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Best New Hunting Rifles: Dave Petzal Picks His 5 Favorites from SHOT Show 2013

Field & Stream's Rifles Editor, David E. Petzal, gives you a first look at the top five new rifles introduced at SHOT Show 2013.


Remington Model 783

This is a low-medium-priced (around $470) plain-vanilla hunting rifle that is not particularly good looking or well finished. However, it’s the first truly new centerfire rifle Remington has come out with since before I started shaving and one that they desperately needed in their lineup.

It’s built on the same principles used by Ruger, Savage, Thompson/Center and Marlin for all their newest rifles. John Fink, Remington’s engineer in charge, told me that they had gone out and adopted all the best ideas from everywhere, as well as their own. It has a two-stage trigger that you can adjust yourself, molded-in swivel studs, an extra-stiff pillar bedded stock, massive, tubular receiver with small ejection port, and Remington’s own Super-Cell recoil pad, which is…super.

The barrels are worthy of special note. Remington has gone back to 22-inch for standard calibers and 24-inch for magnums, as on the original Model 700s, and are using magnum contours on all their barrels. Short, stiff barrels shoot a lot better than long, whippy barrels. In addition, hammer-forged barrels have been dropped in favor of button-rifled tubes, again as on the original 700s. Right now, the 783 is available in .270, .30/06, .308 and 7mm Remington Magnum. Mr. Fink tells me that test groups they’ve fired have bordered on the uncanny, and I believe him. This is a new way to build a rifle; it’s impossible for the thing not to shoot well. (www.remington.com)

Nosler Varmageddon AR

The latest in Nosler’s series of semi-custom guns, this is an AR, a dedicated .223 varmint rifle, that was built by a gunmaker named John Noveske. Novekse built immaculate rifles, and was known for his MSRs, tactical guns, and target rifles. I have a bolt-action he built several years ago, and it is virtually flawless.

Tragically, John was killed in a highway accident in December, and at the time of his death, Nosler had a long waiting list for Varmageddons. So, I assume they’ll continue production in his shop. The gun itself is about as fine an AR as you can conjure up. Many of its parts, including the barrel, are of Novkeske’s own design and manufacture. If there was a refinement that you could add, it was added.

The price, if you can lay your hands on one, is $2,295. It’s a lot of money, and there’s been discussion on the Internet as to whether the nearly $1,000 more than many good ARs is worth it. My own thinking is, yes. (www.varmageddon.com)

Savage B-Mag

Someone at Winchester had a very bright idea. Since the current crop of .17 rimfires was popular but somewhat lacking in oomph, why not come up with a new one that had oomph? And to do this, they got very clever and selected as the basis for their cartridge the Winchester .27-caliber nail gun round, which when necked down by .10, holds a lot more powder than any of its rimfire competitors, sells for a reasonable price, and produces an honest 3,000 fps with 20-grain bullets and 2,600 fps with 25-grainers. It is, I have it on the highest authority, an honest 300-yards cartridge.

To take advantage of the hellish new .17 Winchester Super Mag, Savage designed an entirely new rifle that is not a beefed up rimfire, but a scaled-down centerfire. It’s a super-streamlined bolt-action with the same heavy, small-ported receiver that Remington is using on the 783, an Accu-Trigger, rear locking lugs, cock-on-close bolt, detachable rotary magazine, and the same thread-in headspacing system as on centerfire Savage.

The price is $349. If you listen carefully, you can hear little squeaks of terror coming from prairie dog towns all over the West. (www.savagearms.com)

Ruger Guide Gun

The wave of the future may be cylindrical receivers and push-feed bolt, but there are a lot of hunters who still swear by the old-fashioned Mauser-based action with their big rotary extractors. Thus, the Ruger 77 Mark II, which serves as the basis for the Scout Rifle, and most recently, the Ruger Guide Gun, which is its larger, meaner cousin.

The Guide Gun is a short thumper that comes in .300 RCM, .338 RCM, .300 Win Mag., .338 Win Mag, .30/06, and .375 Ruger. Unlike the Scout Rifle, the Guide Gun feeds from a non-detachable magazine. It has detachable muzzle brake (which Ruger claims can be removed without changing the point of impact), excellent iron sights (a big white bead and a shallow-V rear with a white line), a green and brown laminated stock with a recoil-pad that’s adjustable for length of pull, and a front sling swivel stud on the barrel so the rifle rides low on your shoulder.

The barrels themselves are all 20 inches long, which will cost you a fair amount of velocity with the .300 Win Mag. Weight ranges from 8 pounds to 8 pounds 12 ounces, which is just about right. If there’s a standout cartridge in this lineup, it’s the .338 Win Mag, which will still give you pretty good velocity even with the short barrel, plenty of wallop, and should not kick bad if you leave the muzzle brake in place. The price is $1,199, and be sure to wear your earplugs. (www.ruger.com)

Montana Rifles American Vantage Rifle

If you want a controlled-feed rifle for a dangerous-game cartridge, goes the conventional wisdom, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny (or maybe even a homely one). Controlled-feed actions, such as the Model 70 and the Mauser 98, are not cheap to produce, and if the rifle is not put together with some care, the recoil of buffalo-bashing rounds will cause it to come unglued, and usually at a highly inconvenient moment.

Montana Rifles makes a number of very high-grade heavy rifles on its own version of the Model 70 action, and they range in price from $2,200 to three times that for the really elaborate firearms. But Jeff Sipe, who runs the operation, saw a hole in the lineup. How about, he thought, a plain-vanilla heavy gun that would cost about $1,200? No bells, no whistles, just a dead-plain working rifle for serious cartridges?

Thus, the AVR, or American Vantage Rifle. It comes in two versions: blued steel and walnut for $1,200, and stainless and synthetic for $100 more. It’s equipped with Montana’s own 24-inch barrel in a nice, heavy contour, and is chambered for the .35 Whelen (which you seldom see these days, despite its sterling qualities), .375 H&H, .416 Remington, and .458 Lott. When I saw the AVR at the SHOT Show, I told Jeff I didn’t care for the iron sights, and so those have been upgraded.

All told, this is a tremendous value. The only comparable rifle I know of is the Winchester Model 70 Express, which is $200 more. You may not be able to afford Africa, but you can probably buy the rifle to take there. (montanarifleco.com)

Comments (9)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Del in KS wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

The Savage B-mag is likely to be my next rifle. Can't wait to look at one at my local gun shop. I once owned a Sako bolt gun with a short barrel (20 inch?) and full stock in 300 Win. The muzzleblast from that thing was enough to wake the dead. Maybe the .338 definitely is the way to go on that guide gun if you gotta have one. That short barrel screams for a big fat bullet at medium velocity to stop a big bear anyway. Something like 45-70 or thereabouts.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DakotaMan wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

Nice reviews David! I like the general theme of making accurate rifles for less. As long as a rifle is accurate, its owner will enjoy shooting it. He/she will likely enjoy it even more if it is affordable. Lots of good ideas here and I hope they sell well. I like to see new designs and perhaps even better accuracy from these manufactures. Not sure I would want to waste all the powder in a .300 Winny in a 20 inch barrel though... that one may not be their best seller.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JamesD wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

I always envy the choices that right handed shooters have. As a lefty I know what gun control is, as my choices are always limited. I can only hope that some of these fine rifles are available for us portside shooters.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Red_Pepper wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

I've been looking for a stainless/laminated Model 70 type rifle in .375 H&H for an all-weather/any game gun. The Winchester 70 Alaskan Stainless/laminated has my attention at the moment, but it's rather hard to find in .375 H&H. Thus, the Montana Rifles American Vantage caught my attention. Nice looking rifle!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Iklwa wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

Thanks for the reports, David!
It looks like the American firearms industry is alive and well and they are not sitting on their thumbs.
Would that our government was as proactive and market driven as these folks.

I heard today that the United States Postal Service was going to drop Saturday service.
Of course, you know that you can still get UPS Saturday delivery…for additional cost.
It would appear the Post Office still does not comprehend how to run a business.
I can’t wait for my “free” health care administered by the federal government!
I just know how well that’s going to fly.

Only one question (and I defer to your more complete experience): Has there ever been an ugly, controlled feed bolt action chambered in 375 H&H?

I have a Ruger Number 1 Tropical and a Browning Gold Medallion in 375 H&H and they are both tack drivers. There is still a slot in the safe for a Mauser type 375.
The Montana may be the one for that spot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Trapper Vic wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

I hope all this AR business calms down. prices are too high and if you did find one there is no 223 ammo available.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jonesy43 wrote 1 year 9 weeks ago

love them all

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from missedit wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

NICE RIFLES!!!!!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chicken135 wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

i'd love to get my hands on that guide gun

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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from Del in KS wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

The Savage B-mag is likely to be my next rifle. Can't wait to look at one at my local gun shop. I once owned a Sako bolt gun with a short barrel (20 inch?) and full stock in 300 Win. The muzzleblast from that thing was enough to wake the dead. Maybe the .338 definitely is the way to go on that guide gun if you gotta have one. That short barrel screams for a big fat bullet at medium velocity to stop a big bear anyway. Something like 45-70 or thereabouts.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JamesD wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

I always envy the choices that right handed shooters have. As a lefty I know what gun control is, as my choices are always limited. I can only hope that some of these fine rifles are available for us portside shooters.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DakotaMan wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

Nice reviews David! I like the general theme of making accurate rifles for less. As long as a rifle is accurate, its owner will enjoy shooting it. He/she will likely enjoy it even more if it is affordable. Lots of good ideas here and I hope they sell well. I like to see new designs and perhaps even better accuracy from these manufactures. Not sure I would want to waste all the powder in a .300 Winny in a 20 inch barrel though... that one may not be their best seller.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Red_Pepper wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

I've been looking for a stainless/laminated Model 70 type rifle in .375 H&H for an all-weather/any game gun. The Winchester 70 Alaskan Stainless/laminated has my attention at the moment, but it's rather hard to find in .375 H&H. Thus, the Montana Rifles American Vantage caught my attention. Nice looking rifle!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Iklwa wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

Thanks for the reports, David!
It looks like the American firearms industry is alive and well and they are not sitting on their thumbs.
Would that our government was as proactive and market driven as these folks.

I heard today that the United States Postal Service was going to drop Saturday service.
Of course, you know that you can still get UPS Saturday delivery…for additional cost.
It would appear the Post Office still does not comprehend how to run a business.
I can’t wait for my “free” health care administered by the federal government!
I just know how well that’s going to fly.

Only one question (and I defer to your more complete experience): Has there ever been an ugly, controlled feed bolt action chambered in 375 H&H?

I have a Ruger Number 1 Tropical and a Browning Gold Medallion in 375 H&H and they are both tack drivers. There is still a slot in the safe for a Mauser type 375.
The Montana may be the one for that spot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Trapper Vic wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

I hope all this AR business calms down. prices are too high and if you did find one there is no 223 ammo available.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jonesy43 wrote 1 year 9 weeks ago

love them all

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from missedit wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

NICE RIFLES!!!!!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chicken135 wrote 1 year 4 weeks ago

i'd love to get my hands on that guide gun

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment