Each year, firearms and ammunition manufacturers roll out new models, but many of these items are quite similar to (and are designed to compete with) products that already exist. Competition in the hunting industry is fierce, however, and that competition has led to a lead-or-get-out-of-the-way mentality that keeps companies striving to improve and create new products that are truly revolutionary. Sometimes, it’s a major change, and sometimes, even the smallest upgrades make a big difference in the field.
Of all the new items that have come down the pipeline in recent years, I’ve picked eight I think represent a step forward for hunters. Here’s a look at some of the products poised to forever change the way you hunt.
- MAKE: Federal Premium Ammunition
- MODEL: .50 Caliber Trophy Copper
- RETAIL: $19 (pack of 15)
Muzzleloaders have improved greatly over the last two decades, and Federal has made these guns even more user friendly with the launch of its new Trophy Copper Muzzleloader ammo.
Gone is the traditional sabot jacket; it is replaced instead with a polymer base cup that expands to create a superb gas seal. The copper bullet, itself, features external skiving for reliable, consistent penetration. Plus, the B.O.R. Lock MZ cup makes loading much easier than with a traditional sabot.
- MAKE: Benelli
- MODEL: Ethos Shotgun
- GAUGE: 28 gauge (also 12 and 20 gauge)
- SIZE: 2¾ and 3 inch
- MSRP: $1,999
The Ethos is one of Benelli’s flagship semiautos; it is the culmination of decades of refinement and tuning on the company’s Inertia-Driven action.
The 12-gauge version came first, then the 20 gauge, and now, Benelli has rolled out a 28-gauge version of its sleek scattergun. The 28 has the same classy looks and feel of the larger Ethos models, but there’s something very special about this gun: It’s the very fi rst semiauto 28 gauge chambered for 3-inch shells. Now, the 28 is a legitimate, all-around weapon for hunting larger upland birds such as pheasant and chukar, and it’s a teal gun par excellence.
- MAKE: Hornady
- MODEL: ELD-X
- CALIBERS: .270 Win, 7mm-08 Rem, .280 Rem, .300 WSM, .300 Weatherby Mag, 6.5 Creed, 7mm Rem Mag, .308 Win, .30-06 Sprg, .300 RCM. Bullet components: .270, 7mm, 6.5mm, .308
- MSRP: $49–$55
Hornady engineers were using Doppler radar to test bullets in flight and noticed something odd: The polymer tip on the bullet was heating and melting due to friction from the air. To remedy this, Hornady developed a special polymer tip that could withstand the heat of friction without falling apart. This new tip gave rise to the ELD-X bullet, which stands for “extremely low drag-eXpanding.”
At closer ranges and at lower velocities, the bullet’s tapered jacket helps it retain 50 to 60 percent of its weight. At long ranges, where velocities dip, the ELD-X tip drives back into the bullet upon impact to initiate expansion. The ELDX is also available as a reloading component.
- MAKE: Browning Ammunition
- MODEL: BXC
- CALIBERS: .270 Win, 7mm Rem Mag, .308 Win, .30-06 Sprg, .300 Win Mag, .300 WSM
- RETAIL: $36–$45
Browning’s new, controlled-expansion BXC bullet uses an anodized aluminum tip for higher ballistic coefficients and stability to the target. However, on impact, this bullet begins expanding, and the bonded jacket and core hold together for maximum weight retention.
It’s a slick, new design that will work wonders for dropping even the toughest game, and the heavy bullet design (185 grains for the .30-06) gives this projectile enough heft to provide reliable, deadly shots. If you’re chasing tough game such as elk, moose, bear, aoudad or big hogs, this is your hammer.
- MAKE: Mossberg
- MODEL: 500 Flex
- GAUGE: 12 gauge; 20 gauge (some models)
- MSRP: Starting at $473
Mossberg’s pump shotguns are known for their reliability and versatility, but the FLEX system takes this to a whole new level.
Not only can you swap out the barrel, you can also change the stock and the forearm to configure this shotgun any way you’d like. So, in a matter of minutes, you can go from a defensive pump to a big-game gun to an upland or trap gun. And if you have small-statured shooters at home, you can quickly adjust the length of pull by swapping out stocks.
- MAKE: Remington
- MODEL: Model 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader
- BARREL LENGTH: 26 inches
- OVERALL LENGTH: 47 inches
- CALIBER: .50
- MSRP: Starting at $949
Muzzleloaders have come a long way, but Remington took the next major step in its development with the introduction of the 700 UML. It utilizes a very clever ignition system that looks like the sawed-off rear portion of a .308 Winchester cartridge (you can even reload them), and the action is lifted straight from the Model 700 line.
There’s even a floorplate with space inside to hold three additional ignition cases, and the crisp X-Mark trigger comes standard. Loaded with 200 grains of powder, it drives a 250-grain Accutip bullet at 2,400 fps from the muzzle, making this a legitimate 300-yard rifle that’s easy to clean.
- MAKE: Winchester Ammunition
- MODEL: Blind Side
- GAUGE: 12 and 20 gauge
- RETAIL: $25–$30
Winchester’s Blind Side is an idea 40 years in the making. Back in the 1970s, engineers knew that round hexahedron shot was extraordinarily effective at killing birds, but the problem was that there was no way to stabilize it.
Winchester managed to jump that hurdle with the introduction of the Diamond Cut Wad, which has three wings that fold out like brakes to help provide a more uniform pattern. The hexahedron steel packs more evenly than round shot so that you can increase payload in your shells, and the damage these pellets inflict is severe, so birds drop very quickly.
Blind Side is made from steel wire that is cut, and the angled design comes from a special medium that helps chamfer the familiar angles onto each pellet. But as a waterfowl hunter, you won’t need to worry about that. All that will concern you is how devastating these loads really are.
- MAKE: Weatherby
- MODEL: 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum
- MSRP: $98
Weatherby is known for producing fast magnum cartridges, so when the 6.5 craze came about, it was no surprise that Weatherby decided to enter the fray. The company already had a selection of brass from which to choose, and the .300 Weatherby Magnum case was the winner.
By squeezing the .300’s neck to .264 inch, Weatherby created a blistering-hot 6.5 that would work on any game up to, and including, elk. The high ballistic coefficient and sectional densities of the heavy 6.5s made them a natural choice for this round, and the 127-grain Barnes LRX load pushes a 127-grain pill at more than 3,500 fps.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the January 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.