NRA Publications will present its annual Golden Bullseye Awards and Golden Bullseye Pioneer Award at an invitation-only breakfast on Friday, May 4, during the 2018 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Dallas, Texas.
“We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Golden Bullseye Awards,” said Doug Hamlin, Executive Director of NRA Publications. “This year's winners exemplify what NRA members want in their shooting and hunting equipment—outstanding performance, innovative design and value. We congratulate those who have created the industry’s best new products and look forward to recognizing them in Dallas.”
To qualify for consideration for a Golden Bullseye Award, the product must have been:
• Recently introduced and available to consumers prior to the selection of the Golden Bullseye Awards;
• Used/tested by a staff member or regular contributor to the magazine and/or affiliated media;
• Reliable in the field, meeting or exceeding the evaluator’s expectations;
• Innovative in design and function;
• Readily perceived as a value to the purchaser; and
• Styled in a manner befitting the shooting and hunting industry and, perhaps more importantly, its enthusiasts.
Whereas the Golden Bullseye Award acknowledges the finest products available in the shooting sports, the Golden Bullseye Pioneer Award specifically honors outstanding personal achievement. The Pioneer Award spotlights the exemplary achievement and cumulative body of work of an individual, or members of a family, team or partnership, responsible for the development and introduction of shooting equipment that has made a profound, positive and enduring impact on the way Americans shoot and hunt.
The winners of American Hunter's 2018 Golden Bullseye Awards are:
Rifle of the Year: Bergara B-14
"I was impressed with how well this 7-pound rifle handled, the smoothness of its bolt, its grip- and recoil-friendly stock, and its wonderful trigger."
—Jeff Johnston, Field Editor
• Hardware: Bergara B-14 Hunter
• #SundayGunday: Bergara B-14 Timber
Shotgun of the Year: Winchester Super X4
"Sometimes a gun just feels right, and the SX4, with its redesigned grip and fore-end, is one of those guns."
—Jon Draper, Managing Editor
• Hardware: Winchester Super X4
• #SundayGunday: Winchester SX4
MSRP: $799.99-$939.99; winchesterguns.com
Hunting Handgun of the Year: Kimber Camp Guard 10
"This handgun is accurate, shootable, and comfortable to carry. The Kimber Camp Guard 10 is, at its core, the 1911-lover’s backcountry sidearm."
—Keith Wood, Field Editor
• Review: Kimber Camp Guard 10mm
MSRP: $1,228; kimberamerica.com
Ammunition Product of the Year: Browning BXD Waterfowl
"The American Hunter staff has spent quite a bit of time sending Browning steel at waterfowl over the last two seasons, and it’s fast becoming a favorite go-to bird killer for the entire team."
—Jon Draper, Managing Editor
• 6 Reasons to Give Browning's New BXD Waterfowl Loads a Chance This Season
MSRP: $19-$24 per 25-rnd. box; browningammo.com
Optic of the Year: Nikon Monarch 7i VR Rangefinder
"Because a rangefinder is so light and the image is magnified, any shaking of your hand results in a dancing crosshair that’s difficult to center on a now-blurry target. Nikon has remedied this problem with its new Monarch 7i VR Rangefinder that features the same Vibration Reduction technology the company uses in its high-dollar VR camera lenses, and it's a game-changer."
—Jeff Johnston, Field Editor
• Hardware: Nikon Monarch 7i VR
MSRP: $399.99; nikonsportoptics.com
Gear of the Year: Champion Target Workhorse Trap
"The Champion Target Workhouse Trap is affordable, works well, is easy to assemble and can be operated without assistance. I'd label it a solid investment if busting clays is among your passions."
—Shawn Skipper, Field Editor
• First Look: Champion Target Workhorse Electronic Trap
MSRP: $359.95; championtarget.com
Vehicle of the Year: Can-Am Defender Max XT
"The Can-Am Defender Max XT combines power and comfort in a way not often seen in the OHV marketplace. The six-seat powerhouse will get you—as well as your hunting buddies, your dog, your gear and your game—wherever you need to go."
—Shawn Skipper, Field Editor
• Making Tracks: 2017 Can-Am Defender Max XT
MSRP: $17,199; can-am.brp.com
Women’s Innovation Product of the Year: Sitka Women’s Gear
"Regardless of the species you’re hunting, whether you’re toting a rifle or bow, or whether you’re stalking your way up the mountain or climbing into a deer stand for the day, Sitka covers us women in form and function—and in confidence so we make that one shot count."
—Karen Mehall Phillips, Senior Editor
• Tested Head to Toe: Sitka Gear for Women
MSRP: $30-$399; sitkagear.com
■ ■ ■
The winner of the 2018 Golden Bullseye Pioneer Award is Richard Fitzpatrick, Founder, Magpul Industries.
While serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1991, Richard Fitzpatrick pondered reinventing a common work-around troops had used for decades to ease handling of M16 magazines. Rather than duct tape and parachute-cord loops that afforded soldiers under stress a better grip on their magazines, Fitzpatrick tried gluing rubber tubing together as a substitute, but it never worked well enough to suit him. A few years after leaving the Marine Corps, a solution emerged in the form of a dual friction band. He patented the idea and used his savings to pay for a small injection mold based on a simple drawing. Having gone all-in financially, Fitzpatrick knew he would not be able to fund engineering changes if the mold was incorrect. Luckily, the first samples came back perfect.
The inventor named the loop the “Magpul” for “MAGazine PULL.” Though it generated considerable interest, many of its first sales were discretionary unit purchases within the U.S. military, along with direct sales via the company website and through dealers at trade shows. Competitive shooters and soldiers who had the opportunity to try it found Fitzpatrick’s solution was just what they needed.
In short order, Magpul—adopted as the company name—attracted customers clamoring for what has been a seemingly inexhaustible stream of new products that likewise improve functionality and value. A short list includes: the Self-Leveling Follower and MIAD (Mission Adaptable) Grip (2004); PMAG, synthetic AR-15/M16/M4 magazine now the industry standard (2007); MOE (Magpul Original Equipment) stocks, grips, fore-ends, rails, etc., and the Magpul Masada ACWS, subsequently licensed for commercial release as the Bushmaster ACR (2008); EMAG (Export Magazine), to fit foreign military rifles like the HK416 and SA80 (2009); and the PMAG 30 Gen 3, a versatile magazine compatible with many rifles, from the AR-15 platform to models previously using EMAGs (2012). Today the company makes a tremendous array stocks and accessories, plus personal kit like the Everyday Wallet and iPhone Field case.
Known for its Foundations, a series of clearly stated principles, ethics and operational philosophies presented at magpul.com/foundations, Magpul lived up to its creed after the Colorado legislature passed sweeping gun-control measures in 2013. Included was a restriction on the future sale and ownership of magazines capable of holding more than 15 rounds. That would have meant the company’s signature product line could no longer be sold in its home state.
Though it came at a time when Magpul was preparing to break ground on a new facility, the company joined other like-minded firearm-industry firms in refusing to yield to the loss of freedom. In a 2015 American Rifleman article, Fitzpatrick recalled, “The magnitude of what was being proposed forced us into the political arena almost immediately. The decision to uproot and leave Colorado was not made lightly. There were a lot of conversations internally about this, and a lot of sleepless nights, but in the end, we all agreed that holding true to our principles was the only thing that felt right, whatever the outcome or threat to the business.”
Before the restrictions went into effect, Magpul undertook a massive effort to produce and distribute as many so-called “high-capacity” magazines as it could. A number of PMAGs were given away free; many more were sold at sharply discounted prices, with all proceeds going to recall-election campaigns targeting chief anti-gun politicians, two of whom were ultimately voted out of office.
When the magazine ban went into effect, Magpul made good on its word. Following a detailed search, manufacturing, distribution and shipping operations relocated to Cheyenne, Wyo., while the corporate office moved to Texas. Despite all that, the company has maintained a presence in its home state, vowing, “Magpul will … support efforts to restore rights taken away from lawful gun owners in Colorado.”
Richard Fitzpatrick retired from day-to-day operations in March 2017, but continues to be involved as a major shareholder and member of the Magpul Board of Directors. His ingenuity and leadership created a pipeline of product innovation that played a key role in fueling the consumer excitement around tactical rifles and training, resulting in a sales phenomenon that benefitted the entire firearm industry.
Be sure to check out the American Rifleman and Shooting Illustrated Golden Bullseye Award winners at AmericanRifleman.org and ShootingIllustrated.com, respectively.