How to Buy an Accurate Rifle or Handgun: what to look for when you are shopping.

We all want to get the most value for our hard-earned dollar. We want the best we can get for what we are willing to spend: so how does one know when one is getting the most for one’s money when it comes to guns? For what characteristics does one look? Here are some factors that contribute to accuracy and are easy to notice if one knows what to look for.

One of the first things to look for is a smooth, tight action. If it is a bolt action rifle, check to see if the bolt works smoothly and easily or if it is hard to cycle throughout the full travel of the bolt. When fully extended, does it go back into the receiver in a straight line or does it bind as you push it back into battery? A bolt that works smoothly will work more quickly when a follow-up shot is needed and is a sign that the bolt fits the receiver well and that both are machined correctly. If it is not a tight fit, it will not be as accurate as one that is tightly fit. If the firearm you are shopping for is a semi-auto handgun, then ensure that the slide is tight against the frame and slides smoothly and easily for its full range of travel. If the firearm is a revolver, ensure that the cylinder locks up tightly into the frame, with no side to side wobble, and that the action does not feel gritty or loose: the parts should slide smoothly across each other with no looseness or roughness to your touch. A gritty feel to the interplay of the parts suggests a firearm which is not as well finished internally as one which feels smooth throughout the movement of the parts.  It will not be as accurate as one that is internally well-finished.

For rifles, the next thing should be the mounting of the receiver and barrel into the stock of the rifle. Does the stock touch the barrel at any point past where the barrel comes out of the receiver? A rifle whose barrel is “floated”, meaning that the barrel is able to move freely after a round is fired, will be much more accurate than a rifle whose stock touches the barrel for the entire length of the stock. Why does this matter? It matters because anytime you fire a round through a barrel a vibration travels through the length of the barrel; this vibration is called a “harmonic”. When this vibration is undisturbed the next vibration will be exactly the same as the one before it, causing the bullet to go into exactly the same place as the last bullet fired. This is accuracy defined: placing the next round exactly where the prior round went. If everything occurs in exactly the same way for each round fired, then they should all go into the same big hole, which is ultimately our goal.

Perhaps this illustration will help. Think of a coffee cup full of water. If you dip your fingertip into it, you will see circular ripples circulate out from the point where you touched it: think of this as your barrel harmonic. This pattern should always be the same. Now dip your fingertip at several different places while this ripple effect is moving outward. You will see the circles intermix, disrupting the form of the original harmonic: this is what occurs when the stock of the rifle touches the barrel when a round is fired. Any bump under the barrel that touches the barrel causes stress on it and disrupts the harmonic, causing the round fired to be deterred from its originally intended course. This is inaccuracy: Bullets traveling everywhere but where we intend them to travel. Anything that disturbs the harmonic disturbs accuracy and your ability to hit your target where you intend it to be hit. Avoid this problem by buying a rifle with a “floated” barrel.

 There are two ways to tell if your barrel is floated. One way is to look along the edge of the barrel where it curves down to meet the stock: if there is a gap between the barrel and the stock, then it is probably floated. The second way to tell, if you are still unsure after method one, is to take a dollar bill and wrap it width-wise around the barrel. Holding the two long ends of the dollar bill, slide it down the length of the barrel until it stops. If it stops in front of the receiver, then the barrel is “fully floated” and this will lead to your best accuracy since the barrel can freely vibrate and keep the harmonic undisturbed. If the bill slides down part, but not all, of the way then it will still be a more accurate rifle than one which is not floated at all, but probably not quite as accurate as one which is fully floated. Rifles having fully floated barrels right “off the rack” are the Tikka T3, Winchester Model 70, Thompson Icon, Weatherby S2 (Series 2 Sub-MOA), Thompson Venture, and some of the Savage rifles, to name a few.  These are all at least “minute of angle” or “MOA” rifles right out of the box and will shoot at least 3 rounds into an inch at 100 yards.

The third thing to look for in a rifle is a “bedded” receiver. This means that, while the barrel is free to move, the receiver is locked down into the stock. “Bedding” a receiver keeps the entire action in line with the barrel and provides a rock-solid launch pad for the round fired. This contributes to accuracy as much as does floating the barrel and is especially important in a rifle with a stock made of wood. Having originally been a living organism before being cut down and shaped into a stock, wood is inherently affected by temperature and humidity. This is why your unbedded rifle, which you sighted in at the range during 95 degree heat and 98% humidity, missed the target you shot at on a 28 degree morning with 30% humidity: wood cells swell in hot weather and shrink during cold weather, causing your receiver to move enough to skew your shot. Bedding the receiver takes this variable out of the shooting equation and keeps all factors the same, resulting in a more accurate shot and putting the game down with one round. A rifle with a bedded receiver will be inherently more accurate than a receiver which is not, which is why snipers, benchrest shooters, and precision shooters of bolt action rifles always have their receivers bedded. Receivers of semi-auto rifles like AR-15’s are a bit different, but tightness of parts fit, smoothness of operation, and barrel floating are still of prime importance. Rifles available with bedded receivers are the Winchester Model 70, Thompson Icon, Weatherby S2 (Series 2 Sub-MOA), Thompson Venture, and some of the Savage rifles. Rifles capable of shooting MOA (minute of angle) are capable of placing 3 shots inside 1” at 100 yards; the Weatherby S2 is capable of sub-MOA groups measuring less than 1” at 100 yards … and retails for $499! Most rifles claiming sub-MOA performance easily retail for three times that price.

Buying an accurate rifle or handgun is easy. Remember that what a firearm looks like on the outside (fit of the outside parts, finish on the exterior parts) will tell you a lot about what quality of work on the inside is like, especially on a handgun. Buying an accurate rifle is easy if it is bedded, floated, and the weapon works smoothly as a whole. An adjustable trigger is also a huge contributor to accuracy since the harder you must pull the trigger, the greater the chances of pulling your sight picture off of the target. Accurate rifles are not necessarily expensive anymore, thanks to CNC machining and some pretty significant technology leaps in the past few years. There is no longer any reason to wait  to shop for that new rifle with so many excellent choices out there.

By: Paul Alburl, Hunting Associate



One of my fondest memories of childhood was having my own Daisy BB gun and plinking at tin cans and "other opportunities" in my backyard.  As I grew and became older, I enjoyed plinking and hunting with rimfire and centerfire rifles, revolvers, and shotguns.  Before I became aquainted with perfume and gasoline, there was nothing better than the smell of fresh fired gunpowder (including fireworks)!  Off to college and pursuing a career, I lost touch with the joys of hunting and shooting.  But not long ago, living in an area not condusive to using a rimfire rifle or pistol, I rediscovered airguns and took up plinking and target shooting again!

The oldest existing airgun dates from1580 and is displayed in a museum in Stockholm, Sweden.  In the 1600's airguns of .30 - .51 caliber were used for both hunting and warfare, since their accuracy, relative quietness, and lack of telltale smoke were a great advantage over the crude matchlocks of the time.  Lewis and Clark took an 800 psi, .46 caliber airgun with them on their exploratory trip to the west at the turn of the 19th century.

Today's airguns come in a wide variety of types, styles, uses, and power.  From the same reliable Daisy BB guns to the powerful and supersonic pellet rifles used for plinking, hunting, and competitive target shooting and the soft air and paintball guns used for mock combat, there is an airgun suited to most any purpose.  Air guns are operated with a spring piston, single or multi-stroke pump, or cylinders of compressed carbon dioxide. 

For simple target shooting or plinking fun, I like to get out my Crosman CO2 BB repeater pistol, but get more power and accuracy using my Crosman CO2 .177 caliber "357" pellet revolver.  Both use cylinders of carbon dioxide that are fitted within the pistol's grips and both attain a velocity of around 400+ ft. per second, with the .177 lead pellet having more mass than the .177 copper BB and thus more knockdown power.

For more punch, I opt for my Crosman "American Classic" .177 caliber pellet pistol or my Crosman "760" .177 caliber pellet rifle, both multi-stroke pumps with velocities in excess of 600 ft. per second.  A multi-stroke pump means that the more times the gun is pumped, the more pressure is provided and the higher velocity of the round.

For small game hunting, varmit and pest control, or target annihilation, I use a Gamo .177 "Big Cat", break barrel - spring piston rifle with a scope.  With special Gamo pellets, this rifle can reach supersonic velocities of over 1,250 ft. per second, making a loud "crack" like a .22 rimfire.  However, unlike a .22 rimfire, the smaller sized .177 pellet does not have the mass or the knockdown power of the rimfire, yet it is considerable.

For even more knockdown power, I turn to my Beeman RS2 break barrel - spring piston rifle that shoots a .22 caliber pellet at some 830 ft. per second. 

No airgun, including BB guns, air soft, paintball or pellet rifles should be considered a toy!  Each should be treated with safety in mind, just as any other firearm.  Municipal Codes may prohibit the firing of an airgun within their area of jurisdiction.  Check with your local Authorities beforehand.  Although eye protection if a must, hearing protection may only be necessary when shooting at supersonic velocities.  It should be noted that pellets shot at supersonic speeds suffer from instability when encountering the shock wave produced at the speed of sound and are somewhat less accurate at longer ranges than a sub-sonic round.

Many more people today, are taking to hunting and competitive shooting with airguns, Besides being just plain fun, they can be just as durable, accurate, and powerful as small caliber rimfires and yet may have a lower overall operating cost.  The rising sport of air soft and paintball mock combat meets attests to the airgun's versitility.  Airguns are a great tool for teaching youth the safety aspects, proper shooting techniques, and the proper handling of firearms.  Many Boy Scouts have earned their Rifle Shooting Merit Badge with air guns.

Bass Pro Shops stocks a variety of airguns with BB or pellet pistols and pellet rifles from Daisy, Crosman, Winchester, Beeman, Gamo and Benjamin.  Soft air and paintball guns are represented by major manufacturers such as Franchi, JT, Crosman, Tippman, and Spyder.  In addition to BB's, we offer a wide selection of .177 and .22 pellets in different configurations especially for plinking, target shooting, or hunting.  Air soft BB's, paintballs, cleaning kits, safety glasses, hearing protection, and a variety of targets are stocked for all your airgun needs.

By Gary Feduccia


Savage 11/111 Lady Hunter


Attention Hunters and Huntresses!

If you’re looking for a rifle for the female shooter in your life, or even for yourself, look no further! Savage has just released the Lady Hunter. This rifle is tested by and made specifically for women. This rifle was designed with only one thing in mind, a perfect rifle for a woman. While designing this gun, they didn’t just resize a man’s gun and add pink, but actually took the time to find out what features could be improved to better fit a lady. First off, women generally have longer necks, so a raised comb was added to achieve greater comfort when shouldering the rifle and not so much slouching is taking place.  Next, they didn’t just chop off the stock, but actually shortened the length of pull and thinned out the palm swell to better fit a woman’s hand. And finally, Savage decided to take some weight out of the forend so it has a lighter, shorter 20” barrel which allows for a less tiresome hold on the gun when shouldering. Multiple calibers are available, including:
22-250 REM

223 REM

243 WIN

270 WIN

30-06 SPFLD

308 WIN


7MM-08 REM

The Lady Hunter features a detachable box magazine with a 4+1 round capacity for every caliber. MSRP for this rifle is $819.00 so hurry! This is a special order only feature for 2012 here in Bass Pro and availability is limited! If you have any questions regarding ordering this firearm, please come visit us or give us a call. We will be glad to help.


Savage Lady Hunter


--Krizia Torres

Hunting Associate/ Gun Vault Specialist

Bass Pro Shops

Miami, FL


Bass Pro Portage Has All Your Shooting Needs

Greetings from the hunting team at Bass Pro!

As Spring approaches it is a great time to pack up the family and head out to a shooting range for a day full of fun. At Bass Pro we have firearms available for the whole family, starting with .22 caliber rifles and pistols for the younger members of the family and for the young at heart, and all calipers up to large game hunting.

.22 rifle

Rim fire firearms are a great economical way to practice and teach firearm safety, work well for beginners, and can polish shooting techniques for experienced shooters. The hunting team also has full line of trap equipment and supplies. Bass Pro also offers full lines of bench shooting rifles and supplies.

We are happy to offer tactical style firearms as well. Some of these firearms include Remington R-15 series .223, Remington R-25 series (.243 & .308), Bushmaster series and Smith & Wesson M&P 15 series. We also carry a line of tactical shotguns Mossberg MarinerRemington Marine, Benelli M2 tactical , tactical Super Nova, to just name a few we also have many other brands available. Accessories that we carry for tactical weapons includes stocks from Archangle, TacStar shotgun accessories and a large variety of Tapco Ar-15 add-ons (fore grip,rail accessories,cleaning stars, and much more.

zombie ammo

Don't forget your Zombie ammo and targets for those dark nights! 


BPS Hunting Team Member



Entertainment for the Whole Family

Situated on the banks of the Ohio River, Clarksville, Indiana (  has a long, rich outdoors history.  Some of the oldest naturally exposed fossil beds ( can be seen there; Native Americans set up camps along the Ohio River as it was close to the crossing of the Buffalo Trace; it was the gathering point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition of the Louisiana Purchase ( and John James Audubon was only one of several naturalists to study the variety of wildlife in the area.  With such an outdoors heritage it is only natural that outdoors giant Bass Pro Shops has built a retail store in Clarksville which bills itself as the “Oldest American Town in the Northwest Territory.”  At 280,000 square-feet, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store is the company’s second largest to date.

Located in the River Falls Mall, just off Interstate 65 and across the river from Louisville, Kentucky, the entire store is a tribute to the Kentuckiana region and its people and, like other Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World stores, takes on the flavor and atmosphere of the region in which it is located.  Using area artifacts, antiques and memorabilia the store becomes a living museum of the hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor legacies of Indiana.

The outdoor super store features two levels and is part museum, part art gallery, part education, conservation and entertainment center.  Massive log and rock work frame the Grand Entrance where inside, timber skin walls and vaulted post and beam construction ceiling make up the front lobby.   Natural daylight streams through the store through the 50,000-square-foot Hypalon roof structure.

Museum quality wildlife exhibits adorn the entire store including state record fish mounts, turkeys, native waterfowl, quail, pheasants, rams, elk, full body whitetail mounts and bears.  State record mounts are displayed alongside local historical prints depicting early Indiana residents enjoying sporting adventures.

Inside, giant, exquisitely crafted outdoor themed chandeliers, made by Bass Pro Shops own artisans, hang throughout the store.  Dinosaur fossils and wildlife tracks are imprinted in the concrete floor.  One of the store’s focal points is a rock bluff structure that showcases a dramatic 65’ waterfall (one of three) flowing into the 50,000 gallon aquarium which features two tanks.  It is stocked with more than 300 fish native to the area including large and smallmouth bass, catfish, carp, walleye, bluegill, and crappie.  A beaver pond and stream runs through the central clerestory on the main floor. 

Two elevators rise through cave-like structures near the aquarium allowing visitors to see through the aquarium on their ride up to the 2nd floor.

Murals, wildlife paintings and animal dioramas help portray local and regional scenes to lend authenticity and help capture the Indiana landscape.

On the 91,500-square foot first floor, visitors have the area’s largest selection of freshwater rods, reels and fishing accessories, all hand-picked and specially selected for the area, to choose from.  The White River Fly Shop, featuring antique and collectible fly fishing memorabilia, has a vast selection of the latest in fly fishing gear.  Experts will continue the art of hand-tying flies on site and assist customers in making the perfect selection.

More than a fishing store, visitors find items perfect for camping, hiking, outdoor cooking, bird watching or whatever your outdoor pleasures. A gift and nature center offers a variety of items from artwork to lamps, to bird feeders and furniture, home decorating items and gifts for the holidays.  Cooking accessories include cookbooks, spices, grills and jerky making items.

The attention to detail continues upstairs in the 178,600 square-foot second floor.  The hunting department features a 75’ long curved counter which stands ready to help assist customers.  Hunting cabinets are adorned with hand-carved animals.  World Class record mounts grace the walls.  Customers will find an equally impressive array of hunting clothing and gear.  The archery department offers a bow set-up shop and a 25-yard live archery range is perfect for testing that new bow or sharpening necessary skills.

Shooters of all ages will enjoy the 16,000-square foot, walk-through “African Big Game” safari-style rifle arcade with  animated targets.  There is also a theater-styled seminar room which will accommodate up to 200 people for various civic, educational or conservation functions.

A NASCAR department provides 3 car simulators plus all the clothing and items featuring your favorite driver. 

An 11,000 square-foot marine and boat center helps area residents have fun on the water with a full range of powerboats from Tracker Marine--the world’s largest manufacturer of fishing boats.  From big water boats to small fishing, canoeing and even kayaking, customers will find exactly what they need with selections from  Tracker, Nitro, Tahoe, Mako, Kenner and more.  An on-site boat service center with 4 service bays is available for customers’ convenience for boat rigging and repairs.

The store offers Outdoor Skills Workshops for adults, kids and families that will help maximize outdoor fun by teaching new skills and improving existing ones.  They also feature many youth activities throughout the year.

For more information regarding your Clarksville Bass Pro Shops store location, products or special events, please visit or call 812-218-5500.
Visit us soon!
Tina Tucker, Special Events Coordinator


From Combat To Coyotes

In the last couple decades the civilian popularity for the AR-15 function rifle has grain considerable popularity.  It has a wide variety of purposes, everything from being the standard military issued rifle to hunting coyotes.  The AR-15 is based off the 7.62x51 AR-10.  A lot of people believe the A.R. is an acronym for assault rifle, this however is false and is short for the designer of the weapon, which is a company by the name of Armalite.  In 1957, the innovative lightweight design quickly gained the attention of the united states government who was seeking a rifle that would replace the heavy, hard recoil, 20 round M14 rifle.  There was also interest in a new standard issue caliber due to the .308's weight, ammo capacity, and exit wound problem.  Armalite would try to solve this problem with the production of the AR-15.
ar15 evolution
Shortly after the creation of the AR-15, Armalite came into financial problems and sold the rights to the rifle to Colt.   who, in 1958, was awarded the military contract to produce the AR-15 or M16 as it's military designation would become.  Colt would go on to produce the rifle for the major conflicts that would take place in Vietnam.  The rifle was a lightwieight 3-round burst fire rifle with overwhelming accuracy for a standard issue infantry rifle.  However due to early design flaws the rifle was somewhat of a failure.  Colt, after the Vietnam war, lost it's military contract to produce the M-16 to FNH.  FNH has been producing the rifle ever since.  Colt later received a contract to make a carbine variant of the rifle known as the M-4.  This rifle is much more compact, features a collapsible stock, shorter barrel and heat shield, and is capable of semi and full auto fire.  The M-4 variant is the most popular civilian semi-automatic version you will find on shelves today.  In recent years the AR-15 has transitioned from the battle field and tactical world to the woods and meadows to take on the role of hunting rifle or "MSR" for "Modern Sporting Rifle".  Due to the sheer accuracy and easy of customization the AR-15 or MSR is an awesome choice for varmint hunters and has rapidly done so.  
remington msr

-Heath Ezell
 Hunting Lead


Time to Get Squirrely

The doldrums of summer are finally coming to a close and the time to hunt is coming quickly.  For me and my fellow Hoosiers, our first opportunity to get after something in the woods is squirrel season.  I find this time of year to be the most relaxing, care-free time in the field of the season.  Maybe it is just knowing that fall is here again and everything is going to be alright.  Maybe it is the minimal preparation needed to enjoy a squirrel hunt.  Or possibly it's the sound of Hickory cuttings raining from the trees on a cool, foggy late summer morning.  Regardless of why you are out there, having the right equipment can make your hunt a lot more enjoyable. 

 Most hunters have a stand-by rifle that is ready whenever it is needed.  Some are semi-auto and some are bolt action, while others still like the feel of a vintage lever gun.  If you are itching to get to the woods but do not have a trusty rifle to take, you're in luck because Bass Pro Shops offers a great variety of rimfire rifles perfect for chasing bushy tails.  Of course, we are talking about the .22 Long Rifle and the .17 HMR.  The .17 Mach 2 is also a great choice but your options on guns and ammo are pretty limited, so we will stick with the two former options.  

 A bolt action rifle is a great choice for somebody interested in getting started squirrel hunting, but a lot of experienced hunters stick with the bolt action as well.    The first that I will discuss is theSavage Mark II Series of rifles.  They come in .22 Long Rifle, start at about $199.99, and have many options from bull barrels to thumb-hole stocks.  They all feature Savage's Acu-Trigger and a 10 round clip.  These guns are great not only for a beginner, but a veteran looking to upgrade from his old rifle as well.  Another great rifle is the Browning T-Bolt Sporter.  The T-Bolt features a free floating barrel, satin walnut stock, and an adjustable trigger.  Furthermore, the top tang safety makes this gun perfect for right or left-handed shooters.  The Browning T-Bolt Sporter is as stylish as it is accurate and would be a great addition to any gun cabinet.  The retail is $579.99.  If you are interested in the higher powered .17 HMR, take a look at the Savage 93R17 series of rifles.  They feature the Acu-Trigger like the Mark 2 series.  The gun retails for 279.99 and you can upgrade to a package with a scope for an additional $10.

 Lever action rifles are still popular among squirrel hunters and others as well.  Their combination of accuracy and faster cycling time over the bolt action make them a great choice.  Furthermore, they have a much larger magazine capacity than most stock semi-auto's and bolt actions have.  There are actually a couple of options if you're looking for a lever gun.  Henry has the best selection with a mix of .17 HMR and .22 LR's.  The best option for a hunting gun would be the standard Henry Lever Action.  They are very reasonable in price starting at $299.99 for the .22 LR.  The Henry is a classic American made gun built to last a lifetime.  They also have the Golden Boy which sports a brass receiver and an octagon barrel.  The .22LR is $499.99 and the .17 HMR is $529.99.  Also available is the Marlin 39A. It feature an American Walnut stock and sports a 19+1 cartridge capacity.  It is a little more expensive than the Henry at $569.99.
Autoloaders are generally the favorite rimfires of most hunters and plinkers as well.  The great thing about autoloaders is that you can shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger while maintaining great accuracy.  Obviously, I will start off featuring the Ruger 10/22 as this is one of the most popular firearms in the whole world.  The Ruger 10/22 is probably the most customizable gun out there, maybe falling just short in that category to the AR-15.  The gun starts out at around $239.99.  It features a 10 shot rotary magazine and a very lightweight of just 5 pounds, making it a perfect squirrel rifle.  There are target models available but I would stick with the standard model for the sake of being lightweight and easy to carry.  The Marlin 60 is also a great rifle at an affordable price.  The synthetic and the wooden model both cost $159.99.  The 60 is tube-fed and holds 14 cartridges in the magazine.

 Regardless of what gun you buy there are a few things that you must have to get the most out of your squirrel hunting experience.  The first thing that I would recommend is a sling.  Even with the lightweight rimfire guns that I have discussed, a sling cuts way down on the fatigue of toting a rifle through the woods all morning.  Add a limit of squirrels to that and you are really in for a haul.  Another must have is a good optic for your rimfire.  My Ruger 10/22 that I use for hunting sports a RedHead 3-9X32 Rimfire Scope.  They run $59.99 and are great little scopes for squirrel hunting.  For a little bit better optics and light transmission, check out the Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40.  It is very bright and never fogs up on you in the middle of a hunt.  It retails at $159.99, but is worth the extra money if you can spare the extra hundred.   

 A good pocket knife serves many purposes in the woods.  Obviously, it is nice to have a good one for cleaning your squirrels.  The other nice thing is that squirrels are curious.  If you have one that you can hear, but it will not show itself, lightly tap your pocket knife on the stock of your gun to peak its curiosity.  Sometimes they will run down the tree for a look to find out what that tap is.  Bass Pro Shops offers many great knives.  A couple of my favorites for this application are the Buck 110, the Buck Rush series, and the RedHead Pen Wood pocket knife.  Try the Knight and Hale Squirrel Call to tap into their curiosity as well. 

 Another thing to keep in mind is bug spray!  You want to talk about ticks and mosquitoes, step out in the woods in the middle of August, you will find them.  You should treat all of your squirrel hunting clothes in Sawyer Permetherin to kill ticks that come in contact with your clothes.  Go ahead and put on some Maxi-Deet for additional protection.  Don't forget about your socks, shoes, waistline, and cuff lines of your shirt and pants.  This could mean the difference between a successful trip and being miserable to the point of never wanting to go again.  So if you don't follow any other advice in this entire blog, do this!

 After you finish gearing up at Bass Pro Shops, stop by your local hardware store to pick up the final item you will need for your hunting trip.  My favorite squirrel hunting accessory that I own is my squirrel pin.  It is a giant safety pin that I hang my squirrels from my belt on.  Unlike a game pouch or vest, it keeps your squirrels nice and neat for whenever it is time to clean them.  It makes cleaning the squirrels much easier and keeps air circulating around your game while you are in the woods rather than being wadded up in a game pouch.  The payoff of all of this is a great time in the woods and a good, healthy meal with squirrel, mashed potatoes, and green beans.  At least, that's what I would recommend.  Good luck hunting and enjoy the great dinner at the end of it!

-Brian Eickholtz


Prepare for the Upcoming Southeast Texas Hunting Season

Having the right equipment this season can make your hunting trips that much more comfortable and rewarding. Stock up on basic items now to have a rewarding season.

The snakes have been bad this year with the ongoing drought. A pair of RedHead Bayou Zip Camo Snake Boots will give you peace of mind as you are clearing trails and setting cameras. These boots provide 16” of snake protection and also work great on briers. They are 100% Bone-Dry waterproof and non-insulated.

RedHead Camo Bayou Zip Snake Boot

Match your snake boots with a RedHead 16” Pro Team Hunting Socks and you have the perfect combination for your feet. These socks are made with CoolMax to promote moisture-wicking and X-Systems technology that helps eliminate odor-causing bacteria.

RedHead 16" Pro Team Hunting Socks

Making the trip from your vehicle to your stand is a breeze with a RedHead Diamondback Bow/Rifle Pack. The material is water-resistant and has a great padded back with airflow channels to help with breathability. I love the bow/rifle harness system that this bad provides. Securing these items is a priority and allows for greater mobility.

RedHead Diamondback Bow/Rifle Pack

Enjoy the upcoming season!


Rimfire Target Shooting Considerations

Rimfire Target Shooting Considerations



When a customer indicates that they want to ‘target’ shoot, some questions immediately pop into my mind.


The first question is if the need is plinking (informal, fun shooting at items like pop cans, water bottles, dirt clods, etc.) or target shooting (more standardized paper and metal targets at established distances). It stands to reason that accuracy is more important for the target shooter.


So, with rimfire rifles in mind, what are some of the more common factors that are generally recognized as aiding accuracy? 

  1. bolt-actions tend to be more accurate than semi-auto, lever, or pump actions
  2. a single-shot bolt action tends to be more accurate than a repeater
  3. a lighter trigger pull (think adjustable) will disturb the gun less when pulling the trigger
  4. a one-piece stock with a wider forearm is more stable than a two-piece stock commonly found on lever and pump guns
  5. all barrels vibrate, but a heavier barrel (larger diameter) usually is more accurate
  6. a free-floating barrel that does not contact the stock will allow the barrel to vibrate consistently
  7. standard velocity ammunition generally is more accurate that high or hyper velocity ammo (but don’t be afraid to try at least five or six different types to see what will work the best).

Right out of the box, there are many fun plinkers (think Ruger 10/22, S&W M&P 15-22, Remington 597); but if the interest is target shooting, a bolt-action Savage with Accu-trigger, or CZ 452/453 will possess many of those factors that aid in shooting smaller 5-shot groups at 50 or 100 yards.


Target shooters need targets and a good, solid rest. Check out the Redhead Official NRA Small Bore Rifle Targets and Redhead Rifle Target. The Redhead Bench Shooting Bag will help you get a steady shot off at the paper.


Last but not least – safety is critical. Rimfire reports can damage hearing, so always use protection such as Redhead Folding Earmuffs and/or Redhead Foam Shooting Plugs. Your eyesight is also precious; protect them with Redhead Shooting Glasses. Now, go have some fun! 

Don Kearney

California Legal AR Type Rilfe / Morden Sporting Rifle (M.S.R.)

Modern Sporting Rifle (M.S.R.)
Keeping up with our customer needs BPS Rancho Cucamonga is proud to announce the
arrival of California Legal AR Type Rifle AKA Modern Sporting Rifle (M.S.R.)

Smith & Wesson M&P 15
m&pThe M&P15-22 is a dedicated M&P15 format rifle designed and built as a true .22 LR semi-auto from the ground up with all the standard operating features and accessory specifications of a modern version center-fire M&P15 rifle. Model M&P 15-22 has a six position stock, and 10 round mag.

Bushmaster Carbon 15
 Bushmaster Carbon 15 has a Polymer lower receiver that has a fixed magazine, making it incapable of accepting a detachable magazine, everything else are standard AR-15 parts. You have to pop the upper receiver off to load the internal magazine or just shoot single shots.

Remington R15 
remington r15Remington R15 is intended to be a varmint and predator hunting rifle with several barrels lengths and configuration options. 
This rifle is finished with Advantage Max -1 HD camouflage designed to blend in nicely with a variety of landscapes.

*Please Note!! Many of our pictures are stock photo's provided to be used as illustration and not necessarily represent the actual item.*

Upon your visit ask our friendly associate for assistance for available Model and caliber.

We look forward to your comments on this type of rifle.

Remember, at Bass Pro Shops in Rancho Cucamonga, we're "Sitting on Top of the World" to provide all your needs, and "We all live down stream".

Freddie Washington
Hunting Associate / Hunter Education Instructor

Bass Pro Shop Rancho Cucamonga, California


Spring Turkey Hunting in Missouri

Montana 2010First I would like to introduce myself, I am one of the Hunting Department Team Leads at the St. Charles Bass Pro Shops store. My name is David and I actively engage in several of the hunting and fishing seasons here in Missouri and in other states around the country. I enjoy the freedom and the serenity that is provided by actively engaging in such activities through out the year.

As spring begins to blossom, the weather begins to break and the temperatures increase, it sounds the signal on the spring turkey season. Spring turkey hunting this season promises to be more of a challenge than it has been in the previous few years. According to the MDC; several breeding seasons of foul and unfavorable weather conditions have reduced the number of birds per acre on average, and as such the large gobblers are more scarce and harder to call in and the jakes are even scarcer and are smaller on average. Though the overall numbers remain strong the competition for food, space, and hens is not as aggressive; setting the stage for a challenging season.

This year's season runs from April 18-May 8th, so now is the time to get equipped and get that essential must have gear:
  1. Shotgun
  2. Call
  3. Camouflage
  4. Permit
  5. Other items that I suggest you take but are not entirely necessary:
    • Knife or Knives for cleaning your bird
    • Camera- to capture that great moment
    • Binoculars- its a great help to spot those distant birds
    • Bug Repellent as often it can be damp and humid
    • Rain gear for those days when mother nature just doesn't cooperate

First lets look at the Shotgun, its the most essential part of your gear. There are a number of suitable choices from brands such as Mossberg, Remington, Browning, Winchester, and Benelli. While there is a dizzying array of choices, just keep in mind that there a a few specific features that make a "Turkey Gun" different from just another shot gun. Most are customized to some degree to take full advantage of the condition that most turkeys are hunted in, there fore they have shorter barrels that allow for great movement and ease of handling in dense foliage. They have more constrictive chokes either full or extra full to maximize the killing potential at the greatest distance possible by controlling the spread of the shot pattern. Many also make use of fiber optic rifle style sights to aid the shooter in aiming and making that perfect shot. Many now also make use of collapsible or pistol grip stocks to give the shooter greater comfort and control; and number one single defining factor is that a turkey gun sports a dense foliage camo pattern. Some of the best choices this season for a turkey gun are the Mossberg 500 series "Thug", and the Remington 887 Turkey Magnum- which is a Bass Pro Shops Exclusive. Both feature a dense woodland camo pattern, with fiber optic sights, and chokes optimized for turkey hunting. The Mossberg also sports a Choate Inc. Pistol grip stock.

The ammunition also makes a big difference on your success. Winchester, Remington and Environ-metal Hevi-Shot all make turkey specific hunting loads designed to exploit the advantages of the full and extra full chokes. These loads maximize effective range and killing power while being easy on the shooter and reliable in all conditions.

Next, we will look at the call. Once again this can prove to be a harrowing experience. To simplify your life there are two basic types of calls, the diaphragm call and the friction call.
  • The diaphragm call produces sound by the user forcing air through either a silicone of latex reed. The diaphragm call will often be referred to as a mouth call.
  • The friction call produces sound by rubbing two pieces of material against one another. The most common of the friction calls are the box and slate.
The diaphragm is most likely the hardest for the beginner to use, as it requires conditioning and hours of practice to master. Then it requires a different call for each type of sound you are wanting to produce. The box and slate calls however are rather user friendly and you can produce many types of sounds of varying length, volume and urgency from a single call. The box call is the simplest of the calls and can be used by anyone with little to no experience. The slate is a bit more advanced and its benefits far outweigh its learning curve. I suggest that even the greenest novice learn to use a slate call as its versatility lend itself to the varying conditions that are often encountered on a hunt. You can call soft and subtle or loud and aggressive, from a simple yelp to a full blown mating call. New for this year and one of my favorites is the Knight & Hale Warlord diaphragm call- quickly becoming a customer favorite. Its a full featured call ideally suited to the conditions that many face hunting spring turkey in Missouri. In the box calls the RedHead RTX box calls are a great value and are built to last through years of punishing use! In the slate call arena there are several great options; One of my favorites is the Primos Jackpot Slate, however there are some others that are great options as well: the HS Strut Lil Deuce II is a great beginners slate call as well as the all new for 2011 RedHead Cherry Friction slate call.

On to the camouflage, many times you can simply use what you have for early season bow hunting. However if your starting from scratch you will want to look at a thinner weight camo clothing that will provide comfort and concealment for those cool mornings but won't overheat you in the early afternoons. Ideally you want to be looking at something in an Mossy Oak, or a Real Tree pattern, as this best matches the Missouri foliage conditions. You also might want to purchase a blaze orange vest to wear when traveling to and from your hunting area. A face mask is also a good idea for a couple of reasons. One, it keeps the pestering bugs from your face. Two, turkey have particularly strong eye sight and your face and eyes are most often the portion of your body that give your position away when the rest of you is concealed.

The permit is just that: the state issued hunting permit that is required to be on you at all times while you are in the field hunting. It is available at any sporting goods retailer and now through the MDC website for an additional dollar. Its amazing just how many people forget just how important this piece of gear is. Its arguably the single most important piece of gear in your assortment. Don't risk your hunting privileges, get your permits on time and guard them like cash!

The other category is where many people go overboard and collect a lot of useless items. You have to remember everything you pack takes up space and adds weight, so pack sensibly. I prefer to keep my other items as light and compact as possible. For a knife I carry either a Buck Alpha Hunter with the Gut Hook feature or a Knives of Alaska Muskrat. For a camera I rely on either a Nikon or Canon pocket size digital camera. When using binoculars I prefer to carry the Nikon Monarch 8X36's. They are robust and have great light transmission for those early morning birds that are just out of naked eyesight, but be careful because you don't want to use them when there is a change of shadowing or prismatic reflection which may give away your position.

As far as bug repellent goes the best thing going right now is the Therma Cell. If you want or require bug repellent look no further; its light, compact, highly effective, and refillable. For those wet mornings quality rain gear is a must. I prefer a product with Gore Tex, as I have had great experience with it. However there are some new fleece materials on the market that are just as effective. Both the RedHead Storm Tex and Bone Dry backed clothes are great, as well as the Storm Kloth branded products.


Ultra-Light Tackle Fishing Guide

By Wade Bourne

The purpose for this downsized tackle is to enable an angler to cast tiny lures:  Jigs, crankbaits, spinners, etc. that weigh 1/32-1/8 ounce.

Sometimes, a little bit of fishing is better than a whole lot, at least as far as tackle and lures go.  In this case, "a little bit" equates to "ultra-light" -- bantam-sized rods, reels, lines and baits.  Frequently, such diminutive tackle and lures and the special techniques required of them will catch more fish than their heavy-duty counterparts.  And they don't just catch small fish!  Little baits draw big bites, and skillful anglers can catch lunkers on this so-called "toy tackle."


Still, many anglers shy away from using ultra-light.  They're afraid of its wimpy nature.  They don't understand its advantages, and they've never experienced its pleasures.  Indeed, fishermen using ultralight tackle average getting more bites, and they increase the challenge and (hopefully) satisfaction in playing fish.


So, exactly what is ultra-light tackle?  Technically, ultra-light is a term which describes a rod action.  The term is relative - lighter than light action.  Ultra-light rods typically quiver like buggy whips when shaken in the air.  They have parabolic actions (uniform bend from butt to tip) and the techniques required to use them are a bit different from your medium-, or heavy-action gear. 


Ultra-light rods are matched with small spinning or spincast reels.  These reels are spooled with spiderweb-sized lines, typically 2-6 pound test.


The purpose for this downsized tackle is to enable an angler to cast tiny lures:  Jigs, crankbaits, spinners, etc. that weigh 1/32-1/8 ounce.  Many times fish will take these smaller offerings more readily than larger ones.  Also, ultra-light allows anglers to fish artificials for crappie, bluegill, rock bass, trout, and other panfish which feed on smaller natural foods. 


Further, many experienced fishermen prefer ultra-light tackle for such larger species as black bass, catfish, walleyes. and even stripers or striper hybrids.  Using ultra-light on big fish increases the challenge in playing big fish and the satisfaction when they are landed. 


Ultra-Light Lures:  Big Attraction in Small Packages


By using ultra-light lures, anglers don't eliminate any fish.  If it swims and preys on other aquatic creatures, it will dine on ultra-light.  This is true of everything from madtoms to muskies.  True, these ultra-light lures come in several categories:  Crankbaits, jigs, topwaters, spinners, soft plastics, and spoons.  Most of these baits are very natural in appearance and resemble some natural prey.  Crawfish, minnows, worms and insects are favorites of predator fish, and even though these downsized lures take more small fish than large ones, that's because there are more small ones to start with. 


Anglers should stock up on lures in each category, then experiment to see which the fish prefer on that given day.  In clear water, natural colors are best - brown or green crawfish, silver spinners, and spoons.  However, in dingy water, such bright colors as chartreuse and yellow work well.


Playing Fish on Ultra-Light


Ultra-light is sporting tackle, not "horsing" tackle.  With these diminutive rods, reels and line, anglers have to play fish carefully and wear them down before attempting to land them.  This is why patience is a key element in successfully taking fish with ultra-light tackle. 


However, "ultra-light" describes more than tackle.  It defines a total concept in fishing -- downsizing to get more bites and to have more fun.  You should not try to "muscle" in fish with ultra-light tackle -- to do this will result in a broken line and resulting frustration.  Anglers must not hurry a larger fish to the boat or bank. 


Using ultra-light on big fish increases the challenge in playing big fish and the satisfaction when they are landed. 

Using reel drag properly is essential with ultra-light.  It should be checked before each outing and adjusted so the drag will slip before the line breaks.


Many anglers use the "feels right" method for setting drag, loosening the setting, then pulling line off by hand to check the amount of resistance.  However, this method is very imprecise.


A better method for setting drag is to attach the end of the line to a fixed object, then to back away and unreel 20-30 yards of line.  Next, tighten down on the drag so it won't slip, then back up so tension on the line is near the breaking point.  Then loosen the drag slowly until it slips the first time -- this is the proper setting for fishing.


When playing a fish on ultra-light, keep the rod tip up so the fish is pulling against the spring in the rod.  This is the quickest way to wear the fish down.


Proper use of the reel is a must in playing a fish with ultra-light.  In open water where snags are minimal, an angler simply has to hold on and wait for the fish to tire.  However, in confined waters where snags are close, chances are the fish will head for the cover.


In this case, the ultra-light angler must hold on and attempt to steer the fish away from the cover with steady pressure.  Or he can give the fish line as it heads under a log or into a treetop, then apply pressure again when the fish stops.  Sometimes a big fish burrows straight into cover, then will turn and come straight out again without snarling the line.


A landing net is a handy accessory when ultra-light fishing for larger fish.  If no net is available, a fish should be fully spent before it is landed by hand.  One last headshake at the boat may break the line.


Eliminating Line Twist


One major nemisis for ultra-light anglers is line twist.  Thin monofilament and narrow-spool spinning reels are a recipe for teeth-clenching snarls.


However, ultra-light users can take any of several measures to eliminate this problem.  For starters, spool fresh line onto the reel.  New line has less "memory" than line that's been spooled on for a lengthy period.


The underspin is another great reel to your ultra-lite set-up. 

Another way to reduce twist is to soak your line in water for a few minutes before fishing with it.  Monofilament line will soak up water, which causes it to be limper than dry line.  Remove the line spool from the reel, drop it into a bucket of water and leave it for 3-5 minutes.  Or, simply strip 20-30 yards of line from the reel and allow it to soak in the water.  Then wind the line back onto the reel for fishing.


A third way to reduce line twist is to spray the line with a commercial lubricant.  These line treatment products are sold under a variety of brand names.


Some anglers unknowingly cause line twist by using their equipment improperly.  When the bait is hung, don't pull hard enough on the line to cause the drag to slip.  This will impart severe line twist. 


A fourth way to reduce twist is to manually close the bail of a spinning reel after making a cast.  Most anglers don't realize that closing a bail mechanically builds sing a bail mechanically imparts a small amount of twist to the line.  After a lengthy period of time, this can accumulate to worrisome twists and loops. 


If line twist does occur, remove the lure, then strip 50 or more yards of line off the spool and allow it to flow freely behind the boat or downcurrent.  Resistance from the current will cause the line to untwist itself.


"Super Lines:"  Super for Ultra-Light 


Monofilament lines have been the choice of ultra-light users for years, but now many anglers are switching to new "super lines" for the unique combination of properties they offer.


For starters, super lines (i.e., Berkley Fireline) are remarkably strong, yet thin.  Ten pound test super line has an equivalent diameter of 4 pound test monofilament.  This means anglers who spool with these lines can cast tiny lures yet have more line strength for playing fish.  Also, super lines are extremely limp and sensitive, two additional qualities which are a boon to ultra-light users.


One other property of these lines is winning ultra-light converts.  Super lines are extremely resistant to twisting.  An angler can cast an in-line spinner -- notorious for causing line twist -- all day virtually twist-free.



Choosing Ultra-Light Tackle throughout North America


Today, consumers have a broad range of ultra-light tackle from which to choose, and quality runs the gamut.  Anglers would be well-served to lean toward upper end products in terms of quality and price.  Playing a large fish on ultra-light is no time to worry if the rod, reel or line will fail.


There are several indicators of high quality.  Perhaps the best one is price.  In buying tackle, you usually get what you pay for.  High quality ultra-light rods and reels can cost as much as heavier tackle.


Beyond price, look for quality in the type materials used and features offered.  Today, some top quality ultra-light reels have 5 ball bearings.  Rods may be constructed of IM6 or IM7 graphite. 


Many anglers make the mistake of mismatching their rod and reel (for instance, buying an ultra-light reel and putting it on a rod with a light or medium-light action).  For casting distance and accuracy with small lures, the reel, rod and line must be precisely balanced.


A silky-smooth drag is a must.  Also, check the overall appearance of a rod - how it is finished, how its guides are mounted, etc.  Look for consistency and overall care in how the rod is assembled.  This is where high quality will show through.


Rod length is another important consideration.  Ultra-light rods measure from 4-7 1/2 feet.  Shorter rods are good for casting in confined areas (i.e., narrow streams), but they don't yield the same casting distance and fighting power of longer rods.  Longer rods will cast ultra-light lures farther, and their extra length provides more shock absorption for fighting big fish.  However, longer rods can be unwieldy to use in tight situations.  Everything considered, the best all-purpose ultra-light rods measure 5-6 feet.


Standard monofilament line sizes for ultra-light use are 2, 4, and 6 pound test, with the former two sizes the most popular.  Different companies' lines in the same pound tests will have different feels and break strengths (despite what the labels say).  Ultra-light anglers should experiment with different lines and fine-tune their tackle for best feel and performance. This job is similar to precision-tuning a custom rifle and its load for maximul accuracy.


Situations for Using Ultra-Light


Ultra-light tackle and methods may be used anytime by anglers who find this style and philosophy of fishing appealing.  However, there are a few special situations where ultra-light is also the most practical, most productive fishing method available.  Specific examples include:


--Where fishing pressure is heavy.  Heavily pressured fish get spooky, and they become less likely to bite large, fast moving baits.  However, they are much more prone to eat lures that are inconspicuous in terms of size and action.  Finesse pays off in heavily fished areas.


--Waters that are extremely clear.  Crystal clear water is another condition that makes fish spooky.  Thin line is less visible, and smaller baits are more visible, and smaller baits are less threatening, hence more appealing, than larger lures with abrasive actions.


--Post-cold front conditions.  When a cold front blows through and the barometer rises, bass get uncomfortable, much like a human with indigestion.  Offer him a steak, and he will turn it down flat.  But pass a spoon of vanilla ice cream in front of him, and he'll probably take it.  Ultra-light is the vanilla ice cream of fishing. 


--When natural forage is small.  Sometimes, when minnows or insects are small, predator fish refuse to bite larger baits, but ultra-light lures which approximate the size of the natural food will still work.


Don't Forget the Pliers!


One must-have accessory for ultra-light fishing is a pair of needlenose pliers, or some type fisherman's tool with pliers included.  Hooks on ultra-light baits are small and sharp, and they're best removed from deep within a fish's mouth by using the needlenoses.  Doing so protects both fish and angler.


In addition, ultra-light anglers might also consider carrying three other accessories to make their sport more effective and enjoyable:  Line clippers, a small hook file, and magnifying glasses for tying and checking knots in thin line.


Dressing for Ice Fishing

By Jason Akl

The time between the first snowfall and the first good ice is never long enough for sportsmen who transition from late-season hunting to ice fishing. It seems you barely have time to put away your rifle before hearing reports of fish being pulled through the ice.


Since ice fishing is one of those special sports where preparation is everything, having the right clothes for the early season can mean the difference between coming home with your limit and aborting your trip without a single catch because you weren't prepared for the cold. The following guide on dressing for the ice should help you prevent the latter from happening.


Choose a waterproof boot with a removable liner that's comfort rated for temperatures similar to those in which it'll be used.  

Socks and Footwear

One of the most important items for ice fishing is a quality pair of cold-weather boots. Many boots available in stores will keep your feet warm while  just walking around, but a quality pair of ice boots will keep your feet dry and warm all day.


Because lake water will splash around and soak your feet when drilling your fishing holes, a good pair of boots must be waterproof.

Additionally, a good pair of boots will have removable liners that can be taken out and dried after a hard day fishing. Boot ratings should also be considered; a boot's rating will tell you the conditions that they can be worn comfortably in. 


Socks are another key consideration for serious ice fisherman. Socks are the last line of defense when it comes to keeping your toes from freezing. Having one pair of heavy duty wool socks is great to insulate your feet from the cold, but having a second pair of wicking socks are key to keeping your feet dry. Wicking socks are great for ice fisherman because they pull perspiration that builds around the feet away from the skin.


Lastly, a pair of cleats or traction devices that slip over your boots might be necessary, depending on where you plan to fish. If the conditions are very icy and you are having a trouble keeping your balance, a good pair of ice cleats will make maneuvering much easier.


Coats, Sweatshirts and Pants
Layering is the key to keeping the body's core warm. Layering allows anglers to strip down should the body become too warm, either from excessive work or the heat of the sun's rays.


Expedition Weight Thermal Top

A breathable, moisture-wicking base layer is essential to stay warm on the ice. 

The secret to layering is to have enough clothes on to handle even the worst conditions and slowly remove them one piece at a time should it become too warm. Also, when layering, try creating at least one one-piece layer. The advantage to a single piece component is that there is no point where warmth can escape, keeping the body warmer longer. As for the torso and legs, these body parts never get directly exposed to the cold weather, so having clothes that hold heat in and move water out is essential.


Over the past ten years, winter coats have probably evolved as much as any other piece of equipment, if not more. New space-age fabrics such as Gore-Tex and Supplex are phenomenal at keeping the wind, snow and sleet away from the body while still allowing the body to breathe. Good coats will incorporate these types of fabrics along with waist and wrist cuffs to stop the cold weather from sneaking in. Purchasing a coat with a removable liner is another great idea since all days are not created equal; what you wear for zero degree weather is not what you want to be wearing when the temperature is in the teens.


Sweaters and shirts made of wool and fleece are great for under layers. These fabrics can keep the body as warm as anything else on the market. One or two layers of these fabrics will keep heat in for hours on end. A good idea similar to that of the socks idea is to have a fabric against the body that is a wicking layer to pull any perspiration away from the body.


For the legs, traditional long underwear is a good place to start with a second layer of fleece or wool leggings pulled over top. If you do not have one of these types of secondary underwear, then a pair of sweatpants pulled over the long underwear will suffice, but will probably be a little cumbersome to move around in.


To cover up the legs, a pair of waterproof coveralls is a must. When ice fishing, you're constantly on your knees tending to lines, so a pair of bibs that keep you legs dry are worth their weight in gold.


Gloves and Hats
Distal extremities are some of the more critical body parts to protect when ice fishing. Fingers are usually the first part of the body to feel the cold weather, and even the simplest of tasks can become a challenge with cold hands. Good gloves and mitts are a necessity, and, depending upon the conditions, both may be necessary.


Neoprene Fishing Gloves

Neoprene gloves protect your hands from ice-cold water.

Having a second pair of gloves is a good idea since everything you do while ice fishing will get your hands wet. Neoprene gloves are another good idea because they protect your hands from the icy cold waters; however, from past experiences they are a little lacking in overall warmth.


A stocking cap or toque is another key piece of ice-fishing attire. The body loses a major percentage of its heat through the head, so having a good hat that prevents heat loss is a must.


When you are out on the lake, snow cover will reflect the sun's rays, making it extremely bright and unbearable for your eyes. A good pair of sunglasses will protect your eyes from the sun's dangerous UVA and UVB rays, while at the same time making it easier to see your tip-ups go off, especially if they are any distance away.


There's nothing worse than getting to your favorite ice fishing spot, dropping your lines into the water, and then having to leave early simply because you can't stand the cold. With a little planning and attention paid to what you're putting on, anglers can protect against almost any foul weather conditions they might encounter. With ice fishing, half the battle is staying warm long enough to stay on the ice and catch fish. Catching fish, on the other hand -- that's a topic for another article.


Field Test

By Brenda Valentine

In 1985, the in-line muzzleloader opened a door of opportunity in the shooting industry. The design, which places the primer directly behind the charge, decreased the chance of misfires, which increased hunter confidence. Gun manufacturers have perfected the design, creating models for every taste, situation and pocketbook.  Here's some help for choosing your next front-stuffin' firearm.


Cost Factor

In-lines are a buyer's market. I found guns from reputable companies from $100 to $1,000. Beginners often buy lower-priced guns with the intention of upgrading. Also, many buy shooting kits, which include a gun, tools, ammo, cleaners and lubricants. Stock options affect price. Sleek laminates, rich walnut or exotic textured wood cost more than synthetic stocks.


After that, the choices become more confusing. Most muzzleloaders are available with three ignition options. No. 11 caps are the original standby. However, you shouldn't use them with pellet propellant, which generates less heat. Musket caps are similar in design yet larger than No. 11s. They produce adequate fire for all powder types and are easier to use with cold or gloved fingers. Most shooters prefer the 209 shotshell primer. A few guns have interchangeable nipples to accompany all three ignitions.


Action is perhaps the greatest difference between in-lines. Most in-lines replicate center-fire actions, but the big news is pivot-action muzzleloaders. All actions are reasonably dependable in wet weather. However, the pivot action can be cleaned easily. Just pull the breech plug and swab the barrel.


There's only a few calibers to choose from. The .50-caliber can be used for all big game. The popularity of whitetails is largely responsible for the introduction of the .45-caliber, which has less recoil, higher speed and flatter trajectory, but less knock-down power.


Barrel Selection

In general, barrels measure 22 to 28 inches. Theoretically, longer barrels use propellant more efficiently and fire a more stable projectile. Rifling, or twist, ranges from 1-turn-in-24 inches to 1-in-30 inches. Stainless and blued steel are still preferred barrel materials. The weather conditions where you hunt will determine which steel you'll need.


Magnum barrels have extra-thick walls to accommodate combustion pressure from extreme loads. A magnum load is anything more than 100 grains of Pyrodex, with 150 grains considered the maximum. 


Fluted barrels, smoothbore shotgun barrels with custom chokes, and even barrels with muzzle-brakes are available. Interchangeable barrels, which convert from a single-shot break-action shotgun to an in-line muzzleloader, are popular.


Almost every barrel includes factory-mounted fiber-optic sights and predrilled and tapped placement for scope mounts. Some states regulate the use of magnifying optics, so check regulations first. Other features include swivel studs, a quality recoil pad, and an aluminum or extra-tough ramrod.


With average weights of 6 to 8 pounds and lengths of 41 to 45 inches, in-lines are made to fit every hunter. However, it still boils down to one shot.


Choosing the Ultimate Deer Gun

By Keith Sutton

Some hunters become frustrated when trying to choose a gun that incorporates all the features they consider necessary in the ultimate deer gun.

While visiting a friend's deer camp recently, I was amazed at the variety of guns being used by the 15 or so guys who were members of that camp. In fact, there were so many different variations, I decided to make note of a few.


My hunting companion was shooting the Rifled Deer version of the Browning Gold 12-gauge slug gun. His brother was shooting a Ruger Model 96/44 lever-action in .44 Mag.


A father and son team went the bolt-action route. One was shooting a Sporter LT version of Winchester's Model 70 Classic chambered for .270. The other was hunting with a .243 Remington Model Seven SS.


There was one guy shooting buckshot in an old Remington 12-gauge double-barrel, and another shooting an ancient military carbine of some sort. In fact, just about every kind of rifle and shotgun you can imagine was being employed by this ragtag band of deer hunters.


This started me to thinking: if a new deer hunter had dropped into this camp, hoping to get advice on what kind of gun was best to use for killing a whitetail, he would undoubtedly have gone away confused and frustrated.


Selecting a good all-round deer gun can be a daunting task for sure. Some hunters prefer a super-accurate long-range rifle, but such rifles typically are heavy, with long barrels. If you must carry one of these guns over long distances in rough terrain, you may wish you had purchased a lightweight stalking rifle instead. If a lightweight model is purchased, however, you may not be able to achieve the true "tack-driver" accuracy obtainable with a long-range specialist. Also, light rifles are harder to hold steady for accurate shooting.


Deer hunters also can choose between rifles and shotguns, and must select from different action designs, cartridge power and a variety of stocks and barrels. The variations seem endless, and some hunters become frustrated when trying to choose a gun that incorporates all the features they consider necessary in the ultimate deer gun.


Aaron Pass, one of the country's foremost gun experts and shooting writers, says shotguns are the best choice only when legally required or dictated by special safety situations.


"In most cases," Pass notes, "the new specialized slug guns with rifled barrels and sabot slugs are very effective and accurate out to 100 yards or a bit more. Beyond 125 or 150 yards, the steeply dropping trajectories and loss of energy make even these slugs questionable. Traditional Foster-type slugs from smoothbores are rarely accurate beyond 75 yards. Buckshot is unreliable beyond 35-40 yards."


If a rifle is the firearm of choice, buyers may want advice on action designs. Which is best -- lever-action, pump, bolt-action or semi-auto? Pass offers this summation: "The bolt-action is generally considered to be the most inherently accurate action. It is also the action type most easily refined to greater accuracy. The other action types -- lever, pump and autoloader -- are all capable of various degrees of practical hunting accuracy and allow faster follow-up shots. However, if one of these is not as accurate as a shooter desires, there's not much that can be done about it."


When asked how one decides which caliber is best when choosing a rifle, Pass says, "For truly all-around deer hunting (a national standard), a cartridge that shoots a 120- to 150-grain bullet faster than 2,500 fps is adequate out to 200 yards or so. As velocity increases so does effective range.


"My personal favorite deer rifle is a Winchester M70, in .270 Win. with a 1.5x-6x Burris scope and a synthetic stock," he continues. "I don't shoot at extremely long range and there's no 'normal' deer hunting situation I can imagine that this rig is not capable of handling. That said, there is no inherent magic in any of the above criteria. There are plenty of other combinations that would work just as well."


Whether you want long-range accuracy, a rifle that's a joy to carry or some other specialization, Pass recommends buying a new rifle in the configuration you desire. "The well-known rifle models -- Browning's A-Bolt, Remington's 700, Ruger's 77, Savage's 110, Weatherby's Mark V, Winchester's 70 and others -- designate the action design," he says. "Gun makers attach a wide variety of specialized stocks and barrels to these basic actions to create a variety of specialized rifles. Hunters should check out the manufacturers' catalogs, or visit a gun shop, and choose a combination of features that achieve the hunter's goals for functionality and design."


In the end, therefore, finding the ultimate deer gun is largely a matter of personal preferences. Buy a gun you like that's legal for your hunting area, one you believe will get the job done where you hunt. That's the first step toward achieving your goal.


A Few Words About Stocks and Finishes


Several materials are used for making gun stocks. Wood is favored by many for its beauty, but wood also does unpredictable things when exposed to changing weather. Your wood-stocked rifle that shot perfectly in the bottomlands of Louisiana may shoot a foot higher than it was sighted in for when you take it to the mountains of Colorado. This is why many hunters prefer shooting guns with stocks made from Kevlar, fiberglass, graphite, epoxy or other synthetics that won't shift, warp or bend like wood.


The lightest, strongest synthetic stocks are made of Kevlar, and equally good ones, although heavier, are made of fiberglass. Below this level are a half dozen other materials that are much less expensive, but satisfactory.


Gun finishes are another consideration. Traditionalists usually prefer the nice look of blued steel. Stainless steel, however, rusts much more slowly and tends to last longer because it is more resistant to the scorching of powder gas. Most experts consider this one a toss-up. If you simply don't like a bright metal finish, choose blued steel. But if you'd rather not worry about the gun, go stainless.


Muzzleloader Buyer's Guide

By Don Sangster

As whitetail deer populations continue to soar in many parts of the North, East and South -- often near populated areas -- more and more jurisdictions are adding primitive-weapons-only seasons. Out West, most states offer muzzleloader-only tags for elk and mule deer that are often much easier to obtain than modern rifle tags in the same areas. As a result, savvy hunters across the nation are taking up muzzleloader hunting in order to take advantage of these enhanced hunting opportunities. Other sportsmen are simply attracted to the added challenge that these short-range, single-shot weapons provide. Still others enjoy using traditional weapons for Civil War re-enactments or just collecting them as a hobby. Whatever your interests, here is what you need to know to get started in the world of muzzleloaders.

Inline Muzzleloader

Modern muzzleloaders are available with the latest synthetic stocks, including thumbhole designs and camouflage finishes and with stainless or nickel actions and barrels.


Muzzleloader Rifles: Modern Design

The first thing you will notice when browsing a website or catalogue is that most of these "primitive" weapons don't look that primitive at all, and they certainly don't look like what Daniel Boone might have carried. You are, in fact, looking at the modern, inline muzzleloader. While "traditional" muzzleloaders are still available, these modern versions account for about 95% of today's market, and for good reason.

The biggest drawback of traditional style muzzleloaders, which we will also cover here, is that they can sometimes fail to fire under damp or wet conditions. This is not usually a problem with inline muzzleloaders. Accuracy tends to be significantly better with inline muzzleloaders as well.

muzzleloaders share a common trait: as their name implies, they are loaded through the muzzle, rather than through the breech as is the case with modern smokeless firearms. Both powder and projectile are pushed or poured down the barrel toward the breech, where the powder is ultimately ignited and burned, causing the projectile to be discharged down and out the barrel. Where the various types of muzzleloaders differ is in the means and location of the ignition.

"Inline" refers to the fact that the igniter is directly behind and in line with the powder charge, which results in more efficient ignition and, thereby, consistent energy and accuracy. These weapons are available in various action types, including bolt action, break action and lever or pivot action, and the biggest advantage that they all offer over traditional muzzleloaders is that their ignition systems are generally completely protected from the elements, ensuring reliable ignition even under adverse hunting conditions.

Most of these muzzleloaders now use #209 shotgun shell or muzzleloader primers to ignite the powder charge. When the trigger is pulled, an external or internal hammer falls, or a plunger-type firing pin is released, striking the primer. These primers create much more spark than the caps used to ignite traditional muzzleloaders, also improving the reliability and efficiency of ignition. As an added bonus, most newer inline muzzleloaders have removable breech plugs, allowing for quick and easy cleaning or removal of an unfired bullet and powder charge at the end of the hunting day.

By far the most popular caliber of inline muzzleloader for big game hunting is the .50 caliber, but .45 and .54 calibers are also available. Some models will be referred to as a "magnum," which isn't a distinct caliber but simply denotes a muzzleloader that can handle a powder charge of up to 150 grains.

Many of these modern muzzleloaders are available with the latest synthetic stocks, including thumbhole designs and camouflage finishes and with stainless or nickel actions and barrels.

You will notice that most inline muzzleloaders have barrels indicating a rate of twist of 1-in-28 inches. This refers to the rifling in the barrel and how quickly one full turn is achieved. One-in-28 inches is a fast twist and is the optimum rate of twist for stabilizing the saboted bullets and other modern projectiles most commonly used in these guns. With these muzzleloaders and bullets, using fiber-optic sights or a scope (most inlines come drilled and tapped for scope mounting), exceptional accuracy out to 150 yards or more is a reality. (Some states have strict rules governing the use of scopes and the caliber and types of muzzleloaders, bullets and primers that can be used during special primitive-weapons-only deer seasons. Be sure to check local regulations.)

For the value conscious shooter or hunter, some inline muzzleloaders are sold with an interchangeable shotgun barrel as a combo, or in a starter kit with powder, bullets, tools and some cleaning equipment.

Muzzleloader Rifles: Traditional Design

Before the advent of inline muzzleloaders in the mid 1980s, flintlock and percussion muzzleloaders were all that were available. Flintlock muzzleloaders, which date back to the Revolutionary War and are the most primitive type of muzzleloader available today, use a piece of flint on an external hammer to strike a steel plate, creating a spark that ignites a charge of very fine powder in a flash pan, which then ignites the main powder charge.

Percussion Muzzleloader

Flintlock and percussion muzzleloaders were all that were available before the advent of inline muzzleloaders in the mid 1980s.


Percussion muzzleloaders, also known as caplocks, were invented around the time of the Civil War. They are similar to a flintlock, except the hammer strikes a nipple on which a musket cap or #11 percussion cap sits. The cap creates a spark which travels down through a hole in the nipple and into the powder charge.

Since flintlocks actually require the ignition and burning of two separate powder charges before the bullet is actually fired, they tend to have a bit slower "lock time" or firing time than percussions. They are also more prone to ignition problems due to moisture reaching the powder in the flash pan (hence the saying, "keep your powder dry").

When it comes to stocks and overall designs, most traditional muzzleloaders are either long-barreled and full-length stocked Pennsylvania or Kentucky rifles, or short-barreled and half-stocked Hawken or Plains rifles. In a mix of old and new, some Hawken styles are available with synthetic stocks and stainless barrels, while do-it-yourselfers can choose from unfinished, build-it-yourself kits.

In addition to the standard big game models ranging from .45 to .54 caliber, traditional muzzleloaders are also available in .32 or .36 caliber versions, which should only be used for small game hunting or plinking.

In keeping with their more traditional roots, these smokepoles are most commonly used with either conical bullets or patched round balls. Accordingly, they typically sport 1-in-48 inch or 1-in-66 inch rate of twist barrels, which optimize the performance of each of these two types of projectiles, respectively.


Although not as popular as rifles, muzzleloader pistols are actually available in a greater number of different styles.

Muzzleloader Pistol

Colt-style revolver


Single-shot inlines in .50 caliber are basically miniature versions of their rifle cousins and are suitable for hunting deer. Traditional flintlock or percussion models in calibers ranging from .32 to .50 also operate the same as their long-gun versions, but lack the power needed for big game and should be restricted to small game or recreational shooting.

In addition to these, Derringer-style single-shot or double-barreled, small-caliber pocket pistols are also available for plinking, while various models of revolvers, mostly in .44 caliber and shooting round balls, are a lot of fun to shoot and are popular with shooters looking to recreate a bit of Old West history. Revolvers are available in either Colt-style or Remington-style, with the main difference being that the Colts lack a top strap of steel over the cylinder.

A Word on Blackpowder

Although muzzleloaders have traditionally been loaded with blackpowder, many hunters and shooters today use blackpowder substitutes such as Pyrodex or Triple Seven, particularly with inline muzzleloaders. This is because these other powders are less corrosive and cause less fouling (thus requiring less cleaning) than blackpowder. In addition, they are available in convenient pre-formed and pre-measured pellets, with 50 grains being the most common weight. These pellets eliminate the need for measuring and pouring powder, thus greatly reducing the amount of time required to load or re-load.

Despite the advantages of these modern blackpowder substitutes, muzzleloaders must still be cleaned after every few shots. Be sure to follow the firearm's and powder manufacturers' recommendations in that regard. In addition, some blackpowder substitutes may not be suitable for all muzzleloaders. Again, always follow the firearm's manufacturer's recommendations and warnings. Finally, never, EVER, use modern smokeless powder in a muzzleloader.

Make no mistake, today's modern replica muzzleloaders, especially inline versions, are "primitive" weapons in name alone. You can now have many of the modern technological advantages of smokeless, centerfire cartridges and rifles, while still connecting with our shooting and frontier heritage. Enjoy.

Click here to see our full selection of muzzleloader gear.


Hunting Gift Guide

By Keith Sutton

Searching for the perfect Christmas gift to give a friend or family member who enjoys hunting? This can seem like a daunting task since such a great variety of products are available, but this guide to holiday shopping can help you get started. Here are some hot items you'll certainly want to consider gift-wrapping this year.


If you really want to make an impression, you can't go wrong with the gift of a new rifle, shotgun or handgun. Most veteran hunters already own one or several, yet all will tell you there's always room for a new caliber, gauge or style in the gun cabinet. A matched pair of collectible British doubles might set you back $40,000 or more. But more budget-conscious shoppers can find firearms that will long be treasured by the lucky hunter starting at just a few hundred dollars.

Archery and Blackpowder Equipment

MuzzleloaderIf you know someone interested in bowhunting, you might ask them to make a list showing some of the specialty items they'd like to find under the tree Christmas morning. The possibilities are almost endless, everything from a brand new bow or crossbow to a new set of arrows or accessories such as broadheads, bow cases, targets, sights, quivers, releases and stabilizers.

The blackpowder enthusiast will probably have some great gift ideas as well. Give something truly special like a new muzzleloading rifle, shotgun or handgun, or keep them well-stocked with commonly used items such as powder, caps, bullets, lubricants and patches. Accessories such as powder measures, flasks, speed loaders and cappers make great stocking stuffers.

Clothing and Footwear

It's hard to go wrong in this department because every hunter always can use a new shirt, pants, outerwear or other item of clothing made especially for hunting.

Cold-weather ApparelCold-weather apparel always is appreciated, anything from a complete insulated waterproof parka system and bib overalls to more moderately priced items such as thermal underwear, gloves, face masks, caps and hats. And the first time they get caught in a downpour, they'll be glad you thought about a gift of new rainwear.

There's clothing made especially for waterfowl hunters and turkey hunters, and specialty items such as scent-control apparel that will put a smile on the face of any big-game hunter. For upland hunters, consider a new vest with game bag and shell holders. And what outdoorsman wouldn't be thrilled to find a new pair of boots or waders under the tree?

Don't forget the ladies and youngsters in the family either. Clothing made just for them is available in a wide variety of camo and blaze-orange patterns.


TreestandIf you have a budding deer hunter in the family, he'll surely appreciate a new treestand where he can get a bird's-eye view of his hunting territory. And hunters who already have stands may need upgrades that include safety features unavailable on many early models.

Choices are many. Ladder stands, which are simply leaned against and secured to a tree, are preferred by many. But climbing stands, which tend to be more compact and lightweight, may be the best selection for those who hunt backcountry or public areas where stands must be carried out daily. Also available are big comfortable tower stands that are more permanent in nature and ideal for hunters who regularly pursue deer on their own property or lease. With prices starting around $70, there's something for every budget. See the "Treestand Buyer's Guide" for more.


A good set of binoculars or a spotting scope aren't necessary for many types of hunting, but they'll be appreciated anyway as they'll provide hours of enjoyment watching wildlife outdoors and at home.

Rifle ScopeA new rifle scope makes a great gift as well, and many hunters wish they had but don't yet own a red-dot or holographic sight for their handgun, slug gun, turkey gun or muzzleloader.

Rangefinders are one of the hottest gifts for today's hunter who wants to improve accuracy on the range and in the field. And your loved one is sure to love you even more if he unwraps a package and finds one of the many new game cameras inside that will capture great photos of deer and other animals on the trails he hunts.


Handheld GPSThe newest technological toys are big hits when it comes to gift giving, even for hunters. Near the top of list would be a handheld GPS unit that will help your hunter get into and out of the backcountry without getting lost, and help him navigate to prime hunting spots on return visits. See "Choosing a Handheld GPS Unit" for more info.

Other electronic options include two-way radios for outdoor communication, electronic predator calls and accessories, electronic collars for hunting dogs, hearing enhancers and weather-alert radios.

ATV Accessories

Does your gift recipient own an ATV? A wide variety of ATV accessories are available, any of which might make a great Christmas gift. Choose from items as diverse as winches, gun racks, bow racks, cargo/storage bags, camouflage covers and tree-stand transporters.

ATV accessoriesOther add-ons include drink holders, halogen trail lights, spotlights, cell phone holders and carts. You can even purchase a passenger cart for some models that permits the rider to carry extra friends or family on a single ATV to their hunting blind. See "Outfitting Your ATV" for more.

Calls and Decoys

Nowadays, there's a call and decoy made for just about every type of game, from deer, elk and predators to waterfowl, turkeys and squirrels. Calls make wonderful stocking stuffers, and when you gift-wrap a dozen duck decoys or a full-body deer decoy, you'll have the gift recipient wondering what that huge package is under the tree.
Hunting and Shooting Accessories

KnivesIf you can't decide on one or two gifts for your favorite hunter, consider buying a daypack or travel bag and stuffing it with a variety of small hunting accessories. Some items to consider include a hunting knife, pocketknife or multi-tool; hunting scents and scent eliminators; ammunition; targets; hearing protection and eye protection; gun-cleaning kitcompass; flashlight or headlamp; first-aid kit; water purifier or shooting glasses.

Books and DVDs

Hunters always are looking for ways to improve their skills, and instructional books and DVDs are very helpful in this regard. Scores of titles are available for hunting sports of all sorts, from bear hunting and waterfowling to archery and dog training. Gift subscriptions to hunting magazines also make superb Christmas presents that will be appreciated year-round.

TentCamping Gear

If none of the above is inspiring, consider camping-related gifts. Options include a new tent, sleeping bag, cot, sleeping pad, lantern, cooler, backpack or camp chair.

Cookery items will be appreciated as well, with much to choose from. A new camp stove can get your chef started, and a camper's kitchen is great for keeping everything organized. Coffee pots, grills, cooking utensils, cast-iron cookware and accessories such as roasting forks, mugs and cookbooks are just a few of the many other items from which to choose.

A Hunting Trip

Big Cedar LodgeFor that really special someone, think about booking an outdoor hunting adventure with a reputable guide or outfitter. The cost may be more affordable than you think, and many options are available, from big-game hunting in remote wilderness areas to family affairs where hunters can spend time with their loved ones enjoying a variety of activities together. A visit to Big Cedar Lodge in the Ozarks near Branson, Missouri, is one option your whole family is sure to remember for years to come.

Gift Cards

And finally, if you still can't decide on the just-right gift, let your hunter make the selection. A gift card stuck in a stocking shows you really care and makes the perfect present for someone who seems to have everything. You pick the dollar amount, and the recipient can redeem the card for online purchases, catalog orders and purchases made in the store. And if you're one of those last-minute shoppers, you can even purchase an E-Gift Card to send a gift almost instantly to your favorite outdoor enthusiast.

This doesn't begin to cover all the hunting-related gifts you'll have to choose from when making selections this holiday season, but for most hunters, it's the thought that counts anyway. No matter what you give this Christmas, you know the person who receives it will be thinking good thoughts of you when they use it.


Crossbow Buyer's Guide

By Tracy Breen

As the popularity of crossbows increases, so does the number of crossbows on the market.


Crossbows have become very popular among hunters in the last few years. For some, the idea of hunting with a crossbow is appealing because being accurate with a crossbow doesn't require as much practice as hunting with a conventional bow. Others enjoy hunting with a crossbow because it lengthens their overall deer season. And some hunters use crossbows to introduce their wives and kids to the hunting sports.

Several hunters become crossbow hunters as they get older and can't draw a bow anymore. I've met many hunters in their eighties who can't bow hunt anymore, but regularly harvest deer with a crossbow. With more and more hunters reaching retirement age, it's easy to see why crossbows are more popular than ever.

Learning how to use a crossbow is easy and safe. As the popularity of crossbows increases, so does the number of crossbows on the market. Choosing the right crossbow can be difficult if you haven't used one before. Here are a few things to consider before forking over your hard-earned cash.

According to Dave Robb from TenPoint Crossbows, shoppers should never purchase a crossbow without first shooting a few models to see which features they want and which ones they can live without. "Very few people ever purchase a gun or a bow without holding it and shooting it. Hunters should do the same thing when they are shopping for a crossbow. They might pick up one crossbow that feels good in their hands, and then shoot a different model or brand and discover they don't care for it. Crossbows are expensive, and shoppers should spend lots of time handling and shooting a few before bringing one home. Hunters don't want to spend a thousand dollars on something and end up disappointed," Robb says.

Bowhunters are always looking for an extremely lightweight bow, and although weight is important, having a crossbow that is super lightweight may not always be the best option. Like rifles, heavier crossbows are often easier to keep steady when taking a shot because the added weight keeps the firearm from wiggling around. A heavy crossbow may be more difficult to tote around in the woods, but it might be worth the extra weight if you want to be extremely accurate. However, if you plan to hunt elk or game that requires a long walk on a regular basis, a lightweight model may be what you're looking for. After all, every pound counts when you're hiking miles each day.

Crossbow Buyer
A variety of scope types will work on crossbows. Regardless of the type of scope you choose, be sure to buy quality optics.
It wasn't long ago that most crossbow companies only offered crossbows with recurve limbs. Then, along came crossbows with wheels, and now many companies offer models that have cams similar to conventional bows. If speed is what you're after, purchasing a crossbow with cams may be the ticket. However, keep in mind that speed isn't all it's cracked up to be. "Crossbows with cams can be very fast, but they're often harder to draw," says Robb. "A crossbow with wheels sometimes offers a little less speed, but has plenty of power to bring down big game. If a guy wants a bow that is lightning-fast, cams are often the way to go, but they aren't the only option to consider when looking at crossbows." Crossbows with traditional recurve limbs can also throw bolts extremely fast and have a relatively simple design; sometimes simple is best. Regardless of your preference, remember that there are lots of choices to choose from.

A crossbow should be extremely quiet when it releases the arrow. Companies are cancelling out a large amount of the shock and vibration associated with shooting a crossbow by making the limbs more parallel, just like bow companies have done with conventional bows. Finding a crossbow with parallel limbs often means much quieter shooting as well.

When purchasing a crossbow, hunters should consider buying a few noise-dampening devices similar to those found on conventional archery gear. Limbsaver makes dampening devices for crossbows. When they are put on the limbs of a crossbow, they drastically reduce the amount of noise and vibration the crossbow produces.

Crossbow Kits
Crossbow kits can save you lots of money in the long run and provide you with everything you need to start hunting immediately.
Most crossbows can be cocked or drawn using a rope-cocking device, but more and more companies offer crossbows that have cocking devices built into the crossbow. Purchasing a crossbow with this built-in feature is worth the extra money. Crossbows with a built-in crank or other type of drawing system rids you of your worries about losing the rope and make cocking the crossbow a piece of cake.

Most crossbows can be purchased in a kit. This saves money and provides you with everything you need to start hunting. When purchasing a kit, pay close attention to the type of scope that comes with the crossbow as there are a variety that work great on crossbows. According to Robb, more hunters are putting red-dot scopes on their crossbows. "Red-dot scopes are reliable and accurate. Since most people hunting with a crossbow won't take shots longer than forty yards, red-dot scopes are perfect," Robb says.

If you have always been a rifle hunter, crossbow scopes with traditional crosshairs are also available. TenPoint offers a scope that has multiple lines in the scope reticle that can be sighted in at different yardages. If a buck is at 20 yards, you use one line to aim. If he is at 30 yards, you use the next line. Regardless of the type of scope you choose, choose a high quality one; just like purchasing a rifle scope, you get what you pay for.

When researching crossbows, also consider what type of safety it has. Just like firearms, all crossbows have a safety system of some kind or another, but some are more hunter-friendly than others.

In the last few years, broadhead manufacturers started offering heavy-duty broadheads made specifically for crossbow hunters. These crossbow-specific broadheads are often heavier than conventional heads, which increases the overall weight of the bolt and the amount of kinetic energy the bolt delivers. These specialty broadheads are something to consider when purchasing a new crossbow.

Below are four crossbows to consider. All three are easy to shoot and are extremely accurate.

Parker has a great reputation as a high-quality bow manufacturer. They make great crossbows too. One example is the Buck-Buster Outfitter Crossbow. This one-of-a-kind crossbow comes with a short, easy to maneuver stock that makes busting through the brush a piece of cake. The crossbow comes with an anti-dry fire feature that prevents the crossbow from firing unless a bolt is loaded in the crossbow.

The TenPoint 6 Point Series Pro Slider is a great crossbow for the price with many of the features hunters are looking for. For starters, it comes with Ten-Points' unique slider, which allows the hunter to set the amount of draw weight they want to shoot. With the slider, hunters have three draw weight options: 125, 150 or 175 pounds. Another nice feature on the 6-Point Series is the built-in ACU draw system, which makes drawing the crossbow a piece of cake. The 6-Point Series is said to deliver bolts at over 300 FPS. The crossbow weighs 7.2 pounds.

Barnett's Quad 400 Crossbow can send a 22" arrow streaking to the target at 345 fps with devastating accuracy. This crossbow incorporates a high-density composite stock with thumbhole and contoured cheek piece for lightweight comfort. Super-efficient parallel limb design, CNC cams and a synthetic cable system put the emphasis on performance with every pull.  Four-pound trigger pull. Draw weight: 150 lb. Stock length: 37". Width: 26-3/4". Weight: 7.0 lbs. Color: Next G-1 Camo.  Package includes 4x32 scope, 4 arrows and quiver.

The Excalibur Vortex comes with recurve style limbs. Recurve limbs are quiet as a mouse and more reliable than ever. They produce speeds of 330 FPS. The trigger system on the Vortex requires only 3 pounds of pressure. If you're looking for a hair trigger, this might be the crossbow for you. The Vortex weighs 6.3 pounds.

View all Crossbows


Modern Technology Meets the Turkey Shotgun

By Steve Felgenhauer

Turkey Loads
Just because a shotgun will handle 3-1/2 inch shells doesn't mean they will pattern them well. Shoot every box of shells you can get your hands on to determine what load patterns the best.

The early morning gobble startled me as I drifted off. I'd been up since 4 am and daylight was slow to arrive. I had brought a complete arsenal of calls that I owned -- store bought and custom calls -- and had them at the ready for when that big boss gobbler hit the ground. I was dressed in camouflage from head to toe; even my shotgun was camouflaged. Daylight overtook the darkness and the turkeys began opening up, gobbling all around me. The biggest problem I faced was deciding which one to shoot.

I hit my call and a big tom answered. He was just over a little rise to my left, as I readied myself into a comfortable shooting position he gobbled, and then double gobbled. This tom was hot. As he topped the hill, he looked as big as an ostrich and must have weighed 50 lbs. I laid my cheek on the shotgun -- there it was again, doubt. A little voice murmured, "I hope I can get a pellet into his head." More negative thoughts raced through my mind. The bird hung up at 45 yards. Was the choke in my gun up to the task of putting more than 10 lethal pellets into the turkey's head at this range?

Suddenly, I jumped, hearing a ringing alarm clock; my wife shook me, letting me know I'd slept in. It was all a dream. I woke up drenched in sweat. I had time. I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge who had been given a second chance. I vowed I would not let this dream come true. That morning, in earnest, I began frantically gathering up boxes of shells. I had shells from every manufacturer in every shot size imaginable and in chamber sizes -- 2 3/4, 3 and 3 1/2 inches -- I was leaving no stone unturned.

This isn't your Daddy's turkey gun!

In the last 20 years, leaps and bounds have been made in the shotgun arena.
Modern turkey hunters have more choices than ever: firearms, ammunition, chokes, stock configurations and camouflage patterns. 

Tools of the trade for serous turkey hunters. A Winchester SX2 with a Bushnell Holosight mounted atop it; custom choke tubes can provide the extra edge to put more pellets in a turkey's head. Taking stock in your shotgun

Twenty-five years ago, gunstocks were made of walnut. Today, most shotguns used by turkey hunters are made of a synthetic composition. These stocks are not affected by moisture. They are lightweight and usually less expensive, although manufacturers are incorporating features into the synthetic stocks to aid in the reduction of recoil, which in turn raises the price tag. Stocks come in many different styles such as Monte Carlo, thumbhole and even collapsible stocks.

The 3-1/2 inch chamber

The 3-1/2 inch chamber is one of the most popular options in recent history. Waterfowlers discovered that the new steel pellets weren't as effective downing waterfowl, therefore creating the need to use bigger pellets to make up for the lack of lead density. Bigger pellets took up more space in the shell, so ammo makers began working to develop a new 12-gauge shell that would hold more of the bigger pellets. Voilà!  The 3-1/2 inch chamber was born. Firearms manufacturers quickly noticed the demand and acted accordingly, increasing the length of the standard shotgun chamber to accommodate a new longer shell that held a giant payload. Who else wanted a lot of pellets? Turkey hunters. The more pellets downrange, the better the chance of putting more into a turkey's head.

Turkey Hunting Guns, Loads and Sights
Patterning and having confidence in your turkey gun can reap rewards in a big way.

Initially, the introduction of the 3-1/2 inch chamber was not warmly embraced. Even with open chokes, the first guns patterned horribly. Manufacturers began testing and found that back-bored barrels were the answer to the problems that plagued the 3-1/2 inch guns. True back boring, increasing the diameter of the bore, by either polishing or using a special reamer or a combination of both, has many advantages over a standard bore. Back boring alleviates excess pressure caused by the larger charges of powder in the longer cartridge and reduces perceived felt recoil. Back-bored barrels also produce higher velocities and less deformed pellets than standard barrels, due to less barrel wall constriction creating less friction. Today, most firearms are not back bored, but over bored, the dimension of the bore made larger than the standard .729 of an inch to a nominal .740 of an inch, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI) standard.

If your favorite shotgun isn't performing as well as you had hoped, there are many gunsmiths who specialize in back boring your current barrel. Aftermarket barrels are also available for many of today's shotguns.

Don't get choked up!
If you are serious about putting a lot of pellets in a turkey's head at 40 yards, a custom choke tube may be the answer. Choke tubes make the magic of a great pattern happen, but not solely. Choke restriction is important, but just as important is matching the choke constriction with the bore diameter of your barrel and the specific load you are shooting. This can only be achieved by the slow and painful process of patterning your shotgun. Major manufacturers mass produce chokes that fit the general populous, a one size fits all -- perhaps good enough for the occasional hunter, but seasoned turkey hunters demand the most from their equipment.

The end result of a well patterning shotgun. Now you see it, now you don't

The most obvious element of a turkey hunter's shotgun is the camouflage. In years past, I have seen spray paint -- which can do a decent job if time and care is given; and camouflage tape -- which can leave a sticky residue and a mess on your gun. However, nothing compares to the new finishes on modern shotguns. New shotguns are dipped in a film to accurately reproduce your favorite camouflage pattern. Nearly every firearm manufacturer has a camouflage model shotgun to hide your gun from the eyes of an old wary tom. If your shotgun is not camouflaged there are several firms that specialize in aftermarket camouflage. Any camouflage pattern imaginable can be put on your shotgun or any hunting gear.

Feed that shotgun what it likes

Ammunition has changed dramatically and so quickly that last spring I inquired about a new ammunition offering, the sporting goods clerk gave me a puzzled look and asked, "What is that?"

The newest kid on the block is tungsten-based shot, an alternative to lead that is 13 percent denser than lead. Tungsten shot is not actually new -- waterfowlers have known for many seasons how effective tungsten can be on ducks and geese. Now turkey hunters have taken notice of the new lead alternative and most of the ammunition manufacturers have made finding the tungsten-based shot much easier.

Don't lose sight

Topping everything off, the addition of sights -- primarily rifle sights that glow in low-light conditions when a big gobbler is likely to show up -- are quite common on today's firearms. Many shotguns are drilled and tapped, as well, to accept scopes and other electronic sighting systems. Several optic manufacturers such as Leupold, Nikon and Bushnell have developed scopes designed exclusively for turkey hunters. Red dot scopes and reflex type sights like the Bushnell Holosight is gaining ground and has a large following amongst turkey hunters.

No magic potions 

New technology won't replace legwork to locate a turkey; nor will it bring in a big tom from a mile away. Once you do your part, the last thing on your mind should be the question, "Can my gun do the job?"  Today's offerings, or even your old standby tricked out with modern technology, will put your mind at ease and let you focus on bagging a big boss gobbler.


Smaller Caliber Rifles for Aging Deer Hunters

By Bill Cooper

Deer Down
The satisfaction of harvesting a trophy buck with a smaller caliber rifle with 15 foot pounds or less energy matches the much needed preservation of older arms and shoulders.

Experienced deer hunters enjoy nothing more than recalling grand adventures into their favorite haunts for big whitetails. Hunters with decades of experience spin yarns about deer camps, the characters they've met, the food -- good and bad -- that has burned memories on their stomach lining, the rigorous conditions they've endured, the big bucks that have fallen to their mature skills, and of course, the ghost that no one could ever kill. Tops among the yarns, however, are the guns that graying deer hunters have carried afield, lovingly, to help culminate all the anticipation, preparation, travel, scouting and hunting for the big one. It's the guns that these respected hunters carry that are the tools that jell all the memorable components of any deer hunt into a life-long memory to be told and retold to upcoming generations of new deer hunters around campfires everywhere.

An aging deer hunter is like a well worn encyclopedia; he is full of knowledge, carries a leathered, weather-worn cover and is revered by those who have studied the pages of the past. He is a proud and accomplished man, with a pride that runs deep and possesses a burning desire to continue -- to hunt and to pass on the legacy.

The doctor's words rang my ears almost as badly as the exploding hand grenade that landed all too close almost forty years previously. "Bill, I know you enjoy hunting, but it is time to give up the big guns." I had just undergone surgery on my right arm for extensive nerve damage and faced weeks of painful therapy sessions.

Not wanting to damage my ego too heavily nor alter my lifestyle too drastically, the doctor made a closing suggestion. "At least drop the .30-06 for a lighter caliber, Bill, or you are going to suffer lasting and painful consequences."

Stunned, I considered getting out of deer hunting all together. My pride had been a bit battered. I even tried the .30-06 for the upcoming deer season and completely regretted not having listened to the doctor. My right arm ached much more than my pride.

The following year, my hunting buddies changed my gloomy outlook on the future of my deer hunting possibilities. A deer drive materialized instantaneously while we were sighting in rifles. A family member drove up and reported seeing a big buck cross the farm road and enter a two-acre brushy draw. We all piled into trucks and headed that direction. Ordered to post 125 yards off the east end of the draw in a soybean stubble field, I protested since I had left my rifle in camp. One of the guys handed me a .25-06 Winchester. At the time, I foolishly considered it a mere toy for deer hunters.

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Two minutes later I glared down the scope of that sleek little rifle at the biggest buck I had ever seen in the wild. It raced across the stubble 125 yards away. I dropped to one knee, took a deep breath, settled the crosshairs on the front edge of the magnificent buck's shoulder and slowly squeezed the trigger. I saw the buck hump up. Thirty yards later it piled up in a cloud of dust. The 100-grain bullet had entered behind the shoulder and exited at the base of the neck on the opposite side.

Not only did I feel jubilation at the terrific buck I had just harvested with a good shot, I fell in love with a sweet little .25-06 and new that my deer hunting career had been secured for the foreseeable future. For a 60-year-old deer hunter, I walked as tall as I ever had after downing a trophy buck, even though they were all harvested with much larger caliber deer rifles.

Discussions and dissertations around campfires and in glossy magazines have consumed uncountable volumes of words about the merits of the best caliber for whitetails. The bottom line, however, is that the best caliber is the one that you shoot best. The issue is undeniably one of personal choice. And as I learned the hard way, personal choices change with age.

Other calibers which aging deer hunters should consider include the .243 Winchester, .30-30 Winchester, .270 Remington, the 7x57 and the .308. An aging hunter's major concern is recoil. The chart below clearly defines the advantages of smaller calibers for older deer hunters.


Recoil (Foot Pounds)

 .243     8.4
 .30-30    11.4
 7x57      12.2
 .25-06  12.4
 .308   14.8
 .270                                 15.7
 .280    16.2
 .30-06    20.0
 7mm Rem Mag  24.3
 .300 Win Mag   27.2

Most mature (being respectful to my own kind) deer hunters would do well to plan for a little more research before selecting a smaller caliber rifle than I exhibited. I would say my success lay in the stars and I have not regretted my choice of the .25-06. I purchased my own gun in the Remington 700 with black synthetic stock.

The first five calibers in the above list all have recoils coming in less than 15 foot pounds. The relief to aching shoulders and joints is immediately recognizable for aging deer hunters when downsizing from the 25 foot pound recoil rifles to those with half the kick.

Given the fact that deer hunters (especially the old guys) like to argue the merits of any given caliber, arguing the finer points of the short list still beats not arguing at all. Also, I have found that by the time I present my exhortations of the grandest values of the smaller calibers around the evening campfire, I am ready for the sleeping bag. The younger guys argue into the wee hours of the morning, while I rest and prepare for the next early morning to crawl out of the sack long before them and confiscate some important piece of their equipment.

The final satisfaction of deer hunting in my last quarter century of life has evolved into the grand oratorical praises of those silver haired sexagenarians who have, over six decades, sharpened their shooting skills and gained absolute control of their nerves to the point that they no longer need the heavy duty, kick-like-a-mule big bore calibers of the less experienced deer hunter.

On my eightieth birthday I plan to add a recoil pad to the butt end of my Remington 700 .25-06. That addition should carry me well towards a century of deer hunting adventure.