Volume 26, Number 2 February/March 2018

Archive for the ‘Featured’ category

Knowing the intricacies of the tax code can help take a big bite out of a business loss

Losses come in many shapes and forms. There are loses that result from natural disasters, losses caused by dishonest employees and  customers, and financial losses from bad business decisions or a poor economy, to name only three. Although insurance, such as so-called business continuation insurance, provides protection from some losses, it is our tax laws that can really help reduce the bite of losses. Surprisingly, many shooting sports businesses may actually profit from their losses. That’s right, taking full advantage of and correctly using tax laws that apply to the losses of a firearms business can mean business survival and, in many cases, profits. Navigating the often confusing welter of IRS rules and regulations can be a daunting challenge, though. Here are some guidelines to help you plot your course.

Casualty Losses

Today, cyber fraud, theft, and embezzlement appear to be taking a backseat to storm- and wildfire-generated casualty losses. Casualty losses are the damages or complete destruction of property caused by fire, theft, vandalism, floods, earthquakes, terrorism, or some other sudden, unexpected, or unusual event.

In order to be tax-deductible, there must be some external force involved. What’s more, a casualty-loss deduction can be claimed only to the extent that the loss is not covered by insurance or otherwise reimbursed. In other words, if the loss is fully covered, no tax deduction is available.

The IRS uses a very conservative yardstick to measure the amount of damage to property. A shooting sports business must use the lesser of the property’s adjusted tax basis immediately before the loss or the property’s decline in fair market value as a result of the casualty.

business, business loss

Disaster Business Losses

Generally, casualty losses must be deducted in the year in which the loss event occurred. However, to help cushion losses suffered by a business, the tax laws contain a special rule for disaster losses in an area subsequently determined by the President of the United States to warrant federal assistance. For those losses, the shooting sports business owner or manager has the option of deducting the loss on the tax return for the year in which the loss occurred or choosing to deduct the loss on the tax return for the preceding tax year: In plain English, the business has the option of deciding whether the loss would be most beneficial used to offset the current year’s tax bill or better used to reduce the previous year’s tax bill, thereby generating a refund of previously paid taxes.

In order to accomplish this, the business simply files an amended tax return for the preceding year, figuring the loss and the change in taxes exactly as if the loss occurred in that preceding year. Although this choice must be made by the due date (not including extensions) for the tax return of the year in which the loss actually occurred, the resulting refund can go a long way to helping the damaged business.

Proof of Loss

After each disaster, the IRS reminds taxpayers of the need for records to support loss claims. In order to claim a casualty-loss deduction, a gun shop owner or manager must be prepared to prove not only that business property was lost in a casualty, but the amount of the loss. This requires a knowledge of, and documentation to support, a number of factors, including that the dealer or firearms business owned the property, the pre-disaster value of the asset, the reduction in value caused by the disaster, and the lack or insufficiency of reimbursement to cover the loss. In addition, the owner must prove the amount of the book value, the “basis” in the property. Adjusted basis for property is generally equal to the cost of acquiring it, plus the cost of any improvements and minus any depreciation deductions or earlier casualty losses.

Obviously, the best way to document a loss, especially disaster losses, is to file an insurance claim. However, even insurance companies require documentation. To help when records have been lost or destroyed, the IRS has an excellent tool, “Disaster Assistance Self-Study-Record Reconstruction”.

Gaining From a Loss

As mentioned earlier, some businesses may actually profit from casualty losses. If, for instance, the amount of the insurance reimbursement received is more than the book value or adjusted basis of the destroyed or damaged property, there may actually be a gain. However, the fact a gain exists does not necessarily mean that it will be taxable right away. Most businesses are able to defer the gain to a later year (or perhaps indefinitely) simply by acquiring “qualified replacement property.”

In calculating that gain, any expenses incurred in obtaining the reimbursement, such as the expenses of hiring an independent insurance adjuster, are subtracted. Then, if the same amount as the rest of the insurance money received was spent either repairing or restoring the property or in purchasing replacement property, any tax on the gain may be postponed. The replacement must occur within two years of the tax year when the gain was realized.

Handle With Care

Losses come in many forms—even from excessive tax deductions. If a firearms dealer or business has too many tax deductions and too little income, a net operating loss (NOL) results. Many businesses have used losses incurred during the economic downturn (or casualties) to reduce income from prior tax years, providing a refund of previously paid taxes.

The NOL carryback period is usually two years preceding the loss year and then forward to the 20 years following the loss year. A three-year carryback period exists for so-called eligible losses, including the portion of a NOL relating to casualty and theft losses.

There are also losses that can be controlled. Quite simply, a loss is allowed for the abandonment of an asset. If a depreciable business asset or income-producing asset loses its usefulness and is subsequently abandoned, the loss is equal to its adjusted basis. Best of all, this type of loss applies to the abandonment of a business.

Far more common are those occasions when business property is taken, often as a result of a natural disaster. The government may also legally take property by the simple act of what’s known as “condemnation.” The loss of any business property by actions outside the control of the firearms retailer is usually labeled as “involuntary conversion.”

These actions are unusual in that they frequently result in a taxable gain. Fortunately, the rules governing involuntary conversions permit the property to be replaced with property of a “like kind,” eliminating the need to report and pay taxes on that gain.

Owners of unincorporated businesses who are forced to sell or liquidate their businesses at a loss are allowed to deduct those losses against their ordinary income. Owners of incorporated firearms businesses who sell or liquidate their operation at a loss are required to deduct those losses against their capital gains. If their capital losses exceed their capital gains, they are allowed to divide the loss into increments of up to $3,000 per year and deduct that amount against their ordinary income. At that rate, depending on the amount of the capital loss, it may be many years before the entire loss is deducted.

Too Much Loss

A number of unfortunate business owners, particularly those whose businesses operate as a pass-through entity, have discovered that there can be such a thing as too much loss. Under the tax rules, a partner or S corporation shareholder cannot take a loss in excess of the amount invested in the firearms business.

For S corporations, a shareholder’s “basis” includes equity investments and direct loans. That basis is increased by profits and reduced by losses and distributions. Once the basis is reduced to zero, additional losses are suspended.

Answers to questions about the complex and, often confusing, casualty loss tax rules can be found in the IRS Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters and Thefts (irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p547.pdf).

Unfortunately, recoveries via tax law are not always smooth. They often require professional assistance or, at the very least, an understanding of how the tax rules work. As always, consultation with a tax professional is the best way to go.

 —Mark E. Battersby

 —Illustrations by Adofo Valle


The thermal optics market is expanding rapidly. Don’t get left behind

It was just after midnight, near Corpus Christie, Texas, when our pickup truck rolled to a silent stop. Our guide/driver leaned out of his window to get a better look, and in a low voice said, “We got hogs. Up ahead on the left.”

“How far away?” I asked.“at least 300 yards,” he answered. “We’ll walk from here.”

It was a clear night, a few stars overhead, but we couldn’t see 30 yards with the naked eye, much less 300 yards. Our advantage for this night hunt? New thermal monoculars from Trijicon, plus Trijicon’s new REAP-IR Mini Thermal Scope mounted on my MSR. These thermal units allowed us to spot hogs and coyotes hundreds of yards away in the black Texas night.

thermal optics

Pulsar’s APEX XD-50 Thermal Sight, featuring a built-in rangefinder, helped the author bag this feral hog.

We got out of the truck as quietly as we could and put a short stalk on the half-dozen hogs. Once we got to within approximately 75 yards, we set up our shooting sticks, picked our targets, and opened fire. Twenty seconds later, I had two hogs on the ground.

I’ve been hunting at night with thermal optics for more than five years now, and in that time I’ve seen a world of change in all things thermal. Today, hunters and tactical shooters have more thermal options than ever before. Prices have dropped steadily, and there’s more interest in and knowledge about thermal optics.

What hasn’t changed? Night hunting with thermal optics for hogs, coyotes, and varmints is still a rush. Thermal optics products are a great way to expand hunting opportunities, especially as more states legalize night hunting for problem species such as hogs and coyotes. As our shooting sports become ever more high-tech, thermal may well be the next big thing to grow your customer base.

Natural Fit

“Our customers want and need a full line of aiming solutions,” says Chuck Wahr, vice president of sales and marketing for Trijicon, when I ask why the optics maker began offering thermal units. “Actually, they have been suggesting we enter the thermal market for some time. In particular, our military and law enforcement customers have highlighted the desirability of the technology, and after we took a good look at it, we knew it was a natural fit for Trijicon and our customers.”

“This is a very young industry—in its infancy, really, especially at the hunter-consumer level,” says Tom Frane, director of global sales at FLIR, arguably the largest player in the thermal game for many years. “Military and law enforcement have had thermal units for years, but the average person hasn’t been able to get their hands on these units—literally. That’s changing fast, and the independent retailer is in a great position to get into this market and do very well.”

The market for thermal optics is on a definite upswing. Pulsar, of Mans-field, Texas, for example, debuted its first thermal units in 2012. Today, it has a full lineup of thermal monoculars and riflescopes. At the 2017 SHOT Show, Pulsar introduced its new Trail scopes and Helion monoculars, both with customer-friendly price points, and they immediately sold out.

“Our first orders of Trail and Helion units have gone out to our dealers, but we are already back-ordered for many thousands of additional thermal units,” says James Sellers, president of Pulsar. “We’ve seen demand for thermal increase significantly every year, and we’re expecting that only to continue.”

thermal optics

Since thermal technology detects heat, units like this entry-level FLIR Scout can be used to look for game by day.

At the Core

Actually, thermal optics are not true optics at all. The term “optic” is a common shorthand simply because the units look so much like traditional riflescopes and monoculars. In reality, they are digital cameras with sensors, or “cores,” that detect infrared or heat waves; an onboard signal processor then translates those waves into images for the shooter or spotter.

Another key distinction: Thermal optics technology is not “night vision,” though the two are frequently lumped together, especially on the internet. True night-vision technology uses any ambient light available—usually from stars, the moon, or infrared lasers—to illuminate when it is dark outside. Night vision works well, as long as there is some sort of light source to draw from. Thermal’s advantage is that is relies on heat to find targets, heat that is transmitted even when the night skies are overcast or during weather events like rain.

Depending on the thermal brand and model being used, a person can spot a human-sized object anywhere from 150 yards (with entry-level thermal) all the way out to 2,000 yards with top-of-the-line thermals. However, maximum spotting range and shooting range are different. While you may be able to see a white blob out to 2,000 yards with your thermal scope or monocular, you will likely have to get within several hundred yards to accurately identify the blob. With a thermal scope, you will probably have to move within 300 yards or so for the shot.

But getting closer usually isn’t a problem. After all, in most cases you’re hunting at night. Just keep in mind that though the quarry may not be able to see you, it can sure smell you.

Most thermal units operate via a digital “menu.” A menu lets you select such things as palette colors (white for hot, for example, or red for hot), brightness, contrast, and magnification (if available). For riflescopes, reticle options are selected via the menu operation, which also has the adjustments necessary for zeroing in the unit.

Many of these thermal units have wifi capability, and can take photos and download them via wifi. They also can store and use ballistics data.

Thermal scopes and monoculars are not exactly new, but the extremely high price points—often more than $10,000 for a single unit—and a general lack of marketing to civilians initially kept thermal units off retail shelves. But prices have dropped by many thousands of dollars per unit. At the same time, the word has gotten out to shooting sports consumers that thermal works, is becoming more affordable, and is, above all, a lot of fun to use.

Thermal units themselves have also gotten smaller and more effective, increasing their appeal to the general consumer. They are more flexible, too, with most companies now making “clip-on” models that can be attached in front of a riflescope or used as a handheld monocular.

As an indication of the potential growth of this market, Leupold debuted its new LTO (Leupold Thermal Optics) line at the 2017 SHOT Show. The LTO-Tracker is a small, handheld thermal monocular. Shortly afterward, Leupold also introduced the Quest. The Quest has additional features versus the LTO, including a precise temperature reading of the object being scanned (the temp is displayed on the screen), plus a built-in flashlight and a camera that can capture and store as many as 2,000 images.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in the thermal optics market and felt it was a natural fit for Leupold,” says trade marketing manager Shane Meisel. “A large percentage of our market is focused on hunting, and thermal handhelds like the Tracker and the Quest have so many hunting uses.”

Leupold’s LTO and Quest can be used to find and follow blood trails and scout for game animals. They also are handy for scanning an area before a hunter heads in. The latter should be a big selling point for deer hunters in particular. No more need for them to scare off a big buck on their way to the deer stand. They simply do a quick scan with the LTO or Quest (or other thermal units, for that matter) and see what may or may not be bedded down between them and their destination.

thermal optics

Live fire with a FLIR RS Scope mounted on an MSR. Using MSRs to hunt hogs at night is gaining ground in many states.

Into the Game

Thermal manufacturers are focusing hard on what they see as their core users: predator, varmint, and wild hog hunters. Hogs and coyotes are increasingly seen as problem species in many states. So, hunting regulations now often allow year-round night hunting of these animals with no bag limits.

Now retailers are getting into the game. Mike Blackwell owns and operates Big Boys Guns, Ammo and Range (bigboysgunsandammo.com) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Blackwell began offering thermal units in 2006, and admits the initial reaction to these products was tepid.

“The thermal that was available at the time was very expensive—I think it started at right around $6,000—and, frankly, it just didn’t work all that well,” he says. “The images were often pretty grainy. You had to use a USB cable to download any photos or video you took because they didn’t have wifi capability, and the tech could be hit or miss on those downloads.”

Since then, Blackwell says, his customer base has become much more interested in thermal. He credits the increased interest to better thermal units, lower prices overall, solid entry-level units—and feral hogs.

As has happened in many states, Oklahoma has seen a population explosion in wild hogs and a big jump in agricultural damage as the hungry porkers root up crop fields and destroy pasture lands. So, Oklahoma lawmakers recently made night hunting for hogs legal for state landowners on private property (or a designee with written permission from the landowner).

“Once they could hunt hogs after dark, my customers got very interested in thermal,” Blackwell says. “Right now, they are buying the entry-level units like the Leupold LTO-Tracker and the Sig Sauer ECHO1 Thermal Sight.”

For $700, Blackwell’s customers can get into thermal with the LTO-Tracker. The Echo1 is a rifle-mounted sight with 1X to 2X magnification and a spotting range of approximately 1,000 yards and a targeting range of right around 300 yards. It sells for $1,749.

Big Boys also stocks a number of other thermal monoculars and scopes from top manufacturers, and can and does order just about any other thermal units customers want. Profit margins? Not as high as with traditional optics, Blackwell says, but easily twice the margins he sees on firearms.

Seeing Is Believing

So, the $64,000 question: How do you move thermal products in your store? Seeing is believing—and education is a key to those first sales.

“The products sell themselves,” says Trijicon’s Wahr. “Find a way to demonstrate the products. Many retailers use video to demonstrate the product in use, but nothing replaces having a unit on the shelf that customers can look through and compare to other options.”

Blackwell agrees. His sales staff makes sure they hand over the thermal units so customers can scan the store area. Since thermal technology detects heat, the units work fine during the day, too, and people, lights, and other objects will jump out. Customers are usually pretty impressed with the visual example of what thermal can do, says Blackwell.

Another “ooh-and-aah” experience for customers can be achieved by varying the color palettes of the thermal units (a feature in most scopes and monoculars). Start with white for hot, and then switch to black or (if available) red or even green. Consider showing the potential customer a YouTube video of a night hog or coyote hunt. The various thermal manufacturers have such videos on their websites and Facebook pages.

All of which adds yet another reason for customers to like thermal. As Blackwell notes, “It’s the cool factor. It’s cool to have and use this technology. And cool certainly sells.”

Of course, educating your customers means first training your sales staff. Help is available for this, too.

“We’ve made a huge commitment to our retailers, to help educate them and their staffs about thermal in general and our products specifically,” said Pulsar’s Sellers. “We’ll come to their store and train staff.”

Wahr adds, “Our sales staff is more than willing to help provide the right training and materials to make the sales process easier.”

Retailers who “see the light” about these products stand to reap a nice benefit, especially through the recruitment of younger customers.

Thermal Optics Manufacturers

thermal optics

Thermal imaging changes the way you see the world. Here, a red fox was detected and photographed with a FLIR Scout monocular.

ATN ATN’s thermal products line includes binoculars and monoculars, but it is probably best known for the THOR riflescopes. With eight different variations, THOR units range in price from just under $2,000 to $5,999. (atncorp.com/thermal-night-vision)

FLIR The thermal leader for more than a decade, the FLIR product line includes the pocket-portable Scout monocular, long-range riflescopes, clip-on models, and units to attach to helmets and head rigs. SRPs run from $599 to $8,000. (flir.com)

Leupold Leupold’s thermal products lineup includes the LTO-Tracker and Quest, both small enough to hold in your hand. SRPs run $649.99 to $909.99. (leupold.com)

Pulsar Pulsar thermal brands include the Helion and Quantum monoculars, the new Trail riflescopes, and Apex riflescopes with built-in rangefinders. Pulsar also makes thermal clip-ons that allow a shooter to use his day scope at night. SRPs range from from $2,089 to $5,499. (pulsar-ny.com)

Sig Sauer Sig Sauer’s thermal products line includes the Echo1 monocular. SRP: $2,399.99. (sigsauer.com)

Trijicon A new entrant into the thermal game, Trijicon rolled out a full line of riflescopes, clip-on optics, and monoculars in 2017, with price points ranging from $6,000 to $10,000. The REAP-IR Mini Thermal Scope is a real gem for the night hog and predator hunter.  (trijiconeo.com/products)

 —Brian McCombie


This year, you’ll see lots of platform extensions
For 2018, optics brands intend to stay focused on optics for such popular platforms as long-range shooting and MSRs. Just the same, watch for the rise of optics for handguns-—and not just glass for hunting. Another important trend is the adoption of the red-dot sight for concealed carry. Here’s what’s new this year.

sight, Optics 2018



The CompM5 (SRP: $1,068) is a compact red-dot sight—in fact, it’s the smallest in the Comp series—powered by a single AAA battery, which gives it up to five years of continuous on power at position seven. An advanced wedged lens system offers dot clarity and makes the sight parallax-free. The CompM5 is compatible with Aimpoint 3XMag-1 and 6XMag-1 magnifiers as well as all generations of night-vision devices. The sight is offered in standard height for MSR mounting and absolute co-witness configurations. (aimpoint.com)

Barska Riflescope, Optics 2018

Barska the 1–4x24mm level hd riflescope is designed for accurate close- to mid-range targets.


The 1-4x24mm Level HD riflescope (SRP: $464.40) is designed for accurate close- to mid-range targeting with both hunting and tactical rifles. It is equipped with an illuminated HRS .223 bullet-drop-compensating reticle, which can be used to estimate range and elevation adjustments when shooting .223 Rem. ammunition. This reticle can also be switched to either red or green and features adjustable brightness settings. The new 1x30mm HQ Red/Green Dot Sight (SRP: $196.50) features push buttons on the side of the sight to allow users to switch between red- or green-dot reticles. An integrated light sensor automatically adjusts the brightness of the dot to match the lighting environment. There is also a quick-release mount. The 10x42mm Level ED binocular (SRP: $714.40) is equipped with ED glass for sharp and detailed images. The open-bridge design features a textured rubber coating for both protection and a comfortable non-slip grip. Equipped with an attachment point for use with a tripod. (barska.com)

Bushnell Riflescope, Optics 2018

Bushnell the xrs ii 4.5–30x50mm riflescope features first-focal-plane reticles and ed prime glass for rich color and contrast.


The new XRS II 4.5–30x50mm riflescope is Bushnell’s flagship optic. Models are configured with first-focal-plane reticles, and reticle options include an illuminated G3 reticle (SRP: $3,289), G3 reticle ($3,149), H59 reticle ($3,149), and TRMR3 reticle ($3,149). All feature ED Prime Glass for rich color and contrast, and lock turrets with RevLimiter Zero Stop that will not turn past zero. The AR Optics Haste is an ergonomic, waterproof, forward-grip laser in red (SRP: $248.95) or green (SRP: $348.95) designed to easily attach to any MSR and AR-style pistol. The Haste mounts under the bore and provides a bright, continuous, long-lasting beam with the push of a single button. The AR Optics Chase (SRP: $248.95, red laser; $348.95, green laser) is two sights in one. Push one button for a bright, continuous laser beam, push another to engage the flip-up front sight. The AR Optics Rush (SRP: $275.95, red laser; $375.95, green laser) is a high-rise mount with a built-in laser sight for close-quarters environments. It is compatible with any optic that can be mounted on a Picatinny rail. (bushnell.com)


The RD-842 8x42mm (SRP: $215) is a full-size, open-bridge-design binocular. It boasts high-quality BAK-4 prisms and fully multi-coated optics for crisp, bright images. (carson.com)

CENTERPOINT, Optics 2018

Centerpoint the precision turret line features zero-locking and resetting capabilities, plus side-focus parallax adjustment.


The Precision Lock Turret line of scopes features zero-locking and resetting capabilities, plus side-focus parallax adjustment and a ballistic 3–6X reticle. SRP: $99.99. (crosman.com)

C More

The MT series (SRP: $47.99) of pistol-mounting kits allows shooters to mount a red-dot sight to a variety of centerfire and rimfire pistols. (cmore.com)

Crimson Trace

The Laserguard Pro (SRP: $379, red; $379, green) will fit Glock’s subcompact pistols. The Laserguard (SRP: $229, red; $309, green) product line now includes red and green laser diodes for Smith & Wesson’s M&P 2.0 pistol and SDVE series of pistols, as well as the Sig P320 and the Heckler and Koch VP9/40 and VP9SK pistols. (crimsontrace.com)

Firefield Riflescope, Optics 2018 Pulsar Riflescope, Optics 2018

Firefield the barrage riflescope models feature a mil-dot reticle, protective capped turrets, and a single-piece mount.

Pulsar the digisight n355 digital night-vision scope uses a ccd sensor for extended viewing range at night.


The Barrage riflescope line is for shooters who engage targets with extreme precision. Models include a 1.5–5x32mm, 1.5–5x32mm with red laser, 1.5–5x32mm with green laser, 2.5–10x40mm, 2.5–10x40mm with red laser, and 2.5–10x40mm with green laser. These scopes feature a mil-dot reticle, protective capped turrets, and single-piece mount. (fire-field.com)


The KronusPro M30 1–6x24mm riflescope (SRP: $429.99) features a 30mm tube, a multicoated lens, and an illuminated German-style reticle with a 19 MOA circle and 1 MOA center dot. The Sight-Pro PTS-2 (SRP: $209.99), a 3x30mm prismatic scope with a blue/red illuminated 2.8 MOA dot reticle, would be a nice choice for your tactical customers. The Konuspy (SRP: $1,289.99) is a 6–24X power-zoom night-vision binocular with video-recording functionality. The unit features a durable, rubber-covered body, weighs only 24.6 ounces, and includes a battery charger, ac/dc adapter, USB cable, and 8GB SD-Card. The compact Power Zoom 7–17x30mm Monocular (SRP: $49.99) weighs only 5.5 ounces and uses a dual-focusing system. Field of view at 1,000 yards is 264.1 feet at 7X and 149.2 feet at 17X. (konuspro.com)

Leapers Scope, Optics 2018

Leapers the accu-sync series of mil-std 1913 picatinny scope rings are available in 1-inch, 30mm, and 34mm tube diameters.


The 3-12x56mm 30mm IE riflescope (SRP: $279.97) is a new addition to the Accushot line. It features an etched-glass German #4 Dot reticle with EZ-Tap 36-color illumination, plus Low Top Zero turrets with ¼ MOA per click adjustment. New to the T8 Series is a 1–8x28mm scope (SRP: $270) with a .223 Rem./5.56 NATO-calibrated BG4 ballistic-drop-compensating and rangefinding reticle with 36-color illumination. The BG4 Reticle is designed to be fast and intuitive. The new lightweight Accu-Sync series of mil-std 1913 Picatinny scope rings are available in 1-inch, 30mm, and 34mm tube diameters. Each features different optimized offset distances suited to MSR platforms. (leapers.com)


The next-generation open-bridge design Geovid HD-B 3000 laser rangefinding binocular line can now range up to 3,000 yards. The HD-R 3000 lines can range out to 2,700 yards. Features include a wide field of view, edge-to-edge sharpness, and an LED display that automatically adjusts to current light conditions. The HD-B models are also equipped with the ABC (Advanced Ballistic Compensation) system. The two HD-B models include an 8x42mm (SRP: $2,945) and 10x42mm (SRP: $2,995), and the three HD-R models include an 8x42mm (SRP: $2,545), 10x42mm (SRP: $2,595), and 8x56mm (SRP: $2,895). (us.leica-camera.com)

Carson, Optics 2018 C More, Optics 2018 Night Optics, Optics 2018
Carson C More  Night Optics


The Mark 5 line of tactical riflescopes features two models. The 5–25x56mm (SRP: $2,339.99–$3,639.00) is ideal for long-distance shots, and the 3.6–18x44mm is a more compact design for medium distances. Both feature all-new M5C3 ZeroLock adjustments, which provides precise, repeatable tracking with a dead-on return to zero. The elevation dials deliver 30 mils of adjustment in three turns, at 10 mils per turn. Both scopes are available with or without illuminated reticles, including the TMR, Combat Competition Hunter (CCH), H59, and Tremor 3. The VX-Freedom scope series offers versatility for high-power big-game rifles as well as rimfire firearms, MSRs, and muzzleloaders. Models include 1.5–4x20mm, 2–7x33mm, 3–9x40mm, 4–12x40mm, and 3–9x50mm (SRP: $259.99–$389.99). All models offer second-focal-plane reticles, including a Tri-MOA for long-range shooters, the Rimfire MOA reticle, and the new Pig Plex reticle optimized for hunting feral hogs. (leupold.com)


The B-10 10x42mm lightweight binocular (SRP: $549) features an aluminum-reinforced glass-filled frame with a rubber-armor coating. The optic weighs 24 ounces. This open-frame design also boasts high-definition ED Fluoride lenses and a smooth, precise focus. (lucidoptics.com)


The MeoNight 1.1 night-vision device (SRP: $4,499.99) can be used as a night-vision monocular for stand-alone viewing or with a riflescope to adapt it for nighttime use. Features include 1X magnification and external brightness control. In addition, the unit is capable of target detection out to 600 meters and automatically shuts off if unused for one hour. The MeoRed T 1x30mm reflex sight (SRP: $999.99) is designed for today’s MSR platforms, where quick target acquisition is a must. The unlimited eye relief of this red-dot sight enables fast and accurate target acquisition regardless of eye position behind the sight. Features include a 1.5 MOA illuminated red-dot reticle with 12 intensity-level settings. (meoptasportsoptics.com)


The latest addition to the VISM line-up is the SPD FlipDot reflex sight, which uses dual-power-source technology. When used out in the sun, the solar panel powers the red dot, and it will automatically turn on when the spring-loaded lens is deployed. A secondary battery power source can be engaged in low-light conditions by using the side on/off illumination-control buttons. The sight uses a KPM modular triple mount with a QR Picatinny mount and a KeyMod and M-LOK mounting-plate system. (ncstar.com)

 Leica, Optics 2018  Konus, Optics 2018 NC Star, Optics 2018
Leica Konus  NC Star

Night Optics

The new SVTS riflescope line features three models: the Fusion NV/Thermal riflescope (SRP: $1,199), the Mid-Range Thermal Riflescope (SRP: $1,999), and the Long-Range Thermal Riflescope (SRP: $3,499). These scopes feature continuous calibration that ensures the screen will not freeze at a critical moment. The Heat Tracker feature quickly identifies the next target with an arrow pointing to targets outside of the visible screen. (nightoptics.com)

Nightforce Optics

The ATACR line now includes the ATACR 1–8x24mm (SRP: $2,800), with a first-focal-plane configuration. This low-profile scope is only 10 inches in length. The capped turrets have .1 Mil-Radian increments, and the Power Throw Lever (PTL) allows for quick magnification changes. The NX8 1–8x24mm (SRP: $1,800) is the latest addition to the legendary NXS line. Optimized specifically for short- to medium-range shooting, this small and compact scope adds minimal size and weight. Adjustments are a true Mil-Radian or .50 MOA. New reticles include the FC-MIL and FC-MOA designed for low-power riflescopes with bright center-dot illumination and bold, pointed lines at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions that help draw the eye to the center for instant target acquisition. The FC-DM reticle is also designed for low-power variable scopes with a daylight bright illuminated center dot, segmented circle, and .5 and 1 Mil-Radian markings. The Forceplex reticle is based upon the traditional post and crosshair reticle favored by hunters. (nightforceoptics.com)

Nikko Stirling

The Mil Precision Reticle (MPR) first-focal-plane riflescope includes two models: the FFP 4–16x44mm (SRP: $499) and 6–24x50mm (SRP: $499). Each scope is constructed with a 30mm main tube, and features include fully coated Microlux ETE GEN III glass coatings,
10 mil click adjustments, dual red/green illumination, side parallax adjustment, enhanced light-gathering construction, and the glass-etched Skeleton HMD reticle. (legacysports.com)


The new Digisight N355 digital night-vision scope (SRP: $1,799.99) was designed for night hunting but can be used during daylight. The Digisight uses a CCD sensor for extended viewing range at night and can detect objects up to 545 yards away. It features three rifle profiles with five zero saves, 13 variable electronic reticles, one-shot zeroing with freeze function, a rangefinder, and a mount for use on both MSR and bolt-action platforms with a Picatinny/Weaver rail. (pulsar-nv.com)

Riton Riflescope, Optics 2018

Riton the mod 7 line is designed for short- to medium-range hunting applications, including dangerous game.



Three new configurations are available in the Mod 7 line of riflescopes. The Mod 7 1–8x28mm IR-H (SRP: $1,299) was developed in conjunction with Craig Boddington and designed for short- to medium-range hunting applications, including dangerous game. It features a one-piece aircraft-grade main tube and second-focal-plane reticle. The Mod 7 1–8x28mm IR-T (SRP: $1,299) is the tactical version. It features an illuminated first-focal-plane reticle that can be used on a true one-power magnification with both eyes open for quick target engagement. The Mod 7 4-32x56mm IR FFP (SRP: $1,499) is the new flagship model. Using a first-focal-plane setup with large magnification range, this scope packs a lot into a small package. Features include push/pull locking, zero reset and zero stop turrets, 34mm main tube, and multicoated lenses. (ritonoptics.com)

Shield Sights

Two new handgun sights have been added to the RMS line. The RMS-C (SRP: $420) is a compact sight narrowed to fit on slimmer slides without any overhang, making the overall system more concealable. The RMS-C will fit the Smith & Wesson Shield, Glock G43, 1911 models, and 2011 model pistols. The RMS-W (SRP: $490) is water resistant. Both models fit the same footprint as the RMS, so existing users can easily upgrade. (shieldsightsusa.com)

Shield Sights, Optics 2018

Shield Sights the rms-c is a compact sight narrowed to fit on slimmer slides without any overhang.


The new Ram Series Ultra Shot M-Spec red dot sight delivers a crisp field of view with an anti-reflective and scratch-resistant lens system, plus a 65-MOA red reticle with 10 brightness settings. Features include a locking QD Picatinny mount, battery, adjustment tools, and scope cover. The Ram is also compatible with the Sightmark XT-3 Tactical Magnifier. The affordable Photon RT series of digital night-vision riflescopes consists of four models: Photon RT 4.5x42S, Photon RT 4.5×42, Photon RT 6x50S, and Photon RT 6×50. The RT improves upon the XT generation with an upgraded core and new, user-friendly features, making them ideal for hog and predator hunting at any hour. (sightmark.com)

Sig Sauer

Two new MSR battle sights have been added to the Bravo line: the Bravo3 (SRP: $479.99) and Bravo5 (SRP: $599.99), with 3X and 5X magnification, respectively. These fixed-power optics offer a 40 percent wider field of view, are lightweight, and have an illuminated reticle calibrated to 5.56NATO and 300 BLK. The reticles are designed to also work in extremely bright conditions. Engineered to fit the Sig P238 or P938 pistols, the new LIMA38 laser sight (SRP: $155.99) features either a red or green laser pointer. The laser offers two modes—steady or pulse—and automatic shutoff to prevent battery drain. Runtime is one hour on steady mode and three hours on pulse mode. (sigsauer.com)


The BTX (SRP: $2,988) is a unique system combining the features and benefits of a spotting scope and a binocular. The BTX offers both eye viewing through all objective modules in the Swarovski ATX/STX series. It simply attaches to the objective. The BTX also features an adjustable forehead rest, which can be fully retracted for more comfortable viewing, and an aiming aid is integrated above the right eyepiece. (swarovskioptik.com)


This newcomer to the optics market is introducing the affordable Q40 line of long-range precision riflescopes with two models: a 4–16x50mm (SRP: $699.99) and a 6–24x50mm (SRP: $749.99). Both scopes feature a one-piece 34mm tube, side-adjustable parallax, turrets with tactile and audibly precise 1/10 mil clicks and zero stop, etched first-focal-plane illuminated reticles, flip-up lens covers, sunshade, and a magnification-ring throw lever. The Q40 series scopes use the new illuminated TWF reticle designed for long-range precision with 2/10 Mil Radian holdoffs and holdovers.


The new Gen 3 X5L-R red laser sight/light (SRP: $249) and Gen 3 X5L green laser sight (SRP: $409) now feature a 500-lumen CREE LED light, multiple modes, and rechargeable batteries. The instant-on feature turns on the light automatically when the gun is drawn from the holster. The Gen 2 Reactor R5-R red laser (SRP: $1,490) and Gen 2 R5 green laser (SRP: $239) now have triple the battery life—more than three hours of laser use in constant mode and up to six hours in pulse mode. (viridianweapontech.com)


The Strike Eagle 3–18x44mm (SRP: $599.99) and 4–24x50mm (SRP: $699.99) long-range riflescopes are an affordable option for shooters getting into long-range shooting. Built on a one-piece 30mm tube, both scopes offer 120 MOA (3-18×50) and 85 MOA (4–24×50) of elevation travel. Features include parallax adjustment, zero stop turrets, and an glass-etched second-focal-plane reticle with 11 illumination settings. (vortexoptics.com)

 Zeiss, Optics 2018 Swarovski, Optics 2018 Meopta, Optics 2018
Zeiss Swarovski  Meopta


The premium Victory SF binocular laser rangefinder series is available in four models: 8x42mm, 10x42mm, 8x54mm, and 10x54mm (SRP: starts at $3,249.99). These binos are designed with enhanced ergonomics for comfortable operation over extended periods. Range capability is out to 2,500 yards. They can also connect to Zeiss’ B.I.S. II ballistic calculator via Bluetooth technology, so with one click the range, angle, equivalent horizontal distance, and holdover values can be quickly displayed. The new Victory Harpia spotting scopes feature two models with angled eyepieces: 22–65x85mm and 23–70x95mm (SRP: starts at $4,099.99). The Harpia design positions magnification and dual-speed focus controls into the objective body of the spotting scope. This unique set means magnification is not controlled by the eyepiece—as is typical of spotting scopes—but by the objective lens. Conquest V4 scopes are designed for long-range shooters. Models include a 1–4x24mm, 3–12x56mm, 4–16x44mm, and 6–24x50mm (SRP: $799.99–$1,1199.99). The scopes feature second-focal-plane illuminated reticles, and external turrets with Ballistic Stop. (zeiss.com)

 Robert Sadowski

—Opening Photos by Tim Irwin


In an age when everything plastic rules, a handgun made of steel with a design more than 100 years old still drives the market. We are talking, of course, of the fabled 1911, and a third of the new guns that follow are based on this legendary platform. That’s not to say that there is no interest in an itty-bitty pocket pistol, and it’s clear the revolver is not the antiquated firearm many assume. In fact, when it comes to handguns, 2018 is a good mix of old, new, plastic, and steel, with a wheel or two thrown in for good measure.

pistol, Browning, Handguns

Browning The Black Label 1911-380 Pro Stainless is available in full-size and compact versions, with an accessory rail option.

Browning continues to add appealing variations to its reduced-size 1911 lineup. The Black Label 1911-380 Pro Stainless is available in full-size and compact versions, with an accessory rail option. They feature a matte-black composite frame with a machined 7075 aluminum subframe and slide rails. The slide is stainless steel, and the barrel has a rust-resistant satin-silver finish. Grips are G-10 composite, and the sights are three-dot combat or night sights dovetailed into the slide. Supplied with two 8-round magazines, the full-size model has a 4¼-inch barrel. The barrel on the compact model is 3 ⅝ inches. SRP: $799.99 to $909.99.

Here’s a cool take on a .22LR trail gun. It’s called the Buck Mark Camper UFX Suppressor Ready, and it features a 6-inch matte-finished tapered bull barrel that’s threaded for a suppressor. Additional features include Ultra FX ambidextrous grips, a Pro-Target rear sight, a Truglo/Marble Arms fiber-optic front sight, and a Picatinny rail for optics. SRP: $499.99.

Another suppressor-ready Buck Mark is the Plus Lite Fluted UFX Suppressor Ready model. It has a 5 ½-inch steel barrel, with an alloy sleeve and fluting in a matte blue finish. The Lite UFX comes with a thread-protector, Pro-Target rear sights, and a Truglo/Marble Arms fiber-optic front sight. The grips are Ultragrip FX ambidextrous. SRP: $619.99. (browning.com)

Handgun, Browning

Browning The Buck Mark Plus Lite Fluted UFX is a suppressor-ready model.

Just when you thought interest in the AR platform had subsided, there are AR pistols to keep it going. For 2018, Bushmaster has the SD Pistol, which is chambered for the 5.56 NATO or 300 Blackout. It has a mil-spec upper and lower, an AAC square-drop handguard, an AAC Blackout flash hider, an SB Tactical Arms brace, a Hogue Overmold grip, and an ALG Defense fire-control group. SRP: $1,399. (bushmaster.com)

Handgun, Cimarron

Cimarron The 1851 Navy cap-and-ball six-shooter replica comes in .44 or .36 caliber.

The Cimarron Bad Boy is a .44 Magnum revolver built on a pre-war frame, with an Army-style grip and an octagonal barrel. It’s ideal for hunting or hitting steel, or for backwoods trapping, or living off the grid. Features include a blue finish with smooth walnut grips and a flattop frame with adjustable sights. Available with a 6- or 8-inch octagonal barrel. SRP: $687.70

Also new from Cimarron is the 1851 Navy cap-and-ball six-shooter replica known as the Percussion Peacemaker. This revolver brings you back to the mythic West, with beautiful laser engraving on a case-hardened frame. It’s available in .44 or .36 caliber with a 7½-inch octagonal barrel. SRP: $422.50. (cimarron-firearms.com)

Handgun, CZ-USA

CZ-USA For those wanting a braced pistol package out of the box, CZ-USA has added the SB Tactical folding arm brace to the Scorpion pistol. This pistol is ideal for those who own a 9mm suppressor because most 9mm cans fit inside the carbine forend.

CZ has added two new variants to the P10C line of polymer-framed pistols. Joining the Urban Grey series of pistols, one new variant wears a mix of flat dark earth and light gray colors. It also has suppressor-height night sights, a suppressor-ready barrel threaded ½x28, and an extended base pad that boosts capacity to 17+1. The CZ P-10 Urban Grey Suppressor Ready is available in 9mm Luger. SRP: $549.

The other variant is the CZ P-10 C FDE White Nitride 9mm pistol. The white nitride used on this slide offers the same hardy surface protection as the standard black nitride. Combined with a flat dark earth frame, this two-toned pistol is affordable and classy. SRP: $539.

Now available with an OD green frame and a set of metal night sights, the new CZ P-09 full-size and compact variants carry all the features that make the P-09/P-07 series pistols desirable. SRP: $539.

For those wanting a braced pistol package out of the box, CZ-USA has added the SB Tactical folding arm brace to the Scorpion pistol. This pistol is ideal for those who already own a 9mm suppressor because most 9mm cans fit inside the carbine forend. SRP: $999. A blue/gray and OD green color variant was also added to the Scorpion EVO 3 S1 9mm line. SRP: $899.

The Cadet kit, which allows a 9mm pistol to fire .22LR ammo, is an overlooked item in the CZ line. These conversion kits are amazingly accurate and easy to install. Now CZ has two that are new. One is for the longer frame of the Shadow 2, the other is for SP-01 models with a full-length frame. Both come with two 10-round magazines. SRP: $431. (cz-usa.com)

Handguns, Dan Wesson

Dan Wesson The 50th Anniversary Limited Edition 1911 in .45 Auto (far left). the Vigil series (3 on right) is built on checkered aluminum frames with stainless slides, and offers an affordable entry point to the line in several popular variants.

Dan Wesson
For 2018, Dan Wesson increased its line of 1911 handguns by 10. The most exceptional is the 50th Anniversary Limited Edition. This glorious 1911, chambered for the .45 Auto, is adorned with engravings on the frame and slide and has a set of ivory-looking G10 grips embossed with Dan Wesson logo medallions. Produced in limited numbers, this is an all-stainless gun, finished in a high-polish nitride. SRP: $2,999.

The new Vigil series of 1911s are built on checkered aluminum frames with stainless-steel slides. They offer an affordable entry into the Dan Wesson line of handguns. With four variants, the Vigil can be had in sizes from CCO to government, and in suppressor-ready form. A tritium front sight, serrated rear, rounded butt, and Shadow cocobolo grips are standard. SRP: $1,298.99-$1,397.

Suppressor-ready pistols are an industry trend—one that Dan Wesson has fully embraced. The Wraith is a threaded-barrel government-size 1911 available in .45 Auto, 10mm, or 9mm and clad in a distressed version of the Duty finish. High night sights are standard. SRP: $2,077-$2,375.

The distinctive Discretion 1911 gets a commander-sized little brother for 2018. The Discretion is a purpose-built suppressor host, and the lightening cuts in the slide help negate some of the weight of the can. SRP: $2,142.

The bull-barreled officer-sized 1911 known as the ECO now can be had in an OD green variant. SRP: $1,662. There is also a parkerized variant of both the Government and Commander DW A2 pistols (SRP: $1,363), and a distressed 9mm and .45 version of the Specialist (SRP: $2,012). (danwessonfirearms.com)

Handguns, Magnum Research

Magnum Research The Desert Eagle series gets a classic case-hardened finish on .44 Magnum, .50 AE, and .357 Magnum models.

Magnum Research
Since 1985, Magnum Research has diligently worked to introduce new products to its iconic pop-culture Desert Eagle series. New for 2018 is a classic case-hardened finish on the .44 Magnum, .50 AE, and .357 Magnum Desert Eagles. Each features a 6-inch barrel, and the case-hardened finish is protected with a clear coat. SRP: $2,278. (magnumresearch.com)

Handguns, Nighthawk

Nighthawk The Echelon 1911 has been designed to function with lighter-recoiling 9mm ammunition.

Nighthawk Custom Firearms
The new 6-inch Echelon 1911 is touted as the pinnacle of modern manufacturing technology. Guns in this platform with 6-inch slides are notoriously heavy and difficult to make run consistently using lighter-recoiling 9mm ammunition, but Nighthawk engineers worked for two years to find the perfect balance that will allow 115-grain round ball and +P ammo to function perfectly. The Echelon has a single side safety and 10+1 capacity. It weighs 43.8 ounces and has an overall length of 9.65 inches. (nighthawkcustom.com)

pistol, Remington, Handguns

Remington The RP45 pistol has the smallest full-size grip circumference of any pistol in its class.

It appears Remington is after the lion’s share of the 1911 market, as it is introducing nine new models. The R1 1911 Limited 9/40/45 Double Stack, which has a capacity of 19, 18, and 16, respectively, is a 41-ounce 1911 with a 5-inch barrel, wide cocking serrations, an LPA adjustable rear sight, a fiber-optic front sight, an extended beavertail, and VZ G10 grips. It comes with two stainless-steel magazines. SRP: $1,399.

For those who really like the features of the Limited Double Stack but do not like the wide grip, there’s the 38-ounce R1 1911 Limited 9/40/45 Single Stack. The features are the same, but the capacity and price are less. SRP: $1,250.

If you have a little more change in your pocket going jing-a-ling-a-ling, and if you want something a bit more refined for racing, there’s the R1 1911 Limited 9/40/45 Tomasie Custom. These pistols have 5-inch barrels, wide cocking serrations, an LPA adjustable rear sight, an extended beavertail, an adjustable skeletonized trigger, VZ G10 grips, and a stainless-steel slide and frame. Weight is 41 ounces. Each is also inspected and test-fired by action-pistol champion Travis Tomasie. SRP: $1,650.

In the fighting-pistol category, Remington is offering the R1 1911 Tactical .45 ACP Double Stack. It has a 5-inch barrel, wide slide serrations, Trijicon sights, an extended beavertail, a PVD DLC finish, VZ G10 grips, an accessory rail, and a capacity of 15+1 rounds. SRP: $1,275. It’s also available with a threaded muzzle, and a single-stack version retails for $25 less.

The R1 1911 Enhanced Double Stack 15 .45 features a 15-round double-stack magazine, a 5-inch stainless match barrel, adjustable rear sights, a fiber-optic front sight, VZ G10 grips, an adjustable trigger, an extended beavertail grip safety, a skeletonized hammer, and front and rear cocking serrations. SRP: $999.

A lightweight 1911 Commander is a coveted carry pistol, and now Remington has introduced its take on this classic. The R1 1911 Ultralight Commander has an aluminum frame, weighs 31 ounces, and has a 4.25-inch stainless-steel match barrel, an adjustable rear sight, a fiber-optic front sight, laminate grips, an adjustable trigger, an extended beavertail, front and rear cocking serrations, and a skeletonized hammer. SRP: $849.

For those seeking a bit more refinement, the R1 1911 Executive Commander just might be for you. It has an aluminum frame, a 3 ½-inch stainless-steel match bull barrel, Trijicon front and rear sights, a bobtail frame and mainspring housing, G10 grips, an adjustable trigger, an extended-grip safety, and a skeletonized hammer. It weighs 28 ounces. SRP: $1,250.

Remington is also offering the 41-ounce R1 1911 10mm Hunter FDE. It has a 6-inch stainless-steel match-grade barrel, a Cerakote flat dark earth finish, an accessory rail, wide front and rear cocking serrations, LPA adjustable rear sights, an extended beavertail grip safety, an adjustable trigger, and VZ G10 grips. SRP: $1,340.

For little-gun lovers, Remington has added the RM380 Micro Carry Blue. This all-steel semi-auto is chambered for the .380 Auto and has a smooth DAO trigger, an ambidextrous mag release, interchangeable grip panels, an optimized grip angle, and an easy-to-rack slide. As for the color, it’s blue—Robin’s Egg Blue, to be exact. SRP: $348.

The R51 is still with us because it is an excellent protection pistol. The R51 Subcompact Smoke has a smoke-colored frame and weighs only 22 ounces. This +P-compatible pistol utilizes the Pedersen block design, has an ambidextrous mag release, and comes with two 7-round magazines. SRP: $408.

The striker-fired Remington RP45 pistol (15+1 capacity) has the smallest full-size grip circumference of any pistol in its class. Other features include an ambidextrous slide release, a smooth, light, and crisp trigger, an accessory rail, an optimized grip angle, and a loaded-chamber indicator. Ten-round versions are also available. SRP: $418. (remington.com)

Handguns, Ruger

Ruger If you’d like a bit more punch to your compact revolver, check out the six-shot .327 Federal Magnum LCR (left) and the LaserMax-equipped LC9 semi-auto (right).

Ruger tends to launch new products anytime it feels like it, but here are a few notable mid-year introductions you might have missed. The 3-inch-barreled LCR in .22 WMR should be a great trail or kit gun for the camper. It weighs only 17.8 ounces and holds six .22 Magnum cartridges. The same revolver is also available with a more compact 1.87-inch barrel. SRP: $579.

If you’d like a bit more punch to your compact revolver, Ruger has you covered there, too, with the six-shot .327 Federal Magnum LCR. It has a 1.87-inch barrel and is chambered for one of the most versatile revolver cartridges of all time; it can fire .32 Auto, .32 Short, .32 Long, .32 H&R Magnum, and .327 Federal Magnum cartridges. This is a little powerhouse. SRP: $669.

In the semi-auto line, Ruger has introduced a LaserMax-equipped LC9. It has a 7+1 capacity, a 3.12-inch barrel, weighs only 18.6 ounces, and is only 6 inches long. The LaserMax laser, which is mounted forward of the trigger guard, incorporates the patented LaserMax GripSense technology, and the unit includes a light as well. This is a lot of personal protection coolness for only $679. (ruger.com)

Handguns, Smith & Wesson

Smith & Wesson The compact M&P Shield 2.0 is now available with a dedicated Crimson Trace laser.

Smith and Wesson
The compact M&P Shield 2.0 is fitted with a dedicated Crimson Trace laser that offers ambidextrous activation. These itty-bitty pistols come with a 7- and 8-round magazine, weigh 18.8 ounces, and are only 6.1 inches long (3.1 inches of which are barrel). Four laser-equipped variants are offered in 9mm or .40 S&W, with or without a thumb safety (SRP: $499). The same four versions are offered without the laser sight (SRP: $479). The Shield has set the standard for an affordable and reliable compact defensive handgun, and these new models add to its legacy.

The Smith & Wesson Performance Center is offering three new models, two of which are revolvers. The Performance Center 686 is a 4-inch-barreled .357 Magnum that weighs 37.9 ounces. This all-stainless-steel six-shot revolver is loaded with features, including a tuned action. SRP: $966.

The 38.4-ounce seven-shot 686 Plus has a 5-inch barrel and is tricked-out similarly. SRP: $966.

The subcompact SW1911 in 9mm has an eight-round capacity. It has a 3-inch barrel and weighs only 26.2 ounces, making it ideal for covert carry. Features include an oversize external extractor, a full-length guide rod, a round butt frame, a grip safety, and an ambidextrous thumb safety. SRP: $1,330. (smith-wesson.com)

The Steyr RFP is a .22LR rimfire pistol with a single-action trigger and synthetic grip frame. The RFP also has a trigger safety, a magazine safety, and a drop safety. The action is a recoil-operated blowback system, and the pistol is fed by a 10-round detatchable magazine. The RFP weighs 1.33 pounds and has a 4-inch barrel, with an overall length of just under 7 inches. SRP: $425. (steyrarms.com)

—Richard Mann


Precision rifles and compact handguns seem to be all anyone wants to talk about these days. Although all the hustle and bustle is happening in holsters and at 1,000 yards, there are still shooters quietly going about their business, shouldering shotguns and knocking things out of the sky. Those folks can enter 2018 with eager anticipation because manufacturers have not forgotten them. And, for those who think of a shotgun only as a fighting firearm, you have some new tactical scatterguns to consider.

shotgun, browninng

Browning The 12-gauge Citori 725 Golden Clays Trap has an adjustable comb and a buttpad plate.

Browning’s High Grade Program is moving into its sixth year with limited-production Citori 725 Grade VI Field Model 12- and 20-gauge shotguns. The gold-enhanced receiver engravings and Grade V/VI walnut stocks exude class and workmanship. The receiver has a silver-nitride finish and a Fire Lite Mechanical trigger system. Offered with 26- or 28-inch barrels, these new models are supplied with a canvas/distressed leather fitted case. SRP: $5,999.99.

The new Citori 725 Golden Clays Trap 12-gauge over/under features gold-accented engraving on the right, left, and bottom of the receiver, and a silver-nitride finish. The stock and forearm are grade V/VI walnut with a gloss-oil finish, close-radius pistol grip, and palm swell. A Pro Fit Adjustable Monte Carlo comb and adjustable GraCoil Recoil Reduction System, with a Graco buttpad plate that adjusts for angle and location, are standard. Available with 30- or 32-inch barrels, Browning has introduced precision-rifle adjustability into the shotgun world. SRP: $5,739.99,

The Citori CXS and Citori CXT Adjustable Comb models are multipurpose over/under 12-gauge shotguns for various target-shooting endeavors. The CXS features a blued finish receiver with gold-accented engravings. The ported barrels are topped with a floating rib, and the stock and forearm are gloss-finished Grade II American walnut, with an adjustable comb and Schnabel-style forearm. The CSX is intended as a crossover shotgun for hunting, sporting clays, and skeet. SRP: $2,539.99.

The new CXT has a blued receiver with gold-accented engravings. The barrels feature a high-post floating rib and ventilated side and top ribs. The stock and forearm are gloss-finished Grade II American walnut, with an adjustable comb and semi-beavertail forearm with finger grooves. Intended for trap, the CXT is supplied with three Midas Grade choke tubes with 30- or 32-inch barrels. SRP: $2,599.99.

Also new is the Silver Field Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades 12-gauge semi-auto shotgun. It has an aluminum-alloy receiver and a black/charcoal bi-tone finish. This 3½-inch gas-operated autoloader also features a stock and forearm in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades camo. Available with either a 26- or 28-inch barrel. SRP: $1,139.99. (browning.com)

shotgun, CZ-USA

CZ-USA The Reaper Magnum lets a hunter choose a tight choke for long shots and an open choke for closer shots.

One of CZ-USA’s fanciest over/under shotguns, the Supreme Field, features Grade III wood and copious amounts of hand-engraved scrollwork. Its polished-nickel receiver features auto ejectors and a mechanical single-selectable trigger. Five extended chokes are included. SRP: $1,699.

CZ-USA’s most affordable over/under shotgun gains two sub-gauge variants for 2018. Identical to the larger shotguns, but in 28-gauge and .410-bore, these diminutive shotguns are built on steel CNC actions, have a mid-rib, and are clad in Turkish walnut stocks. SRP: $679.

CZ’s 3½-inch Swamp Magnum might make a rifleman want to become a shotgunner. It looks mean and serious, and now with shorter 26-inch barrels and extended choke options, the Reaper Magnum gives the turkey hunter the ability to choose a tight choke for long shots and an open choke for closer shots. With a drilled-and-tapped top Picatinny-style rail, mounting an optic is easy. The polymer stocks are clad in Realtree Xtra Green to help them blend in the world of the turkey. SRP: $959.

Given the huge popularity of its Hammer Coach, CZ-USA thought it time to introduce a hammerless version. Built on the Sharp-Tail platform, the Sharp-Tail Coach is a single-trigger coach gun with 20-inch cylinder bore barrels. It is available in 12- or 20-gauge. SRP: $959. (cz-usa.com)

shotgun, Mossberg

Mossberg The affordable Maverick line is offering three new models this year.

When the BATFE confirmed the 590 Shockwave does not fall under NFA restrictions and requires no tax stamp, the world of shotguns changed and a floodgate of interest opened. The Shockwave comes with a 14-inch heavy-walled barrel and has a 5+1 capacity. New options include a 20-gauge version and a flat dark earth Cerakote finish, and a 12-gauge JIC (Just In Case) model that comes with a water-resistant storage/carry tube. SRP: $455.

Standard features of the Mossberg 930 shotgun include a smooth-operating dual-gas-vent system, a drilled-and-tapped receiver, an ambidextrous safety, and a stock-drop spacer system. The 930 handles 2 ¾- and 3-inch shotshells with ease, and the new versatile 26-inch-barreled Bottomland model comes with an expanded choke tube set for both turkey and waterfowl. SRP: $560. The 28-inch-barreled black synthetic stock version makes a great choice for upland and waterfowl hunting. SRP: $560.

The 835 Ulti-Mag’s standard features include dual extractors, positive steel-to-steel lockup, twin action bars, an ambidextrous safety, and a clean-out magazine tube cap. The 835 Ulti-Mag shotguns handle all shotshells, including powerful magnum loads, and the over-bored 26-inch barrels provide reduced recoil and uniform, dense patterns. New for 2018 are a standard matte blue with a black synthetic stock version and a Bottomland-finished model. SRP: $604.

All SA-20 and SA-28 International Bantam shotguns come with a 12.5-inch length of pull and are popular with young and small-statured shooters. For 2018, Mossberg has three new offerings. The Walnut Youth comes in 28- and 20-gauge and has a 28-inch barrel with a ventilated rib. It weighs only 6.25 pounds. SRP: $570. The Black Synthetic Youth is now available in 28-gauge and also has a 24-inch ventilated rib barrel. It weighs only 5.5 pounds. SRP: $674.

Known as the workingman’s shotgun, Mossberg has three new Mavericks from which to choose. First is the six-shot Cylinder-bore 18.5-inch-barreled standard model with a flat dark earth stock. Next is a similar eight-shot version, but with a 20-inch barrel. And finally, there’s the six-shot, 18.5-inch model that comes with an ATI ShotForce folding stock, and weighs only 6 pounds. SRP: $296.

Mossberg is treating those who like a little flair in their firearms with several shotguns finished in the newest Muddy Girl camo pattern. There’s the Model 500 20-gauge Super Bantam, with its adjustable length-of-pull system and 22-inch ventilated-rib barrel. And there’s the 510 Mini-Super Bantam, with the same length of pull adjustability, but with an 18.5-inch .410-bore or 20-gauge barrel. (mossberg.com)

Rock Island Armory
Rock Island Armory is rolling out 20 new shotguns this year. They include one pump-action, four break-actions, and 15 semi-auto variants. The pump is an 18.6-inch-barreled smoothbore slug gun with a synthetic stock. It weighs 6.39 pounds and has a 5+1 capacity.

Break-actions include a 20-inch-barreled single-shot at 6.18 pounds, an over/under 28-inch-barreled 12-gauge at 7.18 pounds, a similar over/under Plus with a hand-engraved receiver, and an over/under Competition. All 12-gauge models accept 3-inch shells.

The semi-auto magazine-fed VR-60 is now offered in a plethora of colors, from tactical black and sand to rosy red and combinations. This wicked-looking shotgun resembles the AR in profile and weighs about 8 pounds, depending on variation. It will handle 3-inch shells and has an overall length of 39 inches. (armscor.com)

shotgun, Tristar

Tristar The Viper 410 has a Turkish walnut stock, a fiber-optic front sight, and a bronze finish.

Notable features on the new Viper 410 shotgun include a beautiful Turkish walnut stock, a fiber-optic front sight, and a bronze finish. Out of the box, it weighs only 5.7 pounds. (tristararms.com)

shotgun, winchester

Winchester The Super X4 semi-auto shotgun line now includes the sX4 NWTF Cantilever Turkey model.

Winchester expanded the Super X4 semi-auto shotgun line to include the SX4 NWTF Cantilever Turkey model. It comes with a 24-inch barrel and a Weaver-style cantilever rail that makes it easy to attach an electronic sight or scope. This 3½-inch model features a synthetic stock and forearm with full coverage in the non-glare Mossy Oak Obsession. A Truglo fiber-optic front sight and adjustable rear sight are standard, as is an Extra-Full turkey choke tube. SRP: $1,069.99.

Along those same lines is the new SX4 Cantilever Buck 12-gauge 3-inch semi-auto. It has a synthetic stock and forearm in a non-glare matte black finish. The 22-inch rifled barrel also features a Weaver-style cantilever rail, and a Truglo fiber-optic front sight and adjustable rear are standard. The receiver and barrel are finished in matte black. SRP: $959.99.

The new SX4 Universal Hunter 12-gauge 3 ½-inch semi-auto will also feature a synthetic stock and forearm, but with full coverage in Mossy Oak Break-Up Country. The receiver is drilled and tapped to accept scope bases, and it is available with a 24-, 26-, or 28-inch barrel and a Truglo Long Beard fiber-optic front sight. SRP: $1,069.99. (winchesterguns.com)

—Richard Mann


For what seems like a long time now, new rifle introductions at the SHOT Show have been dominated by variations on the AR15/AR10 platform. But times are changing, to paraphrase one of Bob Dylan’s most famous lines. For 2018, we continue to see line extensions to accommodate the 6.5 Creedmoor, but we’re also seeing the emergence of a new trend—dedicated long-range precision sport and hunting rifles. Yes, there are still a few new MSRs that will draw intense interest, but for the first time in a decade, the new rifles at SHOT are a balanced lot.

rifle, Auto-Ordnance, Thompson

Auto-Ordnance The Deluxe model Thompson in 9mm comes with one 20-round stick magazine and a 16.5-inch barrel.

History was made in 1915 when John T. Thompson introduced the first portable handheld automatic weapon, commonly referred to as the Tommy Gun. Kahr is proud to introduce the Deluxe model Thompson in 9mm. It comes with one 20-round stick magazine and a 16.5-inch barrel. SRP: $1,364. (auto-ordnance.com)

rifle, bergara

Bergara The HMR Pro options include a Cerakoted stainless-steel action and a barrel with a threaded muzzle.

The HMR Pro builds on the legacy of the 2017 HMR. It provides a multitude of upgrades to include a Cerakote stainless-steel action and barrel with a threaded muzzle and a TriggerTech primary trigger. The HMR Pro is also shipped with an accuracy-qualified sub-MOA target. Weights range from 9.2 to 10.10 pounds, and it is available in .223 Remington with a 1:8 twist, .22/250 Remington with a 1:9 twist, 6mm and 6.5mm Creedmoor with a 1:8 twist, and .308 Winchester with a 1:10 twist. SRP: $1,695. (bergarausa.com)

rifle, browning

Browning The X-Bolt Micro Composite gives smaller-stature shooters the option of a rifle with a shorter length of pull.

The new X-Bolt Pro and X-Bolt Pro Long Range models feature an exclusive Generation 2 carbon-fiber stock with a palm swell. Barrels and receivers are stainless-steel-coated in Cerakote burnt bronze, and the bolt body and handle have spiral fluting. Rifles are hand-chambered and come standard with a target crown and threaded muzzle. The rifles can be had with either a 22- or 26-inch barrel (the outlier is the .300 WSM, which comes with a 23-inch barrel) in 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, .300 WSM, 26 Nosler, .270 Winchester, .30/06 Springfield, 7mm Remington Magnum, 28 Nosler, and .300 Winchester Magnum. SRP: $2,069.99-$2,129.99, X-Bolt Pro; $2,099.99-$2,179.99, X-Bolt Pro Long Range.

The X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Speed Long Range McMillan rifle features a McMillan Game Scout stock with aluminum pillars, a vertical pistol grip, and a medium-width forend. It has a Cerakote burnt bronze finish and a 26-inch, fluted, free-floating, hand-chambered barrel with a muzzle brake. The stock sports an A-TACS AU Camo, Dura-Touch Armor Coat finish. A 20-MOA Picatinny rail is standard. Available in 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, .300 WSM, 26 Nosler, 7mm Remington Magnum, 28 Nosler, and .300 Winchester Magnum. SRP: $2,129.99-$2,199.99.

The X-Bolt Micro Composite will give smaller-stature shooters the option of a rifle with a shorter length of pull. It features a receiver and barrel in matte blue and is available in .243 Winchester, 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Remington, and .308 Winchester. SRP: $939.99. (browning.com)

The new 450 Bushmaster SD Rifle has a 20-inch barrel, an R25-styled stock with a Hogue grip, an ALG Defense trigger, an AAS Square Drop Handguard, and a muzzle brake. It comes with a five-round magazine and is chambered for the 450 Bushmaster, a cartridge seeing renewed interest in 2018. SRP: $1,299.

The ACR SBR, chambered for the 5.56 NATO, comes with a 10.5-inch, 4150 FNC-treated, 1:7 twist barrel. Other features include an AAC Blackout flash-hider, a collapsible folding stock, and a tri-rail handguard. SRP: $2,249.

The Bushmaster Minimalist SD Carbine will be offered in 5.56 NATO and 300 AAC Blackout. It has a mil-spec upper and lower receiver, an AAC Square Drop Handguard, a lightweight FNC 1:8 twist barrel, a mil-spec mission-first minimalist stock and grip, and an ALG Defense fire control group. SRP: $1,169.

Now, how about something really big? The BA50 is chambered for the .50 BMG and has a Lothar-Walther 30-inch barrel. The bolt is on the left side of the action, and cartridges eject from the right, after feeding from a 10-round box magazine. It’s fitted with a Magpul PRS stock and an AAC Cyclops brake. It’s not cheap—big guns never are. SRP: $5,657. (bushmaster.com)

rifle, CMMG

CMMG The MkW Anvil handles cartridges with large case diameters. This year the 6.5 Grendel joins the lineup.

CMMG’s MkW Anvil is a mid-sized AR rifle platform uniquely engineered to easily handle cartridges with large case diameters and high bolt thrust. Each new MkW Anvil ships with one 10-round magazine, and barrels have a 1:8 twist. CMMG also is offering 6.5 Grendel upper receiver groups for Anvils in .458 SOCOM. SRP: $1,049.95, uppers; $1,999.95, rifles.

The MkG45 Guard is an MSR chambered for the .45 Auto. It’s offered in five configurations, with either 8- or 16-inch barrels. All operate on CMMG’s patent-pending Radial Delayed Blowback system and feed from Glock magazines. SRP: $1,299.95-$1,399.95. (cmmginc.com)

rifle, CVA

CVA The Optima V2 LR features a 28-inch barrel and a thumbhole stock designed to enhance long-range performance.

With the new Optima V2 LR, CVA brings long-range performance to a more affordable price point. The gun employs the same long-range-oriented concepts as the top-selling Accura V2LR, combining a velocity-enhancing longer barrel with the superior stability of a thumbhole stock. It features a 28-inch barrel, and like all CVA muzzleloaders, it has the exclusive Quick Release Breech Plug. The thumbhole stock is also 100 percent ambidextrous. The V2 LR is 43 inches long and weighs 7.65 pounds. (cva.com)

For 2018, CZ is introducing a left-hand 557. It will be available in .30/06 Springfield (standard action) and .308 Winchester (short action). The .30/06 version has a hinged floorplate, and the .308 feeds from a detachable box magazine. Both have 24-inch, cold-hammer-forged and lapped barrels. SRP: $865. (cz-usa.com)

DPMS now has the GII Hunter in .243 Winchester and .260 Remington. Both feature 20-inch Teflon-coated barrels, threaded muzzles, carbon-fiber free-floating handguards, two-stage triggers, Magpul MOE stocks, Hogue grips, and an enhanced shell deflector.

The GII Compact Hunter is chambered for the .243 Winchester. This minimalized semi-auto rifle features a 16-inch Teflon-coated barrel, a threaded muzzle, a carbon-fiber, free-floating handguard, a two-stage trigger, a B5 Sopmod Stock, a Hogue grip, and an enhanced shell deflector.

Another addition to the GII line is the AP4 OR (Optics Ready). This GII has an improved upper receiver optimized for left-hand shooters, and a standard, plain-steel single-rail gas block. SRP: $1,249.

DPMS did not forget it makes AR15s. The new MOE SL Carbine is available with black or flat dark earth Magpul MOE SL furniture. It’s chambered in 5.56 NATO and comes with a 16-inch chrome-lined barrel with a 1:7 twist. Backup sights and an AAC Blackout flash-hider are standard. SRP: $1,099. (dpmsinc.com)

rifle, e.r. shaw

E.R. Shaw The Mark X bolt-action rifle has 28 chamberings, ranging from .17 through .458.

E.R. Shaw
America’s largest independent manufacturer of gun barrels is now offering the new Mark X bolt-action rifle. Consumers can order online and choose between barrel lengths from 16.25 to 26 inches. They can also select one of 90 chamberings in calibers from .17 through .458. The highly acclaimed AccuTrigger is standard, but a Timney is an option. This is a custom, made-to-order rifle. SRP: $1,399.

The company now also offers a smaller, lighter, and more affordable AR-10. The ERS-10’s upper and lower receivers are machined from 7075-T6 aluminum forgings. It comes standard with a Shaw muzzle brake, a 15-inch floating handguard, and a nickel-boron-coated bolt. It weighs 9.5 pounds. SRP: $995.95. (ershawbarrels.com)

rifle, mossberg

Mossberg The MVP Precision tactical rifle sports an all-new chassis and a LUTH-AR MBA-3 adjustable stock.

With what seems like an unbridled effort to take over the rifle world, Mossberg has introduced another variation of the MVP. The MVP Precision is a tactical rifle sporting an all-new chassis and a LUTH-AR MBA-3 adjustable stock. Every rifle comes with an LBA trigger, and 24- or 20-inch threaded and free-floated medium bull barrels are standard. A Picatinny rail, an oversize bolt handle, and a Magpul MOE grip are included. Vortex combo packages will include the Viper HS-T riflescope, and available chamberings include the 6.5 Creedmoor and 7.62 NATO.

The Patriot line continues to expand. For 2018, you’ll see it in 6.5 Creedmoor in the top-of-the-line model—the Revere. This rifle features a 2.0 Grade European walnut stock and a rosewood forend tip and grip cap. SRP: $823.

The Patriot Cerakote is also new. Cerakote is a polymer-ceramic coating that protects metal surfaces, and this Cerakoted Patriot will be offered with a synthetic black stock in six popular chamberings, including .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington, .308 Winchester, and .30/06 Springfield.

To keep things on the cool side, Mossberg is offering three new rifles specifically intended to visually please; all are finished in Muddy Girl Serenity camo. This new camo has a dynamic combination of colors and natural elements for a sharp look that will likely appeal to anyone wanting some additional, eye-catching flair from their rifle. The list includes a Patriot Super Bantam in .243 Winchester, a Blaze autoloading rifle in .22 LR, and an International 715T semi-auto rifle in .22 LR. (mossberg.com)

Proof Research
The new Switch is easily user-modified to accommodate many cartridges. It comes standard with a free-floating, cut-rifled Proof Research carbon-fiber barrel in either .223 Remington, 6mm and 6.5mm Creedmoor, .260 Remington, or .308 Winchester. It incorporates a Savage-style barrel to allow for user-conversion to virtually any short-action caliber. SRP: $3,995. (proofresearch.com)

The new 700 MTD Tactical Chassis rifle is available with a 24- or 26-inch barrel and is chambered for the .308 Winchester, .300 Winchester Magnum, or .338 Lapua Magnum. It has a stainless-steel-barreled action, a Magpul PRS II adjustable stock, an oversize bolt handle, and an AAC muzzle brake, and ships in a hard case. SRP: $3,500.

The SS 5R Black Cerakote is built on an HS Precision stock. It has a stainless-steel-barreled action, and the 5R rifled barrel has the distinctive LTR-style fluting with a black Cerakote finish. A threaded muzzle and X Mark Pro adjustable trigger are standard. Available in .308 Winchester with a 20- or 24-inch barrel, .300 Winchester Magnum with a 24-inch barrel, and 6.5 Creedmoor with a 24-inch barrel. SRP: $1,250. There is also a non-Cerakote version in .223 Remington. SRP: $1,150. (remington.com)

Rise Armament
The 1121XR rifle in .308 Winchester was designed for shooters seeking more out of a heavy-caliber, gas-driven gun. It features the RA-535 trigger, guaranteed sub-MOA precision, a 20-inch 416R stainless-steel barrel, precision-machined 7075 aluminum billet receivers, a Magpul PRS stock, and a smooth Cerakote finish. It weighs 9.5 pounds and ships in a hard case with two magazines. SRP: $2,449. (risearmament.com)

rifle, savage

Savage The 110 Storm features a detachable box magazine and a stainless-steel barrel in a wide variety of calibers.

Since its introduction in 1958, the Savage Model 110 has served hunters and shooters well as an economical, hard-hitting, accurate rifle. Now it’s even better with the new Model 110 Big Game and Specialty series. These revamped rifles have received a fresh look and a full complement of new and improved features. Customized performance is the hallmark of the redesign, and these new rifles solve the three main issues shooters usually pay a gunsmith to address: fit, trigger pull, and bedding.

The all-new user-adjustable AccuFit system/stock is the key. It allows shooters to customize length of pull and comb height. Inserts included with the rifle can be installed in seconds with a Phillips screwdriver.

The new AccuStock also has a rigid chassis embedded in the stock. Combine these custom-like features with the standard adjustable AccuTrigger, and the 110s become affordable custom rifles, right out of the box. To help bring all this wonderfulness to the consumer, Savage has a full line of revamped 110s to choose from, covering everything from general-purpose to niche offerings.

The Savage 110 Storm features a detachable-box magazine, a stainless-steel barrel, and a gray synthetic stock. It is available in a plethora of cartridges, from .223 Remington to .338 Winchester Magnum. SRP: $849.

The 110 Engage Hunter comes out of the box with a mounted and bore-sighted Bushnell Engage riflescope. SRP: $629. The 110 Predator is a Realtree Max 1 camo version chambered for six coyote-killing cartridges. All feature 24-inch barrels and a four-round detachable magazine. SRP: $799.

For long-range 110 Savage excitement, there’s the Long Range Hunter. It comes with a 26-inch barrel and is chambered for the 6.5 Creedmoor, .260 Remington, .308 Winchester, .300 WSM, .338 Federal, 6.5×284 Norma, 7mm Remington Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, and the .338 Lapua Magnum. SRP: $1,099; $1,298, Lapua.

If you want the ideal general-purpose 110, there’s the 110 Scout. Configured to emulate Jeff Cooper’s concept, this 110 has a 16.5-inch barrel, a 10-shot detachable magazine, open sights, and an extended eye-relief scope rail. Chambered for the .223 Remington, .308 Winchester, .338 Federal, or 450 Bushmaster. SRP: $815. Other specific-purpose new 110s include the 23-inch-barreled 110 Bear Hunter ($999), the 26-inch-barreled 110 Varmint ($638), the 20-inch-barreled 110 Hog Hunter ($594), and the wicked 110 Wolverine in 450 Bushmaster ($899).

The 10/110 Stealth Evolution chassis rifle is chambered for six distance-delivering cartridges, including the 6mm Creedmoor. The rifle blends pinpoint precision with torture-tested toughness, and pairs a heavy fluted barrel, blueprinted 10/110 action, 5R rifling, and an AccuTrigger, with a monolithic aluminum chassis finished in rugged bronze Cerakote. SRP: $1,799-$2,149. (savagearms.com)

The Zephyr II is Steyr’s new smallbore rifle. It features a classic European walnut stock with a Bavarian cheekpiece and fish-scale-pattern checkering, and the Steyr Mannlicher bolt handle and tang safety. Available in .17 HMR, .22 LR, and .22 WMR, the Zephyr II has a cold-hammer-forged 19.7-inch barrel, with an overall length of 35.2 inches. The rifle weighs 5.8 pounds. SRP: $995.

The Pro THB (Tactical Heavy Barrel) offers extreme accuracy at an extremely affordable price, and it’s a complement to Steyr’s traditional platforms. It has a durable synthetic stock with removable spacers in the buttstock to adjust length of pull. It also has a cold-hammer-forged, 16-, 20-, or 26-inch threaded heavy barrel, finished with Steyr’s durable Mannox coating. Chambered for the .308 Winchester, the magazine is the standard two-position five-round detachable box, with a 10-round conversion kit available. SRP: $1,265. (steyrarms.com)

rifle, weatherby

Weatherby The Mark V line features five new rifles, including the Camilla Deluxe in five chamberings.

The Mark V line includes five new rifles. The Camilla Deluxe has been designed for female hunters with input from the Women of Weatherby team. It weighs 6.5 pounds and has an AA-grade Claro walnut stock. A slim forearm, a narrow-radius pistol grip, and a high comb contribute to the fit a woman wants. Five chamberings are available: .240 Weatherby Magnum, .270 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, and .30/06 Springfield.

The Mark V KCR features a 26-inch, No. 3 contour custom masterpiece barrel from Krieger. It is available in .257, 6.5-300, .300, and .30-378 Weatherby Magnum cartridges, and includes an Accubrake to reduce felt recoil by up to 50 percent. An LXX trigger, oversize bolt knob, composite Monte Carlo stock, and flat dark earth and graphite black Cerakote finish round out the features on this rifle.

The Altitude weighs 5.75 pounds with the six-lug action, 6.75 pounds with the nine-lug magnum version. It features a lightweight Monte Carlo stock with an aluminum bedded block, a fluted stainless-steel barrel, Kryptek Altitude camo, and a Tungsten Cerakote finish. The Altitude is available in .240, .257, .270, 7mm, and .300 Weatherby Magnums, as well as 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, and .30/06 Springfield.

The new Outfitter Mark V rifles have a flat dark earth Cerakote finish and boast a carbon-fiber Monte Carlo stock. The FDE RC model is Range Certified, and Adam Weatherby signs each range certificate. It is available in .240, .257, 6.5-300, .270, 7mm, and .300 Weatherby Magnums and in 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, and .30/06 Springfield.

Weatherby has also expanded the Vanguard line to include the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum cartridge and the Safari, which is offered in .30/06 Springfield and .375 H&H. (weatherby.com)

The new XPC is a chassis rifle with a quick-cycling 60-degree bolt with plenty of clearance for large scopes. The XPC comes with an optic rail, a button-rifled free-floating chrome-moly barrel, a target crown, a threaded muzzle, and a nickel-Teflon and Perma-Cote black finish. It has a MagPul buttstock and grip, and is available in .243 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor with a 24-inch barrel, and in .308 Winchester with a 20-inch barrel. SRP: $1,599.99.

The new XPR Sporter features a Grade I walnut stock and an Inflex Technology recoil pad. Other features include the MOA trigger, Perma-Cote matte black metal surfaces, a detachable-box magazine, a steel recoil lug, and a two-position thumb safety. It’s available in a variety of cartridges, from .243 Winchester to .338 Winchester Magnum, with barrel lengths from 22 to 26 inches. SRP: $599.99.

A new 1873 Carbine model will feature a classic carbine-style forearm with a blued barrel band, a blued carbine strap buttplate, and a blued saddle ring. The stock and forearm are satin-finished walnut, and this lever gun comes standard with a ladder-style rear sight. It’s available in .357 Magnum/.38 Special, .44/40 Winchester, and .45 Colt, with a 20-inch barrel. SRP: $1,299.99.

The Model 1892 Carbine has the same features as the old 1873 Carbine, but with a semi-buckhorn rear sight and Marble Arms gold-bead front sight. It is available in .357 Magnum, .44 Remington Magnum, .44/40 Winchester, and .45 Colt, with a 20-inch barrel. SRP: $1,069.99.

—Richard Mann


The demands of competition keep one retailer on his toes
Patrick Hayden, owner of the Kentucky Gun Company in Bardstown, Kentucky, saw firsthand what Walmart and Kroger did to the financial health of a general store that had been around since 1946. He was the owner of that store. But rather than close the doors, he diversified by filling it with guns. The tactic was so successful that he abandoned the general store concept, and 15 years ago renamed the enterprise Kentucky Gun Company. 

But he didn’t stop there. Hayden continues to think about the changing nature of retail and how to attract customers to the 32,000-square-foot facility, located in the heart of Bourbon Country, USA.

Here are four ways Hayden has changed the footprint of his gun store in order to remain competitive. Each is food for thought for any retailer challenged by a fast-evolving retail landscape.

Hayden, Kentucky Gun Company

Patrick Hayden, owner of the Kentucky Gun Company, believes retailers need to keep up with changing times.

Exclusive Deals
At the time of my visit to Hayden’s store, he was running a combo package deal that paired a T/C Compass rifle with a Vortex riflescope. “We go directly to the manufacturer to get a good price point,” Hayden says. “Most centerfire rifles don’t come with optics, so we wanted to put together an attractive package with reliable products at a decent price point. It had to be a package deal, so that the consumer couldn’t go on the open market and buy that scope at a better price.”

Hayden notes that consumers who opt for his combo will save “hundreds of dollars on that package.” He continues to search for other exclusive deals that benefit him and his customers. The search is ongoing, he says, because some deals are seasonal, while others are special opportunities from particular manufacturers.

The Bourbon Factor
Bardstown is about 40 miles south of Louisville, the epicenter of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a winding tour of the state’s famous distilleries. The tour has attracted nearly 2.5 million visitors over the past five years, generating more than $125 million in tax revenue per year. Hayden appreciates the busloads of tourists who stop by to see American guns while in Kentucky for the tour, and he takes full advantage of this opportunity by offering firearms-themed T-shirts and hats along with an inventory of thousands of firearms. Visitors also get to see a beautiful collection of full-body trophy mounts, purchased by Hayden when a local wildlife museum shut its doors a few years ago.

“The Bourbon Trail provides employment for thousands of people in our area,” Hayden says. He notes that those jobs also provide the people who live in the area with disposable income.

“I have a store that’s full of wants, not needs,” he says. “It’s not like I’m selling bread, milk, or other essentials. Anytime you have more disposable income, you’re going to have customers who will support a store like mine.”

Complementary Product
As any firearms retailer knows, politics (on national, state, and local levels) can have a profound effect on sales. When Hayden pondered this issue, he determined to diversify yet again, this time pivoting to something that would complement what he was already offering.

“In my region, there’s a 96 percent chance that an ATV owner is also a firearms owner,” he says. So when the local Honda Powersports dealership came up for sale, Hayden didn’t think twice.

“It was a good time to jump in with Honda,” he says. “It’s been advantageous and has diversified us. The gun market is so politically driven. The powersports market is more stable.”

Hayden also notes that while summer is historically the slowest time for gun sales, it’s the busiest time for powersports sales. He added a service bay for maintenance and repairs of not only the Hondas he sells, but for any other type of power­sports vehicle. He also offers a gunsmith shop on the premises.

“We don’t want to just sell you the product,” he says. “If you offer service, it gives customers another reason to walk through the door.”

Hayden, Kentucky Gun Company

The addition of a Honda Power­sports dealership has helped the store weather the inevitable ups and downs of business.

Range Time
Thursday night is “Date Night” at the store’s indoor range. Your date shoots for free. “It’s really a buy-one, get-one-free option,” says Hayden.

The eight-lane range, which uses a state-of-the-art ventilation system, can accommodate guests who want to shoot pistols, shotguns, rifles, or even machine guns. In fact, they rent machine guns, as well as other popular guns. “We have 15 NRA-certified range-safety officers on staff, and people can try before they buy in a safe setting,” he says. “It’s been a great tool to make sales.”

Finally, Hayden says none of the above could have been accomplished without “the dedication and hard work of our employees. We have a good team.”

Hayden says he doesn’t want his store to “have a factory atmosphere.” I saw evidence of that on my visit when I stopped by the employee lounge and saw a notice on a whiteboard for a company barbecue. There was also a note about farm-fresh eggs for sale. That’s not just a team; that’s family.

For an operation so very modern in how it approaches business challenges, it has retained an old-fashioned touch with its employees. And that’s the best of both worlds.

—Barbara Baird

Photos: Barbara Baird


Vista Outdoor intends to follow active consumers wherever they may go
Three years ago, in the wake of the formation of Vista Outdoor, I spoke with the company’s executive leadership about the direction of the new enterprise. It was clear they intended to nurture the many well-known brands—Savage, Bushnell, Federal Premium, to name but a few—under the new Vista umbrella. But while we were talking, I got the sense of a much bigger picture, one that included outdoor companies that weren’t in the immediate orbit of the shooting sports.

These executives were much too savvy and experienced to have tipped their hand, but it was obvious at the time that Vista Outdoor wouldn’t be a company that merely tended to its current brands. The company clearly wanted to add to its portfolio, especially with outdoor-related brands that complemented its existing lineup.

And so it came as no surprise when Vista announced the acquisition of CamelBak in August 2015, Giro and Bell bike helmets and Blackburn cycle accessories in April 2016, and Camp Chef, a leading provider of outdoor cooking solutions, in the summer of 2016.

Those acquisitions all fit into Vista Outdoor’s strategy, which is “to deliver long-term value through acquiring complementary, market-leading brands that will benefit from Vista Outdoor’s balance sheet, distribution network, and sales and marketing expertise.”

outdoor, Vista Outdoor, Follow Outdoor Consumers

Camp Chef allows Vista Outdoor to tap into the market for well-prepared food in the outdoors.

Camp Chef seemed to be a particularly good fit for Vista Outdoor because it has a nimble and responsive product-development process. Another key factor is that outdoor cooking has changed dramatically in the past few years. Outdoorsmen of all stripes now expect to eat well in camp. The days when a can of cold Vienna sausages and a box of Saltines constituted the major meal of the day are long gone. Camp Chef also held appeal to a wide range of consumers who pursue a variety of outdoor sports.

“Camp Chef continues to grow its market share in the outdoor cooking category, and the brand serves many of our current consumers who are engaged in a wide variety of outdoor pursuits,” says Dave Allen, president of the outdoor products segment for Vista Outdoor. “Acquiring Camp Chef strengthens our leadership position in outdoor recreation, and allows us to enter the growing camping and outdoor cooking market.”

That’s what’s known as “synergy,” an often misused word in corporate-speak. But Vista Outdoor seems to grasp its true meaning. When employed correctly, synergy can become a force-multiplier for the brands involved.

“Whatever your individual outdoor recreation pursuit—be it mountain biking, skiing, golfing, camping, hunting, going to the range—we know there is synergy between the brands under our tent that allows us to leverage expertise from one to the other,” says Amanda Covington, Vista’s senior vice president of communications and government relations. A runner, hiker, and skier, Covington has also enthusiastically embraced hunting, and has found the experience has helped broaden her appreciation of the outdoors in all its varied forms.

As an example of the synergy found at Vista Outdoor, Covington cites the launch of the Savage A17 semi-auto rimfire rifle and the simultaneous co-development of the A17 Varmint Tip .17 HMR cartridge for which it is chambered. As a stand-alone firearms manufacturer, Savage engineers had never been able to work together with ammunition engineers on a joint project. But as part of Vista, they now had access to CCI, the engineers of which pride themselves on building specialty ammunition. Working together, the two companies created something truly special.

outdoor, Vista Outdoor, Follow Outdoor Consumers

The synergy between Savage Arms and CCI helped create a pair of innovative products.

Covington sees similar synergies elsewhere in the company, and these can help Vista Outdoor deal with the ever-evolving vagaries of the business. One such vagary is selling to the Millennial generation.

“Used to be, if you got into a sport, you went deep,” says Jessica Klodnicki, vice president and general manager of the outdoor recreation division of Vista Outdoor (a group that includes Camp Chef, CamelBak, and Jimmy Stykes standup paddleboards). “In essence, they would say, ‘I’m going to identify myself as a hunter or a cyclist, and I’m going to go deep. I’m going to buy all the gear, and I’m going to buy the most expensive stuff.’ Well, the Millennials are changing that. What’s happening now is that they’re dabbling. They’re grazing across multiple sports and multiple categories.”

This dabbling, Klodnicki believes, is causing some softness in outdoor categories. “Because these guys aren’t specializing, the gear they do buy is a less-expensive version. They’re also trading, renting, or borrowing. I think this is because they don’t expect to be doing any particular activity for a very long time. Now, if that is how the consumer behaves, you have to be spread across multiple categories to pick up the slack.”

Klodnicki admits Millennial purchase-and-use decisions may also be driven by their particular economic circumstances. “They may live in a small apartment with no storage or work in jobs that pay less,” she says. Either way, their behavior requires manufacturers and retailers to adapt. This inevitably creates friction, as some operations don’t wish to alter their business model.

But where some see only challenges, Vista sees opportunities. Covington stresses that Vista’s acquisition strategy isn’t focused on simply buying any brand, but on buying brands that are leaders in their field. “We look for companies that are top performers and market leaders,” she says. “Bell and Giro [helmets and goggles] are strong brands, and when you think hydration, you think CamelBak. I think you’ll see that our brands are coming together with ways to package things to enrich a consumer’s outdoor experience.”

The growth of the ATV and side-by-side market is another category that interests Vista. “Given that this business is blossoming, we’re really exploring the category for Bell,” says Klodnicki. She believes CamelBak is ripe for broader market exposure. “We’re exploring beyond the current categories. It really is all about connecting with an active consumer who could benefit from hands-free hydration.”

Klodnicki also notes that Vista Outdoor can give a brand access to customers and partners it may not have had on its own. “As part of Vista, you now have a deeper relationship with customers and partners that makes exploring those options more readily available.”

All too often in corporate acquisitions, the acquired company is forced to adopt the corporate philosophy of the parent—for better or worse. That’s not part of Vista’s DNA.

“Our acquisition model is to let those brands maintain their brand ethic and be true to who they are to their consumers,” Covington says. “That’s important. At the same time, the value of being part of a large portfolio is a pool of strong talent and resources that allows us to plug in to something new, allowing us to create additional opportunities for organic growth.” (vistaoutdoor.com)

—Slaton L. White

—Camp Chef Photo: Tess  Rousey


Set the stage for success by helping fit first-time hunters with the right rifle

Hunting is a progression, an evolution that begins the day we’re introduced to the tradition and continues foras long as we choose to take to the field. Throughout the course of this progression, there are milestones all hunters must reach to achieve the next stage.

Few of these rites of passage are more significant than the one that takes place when we transition from the .22 most of us learned to shoot with to our first centerfire hunting rifle.

Although this stage is incredibly symbolic on many levels, there’s also a fundamentally practical aspect to this progression that should never be underestimated: The right rifle helps provide a young hunter with a rewarding experience that will serve as the foundation upon which a lifetime of learning can be built. The wrong rifle, however, can easily create a negative reaction that might cause this hunter to look elsewhere for the kind of rewarding pastime he was otherwise hoping to find in hunting.

first-time hunters

The right rifle helps provide young first-time hunters with a rewarding experience that serves as the foundation upon which a lifetime of learning can be built.

As more new hunters are coming from families without hunting traditions, they are turning to their local firearms retailers for advice on which rifle would make the best choice to take afield. By encouraging your staff to take the time to listen to the needs and reservations of these first-time hunters and then help them find the right rifle to fit their unique situation, store owners can not only help get new people passionate about the heritage we all care so much about, they can also create loyal, lifelong customers who will turn to them for advice at each stage of their hunting evolution.

SHOT Business surveyed several rifles that would all make good selections for these hunters. To help retailing staff determine which ones might be the best choice for the different shooters who might walk through their store door, we evaluated these rifles on the attributes that most concern first-time hunters.

first-time hunters, first rifle, Ruger

Ruger’s American All-Weather has a stainless-steel barrel and a synthetic stock.

Ruger American All-Weather
$629  ruger.com

Overview: The Ruger American All-Weather is a solid choice for a first hunting rifle, for a wide-range of shooters. The stainless-steel rifle with a synthetic stock is durable enough to handle nearly anything nature might throw at it. The rifle weighs only 6.3 pounds, barrel length is 22 inches, and the overall length is 42 inches, all of which ensures the American All-Weather isn’t too cumbersome for young hunters to handle.

first-time hunters, first rifle, Ruger

The Ruger American All-Weather is available in left-handed versions across the line.

The rifle has a smooth trigger pull, even without adjusting the factory setting, and provided good accuracy right out of the box. The shape of the stock allowed for a solid, steady grip good for shooters with smaller hands. The butt pad provided adequate recoil reduction, but the lighter weight also meant it still had a bit of a kick on the 7mm-08 we tested, something retailers should take into consideration with younger and smaller-framed customers, perhaps offering them a different caliber.

The rotary magazine was easy to detach, load, and reattach, and the cartridges fed into place without trouble. The bolt itself wasn’t as smooth as that on some of the other rifles tested, and it took a while for some testers to begin working it efficiently.

The American was one of the least-expensive rifles we tested, which means that first-time hunters won’t have to make a large investment to get started. The rifle comes in seven of the most popular calibers, from .223 to .308, and all of them are available left-handed.

Pros: The American All-Weather is a versatile, durable, go-nearly-anywhere, do-nearly-anything kind of rifle. The availability of seven popular calibers for both right- and left-handed shooters means that nearly everyone can find the one to fit their body and hunting style.

Cons: This might not be the rifle to show hunters who have more traditional tastes. What it exudes in functionality it lacks in aesthetic appeal for people who typically view firearms as more of a work of art. The action could be smoother but will likely cause no issues once a shooter gets accustomed to the amount of effort required to work the bolt.

Bottom line: The American All-Weather seems to be made with first-time hunters in mind. Combine its admirable accuracy, bulletproof construction, and lightweight, easy-to-handle design with its reasonable price tag, and it’s hard to imagine a more practical rifle anyone could carry on his or her first hunt.

first-time hunters, first rifle, Savage

The Savage MSR 10 Hunter has been designed for quick follow-up shots.

Savage MSR 10 Hunter
$1481 savagearms.com

Overview: The debate about whether modern sporting rifles (MSRs) are actually practical hunting rifles might still carry on in the distant corners of some gun shops and obscure online chat rooms, but it seems most people in the hunting and shooting community have recognized the benefits of these firearms and accepted them as the next evolution of the hunting rifle. That acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean that the community embraces these rifles enough to sling them over their shoulder when they take to the field.

When it comes to a first hunting rifle, an MSR might seem a little intimidating to a shooter who hasn’t practiced with one on the range. That doesn’t mean it isn’t the right choice for a first hunting rifle—rather just that retail sales staff might have to spend a little more time explaining the benefits of carrying an MSR on any hunting excursion.

For those first-time hunters receptive to the idea, the Savage MSR 10 Hunter is one to consider. Available in .308 Winchester, .338 Federal, and the trendy-hot 6.5 Creedmoor, the MSR 10 Hunter will work for a wide range of game. At roughly 8 pounds, it might be a bit on the heavy side and a little cumbersome for smaller shooters, but the reduction in felt recoil might make up for the larger size, especially when they’re running rounds through it at the range in preparation for the season. The adjustable stock and nearly endless options for personalizing the rifle will also allow hunters to use a rifle that adjusts to them rather than a rifle to which they must adjust.

The trigger pull on the MSR 10 Hunter was stiff but can easily be adjusted to fit each shooter’s preference. One of the most attractive features for first-time hunters, however, might be the ability to quickly reacquire the target for a follow-up shot without having to worry about working a bolt or lever-action, and the Savage was incredibly responsive in this regard. The accuracy of the rifle was also especially admirable in the 6.5 Creedmoor we tested, with respectable groupings at 100-plus yards from four different shooters.

Pros: The option to customize the rifle for a comfortable fit, combined with the ability to quickly reacquire a target and place a follow-up shot, is a significant benefit of the Savage MSR 10 Hunter that first-time hunters should seriously consider. The pistol grip allows shooters to pull the rifle tightly into their shoulder, and the accuracy of the MSR 10 Hunter shouldn’t be underestimated. Offered in .308 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, and .338 Federal.

Cons: For shooters who aren’t used to an MSR, the platform can be a little intimidating, and the size and shape can seem a little awkward and cumbersome to carry, especially for smaller shooters. At nearly $1,500, the MSR 10 Hunter presents a pretty serious financial commitment that might also be daunting.

Bottom line: For first-time hunters open to the idea of carrying an MSR into the field, the Savage MSR 10 Hunter is a great choice. It is a solid, well-built rifle that will withstand years of use. While much of it might come down to personal preference, the significant benefits of hunting with this rifle should be discussed with potential purchasers.

first-time hunters, first rifle, Browning

Browning’s BLR Lightweight ‘81 is a modern take on an american classic—the lever-action rifle. It comes with iron sights, but it is drilled and tapped for a scope.

Browning BLR Lightweight ’81
$1019 browning.com

Overview: The resurgence of the lever-action as a viable, long-range, big-game hunting rifle has not yet gone mainstream. But one look at the Browning BLR Lightweight ’81, and it becomes instantly apparent that there are some significant benefits to this timeless hunting rifle style.

At 7 pounds 4 ounces, the BLR isn’t a heavy rifle, but it feels impressively solid in hand. The polished walnut stock and classic checkering give the rifle a traditional feel that will immediately impress upon new hunters a strong sense of hunting’s heritage.

The most obvious benefit of the BLR is, of course, the action. It was smooth and crisp through the entire test, and allowed for a quicker response and reacquisition of the target than is possible for most shooters using bolt-action rifles. Although not as well-suited for left-handed shooters as a left-handed bolt, the BLR does present an attractive option, especially in families where the rifle might be shared among multiple hunters.

The oversize hammer provided a solid purchase for the thumb and was easy to release, even for young shooters. The .270 we tested had impressive out-of-the-box accuracy; nearly all the shooters were able to tally an admirable grouping. Smaller shooters, however, did seem to feel the kick more than with the other .270s we tested. For shooters who are used to working a bolt-action, the BLR might take some getting used to, but those who can make the adjustment might never want to hunt with anything else.

Pros: The BLR’s performance is just as impressive as its looks, and the lever-action can make it easier for first-time hunters to reload and reacquire the target once they get used to working the action. The rifle is smooth, accurate, and easy to operate. Offered in 16 popular calibers.

Cons: The BLR is a rifle that could easily be passed down for generations, but it will need to be well cared for in order to maintain peak performance. Although it’s hard to argue that it isn’t worth every penny, the price tag might be a little steep for many first-time hunters.

Bottom line: The BLR is a solid, well-crafted rifle that definitely lives up to the standard of quality for which Browning is known. The rifle immediately instills admiration for the tradition of hunting and an appreciation for the heritage of sportsmanship. This would be a fine addition to anyone’s collection, but the lever-action provides several benefits that will be especially appealing to new hunters.

first-time hunters, first rifle, Winchester

The Winchester XPR Hunter features a camo polymer stock and a blued barrel.

Winchester XPR Hunter
$59999 winchester.com

Overview: One of the crucial attributes of a first hunting rifle is its perceived value, which doesn’t always mean price. It is in this area of inherent value that the Winchester XPR Hunter excels. With a $600 price tag, it isn’t the least-expensive rifle on the market, but the value it provides is undoubtedly among the best.

first-time hunters, first rifle, Winchester

Winchester’s XPR Hunter is a durable, accurate rifle that also has a good recoil pad.

The XPR comes with a polymer stock that will stand up to years of rugged use, and the addition of Mossy Oak Break-Up will help keep a hunter concealed in the field. The blued barrel and receiver will require a bit more maintenance than would stainless steel, but that provides an opportunity to help young hunters develop good habits when it comes to taking care of their firearm.

The .270 we tested performed as well as any of the rifles in the review. It was accurate, and the thick buttpad helped soften the recoil enough that even the younger shooters didn’t notice it. The bolt wasn’t necessarily the smoothest, but it was consistent, allowing shooters to adjust the amount of force needed to work it quickly and effectively. The plastic magazine felt a little cheap, but it was easy to detach, load, and reseat.

At 6 pounds 5 ounces, and with an overall length of 44½ inches, the rifle was neither the smallest nor the lightest rifle we tested, but it provided a good balance and never felt heavy or awkward.

Pros: The XPR is a durable rifle that is both accurate and easy to shoot. The recoil pad helped protect young shooters’ shoulders and helped to minimize the flinching that so often leads to inaccurate shots. The camo stock is a big plus from both an aesthetic and a practical standpoint.

Cons: If the bolt operation was a little smoother and the magazine a little sturdier, it would be hard to find much of anything to complain about with the XPR.

Bottom line: The XPR Hunter might not be the cheapest gun a first-time hunter could buy, but it’s hard to believe that it wouldn’t be among the best values on the market. It’s easy to use, easy to handle, and easy to maintain, making it a great option.

first-time hunters, first rifle, Weatherby

The Weatherby Vanguard Camilla is a bolt-action designed by women for women.

Weatherby Vanguard Camilla
$849 weatherby.com

Overview: The Weatherby Vanguard Camilla is a rifle designed by women hunters for women hunters. It features a long list of modifications designed to make the rifle a better fit for female shooters. These include a slimmer forearm and grip, a higher comb, and a recoil pad that’s situated to fit better into a woman’s shoulder pocket. While these modifications certainly make the Camilla distinct, they aren’t the only attributes that make it special.

first-time hunters, first rifle, Weatherby

The Weatherby Vanguard Camilla has a crisp trigger pull and a smooth action.

The Camilla is, first and foremost, a very fine hunting rifle, offering the same kind of quality for which Weather­by built its reputation. The rifle has a Turkish walnut stock with a rosewood forend and grip caps and a checkering pattern that is as attractive as it is functional. The grip has a palm swell on the right side and a curved indentation on the other that provides for sure handling. The bolt slides like it’s on rails and moved effortlessly even after several consecutive rounds were run through it. The Camilla seemed to nestle perfectly into the shoulders of the female shooters in our test group, and seemed to be the only rifle that didn’t cause them to twitch and adjust to find a comfortable, natural shooting position. The combination of the design elements made for women and the overall quality of the rifle certainly didn’t go unnoticed, or unappreciated, by our women shooters, who were extremely reluctant to put the Camilla back in the rack.

Pros: The Camilla might just be the ideal choice for any woman hunter, but especially for those who are first-time hunters. In addition to the Weatherby quality and the modifications made for female shooters, the Camilla had a crisp trigger pull, a smooth action, minimal felt recoil, and the kind of accuracy any shooter would appreciate.

Cons: The only downside to the Camilla seems to be the lack of available chamberings. Right now the rifle is offered only in .243, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Rem., and .308 Win. Hopefully, more calibers will be offered down the road, as that will help to broaden the appeal of the rifle. The use of a detachable magazine instead of a hinged floorplate would also be a welcome feature.

Bottom line: Judging by the response of the women shooters who tested the Camilla, the modifications Weatherby has incorporated into the design were much needed and well appreciated. The quality of the rifle makes it easy to shoot, and the women-specific features make it all the more enjoyable. The Camilla is without a doubt a rifle worthy of the women who carry it.

—Christopher Cogley

Opening and Main Photos: Tim Irwin; Range Photos: Christopher Cogley


Alternative financing options for small businesses are growing quickly. But you need to look closely before you leap.
Small-business lending is becoming big business, with hundreds of millions of dollars raised from new and unique platforms such as crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending, and marketplace lending. How can a shooting, hunting, or firearms business, particularly one that might have been denied funding from more conventional sources, take advantage of these speedy financing options while avoiding the risks associated with borrowing from these relatively unknown and unregulated lenders?

First and foremost, you need to understand the various options now on the market. The basics:

Crowdfunding employs an online platform to raise small amounts of money for a project or venture from large numbers of people. Only recently has crowdfunding entered the equity arena. Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending involves matching borrowers and lenders through other online platforms. The newer marketplace lending, while largely undefined, encompasses lenders that make loans to higher-risk, lower-income borrowers using micro-finance from larger-scale lenders.

The entire online lending marketplace, sometimes referred to as “shadow banks,” is an emerging segment of the financial services industry that increasingly uses online platforms to lend directly or indirectly to both consumers and small businesses. Borrowers in need of capital are able to gain access to funds quickly, and typically at lower interest rates than those offered by many banks, making them an attractive loan alternative for borrowers. Let’s take a closer look at each segment of this intriguing and evolving source of capital.

lending, alternative financing options


Crowdfunding platforms are most commonly known for raising money for worthy causes and special projects. Popular platforms include Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Crowdrise, which provide reward crowdfunding and, more recently, crowdfunding equity and debt financing. Today, with the permission of the IRS and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), crowdfunding is challenging venture capital and angel funding as an alternative source of financing for many small businesses, including, where permitted, firearms businesses. Equity-based platforms provide backers with shares of the business in exchange for the money pledged. In fact, thanks to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act of 2012, small businesses can raise more funds from small investors with fewer restrictions, thus creating more interest in crowdfunding.

New businesses or those in their early stages can pitch an idea to ordinary people as well as wealthy investors who might be interested in investing small amounts of money. In exchange, the business owner offers some small incentive to donors (e.g., a free T-shirt) or a larger incentive (e.g., equity in the business).

The new SEC rules allow businesses to raise up to $1 million online from non-accredited investors in a 12-month period. The compliance (essentially, the federal rules under which lenders must operate) usually required in private fund-raising is waived, though borrowers still must provide financial statements. These statements, however, do not have to be audited. Naturally, the ATF’s “responsible persons” rules, as well as state and local laws, apply.

The amount an investor can invest via crowdfunding will depend on the investor’s income. According to the SEC, an investor with an annual income and net worth of less than $100,000 can invest $2,000, or 5 percent of their net worth, whichever is greater during a 12-month period. An investor with annual income or a net worth equal to or more than $100,000 can invest 10 percent of their annual income or net worth, whichever is greater.

The crowdfunding sites, not the firearms business, must be registered with both the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).


Borrowing from individuals and other organizations has also grown rapidly and moved into its own category, often referred to as P2P (peer-to-peer) lending. Much like crowdfunding, P2P lending matches borrowers and lenders through an online platform. P2P borrowers can gain access to funds quickly, and often at lower interest rates than those offered at banks, making this, again, an attractive alternative to more conventional bank loans.

The loans issued are made up of funds from many different investors, ranging from individuals to institutions. P2P lenders underwrite borrowers but don’t fund the loans directly; instead, they act as an intermediary between the borrowing business and institutional investors such as hedge funds and investment banks. Those third-party investors can invest in the loans on online P2P marketplaces, and they, not the P2P lenders, take on the investment risk.

Both individual and professional investors benefit by being able to lend money at a range of interest rates based on proprietary credit scores assigned by each platform. Since investors typically fund only a portion of a loan, they can potentially receive steady, attractive returns with the risk spread among multiple borrowers.

As a borrower, the firearms business interacts only with the P2P lender. After investors agree to fund the loan, the P2P lender transfers the total loan amount into the borrower’s bank account. The business/borrower repays the P2P lender, and they deal with repaying the investors.

Marketplace Lending

As a more diversified set of investors, especially institutional investors, become involved on lending platforms, they are driving what has become known as marketplace lending. Online marketplace lending refers to the segment of the financial services industry that uses investment capital to lend directly to small businesses and consumers. Although the volume is tiny when compared with traditional bank lending, marketplace lending is growing.

Marketplace lenders employ new, largely automated underwriting processes. Some lenders purportedly rely on big data not evaluated as part of a traditional bank’s underwriting processes. However, there has yet to be one consistent, concise definition of what marketplace lending truly means.

The U.S. Treasury has issued a rather broad definition for “Marketplace Lending,” stating that it is: “The segment of the financial services industry that uses investment capital and data-driven online platforms to lend either directly or indirectly to small businesses and so-called consumers.” They go on to say: “Companies operating in this industry tend to fall into three general categories: (1) Balance sheet lenders, (2) online platforms (formerly known as “Peer to Peer” or “P2P”), and (3) bank-affiliated online lenders.” In general, a marketplace lender can be described more concisely as a non-banking financial institution that heavily leverages technology to drive simplicity and speed of process, and serves a two-sided market of consumers and investors.

Marketplace lenders are currently required to comply with federal consumer financial protection laws, such as the Truth in Lending Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Peer-to-peer lenders who fund loans through third-party investors (rather than from their own balance sheets) may also be subject to securities regulation. For the most part, though, marketplace lenders usually are not subject to comprehensive federal or state supervision. However, many marketplace lenders rely on banks to originate loans and merely purchase those loans for resale to platform investors.

For these lenders, a borrower may indirectly receive the same regulatory protections as any bank customer. In addition, a marketplace lender that acts as a service provider to one or more banks may be examined by bank regulatory agencies.

Old Or New?

The majority of alternative online lenders lack a brick-and-mortar presence with which to interact with borrowers. This makes it extremely important for borrowers to spend the time necessary to differentiate the models. As previously explained, each type of lender has its own unique business model, with varying revenue streams and diverse motivations for serving their customers.

Bank loans continue to dominate the financing space for small and mid-size businesses in need of capital. But by design, online funding portals are more nimble, enabling them to operate with lower costs by not having to follow the same compliance and regulatory requirements. Crowdfunding, peer-to-peer loans, and the closely related marketplace loans offer an often less expensive source for the funds needed by a firearms business. They also tend to be much faster than funding through a more conventional bank or financial institution. Deciding which alternative will benefit your firearms business and be less costly may require the services of a loan broker or other qualified professional. At the very least, all options should be thoroughly researched on the internet they all utilize. In this case, it surely pays to look before you leap.

Mark E. Battersby

—Illustrations by Adofo Valle