Umarex Gauntlet


Jim Niemiec's Blog

WON News Column
by Jim Niemic

Passionate about the sporting life, Jim Niemiec has spent his life enjoying the outdoors, hunting and fishing around the world and as a writer he’s just as passionate about  informing the public of opportunities. 

Niemiec has searched out the best destinations and reports conditions accurately, but he has also  dedicated countless hours to conservation groups (national and international) in hopes of “preserving our rights and opportunities to hunt for future generations.”
Add Black Brant hunt to your bucket list
It had been some 40 years since this Western Outdoor News hunting editor had hunted Black Brant down on San Quintin Bay in Baja Norte. That first trip down Baja was prior to the construction of Hwy. 1, which entailed pretty much of a very bumpy 1½-lane road. That hunt was put together by Jim Cauley, President of Baja Hunting Association, and would be a combo hunt for duck hunting in the Rio Hardy River system, a stop off at Rancho El Coyote to hunting with Enrique Meling, then head south for a morning’s Brant hunt and the trip would end with a pheasant hunt in Mexicali.

After the mid-morning quail hunt, we headed south to San Quintin only to find out the Old Mill had no rooms left. Back tracking into town we found a hole-in-the-wall motel that charged all of $15 for a room with two very hard beds.

LIMITED OUT ON BLACK BRANT — Matt Dutra of Benicia shot his daily limit of Black Brant at San Quintin Bay while on a hunt with BajaHunting. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

The next morning a well-used panga was waiting for us at the old wooden boat ramp. Cauley had forgotten to get a Brant stamp and was unable to hunt, so I opted to borrow his old 12 ga. Browning O/U rather that shoot my 20 ga. Model 870. The captain was all decked out in a yellow slicker, the front of the boat was piled with crab pots and commercial fishing gear, there were rod holders in the oar locks and a pile of one-gallon bleach jugs painted black and white. As it turned out, I was the only hunter on the huge bay. Motoring out to a rocky point, we put together a seaweed blind, strung out the line of plastic bottle decoys — all tied together with fishing cord — and then this sole hunter sat down on a lava rock and waited for the tide to change, while the boatman moved across the bay and took a siesta.

With little tidal action, no wind and plenty of room for Brant to flock up and loaf, it was a waiting game. Finally, the tide was up to the kelp blind, decoys swung in the breeze and Brant began to fly. The first flock didn’t decoy that well, but the next flock of some 20 black geese winged into the spread. A double on the first shot and picking up the third bird winging away rewarded this hunter with a limit and that Brant hunt was over. The panga came over and helped retrieve the Brant, it was back to the dock and we were on our way to Mexicali to hunt native ringneck pheasant in an old rusty Ford 150 pickup.

Now let’s jump ahead to this year’s Safari Club International Hunters’ Convention in Reno. Arturo Malo, outfitter for BajaHunting at, has been a good friend of Western Outdoor News for nearly a quarter of a century. WON has hunted Mexicali native pheasant, dove and Gambel’s qual with Malo a number of times and we often talked about a Black Brant hunt in San Quintin. Walking up to Malo’s booth he offered the following, “Jim, I just had a cancelation for the last week of Brant season, would you like to join in on that hunt?” asked Malo.

It didn’t take any time to acknowledge the invitation and lay down a deposit for that hunt opportunity. The all-inclusive Black Brant package hunt offered by Malo includes: van pick up in San Diego, the drive down to San Quintin (about 4 hours south of Tijuana), great meals, lodging, shotgun and guides for three days of hunting. The only out-of-pocket expenses incurred are shotgun shells at $20 a box, your tips and hard liquor.

BANDED BLACK BRANT — Many Black Brant are banded at their breeding grounds in Alaska. This hen Brant was too young to fly when it was banded this past summer. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

San Quintin Bay is the end of the southerly migration route for Pacific Black Brant. They start their migration in early October and fly mostly non-stop directly to San Quintin, where there is an abundance ofeel-grass (this sea-going goose’s only main source of food).

The terminus of the Black Brant Pacific population is pretty much at San Quintin, although there are small populations farther south along mainland Mexico clear on down to eastern estuaries along the Sea of Cortez, just outside of Los Mochis. The population of Brant in San Quintin Bay is estimated to be more than 15,000 birds based on recent Mexican wildlife biological waterfowl counts. The world-wide population of Brant is around 120,000 birds, of which 15 percent are harvested each year.

Depending on tidal flows, which can be extreme in this huge bay, dictate hunt departure time, but normally it’s a first light run out to shore line blinds sites. Pangas and guides, now outfitted with floating decoys and blind material are standing by the Old Mill dock ready to hunt.

When tides and conditions are right, five-bird limits of Black Brant can be killed within a few hours. Each guide has his favorite hunting spot that can vary from a natural lava rock blind to a strand of native bay grass where makeshift blinds are erected at water’s edge. Brant raft up in huge flocks among oyster farms where they are mostly left unmolested to ensure a healthy and very huntable population of geese for years to come. During the course of a morning’s hunt, the blind location could be moved a number of times depending on tidal flows, wind and movement of Brant around San Quintin Bay.

Black Brant hunting is a unique experience. These geese are very vocal on roost or on the wing and are mostly jet black with ultra-white rumps, underside and ring around their neck. They decoy extremely well with the average shot taken with birds cupped and right over the decoys are at ranges from 20 to 30 yards. Multiple doubles and triples are pretty much expected, as small flocks of Brant settle into the split decoy spread.

LAVA ROCK SHORE LINE BRANT BLIND — Natural lave rock blinds along the shores of San Quintin Bay offer up excellent hunting sites when decoying Black Brant. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

This WON hunting editor was teamed up with Matt Dutra of Benicia, Calif. and this would be his first Brant hunt, as he hunts ducks mostly over open wasters up in the Bay Area from floating blinds. The guide moved us a couple of times during the morning hunts to ensure better shooting opportunities and it rewarded us with full limits on day-1 and near limits the following two hunts. Most all the other hunters at the Old Mill camp limited out all three days, so it was kind the luck of the draw for guides even though they did try to move hunters into hot shooting blinds later in the morning.

As mentioned earlier, blinds are pretty much natural with the best shooting taking place out of ancient lava points that have been used for years. Some guides will opt to set up along a sea grass shore using palm frond and camo netting, and all hunting is done while sitting on a milk crate. (Note: This hunter opted to take his Realtree camo duck seat cushion. )

Most hunters are back at the Old Mill in time for lunch and siesta, but there are other hunting options available for quail and dove in season. Also, there is a fleet of Parker sport fishers standing by to take anglers out the fishing grounds to fish for yellowtail, white seabass, tuna and a variety of bottom dwellers. hunts San Quintin Bay during the peak months of January through the end of the season that occurs on the last Sunday of February. Black Brant hunting is very popular and easy to get to, especially for those living in California. Hunting takes place only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to keep hunting pressure in the bay at a minimum and Malo limits the number of hunters by offering only 7 blinds/boats with two hunters each. All hunts are organized on designated tides, which are the optimum for Brant hunting.


LOS MOCHIS, MX —Western Outdoor News was notified by Bobby Balderrama, outfitter for the Sinalo Pato Duck and Dove Club (800-862-9026) that the duck season for mainland Mexico (Sinaloa state) has been extended through March 24. Daily direct flights from Tijuana (San Diego cbx) to Los Mochis are now being made by Volaris Airlines for the 1-hour and 40-minute flight and air travelers can save time by using the new border crossover bridge.

SAN QUINTIN BAY "DOUBLE"  — WON hunting editor Jim Niemiec dropped this “double” on Brant last weekend while on a hunt with outfitter Arturo Malo down in Baja Norte. JIM NIEMIEC FILE PHOTO

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Hunting, shooting and more at FRED HALL Long Beach show March 6-10
It was decades ago when a show produced by Fred Hall gathered a group of firearms manufacturers, retailers, guides, shooting accessory companies and hunting related businesses to produce the first hands-on shooting venue in the west. While there was a lot of interest and the shooting bays at the old South Coast Gun Club were very busy, there just wasn’t enough participation to continue with this type of consumer gun show.

Boy, have things changed over the years.With today’s modern firearms and archery gear, a wide variety of AR style rifles, tactical firearms, an almost unending selection of accessories, along with a multitude of big game and upland game birds to hunt and outfitters/guides offering exceptional hunting opportunities, gun shows have fast become part of the American lifestyle.

FISH AND GAME HUNT WAGON — This old time DF&G wagon will be on display at the Long Beach Fred Hall Show. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

A few years back, Fred Hall Shows started offering exhibitor space to hunting, shooting, retailers and other shooting sports companies and today the Long Beach show will have no less than 30 exhibitors at this year’s show.

Just last month Safari Club International put on their Hunters’ Convention in Reno to the enjoyment of thousands of hunters and that was followed up by SHOT Show in Las Vegas that drew record numbers of manufacturers, dealers, distributors and members of the working press. For Western Outdoor News readers who missed attending SCI or were not registered to attend SHOT Show, making plans to attend this year’s Fred Hall Long Beach Show is a must.

Whether you are looking to purchase a new rifle or shotgun, book an elk, hog or turkey hunt, check on a gun safe, see what’s new in optics and shooting sports accessories or look over some fine hunting knives the Fred Hall Long Beach Show is the place it all can happen. Turner’s Outdoorsman will man a lot of floor space and have plenty of hunting and shooting products available to shoulder with a knowledgeable staff to answer questions. Make sure to stop by Jimmy’s Outdoors for some great close-out deals on camo, hunting packs and other accessories and learn more about hunting and shooting opportunities while stopping by the NRA or California Rifle and Pistol Association booths.

Oak Stone Outfitters is a repeat exhibitor at the Fred Hall Show and offers up some outstanding hunting opportunities. Under the stewardship of master guide Chad Wiebe, this guide service hunts on over 60,000 acres of prime leased hunting ranch properties along the Central Coast. WON has hunted with Oak Stone Outfitters for over a decade and can attest to the quality of the hunts and the high success rate afield. Whether one is looking for a big old Rio Grande gobbler to hunt, a trophy blacktail buck, mean old tusker or a record class Tule elk, stop by and talk with Wiebe about booking the hunt of a lifetime. Also exhibiting at the show and hunting along the Central Coast for hogs, turkey and blacktail deer are Avila Guided Hunts and Roth Guided Hunts.

RIMROCK BUCKS AND BULLS — Make sure to stop by and talk big game hunting at this booth. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIMIEC

Most show attendees will be looking to book hunts or destination fishing trips here in California and Mexico but there are many other exhibitors that offers a huge selection of options. South Africa will be well represented for those looking to hunt plains game, while elk and mule deer camps in the Rockies are options. Make sure to stop by the Love of the Hunt Outfitters and West Canyon Ranch booths to check on elk hunts in both Utah and New Mexico. One longtime exhibitor at the Fred Hall Show is Clark’s Outdoor Sporting Adventures and it would be worth the visit to see what kind of show specials this booking agent is offering.

This year’s show will also feature a large African safari display and other hunting/shooting exhibits. Make sure to stop by and visit with the representatives of Udells Guiding and Outfitting and Urge2Hunt to book a dream hunt.

In addition of booking a hunt checking out a new rifle, make sure to stop by and visit with exhibitors offering other services. The Front Sight Firearms Training Institute, located in Las Vegas, shoots on over 550 acres of range land and offers 60 different courses in handgun, rifle, pistol and youth safety instruction. All shooters, whether sport or bench enthusiasts, should check out the hearing protection a the SportEAR booth.

Rounding out the list of shooting related activities taking place at this year’s Fred Hall Show plan on attending the following events: The Evike Soft Air Range, the Umarex Air Gun Range, CR&PA BB gun range, California Deer’s Laser Shot game as well as the California Youth Assoc. laser shot game and Calif. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife trailer.

TURNER’S OUTDOORSMAN’S GUN BOOTH — Check out new firearms and hunting accessories at the Turner’s Outdoorsman’s booth. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Hopeful of strong upland game bird hatch
Those powerful storms that passed through the state last week, especially that Pineapple Express, dumped a whole bunch of water everywhere. Record amounts fell for not only the flatlands and foothill areas, but there was also significant rain measured in both high and lower desert regions. Western Outdoor News checked in with a few upland game bird guides and a wildlife biologist to find out what expectations for next fall’s upland game bird season are shaping up to be.

HIGH DESERT CHUKAR — Heavy rain and some flooding hit the high desert region last week and hopefully this much needed water will trigger a strong chukar hatch later this spring. Conditions look good, but biologists, guides and hunters say this region still needs additional rain come late March. JIM NIEMIEC FILE PHOTO

“The high desert got back-to-back-to-back storms over the past couple of weeks and nesting conditions are looking very promising. There is a lot of cheat grass across the desert floor and native vegetation has really sprouted. Arroyos that have been dry of years are now holding some water and I am sure those pockets of water in high elevation lava flows will be storing water as well. There was even some snow above 5,500 feet and that can only add to replenishing water aquifers out in the desert,” reported Harold Horner of High Desert Guide Service.

Horner went on to add, “Right now we are seeing paired up adult chukar and that bodes well for the upcoming nesting season. Both chukar and valley quail should be able to have successful hatches of chicks, but we will need more rain in late March and April that hopefully will make for a strong nesting season. Right now, I am optimistic about there being a good chukar season this coming fall.”

WON then checked in with Kevin Johnson II, master guide of

“Current conditions definitely favor a good hatch in the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountain ranges. I spent the last portion of the upland game bird season hunting birds in Yucca Valley across to the Barstow area and conditions look good for this part of the high desert. Crops of the majority of the quail I harvested this past January were full of green forbes, which produces vitamin A that is required for successful upland game bird breeding, said Johnson.

Johnson then followed up with, “Also, all the stock tanks and guzzlers I checked are full and that points to what is hopefully a good nesting period. It’s still early to know, but I’m very optimistic for next season, especially IF we can get some more precipitation come March.”

It was difficult hunting in southwestern Arizona this past season, at least for Gambel’s and scaled quail. The following is a report sent to WON from Arizona Game and Fish biologist Kirby Bristow.

“I finished strong on Mearns’ quail and shot a limit on the last day of the season, which hopefully is a good sign for a carry over of adult quail into next summer’s breeding. Overall, it was a decidedly average season at best for Mearns’ quail and quite poor for Gambel’s. I have heard only mixed reports from those who targeted scalies,” said Bristow.

There is sure to be a real greening up of foothills right away and not too far behind there should be an outstanding bloom of spring flowers. Those making the drive up to turkey country

by way of the Tejon Pass should see very pretty hillsides along Interstate 5.


Western Outdoor News contacted wildlife biologist Tom Anderson at the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge to get an update on this year’s white geese that wintered on the refuge.

“The population of white geese peaked during late December and this refuge system hosted over 40,000 snow and Ross’ geese. Most of the geese stayed in Unit 1 of the refuge, where there was an abundance of rye grass, wheat and some bull rush. While the Hazard Unit did offer up some snow goose shooting, it didn’t seem that the Union Tract shot all that well,” said Anderson.

As to the northerly migration of waterfowl, Anderson went on to state, “About half the white geese started leaving the refuge in early February and I would expect the rest of these geese will head out on or before the full moon phase in February. We don’t know why the geese left so early this year. Perhaps this early migration was due to lots of water and green food up in the Sacramento Valley, or perhaps our refuge source of fresh water and food was getting down. It really never got too cold down here in the low desert, so biologically there doesn’t appear to be any reason for the geese to have left the valley.”

Ducks are now on the move out of Mexico and are stopping off at wetlands here in Southern California. WON checked on a number of new ponds after last week’s heavy rains and they were holding small flocks of all three species of teal, some gadwall, a few widgeon, but surprisingly not many mallards. Prado Basin is totally flooded and there should be enough standing water in this basin, along with ponds of the three duck clubs, to provide nesting puddle ducks with excellent wetlands habitat for spring nesting.

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

(Part 2 of 2) SHOT Show — Optics, accessories and more…
SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nev., has to be the greatest venue on the planet when it comes to showing off the latest in firearms, optics, ammo and hunting/shooting accessories. It’s really too bad that this show is not open to the general public (restricted to those within the shooting sports industry, distributors, dealers and the media), but this hunting editor would doubt whether there would be a big enough convention center or stadium that could handle the tens of thousands of attendees. So, it’s up to us media folks to pass on a much information on what is new out there for 2019.

SHOT SHOW 2019 — Las Vegas again hosted this year’s SHOT Show; shooting sports industry’s largest venue. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

At the end of 2018 and for the 2019 hunting season, Bushnell has new Nitro riflescopes on-line. These scopes are ideal for hunters and precision shooters alike.

All 35 configurations are built to withstand every environment. An EXO Barrier coating bonds to the exterior lens surfaces and repels water, oil, fog, dust and debris. With fully multi-coated optics that deliver a bright high-contrast image with minimal eyestrain the clarity is amazing.

Trijicon Inc. show cased two new powerful rifle scopes, the 4.5-30x56 and 5-5x56, which resets expectations for flexibility and long-range performance. Featuring a powerful zoom that gives precision rifle shooters, long-range hunters and tactical shooters the tools necessary to acquire, identify and engage targets.

Vortex now offers its Fury HD500 binoculars with laser range finding ability. Also, from Vortex for this coming hunting season is their Razor HD Gen II rifle scope that provides long-range advanced features. The EBR-7C, HorusH59 and Tremor3 models are most effective in making accommodations for bullet drop and windage correction.

Hawks Sports Optics LLC will have on dealer shelves for 2019 a new precision hunting and shooting rifle scope. The new scope features an exposed tactical turret design with zero-stop, resettable and lockable turrets with state-of-the-art return to zero function.

VictOptics unveiled their new 1-6x24 rifle scope that has true 1x magnification and is ultrabright and clear. This scope also has long eye relief and a wide field of vision.

From Targetvision comes the Hawk Universal Spotting scope camera, which is the next evolution of digiscoping, turning any target spotting scope into a smart-scope in just minutes. By simply sliding a hawk over the eyepiece of the range spotting scope and then opening the Targetvision app on a smartphone or tablet it’s very easy to take the image.

New from Lica Hunting for 2019 is the Geovid 10x42 HD-R 2700 model, which achieves excellent contrast, transmission and stray-light suppression for maximum performance until night sets in. With 10x magnification this scope enables a detailed viewing and identification of game.

bushnellsnewnitroBUSHNELL’S NITRO RIFLE SCOPE — There are 35 newly designed Nitro rifle scopes from Bushnell for the 2019 hunting season.

Mojo Outdoors has stepped up its line of duck and turkey decoys that now offer a more realistic movement and life-like colors. The new mini-flags are sure to enhance any duck or goose decoy spread and believe me the Mojo Pocket Pick Stick is ideal for picking up spent shells.

MacDaddyCaddy introduced a neat multi-functional hunting cart that is ideally suited for carrying all kinds of hunting gear out to a dove stand or duck blind. Big tires make it great for traveling over mud and other debris, the cart converts into a hunting seat, it’s well designed and built, comes in a variety of camo patterns and weighs in at 33 pounds.

Duck Creek Decoy Works just developed a new motion decoy that wobbles, shakes and dunks its head in continuous motion. This electric decoy is restricted for use here in our California Pacific flyway until Dec. 1 of the season.

Leave it up to Primos Hunting to come up with new gear each year and 2019 is no exception to their line of hunting accessories. The Dogg Net Series from Primos are a neat collection of wireless game callers, they have a complete Topp Dogg wireless system, a whole new selection of box, slate and mouth turkey calls and stakeout camo blinds.

One of the most unique products introduced a SHOT Show 2019 is the new Zippo Heatbank 9s hand warmer. This neat little device is rechargeable which keeps you warm for hours. The convenient power bank feature recharges your USB compatible device, so you can still stay connected while enjoying the outdoors. Also, from Zippo is the new Heatbank 3, also rechargeable, that can radiate heat for up to three hours from a single charge.

Rocky’s new line hunting boots and camo clothing are great for western-style big game, waterfowl and upland game bird hunting. The Rocky Deerstalker sport boot is designed for hunters who choose to be continually on the move, the Rocky King Snake offers the ultimate lower leg protection when hunting in rattlesnake country and this boot is available as a rubber boot model (which is this WON hunting editor’s top choice when waterfowl hunting). Rocky also expanded its Stratum collection of camo hunting clothing to include a new all-season layered system.

KENT FASTSTEEL 2.0 — With a muzzle velocity of up to 1550 fps, this new shotgun shell from Kent Cartridge should offer up excellent waterfowl hunting results for next season.

There is some new shotgun shell ammo for 2019 that was also introduced at SHOT Show. Kent Cartridge has upgraded its shotgun shell line with the introduction of Faststeel 2.0 Precision Plated Steel line of non-toxic shotshells. The foundation of Faststeel 2.0 begins with the high-performance based-wad to optimize functioning in today’s most popular semi-automatic firearms, allowing for fast follow-up shots and ensuring consistent reliability. Available in both 12 and 20 gauge, the 3-inch shell is loaded with 1¼ oz. of shot with a muzzle velocity of 1500 fps.

For those planning on hunting the spring snow goose season, Winchester now has on dealer shelves their Xpert Snow Goose shotgun shell ammo. Currently this Winchester ammo is only available for 12 ga. shotguns in lengths of 3- and 3.5-inch with shot sizes from BB to 1+2 and muzzle velocities between 1475 and 1550 fps.

Federal Ammunition announced a new blended HEAVYWEIGHT TSS turkey load for 2019. This Federal ammo is a partner with the National Wild Turkey Federation. Two new sizes of shot are involved to increase overall pellet count and the number of hits on a target. These new loads combine No. 7 and 9 or No. 8 and 10 Tungsten Super Shot to deliver the extremely high pellet counts and dense patterns turkey hunters try to achieve. Both 12 and 20 gauge shotshells are now on dealer’s shelves, from 3 inch to 3.5 inch, with loads up to 2.5 oz. of pellets and they will be sold 5 to the box.

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

(Part 1 of 2) Shot Show was all it aimed up to be
Despite a bitter cold temperature and howling winds blowing in gusts well over 30 mph, SHOT Show 2019 in Las Vegas, Nv., was a total success for tens of thousands of attendees. This annual event started out with Industry and Media Day at the Boulder Pistol and Rifle Club, where the latest and greatest in firearms, ammo and accessories were located in lines of shooting bays. Every major firearms manufacturer and representatives were on hand to help introduce new products and set up down-range targets up to 500 yards from the bench. While winds kicked up desert dust and blew tents and flags all over the gun range, it did make for a pretty good day to test one’s outdoor endurance in less-than-hospitable conditions. The blustery conditions really challenged a shooter’s ability to hold a rifle steady and on target or swing into a stiff wind at a dancing clay target.

ON TARGET WITH BROWNING — WON hunting editor Jim Niemiec enjoyed shooting the new Browning X-Bolt Mag chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor at the media day range in Boulder City. WON PHOTO BY TONI NIEMIEC

Western Outdoor News had a list of new rifles, shotguns and ammo to check out so it was off to the Browning canopy to check out the newly introduced X-BOLT MAX Long Range rifle chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor ammo. The ammo selected was 120 gr. lead-free bullet with BXS solid expansion and fitted with a high-power scope when hitting targets 300 yards down range.

This rifle featured a removeable muzzle brake that made for less recoil and very good performance. Most of the rounds fired hit a series of gongs and bullets that missed the target didn’t miss it by much, as wind gusts moved that light-weight bullet around pretty good.

The X-BOLT MAX rifle features a three-lever feather trigger that provides a clean, crisp pull with no take-up or creep. The alloy trigger housing contains hard chromed steel components and are highly polished on all critical contact surfaces. With a free-floating barrel bedded into the stock, both in front of and at the rear of the action, which makes for a maintained barrel to stock spacing, providing consistent accuracy.

Browning’s new rifle was a pleasure to shoot and the range person was very accommodating when this hunting editor asked for a couple of more rotary magazines to shoot at different silhouette targets and at various ranges. The popularity of long-range hunting has more shooters than ever honing their ammunition and rifle setup to help ensure that their shot at a once-in-a-lifetime big game animal finds its mark. The new Max stock found on select Browning X-BOLT rifles is designed to help improve shooting confidence to match the optics and get a repeatable stock fit. Outfitted with factory fiberglass stock this rifle retails for $1,199 and there is an optional McMillian stock available with a MSRP of $2,399.

While the bulk of the rifles being shot were AR-style black guns and those for tactical shooting and combat, down the row of shooting bays was booth #SR-53, and that’s where Brenton Premium Hunting Rifles was set up with boxes of Hornaday 6.5 Grendel ammo to test fire this new hunting rifle.

BRENTON’S NEW AR HUNTING RIFLE — Tanner Brenton was helpful in pointing out the many features of the new Brenton AR hunting rifle to WON’s Jim Niemiec. This new rifle, featuring a Leupold variable scope, shot very well at distant silhouettes and gongs. WON PHOTO BY TONI NIEMIEC

WON met up with the Brenton family and we talked AR rifles and their use while hunting. The following is what the Sr. Brenton had to say about the Brenton AR hunting rifle.

“Some AR manufacturers have taken their current Mil-Spec tactical rifles, decorated it with camo and labeled it as a hunting rifle. However, these attempts to disguise their tactical rifles in camo confuse their other-wise tactical-orientated customers. In order to satisfy the demands of serious hunters looking to leverage the benefits of the AR platform is the main reason I founded Brenton USA,” said Brenton.

Brenton went on to add, “Our rifles begin with what the serious AR hunter needs to be more successful and efficient afield…we are concerned with sound engineering principles and genuine improvements that add functionality when hunting, which differ from other rifles on the market that are based on tactical applications. We call this approach HuntSpec.”

The Brenton rifle this editor test fired a whole box of 6.5 Grendel ammo through was the highly accurate Stalker 18-inch Carbon Hunter fitted with a quality Leupold long range scope and gong targets were set up some 200 yards down-range from the bench. This rifle was one of the softest shooting rifles that I have shouldered in a number of years. According to Brenton, the 123 gr. bullet put down a 6X6 elk on a recent hunt in Colorado.

The Stalker 18-inch Carbon Hunter is the original tried and true hunting rifle used by successful AR hunters across America. The rifle features a camouflage free-floating match grade barrel threaded for suppressor use, hunting handguard, HunterSize controls and an MOE fixed stock. A bare rifle weighs 7.2 pounds and features a 5-shot stainless steel magazine and includes a soft case. Calibers currently available are 450 BM, 6.8 SPC II, 6.5 Grendel (LBC) and 223 Remington (WYLDE). At SHOT Show Brenton was working with a number of distributors and retailers to get this Michigan manufactured based rifle okayed for California sales.

New from Legacy Sports (HOWA) for 2019 is the introduction of the Pointer PhenomA semi-auto shotgun. Western Outdoor News checked out this shotgun with Andy McCormick, VP of Sales/Marketing.

“This new shotgun from HOWA is sure to be a real turkey slayer come the spring turkey season. Our pro staff has field tested this auto-loader, which is available in a number of different camo patterns, including an original Realtree camo pattern. Remarkably, the Pointer 410 shotgun will make for an ideal turkey load for junior hunters and those looking to challenge a big gobbler with a smaller gauge shotgun. We know for sure that the 410, loaded with new Federal TSS shot, can kill a tom running away at a distance of 50 yards. This shotgun weighs only 5.9 pounds, comes with a selection of 5 chokes and has a MSRP of $529.”

Retay USA unveiled the new Masai Mara waterfowl shotgun at SHOT Show, featuring a patented inertia plus bolt system, a very simple push button removable trigger group (Ed. Note: I have never seen a firearm that is designed so simple in taking the trigger and bolt out of the receiver for gun safety and regular maintenance). This shotgun is designed for the dedicated waterfowl hunter and built to perform even under the most extreme conditions. The bolt ejector knob is oversized and easy to operate even when its wet or a hunter is wearing gloves.

Savage/Stevens is celebrating it’s 125th year being in the firearms manufacturing business and for 2019 they will deliver more than 40 new firearms in many caliber or gauge options. This company is expanding and improving their popular XP scoped rifle line, have added a new lineup of AXIS and AXIS II rifles, expanded in the next generation their MSR 15 and MSR 10 rifle lines with new options built for long range, precision and competitive shooting and the new 110 APEX Hunter XP is fitted with a Vortex Crossfire II scope, features a floating bolt head and is available in 17 calibers, include the 6.5x284 Norma.

BUSTING CLAYS WITH FEDERAL’S NEW MINISHELL AMMO — Despite very windy conditions the new minishell performed very well shooting a Steven’s O/U 12 gauge. WON PHOTO BY TONI NIEMIEC

VISTA Outdoors, representing Federal Ammunition, CCI, Alliant Powder, Speer and many other hunting and shooting accessories filled a huge booth with new products including: rifle, pistol and shotgun ammunition in newly designed boxes, big bore and 22LR ammo, reloading powder, new Speer bullets with high coefficients and a polymer tip that improves low-velocity expansion.

Federal Premium introduced for 2019 a new minishell shotgun shell for clay target and small upland game bird hunting. This new ammo is a very short version of a standard 12 gauge shot shell and a whole box can fit in a pocket, taking up very little room and has a lot less weight. Got to be an ideal load for jacksnipe hunting wherever lead shot is still permitted.

WON had an opportunity to shoot this new Federal shotgun shell on the range with very gusty winds howling over the clay target course. Shooting a Savage O/U 12 gauge, this shooter was able to bust 70 percent of the clays thrown even though they flew irradicably. This new shot gun shell is currently designed for O/U supplication, measures only 1¾ inches, is loaded with 15/16 ounces of lead pellets and has a muzzle velocity of about 1100 fps. This new ammo should be available at dealers later this spring.

Hevi-Shot show cased four new ammos for 2019. The new Hevi-X Strut and Magnum Blend MO Obsession NWFT edition ammo should be killer shotgun shell ammo on spring turkey hunts, Hevi-X Mossy Oak should bring down big puddle and diving ducks at greater distances and the newest centerfire Hevi-Duty pistol ammo is sure to be popular on the range.

Aguila Ammunition is expanding into the US market with new rimfire, centerfire and shotshell products. This company has been producing ammo for decades at its factory in Mexico. This Western Outdoor News hunting editor has shot it well while gunning for ducks around the estuaries of Los Mochis, MX with outfitter Bobby Balderrama of the Sinalo Pato Duck and Dove Club. Currently Aguila ammo is being sold by Big 5 Sporting Goods retail stores.

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