Shooter’s Gear Guide: The Best Guns, Ammo, and Shooting Accessories of 2018
A look at the hottest new gear for competitive shooters, range rats, and hunters who take shooting seriously
Beware the man who shoots only one rifle. He’s probably as exciting as a colonoscopy when it comes to talking guns and is missing out on a whole world of shooting equipment—some of which is revolutionary. If you’re considering adding an extra gun to your collection, or just want to up your shooting game, this list of gear we’ve tested is the place to start.
Proof Research Switch
The problem with high-end rifles has always been that they come chambered for only one cartridge. Not any more. With the highly accurate Proof Switch, you can switch barrels and bolt faces—in a matter of minutes—and shoot multiple cartridges from the same rifle. You can have a dedicated sheep rifle, deer rifle, target rifle, and varmint rifle all in one. The number of cartridges you can shoot with it is limited only by your wallet. —Richard Mann
Christensen Arms MPR
Lightweight and accurate, and with the drop-dead looks of a stealth fighter, the Modern Precision Rifle is a legitimate .5-MOA rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor with factory ammo. With its handy folding stock and 8-pound 6-ounce weight— thanks to many carbon-fiber components—it packs easily over rough terrain. —John B. Snow
This rifle is destined to be another winner from Ruger. It is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. You can see it as a utilitarian truck rifle, a pack-along survival gun (thanks to its easy-to-break-down design), a small-game rifle, or a personal-protection rig. But at its heart, it is a hell of a plinker and will be used to punch paper and ring steel more than anything else. —J.B.S.
Bergara Premier HMR Pro
Gunmakers who have custom shops as part of their operation run them as sidelines. Bergara does the opposite—its custom shop dominates the whole operation. Thus the HMR Pro, which costs $1,715, is essentially a custom rifle and should, by rights, cost another $2,000. It bridges the gap between hunting and target shooting. Buy one in .308, compete with it, then take it afield when the frost is on the pumpkin. You will, over time, realize that you’re not worthy of such a rifle. Relax; few are. —David E. Petzal
Mossberg 590M Mag-Fed
This bad boy puts a new twist on the traditional pump gun with its innovative detachable-box-magazine system. As you might guess, this makes reloading the shotgun much quicker. The magazines come in 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20-round capacities. The 590M has a good ghost-ring sight system and a ventilated heat shield for additional attitude. —J.B.S.
Fabarm Elos N2 Sporter
If it helps, think of Fabarm guns as the Buicks to parent company Caesar Guerini’s Cadillacs. The new Fabarm Elos N2 Sporter represents a solid buy in a clays gun that will see you around the course in good style at a decent price. The 12-gauge N2 comes with lightened 30- or 32-inch Tribore barrels struck to give the gun a lively feel while delivering softer recoil and improved patterns. It has a nice 31⁄2- to 4-pound trigger that adjusts for length, and the stock comes with an adjustable comb as standard equipment. —Phil Bourjaily
Syren L4S Sporting
As more women take up the shooting sports, they need guns like the Syren L4S, a dedicated women’s target gun. It features a shorter stock with a Monte Carlo comb and a tighter grip. The stock is also angled to better fit a woman’s shoulder pocket. The L4S itself is a light, trim, soft-shooting gas gun that cycles even the lightest loads. The finishing touch? Lavender accents and engraved roses on the grip. Available in left- and right-hand versions. —P.B.
Sig Sauer’s P365 has solved the concealed-carry conundrum: No longer must you choose between carry comfort, capacity, and capability. This ultra-compact 9mm, with a 10+1 capacity, will handle +P ammunition, and it’s outfitted with night sights right out of the box. At 17.8 ounces unloaded, this 1-inch-wide pistol can be packed all day, every day. —R.M.
Smith & Wesson
The “EZ” refers to the effort it takes to rack this pistol’s slide, which is to say not much. For new shooters or those with limited upper body strength, cocking a semi-auto is a bigger impediment than you might imagine. This M&P is ideal for those—like my dear old mom—who struggle in this regard. It holds 8+1 rounds of .380, and strikes a good balance between heft (18.5 ounces) and concealability. —J.B.S.
This is about the easiest to use red-dot I’ve ever attached to a firearm. The sight can be purchased with the base attached, making it a one-piece unit. Just insert one AAA battery and use the throw lever to clamp it to a Pic rail, and you’re in business. It’s light—just under 8.5 ounces with the AR15 spacer—but as tough as a railroad spike. It comes with integrated pop-up lens covers, can be submersed to 150 feet, and has intensity settings that cover the spectrum from night vision to retina burn. The CompM5 I have is designed so that it will co-witness with an AR’s iron sights for a hassle-free and lightning-quick sight picture. A single battery lasts for years. —J.B.S.
This new scope company uses glass that’s engineered in Germany and built in Asia, and offers a ton of value with its smart, basic designs and bright optics. This 4–12×42 is built on a 1-inch tube with 1⁄4-MOA knobs and comes with five ballistic turrets for common cartridges: .223 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win., .30/06, and .300 Win. Mag. Marks on the custom turrets let the shooter dial quickly for long-range shots. —J.B.S.
Revic PMR 428
The Revic is more than just a scope—it is a glimpse at the future of precision optics. The integrated environmental sensors and ballistics software calculate the holdover for the shooting conditions in real time. While looking through the scope, the shooter dials the elevation turret until the correct yardage for the target appears in the small display. It is unbelievably simple. The display also shows whether the rifle and crosshairs are level, and will give a windage solution based on the speed and direction of the wind, which the shooter inputs via a control panel on the scope. —J.B.S.
These clear plastic containers weigh next to nothing, and they let you see how many rounds you’re carrying at a glance. They come sized for specific families of cartridges and are sold in packs of five for only about $15. They fold flat, hold 20 rounds, and are great for both hunters and competition shooters looking to shave ounces from their kit. —J.B.S.
It can be difficult to get a good reading on smaller objects at a distance when you’re using a rangefinder off-hand. The stabilization software in this new Nikon locks the crosshairs on target, minimizing the wobble from the user’s hand. It’s particularly handy when you’re trying to thread the needle and get an accurate range on partially obscured animals or steel. —J.B.S.
Kent Elite Low Recoil/Training Loads
Shooting is more fun when you don’t get thumped, but low-recoil target ammo is hard to find. Kent rides to the rescue with two new 12-gauge, 1,200 fps loads of 8-shot that will gently pat your shoulder while busting clays. One is a 23⁄4-inch, 7⁄8-ounce load and the other is a 21⁄2-inch, 3⁄4-ounce load. It’s the equivalent of shooting 28-gauge ammo in your 12. —P.B.
The Valkyrie is like a .223 on steroids. It shoots heavier bullets (60 to 90 grains) much faster than a standard .223, yet it runs out of AR-15-size receivers. I shot the first deer taken with the cartridge last fall—a good-size West Texas muley—with the equally new 90-grain Fusion bullet and had one of the most impressive (and short) blood trails I’ve ever seen. The exterior ballistics match the 6.5 Creedmoor out to about 600 yards but with less recoil, and the Sierra 90-grain MatchKing will stay supersonic out to 1,300 yards. It’s an excellent option for deer, predators, and competition. —J.B.S.
Spend less time stuffing mags and more time shooting. The hopper on the Mag Pump can hold about 80 rounds of .223, and once it’s filled, loading magazines is as easy as working the lever up and down. Each stroke of the handle inserts another round into the mag. It works with 5.56 NATO and .300 Blackout as well. You’ll become a better shot, and your loading thumb will thank you. —J.B.S.
Annealing Made Perfect
“I can’t wait to anneal my brass,” said no one ever—at least until the AMP came along. It’s hard to overstate how cool this gizmo is. With its sophisticated induction-heating technology, it turns out perfectly annealed brass about as fast as you can insert and remove cases from the machine. It has become the secret weapon of many top shooters pursuing ultimate accuracy. —J.B.S.
Area 419 Master Funnel Kit
In my experience, the only thing “universal” about universal powder funnels is that they all manage to spill kernels at some point when powder is dumped in them. This color-coordinated and caliber-specific kit from Area 419 makes that a thing of the past. It is beautifully built from billet aluminum and includes heads for .22-, 6mm-, 6.5mm-, 7mm-, .30-, and .338-caliber cartridges. Heads for other calibers can be purchased separately. —J.B.S.
Iota Triad Scope Rings
These are scope rings for perfectionists. Each pair of rings comes with interchangeable cross-slot inserts in three different sizes (six total) for a better fit on Picatinny rails. Before mounting the rings, you try the narrow, regular, and wide inserts in the rail’s slots. Like Cinderella’s slipper, whichever fits best is the one you attach to the ring. It’s a clever system that eliminates extra slop when mounting an optic. —J.B.S.
I used this stuff during late duck season, when it was cold and shotguns were sluggish. It works. The lubricant will not freeze or burn, and the cleaner is designed to get at debris and gunk without affecting the lubricant. —Will Brantley
XS Sights won fame with its easy-to-see-in-any-light Big Dot sights. The company has evolved the concept with a hybrid sight that is between the Big Dot and contemporary pistol sights. F8 sights are high-profile, with a wide rear notch and a post front, with a big proprietary orange dot surrounding a Tritium vial. This combination delivers fast acquisition and alignment, and provides high visibility in any lighting situation. —R.M.