Best of the Best 2017

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Each year boatloads of new outdoor gear hits the market, and we get our hands on most it. In 2017 we tested 57 new fishing rods, 41 new reels, and 27 new optics, just to name a few categories. In the end, some of it is junk. Most of it is good stuff. And a very small percentage is better than everything else—so much so, that it deserves special recognition on our short list of the year’s very best new products in the categories you care about most: guns, bows, optics, knives, rods, and reels. How do we know the 16 items below are tops? Every one underwent rigorous field testing by our experts, and all but a few took Best of the Test honors in our annual, exhaustive Field Test evaluations. This is not just the good stuff, folks. It’s the best of the best. —The Editors



Benelli Super Black Eagle 3

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 Shotgun
$1,899–$1,999; Benelli

Benelli has managed to make the excellent SBE even better for 2017. Slimmed and lightened for better handling, the latest version also has a larger safety, bolt release, and bolt handle for improved functionality. And the new Easy-Locking Bolt forever puts an end to the “Benelli click” misfire. See our full review of the Benelli Super Black Eagle 3

Rizzini BR110

Rizzini BR110 Nero Intero Shotgun
$1,999; Rizzini

The first thing you need to know about the BR110 is that F&S testers were most impressed by the value this gun represents for an Italian-made o/u. The second is that even if we’d taken value out of the equation, the BR110 still would have won our 2017 upland-shotgun test.

Remington Custom Shop M7 Scout

Remington Custom Shop M7 Scout Rifle
$3,450 (as tested); Remington

The slickest-handling rifle we laid hands on in 2017 was also the most accurate traditional field gun. If that weren’t enough, this 6-pound 3-ounce gun also outshot all but one of the heavy long-range/tactical bolts we tested this year. For Scout rifle fans, it doesn’t get better. See our full review of the Remington Custom Shop M7 Scout Rifle

Bushmaster Minimalist-SD

Bushmaster Minimalist SD Rifle
$1,169; Bushmaster

Lightweight, check. Accurate, check. Affordable (for a good AR), check. The Minimalist is everything most hunters want in an AR-15 and nothing they don’t. At under 6 1/2 pounds, our test gun handled beautifully and put one five-shot group after another inside an inch and a half. See our full review of the Bushmaster Minimalist SD Rifle

Bergara B-14 HMR

Bergara B-14 HMR Rifle
$1,150; Bergara

A factory-made long-range bolt fit for both competitive target shooting and the field is a fairly new concept. Yet Bergara pretty well perfected it out of the gate with the 9-pound 3-ounce HMR—the most accurate rifle, regardless of type, that we shot in 2017. Somehow, it’s also the least expensive new rifle of its kind. See our full review of the Bergara B-14 HMR Rifle


Nikon Monarch HG

Nikon Monarch HG Binocular
$1,000; Nikon

With Field Flattener lenses that minimize distortion at the edges, the Monarch HG binocular produces an image that rivals that of the best German-made glass, in a lightweight, versatile, weatherproof package that even has a cool retro look. All that, and it’s a terrific value, too. See our full review of the Nikon Monarch HG

Swarovski Z8i

Swarovski Z8i Rifle Scope
$2,688; Swarovski

Brilliant optics and an 8X power range make for one hell of a scope to start with. But the Z8i’s non-flaring illuminated reticle and ingenious snap-on, snap-off ballistic turret put this one on a whole other level. It’s the best, most innovative riflescope for 2017—and maybe the most versatile scope ever made. See our full review of the Swarovski Z8i


Bowtech Reign 6

Bowtech Reign 6 Compound Bow
$1,099; Bowtech

Nothing groundbreaking or flashy here—just one great hunting bow. The Reign 6 puts all of Bowtech’s proven technologies into a near flawless package that’s smooth shooting, sharp looking, dead in the hand, plenty fast, and deadly accurate and forgiving out of the box. See our full review of the Bowtech Reign 6

Ravin R15

Ravin R15 Crossbow
$2,049; Ravin

If you want groundbreaking, here it is. Unlike any crossbow you’ve ever seen, the Ravin R15 is what hunters have been begging for and what other bowmakers have been unable to deliver: a truly compact (6 inches axle-to-axle cocked), lightweight (under 8 pounds) crossbow that packs a vicious punch (434 fps; 166 foot-pounds of kinetic energy). It’s pretty much the holy grail. See our full review of the Ravin R15


Ontario Knife Co. Hunt Plus Drop Point

$57; Hunt Plus

Ontario makes its third trip to the winner’s circle with this damn near perfect, and inexpensive, hunter. The high-carbon stainless blade takes a razor edge and resharpens easily. Made of molded-on synthetic rubber, the handle is an ergonomic masterpiece that gives you both excellent control and massive leverage. Read more on the Hunt Plus Drop Point


Shimano Stradic CI4+ 2500

Shimano Stradic CI4+2500 Reel
$230–$240; Shimano

Shimano is constantly upping its game, and recent tweaks to the popular Stradic line have created a stunner of a reel. The CI4+ is incredibly light but tough enough to last years. Seven ball bearings also make it exceptionally smooth, and a Magnumlite rotor improves line lay. See our full review of the Shimano Stradic C14+ 2500

Abu Garcia Revo MGXtreme 2

Abu Garcia Revo MGXtreme 2 Reel
$500; Abu Garcia

Light as a feather, with 12 pounds of max drag, the MGXtreme 2 isn’t for flipping in heavy cover. But when you need to throw light lures a country mile, this small wonder will send them there and get them back with a silky smoothness, whether you’re cranking fast for a recast or yanking on a hawg bass. See our full review of the Abu Garcia Revo MGXtreme

Shimano Metanium MGL 150HG

Shimano Metanium MGL 150HG Reel
$420; Shimano

Thanks to a whopping 11 ball bearings, the Metanium may be the smoothest baitcaster we’ve ever fished. The Hagane Body makes this reel superlight and easy on the wrist, yet rigid and ready to take a beating. In our testing, casting distance was noticeably greater with the Metanium than with all the other competitors. See our full review of the Shimano Metanium MGL 150HG


G. Loomis GLX

G. Loomis GLX 892S Full Rod
$420–$465; G. Loomis

Loomis revamped its classic GLX series for 2017, and the result is a line of rods so light and sensitive that we’d swear you’ll feel it if a bass breathes on your lure. A smart new reel-seat design takes hand comfort over the top, and SiC guides and Fuji Titanium frames will keep this investment rod kicking for years to come. See our full review of the G. Loomis GLX

Okuma SCT Musky

Okuma SCT Musky Fishing Rod
$180; Okuma

The beauty of the SCT is that its light weight keeps you from wearing down when chucking monster muskie lures all day. Still, this is one powerful stick with the juice to drive hooks into the hardest jaws. That’s thanks to a carbon spiral helix that runs through the blank for extra strength. For a big rod, it’s also shockingly sensitive. See the full review of the Okuma SCT Musky

Orvis Helios 3F

Orvis Helios 3F Fishing Rod
$849–$898; Orvis Fly Fishing

We didn’t think it was possible for a fly rod to actually make you a more accurate caster. We were wrong. The science that went into the Helios 3F would make your head spin, but the upshot is that this rod greatly reduces horizontal and vertical tip frequency. In essence, the 3F has “autocorrect,” helping you hit your target every time. Read more on the Orvis H3 Rod