Each year, hundreds of new products break cover at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, but very few of those products are what you’d classify as “revolutionary.” The real game-changers are products that have real potential to change the hunting market—the guns, optics and gear that everyone will want to be carrying next fall. After walking miles of aisles and searching for the most revolutionary new products, we’ve settled on these six new items that are good enough to change the market. Not all of these items are inexpensive, but every one of them offers something brand-new and innovative. Here’s a look at the new products for 2020 that will change the way we hunt.
Trijicon Ventus Laser Rangefinder There are a variety of different technologies available that allow hunters to range targets and make holdover corrections, but adjusting for wind has always been more difficult—until now. Trijicon’s new Ventus is a first-of-its-kind wind-mapping and range-detecting handheld, using an advanced Doppler LIDAR engine to give accurate readouts of headwind, tailwind, crosswind and vertical wind components at six different distances to 500 yards. What’s more, the onboard sensor suite collects data on range-to-target, wind-speed and direction, atmospheric pressure, ambient temperature and angle-to-target, and provides the most detailed ballistic data available. The laser, meanwhile, ranges non-reflective targets out to 5,000 yards. Ventus X models are capable of communicating via Bluetooth to the Trijicon Ballistics app, providing all the data hunters need to make accurate shots under even the most difficult field conditions. While Trijicon hasn’t announced official pricing, it’s safe to say it won’t be a cheap system, but the first-of-its-kind Ventus gives us a closer look at next-gen shooting tech. MSRP: $TBD; trijicon.com.
Garmin Xero S1 Trapshooting Trainer Late last year, Garmin introduced the Xero S1, a first-of-its-kind radar-powered shooting aid that provides real-time feedback regarding shotgun accuracy. Unlike rifle and pistol shooters, clay-target shooters have never been able to know precisely where their shot string is traveling on missed targets. That means a lot of guesswork, a lot of wasted shots and plenty of frustration. But the Xero S1 Trapshooting Trainer displays shot data on its 5-inch touchscreen every time you fire at a clay target—data that includes distance-to-target at the time of shot, reaction time and point of impact. It also pairs with the Xero app on your phone, so you can keep a detailed record of your shots, and use that information to become a better shooter. The Xero S1 mounts on a tripod beside the shooter, and is programmable to specific firearms. It’s great for competitive trap shooters, upland hunters and anyone who wants to improve their shooting skills. The technology isn’t cheap—the Xero S1 costs around $1,000—but it’s by far the most advanced system for tracking your shotgun accuracy and will make you a better shooter. MSRP: $999.99; garmin.com.
Federal FireStick The new FireStick from Federal is a premeasured, self-contained powder charge that slips into the breech of a break-action muzzleloader. This innovative design offers several advantages. First, you can rely on a consistent powder charge every time, which in turn leads to improved accuracy. The FireStick also protects the powder from moisture, while the design ensures reliable ignition under any conditions. Further, since the bullet seats against a bullet shelf and not on top of the powder charge, there’s no risk of crushed pellets or a gap between bullet and powder. To use, the shooter inserts the bullet in the muzzle, seats it against the bullet shelf, opens the action and inserts the FireStick, primes the charge with a 209 primer, and the gun is ready to fire. The system is faster and simpler than traditional loading methods; the clean-burning propellant (Hodgdon Triple Eight) reduces fouling; and there’s no breech plug to clean. Perhaps most importantly, it’s safer than traditional muzzleloader designs. The FireStick eliminates the risk of double charges or accidentally loading smokeless powder into a muzzleloader, and pulling it from the breech instantly removes the propellant from the rifle. It’s also possible to visually determine whether a bullet has been loaded into the gun by removing the FireStick charge. Ten packs of either 100- or 120-grain FireSticks cost around $27, and the new Traditions NitroFire rifle is the first muzzleloading rifle compatible with the system. MSRP: $26.99 per 10-rnd. pack; federalpremium.com.
Hardy Hybrid Rifle The most cutting-edge bolt-action rifle to debut at SHOT Show 2020 was the Hardy Hybrid, which features a carbon-fiber stock, a carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel and allows the shooter to swap between calibers in less than two minutes while still returning to zero. A product of New Zealand, the Hardy challenges every preconceived notion of bolt-gun design. For starters, its innovative, advanced-primary-extraction design achieves said extraction throughout the entire 90-degree bolt lift. By contrast, traditional bolt-guns perform extraction during the last five degrees of bolt lift, which can cause malfunctions. The Hardy system spreads the extraction load over a range that’s 18 times greater to ensure maximum reliability. The gun’s modular design allows you to switch barrels, bolt heads and magazines with a few simple tools, and without the need for headspace gauges. Not only can you change caliber quickly, but the Hardy also breaks down for easy transport. Other cool features include an integral Picatinny rail and recoil lug, a 1- to 3.5-pound adjustable trigger, a Picatinny bipod mount and a tunable muzzle brake. Best of all, this rifle weighs in at as little as 6.7 pounds. There are a lot more excellent features built into this next-gen target/hunting rifle, offering us a glimpse of what rifles of the future may look like. It isn’t cheap, but there’s simply nothing else like it on the market. MSRP: $6,600; hardyhybrid.com.
True Velocity Ammunition True Velocity has revolutionized the shooting industry by producing composite-cased ammunition in their state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Texas. What’s so great about composites? True Velocity’s composite cases are 50 percent lighter than empty brass cases of the same caliber, offer improved accuracy and consistency, reduce heat transfer, are 100 percent recyclable and allow for magnetic retrieval of spent cases. Heretofore, True Velocity ammo hasn’t been available on the civilian market, but that’s changing this year, thanks to a cooperative agreement between True Velocity and Sierra Bullets. The first match ammo with composite cases will be rolling out shortly, and will indeed be a game changer. While there isn’t a hunting load available from True Velocity at the moment, the needle is pointing that direction. Once that happens, you’ll see a new breed of brass-free hunting ammo hitting store shelves that will likely outperform the stuff we’re shooting now. MSRP: $TBD; tvammo.com.
Benelli BE.S.T. Benelli has spent a decade perfecting their new shotgun surface treatment, but it’s been worth the wait. Known as BE.S.T., or Benelli Surface Treatment, this new technology offers an unparalleled level of protection against wear and corrosion. Diamondlike particles are fused with the metal at the atomic level, creating a multi-layered surface treatment that stands up to the worst abuse any hunter can dish out. How tough is it? Benelli engineers dunked BE.S.T.-treated metal parts—including barrels—in a tub of saltwater for three months, and after the parts were removed, there were no signs of rust or corrosion on the metal. By contrast, standard blued barrels are completely oxidized by saltwater after as little as 48 hours of immersion. What’s more, the surface treatment reduces friction and wear, and stands up to serious abuse. I witnessed the barrel of a brand-new BE.S.T.-treated ETHOS shotgun being scraped violently with a set of car keys at SHOT Show and, after a quick wipe down, the barrel was back to out-of-the-box condition. Benelli believes so strongly in their secret-recipe metal treatment that it is backing its new BE.S.T.-equipped guns against corrosion for a full 25 years. MSRP: $2,199; benelliusa.com.