Honestly, I don’t think a tactical whitetail hunter is defined by his equipment. “Tactical” whitetail hunting is a mindset, an approach. It’s a way of hunting whitetail deer that is, well, tactical. In other words, it’s not just sitting on a stump waiting for a Booner to walk by. Regardless, many define AR-style rifles, some bolt guns with detachable magazines and optics and ammo which are purposely built for these firearms as “tactical.” This roundup of new-for-2013 products is all about those things. Here’s a look at some of the best “tactical” whitetail hunting rifles, optics and ammo for the upcoming season.
When it comes to gear, ammunition never seems to get the respect it deserves. Yeah, we gotta have it to hunt, but it’s never as cool to look at or fondle as a new gun or riflescope. Ammunition is a consumable — we buy it, we shoot it and we forget about it. I’ve always been more of an ammunition junkie than a gun junkie. I like loading my own, but I also really like it when ammo manufacturers step up and offer a product dedicated to certain pursuits.
Hornady has done just that with their American Whitetail line of ammunition. With American Whitetail ammunition, Hornady paired its famous InterLock bullet with specifically chosen powders and created a line of ammo just right for deer hunters. Deer hunters need good bullets, but they don’t need premium — read that, high dollar — bullets. Hornady’s InterLock bullet is a traditional-styled bullet that has proven itself for decades. American Whitetail loads are all any whitetail hunter needs and are available for the .243 Win., .25-06 Rem., .270 Win., 7mm-08 Rem., 7mm Rem. Mag., .30-30 Win., .308 Win., .30-06 Sprg., and the .300 Win. Mag. Visit www.hornady.com for more information.
Remington stepped up with two new lines of whitetail-suitable loads but has taken a different approach than Hornady. Its new HyperSonic line boasts velocities as much as 200 fps faster than standard loads, and it uses Remington’s excellent CoreLokt Ultra bullet. Available for most popular big game cartridges and even for the .223 Remington, HyperSonic loads kind of supercharge your rifle with flatter trajectories and more downrange energy.
Remington also has a new line of ammunition specifically designed for hunting feral hogs. The Hog Hammer line will be loaded for the .223 Rem., .300 Blackout, .30 Remington AR, .30-30 Win., .30-06, .308 Win., and.450 Bushmaster. The entire Hog Hammer line is loaded with the well-known Barnes Triple Shock bullet, which offers deep penetration and near double-diameter expansion. Yes, this stuff is intended for whacking hogs, but it will work just fine on deer and is available for five cartridges commonly chambered in AR-10s and AR-15s. Visit www.remington.com for more information.
Hog Hammer follows the lead Winchester set last year with its Razorback line of ammo, which is also specifically built for hog hunting. Razorback ammo is loaded with an all-gilding metal bullet which offers similar performance to the Barnes Triple Shock. For 2013 Winchester has added a Razorback load for the very popular 7.62x39mm cartridge — a popular choice in a variety of tactically styled semi-auto and bolt-action rifles. Like with Hog Hammer, any ammunition designed for stopping hogs will put down a big buck, too. Visit www.winchester.com for more information.
Finally, no mention of ammunition would be complete without some news from Nosler. Nosler has a long history of developing and producing some of the best hunting bullets in the world, and for 2013 the company is launching a new 64-grain .223-caliber bullet, which will be loaded in Nosler’s Defense line of ammunition. This bullet is bonded and designed for 90-percent weight retention, minimal deflection and true, straight-line penetration. It should work very well on whitetail deer in those states where the .223 is legal. Visit www.nosler.com for more information.
Of course ammunition, no matter how cool, is no good without the right gun, and those who are of the tactical persuasion have some new rifles to drool over in the off season. For starters, let’s look at the tactical bolt actions.
Ruger will be offering a stainless-steel version of its very popular Gunsite Scout Rifle. The Gunsite Scout Rifle is Ruger’s interpretation of Gunsite founder Jeff Cooper’s idea of a multi-purpose rifle. Chambered in .308 Winchester and equipped with a scope rail for out-of-the-box scout scope mounting, this rifle will feed from a high-capacity detachable magazine and even has a threaded muzzle. Visit www.ruger.com for more information.
Mossberg set the rifle world abuzz two years ago with the introduction of its MVP rifle, which was the first bolt-action rifle with an action sized to perfectly accommodate the .223 Remington cartridge and that would feed from an AR-15 magazine. It’s one of my son’s favorite hunting rifles. For 2013 Mossberg updated this design with what they are calling the MVP Patrol, which is specifically targeted at law enforcement. However, enhancements which include a synthetic stock, threaded muzzle with flash hider, fiber-optic sights and a one-piece scope rail make it an even better whitetail rifle. You should be able to find one for around $700.
Mossberg also updated its MMR line to include a camo version. This AR-15 comes with a fixed A2-style butt-stock, sleek handguard with dual sling swivel studs, very comfortable hand grip and a flat-top upper receiver. And, the entire rifle is coated in Mossy Oak Brush camouflage. Loaded with Remington’s Hypersonic, Remington’s Hog Hammer or Winchester’s Razorback ammunition, this rifle should be great for deer hunting and could also double as a predator rifle. Carry one home for less than a grand. Visit www.mossberg.com for more information.
ARs are becoming more and more popular for hunters, and we still have three more to cover, but first it’s important to mention that now those who shoot left-handed have an AR option. Stag Arms has been manufacturing quality ARs for some time. The company built its reputation on quality, but also on offering left-hand-compatible ARs. For 2013 Stag Arms has updated its Model 8, which is a piston-driven AR, to the model 8T, which features a very cool handguard from Diamondhead Tactical. Here’s the really cool part — if you’re left-handed, the model 8TL is set up to eject to the left instead of the right. Street prices should be around $900. Visit www.stagarms.com for more information.
DPMS has always been a source for purpose-built hunting-style AR rifles, and its new 6.8 Hunter provides those looking for a little more punch than the .223 Remington offers another choice. With a fixed A2-style stock, flat-top upper receiver and a slick carbon-fiber handguard, this 20-inch-barreled AR-15 chambered for the 6.8 SPC cartridge is ready to go to the deer woods. The suggested retail price is $1,269. Visit www.dpmsinc.com for more information.
Bushmaster, which is DPMS’s sister company under the Freedom Group banner, has a new AR-10 in .308 Winchester for those looking to reach out farther with than can be done with the AR-15. This is indeed a good-looking rifle, fitted with Magpul’s new A2-style stock. Granted, AR-10s have a reputation for being a bit heavy, but if you’re overlooking a Mississippi bean field or a Texas sendero, this rifle will have the punch to reach out there and deliver a fast follow-up shot if buck fever gets the best of you on that first trigger pull. Suggested retail is $1695. Visit www.bushmaster.com for more information.
Ruger is also staying in the hunting game with its AR, known as the SR 556. Though the newest SR 556 is purpose-built for varmint hunting, hence the name Varmint Target (VT), its 1:8 twist barrel will allow you to shoot those long and heavy .223-caliber bullets which fly so flat and hit so hard. And, like with Mossberg’s MMR hunter, you can use the SR 556 VT as a both-ways rifle for deer and predators, where the .223 is legal for deer hunting. Suggested retail price is $1,995. Visit www.ruger.com for more information.
So, now you have your new rifle and a case of ammo. You’re ready to hit the range and get ready for the deer season. But you’re missing one final piece of the puzzle — a sight. A lot of hunters get lost in the vastness of optical options available when it comes time to put a scope on a tactical-style hunting rifle. In the end, the choice is really no different then scoping any other deer rifle, with the exception that the AR platform offers more versatile mounting options.
If your eyes tend to lean toward the more traditional-style riflescopes, Leupold, Weaver and Vortex all have interesting new scopes to consider. I’ve used a lot of optics from all these companies and trust them.
Weaver has updated its excellent Grand Slam riflescopes, and they have undergone a complete transformation inside and out. From advancements to the legendary Micro-Trac erector system to a fresh exterior design, the revitalized Grand Slam series scopes are rugged, versatile and packed with advanced technology. My favorite is the 2-8×36, which is available with a variety of reticles and retails for around $400. Visit www.weaveroptics.com for more information.
Vortex is quickly making a name in the optics world, and the company is doing this the only way it can be done — by building products that work and hold up to harsh conditions. The Razor HD Gen II 1-6x24mm scope will make a great companion to any AR-15 or AR-10 you might carry to the timber. It’s incredibly versatile and is an ideal solution for short- to medium-range tactical and hunting applications. With a retail price of around $1,800, this scope might cost more than your rifle — but that money does buy performance and most importantly, trust. Visit www.vortexoptics.com for more information.
One of my favorites is the new Leupold Mark AR MOD-1, 1.5-4X riflescope with the SPR Green FireDot reticle. This one-inch scope offers Multi-Coat 4, which makes the scope bright. It has a large eye-box to allow a wide range of head positioning. It also has the SPR reticle which has an inner 10 MIL circle with MIL marks along the vertical and horizontal cross wires. When you throw this scope on target, it seems to center itself. Best of all, the suggested retail price is just $499! Visit www.leupold.com for more information.
Of course, some who head into the thickets with an AR while looking for Mr. Big like more of a close-quarter tactical-type sight like a red dot. Though my testing has shown red dot scopes are not really any faster when shooting in hunting conditions, they are lighter and offer more latitude in mounting and head positioning. With a parallax-free red dot sight, all you must do is get the red dot on the target and make sure it stays there while you pull the trigger.
Bushnell’s new TRS-32 features a 5 MOA red dot with 11 brightness settings, allowing the site to perform in a wide variety of light conditions. With fully multi-coated optics and a 32mm objective lens, the TRS-32 provides optimal light transmission and image clarity. It also comes out of the box with an elevated 30mm tactical ring, making it quick and easy to mount the sight on a Picatinny rail or Weaver-style base. Suggested retail price is about $150. Visit www.bushnell.com for more information.
Not to be outdone by other optics companies offering compact, lightweight red dots, Weaver’s new Micro Dot is a non-magnified miniature red dot. Easily attached to just about any firearm, the Micro Dot is perfect for fast-action shooting. It has adjustable brightness settings to ensure visibility in a variety of light conditions and is so small it could even be mounted as a back-up to a more traditional sight. With a suggested retail of only $108.45, it’s also affordable. Visit www.weaveroptics.com for more information.
And last but not least, EOTech is offering a red dot/holographic sight that provides ballistic correction for the .300 Blackout cartridge. Yep, you heard right, a red dot sight with a ballistic reticle for one of the hottest cartridges for the AR-15 platform. EOTech sights are so rugged and dependable our military uses them to fight terrorists. This sight has an amazing 600-plus hours of run time on one battery and retails for about $500. Visit www.eotech-inc.com for more information.