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Firearms, Ammo, and Bowhunting

best hunting rifles

Firearms, ammunition, and bow-hunting gear is essential when hunting in Alaska. Find our editors’ favorites for 2020 here.

These are the best firearms, ammo, bows, and bow-hunting gear for 2020

Gold Tip Velocity Valkyrie Arrows
goldtip.comGold Tip Velocity Valkyrie Arrows
We asked Paul Atkins, one of our bowhunting experts, what products he felt helped him succeed in 2019 and he said the following: “Arrows have come a long way since the old days. Carbon and aluminum are still the primary choices, and each can be found wherever archery gear is sold. You’ll have a ton of choices, but remember, when it comes to selecting your arrow, you’ll need to select one with proper spine and thickness that will fit your bow and the poundage you’re shooting. There are hundreds of brands out there, all claiming to be the best. I personally shoot those made by Gold Tip, which are popular with not only hunters, but target archers as well. The new 4-fletch Valkyries are some of the best I’ve shot and have helped me take several animals of late. Accuracy and straightness are the key, and with the right setup, they’re screaming fast! I’ve actually shot my best groups shooting these arrows and distance didn’t matter. They come in a wide range of options in the 300-600 spine and in a variety of vane colors.”
BowTech Archery Revolt
bowtecharchery.comBowTech Archery Revolt
Contributing Editor Paul Atkins is an avid bow hunter and had this to say: “The Revolt is a high-quality bow. Touted as ‘smart technology for smart bowhunters,’ it is super smooth, accurate, easy to adjust and fast. It’s a real pleasure to shoot.”
Henry Long Ranger
henryusa.comHenry Long Ranger
In 2019, we tested the Henry Long Ranger chambered in .308 Win. It shot tight groups, was reliable, quick handling, and an all-around solid choice. The lever-action rifle sports a classic look that is reinforced with an oil-finished American walnut stock, iron sights, and blued-steel, free-floated barrel. With its 20-inch barrel length, we like this 7-pound rifle for bear defense and for shooting big game at shorter distances in cover. It is drilled and tapped for a scope mount, giving you the ability to reach out for long shots. With a four-shot capacity, the steel-bodied, flush-fit magazine is sturdy and releases with a steel button that is built into the receiver. We like how the gun sits on the shoulder and that the recoil pad absorbs the shot and keeps the gun in position for the follow-up shot. The sighted model we tested features a front sight that is a ramp with a .062-inch ivory bead and a fully adjustable, folding rear sight. We hope to never have to shoot a charging bear, but this is the type of rifle to have to fire precise shots with speed.
Henry All-Weather Lever Action, .45-70
henryusa.comHenry All-Weather Lever Action
As its name suggests, Henry now makes a lever-action rifle built for the harsh climate conditions we often face in Alaska. Henry chose a different route to make the All-Weather less susceptible to weather. Instead of stainless steel, Henry chose to use a low-gloss, hard chrome plating on all metal surfaces (except springs and sights) and a durable, industrial-grade coating on the hardwood stock. It comes in two calibers: .30-30 and .45-70. We tested the .45-70. Thankfully, it comes with a black ventilated rubber recoil pad. In .45-70, this is a good match for moose and bear to moderate ranges, and is a great choice for bear protection.
Black Hills Ammunition .308 Winchester Match
black-hills.comBlack Hills Ammunition
We shot the 168-grain Match Boat Tail Hollow Point cartridge out of the Henry .308 Long Ranger and were immensely impressed with the consistency of the ammo and tightness of the groups. Using iron sights and a bench rest, we consistently produced sub 2 MOA groups. The lever-action rifle ejected each cartridge precisely. We took the rifle and cartridge into the field in 2019, but failed to fire on any animals. We are excited to try again in 2020. This bullet leaves the rifle at 2,650 feet per second with an energy of 2,619 foot-pounds, making it a viable round for much of Alaska’s game.
Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 .22 Long Rifle
henryusa.comHenry U.S. Survival AR-7
Our youth tester loves shooting this rifle and has spent many hours punching holes in targets. It is highly portable—it weighs just 3.5 pounds and breaks down to fit all the components into the stock of the rifle, which is 16.5 inches long. Assembly is quick; attach the receiver to the stock, insert the barrel, and screw on the nut. No tools are required for assembly and it takes about a minute and a half to assemble. This is a great option for small-game hunting in Alaska and would be our choice for a small-game caliber to put in a bush plane. It comes standard with a sturdy steel barrel covered in ABS plastic with a protective coating for corrosion resistance, incorporates an adjustable rear sight and a blade front sight, and is available in three finishes: Black, True Timber Kanati Camo Pattern, and True Timber Viper Western Camo Pattern. We added a scope to the rifle and it’s a perfect gun for small game and target shooting.
Winchester SX4 Universal Hunter – Mossy Oak Break-Up Country
winchesterguns.com
Winchester SX4 Universal HunterLooking for a superb, versatile shotgun for both waterfowl and upland birds? The semi-automatic SX4 Universal Hunter might be the one. The main differences between the SX3 and the SX4 are improved ergonomics. The SX4 is lighter, the pistol grip slimmer, and the balance point has been moved forward slightly to provide a more fluid swing, better target tracking and smoother follow-through. We tested a 12-gauge model that can shoot 2¾”, 3” or 3 ½” loads. This makes the SX4 suitable for everything from ptarmigan to large geese. Some of the features our tester likes best are the large safety, oversized bolt and bolt release button, large INFLEX technology recoil pad and length-of-pull spacers to customize the fit of the shotgun. Additionally, the chrome-plated chamber and bore makes the surfaces more resistant to wear, rust and corrosion.
Winchester Super-X .45-70, 300-grain Jacketed Hollow Point
winchester.com
Winchester Super-XThis round is designed for hunting deer, elk and black bear. Super-X Jacketed Hollow Points feature rapid, controlled expansion that is designed to penetrate thin skin, light muscle and bone. This ammunition is new production, non-corrosive, in boxer primed, reloadable brass cases. This is not a hot round, dropping a little over 12 inches at 200 yards, but matched to the aforementioned species, it’s very capable.
Winchester M1885 High Wall
winchesterguns.com
Winchester M1885 High WallWe asked Contributing Editor Steve Meyer what products he thought were worthy of an ECA this year and he had this to say: “For going on fifty years I’ve been applying for a bison permit. Should I ever draw one, I told myself, I’ll be using a single shot chambered for the .45/70, to honor the tradition of the plains hunters of the 1800s. I decided to put the cart before the horse and get the gun first, maybe change my luck. I chose the Winchester M1885, better known as the “High Wall.” It was firearms design genius John Moses Browning’s first firearm invention, 142 years ago. Little has changed since Winchester introduced Browning’s masterpiece in 1885 and many shooters referred to it as the strongest, most accurate, and best single-shot rifle ever built. When Winchester brought the M1885 back from a long hiatus in 2005, it retained all of the beloved characteristics of the original in a finished rifle that lives up to the reputation in every way. I chose the Traditional Hunter model, which sports a 22-inch octagon barrel, straight grip buttstock, buckhorn sights, and a flip-up tang sight for longer range work. My tired old eyes demanded a scope, and once mounted I found the M1885 lives up to its accurate reputation and the strength of the action allows handloading to velocities that make it more than adequate for anything that walks the planet. I’ve fallen in love with the High Wall, and even if I never draw a bison permit, this gun with its point-ability that challenges the great British game guns, will be my hunting rifle for moose, bear, and deer, taking a step back in time as it were, a priceless quality these days.”
Kimber Talkeetna Rifle in .375 H&H Magnum
kimberamerica.com
Kimber Talkeetna RifleContributing Editor and hunting fanatic John Whipple offered the following: “When hunting game in Alaska, you need to be able to count on your rifle. The Kimber Talkeetna has become my go-to when firepower and reliability are paramount. Based around the legendary 8400 action, it offers the security of controlled-feed loading and has the strength to handle the stiffest bear loads. It is all stainless steel, designed to withstand Alaska’s inclement weather, and after several years of hard use I must say I have yet to experience any rusting, which cannot be said of some of my other stainless-steel guns from other rifle makers. The stock is reinforced carbon fiber, resulting in a tough but lightweight chassis. The entire surface of the stock is textured, providing a good positive grip, even when wet. I have noticed that this surface seems to show scratches and marks easily, but they are cosmetic only and do not affect the rifle in any way. The recoil pad is the Pachmayr Decelerator, which does a reasonably good job of mitigating recoil. It comes with adjustable express sights, which is something I wish more guns offered. Scopes are great, but it’s nice to know those back-up irons are there if something goes wrong with your optic while in the field. It is chambered in the venerable .375 H&H Magnum, a personal favorite of mine as it is such a hard-hitting round that is available in a wide variety of loads and can be commonly found in remote villages and hunting camps should you need to restock in a pinch. Finally, it shoots well, it is not picky about what you feed it, and can produce 1 MOA accuracy consistently. If you decide to take this rifle with you into the field you will be in good company indeed.”

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