New Guns for 2008

New technologies and specialized firearms are helping sportsmen find the perfect combination of guns, ammunition and optics for their style of hunting.

The most significant progress in hunting rifles this year is an industry-wide focus on improving trigger pull for standard-production products, and providing trigger adjustability mechanisms that shooters can operate themselves. That's a long-overdue development, and a welcome indication that gun makers have finally decided that the needs of their customers are more important than liability considerations.

We also see AR-platform rifles, particularly in original AR-10 .308-receiver configurations, continuing to be introduced by mainstream manufacturers in specific hunting configurations in an ever-widening range of commonly used and popular cartridge chamberings. It's merely the same process by which military-origin lever-action and bolt-action rifles moved into the hunting world in past centuries.

At the same time, we see a continuation of the trend toward ever-lighter, ever-quicker, and ever-more-comfortable tools. New hunting rifles with short and more compact actions, chambered for ever-more-efficient cartridges, continue to surge. Here is a closer look into some of the top hunting rifle picks for 2008.

BERETTA/SAKO A7 RIFLE
Beretta, which owns both SAKO and Tikka, has introduced the new Sako A7, based on the Sako 75 at a lower price. Like the Sako 75, it has an adjustable trigger (2.2-pound minimum pull) and a three-lug bolt with 70-degree throw. There is a new three-round detachable magazine, with an improved latching mechanism taken from the Sako 85.

Differing from the Sako 75, the A7 does not have a receiver-top scope-ring dovetail, but ships with American-style Weaver-type scope mounting blocks front and rear. Unlike any other production-grade rifle, the A7 comes with a manufacturer's five-shot accuracy guarantee: "Each rifle must place five shots within one inch at 100 yards or it doesn't ship."

The Sako A7 weight averages 6.5 pounds, with a 14-inch length of pull. Available chamberings include most popular short-action and long-action cartridges, including short mags, from .243 Winchester to .300 Win Mag. (www.sakoa7.net).

CZ-USA MODEL 527 AMERICAN
The reasonable price of the extremely high-quality CZ-USA Model 527 American is gaining it a growing popularity among discerning U.S. centerfire small-bore shooters. It has all the features of the elegant CZ-USA Model 527 Lux rifle, but in an American-style package designed specifically for the American market. It is available in .22 Hornet, .221 Fireball, .222 Remington, .223 Remington, and .204 Ruger chamberings -- all with a wide selection of wooden and laminated stock styles.

Now come left-hand versions of the Model 527 American, with left side bolt and eject, in .223 Remington and .204 Ruger. Exactly like the mirror-image right-hand models, they feature a classic American pattern Turkish stock, 18 LPI checkering, forged square bridge receiver, detachable five-round magazine, controlled round feed claw extractor, single set trigger, and a hammer-forged 21.8-inch free-floated barrel with recessed target crown. (www.cz-usa.com).

MARLIN XL7 BOLT RIFLE
Marlin Firearms has added centerfire bolt-action rifles to its product lineup. The first model in the new series is the XL7, available in black synthetic or Realtree APG-HD camo, chambered in .30/06, .270 Winchester and .25/06 Remington. The XL7 includes Marlin's new Pro-Fire trigger, a new Marlin Soft-Tech recoil pad and a lightweight pillar-bedded synthetic stock.

The Marlin-designed Pro-Fire trigger system is user-adjustable, virtually creep-free and can be set to break at a crisp 2 1/2 pounds. The Pro-Fire trigger release prevents movement of the trigger until it is depressed.

Other notable XL7 features include a fluted bolt for smooth cycling, steel sling swivel studs, high-polished blued-steel finish, checkered bolt handle, recessed barrel crown and classic American-style checkering molded into the lightweight synthetic stock. The rifles have an MSRP of $326 for the black synthetic model, and $356 for the camouflaged model. (www.marlinfirearms.com).

MAUSER M 03 TRAIL RIFLE
The compact new synthetic-stock Mauser M 03 Trail model is a brush hunter's dream. Unique new features include a high-visibility, orange-colored polymer "Muzzle-Safe" patch cover system to keep moisture or foreign objects out of the 18 1/2-inch barrel. It fits into a special recess in the muzzle, and can be shot out of the way with no effect on the safety or accuracy (25 patches are included).

A new no-tools-required "Mag-Safe" magazine lock secures the removable box magazine against accidental dropout. New 3-Dot fluorescent orange open sights provide quick target acquisition in adverse light conditions. There is a rotating 360-degree sling swivel at the end of the barrel, an additional swivel at the fore-end, along with two sunken swivel studs on the bottom and side of the butt.

Fluorescent orange elastomer inlays for the fore-end and pistol grip are optional, and it's available in right- or left-hand models. Chamberings include .308 Winchester, .30/06, 7x57mm Mauser and 9.3x62mm. (www.mauser.com).

MOSSBERG MODEL 464
Mossberg has responded to the demise of the venerable Winchester Model 94, .30/30 "deer rifle" with the all-new Mossberg Model 464 Lever Action Rifle, its own rendition of that American Classic, refined and improved. Traditional lever-action rifles continue to serve a well-recognized niche within the hunting community, and with a new design centered on improved accuracy, safety and value, the Model 464 maintains the classic lines of a deer hunter's old best friend.

It weighs in at 6.7 pounds and has an overall length of 38 1/2 inches. The balance point is precisely at the juncture of the fore-end and receiver. The combination of weight, balance and a smooth yet robust action makes the 464 Lever Action Rifle tremendously fast handling, maneuverable and astoundingly accurate -- all the qualities a traditional lever action are known for. (www.mossberg.com).

REMINGTON MODEL R-25
The new Remington Model R-25 is designed specifically for hunters, initially available in .243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington and .308 Winchester -- three of today's most popular short-action cartridges. With the hunter in mind, the R-25 incorporates the most advanced design aspects of AR-platform .308 Winchester-style rifles available today.

For accuracy, the R-25 features a precision-crafted 20-inch barrel with recessed hunting crown that's free-floated within a machined-aluminum fore-end tube for shot-to-shot consistency. Six longitudinal flutes forward of the gas block provide increased rigidity and weight reduction while promoting rapid barrel cooling. The ergonomic pistol grip and lightweight overall design of the R-25 provide excellent handling qualities.

The upper and lower receivers are machined from aluminum forgings for durability. Each Model R-25 is completely covered in the ultra-effective Mossy Oak Treestand camouflage pattern. Each rifle also is provided with a four-round magazine and is compatible with all aftermarket AR .308 Winchester type magazines and accessories. (www.remington.com).

M77 RUGER COMPACT MAGNUM
The new M77 Ruger Compact Magnum Hawkeyes with 20-inch barrels were designed with Hornady specifically for the .300 and .338 Ruger Compact Magnum cartridges. Features include the smooth, crisp Ruger LC6 trigger for improved out-of-the-box trigger pull, and a red rubber recoil pad that provides more effective recoil reduction. Other Ruger M77 Hawkeye rifle elements are the Mauser-type controlled feeding and powerful claw extractor, three-position safety, hammer-forged steel barrels and Ruger scope rings. The design of the patented steel floor plate, which bears the distinctive Ruger logo, provides easy unloading and eliminates accidental "dumping" of ammunition.

Two versions of the Ruger M77 RCM Hawkeye rifles are available. The matte blued version features the M77 Hawkeye's walnut stock with wraparound cut checkering on the forearm and more rounded contours on the bottom of the stock and top of the pistol grip. The matte stainless version has a synthetic stock with a new recoil pad. (www.ruger-firearms.com).

SAVAGE PREDATOR HUNTER
The new Savage Model 10 Predator Hunter is a fully camouflaged short-action rifle designed either for an all-day stand on vermin or as a "walking varminter" for moving from position after coyotes or woodchucks. Available in .204 Ruger, .223 Remington or .22/250, it features a 22-inch free-floated medium-contour barrel, pillar-bedded synthetic stock with sling swivel studs, molded fore-end and pistol grip checkering, an oversized bolt handle for ease of use with mittened hands, and the varmint-grade Savage AccuTrigger, adjustable from 1.5 to 6 pounds.

Magazine capacity in all chamberings is four rounds. The receiver comes with two Weaver-style scope bases attached (also camoed). The camo pattern is Mossy Oak's superb year-round and all-country "Brush" pattern, and the rifle is also available as a package already fitted with a Brush-camoed Simmons 3-9X scope. Without scope, the Predator weighs 7 1/2 pounds, much less than a typical 11-pound full-sized heavy-barrel varmint rifle. (www.savagearms.com).

SMITH & WESSON I-BOLT
Smith & Wesson's new I-Bolt rifle offers several innovations. At the heart of the I-Bolt is the "E-Z Turn" bolt release, which requires no side-buttons or external mechanical parts. To extract the bolt, the user must simply push, turn and release. The aggressive three-lug bolt features a short 60-degree travel and tactile/visual cocking indicator. The patent-pending Tru-Set trigger allows the user to adjust the trigger pull from 3 to 6 pounds without removing the barreled action from the stock. By simply inserting and turning the quick-click tool inside the trigger guard, the user can decrease or increase the trigger pull in 1-pound increments.

Smith & Wesson has also designed a three-position, semi-lineal safety with a positive "middle position" detent, not traditionally found in arc movement safeties. The I-Bolt features a 23-inch free-floated Thompson/Center precision match grade barrel, and a rigid synthetic stock with patent-pending X-Bed technology. (www.smith-wesson.com).

THOMPSON/CENTER ICON
Thompson/Center Arms has now introduced three long-action chamberings in its new ICON bolt-action rifle: .30/06, 7mm Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum. Featuring a 24-inch, button-rifled, match grade barrel, the ICON comes standard with a 5R rifling design that enables long-term accuracy and consistency, and a 60-degree chamfered crown. The solid-top receiver has integral Weaver-style rails in front of and behind the ejection port.

Stock fit features an innovative Interlok bedding system that contains three integral recoil lugs designed to interlock with the flat bottom receiver and the aluminum bedding block. A visual and tactical cocking indicator is integrated into the rear of the bolt sleeve. The ICON's full-diameter, three-lug bolt incorporates an interchangeable bolt handle, 60-degree bolt lift and a skeletonized shroud. The trigger is fully adjustable from 2 1/2 to 6 pounds without removing the action from the stock. ICON barrels are free-floated. (www.tcarms.com).

WEATHERBY VANGUARD CUSTOM
Weatherby has introduced two new custom Vanguards engineered for specific environments -- the Sage Country for sparse, open prairie and the Back Country for high-altitude hunting.

The Vanguard Sage Country has an injection-molded stock with a Desert Camo finish. The rifle's matte black metalwork is paired with a 24-inch chrome moly barrel, eliminating game-spooking glare while improving accuracy. The Sage Country features a low-density, rubber recoil pad. The Vanguard Back Country weighs in at a meager 6 3/4 pounds and is designed for hunters trekking rough terrain in high altitudes. The rifle's stainless steel metalwork and fluted barrel are bead blasted to a matte finish, eliminating game-spooking glare while helping to resist the ill effects of rain or snow. Pillar bedded for improved accuracy, the Back Country features an ultralight composite stock. To reduce recoil, the stock is butted with a Pachmayr Decelerator pad. (www.weatherby.com).

WINCHESTER MODEL 70
The Winchester Model 70 returns for 2008 with an all-new MOA Trigger System, improved fit and finish. and enhanced accuracy to go along with its classic pre-64 controlled round feeding, three-position safety and sure handling.

Completely redesigned to exhibit zero take up, zero creep and zero over-travel, the new Model 70 MOA trigger system operates on a simple pivoting lever principle. Pull weight ranges from 3 to 5 pounds and is factory-set at 3 3/4 pounds. Model 70 barrels are cold hammer-forged from a solid billet of steel for accuracy and long life. The chamber is reamed and the bolt is head spaced.

The company warrants 1 MOA accuracy for three-shot groups using a properly managed barrel, quality match ammo and superior optics under ideal weather and range conditions. The Model 70's blade-type ejector allows full control when ejecting a fired case. The new Winchester Model 70 will be offered in a Super Grade, Featherweight Deluxe, Sporter Deluxe and Extreme Weather SS models for 2008. (www.winchesterguns.com).

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