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Industry Choice Awards 2017

The Second Firearms Industry Choice Awards — Bigger and Better

Photos by Steven Kuo and Derek Lanham

Last year, we told you all about the brand-new Industry Choice Awards, an ambitious new attempt to celebrate and honor innovation and excellence in the firearm industry. We’re pleased, once again, to be the exclusive publishing partner to report on its second year.

Nathan and Nick Noble of Rockcastle Shooting Center and David Powers of Oneida Molded Plastics were again the driving forces behind the awards. Building on the success of the inaugural effort, they aspire to steadily grow the Industry Choice Awards every year. Nathan explained that they were remaining true to the original vision of a truly objective product evaluation process, “designed to determine the product of the year in each category through unbiased, hands-on testing and evaluation.”

As a result, consumers benefit from unbiased awards, while manufacturers receive extensive feedback about their products. As the awards grow in prominence, so too would the number of product submissions from participating manufacturers, ability to create additional meaningful categories, and the resources to expand testing protocols.

In late spring this year, at the picturesque Rockcastle Shooting Center in Park City, Kentucky, a group of evaluators assembled to inspect, review, and test the product submissions. They were carefully selected for their experience and areas of expertise. Collectively, they represented 564 years of hunting, 379 years of competitive shooting, 148 years of retail and distribution experience, 99 years of instructional background, and 90 years of military service.

Compared to the previous year, the cadre of evaluators increased from 20 to 30, and the number of products increased from 65 to 98. The testers toiled for several days, filling out numerical ratings and qualitative feedback on a comprehensive range of criteria, including fit, finish, form, and function. This year, rather than give everyone a stack of paper and a head start on carpal tunnel syndrome, Practiscore set up an electronic system to streamline the process for the digital age of tablets and smartphones.

Last year, there were six product categories — rifle, handgun, shotgun, optic, accessory, and ammunition. This year, there were enough products to add two more — targets and triggers — while splitting the accessories category into basic and premium accessories.

Ratings were analyzed to determine the winners, and all evaluator feedback was provided to the manufacturers following the award ceremony. Companies indicated that they really value the end-user feedback, both as validation (or constructive criticism) of decisions they’ve already made and as inspiration and suggestions for modifications and future products to come. One told us, “Feedback is a gift.”

Later in the summer, company representatives descended upon Rockcastle to shoot the Industry Team Challenge match, designed by the incomparable Andy Horner, network and chat amongst themselves, and attend the formal awards ceremony. Many participants mentioned that the time spent together with old and new friends was as valuable as anything else.

Below, you’ll see examples of the awards process working exactly as hoped, and examples of where we’d like to see more product submissions to be able to carve out additional product categories with an array of apples to apples comparisons.

Still, versus last year, the Industry Choice Awards had 50-percent more products and 50-percent more evaluators. That’s solid growth, and we look forward to the trend continuing. Furthermore, the feedback we heard from end users and companies alike this year was also extremely encouraging — there was strong appreciation for the intent and process behind the ICAs. A manufacturer (who didn’t win) told us that the awards “mean more on the consumer side, because it’s not biased.” We agree and feel these awards will become a great venue for recognizing excellence in the firearm industry.


ICA RIFLE OF THE YEAR

Patriot Ordnance Factory Revolution

RECP-180100-ICA-RIFLE-POF-7D2_7236.JPG

Caliber: 7.62 NATO
Barrel Length: 16.5 inches
Weight: 7.3 pounds
Magazine Capacity: 20
MSRP: $2,669
URL: www.pof-usa.com
Notes:
The short-stroke gas piston 7.62mm POF Revolution was our cover gun for Issue 32, impressing us with clever engineering to build a 7.62 in a 5.56-sized package. In his testing, our HMFIC Iain Harrison found it to be handy, fast, and accurate, ripping off 0.16-second splits during drills while also printing sub-MOA groups with match ammo.

Many parts in the Revolution are interchangeable with an AR-15, and the barrel extension, bolt assembly, upper, and lower receiver are exactly the same size. Weighing in at just over 7 pounds, the rifle features a nitride heat-treated barrel, ambidextrous controls, built-in QD mounts, adjustable gas piston, crisp single-stage trigger, and triple-port muzzle brake.

Evaluators raved about the Revolution, in particular giving it high marks for innovation for delivering a .308 on a .223 frame. They also praised its ergonomics and shootability. Effusive comments ranged from “State of the art technology. At this time there’s no other firearm on the market that compares,” to “By far the best bang for the buck. Amazing features, including the cut chamber. Dead-on accurate. Well done, bravo!” One evaluator liked it so much they wrote, “I’d also probably sleep with this gun. Not probably, definitely.”

Runners-Up

f-1 firearms udr 15ruger ranch 450 bushmaster

> F-1 Firearms UDR-15
> Sturm Ruger American Rifle Ranch 450 Bushmaster


ICA HANDGUN OF THE YEAR

Canik TP9SFX

Canik-TP9SFX

Caliber: 9mm
Barrel Length: 5.2 inches
Weight: 1.8 pounds
Magazine Capacity: 20
MSRP: $550
URL: www.canikusa.com
Notes:
The winner of the 2017 Handgun of the Year award is the poster child for what the Industry Choice Awards are all about. Jason Karvois, Director of Sales for Century Arms, explained, “Having entered other Canik models into the competition last year, we relied upon the 2016 feedback and constructive criticism to develop and produce the pistol that won this year.” In fact, after the awards ceremony, several executives in the industry confided to us that they were tickled that an underdog won the award in such a strong field.

In Issues 18 and 32, we reported on the original Canik TP9SA and its competition-focused descendant, the TP9SFX. We found them to be excellent handguns offering tremendous value. The SFX model bristles with features and enhancements that you might not expect in a gun with a $550 retail price. The match barrel, enhanced trigger, extended controls and magazines, and slide cuts and serrations aren’t a big surprise. But keep looking, and you’ll notice the factory-provided iron sights are from Warren Tactical. The slide is pre-cut for a red dot, with a cover and several interface plates for different brands of optics. The magazine catch is reversible and comes with extras in different sizes.

Evaluators were duly impressed. Comments like “incredible value” and “awesome pistol for the money” showed up repeatedly, along with praise for the TP9SFX’s accuracy, ergonomics, and upgrades. They noted how well it works out of the box — “This would make an awesome entry-level competition pistol. It comes off-the-shelf with many of the aftermarket add-ons that you’d need to add yourself.” Some weren’t overly impressed with the included holster, but it’s part of an overall package that allows the buyer to buy the Canik and go straight to the range. For the price, we’re not complaining.

Runners-Up

GLOCK-43SIG-P320 X Five

> Glock 43
> SIG SAUER P320 X-FIVE Full-Size


ICA SHOTGUN OF THE YEAR

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3

RECP-180100-ICA-SHOTGUN-BENELLI-SBE3-7D2_6998.JPG

Caliber: 12 gauge
Barrel Length: 26 or 28 inches
Weight: 7 pounds
Magazine Capacity: 3+1
MSRP: $1,899 to $1,999
URL: www.benelliusa.com
Notes:
Fresh off a win last year, Benelli came back strong with the latest installment in its bread-and-butter, inertia-driven semi-automatic shotguns. The Super Black Eagle 3, which chambers 2¾-, 3-, and 3½-inch shells, features the rock-solid Benelli inertia system with a revised bolt head for increased reliability and more secure lock-up. The buttstock has the latest recoil reduction system, Comfort Tech 3, along with a new comb insert.

Its predecessor’s ergonomics were already excellent; they’ve been refined even further to improve handling and pointability, with a recontoured pistol grip and fore-end, as well as an extended bolt handle and safety. Taking a page from the three-gunner’s handbook, the loading port is beveled, the trigger guard is scooped out, and the carrier is extended to make loading easier. You won’t mistake it for a Taran Tactical-modified shotgun, but it’ll reduce the odds of inflicting “Benelli thumb” on yourself while reloading. It’s available in black and three different camouflage finishes.

The evaluators loved everything about this gun, except for its price tag. They raved about what a pleasure it was to shoot and found the new Comfort Tech system effective at reducing recoil. Those familiar with previous Super Black Eagle iterations were impressed with the upgrades, and many testers wanted to take one home.

Runners-Up

RECP-180100-ICA-SHOTGUN-BROWNING-CXS-7D2_7012.JPGRECP-180100-ICA-SHOTGUN-WINCHESTER-SX4-7D2_7035.JPG
> Browning CITORI CXS
> Winchester SX4


ICA OPTIC OF THE YEAR

SIG SAUER Kilo2400ABS

RECP-180100-ICA-OPT-SIGKILO2400-7D2_6963.JPG

Lens: 7x25mm
Dimensions: 4.2 by 1.3 by 3 inches
Weight: 7.5 ounces
MSRP: $1,800
URL: www.sigsauer.com
Notes:
Yes, a rangefinder won the optic category, stacked up against riflescopes (some very impressive ones indeed). We’ll get this out of the way first — we wish there were enough entries under consideration to break out another product category. That said, even though it feels a bit like comparing apples and oranges, once you spend some time behind SIG SAUER’s flagship rangefinder, you’ll understand why it was rated so highly by evaluators.

The KILO2400ABS fits in the palm of your hand, yet ranges out to 2 miles with an embedded Applied Ballistics calculator, environmental sensors, and Bluetooth synchronization to connect to a ballistic app on your smartphone. Onboard sensors measure temperature, pressure, humidity, heading, and incline, while a useful HyperScan mode ranges four times per second.

The OLED display is crisp and precise, automatically adjusting its brightness for changing conditions. You can load four custom ballistic profiles, utilizing G1/G7 and Applied Ballistics custom drag curves. The rangefinder comes with a case, gear bag, tripod mount, wind meter, lanyard, and pen.

Evaluators were very impressed with its compact size, capabilities, and performance, with superlative comments such as “ranged accurately and consistently and easily ranges small targets at distance” and “some of the best glass I’ve seen on a rangefinder.”

Runners-Up

RECP-180100-ICA-OPT-TRIJICON-7D2_7221.JPGRECP-180100-ICA-OPT-NIGHTFORCE-.JPG

Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56 F1
> Trijicon Accupower 1-8×28


ICA BASIC ACCESSORY OF THE YEAR

Magpul X-22 Backpacker Stock — Ruger 10/22 Takedown

RECP-180100-ICA-ACC-BASIC-MAGPUL-X22-IMG_6643.JPG

Colors: Black, flat dark earth, olive drab green, stealth gray
MSRP: $110
URL: www.magpul.com
Notes:
The Magpul X-22 Backpacker Stock is a perfect complement to the handy Ruger 10/22 takedown rimfire rifle, cleverly snapping together into a portable package when broken down. The buttstock is pared down, but still contains a storage compartment in the grip and one in the stock that holds three spare magazines. The lower portion is cut out to accept the shortened handguard and barrel when detached. You can swap out the cheek-piece for a taller version if you’re using an optic. You can also add optional quick-detach sling mounts and a forward optic mount.

Magpul’s innovative design was lauded by the evaluators, who highlighted the slick coupling feature and its compactness, while maintaining full function of the firearm. They felt it exhibited excellent quality, fit, and finish. Many comments sounded like this one: “This is a fantastic product. Full use of the stock, adjustable comb, fits and functions well. I’m totally buying one of these.” The only negative comment we could find was a tester who didn’t like the texture on the polymer — we’ve used so many Magpul products over the years that Magpul could make polymer boxers, and it wouldn’t feel odd to us.

Runners-Up

RECP-180100-ICA-ACC-BASIC-LASERLYTE-7D2_6975.JPGRECP-180100-ICA-ACC-DOUBLESTAR-OOPS-7D2_8468.JPG

> Doublestar OOPS! REPLACEMENT  Kit
> Laserlyte MBS-1 .22-.50 cal Laser Bore Sight


ICA PREMIUM ACCESSORY OF THE YEAR

Voodoo Tactical 3-Gun Case

RECP-180100-ICA-ACC-PREM-VOODOO-CASE-7D2_7400.JPG

Dimensions: 56 x 14 x 8 inches
Colors: 14 pounds
Colors: Black, coyote tan, Voodoo Tactical camo
MSRP: $250 ($296 in camo)
URL: www.voodootactical.com
Notes:
Designed with Mark Roth, the Voodoo Tactical 3-Gun Case is intended to swallow everything you need for a three-gun match, including halberd-like instruments of scattergun badassery, with their absurdly long magazine tubes, without breaking a sweat.

It’s an unapologetically huge, 56-inch-long case, designed to accommodate everything you need to channel your inner Daniel Horner. Roth explained that they intentionally didn’t constrain themselves to what might fit in a typical airline-safe hard case, and it shows. But you can still sling the bag, handhold it, or hoist it on your back. Make no mistake though, it’s no lightweight. Convenient dividers safely separate your long guns, which tuck nicely into place. There’s so much storage in this bag that there are pockets for your pockets.

Voodoo definitely struck a chord with the evaluators, three-gunners or not. Those who compete loved its well-thought-out design, with one saying, “This is my next (and last) three-gun bag. It will replace the three other ones I have.” Another tester wrote, “Item is number-one purchase when I get home. Hate the bag I use because tube and barrel stick out of top unless I breakdown my shotgun.” One suggested adding a removable zipper pouch for a pistol, which Voodoo has accommodated with the addition of a velcro-backed utility pouch that’ll accept a padded pistol bag (along with several removable magazine pouches). But the bag isn’t just for three-gunners, as many noted that it would be perfect for a “multitude of uses” and to carry several guns and gear. Everyone complimented the quality materials, stitching, zippers, padding, and straps. The backpack configuration was especially well-liked.

Runners-Up

RECP-180100-ICA-ACC-PREM-JP-SCS-7D2_6967.JPGRECP-180100-ICA-ACC-PREM-SAMSON-SX15-7D2_6986.JPG
> JP Enterprises AR-15 Silent CAPTURED SPRING
> Samson M-LOK SX SERIES 15 Handguard


ICA AMMUNITION OF THE YEAR

Federal Ammunition American Eagle Syntech

RECP-180100-ICA-AMMO-FED-AE-SYNTECH-7D2_6968.JPG

Caliber: .40 S&W
Bullet Weight: 165 grains
MSRP: $27 (50-round box)
URL: www.federalpremium.com
Notes:
Ammunition may not be the sexiest category, but we all know that ammo is a critically important component of any weapon system. And manufacturers continue to introduce new and interesting product lines aimed at various segments of the market. This year’s winner is Federal’s American Eagle Syntech.

The Syntech line is intended for range and training use. It features a bullet that’s encapsulated in polymer, preventing metal-on-metal contact. The primer is lead-free and propellants burn cleanly. Federal says Syntech ammo eliminates copper and lead fouling, while extending barrel life, lessening the need to clean as often, and reducing felt recoil. Additionally, since there’s no copper jacket and a soft lead core, there’s less splash from shooting steel targets.

The testing protocol this year was similar to before, with evaluators weighing, measuring, and chronographing all the ammunition. They then tested the ammo at the range, but didn’t assess terminal performance or accuracy. Testers were intrigued and found the ammo to function reliably with manageable recoil. They were generally impressed with its performance and consistency, though a few evaluators reported some dimensional variation and a few examples of thin application of the polymer coating. Overall, they liked the concept and its applications at the range and for training.

If you wish to roll your own, Federal’s now selling Syntech component bullets in 9mm, .40, and .45.

Runners-Up

HORNADY BLACK 450 BUSHMASTERRECP-180100-ICA-AMMO-RIO-ELITE-TARGET-7D2_6989.JPG

> Hornady Black 450 Bushmaster
> Rio Elite Target Load


ICA TARGET OF THE YEAR

MGM Targets Evil Roy Target System

Target plate: 8 inch hexagon
Height: 40.5 to 56.5 inches
Weight: 24 pounds (excluding target plate)
MSRP: $299
URL: www.mgmtargets.com
Notes:
MGM Targets is synonymous with steel target systems. And their new Evil Roy Steel Target System is a perfect example, as well as the winner in its category. It combines toolless setup and breakdown with a target head that’s adjustable for height and angle.

The base has four legs that swing out for stability, but collapse into a compact package, just 36 inches long. The target post is made of AR500 with slots at the top to accept various different target plates (an 8-inch hexagonal plate is included). The post has five positions to adjust the height of the target and can be pivoted forward or back to place the target plate at either a 15- or 45-degree angle. It can also be locked in place or allowed to rock backward to further dissipate impacts. The target head and post also have no welds, brackets, bolts, or rivets to be damaged or cause ricochets and splatter.

Evaluators commended the design, durability, and versatility of the Evil Roy target. They were well aware of MGM’s reputation, with one relating, “With MGM I expect quality; I was not disappointed.” Many also felt it was a good value. The targets were put to good use during the Industry Team Challenge match, reliably soaking up a barrage of pistol and rifle fire over several days of heavy use.

Runners-Up

> Innovative Targets Know Your Limits
> Tactical AR500 Targets Magnum A-DAP System


ICA TRIGGER OF THE YEAR

Timney Triggers AR-15 Calvin Elite

RECP-180100-ICA-TRIGGER-TIMNEY-CALVIN-ELITE-7D2_8460.JPG

Trigger Pull Weight: 1.5 pounds
MSRP: $300
URL: www.timneytriggers.com
Notes:
Timney Triggers has been easing the burden on booger hooks since 1946. They offer replacement triggers for everything from bolt guns to shotguns to semi-automatic rifles. They’re particularly well known for their drop-in trigger cartridges for the AR platform, and their latest is the AR-15 Calvin Elite competition trigger.

It’s designed to allow users to fully customize the trigger exactly to their liking, with four different trigger shoes (curved, flat, heeled, and knurled). Once you’ve selected your desired shoe design, you can change the length of pull, cast, and height. Actually, the only thing you can’t customize is the weight of the trigger pull, which is a feathery and crisp 1.5 pounds with a quick reset.

Testers loved the feel of the trigger, and its extensive array of customizations. One evaluator said, “This is the most [customizable] trigger I’ve ever tested. Great engineering from a great design and proper fit and finish.” It doesn’t come cheap though, and its $300 retail price was the main complaint.

Runners-Up

STURM RUGER BX-TRIGGERRECP-180100-ICA-TRIGGER-HIPERFIRE-ECLIPSE-7D2_8486.JPG

> Hiperfire HIPERTOUCH ECLIPSE
> Sturm Ruger BX-Trigger

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