By Tony Martins
Touted as one of the “best ever,” the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s 2018 Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show is now in the books. From humble beginnings with 5600 attendees in St. Louis in 1979, SHOT has grown to become the largest trade show of its kind in the world. The 40th anniversary show drew 60,000 attendees from 100+ countries, with 1660 exhibiting companies spread over 630,000 square feet of floor space. Covering SHOT is a real workout, with thousands of products on display, including firearms, accessories, ammunition, optics, knives, apparel, law enforcement equipment, and much more. There were 550 new products displayed by 367 companies, and hundreds of additional line extension items to see. The following reviews some of my favorites – the best of those I found for hunting.
Big news at SHOT was the official announcement that Weatherby is leaving California after more than 70 years, relocating its manufacturing operations and corporate headquarters to Sheridan, Wyoming. The Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority will soon begin construction on a 100,000 square foot building in the Sheridan High-Tech Park that will be leased to the firearms manufacturer. President Adam Weatherby, grandson of founder Roy Weatherby, said in the announcement: “We’re going to be assembling a great workforce, in a great community, in a great state and I honestly believe that the 3rd generation Weatherby is the best that’s yet to come for us.” The move has been under consideration for several years, and is scheduled for completion sometime next year.
I’ve been a fan of flat-shooting high-performance Weatherby rifles for years, so it’s not surprising that their latest offering caught my eye at SHOT. Their Mark V rifle has been the company’s flagship model and the choice of serious hunters for 60+ years. It was upgraded in 2015 with a slimmed-down stock, and adjustable wide-faced LXX trigger. For 2018 the company has added a new high-tech, 26-inch Proof Research carbon fiber-wrapped barrel, to create the Mark V CarbonMark. The new barrels feature a 416R-grade stainless steel core with #4 contour profile and each is cut-rifled and hand-lapped for accuracy. Carbon fiber-wrapping helps dissipate heat and reduce weight, and at 7-3/4 pounds the CarbonMark is comparatively light for a long-range magnum rifle. Barrel muzzles are threaded to facilitate addition of a brake or suppressor. CarbonMark models come with hand-laminated composite stocks with a Monte Carlo comb and matte gel coat finish. Metalwork features eye-catching Cerakote finish in Tactical Grey. The beautiful Mark V CarbonMark is currently available in 3 popular magnum calibers – 257, 6.5-300 and 300 Weatherby Magnum. MSRP: $4100.00
New from Franchi: The Momentum Bolt-Action Rifle. Did you say rifle-? Yes! Recognized for making beautiful, quick-pointing, feature-rich shotguns, Franchi is bringing its heritage of Italian craftsmanship and innovation to the bolt-action rifle market in the new Momentum rifle. Probably the most distinctive feature of this new rifle is its revolutionary composite stock – designed with raised curves and crisp checkering in strategic places, to optimize a positive hold in the five most often used shooting positions. I can attest that this rifle handles beautifully! Sling attachment points are recessed into the stock, eliminating the need for common swivel studs. Franchi’s TSA recoil pad absorbs 50% of felt recoil with integrated contours. Momentum’s free floated barrel is cold-hammer-forged chrome-molybdenum, with a matte finish. The business end comes threaded for addition of a brake or suppressor, or unthreaded. Other Momentum features include two-position safety, which allows the bolt to be opened, and a crisp trigger that can be adjusted from 2 to 4 pounds. Trigger feel and function were particularly impressive. The spiral fluted one-piece bolt employs three lugs for solid lockup, and its short, 60-degree throw facilitates quick cycling. Momentum’s hinged floorplate magazine offers 4+1 capacity in 5 of 6 calibers (243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 270 Win. 308 Win., and 30-06 Springfield), and 3+1 capacity in 300 Win. Mag. MSRP: $609.00 (threaded or unthreaded). Momentum is also available with a Burris Fullfield II 3-9×40 riflescope, with Burris 2-piece base and Burris Zee Rings. MSRP: $729.00
Also on display was 1 of 150 Limited Edition Momentum Anniversary rifles, created to commemorate Franchi’s one and a half centuries of firearms manufacturing excellence. This stunning rifle features a richly figured AA-Grade walnut stock with elegant satin finish, and Franchi’s 150-year anniversary logo on the blued, satin finished receiver. Chambered in 30-06 Springfield, this beauty carries an MSRP of $1069.00 – if you are lucky enough to find one!
New shotguns include a 16 gauge addition to the Franchi Instinct SL line. These are light, nimble, ultra-reliable over-and-under shotguns that combine the best of Italian craftsmanship with modern innovation and design. With 28-inch polished blue barrels and a distinctive aluminum receiver sporting both polished and brushed silver alloy, the 16-gauge Instinct SL weighs just 5.8 pounds. Paired with the AA-grade satin walnut Prince of Wales stock the Instinct SL is a quality hunting shotgun that begs to be used. Other features include a tang-mounted automatic safety and barrel selector. Like others in the Instinct SL line, the new 16 gauge comes with red fiber-optic front bead, flush mounted chokes in IC/M/F plus wrench, its own take-down case, and Franchi’s best-in-class 7-year warranty. MSRP: $1729.00
Blue Heron Marketing Rep., Jordan Egli, shows the new Franchi 16-gauge Instinct SL. Also shown; the new Franchi Momentum Bolt-Action Rifle.
Truth be told, I’ve never been much of a handgun hunter. There’s a very good chance this will change however, as soon as I can get my hands on one of the new Raging Hunter revolvers from Taurus! With its striking stainless and blue two-tone finish, this 44 Magnum handful will grab your attention. Other distinctive features include a Picatinny rail to mount your favorite optic, and angular barrel design. The unique 2-piece barrel system uses a steel sleeve inserted into a slab-sided octagonal aluminum housing, with “TAURUS” stamped on the side. This weight-saving design facilitates balance, an important consideration with any hunting sidearm. I can personally attest that this 6-shot magnum revolver handles remarkably well, particularly considering its 14-inch length and hefty 55-ounce (unloaded) weight. Recoil management features include soft rubber grips with an orange cushioned insert common to all Raging Series large frame revolvers, and unique placement of the factory-tuned porting on the 8-3/8 inch barrel. Along with an expansion chamber designed to disperse gases directionally, the porting reduces muzzle lift for quicker target acquisition. Fixed front sight, adjustable rear sight, spurred hammer and a traditional double action/single action trigger complete the package on this somewhat non-traditional wheelgun. A matte black version of the Raging Hunter is also available in addition to the two-tone model. MSRP: $919.00
Another new gun from Taurus USA that drew lots of attention at SHOT was a new multi-caliber revolver designed to shoot both .357 Magnum/.38 Special and 9mm Luger loadings with a simple swap of interchangeable non-fluted cylinders. The changeover is simple with the new Taurus 692, requiring only a screwdriver. Available with either a 3-inch or 6.5-inch barrel (both ported) weighing in at 35 or 46 ounces respectively, and either a matte black or matte stainless finish, this model is a slick 7-shooter revolver. Other features include adjustable rear sight with pinned ramp front sight, spurred hammer, single/double action trigger and the Taurus Ribber Grip that nicely cushions felt recoil. Taurus includes two of its stellar clips, so rounds are loaded easily. MSRP: $659.00
I’ve written extensively about my passion for hunting with airguns, so my disappointment was understandable when the greatly anticipated (and greatly advertised) Hammer PCP air rifle made its debut at SHOT last year as a prototype locked in a glass case! Also disappointing was missing this year’s Industry Day at the Range, where the production model Hammer was available for hands-on shooting. Promised to deliver 1-inch 3-shot groups at 50 yards, it will be another 5-6 months before my very own model of this 50 caliber big-bore bullpup arrives for testing. And, after watching video at the Umarex booth showing large animals like elk and wildebeest drop on the spot from a single shot, I can hardly wait!
Product Engineer Kyle Bruso treated me to an in-depth look at the Hammer, explaining evolution of the “world’s most powerful production PCP airgun.” Designed to shoot slugs up to 550 grains at 760 feet-per-second, the Hammer delivers 700 foot-pounds of energy – approaching the power of a .44 Magnum, and more than enough to dispatch the largest big game animals. Lighter bullets fly faster, but deliver less energy. For example, the 180 grain Umarex ARX at about 1100 fps generates about 484 foot-pounds. Powered by a large 4500 psi carbon-fiber cylinder that is regulated to deliver 3000 psi with each shot, 3 consistent full-power shots can be delivered along with a fourth, follow-up shot from each full air fill. Operation of the straight-pull bolt is quick and easy, requiring only two pounds of cocking force to index the 2-round magazine (two supplied). A 3-step system provides outstanding safety. This includes a manual trigger safety, hammer block, and a magazine lockout that prevents firing of the gun without the magazine. Other features include a tough all-weather stock crafted by PolyOne Corp., Magpul AR pistol grip, and M-LOK slots in the forearm along with 8-1/2 inches of Picatinny rail atop the barrel for adding accessories. MSRP: $849.99
Another new airgun I will be testing is the Umarex Gauntlet. This is a smartly designed, well balanced, bolt-action PCP air rifle available in .177, .22 and coming soon, .25 caliber. It features a 10-shot rotary magazine (8-shot for .25 caliber), adjustable comb, adjustable single-stage trigger, 3000 psi removable onboard air tank, pressure gauge, and fully moderated quiet operation. One air fill will yield up to 60 shots in the .22 caliber Gauntlet and 70 shots in .177 caliber, regulated at 1150 psi to insure consistency. Velocities with alloy pellets are reported to be 1200 fps in .177 caliber and 1000 fps for both .22 and .25 calibers. MSRP: $329.95
The Umarex Gauntlet PCP airgun (left) and the 50 caliber Hammer shown by R&D Engineer Kyle Brusso (right).
While on the subject of alternative hunting weapons, consider that crossbows have been one of the hottest niche markets in the hunting world for the past three years! Ever since Bernard Barnett made the first contemporary crossbows in his garage in the United Kingdom in 1962, hunters have turned to Barnett, for the best in durability, dependability and performance. This pioneer of the modern hunting crossbow, brought six new high-performance USA-made models to SHOT this year. According to the company, these new crossbows combine industry-leading performance, safety and Barnett quality with all-new features and hunter-friendly prices. Barnett, a Plano-Synergy company, expanded their elite CarbonLite Series for 2018 with the new Predator – the company’s fastest and most powerful crossbow… ever! The lightweight (7.6 lbs.) Predator combines a 187-pound draw weight with a deep, 16-1/4 inch power stroke to generate lightening fast speeds up to 430 feet-per-second, and gargantuan kinetic energy up to 156 foot-pounds. Featuring a full carbon step-through riser, one-off ventilated composite stock, machined aluminum flight track, and Retractable Underarm Counter-Balance Support (RUCS) System for maximum stability and superior accuracy, this is one serious hunting weapon. MSRP: $1399.99
Barnett’s extremely popular Whitetail Hunter series crossbows are known for their features, performance and value. For 2018, Barnett has upped the ante with the all-new Whitetail Hunter Pro STR. Once reserved for the most exotic, high-performance models, the Step-Through Riser (STR) design improves balance to combat the negative effects of power by effectively shifting weight from the riser to the stock, for enhanced stability and accuracy. Ideal for full-sized hunters, the new 6.9 lb. Whitetail Hunter Pro STR combines a manageable 165-pound draw weight with a 16-3/8 inch power stroke to push arrows at a blistering 400 feet-per-second while generating 140 foot-pounds of energy. Other performance features include string dampeners, self-adjusting Soft-Lok Floating Bristle Arrow Retainer, 3 Picatinny rails, 4x32mm multi-reticle scope and crank-cocking capability. Barnett’s proprietary TRUBark HD camo covers almost every element of this weapon – a special finishing touch for a great look, and excellent concealment. The new Whitetail Hunter Pro STR offers more features, elevated performance and great value. MSRP: $599.99
Traditions Media representative, Josh Lantz, shows the new Barnett Whitetail Hunter Pro STR crossbow.
In 2017 Bloodsport came to the party with a host of new broadhead models and line extensions to compliment their popular and deadly Gravedigger. For 2018 the company introduces their new Reckoning Broadhead System, which pairs an upgraded universal ferrule with 100% stainless steel blades in two sizes for flexibility, accuracy and devastating terminal performance. The super strong stainless steel cutting ferrule employs a unique Scooptail design, enhancing both accuracy and penetration. Described as creating a “snowplow” effect, a passageway is reamed out for the arrow shaft, which reduces friction for deeper penetration with both the 1-1/8 inch Deep Cut and 1-1/2 inch Wide Cut versions. The universal ferrule now features a new blade replacement method with a screw-on collar – no additional parts, tools or O-rings are needed to attach any Reckoning blades. Bloodsport, a Plano-Synergy company, manufactures broadheads and precision carbon hunting arrows side-by-side in the same shop – the only archery company to do so – delivering a finely tuned, true-flying hunting system. Deep Cut and Wide Cut broadheads are both 100 grains, and sold in 3-packs. MSRP: $24.99
CUTTING EDGE BULLETS
Cutting Edge Bullets (CEB) manufactures premium solid copper and brass projectiles for a variety of applications. The company’s mission has been to produce a single projectile that can be used in a variety of circumstances and perform equally well. This means bullet designs that not only shoot flat and accurately, but are also terminally effective on game. CEB offerings are for match shooters and hunters who want bullets of the highest quality without compromise. CEB’s products are precision machined to very tight tolerances using CNC Swiss Style Lathes, renowned for their ability to machine extremely small precision parts. This process enables CEB to make solid copper and solid brass bullets that cannot be made by standard bullet manufacturing processes. The hollow point design of Cutting Edge bullets holds together well on impact with bone, yet expands rapidly causing massive tissue damage when bone is not hit. Hydraulic action from fluid entering the hollow point cavity causes banana-shaped chunks (“blades”) to break off by design, causing additional trauma. Bullet bodies are undersized and employ a patented feature called a SealTite Band, which seals the bullet into the rifle barrel grooves to prevent blow-by and improve both velocity and accuracy, while reducing copper fouling.
New for 2018 is the Maximus line from CEB. These are designed to deliver high trauma as well as a high ballistic coefficient (BC), and represent a hybrid between the high BC MTH (Match/Tactical/Hunting) line and the high trauma Raptor line. The Maximus is more destructive and penetrates deeper than the Raptor. After 4-6 inches of penetration, 4-8 blades break off and create one large, massive wound channel. The number of blades shed is dependent upon velocity. 8 blades will break off at impact velocities over 2400 feet-per-second, while 4 larger blades will break off down to 1400 fps. Although the Raptor line is known for being light for caliber, CEB designed the Maximus to be heavier making them more appealing to the traditional lead-core bullet enthusiast. Available in .264-.308, .400, .429, .451 and .458, they are priced about 30% lower than comparable bullets in the MTH and LAZER lines. For example; a box of 50 of tipped, expanding CEB LAZERs in .308/180 grain retails for $79.56, while a box 50 .308/180 grain Maximus retails for just $55.54.
Here’s a detailed listing of CEB product lines: MTAC (Match/Tactical) – Solid, high BC non-expanding, MTH (Match/Tactical hunting) – High BC expanding bullet for hunting/target use, LAZER – Tipped, high BC hunting/match bullet, FB and ER Raptor – Extreme terminal performance hunting, DGBR – Dangerous game non-expanding solid for deep penetration, DGBR-HP – Dangerous game hollow points for high trauma and deep penetration, HG Raptor – Handgun hollow points for hunting or home/personal defense, HGS – Handgun solid for hunting, MZL Raptor – High trauma, expanding muzzleloader bullet, Maximus – High trauma, high BC hunting bullet for rifles, pistols, and muzzleloaders.
Chief Marketing Officer, Samantha Smitchko, shows Cutting Edge Bullets lines. Thumbnails lower right (left to right): Brass Safari Raptor, and copper MTH, Maximus and ER Raptor all in .264/6.5 Creedmore.
In Part 2 we will take a look at new products from Nikon, Eberlestock, Mossberg, Crossman/Benjamin, ARCUS Hunting, Mojo Outdoors, Avian-X and Wildgame Innovations.