Hunting is officially back at SHOT Show. Not that it was gone, just overshadowed for a while. Last year saw a soft resurgence after what can only be described as the “Covid Tactical Takeover,” where the show floor was pretty exclusively dominated by black guns and tactical vests. That isn’t to say the trend of non-hunt rifles is over, but the influx of new hunting rifles this year certainly warms this hunter’s heart.
But, it is also clear that those tactical rifles have had an impact in the hunt space. Wood stocks seem few and far between, with the lightweight packability of ever-improving synthetics on trend. Hunting rifles may have made a comeback, but we can’t deny the optics have changed, and we aren’t talking about scopes. Black is the new black, and skeletonized, carbonized, optimized rifles are taking the lead over the walnut butts of yesteryear.
There were countless options to choose from this year, and we battled the rain to shoot as many as we could in the Nevada desert.
Here are a few of the rifles that got us stoked.
The Rifles of SHOT Show 2024
Speaking of getting stoked, why not start with the gun itself? The Bergara B-14 Stoke speaks my language simply because I could shoulder it on the show floor without an awkward reach. We don’t often see many new little guy guns released, but the reality is that we aren’t just talking about life rafts when it comes to women and children.
With the trend of women hunters still on the rise, there’s a niche it seems Bergara is stoked to fill. This 12.25-inch LOP rifle fits the bill, and then some with spacers that allow the rifle to grow with your growing hunter.
As a smaller-statured shooter, I know all too well how difficult it is to keep your sights tight when you’re reaching and contorting a body that doesn’t fit a rifle.
Bergara really does say it best: “Proper fit equals better accuracy.”
- Calibers: 308 WIN, 6.5 CREEDMOOR, 243 WIN, .22-250, MM-08, 6.5 PRC, 223 REM, 300 BLK, 350 LEGEND
The X-Bolt Series was all the rage when it was released in 2008. The lineup expanded quickly to serious praise across the spectrum of shooters. After 16 years of success, Browning has taken another step forward with the X-Bolt 2. Aside from a visual and ergonomic upgrade, the performance speaks volumes.
With much cynicism, it was hard to imagine that the original X-Bolt could really be improved much. I think many went into shooting this rifle with well-placed skepticism. The OG X-Bolt is a seriously smooth criminal. Where and how could it really be improved?
The X-Bolt 2, somehow, delivers all the smoothness of its predecessor, with some magical level of extra smoothness. The bolt almost feels liquid. Partnered with a DLX trigger, everything about this rifle feels smooth, consistent, and like it belongs in my gun case. Did I mention it was smooth? I’m just looking for another opportunity to say the word smooth, here.
- Calibers: 6.5 CREEDMOOR, 308 WIN, 6.5 PRC, 6.8 WESTERN, 7MM REM MAG, 7 PRC, 300 WIN MAG, 300 PRC
“Ooooooohhhhh, she purdy.”
I believe that’s what I said when I jetted over to the Christensen Arms booth to see the new line of Modern Carbon Rifles. I’m a sucker for a classic wood stock, but there’s a serious art to modern rifles done right.
The carbon fiber build of the new MCR line is just flat clean-looking, and ultra-lightweight. The cheek riser is slick, has a simple button adjustment, and fits seamlessly into the stock.
I’ve always felt like Picatinny rails immediately make a rifle take on a tactical look. However, the folks over at Christensen Arms integrated the accessory in a way that just feels modern and classic. You really do get the best of both worlds. The free-floating carbon fiber barrel is suppressor-ready for lightweight and quiet hunting.
This might be the rifle that wins me over when it comes to black hunting rifles. Goll dang it, it’s just purdy.
- Calibers: 243 WIN, 6.5 CRD, 6.5 PRC, 270 WIN, 7mm REM MAG, 7mm PRC, 308 WIN, 30.06 SPRGFLD, 300 WIN MAG, 300 PRC, 350 LEG
Custom rifles have become the rage for those with the means to create exactly what they are looking for. Few custom rifle companies have grown a cult following quite like Seekins Precision, and for good reason.
Now, I’ll admit my biases here. I have a deep fondness for the crew behind these rifles. Not only does the brand build some of the most technically perfect rifles on the planet, but they also happen to be incredible humans. Sometimes, I think we forget that there are people behind the products, and the Seekins Precision team is top-notch, highly skilled, and passionate about the guns they build.
Right now, out of the custom shop, they are chambering rifles in 6.5 PRC, .308, and 7 PRC, all sub-6 pounds. With a folding stock that quickly breaks down to toss in a pack and just as quickly redeploys for the hunt, these borderline skeletonized rifles are lightweight and modular in ways few rifles can claim to be.
As soon as I save my pennies, I’ll be ordering one to take on my backcountry hunts. It will, no doubt, shave pounds off my pack.
- Calibers: 6.5 PRC, 308 WIN, 7 PRC
The 400 Legend is a bit of a dual cover here. The Mossberg Patriot is new for 2024 and is available in 400 Legend (as well as pretty much every other caliber). You’ve got options of both walnut or synthetic stock. With the synthetic build coming in under $500, this budget-friendly option is a big win for those hunters who live in cartridge-restriction states.
Each year seems to bring more and more options for those who find themselves bottlenecked by straight wall requirements. The Patriot is a capable rifle that seamlessly delivers the second part of this win … which is the Win itself.
The Winchester Power Point 400 Legend came out last year but is worthy of this year’s coverage. It packs a wallop and is a comfortable choice for those looking for something that falls in that sweet spot between the 350 Legend and the 450 Bushmaster. For those hunters in restricted states, this may be the solution to the uncomfortable thwop a shotgun slug gives the old shoulder.
- Calibers: 400 LEGEND.
The Patriot is also available in: 350 LEGEND, 300 WIN MAG, 7MM REM, 450 BUSHMASTER, 30-06 SPRG, 270 WIN, 25-06 REM, 308 WIN, 7MM-08 REM, 22-250 REM, 243 WIN, 338 WIN MAG, 375 RUGER, 6.5 CREEDMOORCheck Price at Mossberg
The GearJunkie Team Testing Rifles at SHOT Show 2024
We rolled into Sin City early to take advantage of the coveted Industry Day at the range, a day before the official SHOT Show kickoff. This year, as luck would have it, we found rain in the desert.
A little damp weather didn’t stop our crew from spending the better part of 5 hours shooting everything from a .22 that had all the feel of popping bubble wrap to shouldering shotguns that made us question our physical fortitude. The SHOT Show rifle lineup, in particular, was expansive.
In all the ways, there has been disappointment at the range the past 2 years. This year, we found a nearly endless supply of hunting-targeted rifles, shotguns, and ammunition. Because we don’t tend to cover tactical gear, we had begun to feel like the odd kids at recess. It felt a bit like searching aimlessly for a hint of camo or the glimmer of wood.
And, 2024 offered us a new challenge. Between the three members of our crew, we found ourselves scrambling to get to every little hunt corner of the range. With rifles, in particular, you can usually trust a bit of the hype without having the gun in hand.
However, there’s no replacement for sending a few down range and feeling for yourself whether or not the new rifles of the year are just slight alterations of everything we’ve seen before or something new and noteworthy altogether.
The overall tone of SHOT Show 2024 certainly felt like hunting rifles and shotguns were back in a big way with a heap of new and a pile of noteworthy.