If you’ve never heard of it, the SHOT Show or “SHOT” as it is called, is the mother of all gun shows.
An industry-only affair, it brings together manufacturers and buyers of every conceivable stripe. However, it’s not just the household names such as Smith and Wesson, Remington or huge retailers such as Brownells or Cabelas. The vast number of SHOT constituents are smaller concerns right down to mom and pop startups.
That’s where you see the innovation.
Prior to the opening of the show is a much anticipated event called “Industry Day at the Range”, held at an outdoor range about 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas. This is where manufacturers flaunt their products by letting you shoot them. Not a bad idea.
I call it kid-in-a-candy-store day.
There were more firearms than time to shoot them, so one has to be judicious. I shot a number of guns but only several left me feeling warm and fuzzy. Two of them were 1911s.
There was a lot of excitement about the new Kimber 6, their first revolver, which did grab a lot of attention. However, I gravitated to their Super Match 1911. I shot it exceptionally well. (Maybe it was my lucky day). It was extremely accurate and had a great trigger. With a sticker price of about $2600 it’s not exactly a bargain basement special but it’s right in the price range of a race gun.
I don’t know if you’d take this to Camp Perry but choosing the best 1911 for this purpose is not a conundrum that most of us will ever fret about. I suspect most of the flashy, “accurized” 1911s at the show won’t out shoot the Match II. The company offers a multitude of less expensive choices that offer good bang for the buck.
How is that possible? The Kimber spokeswoman told me that the company differentiates itself from the competition by combining modern industrial processes with good old fashioned hand fitting. Thus you can get a decent, USA-made production gun at a competitive price.
The second gun to catch my attention was a “Pro Match”, 6” 1911 chambered in 10 mm from Rock Island, whose parent company is Armscor. This is a firm that is probably best known for making competitively priced 1911s and, ammo. They can do so because most of their guns are made in the Philippines—not a country generally known for firearms manufacturing. Nonetheless, Armscor products should not be dismissed because the Philippines is not a center of arms manufacturing.
I picked up the 10 mm 1911 because I recently tested the Glock G40 (another 10 mm pistol) and found I really liked this cartridge. The 10 mm bullet provides a flat trajectory, making it excellent for whacking things a distances over 50 yards.
The Rock Island gun was finely finished and as it turned out, quite accurate-–at least that’s what I was able to ascertain from the 20 or so rounds that I put down the range. I would suggest that someone interested in purchasing a good quality, reasonably priced 1911 should take a hard look at Rock Island. The Pro Match, an “accurized” model, is $1168.
The third item at the range that caught my interest was the Krebs AC-15, a semi-custom AK that has great balance, mostly because the barrel has been shaved by nearly 2 inches. I am quite familiar with this rifle because I am in the midst of writing a review about it. This particular rifle however was distinctive because of one feature–it was equipped with a newly developed drop-in trigger from a Texas company called CMC Triggers.
CMC manufactures a variety of drop-in triggers, mostly for the AR platform. Drop-ins for the AK are a relatively new phenomenon. Generally, manufacturers have steered clear of making a product like this because they didn’t see a demand and more importantly, engineering a drop-in for an AK is a challenge. Every AK variant has a slightly different spec and I can only imagine what a nightmare it was to come up with a trigger that will fit AKs from different manufacturers.
It’s also no mean feat to stuff a very powerful spring (needed to whack those notoriously rigid Russian primers) in a very limited amount of real estate.
The CMC trigger was exceptionally good.
It had a nice little take-up and a predictable break at about 3.5 to 4 lbs. The owner of the company, Jack Biegel, said that they would be producing AK triggers with different trigger weight options. They will also provide different variations of trigger—the flat-style and the classic curve.
Price is $220. Steep, but if you want a drop-in, I would definitely consider this once they are available, later in the first quarter of this year. There are some other AK drop-in triggers out there and in all fairness I haven’t tested them out so I can’t make any comparisons.
The fourth item I experienced, a 300 WSM chambered semi-auto rifle based on an AR-10 platform, was the latest offering from Headhunters Firearms, a retailer and custom shop out of Huntington Beach, California. Headhunters is known for making quality AR rifles that are competitively priced. I’ve had one of their 7.62×39 mm uppers for over a year, and love it. It’s accurate, well finished and half the price of a PWS.
The owner, John Nakagawa whose family is originally from Hawaii, calls his newest creation the HHLRG (Head Hunters Long Range tactical) 300 WSM. Essentially he’s put a bolt action rifle round inside a semi auto rifle. With an effective range of 1000 to 1300+ yards, this is a survivalist’s dream, good for “shtf”, hunting, and would double as a law enforcement sniper rifle.
I shot several magazines and the recoil is not bad considering the chambering. It has a nice crisp 4 lb, single stage trigger that was built in collaboration with Trident Triggers and features all Magpul furniture. Price for the complete rifle (which will be available next quarter) will be $2700-2900. You can buy the upper separately for $2000.
Oh yes, there’s one more item I dug.
One of the booths at Industry Day featured a company called Super Feet which makes insoles. When you think of shoes, you don’t generally think of firearms but let’s face it, most shooting is done on one’s feet.
I hike a lot and like most of the developed world, spend a great deal of my time in shoes. I opted to slip on a pair of Super feet insoles and placed them in my combat boots while at the show. I also swapped them out in my walking shoes and used them for the entire time I was at SHOT. (I subsequently transferred them back to my combat boots and used them in Hawaii to hike with on a number of occasions).
The verdict was a big thumbs up.
They offer great support—much better than the wimpy insoles that you find in most shoes. The foam part of their product is buttressed with a really stiff plastic component that’s very supportive. I could feel it straight away and never had any discomfort that comes with walking for miles on a concrete floor.
There’s definitely some engineering behind this.
Super Feet says on their website that “the human foot was designed to adapt to uneven, natural terrain, yet our world has become flatter, harder, and less natural thanks to man-made surfaces, like concrete sidewalks, tile floors, and paved roads. For your foot, it’s exhausting. The unique Superfeet insole shape compensates for harder surfaces, and adapts the two-dimensional midsoles built into today’s shoes for a better fit.”
I’d say that describes it pretty well.
More coverage of SHOT 2016 coming up.
Photos courtesy of Industry Day at the Range, Rock Island, Kimber and Rob Kay.
Rob Kay writes about firearms for On Target Hawaii and is the author of How to Buy an AK-47.