Before a product earns recognition as “Best of the Best,” it must undergo field-testing by our experts. In all, more than 150 products were tested, and 24 were deemed fit enough to earn Best of the Best honors. Tests range from slopping through mud and snow with hunting boots and setting up (and sitting in) a climbing tree stand to borescoping a rifle and then testing its accuracy with three-shot groups. Here are some examples that show the lengths (and depths) the staff goes to ascertain if a product is worthy of the BOTB honor.
Rifles and Shotguns
Guns were inspected for overall fit and finish, and trigger-pull weights were verified. Barreled actions were removed and inspected with a borescope. Rifles were shot from a benchrest, three shots at 100 yards, with three different types of ammo, to determine accuracy. Shotguns were fired from a low-gun start on the trap and skeet field with a variety of hunting and target ammo to assess responsiveness and function.
Penetration and weight retention of big-game bullets were examined by using the Ballistic Buffalo, an ingenious instrument created by rifles editor David E. Petzal.
Knives were tested for edge holding, initial sharpness, and ease of resharpening. Special-purpose knives were tested by cutting wood, parachute cord, and seat belts.
ATVs and UTVs
ATVS and UTVs were loaded with gear and driven hundreds of miles through narrow wooded trails, rock fields, and mud pits.
Optics were submerged (riflescopes with the turret caps removed) in 1 foot of warm water for a full minute, then placed overnight in a chest freezer at 10 degrees to test fogproofing. Then they were left out for another night and again checked for any signs of internal moisture. In addition to examining optical quality in varying light conditions, our experts tested the riflescopes with live-fire exercises. —The Editors