Best of the Best, The

Best of the Best, The

Humphries, Michael O

American Rifleman

2004 Golden Bullseye Awards

The introduction of a new product to the often extremely traditional shooting sports industry presents a potentially overwhelming challenge to manufacturers. Add a heritage dating back to Colonial days, with the kind of reputation forged on generations of sweat equity, and it is no surprise that the 2004 Golden Bullseye Award Committee takes finding products that live up to the industry’s legacy so seriously.

“The diversity of products we reviewed in all our publications, combined with innovative design and dedication to customer satisfaction speaks volumes about the industry,” said Executive Director of NRA Publications Joe Graham. “With several nominees for each category, selection of the top products was extremely difficult.

“Only a few can be honored,” Graham said. “While some of these products are destined to become classics, others serve as ingenious bridges between a proud past and a bright future.”

After an exhaustive search, tedious research and arduous field-testing, American Rifleman is proud to unveil its 2004 Golden Bullseye Award winners-the rifle, handgun, shotgun, ammunition and optic judged “the best of the best.”

Rifle of the Year:

Beretta CX4 Storm

In Editor-In-Chief Mark A. Keefe, IVs article “The Modular Storm” (July 2003, p. 44), he described Beretta’s new CX4 Storm as having redefined the pistol-caliber carbine concept.

The Storm, featuring polymer upper and lower receivers, is a straight blowback-operated semi-automatic, pistol-caliber carbine. Designed as a companion for Beretta’s handguns, it feeds from the same magazines (9 mm Model 92, .40 S&W Model 96, and .45 ACP Model 8000).

Thanks to its modular nature, all controls of the Storm (except for the bolt release) are reversible to left-hand operation. Additionally, there are two points on the fore-end for attaching optional accessories on Picatinny-style rails. There is also an optional Picatinny-style rail that runs along the top of the receiver between the front and rear sights. Depressing the front sling swivel stud frees a single-slot Picatinny rail to slide forward out the fore-end’s front for mounting a laser or a flashlight.

The CX4 is racy in appearance, but sound in design. The gun is simple to operate and has incredible flexibility for various applications. It’s also priced below what might be expected. At a suggested retail of $687, it costs $4 less than Beretta’s stock Model 92FS pistol in 9 mm.

Handgun of the Year:

Smith & Wesson Model 500

“This is the most powerful handgun cartridge in the world.” So stated former Shooting Editor Scott E. Mayer in his article on the new Model 500 S&W revolver (May 2003, p. 34). When it comes to a true mass-produced, commercially available handgun cartridge, the new .500 S&W Mag. is the most powerful handgun on earth, and the new S&W X-Frame revolver designed to handle it is definitely an attention grabber.

S&W’s new X-Frame is huge, but it’s not simply a scaled-up N-Frame. For one thing, its cylinder is five-shot instead of six, so the cylinder stop notches fall at the thickest part of the cylinder. Also, it utilizes a ball detent lock-up in the front of the frame that gets driven into its locking recess in the yoke when the revolver recoils. Finally, an effective compensator at the muzzle helps reduce perceived recoil.

The Model 500 impressed us for all its technical innovations, as well as how good a job it does in handling the new .500 S&W Mag. cartridge. But this revolver is a great deal more than the sum of its impressive parts. It represents Smith & Wesson’s reclamation of the spirit of “Dirty Harry’s” famous Model 29 .44 Mag. as “the most powerful handgun in the world.”

Shotgun of the Year:

Browning Cynergy

Almost every conventional over-under shotgun design has been influenced by the excellent Browning Superposed over-under since its introduction in the late 1920s-so much so that Browning’s approach to over-under design was viewed as being sacrosanct.

Enter the Browning Cynergy, the single most innovative over-under shotgun design to hit the market since the venerable Superposed. Editor-In-Chief Mark A. Keefe’s article, “The Shape Of Things To Come” (p. 44) took a close look at this impressive shotgun. The Cynergy’s monolock hinge integrates the traditional monoblock and hinge for the lowest profile receiver of any 12-ga. over-under shotgun, resulting in a 12 gauge that swings like a twenty. Additionally, an innovative trigger system offers users crisp, rifle-like trigger pulls.

With all that innovation inside, the Cynergy deserved a racy exterior. Browning turned to a young Belgian designer named Serge Rusak, who has styled Ducati motorcycles. The Cynergy’s lines are just as unique and innovative as its mechanics. The Cynergy opens a new door in terms of design, engineering, features and lines when it comes to over-unders.

Ammunition of the Year:

Winchester Super Short Magnums

In their joint article, “Super Short And Oh So Sweet” (Aug. 2003, p.62), former Shooting Editor Scott E. Mayer and Field Editor Bryce M. Towsley took a look at the stubby new Winchester Super Short Magnum (WSSM) family of cartridges.

Mayer pointed out that although the siblings-to-be of the .300 WSM-the 7 mm WSM and .270 WSM-were obvious, the appearance of the WSSM “runts” was an unexpected surprise. He said that the nearly 1/2” shorter, beltless, short-fat cartridges represent the present zenith of ammunition development and offer performance in the field right up there with their full-size ballistic brothers.

In addition to their cutting-edge design and performance, they have also allowed firearm designers to develop “super short” rifles with an ultra-short action for light weight, small size and added action rigidity.

In testing the .223 WSSM and the .243 WSSM, Towsley and Mayer found the new rounds delivered on their promises. These cartridges are a wonderful introduction to this popular new family of chamberings and represent an intriguing new direction for ammunition development that is sure to continue growing.

Optic of the Year:

Trijicon TriPower

In testing the extremely innovative Beretta CX4 Storm (July 2003, p. 44), Editor-In-Chief Mark A. Keefe, IV chose to mount a sighting system that was equally cuttingedge-Trijicon’s TriPower reflex sight. After shooting the combination, we found ourselves just as excited about the TriPower as we were about the Storm.

Part of the extremely popular rapid-acquisition sighting system market, the TriPower wowed us with its tripleillumination system. It combines fiber-optics, tritium and a back-up battery for the ultimate in reliability, ensuring an easy-to-see, fully illuminated red chevron-shaped reticle that is always there when you need it at just the right level of brightness. The lenses are coated for excellent light transmission and minimal reflection, and the objective and eyepiece are threaded for the attachment of adapters and accessories.

For durability, the sturdy unit is completely sealed and waterproof to a depth of 100 ft. Additionally, the Trijicon’s 30 mm tube allows the use of readily available rings and scope mounts.

This is one great sight. It allowed us to quickly pick up targets with the Storm and then transition to the next. All this with the comfort of knowing we were not going to lose that red reticle.

by Michael O. Humphries. Associate Editor

Copyright National Rifle Association of America May 2004

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