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On target: There's a rifle for your needs

Mar. 10, 2009 - 10:56AM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 10, 2009 - 10:56AM  |  
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This year is shaping up to be an interesting one in the firearms industry. Consumer concerns over potential new or resurrected restrictions on handguns and semiautomatic variations of military-styled weapons have been driving sales of these items skyward. Yet a tumbling economy may cause some to balk at purchasing new sporting firearms — unless, of course, they're newcomers to the game needing a first gun or hunting technicians looking to fill a specific niche in their toolbox.

The annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show held in Orlando, Fla., in January featured global manufacturers working to move existing firearms lines as well as a rollout of several new products. With the exception of a few notable new rifles and shotguns, though, many items flagged as new represented line extensions of existing models into new calibers or finishes.

Here's a rundown of 10 hunting and target-shooting rifles that caught our eye. Prices quoted are manufacturer's suggested retail. Actual sales prices are usually lower, often 10 percent or more, so contact the dealer or your local retailer for prices.

Gamo Whisper

This ain't your granddad's BB gun — this is a potent new, all-weather product that can crank out 1,000-feet-per-second velocity with .177 lead pellets. The fluted, polymer bull barrel comes with a fixed noise dampener that reduces the already quiet operation by up to 52 percent. It has a break-barrel cocking system and an adjustable trigger. A raised rail accommodates the 3-9-by-40 standard-reticle air rifle scope. This potent air gun should take out squirrels, rabbits or other small critters at almost 50 yards.

MSRP: $280

Marlin .338 MXLR

This smart lever-action, stainless steel model is chambered for the new short magnum Marlin Express .338 cartridge. The new cartridge from Hornady is tipped with a hefty 200-grain magnum, elastomer tipped FTX Evolution bullet. This nicely styled firearm pairs with a new cartridge that delivers potent energy more than 300 yards downrange — making it a lever action to contend with. There's just something about a lever action rifle that feels distinctly American.

MSRP: $805

P.S. If a little more knockdown power while working in grizzly country is in your plans, consider Marlin's lever-action Model 1895 SBL, a "Big Bore Series" gun chambered in .45-70 Government. The XS Ghost Ring rail package (peep-sight mechanism), which provides aiming backup if your scope fails or for quick aiming in close quarters, comes pre-mounted with the gun.

MSRP: $978

Anschütz Model 1770

Olympians have been winning medals shooting Anschütz small-bore rifles for 40 years. The new Model 1770 Hunting Repeater centerfire in .223 Rem. moves Anschütz into the larger varmint-hunting category. Its new action features six locking lugs and short-stroke 60-degree bolt lift. The model 5094D Match adjustable, single-stage trigger is preset at 2.5 pounds. A "Meister"-grade rifle, it has an oil-finished German-style walnut stock with a semi-oval cheek piece and Schnabel fore-end with hand-cut checkering. The barrel is 22 inches long, and the gun weighs 7.5 pounds. It will be available in early fall.

MSRP: $2,499

Smith & Wesson M&P 15

In another line extension, Smith & Wesson is building a lightweight (5 pounds) AR-15 variant to shoot .22 long-rifle ammunition. The reasoning is that, in tight economic times, recreational shooters can still get the fun of shooting this style of rifle but save lots of money since the .22 rimfire rounds are much cheaper than the standard centerfire .223 cartridges. It accepts all 1913 Military Standard rail-adaptable accessories. First production models are expected in July.

MSRP: $499

Ruger ATI Mini-14

Mini-14s have been around for nearly 35 years. This .223 Rem. edition ratchets up the tactical look. With a blued 16Þ-inch barrel and a six-position collapsible/side-folding buttstock from Advanced Technology International USA, the Ruger weighs about 8 pounds and is 37¾ inches with the stock extended. It comes with a 20-round magazine and set of Ruger scope rings. Its stock features an adjustable cheekrest, a rubber buttpad, four Picatinny rails, storage for batteries inside the stock tube and six sling-swivel stud mounting locations.

MSRP: $872

Thompson/Center Icon

The Icon line extends with three popular long-action calibers, .30-06 Rem., .300 Win. Magnum and .270 Win., now sporting the company's Weather Shield finish. Each rifle has an over-molded stock in black or Realtree camouflage pattern. The barrel and receiver are coated with a Weather Shield coating said to be 50 times more resistant to corrosion than stainless steel. It's also MOA (minute-of-angle) certified. Other features: integral scope mount for Picatinny- and Weaver-style scope bases; an adjustable trigger; a 60-degree bolt lift; and detachable three-shot magazine.

MSRP: $899

Browning X-Bolt Micro-Hunter

Browning extends its line of X-Bolt rifles, adding the Micro-Hunter, chambered in short action rounds ranging from .243 to .325 WSM. The rifle also comes in a super short action .22-250 Rem. model. The Micro-Hunter weighs 5 pounds, 15 ounces, or 6 pounds, 2 ounces, depending on the model. It has Browning's adjustable "feather trigger," a 60-degree bolt lift and a detachable rotary magazine. The X-bolt is developing a fan base as a companion and successor to the A-bolt line.

MSRP: $839

Remington Model 547 Custom .22 long rifle

Remington is making a heirloom-quality .22 in its custom shop. At prices between $1,200 and $1,700 and with stylish looks, this is a rifle to take care of and pass down through generations. It comes with a gorgeous Monte Carlo walnut stock and a bolt action designed to have the feel of a Model 700. Topped with quality Swarovski optics, this rifle shot 100-yard, inch-sized groups at the range. It also comes in a stainless-steel bull barrel version.

MSRP: $1,200-$1,700

Thompson/Center Venture

This value-priced bolt-action rifle has a T/C Arms barrel with 5R rifling and match grade crown. It's guaranteed to deliver MOA shooting accuracy out of the box — three shots within an inch at 100 yards. It has a classic-design composite stock with inlayed, traction-grip panels; fat-bolt design with 60-degree lift; a trigger adjustable between 3.5 to 5 pounds; drilled and tapped receiver; a single-stack 3+1 detachable magazine; and is chambered in .270, .30-06, .300 Win. Mag., and 7mm Mag.

MSRP: $499

Savage Model 93R17 BTVS

This popular .17 HMR bolt-action rifle, equipped with Savage's highly touted Accu-Trigger, debuted in 2006 and now has a left-handed version. The laminate thumbhole stock in an attractive light-brown finish makes for a comfortable grip and shooting.

MSRP: $448

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