by Robert F. Kay
What a difference a year makes.
The vibe was upbeat at SHOT 2014—it was business as usual–selling merchandise and schmoozing with industry compadres.
People went about their frenzied way, making connections, taking orders and checking out the new products, with Circus Vegas as a backdrop.
It was an international affair–a veritable United Nations (if you’ll pardon the reference) of gun enthusiasts from every corner of the globe. Walking the isles you might have heard German, Polish, Russian, Italian, Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, French, Turkish and probably a dozen other tongues.
What were the highlights?
Journalists were treated to the usual Media Day at the Range, where you got a chance to shoot the newest “products” that go bang. Talk about being kids in a candy store…
There were several memorable moments for me that stand out. They include firing a new 308 Armalite AR10 A Super S.A.S.S. Carbine, shooting the superb Korth Commander-style 1911 and 357 revolver and, testing the new, superb Walther PPQ and…hitting the bulls eye at 880 yards with a carbon-fiber barreled 308 from Proof Research.
The Show itself–the actual exhibition–was an experience in sensory overload.
There was a plethora of “stuff”– some innovative and improved– most not. In
addition to the hardware, optics and gun furniture which you’d expect to see, there was an astounding array of peripherals as they’d say in Silicon Valley–boots, backpacks, knives, tactical pants, gloves, etc.
It was a serious affair in oh-so-many ways.
Outside of pure technology, perhaps the most poignant memory of SHOT were the placards set aside around the Sands Convention Center to commemorate the life of Mikhail Kalashnikov. Pictured in uniform, his portrait oozed of Soviet-era social realism. Yet somehow, it seemed right at home in this bastion of the American gun industry.
Honoring the great Russian hero illustrates how secure Americans really are.
Then there were the ubiquitous beards displayed at SHOT .
Popular culture dictates that if you’re a 20 or 30 something, you have a facial hair. Generally it’s the two, three or four day old growth that is sported by the likes of Bradley Cooper, George Clooney or Brad Pitt.
However, gun guys of a certain demographic are wearing their beards much longer–we’re talking circa 1850 so that they look like the cast from the Duck Dynasty or the Battle of Gettysburg.
We’re talking 19th century retro.
Is this the new gun guy chic? Is it just a passing fancy?
I’m not sure what if anything it all means in the scheme of things, I’m merely reporting my observations.
But I digress.
Perhaps the most most upbeat note about the show was the swell of entrepreneurship and Yankee ingenuity that filled the air. The vibe at the Sands Convention Center reminded me of a 1980s era Silicon Valley trade fair.
Although the halls were populated by the large corporate entities such as S&W, Remington, Springfield, Glock and the other usual suspects, the vast number of exhibitors were medium-sized, or even mom and pop concerns.
If you have any doubt that America is not populated by individuals who want to build a better mousetrap, a visit to SHOT will set you straight.
So what exactly was new at SHOT?
In no particular order here are some of the 2014 products that caught my eye:
- AK Fever? Magpul introduced its first magazine for the venerable Kalashnikov chambered of course in 7.62 x 39. Price is $14. We think it’s about time. I’m certain Magpul executives are eyeing the growing popularity of the AK space. They would be crazy not to and one thing that Magpul is known for is it’s business acuity. With the AR platform incredibly saturated and Magpul looking to grow, look for more AK products from this industry leader.
This new gizmo from Frankford Arsenal called the Case Trim and Prep Center will put a smile on the face of anyone who reloads rifles. It will no doubt speed up the otherwise onerous tasks of case trimming, cleaning out primer pockets and all the other time consuming stuff. For guys who compete and shoot great quantities of ammo, this is heaven-sent. Why didn’t anyone think of this before? Price is around $200. We hope to do a review of this product soon so stay tuned and we’ll let you know what we think.
Nowadays polymer guns are a dime a dozen but when something truly innovative comes out, people take notice. The new Walther PPQ, which I had a chance to shoot at Media Day, was definitely worth noting. Why? Walther is an iconic German brand. (Just ask James Bond). Germans don’t do things half-cocked or half cooked. They are incredibly thorough. What makes the PPQ different is the trigger which is as good, out of the box, as any tactical semi I’ve ever experienced. (Anyone who’s shot a decent 1911 can never go back to a mediocre trigger which is why I haven’t had much interest in polymer guns). The PPQ has a clean, crisp trigger action that’s at about 4-5 lbs. That combined with a natural point of aim, great ergonomics and Walther’s Teutonic engineering, makes this gun ausgezeichnet. If you’re a regular reader of this column, stay tuned. We’re going to be doing a T&E as soon as Walther can come up with a (Hawaii legal) ten round magazine.
More innovation from Diamondhead which introduced the polymer Diamond Flip Up Front Sight with “NiteBrite” which as implied, glows in the dark. Front and rear sights priced at $49 and $69 respectively.
Korth, a German company that makes superb revolvers (such as the “Classic” .357 model pictured above) and semi autos including 1911s, is making a concerted effort to court American buyers. Korth had a booth at the range day shoot for journalists and I was lucky enough to handle both a .357 and, a commander style 1911. They are among the finest hand guns I’ve ever shot. German engineering is famous for its thoroughness and these guns represent the ne plus ultra of the handgun universe. Finish is masterful and aesthetically pleasing. (Price is $4500).
Although the Korth PRS 1911 resembles a typical, modern day 1911 (with a full-length rail) it’s actually quite different from the original Browning design. Instead of the tilting barrel, the Korth has a fixed barrel, a roller-delayed blowback design. What’s the advantage? Roller-locked guns typically cycle very fast and are said to have a sharper recoil. I didn’t find (or perhaps didn’t notice) that this was the case at the range. What I did notice was how accurate it was–or at least how well I was shooting. By definition, a fixed barrel means less slop and hence more accuracy. Obviously you’d have to put it on a ransom rest to get the final word but in the “real” world at the range (shooting their model with the 4” barrel!) I was consistently whacking the target at 50 meters. If you’re into bullseye shooting and you have some discretionary funds you’ll want this gun.
You’re not going to run out of magazine capacity anytime soon if FAB, the Israeli manufacturer of the new “Pentagon” mag, has anything to say about it. Price is $115. Note that FAB also makes a whole array of add-ons for the AK platform. These including rails, grips and top-notch folding stocks. One shouldn’t be surprised. After the ’73 war, it seemed that every IDF officer and enlisted man was carrying a confiscated AK. IDF soldiers told me they were prized not just as war booty but were much preferable to the sometimes shlock surplus guns the IDF were issued in those days. (The Galil after all is nothing but a re-engineered Israeli AK). We hope to look at FAB’s AK stocks and rails in the near future. Stay tuned…
One of the best deals in the handgun department at the entire show was from Tisas, a Turkey-based small arms manufacturer. This very nicely appointed .45, dubbed the Zig M 1911 features a cold forged barrel and retails for $399. With improved marketing, Turkish companies (which already sell NATO-approved arms) should be able to make inroads in this country. The NATO imprimatur is a huge asset in my book. I looked at their entire line of guns–all seemed very well finished and mechanically sound. Turks have been making weapons for 1000 years. They had no choice. They had the mighty Ottoman Empire to rule! Today they are among the largest exporter of firearms in the world.
Stacey Nagy of PWS, the Idaho-based manufacturer of piston AR 15s, shows us the company’s new full-length rail on a Mark II .308 rifle. He should be happy. Primary Weapons Systems had a great year. They make very accurate piston rifles and we had the opportunity to do a thorough review of one of their uppers last year. The 2014 model in the above photo is priced at $2900 and features a nickel boron plated BCG. We can’t recommend these guns enough.
This matched, billet upper and lower .308 receiver combo from SI Defense were a sight to behold. It’s always best to purchase a receiver set from the same manufacturer because the parts are machined so that tolerances are perfectly matched. For strength and aesthetics, it’s tough to beat a billet job. The company, which manufactures rifles under its own name and as an OEM, is the largest producer of rifles and rifle parts in Montana. Sets are priced at $550 for a 308 and $399 for 223. We hope to review SI products in coming months. Stay tuned.
The latest in tactical chic from Kitanica is modeled by the founder, Beej Cronin, who sported the company’s new short sleeves shirt. Cronin’s creations are among the most stylish you’ll find in the tactical space. We love this company–they are among the most innovative out there and offer gear you can wear at the range, at work or at play.
I love Bullseye shooting. It’s kind of a niche sport compared to all the MSR activities and anything new that comes out in that department is of interest to me. Segue to one of the more intriguing new products at SHOT for Bullseye shooters–the (2 MOA) HD-Micro red dot sight from Ultradot. This minuscule tube, designed specifically for competition, has a built in rail clamp which obviates the need for rings (thus reducing the weight component). Retailing at $269, it should be more durable and less vulnerable to inclement weather than the typical reflex sight. We plan to give this a thorough T&E once the Kokohead Range reopens. Can’t wait to test it out.
SOG, a company that gained fame as a provider of “tools” for Special Ops personnel, introduced a slew of new knives for 2014 including a new member of their Zoom series, the ZM 1011-CP with satin polish and aluminium handle for $109. SOG is a favorite of the Navy SEALS. Be careful closing these babies or you’ll get nicked!
Shooting the brand new AR10A Super S.A.S.S. Carbine was one of the highlights of my media day at the range which always kicks off the first day at SHOT. Price is in the neighborhood of $3000.
CAA, which specializes in importing Israeli gun accoutrements, introduced the Secubit GS-Counter, a sort of bullet odometer which records every bullet that passes through a barrel and can connect directly to your PC or Android device with a USB connection. Why bother? It’s a great way to track usage for maintenance purposes. (I watched it being used to track how many bullets I shot out of an AK at Media Day at the Range). With 30 rounds in the mag, I could certainly see the utility of how an instructor might want to be able to ascertain how many rounds are left in a student’s gun. This is really innovative stuff. MSRP is $100.
Seekins Precision’s new flat bottomed, keymod-style rail (attached to their new .308 rifle) has great ergonomics. It also has intriguing possibilities for three-gun competition. Seekins was part of a strong a Idaho-based contingent that made a big splash at SHOT. We like this company. They make great products and are not as well known as the bigger concerns but that will change. The company is currently moving into a 25,000 sq ft facility and we wish them luck.
I was introduced to Lake Zurich, Illinois-based Devil Dog Arms at Media Day at the Range, held Monday, the day before SHOT officially commenced. I tried out the company’s new 7.62 DDA-10B TRP rifle, much like the one pictured in the photo above, except mounted with a Browe BCO scope. It sported a billet receiver, 16″ match barrel and their own proprietary, free floating hand guard. The trigger was great and recoil seemed quite soft for a 308. (I hit everything I aimed at which is always a nice surprise. Maybe that’s why I liked the rifle so much). What spoke loud to me was their partnership with Browe Optics, a first class org in its own right. I’m sticking my neck out, but DDA struck me as a sort of “sleeper” brand that offers essentially the same quality as you’d get in a name brand like an LMT or LWRC except at a discount. Price for this rifle is $2600 but it includes a Pelican case and a Limited Lifetime Warranty. It weighs in at 9 lb. 8 oz.
Photos mostly courtesy of On Target staff.
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