Archive for the ‘Featured’ category
By Richard Mann
Just as in 2015, handguns remained the top-selling firearms in America last year. We are continuing to see suppressor-ready variants, and these are not limited to centerfire handguns. The demand for new and varied 1911s remains strong, and one manufacturer has upped the ante with a high-grade line of custom revolvers. Although most of the innovation is occurring with polymer-framed handguns, the real news for 2017 is the niche specialization of various models.
The Black Label 1911-380 Medallion Pro model, in full-size and compact versions, features a matte-black frame and a blackened stainless-steel slide with silver brush-polished flats. The grips are made of intricately checkered rosewood with a gold Buckmark. Barrel length on the full-size model is 4¼ inches; on the compact model, it’s 3 ⅝ inches. SRP: $799.99; $879.99 with night sights. A Black Label 1911-22LR Medallion full size and compact will also be offered with similar features for $669.99.
The New Black Label 1911-22LR Gray full-size and compact models are available with or without a rail. The slides on both are machined aluminum, and the barrel has a gray anodized finish. The frames are composite, with a machined 7075 aluminum subframe and slide rails. Sights are fiber-optic. SRP: $699.99; $719.99 with the rail. Black Label 1911-22LR Medallion full-size and compact versions will also be offered with similar features for $669.99.
To keep up with the demand for suppressor-ready firearms, the new Buck Mark Field Target Suppressor Ready 22LR model will feature a heavy, round, 5 ½-inch suppressor-ready barrel in matte blued finish. It also will offer an integral scope base with a Pro-Target rear sight and front blade sight. Grips are Cocobolo-laminated target. SRP: $599.99.
The new Buck Mark Lite Flute UFX model will feature a 5½-inch steel barrel with an alloy sleeve and fluting in a matte blued finish. Pro-Target rear sights and a Truglo/Marble Arms fiber-optic front sight are standard. Grips are Ultragrip FX ambidextrous. SRP: $559.99. (browning.com)
For 2017, Cimarron is offering five new single-action revolvers. The George S. Patton Engraved Model P has a 5.5-inch barrel and is chambered for .45 Colt. It is nickel-plated and laser-engraved, and has poly-ivory grips with Patton’s GSP insignia and a lanyard ring. SRP: $747.50. The Texas Ranger Engraved Model P has a 4.75-inch barrel and is chambered for .45 Colt. It has a nickel-plated finish and is also laser-engraved. The poly-ivory grips have the Texas Ranger insignia on both sides. SRP: $772.20.
Cimarron’s Bad Boy is a single-action revolver chambered for the .44 Magnum. It comes with a 6- or 8-inch octagonal barrel, a flat-top pre-war frame, adjustable sights, blue finish, and two-piece walnut grips. SRP: $570.70. The new Pistolero—a sleek, classically designed single-action for Old West firearms collectors or re-enactors—is chambered for the .45 Colt. It has a 4.75-inch barrel, with a blue finish and case-hardened frame. It is also available in nickel. SRP: $484.65, blue; $552.15, nickel.
The El Malo is a single-action Colt replica designed to be used by hunters, historic re-enactors, or Old West collectors. It’s chambered for the .45 Colt and is available with a 4.75-, 5.5-, or 7.5-inch octagonal barrel. It has the standard blue and case-hardened finish. SRP: $544.74. (cimarron-firearms.com)
The 805 Bren S1 Pistol with its 11-inch barrel has proven a popular SBR candidate for customers wanting to convert it into an NFA firearm. Those who don’t wish to register with the ATF can equip it with CZ’s adapter kit, which allows easy installation of aftermarket arm braces. Chambered in .223 Remington/5.56 NATO, and now 300 Blackout, the pistol uses the STANAG magazine from the AR15/M16. Picatinny rails top and bottom mean it easily accepts optics and lights, and an effective two-port muzzle brake helps keep the pistol solidly on target and reduces recoil and muzzle flip. SRP: $1,799. to $1,899.
Falling somewhere between the Scorpion Pistols and Carbine, the EVO 3 S1 Pistol is perfectly set up for those who desire a two-stamp gun. The extended forearm will hide most suppressors and offers M-LOK attachment points. With a 7.7-inch barrel and a 5-inch flash can, the barrel is extended to just past the forend. A factory folding stock is an aftermarket option for this unique 9mm. SRP: $949.
The latest addition to the CZ line of handguns is the P-10 C. This pistol is decidedly CZ, from the way it feels to the way it shoots. With the CZ grip angle, the P-10 avoids that brick-in-the-hand feeling that has plagued many in the striker-fired genre, allowing it to point naturally. Interchangeable backstraps allow it to fit a wide variety of hands. Designed to minimize creep and stacking, the P-10’s trigger breaks at a clean 4 to 4.5 pounds and rebounds with a short, positive reset. It has a fiber-reinforced polymer frame, a nitride finish, a generous trigger guard, and metal three-dot sights. Capacity is either 15+1 or 17+1, depending on the mag used. The CZ P10-C is available in 9mm Luger or .40 S&W, and a suppressor-ready variant is available in 9mm. SRP: $499 to $541.
Loaded with features, but without all the flash of the Urban Grey series, the 9mm standard black P-09 Suppressor-Ready now comes with high night sights and extended magazine bases, in addition to the obligatory extended, threaded barrel. SRP: $629. A new addition to the P-09 is the Kadet Kit. It is a scaled-up version of the P-07 kit to fit on the longer P-09 frame. Topped with the new Shadow 2 serrated target sight and a rear height-adjustable-only sight, the P-09 Kadet Kit ships with two magazines. SRP: $249.
Due to demand, CZ has brought back the SP-01 Phantom. This is essentially a polymer-framed SP-01 Tactical, with interchangeable backstraps and mag compatibility with the standard 75 platform. The SP-01 Phantom has long been a favorite in the CZ community, and has the distinction of being the current sidearm of the Czech Army.
Starting from scratch, CZ engineers took the best features of the original Shadow and improved upon them. The higher beavertail and an undercut trigger guard bring the shooter’s hand closer to the axis of the bore. Increased weight at the dust cover/rail helps keep the muzzle down during recoil. The Shadow 2’s swappable mag release has an adjustable, extended button with three settings to allow shooters to set it in the most comfortable position. The new trigger components provide a smooth DA and crisp and clean SA pull while drastically reducing trigger reset. Available only in 9mm. SRP: $1,299 to $1,399. (cz-usa.com)
The A2 stands as a testament to the most-copied pistol design in history. Drawing its lineage from the 1911 A1, the A2 and A2 Commander in .45 Auto are Dan Wesson’s vision of what the third generation of the military 1911 could have looked like. A lowered and flared ejection port, modern combat sights, a tactical beavertail, and an extended thumb safety, as well as a hint of undercutting to the trigger guard, make this one combat-ready pistol. The A2 will be produced in limited numbers. SRP: $1,363.
Customers have been asking for a blued-steel version of the Dan Wesson Valor. The new gun has the same features and attention to detail as its other stainless pistols, but it comes in a more traditional material and finish. Wearing a set of red-and-black double-diamond G10 grips with polished flats and bead-blasted rounds, the Valor Blue, in either 9mm or .45, is a classic beauty. SRP: $1,766.
When police departments approached Dan Wesson to build a more reliable, durable 1911 to replace what they’d been carrying, the company developed a model just for them. The frame sports a Picatinny rail, 25-LPI checkering, an undercut trigger guard, and a recessed slide stop. This pistol is equipped with an ambidextrous thumb safety, an extended magazine release, and a detachable two-piece mag well. It’s finished off with a set of G10 grips and either a matte stainless or black Duty finish. Available in either 9mm or .45 Auto. SRP: $1,701 to $2,012.
A fully stainless take on the Commander-length slide with an Officer-sized frame, the Pointman Carry is easily concealed and also incredibly comfortable to shoot. With features closely mirroring the full-size Pointman Nine, its reduced grip length makes it disappear under even thin cover garments, and its 9mm chambering makes recoil nearly non-existent. SRP: $1,597.
Equipped with a Trijicon RMR and with an extended, threaded barrel, the Fury is a double-stack beast begging to be unleashed on paper and steel. Chambered in 9mm or 10mm, capacities are 18+1 and 14+1, respectively. It also has a crisp, super-short-reset Elite Series trigger job. SRP: $4,899. (cz-usa.com)
The FNS Compact offers the same features as the standard FNS models, but it has a 3.6-inch barrel and is designed to be snag-free for better concealment and a faster draw. The front sight also has a larger dot for faster target acquisition. The FNS Compact has a 12- or 17-round capacity, depending on the magazine used, weighs 23.4 ounces, and is 6.7 inches long. SRP: $599. (fnamerica.com)
The Pocket Ace is a new derringer from Iver Johnson. It is chambered for .22LR and is a four-barrel single-action pistol. Made in the U.S., it is built from stainless steel and has a rotating firing pin, an integrated ambidextrous safety, and a 2-inch barrel. Overall length is 4 inches, and it has an unloaded weight of 7 ounces. (iverjohnsonarms.com)
Nighthawk has teamed with a German revolver manufacturer to offer a line of wheel guns that deliver the impeccable quality and precision that customers have come to expect from Nighthawk. Since the 1950s, Korth has been the premier revolver manufacturer in Europe. These marvelously machined wheel guns are built just north of Frankfurt. Their triggers are so smooth and stack-free, they’ll make your knees weak. Initially, Nighthawk will be offering three of these revolvers, which have been configured to Nighthawk specifications. The Sky Hawk is a compact six-shot revolver chambered for 9mm Luger, but neither half- nor full-moon clips are required. Every part is machined from billet steel or aluminum, and it’s available with a 2- or 3-inch barrel. A gold bead front sight, Hogue grips, hard-coated frame, a TSA-approved travel case, a cleaning rod, a grip-removal tool, lubricating oil, a lanyard, and a proprietary speed loader are standard. SRP: $1,699.
The Mongoose is a six-shot duty-size fighting revolver, available with either a 3-, 4-, 5 ¼-, or 6-inch barrel. Like the Sky Hawk, all parts are fully machined, and the handgun is available with either a black or silver finish. With its ergonomically designed and easy-to-access cylinder release, and its skeletonized, high-speed hammer, this .38 Special/.357 Magnum revolver will amaze you with the precision you can deliver on target. A pre-fitted additional cylinder for the 9mm Luger can be ordered. SRP: $3,499.
Had old-time police PPC shooters seen a .38 Special/.357 Magnum revolver like this, they’d have thought they’d died and gone to doughnut heaven. But the Super Sport is not just a pistol for old cops; this thing is ready to compete head-to-head with any handgun made. It comes with Picatinny rails and a four-way adjustable front sight that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. A pre-fitted additional cylinder for the 9mm Luger can be ordered. SRP: $4,799.
The R1 10mm Hunter Long Slide is a handgun built with the hunter in mind. From the accurate, 6-inch, match-grade barrel to the match-quality, fully adjustable sights, Picatinny rail, and VZ Operator II G10 grips, this pistol will get the job done at distance. SRP: $1,310.
The Remington 1911 R1 Limited is a handcrafted version of the most trusted pistol platform in history, with all the features today’s top competitors demand. Accuracy and speed are key in competition, and with the Limited’s match-grade trigger and barrel, wide serrations, and ambidextrous thumb safety levers, it is race-ready right out of the box. Available in 9mm or .40 S&W, the Limited has fully adjustable match sights, G10 grips, and a PVD finish. SRP: $1,250.
As the name implies, the Remington R1 Tactical is a fighting pistol. It comes with a Trijicon rear sight, a beveled oversize ejection port, a PVD finish, a Trijicon front sight, an ambidextrous safety, checkered mainspring housing, a stainless match barrel, a Picatinny rail, VZ G10 grips, and two 8-round magazines. SRP: $1,250.
Re-engineered and reintroduced, the Remington R51 has the same appeal for personal protection and concealed carry as it did two years ago. Its low-bore axis helps tame +P 9mm recoil, and its snag-free profile makes it ideal for covert carry. The single–action design allows for one of the best triggers in its class, and at $448, it will not break the bank. A version of the R51 with a Crimson Trace Laser Guard is available for $648.
The big pistol news from Big Green is the new RP high-capacity, striker-fired polymer pistol. Available in 9mm or .45 Auto, with a respective capacity of 18+1 or 15+1, this is a seriously sized duty pistol with a very slim grip profile. At 26.4 ounces total weight, the balanced slide helps control muzzle rise and makes the 9mm version possibly the smoothest-shooting duty-size pistol on the market. The RP is also affordable. SRP: $489. (remington.com)
Ruger’s LCP II features a short, crisp, single-action trigger with an inner trigger safety, improved sights, a larger grip surface, and an easy-to-rack slide with an improved slide-stop mechanism with last-round hold-open. The LCP II comes with a pocket holster, weighs just 10.6 ounces, and holds 6+1 rounds of .380 ammunition. SRP: $349.
The striker-fired American Compact features a trigger with a short take-up and positive reset. It is performance-tested for sustained +P ammunition use, and is equipped with genuine Novak LoMount Carry three-dot sights. It has a modular grip system, can be fieldstripped easily, and has an ambidextrous slide stop and magazine release. Barrel length is 3.35 inches, and it weighs 28.7 ounces. SRP: $579.
The new Mark IV is a revised version of the ever-popular Mark III. The Mark IV is available in Target and Hunter versions, and its most notable feature is how easy it is to take apart. It has a simple, one-button takedown for quick and easy fieldstripping. A recessed button in the back of the frame allows the upper receiver to tilt up and off the grip frame without the use of tools. (ruger.com)
Texas Armament & Technology
The Schmeisser SLP-9 9mm is a striker-fired pistol imported from Germany. Its special DARE System (Double Action Rapid Engagement) resets the firing pin after a 3mm release of the trigger. This allows fast precision taps after the first round has been fired in DA. The SLP-9 also allows for multiple trigger pulls in the event of a misfire, and the bore axis is extremely low to help with recoil reduction and fast follow-up shots. The 17-round magazines, with capacity-check indicators, are made of anti-corrosive steel with a special anti-friction coating and a high-impact polymer floor-plate. The ambidextrous magazine release catch can be pushed from either side, allowing use for both left- and right-handed shooters. This is a well-thought-out 9mm pistol, with lots of features that should endear it to duty or personal protection service. (tx-at.com)
This 1858 New Army Buffalo Bill Commemorative .44-caliber limited-edition Black Powder has an 8-inch barrel, blue finish, and simulated ivory grips. It is a replica of the 1858 Remington carried by Buffalo Bill. It also has ornate hand-chased floral engraving on all external components, and a gold inlay on either side of the barrel carries the Western hero’s name and significant dates. SRP: $1,049. (uberti.com)
By Richard Mann
Retailers are anticipating an interesting and challenging year ahead in 2017. But they won’t lack for new firearms, as well as old favorites with a bevy of updated and sure-to-be popular features, to keep their customers coming back to the counter.
The tale of the tape with regard to rifles in 2017 has more to do with a single cartridge. The 6.5 Creedmoor seems to have taken the rifle world by storm, and more and more rifles are now available for that cartridge. However, that’s not the only news. Although new MSR rifles do not dominate this year, a major manufacturer has entered that playing field. You should find plenty new to like in the rifle world for 2017, with new rimfire offerings and new youth offerings, as well as plenty of threaded muzzles.
The Barrett Lightweight rifle is a bolt-action designed to be carried far on long days in the field and perform like a Barrett at critical moments. The stock is crafted from carbon fiber to provide an ultralight yet stiff platform. The actions are scaled for their specific caliber, and precision barrels are contoured for their application. There’s nothing one-size-fits-all about this rifle. SRP: $1,799. (barrett.net)
The B14 Series BMP (Bergara Match Precision) Chassis Rifle is new from the ground up. The main chassis is machined from 7075 T6 aluminum and incorporates QD-swivel attachments and Magpul M-LOK slots. The incredibly smooth B14 action and barrel incorporate a barrel nut that allows shooters to replace or change barrels, and the magazine well is contoured so it can be used as a support brace. With a near-vertical AR-style grip, the BMP is very comfortable and allows for ambidextrous use. It’s available in .308 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor, with threaded #5 contour barrels. This rifle has a sub-MOA guarantee and weighs 9.5 pounds. SRP: $1,699. (bergarausa.com)
John M. Browning designed the original Browning Automatic Rifle, which was commissioned by the U.S. Army, in three months, and variants of the classic design served with distinction from World War I until the Vietnam War. For 2017, Browning will commemorate 100 years of the BAR by offering a special semi-auto sporting version—the BAR Safari 100th Anniversary model. It will feature a steel receiver with special engravings of military and hunting scenes highlighted in gold finish. The stock is Grade V Turkish walnut in oil finish, and production is limited to 100 rifles in .30/06 with a 22-inch barrel. SRP: $2,699.99.
A new BAR MK 3 DBM semi-auto featuring a matte-black finish, an 18-inch barrel, a black composite stock and forearm, a 10-round detachable box magazine, integrated Picatinny scope mounts, a front sling swivel stud, and two QD-sling-swivel cups is also available for 2017. Available in .308 Win. SRP: $1,469.99.
Browning’s new X-Bolt Medallion Safari Grade bolt-action rifle features a deep-polished blued and fluted heavy sporter barrel, with gold-accented engraving and receiver engraving in a polished blued finish. The stock is a gloss-finished, checkered, grade IV/V walnut, with a rosewood forend and pistol grip caps. It’s available in short-action calibers, including the 6.5 Creedmoor, and other chamberings up to .375 H&H. SRP: $1,869 to $1,899.99.
Also new in the X-Bolt lineup is the Hell’s Canyon Long Range model, which features a Cerakote burnt-bronze finish on all exposed metal surfaces. The heavy sporter contour barrel is fluted. The composite stock has textured gripping surfaces and a palm swell, and is finished in A-TACS AU Camo, with Dura-Touch Armor Coating. Available in seven popular calibers. SRP: $1,229.99 to $1,299.99.
Browning’s AB3 bolt-action rifle will now be offered in a Micro Stalker del that features a black composite stock with a 13-inch length of pull for smaller-stature shooters. The new AB3 Micro Stalker has features found on Browning’s latest value-priced bolt-action design, including a 60-degree bolt lift, a detachable magazine, an Inflex recoil pad, a bolt-lock override button, and a free-floating barrel. SRP: $599.99. (browning.com)
The new Minimalist SD Carbine from Bushmaster has an AAC Square Drop Handguard that’s compatible with Key Mod accessories, a lightweight FNC 1:8 twist barrel, and a mil-spec Mission First Tactical Minimalist stock and pistol grip. An ALG Defense trigger and an AAC 51 T flash hider/silencer mount are standard. It is available in 5.56 NATO or 300 Blackout. SRP: $1,169.
The ACR Designated Marksman has a midweight FNC 1:8 twist barrel, allows for tool-less barrel change, and comes with a high-reliability piston system. It also has a PRS-style buttstock, a Geissele two-stage trigger, and an AAC 51 T flash hider/silencer mount. Extra barrels in 18.5, 16, 14.5, or 10.5 inches are available for $585 (per barrel). SRP: $2,569. (bushmaster.com)
The MkW ANVIL XBE, an all-new mid-sized AR-rifle platform from CMMG, is chambered in .458 SOCOM. The most defining feature of the new MkW ANVIL is that the rifle utilizes CMMG’s unique Powerbolt design, which allows the rifle to use a modified AR10-sized bolt for increased durability. The rifle is also built on an AR10-sized frame, with the upper receiver shortened by ¾ inch to minimize weight and increase ergonomics. It comes with a 1:14 twist 16-inch barrel, a billet upper and lower receiver, and a single-stage mil-spec trigger, and weighs 7.5 pounds. SRP: $1,849.95. The MkW ANVIL XBE2 is similar to the XBE, but it comes with a Geissele SSA two-stage trigger, a Magpul MOE pistol grip, and a CTR carbine stock, with a six-position receiver extension. SRP: $2,149.95. (cmmginc.com)
The ever-evolving needs of military forces led to the further development of the Bren platform. Whereas the 805 was built to a specific set of predetermined requirements, the Bren 2 took years of input and data from use in the worldwide war on terror and put it all together in a smaller, lighter package. A shorter gas system allows for barrel lengths down to 8 inches, with settings for normal use, suppressed use, and adverse conditions. The aluminum receiver is shorter and thinner, shaving weight from the rifle. The Bren 2 is currently available only for military/LE special order.
CZ’s first stainless rimfire, the 455 American Stainless Synthetic, is meant to be a hardy, long-lived rifle that can be passed down through the generations. With the same swappable barrel system as all of CZ’s 455 rifles, both barrel and action are finished in a matte bead blast. Barrel length is 20.5 inches, and the bolt and bolt handle are finished in black nitride. Available in .22 LR, .17 HMR, and .22 Magnum. SRP: $434 to $451.
Famous for its use in rimfire competition, the 455 Training Rifle Rustic shares all the same popular features of its 452 predecessor—a 24.8-inch barrel, a tangent rear sight, and a beechwood stock with a Schnabel forend. The biggest difference is the ability to swap the barrel and/or stock—a trait of all CZ 455s. An ideal rifle for introducing youth to the shooting sports, the Training Rifle is shipped with a 5-round magazine, but single-shot adapters and 10-round magazines are available. In .22 LR only. SRP: $399.
Built to be an ideal first gun for young shooters, the .22LR Scout has a 12-inch length of pull. With its simple leaf rear and blade front sights, learning the basics of sight picture has never been easier. The 11mm dovetails on the receiver make adding a scope a breeze. The muzzle is threaded 1/2×28, allowing for suppressor-hearing-safe shooting without the need for muffs or plugs. Shipped with a single-shot adapter to teach ammo conservation, any of the 455’s magazines will fit. SRP: $339.
The suppressor-ready CZ 527 is handy and equally happy shooting steel or taking down hogs. Chambered in 300 Blackout or 7.62×39, it’s got enough knockdown power for most medium game at shorter ranges. Using flush-bottom metal, it ships with extended 5-round magazines, but it can work with factory flush mags as well. SRP: $748.
Built on the incredibly precise 557 short-action, the new Varmint model adds a stout 25.6-inch barrel in a heavy profile that tapers to a 0.863-inch muzzle. Anchored in a newly designed walnut stock, it has a healthy palm swell, laser-cut stippling, and a flat forend. With ergonomics as the guiding principle, the result is an incredibly comfortable rifle to get behind, whether you’re punching paper, ringing steel, or knocking off prairie dogs. New for 2017 is the addition of .243 Win. to the available chamberings. SRP: $865. (cz-usa.com)
The FN M249S is a semi-auto version of the M249 SAW light machine gun, which was originally developed by FN Herstal as the FN MINIMI and adopted by the U.S. military in 1988. The rifle features the signature 18.5-inch FN cold-hammer-forged, chrome-lined barrel, and operates from a closed-bolt position. Chambered in 5.56 NATO, the rifle will accept a magazine or a linked ammunition belt and offers a 4- to 6.5-pound trigger. The rifle weighs 16 pounds, is 40.7 inches long, and has an 18.5-inch barrel. SRP: $8,799 to $9,499.
The FN 15 DMR II has been reengineered for enhanced performance and features the all-new FN proprietary rail system with M-LOK, which provides extreme rigidity and less deflection, ensuring that all mounted accessories remain affixed without shift. Like its predecessor, the rifle offers an 18-inch match-grade cold-hammer-forged barrel with a 1:7 twist, a Surefire Pro Comp muzzle device, and an upgraded mil-spec lower with a Timney trigger and Magpul MOE grip and buttstock. SRP: $1,999.
The FN 15 Tactical Carbine chambered for the popular 300 AAC Blackout is duty-ready straight out of the box. Equipped with the new FN proprietary rail system, the carbine provides exceptional strength and durability, and offers a stronger, more rigid platform for accessories and optics. In addition, the FN 15 Tactical Carbine 300 BLK II, like its rifle and carbine siblings, features a 16-inch alloy-steel cold-hammer-forged and chrome-lined barrel, a carbine-length gas system, a low-profile gas block, a Surefire ProComp muzzle brake, and Magpul MOE furniture. SRP: $1,599. (fnamerica.com)
The Kuiu Vias and Verde rifles from Howa are built on the legendary 1500 action and are available in the most popular chamberings, with a 20-inch lightweight, 22-inch standard, or 24-inch magnum contour barrel. All metalwork is finished in a gunmetal-gray Cerakote finish, and the barreled action is pillar-bedded in a Hogue Overmold stock. Other features include a two-stage HACT trigger, a three-position safety, and sling swivel studs. SRP: $782 to $811.
The Lithgow Arms LA101 Crossover rimfire rifle comes in .22 LR, .17 HRM, and .22 Magnum, and features a Cerakote titanium-colored finish, a cold-forged barrel, a threaded barrel, and an adjustable length of pull. SRP: $1,079. (legacysports.com)
For 2017, Marlin has announced the return of one of its most popular rifles, the 1894 Cowboy. Available in .357, .44 Magnum, and .45 Colt, these 100 percent American-made rifles feature a straight grip American black walnut stock, a receiver and bolt machined from solid steel, a polished 20-inch octagonal barrel, and Marble sights. SRP: $1,041. The standard 1894 with a round barrel is also available for $789.
To further celebrate the reintroduction of the 1894, Marlin is offering a limited-edition version in .45 Colt with B-grade American black walnut stock, highly polished metalwork, and an engraved gold-inlaid receiver. SRP: $1,349. Another lever-action that has been missing from the Marlin line for some time is the 444. Chambered for the .444 Marlin and built on the 1895 action, this rifle has an American black walnut pistol grip stock, 22-inch round barrel, and Marble sights. SRP: $789. (marlinfirearms.com)
Mossberg has added two new MMRs to its line. The Tactical Optics Ready MMR is offered with or without a Vortex StrikeFire II red/green-dot sight. This is an optics-ready AR15 that is shipped without open sights. It has a six-position stock, a forward-assist M-Lok handguard, a 1:8 twist barrel, and the new Mossberg JM Pro drop-in 4-pound trigger. SRP: $1,253 to $1,399. The other new MMR from Mossberg is the MMR PRO. This rifle is similar to the optics-ready MMR but comes with an 18-inch, 1:8 twist 416 stainless barrel with a Silencerco ASR muzzle brake. SRP: $1,393.
Mossberg has several additions to the Patriot line. First is the Patriot Predator, which comes in a synthetic, flat dark earth stock with a 22-inch barrel and threaded muzzle. It is available in .223, .243, .308, and 6.5 Creedmoor. SRP: $441. Two additional Patriots are available in .223: the Patriot Synthetic and Super Bantam. Both retail for $396. For those who love the value and performance of the Mossberg Patriot, but would like a higher-end, dressed-up version, Mossberg is offering a Patriot Revere with high-grade walnut stock, rosewood grip, and forend caps, and an upgraded blue finish. (mossberg.com)
Four new bolt-action rifles of note are available from Remington for 2017. The new 700 Magpul is a perfect cross between a hunting platform and a tactical platform, as its adjustability in the comb and length of pull allow for a perfect fit. In addition, the 22-inch heavy barrel is threaded for the addition of a silencer or other muzzle device. Another welcome feature is the detachable magazine. It’s available in .308 Win. and .260 Rem. SRP: $1,175. Continuing a 12-year-long run of CDL SF Limited rifles chambered in classic cartridges, this year you will see the rifle in .300 Weatherby Magnum. SRP: $1,225.
Remington’s 700 AWR (American Wilderness Rifle) is a big-game rifle built for durability and accuracy. From the stainless-steel-barreled action and a durable Cerakote coating to the 5R rifling and a durable and rigid stock, this rifle is one that can weather the elements. It replaces the XCRII line of 700s and is available in .270, .30/06, 7mm Magnum, and .300 Magnum. SRP: $1,150. An addition to Remington’s popular and affordable 783 line is a new rifle with a walnut stock. It will be available in .308, .270, .30/06, and 7mm Magnum. SRP: $499. (remington.com)
The new 10-22 Takedown Lite from Ruger features a cold-hammer-forged barrel tensioned in an aluminum-alloy barrel sleeve. It has a threaded muzzle and is fitted with a thread cap. Easy takedown enables quick separation of the barrel from the action for ease of transportation and storage. It also has the Ruger Modular Stock System with a low comb and standard length of pull, but it ships with an additional high-comb standard length-of-pull stock module. SRP: $659. (ruger.com)
Savage has big news for 2017 with the introduction of several MSR rifles. The new MSR 15 Patrol and MSR 15 Recon redefine the category, with the kind of tack-driving accuracy and seamless performance you’d expect from a Savage. Both have button-rifled 16-inch barrels with 5R rifling, a long-lasting Melonite QPQ finish, and Savage’s trademark zero-tolerance headspace control. These rifles also feature the proven .223 Wylde target chambering and a standard gas system. SRP: $849, MSR 15 Patrol; $999, MSR 15 Recon.
But Savage did not stop with the AR15 platform. The new MSR 10 Hunter and MSR 10 Long Range address some longstanding shortcomings of MSRs designed for larger cartridges. Both feature a compact AR10 design that feels and handles more like an AR15, and both utilize custom-forged uppers and lowers for a look unlike anything afield or on the range. Available chamberings include the .308 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor. The Hunter has a 16- to 18-inch barrel, and the Long Range has a 20- or 22-inch barrel. SRP: $1,399, MSR 10 Hunter; $2,199, MSR 10 Long Range.
Savage line extensions include a purple version of the popular, youth-oriented Rascal rifle. SRP: $191. Also, stealing the modern and attractive looks of the Savage A17, Savage has added a .22 LR to the A series. SRP: $281. The B Series of rimfires is also getting a boost with the introduction of the B17, B22, and B22 Magnum bolt-action rimfire rifles. They feature a new ergonomically designed stock with a higher comb, a top-tang safety, and target-style and vertical pistol grips. All in all, the B Series includes a dozen new models in configurations that include heavy and suppressor-ready barrels. All B Series rifles feature a 10-round rotary magazine and the AccuTrigger. SRP: $281 to $413. (savagearms.com)
The 1886 Lever action Sporting comes in .45/70 with a 26-inch barrel, a color-case receiver, an octagonal match barrel, a walnut stock, and fully adjustable sights. SRP: $1,879. The other is the 1886 Lever Action Hunter Lite. It is also available in .45/70, but with a 22-inch, round, match-grade barrel and half-length magazine. SRP: $1,829. (uberti.com)
The heart of the Vanguard Adaptive Composite (VAC) is the renowned Vanguard action. It is affixed to a composite target stock that features the Speedlock system, a quick-and-easy locking system for adjusting both length of pull and comb height. The full and lowered forend offers an improved grip for shooting while standing, as well as a stud to which a bipod or a sling can be attached. Available with a threaded 20-inch #3 contour barrel, the VAC is chambered for the .223 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, or the .308 Win. SRP: $1,269. (weatherby.com)
Winchester Repeating Arms
The legendary Model 1866 lever-action is now available in a Grade I Short Rifle. The receiver, crescent buttplate, and forearm cap are brass with a bright finish. Stock and forearm are Grade I American black walnut. A folding ladder rear sight and Marble Arms gold bead front sight are standard. Available in
.44—40 Win. and .38 Special. SRP: $1,299.99.
The XPR Hunter Mountain Country Range bolt-action features a polymer stock in Mossy Oak Mountain Country Range camo. Other features include an MOA trigger system, Perma-Cote matte-blued metal surfaces, a detachable box magazine, a steel recoil lug, a two-position thumb safety, and an Inflex Technology Recoil Pad. Available in all popular cartridges, from .243 to .338 Win. Mag. SRP: $599.99.
Two new XPR Hunter Compact models are also being offered. The XPR Hunter Compact features a 13-inch length of pull. It will be offered for all popular short-action cartridges from .243 Win to .325 WSM. SRP: $549.99. The XPR Hunter Compact Mossy Oak Break-Up Country camo version has a suggested retail of $599.99.
By Jock Elliott
Big-bore airguns are just the ticket for nuisance wildlife control
Coming soon to a residential area near you: whitetails, coyotes, and hogs. Whether it is the woodchuck in the garden, the raccoon in the garbage can, the bear under the bird feeder, the deer and the coyotes almost everywhere, or the feral hogs exploding across the landscape, people are coming into collision with wildlife.
Jim Sterba, author of Nature Wars, says, “The return of deer, geese, beavers, coyotes, turkeys, bears, and other wild creatures amounts to a huge 20th-century conservation success story worth celebrating. And yet, in the 21st century, instead of celebrating, we’re often fighting about whether we now have too much of a good thing, and, if so, what to do—or not to do—about it.”
He points out that it is very likely that more people live in closer proximity to more wild animals and birds and trees today in the eastern third of the United States than anywhere on the planet at any time in history. “Some people say our conflicts with wildlife are our fault because we encroached on their habitat. That’s true. But that’s only half the story. As their populations multiply and spread, many wild creatures encroach right back.”
The kicker, according to Sterba, is improved habitat. “Our habitat is better than theirs. We offer up plenty of food, water, shelter, edges, and protection. We plant grass, trees, shrubs, and gardens, put out birdseed, mulch, and garbage, and fill up Dumpsters. All this amounts to a giant buffet for all sorts of critters. It’s the reason that suburban sprawl’s biological carrying capacity—that is, the population limit the food and habitat can sustain—is far greater than an unpeopled forest.”
When the interests of people and wildlife come into conflict, typically the next thing that happens is a phone call to state wildlife authorities or to a private contractor. Sometimes trapping/tranquilizing and moving the animals is the answer. Depending upon the jurisdiction and the species, however, it can be flatly illegal to relocate an animal. Sometimes there is a substantial breeding population in the area, so that relocating one individual animal becomes a symbolic, but ultimately useless, act. And sometimes lethal removal of the wildlife is the only sensible answer.
Limited Range, but Enough Power
That’s where big-bore airguns—air rifles of .30 to .50 caliber—come in. Chip Hunnicutt, marketing manager for Crosman Corporation, says, “When it comes to lethal wildlife control in an urban or suburban environment, you want limited range, not a lot of noise, and—above all—sufficient accuracy and power to provide a humane kill. Big-bore airguns deliver all that in a package that is easy to shoot well.”
Big-bore airguns also present an opportunity for new sales for firearms dealers because they provide a solution for wildlife control in many venues where discharging a firearm is forbidden. A number of states have approved, or are in the process of approving, the use of large-caliber airguns for harvesting deer. In addition, airguns often offer greater profit margins than do firearms.
Chuck Sykes, Alabama’s director of wildlife, says, “Large-bore airguns serve the purpose very well. You need to be proficient and know what range you are effective at, but you can kill a 180- to 250-pound deer at 100 yards with one. For nuisance wildlife control, anyone can afford them, anyone can use them, and it’s a lot cheaper to use an airgun than a firearm with all the hassle and expense of a suppressor.”
Big Opportunity for Retailers
Barry Stewart, a rancher with in-depth experience in wildlife control, says, “I use airguns for reduction of noise. If you are looking at a whole group of feral hogs, with a .223 you won’t get a second shot, but with an airgun you could. I get 1- to 1.25-inch accuracy at 100 yards with a Benjamin Bulldog, and it makes just as humane a kill as a firearm.”
Hunnicutt attended the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies annual meeting in Tucson last fall and found wildlife managers advocating the use of large-bore airguns for a number of applications. “There is a lot of potential in this market,” he says. The market has not gotten a lot of attention, and Crosman is supporting both wildlife managers and wildlife control professionals with performance data and information kits.
Eric Arnold, editor of Wildlife Control Technology magazine, says, “In terms of legalities, the number-one issue with state laws is whether or not air rifles are authorized for taking the conflict animal.” His view is that when an air rifle is legal and alternative methods for control are ineffective or too costly, then choosing a big bore (.30 caliber or larger) would be appropriate for wildlife that typically weighs from 15 to 80 pounds. This includes foxes, raccoons, coyotes, porcupines, and feral hogs. Larger big bores (.45 and .50 caliber) are more suited for larger wildlife weighing from 80 to 250 pounds, such as whitetail deer, large feral hogs, and small black bears.
He adds that a .30-caliber has more than enough energy for taking problem wildlife such as prairie dogs, rock chucks, ground hogs, skunks, raccoons, beavers, and foxes out to 100 yards, and coyotes out to 75 yards. But it can cause other problems if a miss occurs or the animal is too close and the projectile passes through. In short, shooters need to match the air rifle and pellet selection not only to the targeted wildlife, but also to the shooting conditions at hand.
Three things are clear: The incidence of conflict between wildlife and people is likely to grow; big-bore airguns can play an important role in helping to deal with the problem; and large-caliber airguns present an opportunity for dealers to sell air rifles, ammunition, charging systems, scopes, mounts, rangefinders, and other accessories.
By Mark E. Battersby
Illustrations by Pixel Pushers
An employee benefit that also benefits ownership
Employee ownership in a shooting-sports business can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Employees can buy stock directly, be given it as a bonus, can receive stock options, or obtain stock through a profit-sharing plan. Some employees become owners through worker cooperatives where everyone has an equal vote. But by far the most common form of employee ownership in the U.S. is the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). In addition to being an excellent exit strategy with significant tax savings for gun shop owners and shareholders, ESOPs are also great for motivating and rewarding employees and for taking advantage of incentives to borrow money for acquiring new assets in pretax dollars.
Almost unknown until 1974, ESOPs today are used by many businesses for a variety of purposes other than the succession planning with which they are most closely associated. But launching an ESOP isn’t just about benefiting the business owner. Business owners willing to go to the trouble of implementing such a plan frequently have the interests of their employees and the business in mind.
An ESOP is a qualified retirement program in which employees receive shares of the business rather than stock. ESOPs are said to be “qualified” because they qualify for federal income tax deferral until the stock is turned into cash at retirement.
An ESOP offers employers two advantages. First, the business gets significant tax breaks. It can, for instance, borrow funds through the ESOP for expansion or for other purposes, deducting both the repayment and interest when the loan is repaid. (With ordinary loans, only interest payments are tax-deductible.) Second, the owner of a firearms business who sells his or her stock to the ESOP can defer or often even avoid capital-gains taxes associated with the sale of the business. With these essentials, ESOPs have become an important tool in succession planning for business owners preparing for retirement.
In addition to an important succession planning tool for shooting-sports business owners thinking about retirement, employees also benefit from an ESOP. When it comes to the employees, ESOPs are in most respects similar to 401(k) plans, except that, instead of cash, the business providing the ESOP “pays” in its own stock. Under both an ESOP and a 401(k) program, employees receive monetary benefits on retirement or in the event of death or disability. The chief difference is that with a 401(k), the funds paid in are usually invested in a diversified portfolio; in the ESOP, they hold only the company’s own stock. The advantages and risks of ESOPs derive from this difference.
An ESOP can also be a useful tool when it comes to buying and selling the shooting-sports business. In fact, an ESOP is often an excellent tool for selling a minority interest in the business. By selling a portion of the business, an owner can invest in other assets, providing much-needed wealth diversification.
For example, a business owner nearing retirement age can sell his or her stake in the business to the ESOP in order to gain tax advantages and provide for the continuation of the business. According to many experts, transferring ownership to the operation’s employees in this manner is preferable to a third-party sale.
After all, with a sale to a third party, buyers may be difficult to find, and after the transaction, collecting installment payments may turn out to be difficult or costly. With an ESOP, more certain results are possible.
The ESOP can borrow money to buy out the owner’s stake in the business. If, after the stock purchase, the ESOP holds more than 30 percent of the business’ shares, the owner can defer capital-gains taxes by investing the proceeds in a Qualified Replacement Property (QRP). QRPs can include stocks, bonds, and certain retirement accounts. The income stream generated by the QRP can help provide the business owner with income during retirement.
ESOPs can also prove helpful to those interested in buying a small business. Many individuals and businesses have raised the capital for financing a purchase by selling nonvoting stock in the business to its employees. This strategy allows the purchaser to retain the voting shares in order to maintain control of the business.
As attractive as these tax benefits are, there are limits and drawbacks. The tax laws do not allow ESOPs to be used in partnerships or most professional corporations. ESOPs can be used in S corporations (a form of corporation that meets specific Internal Revenue Code requirements, giving a corporation with 100 shareholders or less the benefit of incorporation while being taxed as a partnership), but do not qualify for the unique rollover treatment accorded those ESOPs using regular corporation entities. They also have lower contribution limits.
Privately held firearms businesses are, for instance, required to repurchase the shares of departing employees, and this can become a major expense. The cost of setting up an ESOP is also substantial; it can be as much as $40,000 for a simple, basic plan for a small business, far more for a larger enterprise with more employees.
And remember, anytime new shares in the business are issued, the value of the stock owned by existing owners is diluted. That dilution must be weighed against the tax and employee motivation benefits an ESOP can provide. Finally, ESOPs will improve corporate performance only if combined with opportunities for employees to participate in decisions affecting their work.
Reportedly, only about two-thirds of ESOPs are used to provide a market for the shares of a departing owner of a profitable, closely held business. Most of the remainder are used either as a supplemental employee benefit plan or as a means to borrow money in a tax-favored manner. Less than three percent of ESOP plans are in public companies.
Is an ESOP right for you? Weigh the pros and cons presented here and then consult with your tax professional.
At A Glance
ESOPs have a number of significant tax benefits, the most important of which are:
Contributions of stock are tax-deductible. That means a firearms business can get a current cash flow advantage by issuing new shares or treasury shares to the ESOP. Doing so, however, means the shares of existing owners will be diluted.
Cash contributions are deductible. The business can contribute cash on a discretionary basis year to year and take a tax deduction for it, whether the contribution is used to buy shares from current owners or to build up a cash reserve in the ESOP for future use.
Contributions used to repay a loan the ESOP takes out to buy shares in the business are tax-deductible. The ESOP can borrow money to buy existing shares, new shares, or treasury shares. Regardless of the use, the contributions are deductible, meaning ESOP financing is done in pretax dollars.
Sellers in a regular C corporation (the most common type of corporation) get a tax deferral. With an incorporated business, once the ESOP owns 30 percent of all the shares in the business, the seller can reinvest the proceeds of the sale in other securities, deferring any tax on the gain.
In S corporations, the percentage of ownership held by the ESOP is not subject to income tax at the federal level (and usually the state level as well). That means there is usually no income tax on 30 percent of the profits of an S corporation with an ESOP holding 30 percent of the stock, and no income tax at all on the profits of an S corporation wholly owned by its ESOP. However, the ESOP still must get a pro-rata share of any distributions the firearms business makes to owners or shareholders.
Dividends are tax-deductible. Reasonable dividends used to repay an ESOP loan, passed through to employees, or reinvested by employees in the business’ stock are tax-deductible.
Employees pay no tax on the contributions to the ESOP, only the distribution of their accounts, and then at potentially favorable rates. The employees can roll over their distributions in an IRA or other retirement plan or pay current tax on the distribution, with any gains accumulated over time taxed as capital gains. The income tax portion of the distributions is, however, subject to a 10 percent penalty if made before normal retirement age.
Not too surprisingly, all contributions are subject to certain limitations, though these rarely pose a problem for a well-advised firearms business.
By Wayne Van Zwoll
Europe’s gunmakers are well known for beautifully designed products, the prices of which would bankrupt a prince. and yet, these manufacturers also offer a variety of handsome yet affordable models that will appeal to many North American hunters.
After the tide of surplus Mausers receded and the spawn of the slim 1903 Mannlicher-Schoenauer expired with the 1961 MCA, Europe’s gunmakers forfeited their standing stateside. By 1974, Browning’s Belgian FN plant had dropped its High-Power rifles. In Finland, Sako Finnbear and Forester bolt-actions had yielded to the Model 74. The classic Swedish Husqvarna was gone. Austria had replaced Mannlicher-Schoenauers with its first Steyrs. Germany’s commercial 1898 Mauser had vanished decades back. In the U.S., riflemen still mourning Winchester’s old Model 70 wept and gnashed their teeth.
Europe’s climb out of this dark hole has been glacial, marked by costly rifles with sloping combs, hooked wrists, fish-scale grips, and intricate set triggers. QD scope mounts of Teutonic complexity listed for more than box seats at the Super Bowl. Current rifles, however, brighten the horizon, and a fresh look to Europe is in order. But to sell these storied names effectively, you need to know who the players are and some of their rich history.
Ushering in a New Age
Compared to Europe’s gun industry, firearms manufacture in the U.S. is a young enterprise. Our oldest manufacturer, Remington, just celebrated 200 years in business. Austria’s storied gunmaking enclave in Ferlach, though, dates to 1246. European bolt-actions of the late 19th century ushered in the smokeless age, and in 1889, Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre (FN) emerged in Liege to produce Mauser rifles for Belgium’s government. FN owes its genesis to the Model 1889, which also confirmed Peter Paul Mauser as the continent’s ace rifle designer. His Model 1892 introduced the non-rotating extractor that grasped case heads as they rose, so it emptied the breech even if the shooter short-cycled. No jams.
Improvements on the 1892 produced the Model 1893 “Spanish” Mauser—whose deadly fire from San Juan Hill figured into the U.S. shift from the Krag to the Springfield. Mauser’s 1898, adopted by the German Army that year, improved on the 1893. Exported to many countries, it was built in many more.
I wasn’t awed by the Walter Gehman short-throw rifle acquired by Mauser and announced as the Model 66 in 1965. The 3000 (with the 2000 and short 4000) built by the Friedrich Wilhelm Heym Arms Factory of Münnerstadt, West Germany, was sold by Mauser-Jagdwaffen GmbH, Oberndorf. The equally unexciting Models 77 and 86 followed. In 1995 Mauser was gobbled up by the Rheinmetall Group. Its gun-making branch, Oberndorf Waffensysteme GmbH, built a Model 96 straight-pull rifle. The 1898 Mauser appeared in a limited run on its centennial. The next year, Mauser Jagdwaffen GmbH began building M98 hunting rifles in Isny/Allagau, Germany. In 2003, Mauser announced its un-98 Model 03, a nicely finished but costly rifle with interchangeable barrels and bolts.
A decade later, Mauser introduced the more affordable M12, a fetching rifle with a straight-comb stock (walnut or synthetic). Its full-diameter six-lug bolt (three pairs of two) has two plunger ejectors and an extractor in a lug. There’s a three-position safety and an adjustable trigger. The detachable box fits flush and can be loaded in the rifle. The M12 in .270 I took on a chamois hunt was nimble, accurate, and well finished.
Recently Mauser reintroduced a beautifully rendered 1898 sporting rifle, and a dangerous-game version on the famous square-bridge Magnum Mauser action. Both are costly but may be worth a divorce. The Magnum boasts pillar bedding, dual recoil lugs, and a three-leaf express sight. Barrel bands secure the front ramp and swivel stud. The walnut stock has point-pattern checkering, and a steel grip cap. The deep magazine holds four rounds in .375 H&H, four in .416 Rigby.
Mauser now shares its Isny manufacturing site with Blaser (it’s blah-zer, not blay-zer) and Sauer. Michael Luke and Thomas Ortmaier control the L&O Group that owns these brands, plus SIG Sauer in northern Germany. Bernhard Knöbel, CEO of Isny operations, runs Blaser. Thorsten Mann heads Mauser, Matthias Klotz the Sauer works. The three factories are, literally, a walk across the parking lot from each other.
Less than 70 years old, Blaser is gaining traction worldwide. Its straight-pull R93 and R8 (named for years of introduction) rank among Europe’s most innovative. I’ve used them in the States, Europe, and Africa, in timed target events and on hunts. No turn-bolt matches their speed or trumps their accuracy.
Thanks to its telescoping, radial-head bolt, the Blaser action is about 2 inches shorter than that of a standard bolt rifle. Both the R93 and R8 lock with a bolt-head collet forced into a circumferential groove in the barrel shank. The newer R8 is strongest. It has endured pressures of 120,000 psi.
A thumb-piece cocks the R8. Shove it forward, and you’re ready to fire. “You can carry a Blaser safely with a round chambered,” stresses Knöbel. The R8 also features interchangeable hammer-forged barrels. Plasma nitriding boosts surface hardness. Scope rings engage barrel notches so securely and precisely, you can remove the scope and replace it without losing zero. I’ve tested that claim at 600 yards and found it to be true. The R8 has a first-rate adjustable trigger. Its compact, aramid magazine/trigger assembly is easily removed by hand. You can top-load a stack in the rifle. R8s come in a plethora of chamberings, to .338 Lapua—even the .500 Jeffery special-order features include internal recoil-damping devices.
More conventional and less costly is Sauer’s 101. Of the eight versions, I favor the Forest, a walnut-stocked carbine with iron sights on a 20-inch barrel. The Scandic is a twin, in laminate. Both point to the sights, high enough to nearly match the sightline of a scope. My Forest in 9.3×62 drills sub-minute groups.
Last fall I met a new Sauer. The 404 has a cocking switch, not a safety—thumb it forward to cock. In five sub-models with two-piece synthetic or walnut stocks cradling an alloy receiver, the 404 has a six-lug bolt that locks into the barrel. The bolt head and barrel are easily changed (with a take-down wrench in the front swivel). Sauer lists 13 chamberings, .243 to .375 H&H. The 404’s Quattro trigger adjusts .3 inch for reach and down to 1.2 pounds. The Sauer Universal (saddle) Mount returns the scope reliably to zero.
After securing a Leica scope atop a 404 in .300 Winchester, I benched that Sauer in wind and rain on the steeps of western Scotland. It fed without fail. Twin ejectors spilled cases briskly. It rang steel to 1,000 yards. The synthetic stock shrugged off afternoon sleet as we traipsed through sopping heather. When my stalker spied an aged stag in a distant swale, we splashed across an icy stream and scrambled to the ridge-crest beyond. The fury of the North Atlantic pummeled us. I bellied a few more yards, swabbed the front lens, and squeezed. My Hornady ELD-X bullet quartered to the off shoulder. One kill is no test of rifle, scope, or load, but my pals on that trip got similar results with Sauer 404s.
No bolt rifle in the world is smoother than Austria’s Mannlicher-Schoenauers of yesteryear. The first appeared in 1900. The famous 1903 followed, in 6.5×54. Its “butterknife” bolt handle ran so eagerly through its split bridge that a downward flip of the muzzle would zip an open bolt forward and turn it into a battery. Cartridges fed fluidly from the spool magazine. The 1903 begat a long series of M-S rifles, the last built 50 years ago. None were manufactured by Mannlicher or Schoenauer, who were designers, not company chiefs. But their genius fueled the Steyr works, in the Austrian city of that name.
Leopold Werndl established the Steyr company in 1821 to make gun parts. He died of cholera in 1855, leaving the business to son Josef. Steyr started building rifles in the 1860s, after Josef returned from a stint in the U.S. at Remington and Colt. Military contracts blessed the Steyr factory. A visionary, Josef brought hydropower to the city in 1883, making it the first in Europe with electric lights.
Bolt rifles from Steyr appeared at roughly two-year intervals until 1910. In 1918, as the company began producing vehicles, Josef died of pneumonia battling one of the town’s periodic floods.
Steyr-Daimler-Puch resulted from a 1934 merger. That union dissolved in 1996, leaving firearms production alone under the Steyr shingle. Current twin-lug Steyr rifles have a Mauser-style bridge and can endure pressures spiked by a factory load behind a bullet lodged mid-point in the bore. In profile and features, the push-feed Steyr SM12 borrows from M-S rifles and its immediate predecessor, the SBS. A Classic in .338 RCM delivered half-minute accuracy for me. Hammer-forged barrels in 10 chamberings have a signature twist near the breech. Front sights adjust for elevation, rear for windage. The cocking switch moves easily, unlike some that don’t yield to weak or cold thumbs. The SM12’s trigger can be set for a 12-ounce pull.
In 1936, the Czech government moved its arms factory to Uhersky Brod, 25 miles from Slovakia and as far as practical from Germany. Hitler’s intentions were clear. The first CZ plant had sprung up in the 1920s farther west. In Strakonice, it produced pistols to augment post-WWI rifle output in the central Czech town of Brno, where Zbrojovka Brno built rifles for the army. In 1921 it became Ceska Zbrojovka: “Czech armsmaker.” By 1939, the Uhersky Brod facility was a subsidiary of CZ Prague. Early structures had peaked roofs, so in bomb sights the factory would look like houses. After Chamberlain capitulated in Munich, Hitler snatched Sudetenland, then the rest of the country.
At war’s end, Czechoslovakia became, briefly, self-governing. Communists gained control during 1948. In 1955 the Uhersky Brod enterprise separated from Strakonice. Within a decade, the government further pared production at Brno and renovated the Uhersky Brod plant. As the Brno name had cachet, it appeared on ZKK, ZKM, and 527 rifles in the 1960s. All came from Uhersky Brod.
In 1989 a revolution led by poet Vaclav Havel overthrew Communist rule. Two years later, Czech industry was privatized. In 1993, the nation split. The Czech and Slovak Republics remain independent.
Internal problems bankrupted Zbrojovka Brno in 2004. Two years later a resurrected Brno began building shotguns and sporting rifles under the CZ label. The petite 527 bolt-action is for the .223 and kin. The CZ 550, clearly Mauser in design, has served for cartridges from the .243 to the .505 Gibbs. Last year a new push-feed 557 action replaced the 550 for standard rounds. Bigger rounds merit the magnum-length 550 and its Mauser extractor. The modestly priced 557 boasts a receiver machined from a steel billet, its top dovetailed for CZ scope bases. The bottom metal, with hinged floorplate, is steel. The trigger adjusts for weight, take-up, and over-travel. Hammer-forged barrels are lapped. The walnut stock has a straight comb and machine-cut checkering. I’m partial to the 557 Carbine. Its 20½-inch barrel has iron sights. My .30/06 is nimble but steadies quickly and routinely delivers sub-minute accuracy.
The moose surged ahead. Bang! The bolt snicked. Bang! I sent a third bullet at the buzzer. Bang!
“You must hit every shot,” said the stone-faced Finn.
Whiffing a moose target at 80 steps is not allowed. My next six shots were ragged, but better. The Finn shrugged, as if considering an act of charity.
Explored by Swedish missionaries as early as 1155, Finland remained Sweden’s protectorate until 1809, when it was surrendered to Russia. The Czar proclaimed it a Grand Duchy. Independence followed Finland’s 1917 break with Russia. Sako (Suojeluskuntain yliesikunnan asepaja) was established the first day of April 1919. (By the way, it’s not sayko or sacko. It’s socko.)
Sako’s petite Vixen appeared near the close of World War II, first in .22 Hornet and .218 Bee. It reached the States via Stoeger. In 1957 Sako grew its rifle line with the L-57 Forester, sized for the then-new .308 and .243. The L-61 Finnbear came three years later, for the .30/06 and kin and belted magnums.
In 1961, Sako unveiled its lever-action Finnwolf. It lasted a decade. On the heels of its successor came the bolt-action Model 74 to replace the Vixen, Forester, and Finnbear. Its three action lengths sold from 1974 to 1978, when they yielded to the AI, AII, and AIII series (short, medium, and long). A similar Hunter arrived in the mid-1980s.
By 1983, Sako’s Riihimaki plant was producing a Model 555 rifle for another Finnish firm, Tikka. The 555 venture led Sako to buy Tikka. By 1989, Tikkakoski Works production had moved to Riihimaki.
In 1993, shooters welcomed Sako’s TRG rifle in .338 Lapua. Four years later the Model 75 came along for popular hunting rounds. Three locking lugs reduced bolt lift to 70 degrees. The subsequent 85, in six action sizes, is Sako’s current flagship, with a push-feed bolt that runs like a well-oiled piston. The two-detent sliding thumb safety has a tab that allows cycling with the safety on. Tapered dovetails accept Sako scope rings. In .375, the 85 Kodiak has a muscular 21-inch barrel with useful iron sights. The elevation-adjustable white bead is concave and won’t reflect light off-center. A shallow rear notch adjusts for windage. Crossbolts strengthen the stock around the flush-mounted four-shot steel box, which holds four magnum rounds. It can be loaded easily in the rifle. Its clever latch prevents accidental magazine drops afield. The Kodiak—and my 85 in .260—are stainless steel. The laminated stocks are comfortable, cleanly checkered, and closely inletted. Both rifles are supremely accurate; I’ve had same-hole hits even from the .375.
I’m told that in Finland, game is managed by 300 state-sanctioned associations comprising around 2,370 clubs with 140,000 members. Hunters needn’t join, but members get access to the best habitat in a country that puts 300,000 riflemen afield after moose. About 84 percent of the 22 million pounds of meat marketed annually in Finland is moose. Many of those animals fall to Tikka rifles.
The Whitetail of the 1990s was not Tikka’s first rifle. The company dates to 1893 and is 26 years older than Sako. Tikka has long made gun parts; during WWII it built sewing machines as well as sub-machine guns. Later it designed other sporting arms. The Whitetail got a tepid reception stateside. Then in 2003, Tikka announced the T3. It had many features of the costlier Sako 75 as well as improvements. Its two-lug bolt had the 70-degree lift of the three-lug 75’s and disassembled without tools into four components. The recessed face had a plunger ejector and a Sako extractor. A steel stock insert served as a recoil lug, engaging a receiver slot. Grooved for scope mounts, the T3 was drilled and tapped too. Early Tikka bolt rifles came in two action lengths, but the T3 was built on one. Bolt stops accommodated different cartridge lengths.
The T3 was succeeded in 2016 by the T3X, with a modular synthetic stock. Interchangeable slabs let you customize the grip. A more robust recoil pad reduces the shock of hard-kicking loads; foam inserts in the butt-stock muffle noise from the stock shell. The T3X’s ejection port is larger, for easier single-load feeding. A metal shroud caps the bolt’s tail. Tikka lists 19 configurations of the T3X, in chamberings from .204 Ruger. Both Sako and Tikka are now part of Beretta.
Best Buys from the Old Country
“I can’t compete against $400 rifles in the U.S.,” lamented one CEO of a European firearms firm. “Our labor is more expensive. Tariffs and shipping add cost. Our adverts duel with iconic American names.”
Still, there’s hope for Europe’s current hunting rifles, and profit for dealers who sell them. While the under-$600 category is Uncle Sam’s, a Tikka T3 can be had for as little as $650 and is a fine rifle. CZ 527s and 557s list in the $700s. At just over $1,000, the CZ 550 is the bargain among magnums. Toward the upper end of mid-price, Mauser’s M12 and Sauer’s 101 come in at $1,500. Steyr’s SM12 slides under $2,000, Sako’s 85 retails for little more. The Sauer 404, at $2,500, might give you pause. Blaser’s R8 is a $4,000 commitment, but there’s no other rifle like it.
By Christopher Cogley
As the market expands, the knife industry is responding with a huge assortment of knives for all purposes
It seems the concept has finally caught on. There was a time when the only people who carried knives on a regular basis were military and service personnel or ranchers and outdoors enthusiasts. But more and more people in small towns and big cities across the country are beginning to see the benefit of carrying a quality, reliable knife with them everywhere they go, and the offering of new knives at the 2016 SHOT Show proved that the knife industry is responding to that demand with an increased assortment of everyday-carry options that meet the needs of a wide range of consumers.
In addition to the new tactical and outdoors knives that were launched this year, nearly every major manufacturer has released at least one new folder with a 3.5-inch blade, which seems to have become the go-to size for everyday-carry knives. And while the sizes might be relatively standard, there is definitely nothing uniform about the selection. From different handle materials and improved locking mechanisms to modern designs and new blade treatments, there have been so many new features released this year that it’s a safe bet that even those enthusiasts with the most complete collections will be able to find a new reason to clip a knife into their pocket every day.
Boker has added three new elegant and effective folders to its collection of high-quality knives. With a 2.55-inch blade and 6.75-inch overall length, the Davis Hunter II Backlock was designed by W.C. Davis to be a smaller version of the Davis Hunter, with a satin-finished CPM S-30V blade and a backlock mechanism copied from its big brother. SRP: $239. Boker has also released a smaller version of its Kwaiken Titan. The Boker Plus Kwaiken Mini Titan features the same VG-10 blade and titanium handle wrapped in a sleek, modern package that has made the original such a popular everyday carry, but the Mini puts all that functional design into a knife with a 3-inch blade and 7.25-inch overall length. SRP: $189.95. For the more aggressive customer with a taste for titanium, Boker has released the Boker Plus Scoundrel, designed by American Bladesmith Society Master Smith Steve Kelly. With an SRP of $199.95, the Scoundrel features a solid titanium handle with a Hinderer lock stop that keeps the 3.18-inch VG-10 blade from overextending. (bokerusa.com).
|Boker The Plus Scoundrel features a solid titanium handle.|
Thirty-five new knives join Browning’s hunting and Black Label Tactical lines. The new Overtime knives for hunters include 3 3/8-inch D2 high–carbon-steel fixed blades designed for skinning and caping. Both models feature a handle with laminated G-10 scales and include a leather belt sheath. SRP: $114.95. The Hell’s Canyon Speed has a 3.5-inch fixed blade made of ATS stainless steel with a carbon-fiber insert. With an overall length of 8.75 inches, the Hell’s Canyon features an aggressive, minimalist design with a drop-point blade and comes with a polymer belt sheath. SRP: $79.99. For tactical customers, Browning is expanding its Black Label collection with two new versions of the Stacked Deck folding frame-lock knives. Both the modified spear point and tactical wharncliffe versions feature 3.5-inch VG-10 stainless-steel blades and sculpted matte titanium handles. SRP: $179.99. Browning’s new Pandemonium Full Auto knife features a 3.5-inch modified tanto-style blade made of 440 stainless steel with fully auto deployment. The U.S.-made Pandemonium features checkered black G-10 scales on the handle and has an overall length of 7.75 inches. SRP: $309.99. (browning.com).
The much-requested interchangeable blade knife from Buck is finally back this year with the introduction of the 550 Selector 2.0. Originally launched in 1990, the Selector developed a huge fan base because of its practicality and ease of use. The Selector 2.0 is based on Buck’s Open Season hunting line and includes an interchangeable drop-point, partially serrated drop-point, and gutting blades that are all made from 420HC steel and heat-treated with Buck’s patented process. SRP: $125. Buck has also released a new set of throwing knives this year. The 073 Kinetic Series was originally created in 2005 at the request of Chuck Buck, but it was never introduced into the market. Now, after extensive testing and a few refinements, these blades are finally available. Made from Buck’s signature 420HC steel, the knives are well-balanced for throwing and have an overall length of 9 7/8 inches. The throwing knives have an SRP of $95 and include a genuine leather sheath. (buckknives.com).
A new family of folding knives designed by legendary knife makers Grant and Gavin Hawk have glass-filled nylon handles with aluminum accents and feature blades made from carbonitride titanium, which is reported to be 10 times harder than untreated steel. The Heat has an overall length of 8 inches and an SRP of $49.99; the Wildfire is 7.25 inches long and has an SRP of $46.99; and the Sizzle is 6.5 inches long and has an SRP of $44.99. Camillus has also released the new M-13 machete, which has a stylized 13-inch full-tang titanium blade complete with a gut hook. SRP: $39.99. (camillusknives.com).
The line of popular rubberized handled knives that Coast released last year is getting a welcome addition with the introduction of the DX318. The everyday-carry folder features a 3.75-inch 7Cr17 stainless-steel partially serrated blade housed in the trademark handle, with a comfortable TPR grip. The DX318 has a new feature, however, in the double-lock mechanism, which adds an additional level of safety and security. SRP: $25. (coastportland.com).
|Coast The DX318 is an everyday-carry folder that features a 3.75-inch 7Cr17 stainless-steel partially serrated blade.|
Columbia River Knife & Tool
This year CRKT has released its new Ruger Collection of hunting, tactical, and everyday-carry knives. Included in the offering is the Go-N-Heavy tactical folder, which is available in a standard version with a 5-inch blade and a compact version with a 3.5-inch blade. Both varieties feature an 8Cr13MoV blade and a stylized black hard-anodized aluminum handle. SRP: $99.99. The line also includes two versions of the Accurate fixed-blade knife, designed for outdoors enthusiasts. Both the drop-point blade and the rising-point blade versions are made with 8Cr13MoV and feature full-tang construction with rubber over-molded handles. SRP: $99.99. CRKT has also launched the Forged By War label of knives, which are designed to help combat veterans recover from personal challenges experienced during war by creating tools they wished they’d had in the field. CRKT will donate a portion of the proceeds for each tool purchased to the veteran’s charity of choice. Among the initial offerings in the new collection is the Sangrador double-edge knife designed by Darrin Sirois and the Clever Girl designed by Austin McGlaun. Both knives feature SK5 black powder-coated blades with G-10 handles. (crkt.com).
Gerber Legendary Blades
There are some classics that simply beg for an upscale upgrade. That’s exactly what Gerber did with the Gator Premium Fixed Drop Point. The blade that made Gerber a favorite of hunters around the world is now available in a premium version. The American-made knife has a full-tang 4-inch CPM-S30V steel blade with the signature Gator Grip handle and features a polished cast-steel bolster and pommel. SRP: $146. Gerber also featured a pair of auto blades at the 2016 show. By taking the popular Applegate combat folder and giving it a spring-loaded auto release, Gerber created the Covert Auto. The knife has an SRP of $175 and features a 3.78-inch stiletto-style tactical blade made from S30V steel that’s deployed from the aluminum handle at the push of a button. Designed for the military, the Propel Downrange Auto has a 3.5-inch tanto-style blade made from S30V steel. The G-10 handle is available in tan or black and features a three-position adjustable belt clip to accommodate a variety of carry options. SRP: $194. (gerbergear.com).
|Gerber Designed for the military, the Propel Downrange Auto has a 3.5-inch tanto-style S30V steel blade.|
For 2016, Leatherman is featuring its new Signal Multi-Tool, designed to provide an assortment of essential survival tools in one convenient package. The Signal includes the tools that fans have come to expect from a Leatherman, including a knife, a can opener, a saw, and a pair of durable pliers. But it also features tools that will be extremely useful in a survival situation, such as a ferrocerium fire starter and a signal whistle. The Signal also includes a diamond-coated sharpener, a removable pocket clip, and a carabiner. The tools all have locking mechanisms and are designed for one-handed operation. SRP: $120. (leatherman.com).
Ontario Knife has added to its collection of high-quality knives for outdoors enthusiasts with the new Robeson Heirloom Series. The collection features both a drop-point and a trailing-point version of the knife. Both versions retail for $222.50 and feature 4 1/8-inch blades made from D2 Tool Steel with a hardness of HRc-58-60. The handles on the 9-inch knives are made from stabilized burl maple, and each knife includes a DeSantis premium leather sheath. (outdooredge.com).
|Ontario The Robeson Heirloom Series consists of both a drop-point and a trailing-point. Both versions feature 4 1/8-inch blades made from D2 Tool Steel with a hardness of HRc-58-60.|
Outdoor Edge is launching two new folders designed by custom knife maker Jerry Hossom. Both the Divide and the Conquer have 3.5-inch 8Cr13MoV stainless-steel blades that open on ball-bearing pivots. The Conquer features a wider belly, better suited for hunting and outdoors applications, and has a satin-stone finish with a multi-colored G-10 handle. The Divide has a sleeker design for tactical and everyday-carry use and includes a Blackstone finish blade and a black G-10 handle. Outdoor Edge has also added to its Razor-Lite series of replacement razor blade knives with the Onyx EDC. The Onyx features a 3.5-inch blade with three replacement razors mounted on a sturdy blade support system with a one-piece Grivory handle. (outdooredge.com).
The SGB Nomad Stag from PUMA is a handmade fixed-blade knife that is made with German steel and assembled in China. The Nomad has a 6.3-inch 440A stainless-steel blade with a deep belly for skinning big game. With an overall length of 11.8 inches, the Nomad features full-tang construction with a stag scales handle and comes with a leather sheath. The Stag version has an SRP of $149.99, but PUMA has also released a version with a Micarta handle for $64.99. (pumaknifecompanyusa.com).
|Puma The Nomad Stag is a handmade 440A stainless-steel fixed-blade knife with a deep belly for skinning big game. It is made with German steel and assembled in China.|
Remington has added two new knives to its Bullet series. The R11039 Trapper features an amber jig bone handle and includes a modified clip and a spey blade that are both 3.75 inches long and made from Damascus steel. Only 500 of the Trappers will be produced, and they will have an SRP of $34.99. Remington has also released the R11040 with a Genuine Stag Horn handle. Both the main blade and spey are 3.75 inches and made from 440 stainless steel. The R11040 will be limited to 1,200 and will have an SRP of $174.99. (remingtonblades.com).
SOG is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and to mark the occasion it has released a pair of commemorative knives as well as several new specialty blades, tactical knives, and multi-tools. The Quake and Quake XL assisted-opening folders feature solid aluminum handles with VG-10 blades that shoot into action with the slightest pressure, thanks to SAT 2 (SOG Assisted Technology). Instead of a thumb stud, the blades are released with a lever that flicks open with the blade to act as a cross guard for the knife. The Quake has 3.5-inch blade and an SRP of $191, while the Quake XL is an inch longer and has an SRP of $229. (sogknives.com).
|SOG The Quake assisted-opening folder has a solid aluminum handle with a VG-10 blade that opens quickly and easily.|
Steel Will intends to provide more options for those people who like the style and reliability of the popular Gekko folders but are looking for a more manageable size for everyday carry. The Gekko Mini features an Italian-made 3.5-inch N690Co blade that opens with Steel Will’s signature smooth mechanism and reliable lockback. The Gekko Minis have an overall length of 7.78 inches and are available with three different handle options: a black or green canvas G-10 handle, or, for the more modern user, a maroon Micarta handle. All of the models have an SRP of $199.99. (steelwillknives.com).
|Steel Will The Gekko Mini features a 3.5-inch blade that opens with Steel Will’s signature smooth mechanism.|
Taylor Brands is the umbrella company for Schrade, Old Timer, Uncle Henry, and Smith & Wesson knives. The Schrade Frontier series SCHF51 is a bushcraft-designed fixed-blade produced with a 5-inch 1095 high-carbon blade and TPE handle. Overall length is 10.85 inches. The model comes equipped with a ferro rod and a diamond-dust sharpening stone housed in a heavy-duty sheath. SRP: $53.33. The fixed-blade Old Timer 30OT has rosewood and ebony wood handle slabs and a 4-inch drop-point blade, and is crafted of 8Cr13MoV high-carbon stainless steel. The 30OT comes standard with a premium-quality leather sheath. SRP: $62.50. The Uncle Henry UHCOM2CP encompasses a multi-option fixed-blade hunting set. The knives feature Staglon handles and utilize 7Cr17MoV high-carbon stainless steel, both housed in a premium-quality leather sheath. Use the 301UH Detail Skinner for dressing or other detail work, and the 182UH Elk Hunter for larger skinning or all-purpose tasks. SRP: $60. The Smith & Wesson M&P SWMP10G clip-folding knife is constructed with an aluminum handle and 7Cr17MoV high-carbon stainless steel. This rescue knife features a built-in strap cutter as well as a ceramic glass breaker. SRP: $33.96. (taylorbrandsllc.com)
White River Knife & Tool
White River Knife & Tool is releasing the Sendero Classic modeled after Master Blade Smith Jerry Fisk’s design. The 4.5-inch blade is made from CPM S30V stainless steel and features a sleek drop-point design. The Micarta handle is ergonomically shaped to make skinning and other outdoors tasks easier, and features a large hand guard to keep fingers out of harm’s way. The U.S.-made knife has an overall length of 9.15 inches and includes a leather sheath. SRP: $250. (whiteriverknives.com).
Designed by custom knife maker Jens Anso, Zero Tolerance’s new ZT 0220 everyday-carry folder has a sleek, modern look. The 3.5-inch blade is made from S35VN powdered metallurgy stainless steel and has a stonewashed finish that adds a distinctive, fashionable element to the knife. The handle is made from bead-blasted titanium and features a titanium frame lock with a hardened steel lockbar insert. SRP: $260. (kaiusaltd.com).
|Zero Tolerance The ZT 0220 everyday-carry folder has a sleek, modern look. The 3.5-inch blade is made from S35VN powdered metallurgy stainless steel.|
By David E. Petzal
Photos By Justin Appenzeller
The design philosophy of Scandinavian knives allows a retailer to offer something completely different
Is there a Norse knife in your future? Probably. Because the United States
started as a yowling wilderness in which a knifeless man would soon be a lifeless man, our country has always been slightly nuts about knives. We have our own thriving cutlery industry, make our own fair share of cutlery steels, and have something on the order of 3,000 custom knife makers who will hammer you something really fancy if you want it.
But American knives are not the whole picture. Scandinavia has—for 1,000 years or more—turned out its own very distinctive knives, all of which are at least very good, and in some ways better than ours. Also, they sell.
Of the Scandinavian cutlers who have made it over here, Morakniv and Helle are probably the best known. Morakniv is Swedish and Helle is Norwegian. Finland’s most familiar knifemaking name is Marttiini. It owns Rapala, best known for its fillet knife—which has been around so long and is so popular that most people probably think of it as American—but recently branched out into hunting knives as well.
Scandinavians have developed a philosophy of knifemaking which states that if something has worked for 10 centuries, it doesn’t need to be changed. Because, as the Vikings put it, you dance with who brung ya. As a result, Scandinavian knives omit features that are almost universal on American knives and incorporate others that we hardly ever see.
Rambo would not carry a knife from northern Europe. The typical Scandinavian belt knife is small, with a blade of 3 to 4 inches. The one exception to this is the Finnish leuku (lee-ooo-koo), which is what we call a camp knife. It’s a big knife (though not a heavy one), with a 7- to 9-inch blade, which Lapplanders use for butchering and chopping firewood. Scandinavian knives do not have hilts. Their makers view a hilt as unnecessary on a knife with a correctly designed handle; they also believe the hilt is something that interferes with the making of a properly designed sheath.
Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish knife makers also don’t believe in straps with snaps that can be cut through or pop open. They make pouch-style sheaths that swallow the knife except for an inch or two of handle. Most of these sheaths don’t ride rigidly fixed to a belt; they have big loops, attached to rings that allow the sheath to move with you.
Handles are, for the most part, wood, and of that, birch burl is the favorite. It’s cheap and durable, and will not cause you to yell in pain when you grasp it in really cold weather. Morakniv, in some of its more modern lines, has gone in for synthetics, but the basic handles are wood, some of them dyed red. Helle uses contrasting disks of wood or wood and antler; its handles are distinctive and quite beautiful.
In steels, the Scandinavians have us beat. Sweden, in particular, has had a highly advanced steel industry for years. Swedes not only produce very high grades of the natural metal, but also their own dedicated knife steels. They work in laminates of stainless steel and of tool steel, and in stainless that is better, by and large, than anything we have. Many American knives, especially the less expensive ones, employ the 440 series stainless steels: 440A, 440B, and 440C. About the kindest thing you can say about this trio is that they’re resistant to rust and that factories, with factory-sharpening equipment, can get a fair edge on them.
(A California cutlery company that specializes in knives for Special Ops personnel was asked to make a number of knives whose blades would fail in use so the people who were training with them would learn how to cope if it were to happen. Their choice for a guaranteed-to-fail steel was 440C.)
But once that edge is gone, and it will depart pretty quickly, very few of your customers will be able to get it back. The large number of outdoorsmen who claim they can’t get an edge on a knife is probably due to the large number of 440 series knives out there.
Not so with the Scandinavian knives. They all come with razor edges, and they can all be resharpened with ease.
There are no choils on Scandinavian knives. The choil is the cutout on the cutting edge just ahead of the handle. Descendants of the Vikings regard a choil as a waste of cutting edge. There are no fullers (lengthwise grooves in the blade), either.
Although some Scandinavian knives can have impressive price tags, most of them are remarkably inexpensive for what you get. A great many of the Morakniv models sell for under $20. The most expensive knife the company offers—a survival model with a high-tech sheath—goes for $115.
However, most of the prices you see in all three lines run from $30 to $80, with more on the $30 side than the $80.
By Christopher Cogley
Photos By Justin Appenzeller
Figuring out which type of knife a customer needs is easier when you break down product lines into four basic types
Knives come in a seemingly infinite array of sizes and shapes, both of which affect functionality and, ultimately, customer appeal. To streamline the process of matching the customer to the knife that best suits his needs, think of this broad product category as a storage bin with four sections—hunting, tactical, everyday carry, and collectibles. The job of your sales associates is to ask questions that help them determine from which section of the bin they should pull a product.
“Hunting knives are more use-driven than any other knife type,” says Chris Cashbaugh, marketing director for SOG Specialty Knives and Tools. “When it comes to hunting knives, there’s more emphasis on function because the customer is buying it for a very specific purpose.”
The first step toward effectively selling hunting knives is to figure out what that purpose is and demonstrate how the knives in your case are best suited to accomplish that task. It’s important for sales associates to understand which knives are designed for the various aspects of hunting and be able to speak intelligently on topics such as the attributes of an effective skinning knife for big game versus the characteristics that are more suited to caping or quartering, or even breasting waterfowl. Aside from the knife’s size, shape, and design, much of the functionality of hunting knives comes down to the one element that isn’t necessarily obvious by looking at it.
“One of the most important aspects of selling any knife is the ability to understand steel types and why price points vary so much even if the knives look similar,” says Diane Carver, Browning’s knife and light product manager. “That ability is even more important when it comes to selling hunting knives.”
Because hunters view their knife as a tool that they will call on to perform a very specific task, and they need it to be able to handle that task quickly and efficiently in conditions that are often less than ideal, it’s important to explain to them how the different types of steel are designed to be more effective in different situations.
“Most knife customers are interested in shape, usage, materials, and blade steel once they realize their purpose,” says Joyce Laituri, public and media relations director at Spyderco. “From there, it’s relatively easy to see how one model suits them more efficiently than another.”
With the wide variety of steel types that are available today, it can often be overwhelming for sales associates to keep up with the latest introductions, but most reputable knife manufacturers are happy to provide training on steel types and knife design for retailers who request it.
“Insufficient knowledge or understanding of the product can be stifling when you’re trying to make that connection to the customer that will lead to a sale,” says Derrick Lau, Benchmade’s public relations and communications manager. “Knowing this, Benchmade Knife Company has implemented a wide array of resources for retailers, including online product training, in-store product training, a dealer portal, and even physical collateral.”
“With tactical knives, the type of steel generally isn’t as important as it is to customers who are looking at hunting knives,” Carver says. “And that’s simply because tactical knives typically aren’t used and sharpened as much as are hunting knives.”
Although most tactical knives are made with functionality at their core, that isn’t necessarily the aspect that appeals to the majority of consumers who come in looking for a tactical blade. “How the knife fits in the customer’s hand is certainly important,” Cashbaugh says. “But tactical knife sales tend to be driven more by style and looks than by functionality.”
The reality is that most tactical knives are very rarely—if ever—used. They are, however, a statement of the customer’s values and beliefs, an extension of his personality, and as such, they tend to be more of an emotional purchase than a hunting knife is. That doesn’t mean, however, that practicality doesn’t come into play.
“One of the most important considerations with a tactical knife is the sheath,” Carver says. “Knowing where the customer is going to carry the knife so they’ll be able to get to it when they need it will tell you which sheath will work best for them. From there, it’s usually not too tough to find the right knife.”
Tactical knives provide peace of mind for the people carrying them. They want to know that the knife will be there and be ready if they ever need it. Show them how a particular knife’s shape, design, blade material, and carry options can give them the sense of security they’re looking for, and it’s a safe bet you’ll see more tactical knives walking out of the store on the hips of your customers.
No knife category is as broad or diverse as the everyday-carry category, and the reason for that is simple—no other knife customer is as broad or diverse as the one who comes in looking for an everyday-carry knife.
“With everyday carry, it really comes down to what appeals to the individual customer. And all too often, what appeals to the individual customer usually comes down to price,” Carver says. “Browning tries to always have a wide variety of price points in our everyday-carry offerings, and that’s what retailers need to do, too, so they can be sure to have an option ready for everyone who walks in the store.”
That’s because the reality is that all of the customers who walk into your store can use an everyday-carry knife—whether they realize it or not. And the best way to demonstrate that fact is by first understanding the person on the other side of the counter.
“Ask questions,” Lau says. “If the customer has a favorite hunting knife, simply asking him what he likes about that particular knife can assist you in steering him to a knife in another category that may have similar characteristics, or perhaps even more enhanced characteristics.”
When you figure out what category of knife the customer is familiar with, you will have a better idea of what qualities are most important to him. And, because you have a diverse selection of everyday-carry knives in your case, you can easily direct the customer to a selection of knives that have the characteristics you know will appeal to that particular person.
“A hunter can certainly appreciate a sharp tool when field dressing, and translating that into everyday use is not a far leap,” Laituri says.
The same is true for customers who prefer tactical knives and are more likely to gravitate toward an everyday carry that has more tactical characteristics or a collector who leans toward a more classical style of a gentleman’s pocketknife. Sometimes, however, when it comes to everyday carry, it’s also a little bit about the bling.
“Everyday carry almost becomes a fashion statement—especially for guys, because we only have a couple of things that we ‘accessorize’ with,” Cashbaugh says. “A knife becomes a reflection of a guy’s style. It’s something he wants to show off.”
“The first—and biggest—difference in the collectibles market versus hunting or everyday carry is that the scope and breadth of products offered is much different,” says Fred Feightner, consumer marketing and communications manager for W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co. “For instance, when Case produces its Limited XX Edition knife series, it typically includes anywhere from 6 to 10 individual patterns. Case will offer single knives of each pattern for collectors, but they’re also accepted by those who carry knives every day. At the same time, we might offer the more hardcore collectors a complete mint set of these knives that bear special embellishing, serialization, and packaging. We try to mix things up a bit to keep the collectors active and engaged in the hobby. It’s what they want that truly drives the collectible offerings.”
Collectible knives are attractive because they offer something special that sets them apart from the other knives in your counter. Some of these differences might be minor, but others are extremely important to the collectors who know their trade. Just as in every other knife category, sales associates need to understand what traits are most valuable to the customer and be able to point out those characteristics to both the educated collector as well as those who are new to the hobby.
“The history is important, like our tang stamps, which help enthusiasts determine when almost any Case knife was manufactured,” Feightner says. “People also need to be reassured that the brand is here to stay, so we impress upon them our strict quality standards that are a result of more than 127 years of knifemaking experience.”
Although experienced collectors might know exactly what traits to look for in a collectible knife, it’s important to provide novices with a foundation of understanding upon which they can build. Encourage them to research collectible knives and figure out which features make a knife increase in value over time. At the same time, though, it’s also important to realize that the characteristics that the collectible market holds in the highest regard might not necessarily be the traits your customer values the most.
“It’s best to get to really know your consumer’s preferences before trying to sell him a knife he wouldn’t choose to buy for himself,” Feightner says.
As with each of the other categories, getting the right knife in your customer’s hand starts by understanding the customer.
“It all really does circle back to asking the customer questions,” Lau says. “Knowing what the customer needs out of the tool and knowing what tasks the tool will be used for helps you hone in on the product that will best serve the customer’s needs, regardless of the category.”
By Christopher Cogley
Photos By Justin Appenzeller
Firearms retailers who also sell knives can gain a step on the competition
It is no secret that firearms retailers inhabit a highly competitive world ruled by razor-thin margins. That’s why smart retailers have also invested in knives. Because knives offer significantly higher margins with significantly less hassle, they have the potential to quickly increase your store’s overall profit. Knives also take up a lot less real estate, so you can stock more product in far less space.
“One of the most obvious benefits of selling knives in your store is that they provide a much better margin than guns,” says Lynn Thompson, founder and president of Cold Steel, Inc. “You might get 20 percent on gun purchases, but with knives, you can expect to get 60 to 70 percent. That’s significant.”
That margin also takes a lot less of your sales associates’ time to achieve because, unlike with gun sales, selling knives typically doesn’t require mountains of paperwork to fill out, file, and store. Thompson also likes the economics behind knife real estate. “Your investment in shelf space is significantly smaller with knives. And because of the margins, that shelf space suddenly becomes significantly more profitable, especially when you consider how many knives you can fit in the same space as one handgun,” he says.
“For many of our retailers, knives are the most profitable category in their store.”
But this profit doesn’t just come out of thin air. You must be willing to give your sales associates the tools they need to successfully sell those knives on a consistent basis. “It all starts with the display,” Thompson says. “The time you spend on your display case will always come back to you in the form of increased profit. If you display knives correctly, they will sell every time.”
Thompson also stresses that the quality of your display depends on the quality of the knives you put in it. “You can fill your counter with cheap knives, but for the same space you could offer your customers really good knives.”
And though those “really good knives” will deliver the higher margins you’re seeking, keep in mind that it’s just as important to match the customer to the correct knife.
“There have been times when I’ve actually talked someone out of an expensive knife because I knew it wouldn’t do what they needed it to do,” says Nick Thomas, the knife buyer for Ashland, Ohio–based Fin Feather Fur Outfitters. “But those same people are still coming into my stores five years later and asking me for advice on which knife they should buy next because they trust me.”
That kind of trust comes not just by knowing your customers, but by knowing the product.
“Education is key,” Thomas says. “If you can get a guy on the floor who loves knives and knows knives, you’re going to sell knives. In fact, you’re going to sell a lot of knives.”
Although the passion for knives might come naturally to many of your sales associates, a comprehensive understanding of the different kinds of metals and edges and forging processes can often be overwhelming for even seasoned veterans of the knife industry. To help keep his sales staff educated on the basics of knife anatomy as well as the latest industry developments, Thomas says his employees routinely participate in in-house training sessions offered by Benchmade and several other knife manufacturers.
“A lot of people don’t understand the benefits of carrying a $200 knife, and if you’re going to have any chance of selling them that knife, you have to make sure your sales associates know what those benefits are,” Thomas says. “An educated sales associate is going to sell more knives than a non-educated sales associate. It’s as simple as that.”
Your sales associates’ education shouldn’t stop with a basic knowledge of the features, however. By making sure they have the practical experience to carry their knowledge to the next level, it will make all the difference in their ability—and their desire—to sell knives.
“My employees own the knives we sell,” says James McAnelly, owner of Kentucky-based Elizabethtown Gun & Sporting Co. “They use them every day and in the field, and that makes selling them easy because all they have to do is tell their own stories about the knives. It’s the best endorsement you could possibly have.”
That personal connection is also what can help you separate your small brick-and-mortar shop from the online megastores that will always be able to undercut your prices.
“The online stores can’t tell the story,” McAnelly says. “Experience is the best seller, and people are usually more likely to trust someone they can look at face-to-face.”
Even so, it’s hard to escape the fact that you will inevitably have those customers who come into your store, pull out their phone, and show you how they can get the knife online for significantly less than you’re selling it for. And while you might not be able to counter every determined penny-pincher, you do have some distinct advantages that can help you close the deal more often than not.
“You already have them in your store, and they obviously are interested in the knife, so now all you have to do is discuss price,” Thompson says. “Because of the margins that you’re getting with knives, you can sometimes match online prices when you add in the shipping costs. But even if you don’t make the margin, you’re still creating a customer who will likely come back and buy from you again.”
And that might just be the biggest benefit of selling knives.
“The most important aspect in business is your customers,” McAnelly says. “Once I get them in the door, I certainly don’t want to send them down the street to my competitor, so I try to make sure and get them the tools they need to make their time in the field more enjoyable. I know if I can do that, there’s a good chance I’ll get them back in the door again.”
That prospect is even more likely when you consider the one over-arching truth that has been undeniable from the time man first sharpened stone—it is fundamentally impossible for anyone to ever have too many knives.
By Slaton L. White
Crimson Trace takes laser-sight retail education to the next level
It’s certainly no secret that Crimson Trace sees its mission as one of enhancing a person’s ability to protect family, home, and country. That phrase has been part of the company’s marketing plan for years. But marketing director Kent Thomas likes to go one step beyond by saying, “Our goal is to make laser-sighting systems standard equipment. Just as no hunting rifle sold today is complete without a scope, no personal protection handgun is fully equipped without a laser.”
He notes that between 2007 and 2013, 42.9 million firearms were added to the U.S. market. Of that number, he says, surveys show that 87 percent of those purchases were for home defense, 76 percent for self-defense. “This emphasis on personal safety is driving strong growth in firearms ownership. It’s the white-hot core of the market,” he says. “Laser sights increase accuracy and confidence. And Crimson Trace has grown along with the market.”
“Furthermore, we know that consumers are increasingly looking to customize their firearms by adding enhancing attachments. The firearms accessories and equipment industry is a huge market, something around $5.6 billion. We know that consumers spend almost as much on firearms accessories as they do on the firearm itself. For example, men typically spent $547 on accessories after they spent $554 on the firearm itself. Women spent $457 on accessories, $469 on the firearm.”
That’s a lucrative market for CTC, as it commands more than 50 percent of the laser-sight market. “We’re more than twice the size of our nearest competitor,” Thomas says. “As the leading brand in the category, we can provide significant price points and margins for retailers under a well-recognized brand halo.”
To further drive home the message to retailers about the importance of the accessories market, Thomas notes that the average margin on a firearm is less than 10 percent, but the margin for accessories is far higher. “In fact, the margins on Crimson Trace products are three times higher than that for most firearms. The ability to upsell with our products can put a lot of money in a retailer’s pocket.”
Market domination gives CTC another advantage as well. “Right now more than a dozen original equipment manufacturers work with CTC to offer co-branded products,” he says. The approach helps cement CTC’s reputation as the go-to company for laser sights. It also means that when one of these manufacturers comes out with a new product, there is a corresponding CTC accessory right there with it.
Innovation is also a big driver of the company’s success. “We pride ourselves on our patent portfolio, and it continues to rapidly grow,” Thomas says. “Nobody offers as much innovation in this market category.”
At the 2016 SHOT Show, Crimson Trace rolled out another innovation—the LinQ system, a laser/light unit and pistol grip designed expressly for the MSR platform. According to Thomas, CTC worked on the design for 10 years. Essentially, it’s a closed wireless system that uses a 2.4 GHz signal, similar to what is found in common wireless mobile electronics today, to seamlessly link the controls in the grip to the module on the rail. In the process, a unique, encrypted bond (pairing) is established between the grip and module.
The unique “code” is stored in the memory in both units, Thomas says. Once paired, neither unit will be able to effectively communicate with any other LinQ systems. At the same time, the system, unlike Bluetooth technology, will not be visible to other wireless devices, which eliminates the potential for interference.
“In this way, the pistol grip and laser/light module synch up with each other so the operator can control the laser and light from the pistol grip,” he says. “There are no cables or touch pads, and the operator doesn’t need to use his support hand to control the laser or light. The LinQ system is activated by Crimson Trace’s proprietary Instinctive Activation, another innovation that no other manufacturer offers—period.”
Given the technological innovation of this accessory, some customers might assume that it will be difficult to install. Not so, says Thomas.
The grip installs like any other aftermarket AR-15/M4 grip. “We include the single mounting bolt,” he says. “The module installs onto a rail by tightening one hex bolt. The hex key is also included. The whole thing takes only minutes, and all of the required tools are included.”
The Big Issue
The big issue with laser sights, Thomas concedes, is retailer education. “We know that if the retailer doesn’t understand the technology, he won’t be able to explain it. And if he can’t explain it, he won‘t be able to sell it.”
To try to remedy that, CTC has undertaken a series of retailer education seminars under the trademarked name Crimson Trace Classroom. I recently attended a training seminar conducted by CTC regional sales manager Matt Frank at Williams Gun Sight Company in Davison, Michigan. The course is broken into two segments: classroom instruction with a printed guide on how laser sights operate (including references to specific Crimson Trace models) and range time, in which the store’s staff runs though a course of fire designed to drive home the points made in the presentation.
“We want to dispel any myths about laser sights,” Frank told me. “We want to break it down to its barest form: what a laser sight is, what it does, and how it applies to your personal-defense system. Basically, all a laser does is project the front sight onto the target. By doing that, you’re on one focal plane and you’re better able to focus on the threat. That’s where your attention needs to be.
“By definition, defense shooting is unconventional shooting,” he added. “It’s something that is very hard to replicate during practice. But this is exactly where a laser sight shines, so we’ve created some drills that show how effective a laser sight is in these situations.”
Frank starts with the basics—how to turn the CTC laser sight on and off. Next up is dry-fire trigger control. He does that because a laser sight delivers instant feedback to the shooter: Is he on target or off target? Is he flinching? That done, the range goes hot.
CTC supplies special targets, each of which shows a pair of silhouettes. The left is for iron sights; the right is for laser sights. The participants first fire five rounds using iron sights. The second five-round set uses the laser sights.
“We start with what most shooters know, then break it down and go to a non-dominant hand drill (both supported and unsupported),” he says. “Then we impair their vision through the use of special shooting glasses with fogged lenses.”
The impaired vision drill helps emphasize the fact that in a defensive shooting situation, you may be dealing with a variety of challenging environmental factors.
“Maybe you can’t find your glasses, maybe you have allergies,” Frank said. “But even if you can’t see clearly, in a threat situation, you still need to be able to defend yourself. This drill shows a shooter how a laser sight helps you do just that.”
That done, Frank lowers the lights and has the shooters fire from a modified retention position, which simulates a situation in which you are unable to bring up the gun to a traditional line of sight.
“These drills take people out of their comfort zone, but they show participants the value of laser sights in defensive shooting situations,” he says.
Live fire over, the shooters recover their targets for a closer look.
“This is the ‘aha moment,’” Frank says. “They can clearly see the benefits of a laser-sighting system. More important, they can explain it in simple terms to a customer. Many of our shooters keep that target behind the counter and use it as a reference tool.”
After going through the course of fire myself, I can see the value of the program. I also experienced a key insight about personal-defense situations that Frank touched on when he described how a laser sight works.
“Defusing a situation without actually having to pull the trigger is a real positive,” he says. That’s because the threat may disengage when the laser paints the target. And, as Frank says, “Disengagement is what it’s all about.”