The 25 Best New Guns, Knives, Bows, and Hunting Gear of the Year
Opening day of hunting season is coming soon. Here’s the best new gear to help you succeed
The band is back together. After a several-year hiatus, Federal has teamed up with bullet-makers Nosler and Barnes to reintroduce loads with Accubond and TSX projectiles. I hunted with the Federal 180-grain Barnes TSX in .30/06 last fall, and it delivered accuracy as fine as ever. More good news: Federal has added loads with bullets from Berger and Hornady too. —John B. Snow
Known for making quality European optics without the extravagant price tag, this Czech company has hit that sweet spot again with its new Optika6 riflescopes. Configurations range from 1–6x24mm up to 5–30x56mm, including five Hunting models with capped turrets and a choice of second-focal-plane reticles (mil or MOA; illuminated or not) and five Shooting models with exposed turrets and reticles in the first focal plane. There’s a solid, affordable scope here for most anyone. —Dave Hurteau
Winchester SX4 20-gauge
This gun, though brand-new, already brings back great memories for me—specifically, of the best duck hunt of my life. In three days on Nebraska’s North Platte River, our crew shot the hell out of six SX4 20s without a glitch. This soft-shooter feels great in hand, and the speed-loading feature (the bolt slams shut after you put the first round into the magazine) is a delight—especially when more ducks are decoying. —Colin Kearns
We are moving toward a future when bowhunters will no longer carry handheld rangefinders, and the latest step in that direction is the Burris Oracle, which tells you the exact range to your target and gives you a precise aiming point for that distance. You just sight in at 20 yards plus two farther distances, and the sight automatically calculates your arrow’s trajectory. In the field, you point the fixed 20-yard pin at the target, press a button attached to your bow’s grip, and a readout displays the distance while a green illuminated “pin” pops up on a vertical sight bar. Put that pin on your target and shoot. Then sell your handheld rangefinder on eBay to someone who doesn’t have an Oracle. —D.H.
Winchester Snow Goose Xpert Shotshells
This load’s Diamond Cut wad, which holds the shot together briefly after it leaves the muzzle before separating, helped me knock down wary birds at longer ranges during an Arkansas snow goose hunt this February. And thanks to the dull-gray hulls, the empties—and there were plenty—stayed concealed in the field. —C.K.
Federal Shorty Shotshells • $6 for 10, $13 for slugs or buckshot Federal Premium
“Less is more” is a tough sales pitch in America, where we fervently believe that more is more. Federal’s Shorty Shotshells break that mold. Loaded with 15⁄16 ounce of 8 shot at 1,145 fps in a 13⁄4-inch hull, they deliver near full-size target-load performance with lower recoil and less noise. They’re great for teaching new shooters and are already proving popular. Slug and buckshot rounds are available for home defense, but make sure they cycle in your gun before you trust your life to them. —Phil Bourjaily
When I shot the Paramount, I had to stop periodically and say to myself, “This thing really is a muzzleloader.” Then I would go back to punching targets at ranges far beyond 300 yards. CVA built this breakthrough gun by combining Large Rifle primers, .45-caliber PowerBelt ELR bullets, and super-magnum powder charges that develop a muzzle velocity of 2,200 fps. Drop it all into a tactical stock and you get a front-stuffer that would cause David Crockett to grind his teeth with envy. Also, it kicks a tad. What did you expect with all that horsepower, a kiss on the cheek? —David E. Petzal
PSE Evoke 31 Compound Bow
Let me guess what you want in a whitetail bow. First, you need some speed. It doesn’t have to be a burner, but it can’t be slow. You want a smooth draw too, and the ability to hold at full draw awhile if need be, plus maneuverability in a blind or stand, and maybe a little discount in the price. Right? Well, at our annual bow test, we clocked the Evoke 31 at 340 fps IBO. It had one of the smoothest draw cycles and the highest let-off of any bow. It scored first in handling, and it costs $50 to $500 less than the other new flagship bows we tested. In short, it checks all the boxes. —D.H.
As a smartphone user, you may think two-way radios are an anachronism that belong to the Buck Rogers era. But the updated Talkabout T800 utilizes a mobile app, essentially turning the radio into a modem that lets hunters share and track their locations and send silent messages to buddies while off the cellular grid. The T800 also provides extra power to increase transmission range via a push-to-talk power-boost option. Packaging includes two radios, each with a high-capacity, rechargeable battery pack, plus accessories. The Talkabout app is free. —Slaton L. White
This new cartridge is not a long-range wonder, which may be what I like most about it. It is a deadly whitetail round to 200 yards, with low recoil and a friendly price. It pushes a 150-grain, .357-caliber bullet to 2,325 fps, and since it’s a straight-wall, it’s legal during most states’ firearms seasons. Comes in Power-Point, Deer Season XP, USA, Super Suppressed, and Power Max Bonded loadings. —Will Brantley
Tikka T1x MTR
In the world of precision rimfire rifles, the new T1x is a remarkable bargain. Available in .22 LR and .17 HMR, it comes with a 10-round detachable magazine and a 20-inch barrel threaded for a suppressor. The factory trigger on my .17 can be adjusted to a crisp 1.5 pounds, and the rifle shoots inside a dime at 50 yards. But the biggest advantage to the T1x is that its bedding footprint is the same as Tikka’s T3x centerfire rifles, which opens a world of aftermarket stock options. They are going fast. If you find one, buy it. —Michael R. Shea
Sitka Fanatic System • $449 for jacket, $439 for bib, $299 for vest, $199 for pack Sitka Gear
Sitka’s new-and-improved Fanatic line is the quietest and warmest cold-weather whitetail gear out there. (Not to mention some of the most expensive.) The old Fanatic line was super-quiet, yet Sitka says this version cuts the noise in half. It’s also 20 percent warmer and more burr-resistant. The smartly designed Fanatic Pack is brand-new and keeps an all-day-sit’s worth of gear organized and handy. —C.K.
Tungsten Super Shot took the turkey world by storm last spring, with tiny No. 9 pellets offering the same downrange ballistics as lead No. 5s. TSS is nontoxic, so if you’ve wondered if the stuff works on ducks, I’m here to tell you: It sure does. Black Cloud TSS is blended with Flitestopper steel to keep the total cost down, but it’s still deadly. Keep this stuff away from your sky-busting buddy. It’ll only encourage him. —W.B.
These new Danners became my go-to boots last season for deer and turkey hunting, and all the general s–t kicking in between. The uninsulated ones are as comfortable as running shoes but waterproof, with 8 inches of ankle support. The pair weighs just 46 ounces. They’re also available in 400-, 800-, and 1,200-gram insulated versions, plus a 17-inch snake-boot model. I haven’t had mine long enough to speak to their durability, but in my experience, Danners hold up. —W.B.
Browning X-Bolt Max Long Range
I came away from our annual gun test impressed with this rifle. Built on the company’s new Composite Max stock, it has a 26-inch heavy-sporter stainless barrel and many extras you’d find on pricier precision rifles, including a vertical grip, length-of-pull and cheekpiece adustability, a muzzle brake with a thread protector, and an extra swivel stud for a bipod. But the real kicker: This X-Bolt shot right up there with some of those costlier guns. —D.H.
Moultrie Mobile XV7000i and XA7000i
Moultrie’s new wireless cameras are integrated systems that combine the modem and camera into one unit, which is a big improvement over the older dual-unit Moultrie Mobile system. These upgrades run on either AT&T or Verizon service with pay-by-the-month $10 data plans (no contract required). The cameras are 20 megapixels with 80-foot detection and flash range, and 1080p video capability. They’re powered by 12 AA batteries, and the controls can be accessed and changed remotely. All told, they’re a solid bargain in the world of wireless trail cameras. —W.B.
TriStar Viper G2 Bronze .410
A reliable, gas-driven, 5+1 autoloader that comes with a 3-inch chamber and Beretta Mobil chokes (IC, Mod., and Full), the new Viper G2 from TriStar is a far cry from that old break-open .410 your dad kept behind the truck seat. Last winter, several friends and I shot a pile of cottontail rabbits with this handy small-bore autoloader. It pointed well, ran without a hitch, and was surprisingly good-looking too, with a select Turkish walnut stock and fore-end, and a clean Cerakote receiver. With a real-world price under $650, there’s nothing not to like. —M.R.S.
All week on a 2016 mule deer hunt, using full-size HG 10x40s, I kept saying, “Man, these are good.” Now I’m saying it again as I test the new compact version. The 10×30 has the same quality glass and Field Flattener Lens System, which improves edge-to-edge clarity, in a smaller, lighter package. —D.H.
More jacket than sweater, this down garment is warm, durable, packable, and ultra-ultralight (my size medium weighs just 10.9 ounces). The nylon shell repels water and snow and blocks wind, and the hood features a single-pull adjustment to trap in heat without sacrificing mobility or field of view. —C.K.
Steel Will Plague Doctor Folder
Look past the end-times attitude of what is billed as a technical fighter, and you’ll see the DNA of a fine field-dressing knife. The blade has a piercing tip for opening up an animal and a high, flat grind for serious slicing strokes. A super-deep finger coil and flipper tab keep slick hands tight to the G10 scales. And while there’s nothing super-futuristic about D2 steel, it’s a solid, hard alloy that punches above its price point. The Plague Doctor is available with a 3.4-inch satin-finished blade or as a 3.9-incher with a black stonewashed finish (shown). —T. Edward Nickens
This is another good shooter in Barnett’s Ghost line, with a 16.3-inch power stroke, a 206-pound draw weight, and an excellent trigger. It’s specifically designed for use with the company’s new microdiameter Hyperflite arrows. Small-diameter bolts offer the same downrange benefits from a crossbow as the arrows do from a vertical bow—namely, reduced drag and increased penetration. The Hyperflites worked very well from this crossbow, producing some of the tightest groups of the entire field during our annual crossbow test this past spring. —W.B.
You’ve probably owned a wonder dog, as in, “I wonder where my dog is?” The Garmin Pro 550 Plus is the solution. Unlike a bell, it doesn’t stop ringing when you need it most, and it won’t clog with snow. Unlike a beeper, it doesn’t pollute the field with electronic noise. It just shows you where your dog is via a display in the transmitter unit. It offers 18 levels of stimulation and can track three dogs at once. I’d rather hunt without boots than without this collar. —P.B.
Henry Long Ranger in 6.5 Creedmoor
Combine the nimble handling of a lever action with the accuracy and flat trajectory of the 6.5 Creedmoor and you get a formidable saddle gun. Henry’s newest rifle shoulders beautifully, cycles fast, and thanks to the Creedmoor’s mild recoil, gets right back on target. My gun groups five shots into 11⁄2 inches or less, making it good to 300 yards or so. It’ll work well for spot-and-stalk deer hunts in the North Woods too. —J.B.S.
As a rule, serious travel cases weigh a ton. At just 23 pounds, this is the exception, which means it’s easy to carry through airports and costs less in baggage fees. The crush-proof, waterproof HPX resin shell rebounds without breaking, and the case has six heavy-duty latches (including two TSA-approved combo locks), four stainless-steel lock hasps, and wheels. The interior has high-density foam padding and a modular storage system for organizing your bow and gear. For a long gun, check out the 1745 Long Case. —D.H.
Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman • $900 Old Town Canoe
At 54 pounds and just shy of 12 feet long, this boat is almost as nimble as a kayak. But it has a canoe’s utility, with a 354-pound weight capacity, and room enough for a bag of decoys, a shotgun, and a blind bag. This past spring, I did some poking around feeder creeks to listen for gobblers, and it was so light that I was able to wrestle it across a beaver dam and hardly cuss at all. The boat has armrest storage, a comfortable seat, and an optional camo finish. —W.B.