March 10, 2014
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Some guns have earned a legion of loyal followers that are ready to come to blows if anyone badmouths their brand. This reputation is usually deserved, and many brand loyalists feel that nothing will ever be as good as the gun they hold close to their hearts. But for the more open-minded shooter, there are also a lot of firearms out there that haven't gotten the press they deserve.
These guns have not garnered that massive following, at least not yet. If you're in the market for a new gun (and who isn't?) take the time to consider these guns before making your next purchase. Some of these firearms may be unfamiliar to you, and others are well-known but still haven't reached the level of popularity they might deserve. Don't discount any of these 10 most underrated guns until you've shot them—they all have a special charm.
Most Underrated Over/Under Shotgun
When most upland shooters go out to pick up a new gun the Fausti Caledon
isn't even on their radar. Too bad. More than any other over/under I know, this one offers a lot of style and durability for a reasonable MSRP.
I've toured Fausti's
new facility, and the company has state-of-the-art CNC machines sitting 100 feet away from the work stations of some of Italy's finest engravers. The all-new factory has helped Fausti prepare to break into new markets around the world, and the entry-level Caledon is a good place to start.
The Italians know a thing or two about style, and the Caledon is a very good looking gun that comes with a stylish hard case that belies its [imo-slideshow gallery= 85],300 price tag. It's also available in a variety of gauges, including a svelte little 28 gauge. The Caledon, with its precision machined 'Four Lock ' action is as tough as it is beautiful. I carried one up and down the Owyhee Mountains for several days chasing chukar, then came back and shot sporting clays for three days straight with the same gun. If you appreciate a beautiful upland gun and you like a bargain, then the Caledon is bellissimo
[imo-slideshow gallery= 85],300
Most Underrated Semi-Auto Shotgun
What are the most important features in a semi-auto shotgun? If reliability, low weight and reasonable price top your list, then buy a Franchi
I've hunted with these guns from Texas to South Dakota. I've seen them coated with ice, I've seen them sprayed with mud and salt water and they just keep hammering birds. At the heart of the Franchi is Benelli's
Intertia-Driven system, which is not only ultra-reliable, it also lends itself to a lightweight gun.
Some shooters will tell you that the Intertia guns are hard kickers, but I shot a full box of 3.5-inch Federal Black Clouds
through a Franchi Intensity on a South Dakota duck hunt without serious discomfort. With an MSRP ranging from $849 to [imo-slideshow gallery= 85],199, this is one of the best buys in semi-auto shotguns. If you're a competitive shooter, the Affinity Sporting's nickel receiver and black synthetic stock make it one of the most striking competition guns on the market and is certainly one of the best buys.
$849 to [imo-slideshow gallery= 85],199
Most Underrated Hunting Rifle
Montana Rifle Company XWR
After testing the Montana Xtreme Weather Rifle (XWR)
bolt action last year I was amazed that every hunter (myself included) didn't own one of these guns.
At first glance, the rifle appears to be a dressed-up Winchester Model 70
, but the XWR uses Montana's own Model 1999 action, which is similar to the Model 70 with the addition of a Mauser C-Ring breeching system and a few other minor changes. The resulting rifles offer controlled round feeding and a three-position safety, and the gun I tested was a sub-MOA rifle with a Bell and Carlson
stock with an aluminum bedding block. The XWR is available with both blued and stainless metal in a choice of 22 calibers that includes offerings like the .257 Roberts, .260 Remington, and 7mm Mauser.
[imo-slideshow gallery= 85],199
Most Underrated Collector's Gun
Ruger No. 1
Cool guns from brand name manufacturers hold their value over time, and there are few guns cooler than the Ruger No. 1
Bill Ruger's Farquharsen-inspired single shot rifle is, without question, one of the most striking guns on the market.
Last year Ruger ramped down production of this rifle, offering just a few models in select chamberings, and I heard the mutterings begin; what if the Ruger No. 1 went out of production? The possibility sent lots of shooters out to buy this gun, and I started making plans to buy one of my own. One of the coolest features of the No. 1, besides its sleek belnd of modern styling and old-world panache, is the fact that it's available in unique chamberings. Everybody's got an '06 or a .270, but how about a No. 1 International in .257 Roberts or a Tropical gun in .450-400 Nitro Express? If I was a betting man I'd say that the day manufacturing stops on this gun will be the day you wish you'd bought one when you had the chance.
[imo-slideshow gallery= 85],399
Most Underrated Concealed Carry Gun
Daytona Beach is synonymous with fast cars, but it's also home of the Sccy CPX
pistol, which is relatively new to the market. Sccy's stock is rising, but there are still several experienced shooters who aren't aware of this superb little gun.
Part of the Sccy's beauty is its simplicity; it's a DAO pistol that is available with or without a manual safety, and it perfectly rides between being small enough to conceal easily and large enough to shoot well and often. The Sccy is without a doubt one of the best buys in the handgun world (MSRP $299-$329), but I'm not sure how they make a gun that's this good for that little money. The Sccy is a no-frills pistol, but it's a functional workhorse and it should be riding in more pockets and waistbands.
$299 to $329
Most Underrated High-End Euro Rifle
Steyr MÃ¤nnlicher SM 12
I don't have the money for a high-end European rifle, but if I did I'd buy the Steyr SM 12
Why? It's extremely accurate, for one. It'll produce sub-MOA groups with a variety of factory ammo, but then again so will the Weatherby Vanguard that costs one-fifth what the SM 12 does.
However, the SM 12 has some of the finest walnut I've ever seen on a production gun. Every single feature of the Steyr is top-end; from the well-fitted rosewood grip cap and the Schnabel forend, to the functional iron sights and the subtle but nonetheless striking spiral pattern that runs the length of the barrel.
The trigger is what you'd expect from a $3,500 gun, and the fish scale checkering adds character. I also really like the idea that, with the push of a button, I can make my rifle safe and decock it. The SM-12 is a user-friendly Eurolux rifle that shoots every bit as good as it looks.
Most Underrated Handgun
In a world of boilerplate semi-autos, very few guns stand out; but the Walther PPQ
is one of them. It has superb balance, and its grip is simply the best I've run across on any production pistol.
And yet, when the argument about the best semi-auto handgun starts and Glock
fans roll up their sleeves to do battle with the 1911
crowd, the PPQ doesn't get a mention. If more shooters had this gun in their hand I can assure you that would change.
The PPQ is reasonably priced, accurate, has excellent sights and undergoes Walther's 10,000 round durability and vertical drop tests to insure proper function. The M2 version has a traditional push-button magazine release, but you can also get a PPQ with the paddle-style trigger guard-mounted safety that requires you to simply press down on the trigger guard with your shooting finger to release the magazine.
Now that Walther USA has been established in Fort Smith, Arkansas, you'll probably see more PPQs popping up for sale.
Most Underrated Sub-Gauge Shotgun
Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe 28 Gauge
The Weatherby SA-08
is a good shotgun, but the 28 gauge version is a bird hunter's dream. Light and slim, the little Weatherby 28 is just about as close to the perfect quail and dove gun as you'll find. I suspected to find cut-rate wood and poor fit and finish on this gun, but found just the opposite to be true upon close inspection.
It's a good-looking, smooth-handling little scattergun that is quick to the shoulder and very well balanced. Many experienced hunters want to step into the realm of the 28, and I can't imagine a better gun. If you're a hard-core clay shooter you'll find a day at the range with the light little Weatherby is a welcome change from the pounding you receive after a few rounds with a 12 gauge. If you pick up this gun you won't want to put it back down.
Most Underrated Budget Rifle
Weatherby Vanguard Series 2
Weatherby threw down a gauntlet with the Vanguard Series 2
, promising sub-MOA accuracy from a budget-priced gun with a look that didn't scream budget-priced gun. The Vanguard 2 is extremely accurate, and shooters are slowly catching on to why they should have owned one of these guns a long time ago.
The last Vanguard 2 I tested, the WBY-X
version with a Whitetail Bonz stock, grouped under 1 inch at 100 yards with a variety of factory ammo, and the function of the rifle was excellent. Weatherby didn't go over the top with the Vanguard's styling, but they do offer this rifle in a wide variety of configurations. The top-end Back Country is lightweight and has a Cerakote finish, but even the $649 entry level gun is a great buy.
$649 to $749
Most Underrated Pump Shotgun
virtually owned the pump gun market with the production of the Model 12, but years later it's a Mossberg 500
and Remington 870
world. But don't overlook the modern Winchester slide action shotgun, the SXP
, which features a lightweight receiver, dual action bars, and a four lug rotating bolt for solid lockup.
The inertia-assisted pump action makes this a fast-shooting gun, and the Inflex recoil pad really helps reduce the recoil. I've shot this gun on several occasions, and I've always been confused as to why the SXP doesn't have a larger following than it does. I know the Mossberg 500 and the Remington 870 have a long-standing reputation for durability, but the SXP has plenty going for it as well. I'd love to speak with someone who wore one of these guns out, but I doubt I'll ever find anyone that has done so. The SXP is available in a wide variety of configurations, so there's one available for whatever type of game you like to pursue.
$279 to $619