I need to set up some ground rules. As this is a year’s end article, it should look back at guns that were released in 2013. That is easy enough to do, but I’m going to complicate the issue by limiting the 2013 releases to genuine innovations, and not product creep (like the 9mm version of Springfield Armory’s XDS, or the Ruger SR1911CMD, both of which are great guns in their own right).
So they have to be new, new. New to the market. New in their designs. This hasn’t been easy this year. Politics, I think, put the brakes on product development. Why rock out new guns when the market is buying up all of the existing guns at such an incredible pace? Double down on the current production and run guns out the door.
I’m also limiting guns to those I’ve reviewed myself. I learned a lesson this year about what I think I will like, and what I think I won’t. I don’t honestly know until I’ve spent a long time with the gun, longer (sometimes) than one review will allow for.
1. The Beretta ARX 160 .22 LR
The best .22 LR I fired this year, without exception, would be the Beretta ARX 160. This gun is exceptionally light, completely ambidextrous, and fast. It will feed and cycle anything, and can stand in as a training tool for the larger 5.56 ARX (which should be hitting shelves soon). Not that anyone trained with .22 LR in 2013. It is still easier to find .223 than it is .22 LR. But that’s a completely different story.
2. The Enflield MERC 415 5.56
The Best AR-15 I ran across this year (and there were a lot more of them than I expected, especially late in the year) was the Enfield MERC 415. As ARs go, the Enfield looks like an entry level carbine. Once you get under the hood, though, you’ll find that the rifle is really rugged. The gun is a great choice for anyone’s first AR, and a fantastic platform on which to build.
3. The IWI Tavor SAR 5.56
The best bullpup I fired, and a serious contender for the best tactical rifle spot, would be the IWI Tavor. This gun is a solid chunk of compact firepower. It is much smaller than a carbine length AR, and offers better long range potential. It takes a while to get used to loading the magazines behind the grip, so practice is essential.
4. The Colt LE901 .308/.223
The best tactical rifle of 2013 is, in my opinion, the Colt 901. This isn’t hardly fair, considering it is both a .308 and a 5.56. But the gun’s modular upper capabilities give it a distinct edge.
That would be enough. Yet the rifle is exceptionally easy to operate, very accurate, and light enough to actually carry. Changing uppers is easier than I would have thought, and the .308 upper shoots 1 MOA groups. Hard to beat a gun that works this well.
5. The Intrepid RAS-12
The best shotgun of the year is the RAS-12. Our initial review was incomplete. We only shot 50 rounds through the gun, but that was more than enough to see the RAS-12′s potential. As an AR based shotgun, it offers a familiar platform for those who run an AR. The modified AR-10 mags fed the unique shells easily, and the gun’s accuracy and efficiency was beyond reproach. This is one of those game changers, I think, and may signal a total change in the way we think about tactical shotguns.