Photo: Michael Anschuetz
Guns & Ammo editors, contributors and staff present 2018’s pre-eminent firearms, optic, ammunition, suppressor and innovation awards. Only products made commercially available this last year qualify for nomination. Candidates that were introduced in 2018, but have yet to be shipped to retailers were excluded from our voting process.
During our roundtable discussions, products developed from the ground up and those that possessed the greatest potential impact to the greatest number of readers were given additional value when scored. When having to decide between two otherwise equally important new products, the more affordable choice typically broke the tie in our voting. This year, we have made our first exception to this rule with the shotgun category.
G&A acquired several samples of each nominee throughout 2018 for a comprehensive evaluation. Products that caused doubt in their reliability and manufacturing methods were eliminated from the list of candidates.
The winner for each category resulted from a point system once three criteria were met: First, the product must have been new and available for purchase in 2018. A line extension of an existing product didn’t earn the points 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 must offer the greatest appeal to the masses. G&A’s staff awarded points in this third principle 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 awards, no manufacturers, advertisers or sales representatives were informed of our selection. What follows is a summary list of 2018’s best new products now offered by the firearm industry.Winner:
Hornady Critical Defense Rifle and Subsonic Ammo
Until now, shooters have been challenged by ammunition limitations and function in short-barrled rifles (SBR) and suppressed rifles. This year, Hornady has solved both conundrums with two loads that feature its flexible-tip expanding (FTX) bullet technology.
The FTX technology in Hornady’s new Critical Defense Rifle and Subsonic loads was recently adopted by the FBI in the Critical Duty round designed for handguns. Transferring FTX tech into bullets designed for rifles should have been an expected evolution.
The technology improves terminal bullet performance at low velocities and ranges beyond close-quarters distances. Specifically, the red FTX tip prevents bullet-nose clogging while also controlling expansion as the bullet passes through barriers, which is why we’ve seen unparalleled consistency. We haven’t observed overpenetration or flash as we have with other bullets. The subsonic, 190-grain .300 Blackout load is even better.
G&A has yet to find a personal-defense rifle load that performs as predictably as these. This may be the apogee for self-defense rifle ammunition.