A highly biased,unofficial poll of 2,000 readers on all things shooting: favorite rifles andshotguns, best calibers and gauges, common habits, and valued ethics. Plus,plenty of opinions about the whole firearms industry, both favorable andotherwise
Even after 110years, a lot of what we do is guesswork, but this we know for a fact: If we dosomething on guns, our readers dive right into it. And so when we did our picksfor the 50 greatest guns in February 2005, it was one of our most popularissues in years, and the volume of mail was massive, if not entirely polite.But there was a next step we had to take. What do the people who read themagazine rate the highest? And what do they think about a lot of other thingsconnected to shooting, hunting, and gun ownership? So we came up with a list ofquestions that have never been asked before and put them on our website latelast year.
In the 12 days itwas out there, we got over 2,000 responses. Some of the results were flatstartling. We learned that Remington rules the roost as far as popularity goes,that the highest-ranked handgun was designed before the First World War, andthat our No. 1 big-game and deer cartridge is even older. But this nod totradition aside, we found that most of you do not yearn for the good old days.You think modern guns are better, and you are perfectly happy to break withtradition if it results in a better firearm. We also learned that firearmshunters won’t cross certain technological barriers if it means violating theircode of ethics.
The best part ofthe survey may be your comments. We’ve published as many of them as wecould.
TROPHY RACK: THETHREE MOST POPULAR RIFLES OWNED BY READERS
RUGER M77 The third most popular whitetail gun–a solid showing for a solid rifle.
REMINGTON 700 By far, the top gun in the survey for deer and big-game hunters.
WINCHESTER MODEL70 The Rifleman’s Rifle trailed the Rem 700, but it’s still widely used andloved.
50 YOUR GUNS
52 THE BEST GUNS
56 TODAY’S GUNS
58 SHOOTING HABITS
60 PRINCIPLES & POLITICS
1 Your Guns
YOU HAVE PLENTYOF GOOD GUNS ON YOUR RACK, BUT HERE’S WHAT YOU TAKE DOWN MOST OFTEN
1 What is your primary whitetail gun?
2 What is your primary whitetail gun’s caliber or gauge?
7mm RemingtonMagnum… 5%
3 What is your primary big-game rifle?
Weatherby MarkV… 4%
Mauser,commercial or converted military… 4%
4 What is your primary big-game rifle’s caliber?
7mm RemingtonMagnum… 10%
.300 WinchesterMagnum… 9%
.300 WeatherbyMagnum… 3%
.300 WinchesterShort Magnum… 3%
5 What is your primary waterfowl shotgun?
Remington 870 22%
Benelli SuperBlack Eagle I/II 4%
Browning A-5 3%
Benelli Nova 3%
6 What is your primary upland shotgun?
Ruger RedLabel… 4%
7 What is your primary turkey shotgun?
Benelli SuperBlack Eagle… 4%
“Syntheticstocks add a touch of the vulgar to the last elegant activity available to thecommon man.” –MIKE DIEHL, WITH A MANNLICHER-SCHOENAUER MODEL 1950
“God, guns,guts, forever!” –BRUCE HARWOOD (RIGHT), WITH A BROWNING CITORI AND A FRIEND
“If possible,I would buy one gun per day, every day, and live on rural land to shoot them asoften as I could.” –RALPH BERNIERI, WITH A MARLIN 1895
NOTES FROM DAVIDE. PETZAL
TWO GUN MODELSDESIGNED JUST AFTER WORLD WAR II LEAD THE PACK IN 2006
I would have betanything that your choice for the world’s best gun would have been theWinchester Model 70, but it was the Remington 700, and by a land-slide. And forthe best upland shot-gun, I was sure you’d select a tradition-drippingside-by-side like the Parker. What won? The Remington 870–by a landslide. Forfavorite whitetail gun, the venerated Winchester Model 94? The infallibleMarlin Model 336? No, it was the Remington Model 700, by–repeat after me–alandslide.
You can get the870 and the 700 in all sorts of variations, and at all sorts of prices, butregardless of cost, they work. And that, you have said loud and clear, is whatcounts most.
“Just that Iwish I had spent a few dollars more when I was younger to get betterquality.”
“I shoot gunsfrom a hundred years ago, and I shoot guns that are 5 years old. I love themall, and I shoot all of them.”
“If I’m goingto buy a gun, it’s for use and abuse. Expensive bells and whistles don’t sellme. I buy for what works best for me, what will last, and what doesn’t cost sixmonths’ salary.”
2 The BestGuns
YOUR SELECTIONSOF THE GREATEST RIFLES, SHOTGUNS, HANDGUNS, AND CARTRIDGES EVER MADE
1 What’s the best whitetail rifle ever made?
Weatherby MarkV… 6%
2 What’s the best whitetail cartridge?
3 What’s the best all-around North American big-game rifle ever made?
Weatherby MarkV… 13%
4 What’s the best all-around North American big-game cartridge?
.300 WinchesterMagnum… 19%
7mm RemingtonMagnum… 13%
5 What’s the best American handgun ever made?
Ruger SingleSix… 18%
Smith &Wesson 29… 16%.
6 What’s the best all-around shotgun ever made?
Remington 870 33%
Remington 1100 12%
Winchester 12 11%
Benelli SuperBlack Eagle 9%
Mossberg 500 8%
Browning A-5 7%
7 What’s the best upland shotgun ever made?
Ruger RedLabel… 5%
8 What’s the best waterfowl shotgun ever made?
Remington 870 24%
Benelli SuperBlack Eagle 16%
Winchester 12 9%
Browning A-5 7%
Browning 3½-inchGold 6%
Winchester3½-inch Super X2 5%
“The onlything that bothers me is guns today really have no personality.” –MICHAEL G. GANGI, WITH A REMINGTON 870
“My parentslet me buy my Remington 870 when I was about 11 years old with the agreementthat I had to stop complaining about how much I didn’t like going to school.Once the agreement was made, I shut my mouth for the rest of the schoolyear.” –STEVE DOUGLAS, WITH A BERETTA 687
“Growing upwith guns can be a positive experience. Nobody seems to believe thatanymore.” –BRUCE SQUIERS, WITH A STEVENS HIGH POWER LEVER ACTION
NOTES FROM DAVIDE. PETZAL
IT DEBUTED 100YEARS AGO BUT IS STILL THE BENCHMARK RIFLE CARTRIDGE
The favoritewhitetail cartridge and the best big-game cartridge, miles ahead of everythingelse, are one and the same. It was designed in 1903, the year the Wrightbrothers first flew, and it attained its final form three years later. Now,when we are landing probes on asteroids, this 100-year-old cartridge remainsthe one against which all others are measured–and fall short.
It was created bythe U.S. Army, and its original designation was the .30 Government Model 1906,and it was originally chambered for the legendary Springfield Model 1903 rifle,with which we fought World War I. The doughboys who carried the Springfieldwere stunned at the gun’s range and accuracy of the rifle and cartridge, andwhen they got home, the ’06 was off and running.
The standardmilitary loading was a 150-grain bullet at 2700 fps. Now, commercial ammo canmove that same 150-grain slug at close to 3000 fps. The ’06 is loaded withbullets that range in weight from 110 grains to 220, and if you can’t find aweight that suits you, you are too fussy.
“I think thatit is less about what the gun costs and more about how it feels in your hands.My ’06 is not the greatest gun in the world, but I have shot it until it islike part of my body.”
“How is itthat our favorite guns are always the guns we own?”
THE MODELS THATMADE IT TO THE TOP OF THE LISTS IN THE GUN NUT SURVEY
Introduced in1973, this Japanese-made over/under brought affordable style to Americanhunters and was second in voting for the best upland gun.
Thequintessential lever has taken millions of deer. While not as popular as itonce was, the 94 was still voted the second greatest whitetail gun of alltime.
REMINGTON MODEL870 / Best All-Around Shotgun
One out of threesurvey respondents voted this slide action the best all-around shotgun evermade. And it’s the one most used for ducks and turkeys.
The autoloaderhas been around for 46 years and is still the most popular shotgun for uplandhunters.
An update of thefamed 1100, this autoloader came in either first or second place in primarywaterfowl, turkey, and upland shotgun categories.
There’s nothingplain about this high-grade rifle, including its price, but readers rate ithighly as a big-game gun.
BENELLI SUPERBLACK EAGLE
The relativelynew SBE doesn’t have classic looks but is much admired by waterfowl hunters forits dependability in harsh conditions.
YOU LIKE TO OWNRIFLES AND SHOTGUNS THAT ARE AFFORDABLE, ACCURATE, PRACTICAL, AND NEW
1 American guns are:
Better than theywere 50 years ago… 65%
Not as good asthey were 50 years ago… 19%
About the same asthey were 50 years ago… 16%
2 The last time you bought a new gun, how did you feel about it?
Great investment;worth every cent… 77% [Positive]
Not bad, but notquite as good as I’d hoped… 22% [OK]
Would be moreuseful if it were converted to a lamp… 1% [Negative]
3 Which of the following do you agree with?
Having so manycartridges available makes shooting more interesting… 65%
There are way toomany cartridges available these days… 35%
4 Do you feel that gun manufacturers are turning out the same old stuff yearafter year, just with new unimportant features?
They’re the samebasic designs, but with lots of genuine improvements over older guns…72% You bet, and I’m getting pretty sick of it… 28%
5 I will toss my cookies if I read another word about:
Guns that cost asmuch as a good used car… 34%
Ordinary gunsthat you can see any day. I want to read about the unusual stuff… 3%
None of theabove. I like reading practically anything about guns… 46%
6 Do Europeans make better guns than we do?
There’s no bigdifference… 51%
7 In the last decade, we’ve seen blued steel and wood being replaced by syntheticstocks and exotic metals. How do you feel about it?
Bring it on. Ifit results in a better gun, I’m all for it… 60%
Enough already.How can you be fond of a gun that’s made out of plastic and titanium?…40%
8 The next gun you buy will be:
I’ll probablynever buy another gun; I have all that I need 5%
“I don’t seea place for plastic on a deer rifle. It makes my stomach turn when a man comesto deer camp with a plastic gun. Take it back to the Wal-Mart toydepartment.” –ADAM BOGLE, WITH A REMINGTON 870
“You can’tget enough of them. If only my wife understood that.” –STEVE HAMPTON, WITH A BROWNING CITORI
“How do youget to Carnegie Hall? I practice shooting all the time. This way, I am notsusceptible to missing a shot due to excitement.” –SCOTT GROSS, WITH A MOSSBERG 9200
NOTES FROM DAVIDE. PETZAL
PerformanceFirst, Looks Second
YOU VALUETRADITION, BUT IT TAKES A BACKSEAT TO ACCURACY AND RELIABILITY
At just aboutevery range I’ve been to, nothing draws attention like a geezer-aged gun.People gather around, clucking like poultry at the quality of the polishing,the wood-to-metal fit, and the amount of obvious care that went into itsmanufacture. But when the gun is shot and the groups turn up downrange, theytend to lose interest.
You have saidthat guns are better than ever, and that our designers know what they’re doing,and that if a space-age material will improve a gun you’ll take it andtradition be damned. And you’re correct. I routinely shoot plain-vanillaproduction rifles of all prices that are so accurate I’m embarrassed to writeabout them. Years ago, you couldn’t buy that kind of accuracy no matter whatyou spent.
Blue steel andaged walnut may be prettier than fiberglass and stainless, but if you wantsomething that can take a week’s worth of freezing rain and hold its zero, kisspretty good-bye.
“Flintlockswere modern guns at one time. Change is good. Modern technology should continuein firearms as long as it brings added value to the shooter.”
“I love thetraditional blued steel and wood look, but synthetics really do shoot a littlebetter.”
CENTERFIRE,RIMFIRE, OR SHOTGUN, IT DOESN’T MATTER. AS LONG AS IT HAS A TRIGGER, YOU WANTTO PULL IT
1 Do you belong to a gun club?
No » 66%
Yes » 35%
2 Where do you do most of your shooting?
On privateland… 49%
A public gunrange… 20%
A privatepay-to-shoot gun range… 18%
On public land…13%
3 Did you shoot any of the following in the last 12 months?
Trap and sportingclays… 9%
Trap and skeet…8%
Skeet andsporting clays… 7%
No, I didn’tshoot any of these… 43%
4 How many centerfire rifle (or shotgun slug) rounds a year do you fire inpractice?
More than 100…36%
Less than 20…18%
5 How many shotgun rounds a year do you fire in practice?
Less than 25…21%
More than1,000… 12%
6 Do you shoot a rimfire rifle at least once a year?
7 If you do shoot a rimfire rifle at least once a year, you do it mainly to:
Hunt smallgame… 28%
Practice fordeer/big-game season… 16%
8 Do you always sight in your deer or big-game rifle before the season? (Behonest!)
9 What’s the longest shot you’ve ever taken at an animal?
More than 300yards… 23%
Less than 100yards… 18%
10 Have you ever missed an animal because of “buck fever”?
11 Have you ever shot at a running deer?
12 Have you ever had a problem with the police, the Transportation SecurityAdministration, or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms that involvedguns?
“David Petzalis a joy to read. He is a crotchety old man and unashamed about hiscrotchetiness. Bill Heavey is also great, as his incompetence is quitebelievable.” –ED FRIEDMAN, WITH A SAKO 75
“The majorityof the hunting public knows very little about what their rifles are capable ofdoing. They buy way too much gun, have no idea what kind of bullet to use, andrely too much on gadgets and not enough on skill.” –ANDREW NIESE, WITH A RUGER NUMBER ONE
“Much of theammo is too expensive to keep shooting.” –RON SCROGGINS (RIGHT), WITH A MOSSBERG 500 AND FRIENDS
NOTES FROM DAVIDE. PETZAL
CLAY BIRDS, PAPERTARGETS, TIN CANS: MOST OF YOU HAVE A HOME ON THE RANGE
Many of you loveto shoot, but hunting entails very little shooting, so you’re turningincreasingly to targets of all sorts. If hunting-license sales are down,target-shooting figures are up. In 2003, 19.8 million people shot at targets, a13 percent jump over the year before, and spent hundreds of millions of dollarsdoing it.
The advantages ofshooting targets are obvious: You get to experience the thrill of victory andthe agony of defeat. You can compete year-round. You don’t have to sit in afreezing gale hour after hour or spill doe pee on yourself. And you get to doit for a long time. You see very few 70-year-olds on the tennis courts, but youcan grind up clay targets nearly as well in your eighth decade as you couldwhen you were a young punk.
“I LOVE THEM!I wish I lived in a place where owning guns and going shooting was moreacceptable.”
“If there wasa decent range near me I think I would shoot a lot more.”
“My armpitsare black-and-blue three-quarters of the year.”
“The firstweekend of every October my buddies and I practice long-range, short-range, andmoving targets from all shooting positions.”
5 Principles& Politics
SHOOTERS DISAGREEON A LOT OF ISSUES–EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO PROTECTING THEIR RIGHT TO SHOOT
1 How do you feel about Cowboy Action Shooting?
It’s a greatidea, a lot of fun, and a great boost to the gun industry… 72%
There’s somethingterribly sad about grown men and women dressing up and playing cowboy…14%
What’s CowboyAction Shooting?… 14%
2 Which of the following do you believe is true?
You can’t deal ingood faith with people who want tougher gun control because their ultimate goalis the elimination of private gun ownership… 75%
Some of thepeople who favor tougher gun control might have some worthwhile ideas…25%
3 Would you spend $3,000 on a rifle or shotgun if doing so didn’t cause afinancial hardship?
Yes, it’s worthit… 44%
I’d never spendthat much money on a gun… 43%
Only on arifle… 8%
Only on ashotgun… 5%
4 If you had the chance to go on the big-game hunt of a lifetime for somethinglike elk or sheep, would you get a new rifle?
Only if mycurrent gun wasn’t adequate for the hunt and/or the game 81%
Yes–you only liveonce 19%
5 Have you ever written to your elected representatives at any level about theirstand on a gun-control issue?
No, I just neverbothered… 29%
No. They’re goingto do what they want, and my letter won’t make a bit of difference… 13%
6 If you could buy a range-calculating riflescope that would just about guaranteehits on game, would you get one?
7 AGREE or DISAGREE: Hunters who use scoped, in-line muzzleloaders are violatingthe spirit of the law, and their guns are no more “primitive” than mostcenterfire deer rifles.
AGREE.Blackpowder hunting is about the challenge of getting close enough to game tomake one sure shot, not just killing an animal… 54%
DISAGREE. Modernblackpowder guns are reliable and accurate, and make for more humane kills thando replicas of primitive guns… 46%
8 What do you think of this survey?
This is the firstgun-owner survey I’ve ever seen that had any guts… 32%
You guys are abunch of knee-jerk liberal blue staters… 2%
“Private gunownership should never be banned at any level. It is a security, a lifestyle,and the ultimate freedom. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shallnot be infringed.” –JUSTIN L. RIOS, WITH A BERETTA 391
“I think thatif people were more educated in safety and awareness that there would be fewerviolent crimes involving firearms. I think that there should be a push for K-12awareness. Guns exist, that’s a fact.” –STEPHEN EK, WITH A REMINGTON 700
“Wake up tothe fact that not all liberals are anti-hunting gun haters.” –ALEXANDER ALLISON, WITH A BROWNING A-BOLT
NOTES FROM DAVIDE. PETZAL
It’s All Aboutthe Sport
TECHNOLOGY HASITS LIMITS, ETHICS COUNTS FOR PLENTY, AND SKILL STILL RULES
The respondentsto this survey showed themselves to be a conscientious bunch. They practice,they sight in their rifles, and they have a strong sense of sporting ethics.For example, at a time when the gun industry uses the ability to shoot at longrange as a major selling point, the overwhelming majority F&S surveyed donot shoot at over 200 yards. Almost half said they do not shoot at runningdeer. A majority felt that in-line muzzleloaders violate the spirit of thelaw.
But the biggestsurprise was the answer to the question “If you could buy arange-calculating rifle-scope that would guarantee hits on game, would you getone?” More people voted no than yes. You would think that, in a society inwhich technology holds the answer to everything, this would be a no-brainer.Guaranteed success? Who’d turn that down? Fifty-one percent of the hunters whoanswered the question, that’s who.
We take off ourhats to them.
“I am tiredof hearing the in-line muzzleloader users tell us that we must support thembecause an attack on them is an attack on guns. My response is ‘Hey jerk, youalready stole my season, so bite me!'”
“I haven’tspent $3,000 on a firearm, but never is a long time.”
EVERYONE HERE IS TOTALLY WRONG!
If you’re a dedicated shooter, you probably disagreewith many of the results on these pages. To discuss the survey with othershooters, and to voice your own opinion, visit David E. Petzal’s Gun Nut Forumat fieldandstream.com/gunnut_forum.