December 2019

2019 Guns & Gear Top Picks

Which pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns, accessories, and ammunition were our picks in the past year? We look back at the previous 12 months to highlight the winners.

Toward the end of each year, I survey the work R.K. Campbell, Roger Eckstine, Robert Sadowski, David Tannahill, Tracey Taylor, and John Taylor have done in Gun Tests, with an eye toward selecting guns, accessories, and ammunition the magazine’s testers have endorsed. From these evaluations I pick the best from a full year’s worth of tests and distill recommendations for readers, who often use them as shopping guides. These choices are a mixture of our original tests and other information I’ve compiled during the year. After we roll high-rated test products into long-term testing, I keep tabs on how those guns do, and if the firearms and accessories continue performing well, then I have confidence including these firearms in this wrap-up.


Springfield ARMORY XD-S 3.3-inch XDS93340BE 40 S&W, $378

GUN TESTS GRADE: A (BEST BUY) BEST-IN-CLASS PISTOL

The XD-S was completely reliable, accurate enough for personal defense, and exhibits good features, including a useful trigger action and good sights. While the grip was raspy, it did the job well. The pistol is supplied with both a flush-fit and an extended magazine.

Action Type

Double-action-only

Overall Length

6.3 in.

Overall Height Compact Magazine

4.4 in.

Overall Height Extended Magazine

5.0 in.

Maximum Width

0.9 in.

Weight Unloaded

23.0 oz.

Weight Loaded

26.2 oz.

Slide Material

Forged steel, Melonite finish

Slide Retraction Effort

15.0 lbs.

Frame

Black polymer

Front Strap

1.9 in.

Back Strap

2.75 in.

Barrel Length

3.3 in. steel, Melonite finish, 1:16 twist

Grips

Textured Polymer

Grip Thickness (Maximum)

0.9 in.

Grip Circumference

5.75 in.

Magazines

(1) 6-round flush fit; (1) 7-round X-Tension

Rear Sight

Steel with white-dot insert

Front Sight

Fiber optic

Sight Radius

5.5 in.

Trigger Pull Weight

6.5 lbs.

Trigger Span

2.6 in.

Safeties

Lever set into trigger face, grip safety

Warranty

Lifetime

Telephone

(800) 680-6866

Website

Springfield-Armory.com

Made In

Croatia

 

See full review September 2019


Taurus Model 66 2-660041 38 Special/357 Magnum, $371

GUN TESTS GRADE: A BEST-IN-CLASS REVOLVER 

A capable performer. The only medium-frame revolver tested, the Model 66 is well suited to personal defense and home defense, and would make a good field gun for protection against animals. It is suitable for concealed carry with proper load selection.

Action

Single/Double Action

Overall Length

8.8 in.

Overall Height

10.5 in.

Maximum Width (Cylinder)

1.4 in.

Weight Unloaded

38.0 oz.

Weight Loaded

41.0 oz.

Barrel Length

4.0 in.

Capacity

7

Frame

Carbon steel, medium

Cylinder Material

Steel

Front Strap Height

3.0 in.

Rear Strap Height

4.5 in.

Grips

Rubber, pebbled

Grip Thickness (Max)

1.1 in.

Grip Circumference (Max)

5.0 in.

Front Sight

Fixed post

Rear Sight

Adjustable

Sight Radius

6.0 in.

Trigger Pull Weight Single Action

6.0 lbs.

Trigger Pull Weight Double Action

10.25 lbs.

Trigger Span Single Action

3.15 in.

Trigger Span Double Action

3.5 in.

Safety

Transfer bar

Warranty

Lifetime

Telephone

(800) 327-3776

Website

TaurusUSA.com

Made In

Brazil

See full review October 2019


Savage Arms 110 Storm 14361 7mm Remington Magnum, $849

GUN TESTS GRADE: A (BEST BUY) BEST-IN-CLASS RIFLE 

The AccuStock with AccuFit and the AccuTrigger make this rifle easy to shoot well and absorb the recoil of 7mm rounds. The action was not as slick as the others, but it was plenty smooth.

Action Type

Bolt, push feed

Overall Length

41 to 44.5 in. (depending on insert)

Height Unboxed

4.5 in.

Height As Tested

7.5 in.

Width Stock

1.87 in.

Weight Unboxed/Unloaded

7.25 lbs.

Weight As Tested

8.60 lbs.

Weight As Tested/Loaded

8.66 lbs.

Barrel Length/Twist

24 in.; 1:9.5 RH

Barrel Finish

Matte stainless

Barrel Muzzle Device

None

Stock

Synthetic w/aluminum bedding block; adj. comp and LOP

Stock Buttpad

Rubber

Stock LOP

12.75 to 13.75 in.; 4 inserts

Stock Comb

Adj.; 5 risers

Stock Sling Attachments

2 studs

Trigger Pull Weight

Adj., 3.8 lbs. factory set

Trigger Style

Single stage

Trigger Guard Material

Aluminum, enlarged

Safety

3-position button

Magazine

2-rd. detachable box

Magazine Release

Ambi. lever, front of magazine

Bolt

2-lug bolt; 90-degree lift

Bolt Release

Receiver latch

Sights

None; drilled and tapped

Accuracy Guarantee

None

Warranty

1 year

Telephone

(800) 370-0708

Website

SavageArms.com

Made In

U.S.A.

See full review January 2019


MOSSBERG 590 SHOCKWAVE MODEL 50657 20 GAUGE, $455

GUN TESTS GRADE: A BEST-IN-CLASS SHOTSHELL-FIRING FIREARM 

The Shockwave in 20 gauge substantially reduces felt recoil, which all users appreciated. We liked the strapped forend, which offered good grip security. Mossberg 500 or 590 users will easily adapt to this one.

Action Type

Pump

Chamber Size

3.0 in.

Overall Length

26.37 in.

Capacity

5+1 (2.75-in. shells), 4+1 (3-in. shells)

Weight Unloaded

4.95 lbs.

Weight Loaded

5.75 lbs.

Barrel Length

14.375 in.

Finish

Matte blued

Choke

Cylinder bore

Grip

Bird’s head-style, textured polymer

Forend

Ribbed polymer w/ strap

Front Sight

Brass bead

Trigger Pull Weight

5.8 lbs.

Safety

Ambidextrous thumb

Warranty

Limited lifetime

Telephone

(800) 363-3555

Website

Mossberg.com

Made In

U.S.A.

 

See full review March 2019


Glock 45 9mm Luger, $546

GUN TESTS GRADE: A

The Glock 45 is fast from concealed carry. The action allows a trained shooter to make fast hits, and the piece is reliable. We especially like the bright front-dot sight.

Action Type

Double action only

Overall Length

7.4 in.

Overall Height

5.5 in.

Maximum Width

1.3 in.

Weight Unloaded

24.0 oz.

Weight Loaded

31.4 oz.

Barrel Length

4.0 in.

Slide Material

Steel

Slide Retraction Effort

16.1 lbs.

Receiver Material

Polymer

Finish

Tenifer

Front Strap Height

2.4 in.

Rear Strap Height

4 in.

Grip Panels

Pebbled polymer

Grip Thickness (Max.)

1.3 in.

Grip Circumference (Max.)

6.1 in.

Magazine

(3) 17 round

Rear Sight

Dual-dot tritium

Front Sight

Single-dot tritium, bright orange

Sight Radius

5.9 in.

Trigger Pull Weight

5.4 lbs.

Trigger Span

2.45 in.

Safeties

Trigger lever, firing-pin block

Warranty

1 year

Telephone

(770) 432-1202

Website

USGlock.com

Made In

Austria

See full review January 2019


Remington 1911 R1 Enhanced Threaded Barrel 96339 45 ACP, $675

GUN TESTS GRADE: A

This was a well-outfitted gun for the money. If we were in the market for a new 1911, we’d consider the threaded-barrel model over the company’s other offerings that lack the feature.

Action

Semi-auto single action

Overall Length

9.75 in.

Overall Height

6.0 in.

Maximum Width

1.25 in.

Weight Unloaded

41.0 oz.

Weight Loaded

46.6 oz.

Barrel

5.5 in., stainless steel; thread pitch .578-28

Magazines

(2) 8-round black-steel single stack

Slide

7.5 in. long, 1-piece machined carbon steel

Slide Retraction Effort

15.5 lbs. uncocked; 9 lbs. cocked

Frame

Matte-black carbon steel

Grips

Checkered black-and-brown laminate

Grip Thickness (max)

1.4 in.

Grip Circumference (max)

6.0 in.

Sight, Front

.0.256 in. post, white dot, dovetailed

Sight, Rear

1-dot, windage adj., suppressor height

Sight Radius

6.6 in.

Trigger

4.0 lbs. pull weight

Trigger Span

2.8 in.

Safeties

Frame-mounted left side lever; beavertail

Warranty

Limited 2 year

Telephone

(800) 243-9700

Website

Remington.com

See full review February 2019


Beretta APX Carry JAXN920 9mm Luger, $398

GUN TESTS GRADE: A (BEST BUY)

The Beretta APX Carry builds upon the proven Nano and borrows from the full-size and compact APX pistols. The result is a desirable combination of features, including good reliability and practical accuracy. 

Action Type

Locked breech, striker fired, DAO

Overall Length

5.63 in.

Overall Height

4.16 in.

Maximum Width

1.0 in.

Weight Unloaded

19.8 oz.

Weight Loaded

22.4 oz.

Slide Material

Forged Steel

Slide Retraction Effort

16.0 lbs.

Receiver Material

Polymer

Finish

Black

Front Strap Height

1.3 in.

Back Strap Height

3.0 in.

Barrel Length

3.0 in.

Grip Thickness (Max)

0.9 in.

Grip Circumference (Max)

5.6 in.

Magazine

(1) 6- and (1) 8-round

Rear Sight

Drift adjustable

Front Sight

Removable front post

Sight Radius

4.5 in.

Trigger Pull Weight

5.7 lbs.

Trigger Span

2.6 in.

Safety

Lever in trigger, firing-pin block

Warranty

1-year limited

Telephone

(800) 573-4445

Website

Beretta.com

Made In

USA

See full review October 2019


Ruger PC Carbine 19100 9mm Luger, $649

GUN TESTS GRADE: A

The PC Carbine is versatile, with modular magazine-well inserts for Ruger and Glock pistols. It is also a takedown, so it’s appropriate for survival or prepper scenarios. Accuracy was okay, and the factory peep sight convinced us a red dot was the best sight choice. 

Action Type

Semi-Automatic, blowback

Overall Length

32.0 to 34.37 in.

Overall Height

6.0 in.

Overall Height (w/optic)

7.25 in.

Weight Unloaded

6.8 lbs.

Weight Loaded (17-rnd. mag.)

7.2 lbs.

Receiver

Aluminum alloy

Barrel

16.12 in. long; 1:10 RH twist, threaded, fluted

Muzzle Device

None

Stock

Synthetic, rubber buttpad, adj. LOP

Length of Pull

12.62 to 14.12 in.

Magazine

(1) 17-round

Sights, Front

Protected blade

Sights, Rear

Adj. ghost ring

Trigger

5.1 lbs., single stage

Safety

2-pos. crossbolt button

Telephone

(888) 220-1173

Website

Ruger.com

Made In

USA

See full review April 2019


Rossi R92 Model 920442093 44 Remington Magnum, $560

GUN TESTS GRADE: A

The R92 is a modern take on the iconic Winchester Model 1892 rifle. This rifle offers nostalgia with modern refinements. What made the original ’92 great for hunting and defense is what makes the R92 great for hunting and defense.

Action Type

Lever-action, exposed hammer

Overall Length

37.25 in.

Overall Height

7.0 in.

Weight Unloaded

5.6 lbs.

Weight Loaded (10-round mag.)

6.0 lbs.

Receiver

Stainless steel

Barrel

20 in. long; 1:30 RH Twist

Finish

Bright stainless

Stock

Smooth hardwood, steel buttpad

Length of Pull

13.25 in.

Magazine

10-round tube

Front Sight

Blade

Rear Sight

Adjustable buckhorn

Trigger

4.3 lbs., single-stage

Safety

2 position

Warranty

1 year

Telephone

(800) 948-8029

Website

RossiUSA.com

Made In

Brazil

See full review May 2019


Browning X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Long Range McMillan Burnt Bronze 035395291 6mm Creedmoor, $2400

GUN TESTS GRADE: A

A little long for the deer blind, this is a superior varminter that could shoot in competition.

Action Type

Bolt, 3 lugs

Overall Length

47.5 in.

Barrel Length/Twist

26.0 in.,1:7 in.

Overall Height w/o Scope Mount

6.3 in.

Weight Unloaded

8.06 lbs.

Weight Loaded (108 grain, 4+1 rounds)

8.31 lbs.

Sight Radius

NA

Action Finish

Cerakote

Barrel Finish

Cerakote

Magazine Capacity

4 rounds

Magazine Type

Detachable rotary box, flush fit

Stock

McMillan Game Scout carbon fiber

Drop at Comb

1.1 in.

Drop at Heel

1.2 in.

Bedding

Aluminum pillar

Buttplate

Pachmayr Decelerator, rubber

Length of Pull

13.75 in.

Receiver Scope-Base Pattern

 20-MOA Picatinny

Trigger Pull Weight

3.56 lbs.

Safety

2-position, tang mounted

Warranty

None written

Telephone

(800) 333-3288

Website

Browning.com

Made In

Japan/USA

See full review August 2019


Iver Johnson PAS Copperhead 12 Gauge, $401

GUN TESTS GRADE: A

The Iver Johnson pump-action shotgun has good features that were overshadowed by the snake-scale-like finish. The action is smooth enough and never failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject. Overall, this is a solid, reliable shotgun that gets a solid A rating.

Action Type

Manual pump , dual action rails

Chamber Size

3.0 in.

Overall Length

38.5 in.

Overall Height

5.0 in.

Capacity

4+1

Weight Unloaded

5.9 lbs.

Weight Loaded

6.8 lbs.

Barrel Length

18.5 in.

Metal Finish

Snake-scale-pattern aluminum alloy

Choke

Cylinder

Grip

Pistol style, with ridges

Buttstock

Synthetic with recoil pad

Buttstock Length of Pull

14.1 in.

Forend

Ribbed synthetic with belled back

Front Sight

Post

Rear Sight

None

Trigger Pull Weight

7.2 lbs.

Safety

Crossbolt, rear trigger guard

Warranty

Limited 1 year

Telephone

(321) 636-3377

Website

IverJohnsonArms.com

Made In

Turkey

See full review September 2019


Remington 870 Youth Model 25561 20 Gauge, $330

GUN TESTS GRADE: A- (OUR PICK)

12

The Remington had advantages out of the box. These included ideal weight and a smooth action and trigger. When we compared the Remington 870 20-gauge Youth Model to the other shotguns, however, the Remington did not dominate. As an example, the other shotguns each have a magazine capacity of four shells. When you already have a limited magazine capacity and you are keeping the piece at home ready with the magazine loaded but not the chamber, this may be important. Despite its higher price, the Remington shotgun is not drilled and tapped for a red dot or shotgun scope. This was somewhat overshadowed by the Remington’s performance on the firing range. This was the smoothest shotgun tested and one that ran combat drills very smoothly indeed. We would purchase the Remington for home defense.

Action Type

Pump, dual extractors, twin action bars

Chamber Size

3.0 in.

Overall Length

40.5 in.

Capacity

4+1

Weight Unloaded

6.2 lbs.

Barrel Length

21.0 in.

Barrel

Blued steel

Receiver

Blued steel

Choke

Modified

Buttstock

Wood laminate with recoil pad

Buttstock Length of Pull

13.0 in.

Forearm

Wood, Laminate

Sights

Single bead

Trigger-Pull Weight

6.6 lbs

Warranty

Limited Lifetime

Telephone

(605) 347-4686

Website

Remington.com

Made In

USA

See full review February 2019


Shooting Accessories Picks

CYA IWB, $38

This holster for the Glock 43 is available from CYASupply.com. The holster was tested in flat dark earth, carbon fiber, and black finish. This allowed three raters to test this holster independently. The holster is secure, providing the wearer uses a quality gun belt; the same is true with all the holsters. Retention is good. Ideally, the holster should demonstrate a good, tight fit that isn’t easily overcome with a slow draw but which is fast when a hard tug is given. The CYA holster performed in that manner. We held the holster and an unloaded gun upside down and shook the holster. Retention did not fail. The holster is provided with an Allen wrench to tighten the holster and adjust tension. It came out of the box properly set. Comfort is as good as any other holster. One rater had recently had a hernia operation and found that the holstered Glock 43 did not impede his movement. And, although skeptical at first, he found speed and access superior to the IWB holster he had worn behind the hip.

GUN TEST GRADE: A (BEST BUY)


Wright Leather Works Banshee, $108

This holster is available from WrightLeatherWorks.com. The Banshee is what Wright calls a pancake-style IWB. Pancake holsters are designed to hug the body and offer excellent concealment. Adding reinforced spines and IWB belt loops to the pancake results in a viable IWB holster. The Banshee features a high sweat guard or body shield and a reinforced holstering welt. The holster features good stitching and easy-on-and-off loops, but it may be ordered with tuckable deep-concealment straps. The Banshee isn’t as tightly molded as some holsters, so the holster has a flat profile. Retention is good, yet the holster offers a fast draw, with a minimal break-in period. There are three holes in each holster wing that allow a wide range of adjustment for angle and cant. A neutral to severe angle is possible with these adjustable belt loops. We tested the holster in several renditions including examples for the Government Model 1911, Commander 1911, Browning Hi-Power, and Smith & Wesson J-frame 2-inch-barrel revolver. The design worked well for each handgun.

GUN TEST GRADE: A (OUR PICK)


Safariland Six-Shot Speedloader, $12.68

The Safariland speedloader is all plastic and seems durable. A set that one of the raters has had in use for perhaps a decade showed fraying and chips from being dropped around the outer edges, but it still worked fine. The Safariland loader differs from the HKS. There is no unlocked position achieved by turning the knob. If a gun load isn’t in the loader, it is unlocked. The ammunition is loaded, and the knob is pushed up and to the right. While we did not have access to the internals, this appears to spring-load the speedloader for a rapid release of the gun loads. We dropped several Safariland speedloaders and were not able to dislodge the gun load. We had on hand six loaders, and the total number of drops for loaded speedloaders was 18 without failure or losing the gun load. Loading in the revolver cylinder is the same as the HKS. The release is both different from the HKS and fast and positive. The cartridges are pressed into the chambers and the body of the Safariland loader is pressed forward. There is no turning of the knob; the gun load is released into the chambers without any other motion. The Safariland speedloader never failed to work properly in more than a dozen loads with each individual speedloader on hand. We like this system. A tiny bit more effort is needed to prepare the Safariland device, but loading the revolver with this speedloader is fast, positive, and natural. This advantage might be a lifesaver, and we like it very much.

Our Team Said: The Safariland costs more than the HKS, but the former is faster, and it costs less than speedloaders that do not work any better or do not work as well.

GUN TESTS GRADE: A (OUR PICK)


Federal Hunter Match 22 LR 40-Grain HP 720

At a good price of $39.99/500 from TargetSportsUSA.com, this load achieves 1030 fps from the Smith & Wesson revolver’s 6-inch barrel. The combination of energy, expansion (see image below), and penetration makes this a good choice. We liked the performance of this load. The nickel-plated cases should make for reliable function and non-stick extraction in any firearm, particularly self-loading handguns. Penetration was deep for the 22 at 15 inches, and the bullet reliably expanded to .27 to .29 caliber. Federal’s advertising claims this rimfire load was developed for use in long-range hunting with the rimfire. We think that the design and performance are excellent.

GUN TEST GRADE: A


Walker’s Razor Slim, $70

These earmuffs are available at the WalkersGameEar.com site. The Walker’s Razor muffs are comfortable to wear, with no C-clamp effect on the head and ear cups that are sized in-between the Venture Gear and Champion units. The outside of the ear cups are also tapered so there is less knocking of the ear cup against the stock when mounting a long gun. The Razor uses two microphones so the headset can be worn with microphones facing front or rear. The volume control is a gnarly knob with excellent serrations that offer great texture when operating with or without gloves. The headband is padded and made of a synthetic material that is easy to wipe clean. The outside of the headband is a cloth material. The battery compartment offers easy access. The auxiliary jack input comes with a rubber plug so there is no chance of moisture getting into the electronics. In our opinion, the Walker’s was the most comfortable to wear of all the units tested. We still used ear plugs with them at the indoor range. We also felt the Razor was more friendly to eyewear and that maybe was due to the soft ear cushions in the cups. There was a slight bit of hiss when we turned the volume high. With the wind blowing a brisk 5 mph during one outdoor range session, we could hear the wind in the microphone. Some of our testers who have used Howard Leight earmuffs for years appreciated the Walker’s Razor design.

Our Team Said: The Walker’s Razor is well suited for the recreational shooter and hunter. This unit is less bulky than the Venture Gear and the Champion units. We liked the auto shut off on this unit as a measure to prevent battery drain.

 

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