Guns & Ammo editors, contributors and staff present 2017's pre-eminent firearms, optic, ammunition, suppressor and innovation awards. Only products made available to consumers this last year qualify for consideration. Candidates that were introduced but experienced delays in shipping to retailers were excluded from voting. During our roundtable discussions, more weight towards the outcome was given to products engineered from the ground up and to those that potentially impact the greatest number of readers. Therefore, when faced with deciding between two otherwise equally important new products, the more affordable choice broke ties in our voting.
G&A acquired several samples of each candidate throughout 2017 for thorough evaluation. Products that produced doubt in reliability and consistent manufacturing standards were removed from the list of contenders. G&A determined the winner for each category on a point system relating to three criteria. First, the product must have been new and available for purchase. A line extension of an existing product doesn't earn the emphasis as one possessing innovative features and engineering. Second, it must have demonstrated quality and reliability to a degree that met or exceeded its design objective. Lastly, the winner offered the greatest appeal to the masses. G&A's staff awarded points in this third fulfillment following a survey of in-store availability and retail pricing to ensure the product exists and offers great value.
To protect the credibility of the Guns & Ammo of the Year Award, no manufacturers, advertisers or sales representatives were informed of our selection prior to the printing of this article. As always, there are no second-place winners or honorable mentions. What follows is a summary list of 2017's best products currently offered by the firearm industry.
Handgun of the Year: CZ P-10 C
CZ P-10 C, The U.S. Army's Modular Handgun System (MHS) pistol competition challenged all handgun manufacturers to develop a polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol. Though some makers didn't submit what they had developed, the public's interest in the program gave momentum to the commercial interest in new striker-fired pistols. As challengers for the MHS were eliminated, most companies brought a variant to market and satisfied each brand's loyalists.
Due to the number of new pistols introduced in 2017, no category was more difficult to judge this year than G&A's Handgun of the Year. After thousands of rounds were fired through several examples of each, the CZ P-10 C took G&A's top honor.
CZ did what no other company had the courage to do, at the time: design a pistol with similar proportions to the successful Glock 19. The P-10 C proved just as accurate and still improved on the G19's handling with an excellent grip texture, contours, and a better trigger press. Best of all, we found that retail pricing starts at $500, which is about $100 to $200 less than a new Glock Gen4 or Gen5 model.
An attractive flat-dark-earth (FDE) variant will be introduced in 2018, which is certain to pave the way for other size configurations and calibers. CZ-USA has informed G&A that many P-10 C variants will be manufactured in the U.S. The P-10 C is more than just an alternative to those who like the G19, it's a real challenger to Glock's domination in this market segment. The P-10 C signals a bright future for CZ-USA. Visit www.cz-usa.com.
Rifle of the Year: Barrett Fieldcraft
Barrett Fieldcraft took top honors for Guns & Ammo's 2017's Rifle of the Year for several reasons. What made the new Fieldcraft stand out is its balance in offering lightweight handling and reliable, sub-minute accuracy for those headed to arduous mountain ranges.
Barrett kept weight down by building a round action that's 1.25 inches in diameter instead of just mimicking the Remington 700 footprint, which is 1.38 inches in diameter. There's nothing wrong with the size of an M700, it's just portly for lightweight rifles.
The two-lug action has an improved SAKO-style extractor that sits atop the outermost bolt lug and a plunger ejector that sits high on the bolt face. Between shaving ounces by going with a smaller diameter action and paying attention to the bolt's working parts, Barrett created an ideal hunting action.
The stock is the rest of the story. This stock's design roots go back to the 1980s. Barrett was wise and utilized a stock first engineered by Melvin Forbes (and a couple of his friends) using a combination of the lightest and strongest materials available. Finished weight for the stock sits at 26 ounces, and the barreled action is bedded from the rear tang to the tip of the stock's forend. The comb is high and slopes down towards the action so that it pulls away from the shooter's face under recoil.
Overall, the Fieldcraft is an exceptional design. Barrett has crafted one of the finest hunting rifles in existence and is fit to be named as this year's best. Visit www.barrett.net.
Shotgun of the Year: Winchester SX4
WINCHESTER SX4 Shotgunners are demanding more from scatterguns now than ever. Aside from hitting what they're aimed at, there's an expectation for shotguns to swing light, instantly cycle, lack felt recoil, and run any load that can be found on a store shelf — all while enduring the harshest of field conditions.
During G&A's 2017 evaluation, the self-adapting, Active Valve Gas System in the SX4 — carried over from the SX3 — accommodated the adaptability required for reliable function with different pressures and payloads. Excess gas not needed to reliably cycle the action is funneled away from the user through the Quada-Vent ports in the forend. When combined with positive ergonomics and Winchester's Inflex recoil pad, the SX4 proved to be the most comfortable shotgun fired from awkward shooting positions.
Ergonomic updates include a pistol grip that's slimmer. It was opined by G&A's testers that the grip was more comfortable than other contours for use among both right- and left-handed shooters. The larger bolt handle, bolt release, and reversible crossbolt safety are easy to reach and intuitive to operate. The balance of the SX4 is further forward than most semiautomatics, which enables a fluid swing, smooth tracking and excellent follow through.
The SX4 also comes with spacers, which can be interchanged to accommodate different lengths of pull (LOP) for shotgunners of different sizes. Use of these spacers gave us the ability to fine-tune comfort and pointability. Each spacer changes LOP by a quarter inch, which offered each of us the chance for a custom fit to produce the best results in the field and on the range. Visit www.winchesterguns.com.
Ammo of the Year: Winchester Deer Season XP
More sportsmen hunt whitetails than any other animal in the U.S. Mule deer is second. In recent times, hunting ammunition development has focused on long-range opportunities or thick-skinned animals. While evaluating Deer Season XP in the field, we sat in our blinds and on our stands wondering why so little attention has been devoted to enhancing bullet performance in deer loads beyond colorful packaging. Well, that's all history now that we have Deer Season XP for the most popular calibers.
Deer Season XP performs as if it were a more expensive black box of Winchester ammunition. Given the appeal of hunting whitetails, mulies, blacktails — and even antelope — has among American hunters, Winchester made a brilliant decision to keep 20 rounds of this load priced so that every hunter can afford it.
In our survey of nearly 20 deer harvested, none required a second, follow-up shot. The terminal effects read like a misprint when our studies reported a 21/2-inch average hole in the ribs just beyond penetration. Deer Season XP proved to us that it could dump around 80 percent of its energy within 3 to 4 inches of entry, which is ideal for use on thin-skinned deer.
Energy is lost as velocity decreases, which is why Deer Season XP's velocities measured at 400 yards proved unequalled. Due to the contour of the large polymer tip, seamless assembly of tip and tapered copper jacket and reliable effects in the field, Winchester Deer Season XP earned G&A's highest recommendation. Visit www.winchester.com.
Optic of the Year: Leupold VX-3i Long Range Precision (LRP)
Leupold VX-3i Long Range Precision (LRP) scope is Guns & Ammo's 2017 Optic of the Year. The LRP family of scopes offers 4.5-14X, 6.5-20X and 8.5-25X magnification ranges with 50mm objectives for well under $1,300. (We even found a number of examples offered at the counter for less than a grand!)
Leupold has given the VX-3i lens coatings that give it excellent image quality — even better than we've seen on the more expensive Mark 4 line. Low-light performance also benefited across the line with Leupold's Twilight Max system.
The other significant improvement we found over the Mark 4 is with the turret system on the VX-3i LRP. Leupold added a capped windage turret and an easy-to-read and simple-to-operate elevation turret. This was a wise decision when considering the many new long-range shooters.
Once the VX-3i is zeroed to a rifle, just loosen two screws on the cap to lift, turn and replace it with the "0" mark lined up with the witness mark. Not only is the elevation turret zeroed, the zero stop is also set.
These scopes are sure to please long-range competitors, hunters and shooters alike with a choice of first or second focal plane reticles, 1/4 MOA or 1„10 mil turret adjustments and a 30mm maintube for a generous field of view. Visit www.leupold.com.
Suppressor of the Year: Daniel Defense Wave
Daniel defense wave The failure point of most sound suppressors are the welds, even the quality brands. The Wave has none. The Wave breaks new ground in suppressor manufacturing because it's actually three-dimensional (3-D) printed from powdered Inconel 718, a nickel-based alloy. 3-D printing allow Daniel Defense (DD) to customize a cascading baffle design. Unnecessary material thickness was reduced in several areas, while other critical points were reinforced.
For 2017, the DD Wave was offered for only 7.62-calibers, and produced in two versions: a direct-mount model with 5„8-24 threads and a quick-detach (QD) model that utilizes a coupling attachment point and mates to DD's proprietary muzzlebrake, which is included with each Wave.
The Wave is .300 Win. Mag. rated, which means that it will suppress all platforms chambered in .30 caliber or less, including 6.5 Creedmoor, .300 BLK, 5.56 NATO — and even .22LR!
It might not be the shortest or lightest, but it does everything well.
During G&A's evaluation, we determined that you can expect a sound reduction at the shooters ear between 30 and 40 decibels, depending on the platform, ammunition pressures and environmentals. The DD Wave starts at $986.
Innovation of the Year: Magpul X-22 Backpacker Stock
The X-22 Backpacker stock for the Ruger 10/22 Takedown (TD) model is nothing less than brilliance for $110. An old favorite of bush pilots and backcountry adventurers, a 10/22 TD placed in Magpul's Backpacker stock is reminiscent of the Henry AR-7 U.S. Survival Rifle, which was also chambered in .22LR.
Unique to the X-22 is how the forend and barrel assembly lock into the stock during storage or transport. Remove the barrel assembly by pressing the takedown plunger under the forearm and slide the chamber of the barrel into a rubberized sleeve at the stock's toe.
Aside from the convenience of the Backpacker's ability to stow within itself, two integrated storage compartments proved genius. The first compartment is in the grip, which is O-ring-sealed and water tight. It was designed to accept a Victorinox Huntsman knife, matches and tinder, plastic bags and more.
The second compartment is under the hinged, removable and replaceable comb. It was engineered to accept three 10-round 10/22 magazines or one 10-round magazine and a cardboard box of 50 cartridges. Removable dividers prevent rattling, and aid security. We set up our compartment to hold two mags and two small baggies containing 20 rounds each, which added up to 60 rounds — not to include an inserted magazine. That equals an afternoon of fun in a small, compact package. Visit www.magpul.com.