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2012 Golden Bullseye Award Winners

American Rifleman editors announce their favorite guns and gear.


Of the numerous, and varied, duties of American Rifleman's editors, few are as difficult as reviewing the past year's issues and selecting the firearms, ammunition product and accessory most deserving of a much-coveted American Rifleman Golden Bullseye Award.

“This is the 10th anniversary of our Golden Bullseye Award,” said Joe H. Graham, Executive Director of NRA Publications. “It was unchartered waters for us. Now this much-coveted award is a symbol of excellence, innovation and quality in firearms, accessories and related equipment. We congratulate the winners.”

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, members of a team or partnership, or family who were 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,” said Graham.

NRA Publications will present its annual Golden Bullseye Awards and Golden Bullseye Pioneer Award at an invitation-only breakfast during the 2012 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in St. Louis, Mo.

The following products, and their representative manufacturers, received this year's American Rifleman Golden Bullseye Awards.

Rifle of the Year: Savage Model 111 Lightweight Hunter
For Rifle of the Year, a category that is near and dear to our hearts, American Rifleman chose the new Savage Arms Model 111 Lightweight Hunter bolt-action because, at 5½ to 6½ lbs. and a suggested retail price of $875, it’s only “less” of a rifle than you’d expect from Savage in two categories where less really translates to more. The same Savage quality and accuracy are there, but all the unnecessary metal and wood have been removed so that at the end of a hard day of hunting, the Model 111 Lightweight Hunter rests nearly unnoticeably on the shoulder.

Shotgun of the Year: Stoeger Model 3500
In the Shotgun of the Year category, the American Rifleman editors picked the remarkably economical Stoeger Model 3500 semi-auto 3½ 12 gauge. Like its pricier Benelli cousins, the Stoeger’s Inertia Driven operating system is nearly flawless, making quick work of the heaviest 12-ga. loads. The fact that the gun doesn’t depend on propellant gases for its operation means that it runs cleaner, longer; and is easier to maintain. Not a bad combination for a gun that could see high-volume use in the duck blinds or dove fields.

Handgun of the Year: Kimber Solo
American Rifleman’s Handgun of the Year went to the innovative and classy Kimber Solo, an all-metal subcompact 9 mm Luger personal protection pistol. As with anything Kimber makes, the Solo is a class act that carries with it more than a little pride of ownership. The striker-fired, recoil-operated Solo is beautifully executed and, in the opinion of Field Editor Wiley Clapp, possesses excellent ergonomics to boot. That the Solo stands alone is a contention shared by nearly all fortunate enough to fire it.

Tactical Gun of the Year: FNH USA SCAR 17S
When it comes to the selection for Tactical Gun of the Year, the choice can sometimes be difficult as the category has recently become broader and deeper. This time, however, it was unanimous and clear. The editors picked what they felt was the easiest-shooting, trimmest .308 Win.-chambered semi-automatic military-style rifle they’d seen in years: the FNH USA SCAR 17S. This offshoot of the SCAR Light in .223 Rem. is what the U.S. Special Operations Command wanted all along and may just represent the pattern for U.S. military rifles of the future.

Ammunition Product of the Year: Winchester Elite Blind Side
For Ammunition Product of the Year, Winchester’s Elite Blind Side shotgun ammunition made for an easy choice. It’s hexahedron-shaped shot, ironically, exemplifies “outside the box” thinking and, combined with its Diamond Cut Wad, allows increased payloads to reach the target with greater density. What’s more, the non-round shot translates to more disruption on the target. So when it comes to the occasional marginal hit on ducks there are fewer “fly-offs,” yet damage to edible meat is minimal.

Optic of the Year: Leupold Mark 8 1.1-8X 24 mm CQBSS
With so many innovative optical products arriving on the market each year, The Optic of the Year category was a contentious one, but the Leupold Mark 8 1.1-8X 24 mm CQBSS stood out from the field for its quality, innovation and unique features. Built like a tank, but with crystal-clear optics, the Leupold proved not only accurate and repeatable, but rugged and—most of all—useful in its magnification range. Whether depended on for life and limb by actual warfighters or for a high score on the 3-gun ranges, the Leupold is incomparable.

Accessory of the Year: LaserLyte Laser Trainer Target TLB-1
Finally, in the Accessory of the Year category, it didn’t take the editors long to settle on one of the neatest products they’d seen in a while. After all, what could be better than a device that allows unlimited practice of the shooting fundamentals without spending a penny on ammunition? Enter the LaserLyte Laser Trainer Target TLB-1, a bookshelf-size electronic target that registers “hits” from one of the company’s sound-activated training lasers. The TLB-1 encourages perfect sight alignment, trigger control and breathing—the foundation stones of good marksmanship—and, best of all, it can be reset right from your chair.

Pioneer Award: Robert G. Morrison, President Emeritus, Taurus International Mfg., Inc. USA

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9 Responses to 2012 Golden Bullseye Award Winners

Mark Clark wrote:
March 31, 2012

How can you pick the Solo as the gun of the year, when the majority of the magazines, gun testers and gun clubs had such negative things to say about the gun compared to the the pistols in the same class? Run out of guns? I got rid of my own Solo due to the factors brought up by the above testers talked about. Lack of grip, causing an upward kick. Poor groupings because of same, difficult loading of clips, inconsistent trigger. Kimber produces some awesome guns, pistols and rifles with high quality. They rushed themselves into the compact market because the competition was taking off in sales. They are already coming out with another compact to adjust to the market taking off more than most believed it would. Makes you think they know the deficiencies, and that is why the new gun. I have been a member a long time, my GrandFather and Father were life time members before they died. I have the American Rifleman hard bound from 1926 to 1956.... and own 25+ handguns and feel the majority is correct in placing this gun near the bottom of functionality compared to the rest of the class. You have just surprised me in the choice. A member, a enthusiast, and a big supporter of the 2nd Amendment to the highest degree, Mark Clark

cliff wrote:
January 13, 2012

Kimber Solo. Nothing but trouble with mine. Sent back twice. The Ruger LC9 is much better and actually works. I can't wait to get rid of my Solo.

keifer wrote:
January 07, 2012

jeff what do you need for it

Nelson wrote:
January 05, 2012

Handgun went to the Solo? Did your editors actually shoot this pistol or merely handle it? Because if they shot it side-by-side with other new 9s this year the vote would have been different. I loved the Solo I handled, until I fired it (see comments on the Solo review). The Solo has (had?) problems. As a Kimber nut (.45s and their rifles), I thought the poor reviews of the Solo were not accurate, until I tried one myself. After reading the comments of others on this and other websites, I'm certainly not alone. I wish Kimber the best in finishing this pistol, so it becomes worthy of the Kimber name.

Mike Potton wrote:
January 05, 2012

Congratulations to all the winner's!!

PD wrote:
January 04, 2012

As a Solo owner I can attest to the review. A excellent weapon.

James Dulin wrote:
January 04, 2012

Kimber Solo - Handgun of the Year.... Either it was a very weak year for handguns, or Kimber's ad $$$ paid off. Never would I have thought of this as a HOTY (aside from the fact that I couldn't go a month without picking up a magazine and seeing it on the cover). Nothing particular against it, I was just very underwhelmed with it since it's introduction. Ah well, to each his own.

Jeff Hall wrote:
January 04, 2012

Kimber Solo??? Really??? You want mine? Because Kimber had it for 2 of the first 2.5 months I owned it, and now I've been waiting weeks for a reply to my sending the pics they requested of the slide issues I (and many others) have had! Seriously, make me an offer, because apparently THEY don't even want it!

Joe wrote:
January 04, 2012

First! Love my LaserLyte Trainer, excellent choice!