Gray’s Best 2018

Coffee at Dusk, by Brett James Smith


[by Terry Wieland]

Blaser F16 O/U Shotgun

No company on earth knows more about producing fine guns on CNC machinery than Blaser of Germany. For close to a decade, it has been using CNC to produce the Blaser F3, one of the world’s premier competition shotguns. Now Blaser has applied both its understanding of good guns and skills with precision machinery to produce a fine overand-under game gun at a remarkably low price. This gun is the F16, currently offered only in 12-gauge, but a 20-gauge is supposed to be on the way. The F16 is available with wood upgrades and so on, but its base price is $3,795 ($4,195 for the Sporting model). That price alone is surprising. What is more so is the quality that is built in. The F16 is reputed to have the shallowest frame (and hence the lowest profile) of any 12-gauge over-and-under on the market. This gives it excellent handling and quick reaction on unexpected flushes. It weighs a mere 6 pounds 12 ounces, with 28-inch barrels, and its trigger and lock time rival that of the F3—which are the best on the market, in my opinion. This combination of light weight and low profile makes an over-andunder game gun that approaches the legendary handling of the English Woodward. In fact, the F16’s lock-up mechanism is a modified Woodward design. You cannot get better than that.

Leica Trinovid 10 x 32 HD

There are not many truly legendary names in the world of fine optics, but Trinovid is one of them. It was a Leitz (now Leica) model name, and for years it denoted the finest in optical quality in a hunting binocular. It reached its pinnacle in the 1990s with the Trinovid 8 x 32 BA. The optical quality was so crisp, you thought you’d wandered into some futuristic cinema. The Trinovid was replaced by the Ultravid series when Leica added a number of innovations. Now, Leica has revived the Trinovid name and applied it to several new models which have the distinction of combining Leica quality with a lower price. You might think this cheapens the memory of the Trinovids, but you would be wrong. Putting a new Trinovid 10 x 32 HD beside a 20-year-old 8 x 32 BA, it matches it detail for detail. More than that, it has the same three-dimensional crispness that defies description in print but makes your subject almost jump out at you. The new Trinovid line includes an 8 x 32, 10 x 32, 8 x 42, and 10 x 42. Street prices range from $850 to $1,000—roughly half the price of a comparable Ultravid. Unlike the old Trinovid, the new models do not say made in germany but say made in portugal. To knowledgeable optics buyers, that means nothing. Leica has been making optical products in Portugal for years, applying Leica engineering and quality standards. It is a way of reducing costs without sacrificing quality, and the new Trinovid is living proof.

Jagdhund Staufen Backpack

There are tons of good backpacks on the market, but good backpacks specific to hunting? Not so many. European hunters are very particular about their equipment and will spend money for high-quality. Jagdhund is an Austrian company that produces a wide range of clothing and equipment for hunters, and the line is now imported to the United States by SteyrUSA in Bessemer, Alabama. Among its products is a superb backpack called the Staufen. This is a pack made to meet the demands of hunters, and no one else. It is constructed from soft leather and heavy wool—dark green, silent as the grave, and water repellent in anything less than torrential rain. Its silence in the woods is absolute. The Staufen has a pocket that can carry a carbine, upright but secure, when you need both hands free; the waist belt has a zippered pocket on one side with cartridge loops, and one on the other where you can tuck your license. The main pack is similar to a game bag, with a draw-string top. There is one generous external pocket to carry items like a lunch, and a couple of smaller ones on the sides, reachable without removing the pack. Most important of all, there are no fussy inexplicable little features, with extraneous straps and strings, and there is no Velcro to be found anywhere. None! Nor, we should add, is there a pocket for your iPhone. Wonderful! The Jagdhund Staufen has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

HSM .270 Winchester with Sierra GameKing

It would be a misrepresentation to call HSM’s “Low Recoil” ammunition either a lady’s load or a youth’s load. It would better be called a civilized load for the savvy hunter who can put the bullet in the right place when the time comes. The .270 Winchester has been an American favorite for almost a century, and for much of that time, handloaders have been loading it hot, and ammunition companies have been panting to keep up. Sometimes hot is good, but not always. Unfortunately, for those times when you don’t need the absolute maximum range (and can live without its severe bite and undeniable bark) there has been little in the way of factory ammunition to choose from. HSM makes a wide range of ammunition in the standard configurations, but its Low Recoil line fills a definite need. Loaded with Sierra GameKing (spitzer boat-tail) bullets, this is ammunition that takes a backseat to no other in terms of accuracy. At the same time, with a muzzle velocity (from my own .270) of about 2,320 fps with a 130-grain GameKing, this is a deadly hunting load out to 250 yards. Comfortable, quiet, easy to shoot, and very accurate, with a bullet you can absolutely depend on. And all, they say, with 53 per cent less recoil. And, yes, it is an excellent load for a lady who dislikes recoil or a young person just learning to shoot who still needs a serious big game rifle.