Today was my favorite part of the SHOT Show every year… the range day. This is the day that the media (like me!) get to go out to the range and shoot (play with) all the guns, optics, and ammo that we’ll be drooling over for the rest of the week.
There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot that was particularly new this year, although a couple of things did stand out.
First of all, I had a chance to shoot up a lot of Winchester ammunition, including some of the 7mm ETips (not new, but new to me). I also got a look at the new Winchester Double-Bonded ammo for the big-bores and shotgun slugs. Unfortunately, as I think I’ve mentioned, there’s so much shooting going on that it’s hard to get a feel for accuracy, but I was able to knock the fool out of some bowling pins and metal spinners.
One thing I did find that surprised me was the new Browning Maxus shotgun. I’m not a fan of semi-automatic shotguns at all. Nothing against those who shoot them, but for me, I just don’t care much for them. It’s way too easy to waste ammo, and the actions are susceptible to everything from mud to cold air. Once you get a jam, it’s damned near impossible to clear it up in the field… especially in the duck marsh.
But this Maxus… well, I have to say I was impressed. It felt more like a pump gun in my hands, and once I got my mind in the game, I was busting almost every clay that flew in front of me. I honestly can’t say how it will handle the tribulations of the duck marsh, but if it is as durable as it is handy, it’s gonna be a great entry in the shotgunner’s arsenal!
Something else I found kinda cool at the shotgunning event was the new Winchester steel game and target loads. I had a chance to shoot them in a .410 BPS (Browning Pump Shotgun) and was amazed at the shots I was able to make. I’m not so hot with an over-under, but once I got on target I was busting clays at ranges that should’ve been beyond the capability of a .410. In the 12 ga, the #7 shot was also dead on and devastating. Not sure if they’re also doing a #8, but we had #7 and #6 shot to play with at the event. In short, it seemed to be pretty fast and accurate.
In rifles, I didn’t see a whole ton of real innovation. The Browning X-Bolt is nice, but I learned that last year. Same goes for the new Winchester Model 70s. Nice rifles, great action, but no surprises.
I finished up the day at the Bass Pro Shops event. At the Beretta shotgun range, I messed around with one of the new over-unders, but since I can’t hit the broad side of a barn with an O/U (I may have done slightly better than 50% on the clays) I only shot up about a half a box of ammo before moving on to let someone else have my station. The best thing about that shotgunning experience was the opportunity to meet Phil Bourjailly, from Field and Stream. You may have seen him sharing space with Dave Petzal on the Gun Nut blog.
Once the shotgunning was done (and not soon enough), I had the great opportunity to hook up with Albert Rasch, from the Rasch Outdoor Chronicles blog. This is Albert’s first SHOT Show, and he was having a blast at the range day! I can’t blame him. So much to shoot, and the exhibitors are actually glad to have you come play with their guns!
Anyway, things went along pretty much by rote. I stopped by the Ruger booth and Albert convinced me to try a couple of shots with Ruger’s new M77 Hawkeye Alaskan, chambered in the .416 RCM (Ruger Compact Magnum). This is an interesting take on the .416 Rigby, offering (according to the Ruger rep) equivalent power to the Rigby in a standard length cartridge. I have to admit that the round was stout, but not exceptionally punishing. The model I shot had iron sights, so it was kind of hard to tell how accurate I was, but I think the shots were pretty clean and close… if not a tad low.
I also tried out the Ruger #1 in .300RCM. This rifle was scoped and well-zeroed, and even off-hand at 100 yards, I was stacking my shots in the heart/lung zone on a coyote target. I’ve always been a big fan of the #1, and this rifle just made me love them that much more.
I rolled around to take a look at the new Savage with the “Accu-Stock”. The key point of this stock is that aluminum rails are bedded into the stock to distribute the shock equally. This eliminates the need for after-market bedding, and delivers consistent accuracy. I don’t know what else Savage wants to do their accuracy after the Accu-Trigger, but I can say that the rifle I shot, in 30-06, felt better than any Savage I’ve fired before. The recoil was easily absorbed, and the gun stayed on target for a second shot. It’s pretty nice… and much better than the jackhammer shock of the old Savage 110.
Tomorrow, the show begins. I’ll try to get updates directly from the Press Room during the day.