A good rifle can take you a long way. Rifles tend to be the most versatile weapons on the block and are suitable for hunting, home defense, competition, and so much more. SHOT Show 2023 showed us a ton of new rifles this ear—carbines, precision rifles, and even some real oddballs. It’s not exactly easy to pick my favorites, but I persevered and found a way to limit my choices to five rifles. Here are what I think are the five best rifles of SHOT Show 2023. Keep in my mind my picks are based on my own bias and impressions, and we’d love to hear your choices.
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IWI makes a lot of interesting rifles, with the X95 bullpup, the various Galil models, and now the Carmel. The Carmel might be the coolest rifle at SHOT, and I fell in love with it at nearly first sight. The Carmel is a short-stroke gas piston rifle in 5.56 that is probably the most advanced rifle on the market. It’s at least the most advanced rifle from IWI.
The rifle features an adjustable gas piston for regular use, extreme use, and suppressor use. The barrel can be quickly swapped if necessary, and while they aren’t available yet, the barrel lengths include 10, 12, 14.5, and 16-inch barrels. The rifle features a hefty dose of polymer construction, but it’s still a bit of a hefty rifle at eight pounds.
The rifle does feature a collapsing and folding stock, an M-LOK handguard, a giant monolithic optic rail, and ambidextrous or reversible controls. The charging handle, in particular, impressed me. It can be swapped from left to right by just aligning it just right and pressing it through a designated slot. That charging handle is also nonreciprocating, which is a nice touch. The Carmel has me genuinely excited for a new 5.56 rifle.
A New Zastava ZPAP M70
The Zastava ZPAP M70 isn’t necessarily a new rifle. In all fairness, is any AK really a new rifle? Until the AK guy gives us the AK-50, it’s unlikely we’ll see a ‘new’ AK. The ZPAP series of AKs are robust, big, heavy, and one of the better options in a market that seemingly keeps drying up. The new ZPAP M70 features a modern handguard and scope rail to provide shooters with a very modern handling AK rifle.
This ZPAP M70 pushes the front sight all the way forward, and it sits right behind the muzzle device. This gives you a longer sight radius but also a much longer M-LOK handguard. The handguard is all aluminum and outfitted with tons of M-LOK slots and a long Picatinny rail across the top. The handguard continues all the way to the dust cover, where you get an optics rail that won’t lose zero.
The rifle also includes a Magpul Zhukov stock and a Magpul pistol grip. The AK series is a rifle system that just won’t die. The ZPAP M70 with the fancy handguard hardly looks like it came out of 1947. It’s about as modern as a standard AK can get. This solves problems with light and optics mounting and really gives the platform new life.
When it comes to Cold War rifles, the G3 series sits up there with the most famous of battle rifles. PTR has famously reproduced the G3 series as heavy hitting 7.62 rifles and even as a little lighter-hitting 7.62x39mm variant. They then dived into the 9mm family of MP5 clones, but they were seemingly missing a 5.56 rifle in their lineup.
Until now, the PTR 63 isn’t a clone of the HK33. PTR made their own rifle that uses the famed roller-delayed blowback system but ditches some of the problems with the legacy roller-delayed gun. First, they ditched the HK33 magazines and embraced the AR-15 design. Why wouldn’t they? It’s easily the most robust and most popular rifle magazine on the market.
Using this magazine also allows you to implement a last-round bolt-hold open device. These roller-delayed guns commonly lack this feature, so it’s nice to see. The gun has a few modifications, including a bolt release and a slightly modified magazine release. It’s fairly ergonomic and easy to use. The rifle will come with an AR stock adapter or a paratrooper-style collapsing stock. The PTR 63 will bring the American market a mass-produced roller-delayed 5.56 rifle, which is the first time we’ve had that in a long time.
If you had asked me to take a random guess at what the new Henry rifle would be, I would have never thought it would be a 9mm, pistol caliber carbine. Henry is the lever gun people, not the semi-auto PCC people, but here we are. The Homesteader is a 9mm, blowback-operated PCC that looks a bit different than any other PCC on the market.
It features American walnut furniture for the stock and handguard, along with the rich finish Henry is well known for. It looks absolutely fantastic and is a beautiful gun. The Homesteader has a tang safety, much like a Mossberg shotgun, an ambidextrous magazine release, and an ambidextrous bolt release. The rifle features a barrel-mounted peep sight and is drilled and tapped for an optic rail should you want to take that route.
The Homesteader has a modular magazine well, and Henry offers their own proprietary magazine, as well as a magwell to use Glock, S&W, or Sig magazines. That’s a smart move that allows the shooter to match their carbine magazines to their pistol magazines. It’s a soft shooter that is a blast to shoot, and I’m excited to get my hands on one.
Finally, let’s go with the lightest, most compact, and most affordable rifle on this list. The Chiappa TDX, or Takedown Extreme, is a new model of the Little Badger rifle. The Little Badger famously being a very simple rifle that folded in half and turned into an even simpler design that breaks in half. This is a single-shot, hammer-fired, 22LR rifle designed for survival situations.
The barrel splits from the receiver with the twist of a knob and a tug. The stock folds out of the way, and the rifle breaks down into nearly nothing but a couple of tubes. This creates a very small package that is easy to store and pack out. Chiappa includes a small tube to fit the rifle in, and it’s super compact.
The Chiappa Little Badger TDX features a Picatinny rail handguard for adding optics, lights, or whatever. The rifle itself comes with a set of M1 carbine-style iron sights. The stock itself can hold a few extra .22LR rounds, and it’s an all-around interesting rifle that I’m excited to get hands-on with.
The Rifles of SHOT Show 2023
A good rifle can take you a long way, and at SHOT Show 2023, we have seen quite a few new options on the market. I remember plenty of SHOT Shows just being miles and miles of AR-15s and being terribly bored. This year it was nice to see a wider variety of rifles being introduced this year. What new rifles caught your eye? Let us know below!