1 | Mossberg FLEX System
The Mossberg 500 is one of the most affordable, reliable and toughest pump shotguns ever made. It’s trusted by hunters—waterfowl, turkey and deer—as well as law enforcement and in countless homes for defense. Various versions have been created over the years, but now, Mossberg has created the FLEX System for the model 500. The gun utilizes the TLS (Tool-less Locking System) so that you can disassemble your gun and swap components in seconds. A camouflage stock and forend for duck or turkey hunting can be swapped out for a pistol grip, picatinny rail forend and short barrel for home defense without having to buy a new gun. Currently, it’s only available in 12-gauge, but 20-gauge versions might be soon to follow.
2 | Smith and Wesson Whisper
Fans of the AR-15 can get great midrange, .30-caliber performance on deer-sized game without having to lug a heavy AR-10 platform through the woods with the new Smith and Wesson M&P-15.300 Whisper. The gun, decked out in Realtree AP, reliably cycles both .300 Whisper and .300 AAC Blackout cartridges. With the Whisper, you can use subsonic rounds to plink without a deafening muzzle blast (we tried one with a suppressor at the range yesterday, and it was as quiet as an air rifle). The AAC Blackout round offers near .30-30 level performance in a .223-sized case.
3 | CVA Accura MR
This might be one of the coolest muzzleloaders we’ve ever handled. CVA has taken the popular Accura rifle and trimmed 1 1/2 pounds of weight from it, thanks to an aluminum frame and a shorter barrel. The Accura MR is designed as a mountain rifle, but will work just fine for any hunter, whitetail or elk, seeking a lightweight rifle in the woods. Its stainless steel barrel is coated with a nonreflective Weather Guard coating, while the stock is finished in Realtree Max-1. Scope rings and a base come standard. One other really cool feature on this gun is the round rubber Palm Saver, with threads onto the cleaning jag of the rifle’s ramrod, making the gun a heck of a lot more comfortable to load.
4 | Federal Black Cloud Close Range
Federal Black Cloud ammunition has no doubt proven itself in the duck blinds and goose pits over the past several years. The stuff flat-out kills ducks. But one complaint is that it often patterns a little too tight at close range—if you’re not on that bird, you can miss. Federal has tried to address that issue with the new Black Cloud Close Range shotshells. These loads utilize a full shotcup of FlightStopper pellets. The Federal engineers claim that they produce a more open, even pattern at 25 yards that’s designed primarily for decoying ducks in close-range situations, such as in flooded timber. We haven’t put any of it on a patterning board—or on feet-down greenheads—just yet, but it’s on our to-do list.
5 | Remington Model 700 XCR II
This year, Remington’s Model 700 XCR II Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Edition is chambered in .25-06. The stainless-steel barreled action of this limited-edition rifle uses Remington’s TriNyte Corrosion Control System to produce a finish that provides scratch and corrosion resistance superior to stainless steel alone. For added protection against the elements, the Model 700’s fire-control components are nickel plated. The 700 XCR II features a high-tech synthetic stock covered in Realtree AP camouflage with a unique, patented technology from Hogue that incorporates easy-gripping, overmolded rubber panels into the grip and forend areas.
6 | Barnes VOR-TX Ammo
Barnes 300 AAC Blackout is creating a lot of buzz on the floor of the SHOT Show this year. Black rifle shooters can now experience VOR-TX performance in 300 AAC Blackout in a 110-grain offering. This Tipped TSX bullet promises hand-loaded precision in a factory-loaded round. It offers double-diameter expansion, maximum weight retention and excellent accuracy. This rifle round is designed to do some damage providing maximum tissue and bone destruction as well as pass-through penetration. The bullet’s shank features multiple grooves that reduce pressure and improve accuracy. Barnes claims that no other bullets expand as quickly on contact as the new VOR-TX.
7 | Franchi
Franchi might not be a brand you’re real familiar with as it’s often overshadowed by the larger gun manufacturers in the industry. But a pair of 2012 guns just might put this division of Benelli on the map. During a recent visit to Montana, the Realtree.com editors had a chance to shoot the Instinct L over-and-under shotgun. And it’s a fantasic double gun with an attractive price – it’ll retail for about $900.
The SL version boasts AA grade walnut (the L is A grade) and adds polished and brushed silver alloy to the receiver. Both guns are offered in 12- and 20-guage versions.
At the SHOT Show’s Media Day At The Range, the Realtree.com editors were able to shoot Franchi’s new Affinity auto-loader. This gun deserves a serious look if you’re in the market for an autoloader to chase turkeys or waterfowl. The gun has an inertia-driven system that’s kind to the shoulder and is very light – the 12-guage weighs in at less than 6.5 pounds while the 20-guage is just more than 5.5 pounds.
Both guns are available in Realtree Max-4 or APG finishes and will retail for about $800.
8 | Benelli Super Black Eagle II
The Benelli Super Black Eagle II is already regarded as one of the top waterfowl guns available. For 2012, Benelli has made a great waterfowl gun even better with its New Super Black Eagle II Performance Shop Waterfowl Edition. The gun, which the Realtree.com editors used during a Montana goose hunt, is no doubt a serious waterfowling tool. The gun includes a set of Rob Roberts Custom Triple Threat chokes and each gun is test-fired using Federal’s Black Cloud ammunition. There’s an oversized bolt-cocking handle and a longer, wider bolt release lever designed to make operation simpler while wearing heavy gloves. The Crio barrel has a lengthened, polished forcing cone for increased pattern consistency and reduced recoil. It features a HI VIZ front comp sight and a special paracord survival sling. The gun isn’t cheap at about $2,500, but quality, custom work costs.
9 | Crosman Marauder Woods Walker
Airgun hunting is a fast-growing segment of the outdoors. And for good reason – it’s crazy fun. And the guns for the task just keep getting better. Benjamin, a division of Crosman, unveiled one of the coolest air rifles we’ve seen in the Marauder Woods Walker. Technically, the Woods Walker is a pistol. But it comes with a shoulder stock that turns this little unit into a sweet, packable hunting rifle. The bolt action repeating rifle will fire pellets up to 700 fps, has a two-stage adjustable trigger and is wrapped in Realtree AP.
10 | Winchester
In 2011, Winchester released the innovative Blind Side ammunition with its unique hex-shaped shot. In 2012, the loads will be available in 3, 4 and 5 shot sizes for 12-guage guns and 20-guage loads will also now be offered. New for 2012, is rifle ammunition designed specifically for taking on feral hogs. The new ammo is appropriately named Razorback XT. The loads are available in .223 and .308 calibers. The .223 features 64-grain bullets with an advertised velocity of 3,022 fps. The .308 utilizes a 150-grain bullet and has speeds of 2,810 fps. The bullets are lead-free with a beveled profile and a hollow point. The cartridges use flash-suppressed powder for use in low light conditions.
11 | Browning
Hello, hump. Welcome back. One of the most recognized shotgun profiles of all time, the Browning humpback, made famous in the Auto-5, returns in the all-new A5. The gun features a new “Kinematic” autoloading system that’s powered by the gun’s recoil. The result is a reliable, soft-shooting shotgun. And Browning is pretty confident in the system’s reliability – it’s backing the A5 with a 100,000 round/5-year guarantee.