Four Mileposts of 2014

If 2014 had occurred in the Middle Ages, it would have been a leper of a year, condemned to wander with a bell around its neck, chanting “Unclean,” and scorned with a shudder by all who beheld it. For myself, it has been brightened by my experience with three extraordinary items of gear that have gone far beyond any flights of advertising copy.

1) The Nightforce Scope
How strange that a scope sight should be thought extraordinary simply because its adjustments work precisely as they're supposed to, every time. But the fact is that the windage and elevation on just about every scope I use or own is…whimsical. Nightforces have no whimsy in them. You grab hold of one of those big knobs, feel that clunk…clunk...clunk as you put in the clicks, and you know that if you said an inch up, you will look downrange and see that's just what happened.

Most of them are expensive, but in return for all that money you get not only the adjustments that work, but top-line optics, toughness that is not surpassed and probably not equaled, ergonomics that are better than anyone else’s, and terrific customer service.

2) Berger Bullets
Unless you're a long-range shooter, Walt Berger's super-streamlined slugs are just quick-expanding, high-priced projectiles that you can take or leave. If you do shoot at long range, you know them as something semi-magical that find their way to the X-ring with an eerie intelligence of their own, bucking wind and defying gravity like nothing else around.

I’m still suspicious of Bergers on game, but Richard Mann, who tests bullets exhaustively, says that they work fine, penetrating 8 inches into whatever critter they hit and then blowing apart, blasting spall into the unfortunate ungulate. His word is good enough for me. Buy Bergers in big bunches.

3) The Bergara Rifle
I recently wrote about the .30/06 Bergara Mountain Hunter, a small, light rifle that takes accuracy to a new level. I've never seen anything shoot like this little gun. It is not only accurate in absolute terms, but is consistent in a way that I had not seen before. All I can think is, My god, what do their heavy tactical rifles shoot like?

4) Ka-Bar Becker Knife Series
There are, I believe, nine of these survival/tactical/military knives, all made of expoxy-coated 1095 CV steel, with a distinctive black handle, the brainchildren of designer Ethan Becker. Not only are they first-rate knives, not only can you get them very, very, very sharp, but they are cult objects. The only thing that gets chopped and channeled as much as a Becker is a '55 Chevy or an AR-15. People re-grind them, re-finish them, bolt on fancy aftermarket handle scales, etch them, engrave them, shove them into sheaths that cost twice and three times what the knives themselves do.

If this is not love, tell me what is.