The Washington Times - August 19, 2008, 04:36PM

I don’t know about you, but when Field & Stream Magazine introduces its Annual Best of the Best Awards in the September issue, I didn’t put a lot of stock in “battle-tested” (their description) products. Could they influence your future purchases?

Seriously now, there are a couple of test results that seem to say we’re idiots if we buy the most expensive item when another performed just as well.

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“We tested more than 500 products and [30 of them] came in head and shoulders above the rest. These are the items we consider to the best of the year; worth your time, worth your money,” said Jay Cassell, Deputy Editor of Field & Stream. I believe Mr. Cassell is a bit too enthusiastic.

For example, in the Best Utility Knife category there was a tie between a $309 Chris Reeve Pacific blade and the SOG Mini Vulcan at $140. Which one will you buy?

I’m not forking over even $140 for the latter, but if you have money to spare wouldn’t it be dumb to pay $309 when $140 will do?

The same goes for the best hunting knife. There was a tie between a $395 Monarch Folding Knife and the $90 Cabela’s Bell & Carlson Gator. The answer is obvious. I’d go for the Cabela’s knife, although I own several fine Gerber hunting blades that I wouldn’t trade for any of the above.

If you just hit the lottery and money is no object, the best top-of-the-line binoculars, say the experts at Field & Stream, are the German Leica Ultravid 10x42mm HD at $2,095. The best mid-priced binocs were Leupold’s Mojave 10x42mm at $480.

Okay, so they’re the best, but I’ll never throw away my 20-year-old Bushnell binoculars I paid a little over $100 for. I love ’em.

If you’re a shotgun fancier, the best hunting shotgun award went to the Smith & Wesson Elite Gold at $2,380. I wonder if it can do any better on decoying ducks or doves than my Remington 1100, which cost me one-sixth of that back in the days when gasoline was less than $1 a gallon.

And I’ll wager a fair sum that the guys at the Fairfax Rod and Gun Club, in Manassas, Va., won’t agree with F&S’s pick of the Caesar Guenni Summit sporting target shotgun that costs $3,639. In fact, the folks at the Beretta factory are probably shaking their heads in disbelief.

The one item I instantly agreed with is the magazine’s top rifle pick. It’s the Browning X-Bolt that costs anywhere from $800 to $1,000. I like everything Browning makes and a good rifle that costs $800 is a deal.

However, when the mag’s testers said that the Yamaha Grizzly 550 FI Auto EPS all-terrain vehicle at $7,800 was the best, I immediately pledged to continue walking during my hunting trips, or if the woodland lanes and gullies are too distant, I’ll see if my trusty Ford pickup truck won’t do as well.

I‘ve never heard of the Irish Setter Snow Claw hunting boots, but at $169 they’re said to be the best. Okay, I won’t argue about it.

There’s much more to see at www.fieldandstream.com.