February 28, 2021
By Drew Warden
With the trials and tribulations of 2020 behind us, most folks are looking for reasons to be excited in 2021. While the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined a host of activities many of us love to engage in, last year also saw record numbers of hunters taking to the field—some of them for the very first time.
It's encouraging that, even in dark times, those of us who have always enjoyed hunting were able to engage in that passion amidst the chaos, and that those who are just beginning to explore it stepped out into the woods as well.
Thankfully, whether you're a new hunter or a longtime veteran, you'll be excited to know that the events of last year, while extremely jarring, didn't knock gun manufacturers completely down and out. In fact, many still debuted new products this January when SHOT Show would normally be held.
As in many recent years, one of the most popular cartridges continues to be the 6.5 Creedmoor. A ton of gun and ammo manufacturers are still catering to the 14-year-old cartridge, indicating its footing in the hunting and shooting world remains on solid ground.
Long story short, if you're a fan of hunting with this flat-shooting cartridge, there are a lot of new rifles to be excited about in 2021.
Savage Arms IMPULSE Big Game
Savage's IMPULSE rifle series, which also includes Predator and Hog Hunter variants, is one of the more intriguing introductions for 2021. Straight-pull bolt-action rifles have existed since the late 19th century, and they've been popular among many shooters and hunters, partly due to their incredibly fast cycling. Unlike traditional bolt actions, which require four movements, a straight pull requires only two: backward to extract a cartridge, and forward to chamber the next. However, despite their popularity overseas in Europe—where the vast majority of straight-pull rifles are produced—they've never quite caught on to the same extent in the U.S. Savage is looking to change this perception with the IMPULSE, which incorporates the company's new Hexlock straight-pull system as well as quality features like a stylish KUIU Verde 2.0 Camo AccuStock with AccuFit adjustments for length of pull and comb height and the user-adjustable AccuTrigger.
MSRP: $1,449 | savagearms.com
Winchester XPR TrueTimber Strata MB
The XPR has been Winchester's workhorse in the affordably priced rifle category for the past six years, and it has done well in that capacity. This year, the new TrueTimber Strata MB is one of three limited-edition XPRs being offered for the 2021 SHOT Show. With a TrueTimber Strata camo composite stock, a protective flat dark earth Perma-Cote finish on the barrel and action, a precision button-rifled barrel with a muzzle brake—hence, the MB in the name—and Winchester's MOA Trigger System, there's a lot to offer any hardcore hunter for the price.
MSRP: $699.99 | winchesterguns.com
Mossberg Patriot Long Range Hunter
Mossberg's classic Patriot rifle gets some features to help shooters stretch their legs this year. One of the biggest upgrades includes a new stock, which features a Monte Carlo-style elevated comb, aluminum pillar bedding, deep-contoured grip wells and a flat-bottomed benchrest fore-end. The Long Range Hunter also utilizes Mossberg's LBA adjustable trigger. It comes with a 22-inch fluted and threaded matte-finish blued barrel with a 1:8 twist, and the rifle weighs 6 1/2 pounds overall.
MSRP: $766 | mossberg.com
CZ-USA 557 Eclipse
The new 557 Eclipse trims some fat off CZ's classic 557 to create a no-nonsense affordably priced rifle perfect for any hunter. This rifle swaps the 557's original wood furniture with a glass-reinforced polymer stock but retains the same strong pistol grip, slight palm swell and high, flat comb. The new stock also features a Soft Touch surface finish that offers grip while standing up to any weather conditions and harsh treatment. Like the standard 557, it utilizes a precision push-feed action CNC'd from steel billet and the same cold hammer-forged barrel. The Eclipse holds five rounds in a hinged floorplate magazine, and the 6.5 Creedmoor version comes with 5/8"-24 threads for muzzle attachments such as a suppressor.
MSRP: $659.00 | cz-usa.com
Browning X-Bolt Mountain Pro
A new Browning limited-availability release for SHOT Show 2021 is its X-Bolt Mountain Pro. As might be expected of any rifle carrying the "Mountain" moniker, this X-Bolt is a lightweight rifle intended for the backcountry. In fact, at 5 pounds, 14 ounces, it weighs almost a pound less than the standard X-Bolt Hunter due to its carbon-fiber stock. With lighter rifles, however, comes the potential for increased felt recoil, and so Browning has included a new muzzle brake, which it's dubbed the Recoil Hawg. The manufacturer states that the brake reduces felt recoil up to 77 percent (depending on the caliber). The Mountain Pro has a lapped, spiral-fluted sporter-contour barrel that runs 22 inches when chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. It's available in two Cerakote finish options: Burnt Bronze or Tungsten.
MSRP: $2,399.99 | browning.com
I hunted with the Lupo in Nebraska back in 2019 ahead of its official launch at last year's SHOT Show. While I didn't tag out on that trip, I had the chance there, and back home, to spend some time shooting the rifle. It was accurate and impressive then, and now, for 2021, it's going to be offered in three new calibers, including the 6.5 Creedmoor. The Lupo is a chassis-style hunting rifle that’s packed with awesome features. Things like a Crio-treated free-floating barrel, Benelli's Progressive Comfort recoil reduction system, a user-adjustable trigger, AirTouch Grip surfaces, a fluted bolt and an insane amount of custom fit possibilities—36 positions in all—courtesy of the company's Perfect Fitting System. And the .30-06 Springfield version I tested was certainly capable of the three-shot sub-MOA accuracy Benelli guarantees. I have no doubt the 6.5 Creedmoor version will prove just as accurate, if not more.
MSRP: $1,699 | benelliusa.com
Savage Arms 110 Ultralite Camo
One of two new additions to Savage's Backcountry Xtreme Series—the other being the 110 Timberline (also available in 6.5 Creedmoor)—the 110 Ultralite Camo is a textbook light mountain rifle. The result of a collaboration with Proof Research, this rifle comes in under 6 pounds and is chock-full of excellent characteristics. Its carbon-fiber wrapped stainless steel barrel and melonite skeletonized receiver contribute to its scant weight, while things like Savage's AccuFit technology and user-adjustable AccuTrigger ensure help ensure an accurate, comfortable rifle. Oh, and did I mention it wears a slick KUIU Verde 2.0 camo on its synthetic sporter-style stock and has a stylish spiral-fluted bolt?
MSRP: $1,589.00 | savagearms.com
Springfield Armory Model 2020 Waypoint
Today's Springfield Armory has predominantly been known for its handguns and more tactical-style semi-auto rifles. However, this past fall, the manufacturer introduced a brand-new bolt-action rifle in the form of its aptly named Model 2020. This looks like it will constitute an entire series of new rifles, but for now the first introduction is the Model 2020 Waypoint. The new Waypoint is available in 32 different configurations, including eight in 6.5 Creedmoor. The rifle comes outfitted with either a carbon-fiber wrapped or traditional fluted stainless steel barrel, an AG Composites carbon-fiber stock pillar-bedded to the action is available with either a fixed or adjustable comb, and the Waypoint wears a Ridgeline or Evergreen camo pattern. The 2020 action looks to be solid in terms of engagement and extraction, with dual locking lugs, an optimized extraction cam, dual cocking cams and a fluted bolt that runs smoothly on EDM raceways. Rifles also feature a radial muzzle brake, an adjustable TriggerTech trigger and feed from the reliable AICS pattern magazines. With weights for most models in 6.5 Creedmoor hovering just on either side of 7 pounds, the rifle could serve as mountain rifle if called upon. I might've saved the best for last: It comes with a .75 MOA accuracy guarantee.
MSRP: $1,699.00-$2,399.00 | springfield-armory.com
Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic Green
Looking for a rifle to withstand weather and abuse? Weatherby's new Vanguard Synthetic Green might be the ticket. Like other Vanguard rifles, it carries a sub-MOA guarantee and features an adjustable match-quality, two-stage trigger; a one-piece machined fluted bolt body; a three-position safety; a cold hammer-forged barrel; and a hinged floorplate magazine. Where it differs is in the green Monte Carlo-style Griptonite stock with pistol grip and fore-end inserts and right-side palmswell, as well as the bead-blasted matte finish on the barrel and metalwork.
MSRP: $619.00 | weatherby.com
Browning X-Bolt Western Hunter Long Range
This new rifle from Browning, as its name suggests, is tailored to long-range hunting. It uses a heavy sporter-contour, free-floated 26-inch barrel bedded at the front and rear of the action for improved stability and accuracy. It contains all sorts of great features like the Browning X-Bolt's new Feather Trigger, built-in X-Lock scope mounts, a new detachable rotary magazine and a new adjustable comb system. An extended ergonomic bolt handle and 60-degree bolt throw ensure smooth operation on the shooter's part, and the gun's composite stock with A-TACS AU camo finish should hold up to whatever Mother Nature can dish out.
MSRP: $1,099.99 | browning.com