News

The World According to Guns & Ammo: 2014’s Best of the Best Awards

For the last 10 years, firearms publication Guns & Ammo has handed out annual awards for the best firearms, gear and accessories. The editors of the print and digital magazine evaluate every new product released each year and announce their favorites in the fall. Neither manufacturers or advertising executives are notified during product trials and discussions. Guns & Ammo has a set of rules guiding the editors to pick the most outstanding gun and gun-related products based on

  • Merits of Performance
  • Proven long-term durability
  • Value
  • Availability

One award was presented in each of the following categories—firearms, optics, ammo and suppressors. Here are the winners for the best firearms and gear of 2014 from Guns & Ammo magazine.

Firearms

Black 9mm H&K handgun with slide serrations, light trigger pull and Picatinny rail
The H&K VP9 wins due to its “long-term reliability, sustained accuracy and overall value.”

Handgun of the Year: H&K VP9

The H&K VP9 is striker-fired, compatible with P30 accessories, has ambidextrous controls and interchangeable grips with different sized palm swells. The H&K VP9 wins due to its “long-term reliability, sustained accuracy and overall value.”

H&K are the pioneers of the striker-fired handgun, but backed out of the market years ago. For 2014, H&K returns with the VP9—H&K’s first striker-fired pistol since the 1980s. However, this isn’t your run of the mill polymer-framed gun. First and foremost, it is an H&K; a gun known for its reliability and highest quality manufacturing. Second, and many would think this feature is first, the amazing VP9 trigger. The biggest complaint many shooters have against striker-fired handguns, H&K has fixed in the VP9. Its strongest selling point is the fine trigger. With a smooth, short take up, very light 5.4-pound pull and short positive reset, the H&K VP9 trigger is unfounded in any other striker-fired handgun.

H&K’s VP9 incorporates a patented design that it calls, “charging supports.” Located on the back of the slide on both sides, these charging supports help make racking the slide easier and smoother—a feature that women, older shooters, injured or others with reduced hand strength appreciate. A captive flat recoil spring reduces felt recoil—another feature these shooters will also welcome.

The H&K VP9 comes with three interchangeable backstraps and six side panels for a more customized fit to your hand and molded finger grooves, for a truly ergonomic grip. Chambered in 9mm, the H&K VP9 has a 4.09-inch barrel. The barrel is cold hammer-forged cannon grade steel with a polygonal bore instead of traditional rifling. This technology increases bullet velocity and reduces wear and fouling for a longer barrel life. The frame is strong reinforced polyamide with a machined steel slide. The sights are fiber optic 3-dot and the ambidextrous controls are low profile. The H&K VP9 is 7.34 inches long, 1.32 inches wide, 5.41 inches tall and weighs 25.56 ounces.

Rifle of the Year: Ruger American Revolution

Black bolt-action rifle from Ruger with Redifield riflescope attached
Right out of the box with optic, the Ruger American Revolution shoots sub-MOA.

Though the Ruger American rifle is a several years old, the 2014 model has a 3-9x Redfield riflescope attached. Guns & Ammo cites the Revolution as an “incredible value” for the win. It is a bolt-action rifle with dual cocking cams and a Marksman adjustable trigger.

Ruger introduced the value-priced series of hunting rifles in 2012 to compete with other equally affordable bolt-action rifles such as Savage and Remington 770 models. However, the Ruger American rifle really stands out from its rivals due to its features, attention to detail and innovation in its design and manufacturing.

Ruger’s innovative Power Bedding attaches the stock to the action via two V-shaped aluminum pillars  molded into the stock. Milled into the bottom of the receiver are two matching recesses that fit into the V-shaped pillars creating a precise stock bedding and recoil lugs for the rifle’s action.

Three locking lugs allow the bolt a short travel time to cycle the action. The dual cocking cams make this 70-dgree bolt easily clear scopes and smooth to operate. Its Marksman adjustable trigger has a three-to five-pound pull. Of course, the Ruger American Revolution uses Ruger’s famous rotary magazine.

What got the editor’s attention to this particular model of Ruger American bolt-action rifle was the addition of a Redfield scope with 4-Plex reticle. Right out of the box, with this optic, the Ruger American Revolution shoots sub-MOA. This accuracy is unheard of at this price point. Retailing for less than $500, the Ruger American Revolution truly gives you more bang for your buck.

Benelli Ethos semiautomatic shotgun with find Grade AA wood stock and lightweight carbon fiber rib
Reviewers rave over the Benelli’s accuracy, looks and positive ejection.

Shotgun of the Year: Benelli Ethos

Describing the Benelli Ethos as “classy” and “technologically advanced,” the 2014 Benelli Ethos certainly stirred up a lot of positive talk at the 2014 SHOT Show. It has an inertia-driven gas system and an interchangeable carbon-fiber rib.

When developing the Ethos, Benelli took its best of the best in high-quality traditional craftsmanship combining it with new technology to create a field shotgun that not only looks beautiful, but shoots softly and accurately as well. The Grade AA walnut stock offsets the modern-looking carbon fiber rib, that reduces the overall weight of the shotgun. Benelli’s inertia-driven system—comprised of three major parts: bolt body, inertia spring and rotating bolt head—is simpler, lightweight, faster and cleaner. The stock’s recoil reduction system, made of three polymer buffers, flexes when firing the Ethos is fired, reducing the recoil against your shoulder. This system adjusts itself to the variety of shotgun loads the Ethos shoots without malfunction. Further, a redesigned and improved cam pin creates a positive lock up with the bolt closed, ensuring you never miss a shot. A mid-bead and fiber optic front bead sight with three interchangeable light pipes helps you bag more birds. Reviewers rave over the Benelli’s accuracy, looks and positive ejection. Benelli allows storefront sales only of its shotguns. For an inertia-driven gun without the hefty price tag, check out the TriStar Tec 12 pump-action/semiautomatic 12 gauge shotgun.

Ammunition

Winchester Train and Defend

Black box with red and gold lettering of JHP loads 25 to a box v
The JHP loads are boxed 25 to the box.

Winchester’s Train and Defend ammo includes training rounds that match ballistically to the self-defense rounds in the box. You get a true feeling of performance and recoil when training with your handgun.

Winchester’s Train and Defend box of ammo should not be a revolutionary concept. However, it is the first time in my shooting career I have seen a company package a ballistically identical training round with a self-defense round. Both rounds offer the exact same bullet weight and velocity, so when you practice with the training rounds you get a real and true expectation of how the self-defense rounds will perform if you ever have to use them. You get the same point of impact, recoil and muzzle blast out of both rounds. It is available currently in 9mm, .380 ACP, .40 S&W and .38 Special. Each load we tested burned clean and was accurate. For a more detailed review on Winchester Train and Defend ammo, click here.

Suppressor

Black suppressor for .22 Long Rifle guns
The core of the Ryder 22 is how easy it is to remove and clean.

SureFire Ryder 22A

Guns & Ammo chose the SureFire Ryder 22A due to its “excellent value.” It is not only lightweight at 3.1 ounces, but also only adds 5 inches of length to the muzzle.

The Shooter’s Log reviewed the SureFire Ryder 22A suppressor in 2012. You can read that review here.

In the last few years, suppressors have become more popular than ever. As more states legalize hunting with suppressors and companies educating the public more about the legal use of suppressors, shooters are finding the positive aspects of using them. In the past, rimfire suppressors posed problems for shooters. .22 Long Rifle often burns dirty and gumming up a suppressor is bad news. With too much fouling, you lose accuracy and it is even possible to make it extremely difficult to remove the suppressor from your gun. SureFire’s Ryder 22 isn’t like that. The core of the Ryder 22 is how easy it is to remove and clean. Made entirely of titanium, the SureFire Ryder 22 is incredibly light, weighing only 2.3 ounces.

Optic

Black Leupold Mark 6 tactical riflescope with turrent adjustment knobs
The Leupold Mark 6 TMR riflescope has a host of features anyone would expect out of a glass at this price point.

Leupold Mark 6 3-8×44 TMR Riflescope

“This was Guns & Ammo’s ‘do everything’ scope…”

This scope has 1/10th-mil pinch-and-turn turret adjustments, a front focal plane reticle and a power selector that is easy to grip.

Guns & Ammo openly admits that the Leupold’s Mark 6 scope is pricier than its normal pick for an award. However, when the editors kept returning to how remarkable it was, they must have felt its nearly $3,000 price tag was worth it. The Leupold Mark 6 TMR riflescope has a host of features anyone would expect out of a glass at this price point. Users say the Leupold Mark 6 has excellent brightness and clarity, combined with its magnification range, adjustment range and ability to create such a sharp image makes the price worth it when hunting and shooting long range. The front focal plane TMR reticle allows you to make accurate range estimations. The Leupold Mark 6 tactical scopes are lighter and more compact than others and has Leupold’s Diamondcoat 2 lens coatings, Xtended Twilight lens system, and M5B2 adjustments.

Guns & Ammo was founded in 1958 by Robert E. Peterson. In 2013, the print edition had a circulation of 416,000. Combined with its online readership, Guns & Ammo is viewed by 5.8 million readers a month.

If you were to give out awards in the same categories, which guns and gear would you choose? Tells us who wins in your book in the comment section.

[suzanne]

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (4)

  1. Last summer I read of up and coming US Army pistol trials to be conducted in August of 2014, where new service pistol candidates would be tested.The article suggested that a change back to 45 from 9mm was possible. Is there any further information available on these tests and what conclusions the Army came to about replacing the Beretta’s ? Any hints at who may have submitted the winning pistol?

  2. Last time I left a comment about how much I love my Leica scope(s) with incredible German optics I was berated about the $1800 price tag. (Also happen to work great with the Geovid rangefinder binoculars that compute the drops settings if you go for the whole system, too) A $3000 scope? And the incredible German $1800 scope is too expensive and never gets mentioned anywhere? I don’t get it.

  3. I agree with G&A on the Ruger American being an amazing bargain at $300 for a sub-MOA rifle. Amazing technology! The scope combo pushes it up to the $550 level tho. Still a bargain. For us penny-pinchers tho, I bought a Savage Axis with scope for $299 that will shoot just as good when I do my work.
    As for a $3000 scope? Yeah right–fine when Uncle Sam paid for it during my military career, but I sure like my Nikon 3×9 I got for $149 along WITH a $30-off coupon. I don’t/can’t shoot them 750+ yard dings anymore anyway. And finally, I like my damned $329 S&W Shield 9 millie over ANY Bugatti-priced H&K pistol.
    I read G&A faithfully-and have for years, but I got about as much of a chance of owning 99% of their products they write about, as I do humping a Playboy centerfold. Which I read faithfully-and have for years.

  4. I guess this is OK but Gun Tests has ten times the credibility of Guns and Ammo– in my opinion and most professionals.

    Just saying.

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