I’ve had the privilege of attending dealer-only trade shows, like the Archery Trade Association (ATA) Show and the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor (SHOT) Show, for nearly 20 years. I love getting a sneak peek at the latest and greatest products and talking to product engineers and sales staff about products that they are rightfully proud of. I also appreciate the fact that at Huntin’ Fool, we can tell the truth about gear. I get to write about what I want to cover instead of covering a list of assigned brands. I think it adds authenticity to this product roundup, and I believe that there are some products in this article that you will find invaluable in the field in the years to come.
CAMP CHEF – PURSUIT 20 PORTABLE PELLET GRILL
It’s no secret that even a terrible cook like myself can prepare amazing meals with today’s pellet grills. If you haven’t cooked on one, you’re missing out. Most of the options in this space are very large, heavy, and bulky, which makes them sort of a one-location wonder. Camp Chef’s new Pursuit 20 portable pellet grill is the first one that I’ve seen that truly combines compact portability with a robust cooking surface.
The cooking surface on this model can accommodate up to 16 one-half pound burger patties, so it’s adequate for fairly large cookouts, and it features an indirect and direct flame broil mode. This feature is really nice because you can switch the Pursuit 20 from an all-day smoker to a short order burger grill as easily as flipping off a light switch. With heavy-duty wheels, locking lids, and push-button folding legs, the entire system collapses into an easily transported mobile kitchen that sets up and takes down in minutes.
CVA – PARAMOUNT LONG-RANGE MUZZLELOADER
My earliest memories of black powder hunting involve a lot of misses, panicked reloads, spilled powder all over the snow, snapped ramrods, hangfires, and tag soup. Outside of the fact that you still load all muzzleloaders from the front, today’s options don’t look anything like the good old days. I’d argue that technology in this category has come about as far as any other category in the hunting space. However, many of the most popular long-range muzzleloaders require you to reach really deep into your pocketbook to put one in your gun safe. That is why the new Paramount muzzleloader from CVA caught my eye. For just over $1,000, you can own this .45 caliber bolt action projectile pusher.
This gun is engineered to handle super-magnum propellant charges that send bullets through the free-floating Bergara barrel at a whopping 2,200 feet per second. When paired with PowerBelt’s new ELR bullets that are specifically designed for this barrel, you have a muzzleloader with extraordinary long-range accuracy and knockdown power. As an added bonus, the breech plug on this muzzleloader uses the hotter and more consistent Large Rifle Primer to light the charge. Throw in an adjustable length-of-pull and comb height, and you’ve got a long-range muzzleloader at an extremely good price.
FIERCE FIREARMS – CARBON FURY
Anybody who knows me very well knows that I’m the last guy who should be writing gun reviews because I pretty much hunt exclusively with a bow. However, in recent years, I’m becoming more and more obsessed with the idea of a lightweight, long-range wolf gun, and I think I found it this year in the new Carbon Fury line from Fierce Firearms.
After handling this gun, there were several features that I really liked about it. I love the action on this gun because it has the 70 degree bolt throw, which keeps your thumb from hammering into the scope tube when you work the bolt fast. This small detail could mean the difference between another round on a fleeing predator and a jammed gun. Also, the action is wire EDM cut for a silky smooth, tight tolerance feel when you cycle the bolt. With Fierce’s own C3 carbon barrel, this gun weighs in at an ultra-light 6.6 pounds, which is really impressive given the fact that the carbon fiber stock features a solid carbon bedding block and a Monte Carlo cheekpiece. The solid lineup of calibers includes 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 7MM REM, 28 Nosler, .300 Win, and .300 Rum. With a price tag of $2,599 and a 1/2 Minute of Angle (MOA) guarantee at 100 yards, I don’t think you can find a better combination of precision components, long-range accuracy, and affordability on the market.
MSRP: $ 2,599
DECIBULLZ – CUSTOM MOLDED EARPLUGS AND PERCUSSIVE SHOOTING FILTERS
I remember shooting my dad’s .44 magnum Smith and Wesson pistol as a kid with some high-tech toilet paper carefully wrapped and stuffed in my ears for protection. Thankfully, hearing protection has come a long way since then and is readily available in prices that range from pennies to thousands of dollars. Decibullz has found a sweet spot for a lot of hunters and shooters with their economical, made in the USA options for custom hearing protection.
The entry level product is a custom molded earplug that retails for $26 per pair. The earplugs are formed to your ear in the same manner that athletic mouth guards are fitted to your mouth. Decibullz’ patent pending technology enables the earpiece to become malleable when dipped in hot water without getting too hot for human skin. Once the earpiece is molded, it features a 31 Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), which places it on par with the best earmuffs on the market. Plus, the custom fit stays in and stays comfortable and can even be remolded for a different fit.
The more interesting product to me was their custom molded Percussive Shooting Filters. The earpieces for these devices are molded in the exact same way as the custom earplugs, but this product family protects users from gunshots and explosions while allowing ambient noise through. These hightech filters allow comfortable conversation yet engage automatically to block noise from gunfire through a mechanical filter that doesn’t require batteries, so it’s always ready. At $75 per pair, they come in at a fraction of the cost of battery-operated custom molded hearing protection solutions.
MSRP: $26 & $75
KLYMIT – ARMORED V SLEEPING PAD
I’ve been known to create a leaky sleeping pad or two in my day by not taking perfect care of them on some of my adventures. Whether I’m driving cross country for a hunt and sleeping on picnic tables in rest areas or hunting with a mobile camp on my back, by the time I decide to call it a day, I’m usually so wiped out that I’m not above throwing my pad onto a questionable surface. I’ve paid for it many times.
I think Klymit had people like me in mind when they released their Armored V sleeping pad. It features their incredibly comfortable, patented V-shaped air chambers. These chambers are isolated from the far edges of the pad with long, vertical seams that are designed to keep your sleeping bag centered on the pad. When you couple that with a comfy 2.5 inches of depth and a roomy 72 inch by 23 inch platform, you’re in for a great night’s rest on this pad. However, most impressive to me is the 300,000 armored SuperFabricTM scales that cover the entire underside of the pad. These scales feel like alligator hide, yet are flexible enough to fold and roll for compact storage. At 46 ounces, it’s not the lightest pad on the market, but it would be ideal for minimalist shelter backpacking, car camping, horseback trips, and more. After handling this pad in person, I can see why Klymit is more than confident in slapping their Lifetime Warranty on it.
HORNADY – OUTFITTER AMMUNITION
Unlike some of the other categories in this article, ammunition doesn’t appear to have changed much in decades. However, if you take a closer look under the hood, you can see that each year Hornady is determined to look for new ways to reinvent and improve ammunition. This year is no exception with the release of their Outfitter ammunition that features corrosion-resistant, nickel-plated cases with sealed primers and case mouths for watertight performance under the toughest conditions. Hornady is topping these cases with their proven GMX bullets that provide uniform, controlled expansion and 95%+ weight retention.
MSRP: $45- $90
HUSKEMAW – 5-20X50MM TACTICAL HUNTER LONG-RANGE SCOPE
Huskemaw’s reputation as a leader in the longrange shooting space is well deserved. Thankfully, they are not resting on that reputation as evidenced by the new 5-20x50mm Tactical Hunter Long-Range Scope. This scope has it all, including incredibly bright and clear German F2 Schott glass with cutting edge multi-coated lenses. One look through this model and you can see that it rivals any top competitor in the space for clarity and brightness.
As with all Huskemaw scopes, a generous amount of Minute of Angle (MOA) adjustment is a priority. The 34mm tube enables 110 MOA vertical adjustment and 70 MOA horizontal adjustment. With 30 MOA in each revolution of the turret, you can make large yardage adjustments in a hurry. Also, the patented windage-enabled turret coupled with the built-in windage marks in the scope make it very intuitive to dope the wind on the fly. An internal level bubble and a partially illuminated reticle are nice features once you’ve acquired the target to make the shot. As the name suggests, this scope is packed with tactical features on a lightweight hunting chassis.
LEUPOLD – FREEDOM RED DOT SIGHT (RDS)
If you need to acquire your target quickly and shoot fast, it’s hard to argue that there’s a better option for short-range shooting than a red dot sight. With the release of two models of the new Freedom RDS, Leupold is challenging the notion that red dots are for close range.
Both models feature a 1 Minute of Angle (MOA) dot reticle, which means that the Freedom RDS doesn’t block as much of the target as many red dots do, improving accuracy as shot distances increase. The base model that retails for $299 features capped precision 1/4- MOA click adjustments, while the Bullet Drop Compensator (BDC) model has a precision exposed BDC elevation turret designed to allow precise adjustment out to 500 yards. Although this turret is factory set for standard 55 grain .223 Remington ammunition, Leupold will cut a custom turret for a nominal fee to match the ballistics of the gun of your choice.
Like all of Leupold’s gun-mounted optics, this little 5.5 inch long scope is backed by their Legendary Lifetime Guarantee and is made in the USA. If you’re looking for a red dot sight that won’t break the bank but will break old notions regarding its long-range capabilities, this 100% waterproof and fogproof scope deserves a hard look.
MSRP: $299- $399
MYSTERY RANCH – BEARTOOTH 80 BACKPACK
I love stopping at the Mystery Ranch booth because I always feel like there’s room for improvement in the backpack space and I expect to see advancements from them every year. After all, Mystery Ranch’s sole focus is on backpacks. I wasn’t disappointed, and quite frankly, it was hard to decide which pack to cover in this write-up. In the end, I opted to cover the pack that I felt I would buy if I could only have one backpack to do it all with.
The new Beartooth 80 is built on the Guide Light MT FrameTM, which features a five-point waist belt that is segmented to conform to your waist more comfortably than a standard hip belt. This system also helps eliminate slippage over your hips when carrying heavy loads. Best of all, with a quick-attach frame capture feature, the pack can be expanded into overload mode in less than a minute. There is no doubt that this 5,200 cubic inch pack is capable of hauling all of the gear necessary for extended multiday backpacking trips plus more meat than you’d ever want to load onto it.
My favorite feature is the unique 270 degree duffel-style zipper that provides easy access to all of the contents in the main compartment of the backpack. You could lay this pack on the ground in front of you and open it like a suitcase rather than digging around in it from the top or side. There are multiple pockets in this main compartment for gear organization, too. The list of features that go into every Mystery Ranch pack is too long for this space, but I’ll say that their packs are built for a lifetime of sweaty backs and dusty trails.
SIG SAUER – KILO 3000 BDX RANGEFINDING BINOCULAR
This is the year of the rangefinding binocular! It’s awesome to finally have so many players in this market because it will improve features and pricing for the consumer in the years to come. Not surprisingly, Sig’s new Kilo 3000 BDX 10x42 rangefinding binocular is sure to rock the boat since it is loaded with so many unique features. The most notable feature is the Bluetooth pairing capability of the Kilo 3000 BDX. When paired with Sig’s BDX riflescopes, the binocular sends the yardage to the scope and provides an illuminated holdover dot that factors in the ballistic data of your gun. I used this system last year on a deer hunt with my son, and it worked flawlessly. Of course, Sig is not satisfied with simply providing holdover data, so they designed the binocular to also pair with a Kestrel so you can get your wind hold information with the click of a button as well. Since hunting scenarios rarely unfold without a hiccup, I love the fact that Sig has provided a way to remove the time and human error factor of dialing a turret. It’s an ingenious innovation that’s a true game changer in long-range shooting.
As if that wasn’t enough, the binoculars utilize Sig’s LightWave DSPTM technology for the fastest and longest distance rangefinder engine, ensuring fast and accurate readouts in all kinds of conditions. This results in a rangefinder that will read reflective targets at up to 5,000 yards and non-reflective targets, like trees, up to 2,000 yards away and report them back to you in 1/10 yard increments. With their Lumatic OLED DisplayTM, the brightness of the readout is automatically adjusted for the light conditions. From an overall glass quality point of view, the binoculars feature multi-coated ED lenses that utilize phase-coated prisms, resulting in high resolution and contrast. In low light conditions, this glass competes with the best of them, and with a price tag of about $1,400, it makes a good argument that it might be the best bang for your buck in this category. All rangefinding binoculars are a bit heavier and bulkier than those that do not have this feature. At 31 ounces, this model is definitely on the lighter side for this category.