Take Your Best SHOT

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Take your best shot.

On Friday, Feb. 1 at Media Day events associated with the 2008 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, I did just that.

Got the bruised right shoulder to prove it, too.

At least I don't have a "scope kiss" to prove it (as some did): that nasty tell-tale cut above your dominant eye when a scope and human flesh meet in bloody fashion.

But I gave it my best shot Friday, sampling just about everything the hunting and shooting world could throw at me in the Nevada desert.

Those choices ranged from the incredibly accurate Savage Arms Model 93 R17 XP Camo rifle (a little coaching help from Savage Arms CEO Ron Coburn never hurts) all the way up to a bazooka.

Well, ok, so it wasn't a real bazooka, but having never fired a 458 round before, it sure seemed like it.

The first time I touched the double trigger on a beautiful double rifle straight out of a Peter Capstick African safari tale, I'll confess I winced ever so slightly.

The second time?

Well, I didn't actually cry for Momma, but I might confess that the thought did cross my mind.

Sure glad there wasn't an enraged Cape buffalo charging at me through the Nevada desert.

But, of course, I wasn't doing this for myself, I was doing it for the readers of Hunting365 — the ones like you.

Keeping that firmly in mind, I marched dutifully on, and fired every gun I could get my hands on today: from centerfire rifles to rimfires, to muzzleloaders, to slug guns, to sweet over/under shotguns.

And after firing more ammo in a day than I may have shot in the last two years combined, here are some random observations:

My next rifle purchase will most likely be a Savage Arms Model 93 R17 XP Camo rifle. The first couple of shots from this target and varmint special wowed me. The third shot — the one where a small piece of a clay target disintegrated into smoke — won me over.

My favorite caliber was and still is the 30.06. Ok, call me plain vanilla and pull your ballistic charts out. Go ahead and tell me that Jack O'Connor's fave was the .270. Convince me that the 7mm Mag is a great round. Drag out your 300 WSM if you'd like. Been there, done that, and shot 'em all. My response? Simple — I'll show you the two dozen empty brass hulls lying at my feet, the smile on my face, and the swinging bowling pin that the .06 rounds I fired all but obliterated at the range today.

Best equipment used today? Besides shooting glasses and hearing protection, that would have to be the Caldwell Lead Sled that helped reduce the recoil of a .375 H&H 300 grain Nosler Solid bullet to a somewhat manageable experience.

Best shotgun that I fired today? That would have to be a tie between the Browning Synergy Classic 12 gauge over/under and the Beretta Xtrema 2 shotgun. Close behind would be the sweet little Franchi over/under 20 gauge I popped a few caps through as the day wound down.

Most interesting shotgun load #1? The Winchester Xpert Steel upland game/target load in #7 shot. At 1 ounce and shooting at 1325 fps, this load gave a little more kick than I expected, but it reached out and touched the clay pigeons with some authority.

Most interesting shotgun load #2? How about the Winchester Super Pheasant Load? Featuring 1 5/8 ounces of #5 shot kicking along at 1350 fps, this is a late season load that packs plenty of wallop for late season roosters cackling their way out of shotgun range — until you fire this load at them.

Most interesting shotgun load #3? The WinLite target load from Winchester features 26 grams of #8 shot. Best of all, it powdered the pigeons with very low recoil and noise.

One of the most unusual finds of the day? Would you believe a Daisy BB automatic pistol?!? I had great fun plinking with this multi-shot .177 caliber CO2 pistol.

One of the nicest people in the shooting sports has to be Kim Rhode, three time Olympic medal shotgun specialist. No matter how many times someone wants to see Rhode's 1996 gold medal from Atlanta, her 2000 bronze from Sydney, and her 2004 gold from Athens, Rhode is more than willing to pull those medals out and show them off. (Rhode is also one of the great champions of getting kids involved in the shooting sports.)

If muzzleloading interests you, check out the new Knight Shadow muzzleloading rifle that I test-fired today: It's a great, reasonably-priced introduction to the art of smokepole whitetail hunting, thanks to its ease of operation, accurate Green Mountain barrel and easy cleaning.

Winchester's Rack Master 1 1/8 ounce slug cooks along at 1700 fps. Something tells me — like my shoulder — Midwestern whitetails are going to hate this round come fall.

One of the most kid-friendly rounds I shot today was the Winchester .243 E-Tip. Something tells me that my three kids will get plenty of opps to shoot this round at targets over the summer.

Call me slow to the ballgame, but today was the first time I had tried an Aim Point device on a pistol or a rifle. Count me as a newly converted fan after plinking away with a number of .22 pistol rounds and a few 7mm Mag rounds, all with that red holographic dot glowing.

While I would have hated to have cleaned up all of the empty shotgun shell hulls that littered the desert floor of the two gun ranges we shot at, I sure would have loved to have all of the brass hulls that hit the ground!

Just wondering ... is there anything more fun in the off-season than dusting a bunch of White Flyer bright orange clay pigeons?

I wish I could have been in more places than once today — despite making two shooting events, I missed at least two others, including one by Remington and another by Smith & Wesson. So many toys, so little time.

Finally, can there be a more beautiful place to shoot than the desert terrain and rough mountains of southern Nevada?

With all of the above thoughts in mind, Friday's Media Day at the 2008 SHOT Show proved to be a fun and interesting day as this year's event prepares to kick off in Vegas.

From start to finish, on this Super Bowl weekend, ESPNOutdoors.com and our Hunting365 blog will have the SHOT Show covered like no one else in the outdoor media will.

You can bet the farm ... and all of the used brass on that fact.

Now if you will excuse me, my throbbing shoulder says I should go find some Tylenol.

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