For 2002, the trend in rifles appears to be radical. The new breed of short magnums is gaining favor with some and disdain from others. But so it was when the .30-03 replaced the 45-70 as America's official service rifle cartridge and when the .308 Winchester touted the same ballistics as the rock-solid .30-06. And, if you are dragging 50, like many of us, you will remember the furor that was raised when the M-14 and the 7.62mm NATO round was relegated to the back rack in favor of the M-16 and the 5.56mm NATO.
But, enough about change. The trend for shorter action magnums with the same performance as their longer brothers has merit. In most cases, the recoil is noticeably less. The new short magnums are being offered in a firearm with a new design, however. The 2002 rifles have few changes from the ones introduced over the last five years. Just a few bells and whistles make the difference.
One of the hottest new introductions for the year is not actually a rifle but a new rimfire cartridge. The .17 Hornady is getting rave reviews from all who have used the new round. Ruger, Marlin and H&R have introduced the new little speedster in their lightweight rifles.
The Ruger 77/17 chambered for .17 rounds. (Photo courtesy of Ruger)
Ruger already had the Model 77/22 and Model 77/17; it was pretty much just a matter of attaching the .17 caliber tube. The rifle's rotary magazine has been a proven favorite since the 10/22 was introduced almost 30 years ago. The .17 Hornady Rimfire Magnum (.17HRM) round is a necked down version of the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) case and drives a 17-grain Hornady V-Max bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2,550 feet per second.
The New England Firearms model is a single shot based on their .22 LR Sporster, which comes in both a youth and adult version. Called the Sportster 17, a 22-inch varmint barrel, complete with scope mount, is standard issue. The stock and forearm are high-density black matte polymer, with a recoil pad (one has to ask why) and sling swivels.
The stainless barrel, laminated stock Marlin 17VS. (Photo courtesy of Marlin)
Marlin offers two bolt-action models for the .17 HRM, the Model 17VS and the dressed down 17V. The 17VS sports a stainless finish and a laminated stock. Both come sans sights but are drilled and tapped for scope mounts, which are included.
The no-frills Marlin 17V, a dressed down version of the 17VS. (Photo courtesy of Marlin)
Also from Ruger are several new offerings in their standard centerfire lines. The stainless No. 1-H will be offered in the .416 Rigby round—long respected as an ample medicine for large or dangerous game. Ruger will also offer a No.1-B in .308 Win. and a M77 lightweight in 7mm-08 Rem. And, not to be left out in the cold, Ruger is jumping on the short-magnum bandwagon with both the blued and stainless Model 77 standard rifles in 7 mm Rem. Short Mag. and the .300 Rem. Short Mag.
U.S. Repeating Arms Company-Winchester is offering its ever-popular Model 70 line chambered for the .270 and 7mm Winchester Short Magnum. As with the Remington Short Magnums, the difference is more in the cartridge than the rifle.
Not to be left behind, Browning will offer their popular A-Bolt in several versions chambered in the .270 and 7 mm WSM. Winchester has never given up on the lever guns and for good reason—they remain in demand, especially with the popularity of Western style shooting taking off as it has. A Model 94 with walnut wood and blued steel will be offered in the .480 Ruger cartridge, while a limited edition run of a Limited Edition Heritage M94 will also be offered. The latter will have a half-octagon, half-round 26-inch barrel with a full-length magazine. Needless to say, the long rifle will be chambered in .30-30 Win.
While on the subject of cowboy guns, not all were lever guns, and Navy Arms is looking to interest shooters with a few additions to their line. The Navy Arms Lightning is an Italian version of the Colt version made more than 100 years ago. Offered in .45 Long Colt, it will be winning hearts and bets at cowboy shoots across the country as the little pump-gun lives up to the "Lightning" reputation. A college buddy had an old Colt Lightning in .44-40. A like new family heirloom, it served to pass many a Saturday afternoon at the local sand pit plinking at cans. We'd reload a three-pound coffee can of ammo, shoot it up and start over. We even were casting our own bullets. Such were the days of our youth.
Navy will also introduce a "Quigley" version of the Sharps Rifle made famous by Tom Selleck in the movie "Quigley Down Under."
Before leaving the highly popular "re-introduced" rifles, Dixie Gun Works will also offer a Sharps rifle in .45-70. Engineered to handle factory loads, this rifle will be a sure hit at the range or in the field. The 32-inch tapered octagonal barrel gives this Buffalo Rifle the feel and heft of the original.
Another .45-70 offering comes from the Gibbs Rifle Company. Based on the legendary Enfield No. 4 action, this blending of old and older will be an interesting yet inexpensive rifle for the reloader and shooter. The rifle will accept all no-gunsmithing-required scope mounts intended for the No. 4 action. Priced at under $400, it should be a hot item for the 2002 shooting season.
So there is a smattering of the new rifles being offered by a few of the manufacturers. A dozen other companies are also offering new or upgraded rifles that tout accuracy, fast handling, and the promise of hours of fun at the range, finding out just how it will perform. Go shooting this week, and introduce a new shooter to the exciting world of target or sport shooting.