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2012 rifle rundown: Sporting weapons in every price range

Mar. 30, 2012 - 03:14PM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 30, 2012 - 03:14PM  |  
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While the economy continued to struggle last year, sales of firearms and ammunition surged at year's end, with a record number of people seeking background checks after initiating purchases through licensed dealers.

Firearms manufacturers have rolled out a number of new sporting rifles, including offerings built in what the National Shooting Sports Association terms the "modern sporting rifle" design. These are "AR platform" rifles, with the "AR" derived from the ArmaLite company, which pioneered these designs.

Modularity and interchangeable barrels and stocks are also seen in both rifle and shotgun categories this year.

Sporting rifles

1. Ruger American Rifle

This "value priced" bolt-action rifle is made in New Hampshire. Ruger's staff at the recent SHOT Show's media range day said this first-year represents the "Model T" edition, with the rifle currently limited to four calibers (.30-06, .308, .270 and .243), a synthetic stock and blued barrel. The free-floated barrel is the same cold-hammer-forged barrel used throughout the Ruger lineup.

The adjustable trigger was crisp on the break, and the three-lug, 70-degree lift bolt cycled cartridges smoothly. A four-round rotary magazine fits flush with the stock. The receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting the included scope bases. Weighs just 6¼ pounds.

• List price: $499 (likely to sell for about $350).

• Website: http://www.ruger.com">Click here.

2. Thompson/Center Dimension

Thompson/Center Arms' Encore was a pioneering effort in interchangeable calibers for a single-shot, hammer-design firearm. The Dimension is a creatively engineered bolt-action with rapidly interchangeable parts that enable quick swaps of the rifle's caliber.

A patent-pending universal receiver is at the heart. The interchangeable components are labeled with A, B, C, or D designations by family of calibers. Use the two supplied torque tools to swap out the bolt, barrel and magazine, and you can handle 10 calibers, from .204 Ruger up to .300 Winchester Magnum. If you're converting a caliber within the same letter family, you need to change only the barrel.

The Dimension rifle has a somewhat weird, curved stock with a high cheek piece and half-inch removable spaces at the butt end. The barrel is free-floated, and each rifle is guaranteed to have MOA (minute of angle) accuracy when using premium ammo.

Dimension rifles come with factory scope mounts installed on the receiver. The assembled rifle weighs 7 pounds.

• List price: $649 for the assembled rifle; accessory barrels are $199 and include the corresponding magazine; bolts are $129 and the receiver (includes receiver, stock and tools) is $319.

• Website: http://www.dimensionrifle.com">Click here.

3. Weatherby Mark V Accumark .338 Lapua

The Mark V Accumark is among three rifles — including the TRR Custom Magnum and TRR RC — now being chambered in this sniper-favored caliber. If you want a 1,000-yard elk gun, this could be your huckleberry.

The Mark V Accumark has a hand-laminated, raised-comb Monte Carlo composite stock with a matte gel coat finish and spider web accents. The 26-inch, chrome-moly, free-floated, fluted barrel has a recessed target crown and matching Accubrake to reduce felt recoil. The trigger is adjustable.

• List price: $2,300.

• Website: http://www.weatherby.com">Click here.

4. Merkel RX Helix

The PR buzz for the Helix bolt-action rifle touts its ability to cycle cartridges twice as fast as any other rifle shooting the same cartridge. That seems like something tough to measure. But the short-stroke, linear bolt design cycles in half the length of a conventional bolt, so the twice-as-fast claim could be plausible.

The RX Helix features a manual cocking lever on the tang and a direct trigger system. It can be dismantled without tools. Weaver rails are integrated into the action. Iron sights are standard.

It's available in a dozen calibers from .222 Rem. to .300 Win. Mag., and comes in basic black or four other styles.

• List price: $3,995.

• Website: http://www.rx-helix.com">Click here.

5. Mossberg MVP

Mossberg introduces the MVP, designed to be a serious varmint killer. This bolt-action chambered in .223 Remington accepts AR-15-style aftermarket magazines. The 24-inch, fluted, medium-bull barrel is rifled at a 1:9 rate of twist. The grey-black laminate stock has a bench-rest design.

• List price: $649 equipped with weaver scope bases; for an extra $120, get it decked out with a 4-15x50 scope and a bipod.

• Website: http://www.mossberg.com">Click here.

6. Anschütz Model 1780

Anschütz enjoys a solid reputation in competitive shooting and builds tack-driving hunting models. The new Model 1780 bolt-action, big-bore hunting rifle has been built and tested to exacting standards, including sub-zero temperature shootings and torture tests of more than 50,000 firing and loading cycles on individual production models.

It has the same cam cocking of Anschütz's center-fire rifles with the two-row, six-lug bolt mated directly to a 22.1-inch cold-hammer-forged barrel. The receiver is a matte-black-anodized, high-strength aluminum alloy. Stocks are Turkish walnut.

The rifle is drilled and tapped for a Weaver rail and comes equipped with iron sights. It has a detachable-box magazine and an adjustable match-quality Anschütz trigger. Available in .308 Win., .30-06 Springfield, 8x57 and 9.3x62.

Both Anschütz and Merkel sporting firearms are imported exclusively by Steyr Arms.

• List price: $3,495.

• Website: http://www.steyrarms.com">Click here.

7. Remington Model 700 BDL 50th Anniversary Rifle

Fifty years ago, Remington rolled out a rifle advertised as the "world's strongest bolt action." Almost every hunter over age 30 has either owned or known someone who owned a Model 700 BDL. The abbreviation stood for the B-Deluxe grade American walnut stock.

This attractive 50th anniversary rifle design is based on the original 1962 model. It has a satin-finished "B" grade American walnut stock with right-handed cheek piece. The cut fleur-de-lis-style checkering and white-line spacers on the black fore-end and pistol-grip caps scream "classic."

The satin-blued barrel is 24-inch carbon steel with rifle sights, but the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounting. The magazine holds four cartridges, and its floor plate is laser-engraved with a commemorative logo. The adjustable trigger comes set at 3½ pounds. This special anniversary rifle is chambered in 7mm Rem. Mag., also introduced in 1962. It's a beautiful rifle.

• List price: $1,399.

• Website: http://www.remington.com">Click here.

8. Forbes Rifle Model 24B

Made entirely in the U.S., this bolt-action rifle looks and feels sweet, and at only 5¼ pounds, it won't wear you out as you hump mountain ridges for big game.

The 24-inch sporter-contour barrel is tapped and drilled for scope bases, which are included with the rifle. A chrome-moly steel receiver is machined from a solid bar and has a black oxide finish. The internal, blind magazine holds three rounds. The only metal on the bottom of the rifle is the aluminum trigger guard, protecting the adjustable Timney trigger. The stock is the same Kevlar-carbon fiber composite used on the NULA (New Ultra Light Arms) rifles. It will initially be chambered in .270 Win. and .30-06 Springfield, but expect .25-06 Rem., .280 Rem. and .35 Whelan options soon. The first rifles should be to dealers by spring.

• Price: Expect it to sell for $1,400.

• Website: http://www.forbesriflellc.com">Click here.

‘Modern' sporting rifles

9. Mossberg Modern Rifle

Mossberg joins the burgeoning community of companies making rifles based on the AR-15 semi-automatic platform with this new rifle line. Both the MMR Hunter (shown) and MMR Tactical initially will be chambered in 5.56mm NATO and also able to handle .223 Rem. cartridges.

All MMR rifles feature a traditional direct-impingement gas system, free-floating, 20-inch carbon steel barrel with 1:9 twist rate and recessed crown, single-stage trigger with oversized trigger guard, oversized charging handle, and black phosphate/anodized metal finish. The Stark SE-1 Pistol Grips have a battery storage compartment.

The Hunter edition will have a slender, checkered aluminum fore-end and A2-style buttstock with sling swivels. Available patterns are Mossy Oak Treestand and Mossy Oak Brush.

The machined aluminum receiver has an integral Picatinny rail for ease of adding optics with Weaver-style rings. A five-round magazine is included, but the MMR Hunter accepts most higher-capacity AR-15 style magazines.

The company is moving production of the rifles to its Connecticut manufacturing plant.

The rifle weighs 7½ pounds.

Look for our report soon on how the Mossberg MMR performed on feral hogs in Texas.

• List price: $921.

• Website: http://www.mossberg.com">Click here.

10. Smith & Wesson M&P15 .300 Whisper

This semi-automatic is built on S&W's Military & Police 15 platform and chambered for the .300 Whisper wildcat cartridge developed nearly 20 years ago. It will also fire the .300 AAC Blackout. Both cartridges are touted for knockdown power at relatively close range, and deer hunters are told to expect performance much like the 30-30 Win.

The 16-inch barrel is made from 4140 chrome-moly steel and rifled with a 1:7.5-inch twist, compatible with bullet weights in the 110- to 220-plus grain range. The upper and lower receivers are 7075 aluminum-coated with a Realtree APG camo finish. It has a single-stage trigger, a 10-round magazine, and six-position, collapsible stock.

The threaded barrel comes with a flash hider and can accommodate sound suppression devices. A Picatinny-style rail facilitates a host of optics add-ons.

• List price: $1,119.

• Website: http://www.smith-wesson.com">Click here.

11. DPMS Lite LR-308

This DPMS Firearms rifle is designed specifically for hunting. Chambered in .308 Win. and sporting a free-floated, 24-inch, 416 stainless steel, lightweight, fluted barrel, it should be capable of taking big game animals at substantial range, as long as it's topped with decent optics.

• List price: $1,499.

• Website: http://www.dpmsinc.com">Click here.

12. Rock River Arms Fred Eichler Series Predator .223

This AR15-style rifle sports a 16-inch, midlength, cryogenically treated, stainless-steel barrel and has a muzzle brake. The RRA free-float handguard has a full-length Picatinny top rail and 2.5-inch rails at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock for lights, lasers and bi-pods. A forged A4 upper flattop allows attachments for scopes, night vision and red-dot sights. The rifle's chromed, RRA National Match, two-stage trigger has a Parkerized nonreflective surface on the trigger shoe. A winter trigger guard accommodates gloves.

It's available in a two-tone black-tan finish. It comes with one 20-round magazine and hard case.

• List price: $1,395.

• Website: http://www.rockriverarms.com">Click here.

13. Rock River Arms LAR-15 Hunter

Another camo entry into this sporting rifle line is the RRA LAR-15 Hunter Series. These feature WYL-Ehide and PRK-Ehide (shown) high-resolution, digital finishes based on coyote and hog hides. The camo finishes use a hard-coat anodizing process that digitally integrates the image the same as the standard, durable black anodizing process.

These .223-caliber LAR rifles have a free-floated half-quad rail, 16-inch chrome-moly barrel, tactical muzzle brake, collapsible stock and Hogue grip. They also have a two-stage trigger and the oversized trigger guard. The gun weighs 7.6 pounds.

• List price: $1,480.

• Website: http://www.rockriverarms.com">Click here.

Air rifles

The air rifle segment of the shooting and hunting sports industry continues to innovate. Who would have thought air rifles could be used in varmint hunting? Pellet guns have even been used to kill small feral hogs. A few of the notable new rifles:

14. Gamo Bull Whisper Extreme

Gamo calls it the "ultimate varmint hunting air rifle." It delivers .177 pellets at 1,400 feet per second and heavier .22 pellets at 1,000 FPS. A noise dampener is integrated into the fluted, polymer-jacketed, rifled steel bull barrel. The all-weather stock has rubberized grips and a recoil pad that absorbs 74 percent of the already negligible kick. It comes outfitted with a Gamo 3-9x40 adjustable objective scope.

• List price: $319.

• Website: http://www.gamousa.com">Click here.

15. Gamo Hunter Supersport

This air rifle combines a black all-weather synthetic stock with adjustable cheek piece and the same recoil pad, trigger and scope as the Bull Whisper Extreme. It can deliver speeds up to 1,250 FPS with PBA Platinum .177 pellets.

• List price: $249.

• Website: http://www.gamousa.com">Click here.

16. Crosman M4-177

This new pump-action BB and .177-caliber pellet rifle is a cool plinker. It's a black rifle on training wheels with its tactical styling. It features a textured, adjustable polymer stock, forearm and receiver, and rifled steel barrel. Aim using the windage-adjustable, two-position, flip rear sight and elevation-adjustable front sight. Or remove those and add a scope or other tools on the rail. The BB reservoir holds up to 350 BBs.

Don't expect smoking velocities with this gun. Advertised speeds are up to 660 FPS with BBs and 625 FPS with 7.9 grain, .177-caliber pellets when the gun is fully charged. It weighs just 3 pounds, 9 ounces.

• List price: $89.

• Website: http://www.crosman.com">Click here.

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