Outdoor Journal: SHOT Show launching pad for many new items

There were thousands of new shooting sports products on display last week when I attended the Nation
PHOTOGRAPHER:

There were thousands of new shooting sports products on display last week when I attended the National Shooting Sports Foun­dation’s annual SHOT Show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

In four days — one spent at the range and three roaming the six-plus miles of carpeted aisles lined with over 1,800 exhibitor booths — I spent about 40 hours trying to narrow down what I considered to be the Best of Show products.

Here are my firearms, optics and range selections. Next week, I’ll review footwear, clothing, how to find your way around the woods more easily and present a sneak peek at a revolutionary way to stay warm that will be available in the near future.

MARLIN/HORNADY

Ironically, the first gun I fired at the range, the new Marlin Express model 338 MXLR, was my unan­imous choice for lever-action rifles. This new addition to Marlin’s pop­ular XLR series will take down just about any North American game. At the bench, I found out that this one, like the other XLR series tub­ular-magazine, lever-action rifles, is a 200-yard gun. Zeroed at three inches high at 100 yards, it’s 1.2 inches high at 200 yards and 7.8 inches low at 300 yards. Using the new Hornady 200-grain FTX bullets with a muzzle velocity of 2,565 feet per second and muzzle energy of 2,921 foot pounds, I was able to shoot a three-shot group of just under 1.5 inches at 150 yards — and the recoil was surprisingly very manageable.

Offered in black/gray laminated hardwood stock and sporting a 24-inch stainless steel barrel and adjustable semi-buckhorn folding rear and ramp front sights, the 338 MXLR has a five-shot tubular magazine, side ejection, fluted bolt, and a solid receiver tapped for scoping. It’s 421⁄2 inches long and weighs 7 1⁄2 pounds. It’s also available with a black walnut stock and 22-inch blued barrel.

Manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $805. The Hornady Lever­Evolution ammunition is $36.88. www.marlinfirearms.com or www. hornady.com

REMINGTON

Following up last year’s Model 15 VTR modular repeating rifle for predators, Remington’s 2009 big- game hunting version is also quite a shooter.

Built on the lightweight R-15 platform, it’s offered in the new 30 Remington AR chambering with big-game hunting ballistics. The 125-grain Core-Lock PSP bullet leaves the barrel at 2,800 feet per second with a muzzle energy of 2,629 foot/pounds.

Built with a free-floating button-rifled, 22-inch, fluted barrel, single-stage hunting trigger, Picatinny rail for scoping, pistol grip and four-round, single-stack magazine, it weighs 71⁄2 pounds, comes in RealTree AP HD camo and includes a lockable, hard carrying case. I was impressed with its accuracy at long range, how comfortable and how much fun it is to shoot. MSRP for the new Model R-15 is $1,199. www.remington.com

THOMPSON CENTER ARMS T/C

If you watch outdoors TV’s hunting host Michael Waddell, you’ll see him carrying the new T/C Triumph magnum muzzleloader — the Bone Collector. It has a .50-caliber, 28-inch, fluted Weather Shield barrel with an Integra-Base for solid scope mounting, 209 primer ignition and Flex Tech recoil-reducing technology. Add to this a Bolt-Lok with two-stage safety, an easy-to-cock swing hammer, speed breech to reduce fowling and ease cleanup, and an Easy Tip Extractor. It’s easy to tell it was designed by a professional hunter. The Bone Collector comes with a composite stock with RealTree AP HD camo and has a MSRP of $664. www.tcarms.com

RUGER

I found this little revolver at the Crimson Trace exhibit. It was on the wall among quite a few other handguns when its size caught my eye.

It’s the new Ruger .38-caliber LCR — lightweight Compact Revolver. It’s a 13.5-ounce, small-frame, five-shot revolver with a 1.875-inch barrel of 17.4 PH aerospace grade stainless-steel with a matte black coating. The cylinder is a new advanced target gray. It has a replaceable, pinned ramp front and U-notched integral rear sights, and can handle the extra power of 38SPL+P rounds.

It comes with a Hogue Tamer with Sorbothane Insert or can be ordered with my favorite, a Crimson Trace Lasergrip. This would be a fun gun for IDPA shooters. Suggested price is $525; the Crimson Trace, $792. www.ruger.com

STRANGLER CHOKES

Although I did view, handle and even shoot a number of fine shotguns, I really didn’t see anything that was new. But I did find a very interesting choke tube, the Strang­ler, that will handle steel, tungsten, lead or bismuth shot, and provides a denser pattern, more power and more distance It does it all.

Tandie Blake, the company’s representative, said of the seven guns tested with similar chokes, the Strangler’s density was from 15 to 45 percent greater in a 30-inch circle, and the penetration 20 to 35 percent deeper into a solid block of pine.

Earlier this week, I took my Benelli Super Black Eagle II to see for myself what the Strangler could do. I shot No. 4 shot steel first with my current turkey choke tube, then with the Strangler. The Strangler won quite impressively, and is now my turkey and waterfowl choke tube. MSRP for the Strangler is $89.95. www.stranglerchoke.com

BUSHNELL

After reviewing the many new optics at the show, my choice for Best of Show goes to Bushnell for its new DOA (Dead On Accurate) reticle technology. It dramatically extends effective range out to 600 yards (DOA 600) with a rifle and 250 yards (DOA 250) with a muzzleloader. The etched range distance markers on the reticle are based on a 100-yard zero and the ballistics of today’s most popular deer hunting bullet/loads and magnum charges for a muzzleloader.

In addition, both models have a Rack Bracket etched on both sides of the horizontal line of the reticle that enables a hunter to judge the tip-to-tip distance between the average deer’s ears (24 inches for mule and 17 for whitetail deer). This is a great feature for those “should I wait for a bigger one?” moments we’ve all had.

These scopes have this feature: Elite 6500, 4.5-30x50mm; Elite 3200, 4-12x40mm; and the Trophy, 4-12x40mm. MSRP on these three scopes is $765. $350 and $150, respectively. www.bushnell.com

When it’s time to go to the range, here are three things you should have for the best accuracy and safety.

CALDWELL SHOOTING

Accuracy begins at the range, and the best way to insure rifle and shotgun accuracy and shooting comfort is with the Battenfeld Technologies Inc. Caldwell Lead Sled Plus shooting rest. Not only does it provide a solid rest, it can also reduce felt recoil up to 95 percent.

When trying to sight in magnum loads, especially three-inch shotgun slugs, felt recoil is very real and distracting. This all-steel Sled features a no-wobble elevation ram, fingertip adjustments, padded rear rest that securely holds the gun on target, padded feet and the ability to hold up to 100 pounds of lead shot for added stability. MSRP is $149.

Hearing needs protection, and Caldwell’s Platinum Series G3 Hearing Protection earmuffs can help. They offer crystal clear amplific­ation of low-level sounds while compressing and blocking out harmful noise. The G3s will allow you to hear clearly even as a gun is being fired.

Other features include true stereo amplification that delivers maximum volume and clarity, duel-density foam with padded soft fleece headband, collapsible low-profile design and extended runtime of 250 hours with power LED indicator. MSRP is $70. www.battenfeldtechnologies.com

SUNBUSTER

Good eye wear at the range is not only an excellent safety measure, but wearing the right glasses can greatly increase your accuracy. I found this out several years ago when I got my first pair of SunBuster S.E.E. (Sport Enhancement Eyewear) from Steven Asman, owner of the Farmingdale-based SunBuster Eyewear Company. The company is introducing the Quick Draw Dude Set that includes Extreme Green and Purple ShotReader lenses that come with an impact- resistant clip-on hard case.

The Extreme Green is a dark lens that selectively filters light so orange and red (target and clay bird colors) appear much brighter. This color also provides minimal squinting, which will improve your shooting. The Purple ShotReader lens is ideal for all light conditions, and is specifically designed to tone down the green colors while enhancing other colors of the spectrum. It also amplifies orange, red and brown colors, which makes them a good choice for upland bird hunting in all wooded areas.

Both lenses provide 100 percent UVA/UVB rays, and exceed ASCI optical standards. MSRP is $100. www.sunbuster.info

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