Remington’s Versa Max won Best of the Best by making a weak impression—on the shoulders of the test team, who rated it the softest-kicking semiautomatic of all. Add reliability and versatility to the soft recoil and you have a winner. The Versa Max handily digested every test load we fed it, from 3 1⁄2-inch high-velocity steel down to 7⁄8-ounce reloads.
The 12-gauge is able to function with such a wide range of loads through a simple, unique system: In place of a valve that bleeds off excess gases, there are seven gas ports in the gun’s chamber. The length of the shell determines how many ports are closed off by the hull and therefore how much gas bleeds off to run the action, which consists of a gas block and two short pistons. Cleaning is easy. —Phil Bourjaily
Manufacturer: Remington (remington.com)
Price: $1,399 - $1,599
From a dead accurate factory rifle and hunting boots inspired by the demands of mountain warfare on the far side of the world to futuristic self-warming clothing and an ingenious treestand safety harness, this year’s winners will help any hunter improve his game.
The Gear Tests
Before a product earns recognition as Best of the Best, it must undergo field testing by our experts. In all, 150 products were tested, and 26 were deemed fit enough to earn Best of the Best honors. Here are some of the testing procedures we used:
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 using the Ballistic Buffalo, an ingenious instrument created by Rifles editor David E. Petzal (fieldandstream.com/ballisticbuffalo).
• 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 had 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.