the simple fact that, finally, we have a well-built (albeit basic) bolt gun made in Germany bearing the Mauser name that an average guy can actually afford. The M18 has a refreshing lack of Teutonic “innovation.” There’s no funky cocking system. The barrels don’t swap out. The trigger group doesn’t fall out of the receiver along with the magazine. I could go on, but you get the point. Instead, we have a solid two-lug action turn bolt that feeds well, is accurate, handles nicely, and doesn’t take an advanced degree to know how to operate. You can find it for sale for less than $600 and it comes in a number of appealing calibers including .308 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor. —JBS
S&W M&P 2.0 Compact
It’s no secret that Glock has owned the service pistol segment for the last 20 years, with the Model 19 as its crown jewel. The G19 simply owns the mid-sized bracket. It’s a compact, concealable pistol that can also serve the roll of a duty pistol. It’s easy to shoot, reliable as a hammer, inexpensive and the dimensions are spot-on. Every other handgun manufacturer has tried and failed to dethrone it. Common reason for failure? Dimensions. Along came Smith & Wesson and its M&P 2.0 Compact. This time around, S&W wasn’t scared of the polymer powerhouse and gave its 2.0 Compact the same dimensions as the Glock 19. Not only that, the new M&P has a better trigger, better grip texture, better grip interchangeability, metal sights, metal magazines and the list goes on. Finally consumers have a real-deal Glock 19 alternative. Bravo Smith & Wesson, bravo. —CM
Weatherby Backcountry Ti
It might seem a little premature to include this rifle on a list of the decade’s best as it was only introduced last September, but I think it warrants a spot for a couple reasons. First off, it represents a major step in the evolution of Weatherby. The company’s roots were planted firmly in the soil of Southern California in the post-World War II years. The iconic double-radiused shouldered and belted cartridges that founder Roy Weatherby designed were hot stuff for their time, and they fired up the imaginations (and bruised the shoulders) of a generation of hunters who aspired to hunt the West and far-flung spots around the globe. But that was a long time ago, and the company had never really made a break from Roy’s creations until now. This new rifle, a lovely wisp of a thing, is chambered in the new 6.5 Weatherby RPM and is the company’s first new cartridge that’s built along the principals of modern cartridge design. That means it has minimal body taper, steep shoulders, tight throat dimensions, and has a factory-spec twist rate that’s fast enough to stabilize heavy, high B.C. bullets that are increasingly favored by hunters and shooters. On top of that the rifle itself, being built in Weatherby’s new home in Sheridan, Wyoming, is just wonderful. It has graceful lines, runs very smoothly and includes some cutting-edge innovation like a very effective, and minimalistic, 3-D printed recoil pad. —JBS
SIG Sauer P320
Introduced in 2014 when the polymer framed, striker-fired pistol market was retained by Glock; SIG’s entry with its P320 was followed by a campaign of pure aggression. Four years after the platform’s introduction, it had not only made its presence well known and accepted in the law enforcement and civilian markets, it also went head-to-head with Glock for the biggest prize of them all. Ultimately the P320 has solidified its place in history books and holsters as the M17; the new standard issue sidearm for the United States Military. If the last six years are any indicator, we are in for a wild ride this next decade – and we can’t wait. —CM
Mossberg Patriot in .375 Ruger
When the .375 Ruger came out in 2007 it got lost in the shuffle with all the other cartridges that were introduced around the same time, most notably the 6.5 Creedmoor. I certainly didn’t give it its due. Over the last 10 years, however, this cartridge has grown on me. I’ve used it in Alaska on brown bears and other North American game, and could see taking it to Africa as well. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, the .375 Ruger delivers .375 H&H performance out of a 20-inch barrel. When Mossberg chambered the .375 Ruger in their Patriot, they created a legitimate dangerous game rifle that anyone could afford. With a synthetic stock, I’ve found them online for less than $375. Mine, with a laminate stock, was supremely accurate, printing bug-hole 3-shot groups at 100 yards. That kind of performance at that price makes this rifle worth a second look, in case you missed it the first time around. —JBS
Springfield Armory XD-M 10mm
The last half of the decade has been a tough one for ole’ Glock. SIG has been eating its lunch and now Springfield Armory has come along and introduced the most credible threat to its G20 big-bore it has ever seen. The XD-M 10mm is a hammer and checks all the boxes of a backcountry powerhouse. Available in two barrel lengths; a 4.5 and 5.25 long slide, the latter comes with an adjustable rear and a fiber optic front, while the former receives three dot metal sights. The XD-M boasts a 15-round capacity, is accurate, soft recoiling and incredibly ergonomic, with more than enough frame texture to hang on to it with sweaty, muddy, bloody hands. The only thing missing is a factory optic configuration, but we’re guessing Springfield will nullify that compliant in short order. Springfield, if you’re reading this, we’d like co-witnessed, suppressor-height iron sights to go along with our optic cut and let’s skip the adapter plates. Pretty please. —CM
Read Next: The 18 Best New Hunting and Precision Rifles
Ruger Precision Rifle
The market is crowded with competition-ready rifles that won’t break the bank, but the Ruger Precision Rifle really kicked off the trend. The RPR was intelligently thought through so that a shooter could run it in a match as-is or customize it with performance enhancing accessories, of which there are many. It comes in all the right cartridges: 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win., 6 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 300 PRC and .300 Win. Mag. No matter the chambering, all are accurate, though the best picks for PRS style competition are the 6.5 Creed and 6 Creed. If you’re shooting in ELR matches, the 6.5 PRC is the one to go with. When you go down the list of qualities needed in a competition rifle, the RPR has them all. A medium contour barrel with an effective muzzle brake. An adjustable trigger (which you can easily replace if you want). A versatile fore-end (which can also be swapped out). Stock dimensions that are simple to tailor to the shooter’s needs. And so on. And the price still can’t be beat. Poke around online and you’ll find them between $1,200 and $1,400. —JBS
We’d like to give Hudson Manufacturing some credit; they introduced some much welcomed innovation into a semi-stagnant handgun market. Much excitement surrounded the introduction of the company’s H9 and later H9A pistols, but the design proved to be too radical a departure for the status quo and the market simply wasn’t ready. Well, there’s more to it than that, but we’ll stop there. While the so-called radical design of the Hudson H9 was ultimately rejected by the market – at the time – what it did demonstrate was interest in an alloy-framed striker-fired pistol. While the design was slightly ahead of its time, the H9 can be credited with breaking the ice, leading to the successful marketing of alloy-framed strikers that the market will be ready to accept in the next decade. —CM
Archon Type B
While the jury is most certainly still out with regard to Archon, which is just now delivering its Type B pistols, the design certainly reflects that it is built for shooters, by shooters. Come to think of it, it’s really a competition pistol scaled down for concealed carry, with all of the benefits and none of the draw backs. The Type B strikes all the high notes, i.e. low bore-axis, light flat faced trigger, wrap around slide serrations and an extended beavertail. It has a go-fast, semi-custom look and the high-performance to back it up. Rumor has it additional models may be on the horizon, and given our favorable experience with the production pistol so far, we’re excited to see what the future holds for Archon and its growing stable of factory hotrods. —CM
STI Staccato-P DUO
The 1911, er, the 2011 is certainly making a comeback, and in a very strong way. Manufacturer STI introduced its Staccato-P DUO just one short year ago, and that pistol has almost single-handily converted mountains of Glock shooters to the 2011 platform. One notable government agency has even placed an order for its Special Operations Group, with rumor on the streets that more are following its lead.
This begs the question of why a 1911? Well, the Staccato-P DUO is a modern-day featured, duty capable, double-stack (2011) platform that boasts high-magazine capacity and a lengthy feature list that checks nearly every box an experienced shooter could request. Two other features standout, the first is the most obvious: it’s a 2011, which means the trigger alone will make a novice look like a pro on the 25 yard line. The second is the latter part of its designation: DUO. Dawson (as in Precision) Universal Optic cut. This allows a red dot sight to be milled deeply and securely into the slide and co-witnessed with suppressor-height irons. The DUO offers easier dot tracking under recoil and duty-grade security of the sight. Put plainly, the Staccato-P DUO offers carbine-like precision that fits in your belt holster. —CM
The good news is factory 1911s are more reliable now, than ever. The bad news is the time-tested design is, well, dated. We can hear “burn the heretics” screamed through Facebook groups, forums and our own website now, but hang on a second. High-end, semicustom 1911 manufacturer Nighthawk, has seen the future and teamed up with one of the more notable custom Glock shops, Agency Arms, to collaborate on a pistol. That pistol, known as the Nighthawk Agent, integrates all of the popular features the current custom Glock crowd drools over, but in a classic 1911, albeit a 9mm one. What’s old is new again and we see this trend continuing. —CM
The .17 HMR reinvigorated the world of rimfire shooting when it came out in 2002. This speedy little round, based on a necked-down .22 WMR, shot flat and accurately and became a scourge for ground squirrels and other small game. The only problem with the round was that there weren’t any safe and reliably semi-autos for it. The .17 HMR is a dirty little round, and the buildup of powder residue caused funky issues in the first semi-autos, leading to some detonations when the bolt was out of battery. Needless to say, no good came from this. Savage came to the rescue with the A17, which came out in 2015. The engineers created a delayed blow-back system whereby the bolt stayed locked in battery long enough for pressures to drop to safe level before the action cycled. This innovation has given fans of the .17 HMR a new platform to play with and the residents of prairie dog towns nightmares ever since.
Browning X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Speed
This rifle caught us by surprise when it was introduced back in 2016. The X-Bolt wasn’t a new platform, rather it was a tried-and-true bolt gun. But prior to this, the X-Bolt had been a pretty plain-Jane affair, stocked only in wood or black plastic. Not only did the Hell’s Canyon add a splash of color (which in itself wouldn’t warrant inclusion on this list) but it reimagined the X-Bolt as a consummate western long-range hunting tool. When we shot ours, which was chambered in .30/06, it easily kept 5-shot groups to under and inch, including some that were sub-.75 MOA. The muzzle break did a great job soaking up felt recoil and the rifle itself loaded, ran and shot like a champ. While there’s nothing groundbreaking about its design, what Browning did was create a center-of-mass hunting rifle that hits all the high points.