Adults view Christmas differently. The perception of Christmas has changed a bit since we were kids. Once we woke at dawn and raced to get a look at the tree and the brightly wrapped packages beneath it. Now we wake whenever and race to the Keurig to get our morning coffee infusion going. Where we once ate our parents’ weight in cookies and fudge we now go keto. Santa Claus? Never met the guy.
However, some things never change: wish lists. Even as adults we have wish lists of hoped-for items—it might be a mental list, but it’s there. This year I’ve made my list below and I’m hoping for a major financial windfall to make it happen.
Remington MSR (Modular Sniper Rifle)
Four years ago I found myself prone on a small hill behind a Remington MSR chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum. It wasn’t the first time I’d used the rifle but it was my first hunt with it (yes, you can hunt with the big bores). Saying I was stoked would be a major understatement. On that hunt, I was able to make some awesome shots, including stretching out in a rancher’s field for a 1000-yard shot on a feral hog. It has been my dream rifle since I first ran it out to 1580 yards on steel, not only for the awesome cartridge but for the performance and features of the gun itself. I’ve run other .338 Lapua magnums but this is the one that stole my long-range loving heart.
The Remington MSR isn’t exactly a portable gun. The rifle I’ve run on numerous occasions has a 24-inch stainless steel barrel and an overall length of 38-inches with the stock folded. Extend the fully-adjustable stock and it becomes a 48-inch gun, add in the 17-pound weight with an optic, and you see it isn’t suitable for humping across mountains. That doesn’t change facts, though: this gun rocks. From its Remington MSR bolt-action to features such as a Remington M24 trigger adjustable from 3.5 to 5.0 pounds and a Remington MST full-aluminum chassis, it’s a high-quality, durable dream. Oh, and it’s capable of sub-half-MOA groups, so bring your A game.
Extras in this $15,000 package include an AAC Titan suppressor—I’ve used it with and without the can—a Harris bipod, and a Schmidt Bender PM II 5-25×56 first focal plane optic with a Horus reticle (a personal favorite of mine for long range). Someday, somehow, I’ll own a Remington MSR in .338 Lapua magnum. Until then it’s relegated to the top of every Christmas and wish list I write. Check it out here.
Let’s face facts: we are used to bulky, oversized thermal optics. Odds are you’ve used a few with fuzzy images or an inability to hold zero, too. One winter I ran one during a weekend coyote contest that promptly died due to the freezing temperatures, and when I attempted to talk to the company about it they blamed the batteries. Batteries I tried replacing not once but three times out of sheer desperation. Warm, it worked fine, but in cold it shut off within minutes. So last year when I mounted the Trijicon REAP-IR to my Bushmaster 450 SD Rifle for a winter hunt I had flashbacks of the other company’s thermal optic. I needn’t have worried.
As it turns out the Trijicon REAP-IR is simply to zero thanks to its digital readouts and thumbstick controller; some thermals need manuals the size of an encyclopedia so it’s nice when it’s easy. It does take a pair of CR123 batteries which are somehow never in stock when I need them but the battery life is solid. I’ve hunted with it when it’s 3 degrees out and when it’s 50 degrees with no problems. The thermal mounts easily to your gun with its Mini D-LOC Picatinny Rail and stays secure once tightened.
Trijicon REAP-IR features include polarity control with a total of six different levels—three in White Hot mode, three in Black Hot mode—and Edge Detect Mode which is designed to prevent the night blindness so common to extended thermal use. It has an 8x electronic zoom, five reticles to select from as so desired, and a stadiametric rangefinder. Clarity is good, heat signatures are easily identifiable, and it has held up to more banging around than you really want a thermal to withstand. Five stars and a “Dear Santa” from this shooter. MSRP varies by specific REAP-IR model from $6,999 to $9,499. Check it out here.
Cabot Drako Garra
In this case, I love this gun but would like mine with a customized twist. Cabot builds gorgeous, superior-quality 1911s and holds a well-deserved spot near the top of the custom gun heap. In addition to their lineup of carefully designed guns, they give buyers the option of customizing their own. It isn’t exactly an affordable undertaking but it is well worth it: witness the custom Cabot my good friend and fellow shooter Diane Walls recently had built for her husband Tom’s retirement. Diane’s selections were so close to my own personal tastes it could easily have been my own dream gun. In person, it’s even better. The trigger is absurdly smooth, the break is winter-morning crisp, and its accuracy is nothing short of impressive.
The Drako Garra—translated to Dragon Claw—has a 416 stainless steel billet slide and frame with curved claw-mark slide serrations at the front and back. The thumb safety, slide stop, magazine release, and beavertail grip safety are all billet as is the one-piece, full-length guide rod. It has a five-inch stainless steel, a match-grade barrel that’s hand-fitted, crown cut, and flush fit and a lowered, flared ejection port for improved reliability. The bushing is Cabot 9-axis Billet Constructed; on CNC machines 9-axis turning is high-end and used for complex cuts and precision work. It ships with a low-mount fixed rear sight and Cabot reverse dovetail front sight with a gold bead (tritium sights are offered for an additional fee). The trigger is radiused and precision-fit with electric discharge wire cut twin claw marks in place of the skeletonized holes found on many stock triggers. If you want to see the heavens open and angels sing, press a Cabot trigger.
Other features include piano-black ebony wooden grip panels and a front strap with 24-lines-per-inch rhombus checkering. In addition, the magazine well is beveled for smoother mag changes. You might be wondering about caliber. Drako Garra is a single-stack 1911 offered in .45 ACP and 9mm in its standard configuration, but—and this is where my customization list begins—I want it in 10mm. This gun could certainly be a safe queen but there are no safe queens in my life, only hard shooters. I want this as my ultimate hunting handgun that’s also useful as a BBQ gun in a gorgeous custom holster from Rob Leahy over at Simply Rugged Holsters. Hey, a girl can dream. MSRP $5,295 prior to my lengthy hopes for customization. Check it out here.
Benelli Super Black Eagle 3
Duck hunting is life. I enjoy other birds—geese, pheasants, doves—but ducks are the cleaner winner to my way of thinking. The colors, the variety, the wingshooting—what’s not to love? Of course, if you don’t have an excellent shotgun it can be a less than enjoyable experience. Last duck season I spent a week duck hunting with Tyler Pounds, a friend of mine, that involved me cursing and fighting the review gun while he nailed whatever flew by. Yes, I got some, but it was perhaps my most frustrating duck hunt ever. Tyler was running the Benelli Super Eagle 3, a shotgun I’ve used on other occasions and lust after with all my duck-loving self.
The Benelli Super Eagle 3 is a semi-automatic 12-gauge shotgun quite literally made for accuracy and comfort. The visible chevrons on the side of the stock aren’t a fashion statement, they improve cheek weld and are a sign of third-generation Comfort Tech, the company’s special recoil pad. The pad includes the Combtech, a cheek comb pad made to reduce facial felt recoil; the combination of ComfortTech and CombTech reduces felt recoil by up to forty-eight percent and muzzle rise by as much as fifteen percent. Internally the shotgun features Benelli’s Inertia Driven Gas System for reliable cycling in a variety of circumstances—think cold, wet weather. The SBE3 also has a beveled loading port and two-piece carrier latch for easier loading and unloading and an oversized bolt handle and detent bolt lockup.
Shooting ducks all morning is perfectly comfortable with this shotgun. It’s chambered for up to three-and-a-half inch magnums and has a 3 +1 capacity. The shotgun’s overall length is either 47.6 or 49.6 inches depending on whether you choose the twenty-six inch or twenty-eight inch barrel length and it has an empty weight of 7.2 or 7.3 pounds (also dependent on the barrel length). I prefer the Mossy Oak Bottomland pattern—Bottomland being the original pattern Toxey Haas founded the company with thirty years ago—but it’s offered in black synthetic, Gore Optifade Timber, and RealTree Max-5 as well. I would love to find one of these under the tree Christmas morning (hint, hint). MSRP $1,799. Check it out here.
Here is where we veer away from the expensive guns and gear to something different. I like to say I have a BOB—Body Opponent Bag—in every state, and it’s true. There are BOBs in many of my destination training spots including Gunsite Academy, Firearms Academy of Seattle, and USCCA. But it’s the BOBs in private homes I’m truly envious of because I would love to have one in my own home.
Whether you’re practicing with edged weapons or for martial arts BOB comes in handy (no pun intended). BOB is fantastic for working on strikes and has even proven useful for boxing. Basically, BOB is the perfect self-defense workout partner. He’s an armless torso—yes, I said “he,” I see BOB as he, not it–but does have a head, which is an important detail for training. With his black base, BOB is height-adjustable from sixty to seventy-eight inches tall. The base can and should be weighted with sand bringing his overall weight up to 270 pounds. Some people use water with their BOBs but I’ve found sand to be more stable. BOB himself measures 30-inches x 22-inches x 12-inches and has vinyl skin. If you would like to practice blocking or other arm-related work you can get a BOB Jacket.
A stationary sparring buddy is the perfect Christmas gift, isn’t it? BOB has been on my list for years and one of these days I’ll have a BOB all my own. MSRP $239 without jacket. Check BOB out here.
Stocking Stuffers (And Stuff)
It wouldn’t be a Christmas list without some stocking stuffers. I’m a voracious reader so books are a must-have. One of my all-time favorite gun books is Massad Ayoob’s The Ayoob Files, a compilation of his columns of the same name. If you want to learn more about self-defense and handgun techniques check out any of Mas’ books. They are all awesome. Other read-worthy books are Rory Miller’s Scaling Force and Ed Mireles’ new-ish FBI Miami Firefight. There is always more to learn.
Cases of ammunition are always welcome but boxes fit in stockings a little better. And no, all ammunition is not created equal. For predator hunting two of my favorites are Hornady Superformance V-Max and Browning BXV; for CQB work on steel, I like Sinterfire Reduced Hazard Ammunition (read: frangible). Barnes VOR-TX and Inceptor ARX, the latter of which is frangible, are my preferred handgun hunting loads. Browning BPT FMJs have been the most consistently reliable for training with numerous handguns in various calibers.
Remember what the Grinch learned all those years ago courtesy of Dr. Seuss. Christmas doesn’t come from a store; Christmas means a little bit more. Having an epic Christmas list is all well and good but take a moment to think of others this holiday season. Consider giving the gift of training from a reputable source like Gunsite Academy. Their 250 class is stellar—well, all their classes are worthwhile. Anyone who believes they are outdated or only teach Weaver and 1911s doesn’t know what they’re talking about. If Gunsite is out of your budget maybe give a one-year NRA membership. Who knows, maybe the good giving karma will come back as a Remington MSR.
Merry Christmas, guys. May your shooting be outstanding and your gun reliable.