A contact of mine at Target Barn hit me up about a new Stage Builder tool that they have recently released. Stage Builder is a web-based tool for building competitive shooting stages for sports like IDPA, USPSA, and so on.
I’m not a stage designer, but I have to admit I had been giving it some thought recently, so I did play around with it.
The good news is, it’s easy and intuitive to use. The stage above was put together in about five minutes. You can create simple stages without a lot of hassle. If I was building IDPA or multigun stages, this tool would work quite well. The stage description feature is also appreciated, not to mention that you can save your stages.
The bad news is that it doesn’t necessarily have all the features you may expect. I was a little surprised I couldn’t easily label props/targets (had to make separate labels), or that there wasn’t a simple way to show distance marks for scale. I also felt that walls and shooting areas probably could have had their own native functions instead of being props and squares. A list of total props used would also be good, given the constraints many ranges have on equipment. Perhaps later versions of the tool will have these features?
Overall, I think this is a very convenient alternative to some other stage design software, and if I were designing a match with less complex stages, I’d be using it. The killer app here very well might be sharing stages with friends, perhaps even as some sort of community of stage builders.
The MEAN Arms roller-delayed upper is going to be a big deal for the competitive shooting community, because it will bring another non-direct-blowback option at a reasonable cost. The use of the MEAN magazine conversion will also allow shooters to use their same belt for PCC competition as 3gun competition, which is a nice bonus.
The Desert Tech Quattro 15 (which I didn’t cover) is something that’s gotten me really excited. Big magazines, fully ambi lower, and a surprisingly reasonable price ($300)? Sign me up. I could see converting to these for 3gun.
Didn’t see a lot that was genuinely new in the shotgun category. I think the influx of cheap and reliable Benelli M4 clones like the SDS S4 and Tac-12 was a real game changer in 2021, and I’m still waiting to see where that trend goes with the second round of those clones. SDS has already promised an improved stock in 2022, and I absolutely think there’s a market for a competition version with a hogged out loading port, larger buttons, short field stock, and so on.
In general, I expect Turkish shotguns to be massive sellers next year when the cheap Turkish lira drives prices down on high quality shotguns to crazy low levels. I can’t be the only one who’s thinking about a pair of VR80s for open shotgun if they drop to below $400.
I didn’t see anything jaw-dropping for pistols. 30 Super Carry was a bit of a meh release for me, and the focus on 5.7×28 continues to be inexplicable. Don’t even get me started on bringing back the Browning High Power… I don’t know what people think these pistols are, but they’re not as great as they think.
The Dasan / Alpha Foxtrot 1911 with the swappable frames was maybe my favorite of SHOT. At least this is a pistol that has a purpose in life, even if it’s niche. Hopefully the parts are not too dissimilar to standard 1911s and 2011s, and that maybe we could get an optics-cut version.
The Eotech 1-10x is the winner for me. It has every indication of looking a lot like a Razor Gen3 competitor at a substantially lower price. In fact, it may even be better at 1x if the brightness can keep up (which is a bit of an open question, even though it looked good on the floor).
A close second was the Blackhound Evolve 1-6x, if only because we’re finally starting to see fiber optic reticles migrate to lower price points. Once these get BDC and/or MRAD reticles, it’s going to driving some real innovation across the entire market space.
The Holosun SCS is another one I’m excited about. The MSRP on this is a bit high-ish, but it’s bringing some unique capabilities to the table in terms of being MOS direct mount, being solar-driven, better light sensing, etc.
The Maztech / Magpul X4 collaboration looked amazing. The world is ready for a new rifle-mounted LRF with a heads-up display, and the implementation looked a lot more flexible than others I’ve seen. It’s not cheap, that’s for sure, but it’s within the price range of someone who really wants one. If they implement some sort of support for linking to other LRFs (perhaps the Vortex or Sig?), it’s going to be amazing.
In one of my SHOT show posts, I brought up the Dillon DA3000 autodrive and expressed some disappointment to what was shown. To Dillon’s immense credit, a contact reached out to me with an offer to meet up and discuss the system in some depth, and try to answer some of the questions that I and others have.
First, the elephant in the room: sensors. One of the reasons that Mark7’s autodrive is so popular is the comprehensive sensor suite. The DA3000 launching without them was a disappointment to a lot of Dillon and RL1100 fans who were looking for a fully-competitive same-brand autodrive solution.
Sensors are on the roadmap. They’re being worked on, but were simply not ready for release. I heard swage is planned to be the first out the gate, but as we’ve seen in the past couple years, plans don’t always work out. No timeline was given, but I would not expect the sensors to be out tomorrow. The DA3000 includes the sensor interfaces, so your machine will be upgradable.
And, no, the Immortobot sensors won’t work, or so I was told. This wasn’t a deliberate decision by the Dillon team to destroy third party compatibility, it’s just how it worked out. They know as well as everyone else that third party sensors may become a thing again if people reverse engineer the interface, and they’ll handle that situation when they see what comes out. This is all a bit terra incognita to them.
The second question was “what took so long?” And the answer is pretty simple: the production line had to be moved, the production professionalized further, and the machine itself beefed up a bit. When you factor in extensive testing, it does make sense that there would be a substantial gap where this would not be available even without a lot of obvious changes. Dillon isn’t Ammobot; there are high expectations that come with being Dillon that their products need to meet.
Our discussion after that went in a few different directions. Suffice it to say that Dillon has had their own share of supply issues in the past year due to the huge run on reloading equipment, and is doing their best to keep up. They also have a lot of respect for their competitors and customers alike.
EDIT (1/24/2022): Dillon has informed me that the sensors will be released in 1-2 months (or such is the plan). They will require a separate control unit.
Well, I’ve completed my tour of duty at SHOT this year, and I’m happy to be done with it. If you want to see all of my SHOT Show 2022 coverage, use the “shotshow2022” tag. Here’s some overall thoughts about trends and other things:
There were a lot of attendees, but there were a lot of missing exhibitors: Sig, Beretta, Ruger, and so on pulling out was a pretty big hit to the show floor. But even outside of these entities, there were a lot of smaller exhibitors who didn’t make it. One or two tried the “we pulled out because of the mask mandate”, but this is simply farcical: the mask mandate was in full effect when they signed up, and they knew it. It was plastered all over the signup paperwork. Claiming that they were taking a stand when they agreed to comply with the requirement in the first place is somewhere between disingenuous and dishonest.
The reality is that the bigger companies had serious concerns about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, and they pulled out for various health and liability reasons, not because of any mandates. Masking was in evidence on the show floor, but it was uneven, and enforcement was somewhat lackadaisical – it wasn’t like they were pulling the badges of people they found without masks. If I had not recovered from Omicron a mere week before SHOT, I might have had some serious concerns myself. Maybe the masks will help with SHOT crud avoidance… that would be good.
AR-15++: There are more and more companies offering AR-15s and AR-9s with substantial internal operating system improvements, such as MEAN Arms roller-delayed system and the various bufferless systems floating around the show floor. I expect that within a decade, the “standard” AR-15 we have today will be relegated to more budget builds. This is not to imply I think “direct impingement” will be gone, though.
Bolt-guns are getting even more crowded: Aero’s getting in the game with a 700 action and a chassis. American Defense Manufacturing has a new chassis. Bushmaster has their AR-308-esque straight pull system. Remington will be producing the 700 again. It feels like everyone wants in on manual-action rifles. I don’t really see the increasingly-urbanized market going in on this, and I wonder if we’ll see a dramatic correction within the next couple years.
5.7×28 is the new hotness: I guess NATO standardization kicked off some kind of industry trend, because it sure seems like everyone wants in on that sweet, sweet 5.7×28 action. PSA’s got something, Kel-Tec’s doubling down, the AR-57 is back, CMMG’s got a rifle, FN was showing off the PS90, etc. I personally don’t get it, but people must be buying these guns… right? Didn’t the Internet decide years ago that 5.7 in non-AP format was kind of a pointless round that had inadequate terminal ballistics?
30 Super Carry is DOA: The thing that a lot of people do not understand about the firearms industry is how easy it is for the big companies to generate a hype wave by just throwing money in the pool. Fly out some gun journalists for demos in some nice spot, send out T&E guns and ammo, gin up a couple minor strategic alliances, and issue press releases like crazy. This happened with 224 Valkyrie (Federal’s brainchild) and now it’s happening 30 Super Carry (another Federal invention). I’m not saying 30 Super Carry is even bad, but this is a thing that no one asked for and I would suggest that no one really wanted. We’re going to see some products now and then zero follow-on when it turns out very few people buy them.
 If any vendors want to send me somewhere nice, I’d be happy to accept, and for the record your product is fantastic. 🙂
Turkey is making waves: The Turkish manufacturers were out in full force, and their arms industry seems to be churning out progressively better product at a lower cost. Unfortunately for them, this is because the lira basically collapsed and is now worth half as much as it used to be a year ago. But Sarsilmasz, MKE, Girsan, Derya, and others are shedding the “cheap bad imports” image and giving American shooters some top quality gear at fantastic prices. I’ve heard the PSA MP5 imports from MKE are hitting record low prices, and that’s great news for American shooters.
Glock in a Stock: There were at least half a dozen “Glock in a Stock” (or brace, or chassis) systems out at the show. Again: who is buying this stuff, and why? If you’ve got a Glock SBR already like I do, you at least have the excuse of trying to make the best of a questionable decision. But just making your Glock heavier and throwing a brace on… why? The ATF is going to ban that soon enough. You know it. I know it. We all know it.
The LPVO space is getting competitive again: A week ago, I could have listed off every LPVO worth buying at every price point. Now… I’m not so sure. The Eotech 1-10x came out the gate with a very aggressive price point plus what appears to be very solid FFP illumination, and Blackhound’s stunner of a 1-6x with a fiber optic reticle – made in China – threw all that on its head. I know what my preferences are, but it’s clear that the competition is increasing fast.
Las Vegas is fun – embrace it: When I was here in 2020, I didn’t do much other than cover SHOT and go out for a quiet dinner with relatives in the evening. This time, I brought my wife and got out a bit. We saw some shows, did some tours, and had a pretty good time. I’m not saying you need to be out all night partying and gambling, but enjoying yourself while you’re out here is sensible to keep sane.
SHOT can survive, but probably not continuing like this: SHOT was good (not great) this year, but so many major manufacturers pulling out of the show at the last minute definitely reduced the value to journalists, even terrible amateurs like myself. If I can’t talk to reps for the inside scoop and go hands-on with the hot new releases before they hit retail, what’s the point? The solution is certainly not moving it to Florida or Texas. Not only is that unrealistic (NSSF signed a contract with the Venetian through like 2027), but it’s not addressing the real reasons that caused Beretta, Sig, Ruger, SiCo, etc. to pull out of the show. If anything, it might have made the situation worse. A few more smaller guys coming because there’s no mask mandate isn’t going to be an overall improvement if another big group drops out, or if the international manufacturers drop for fear they won’t be able to travel home – that’s the cold truth regardless of how you personally feel about mask mandates.
If the pandemic isn’t functionally over by about October 2022, NSSF needs to sit down and really understand what they need to do to make all these big manufacturers feel comfortable enough to come. This trip costs most of us non-trivial money, and the value proposition this year was teetering on the edge of “not worth it” – and the fact that many of the drop-outs happened very close to SHOT prevented people from changing their minds about coming (and perhaps saving some money). I don’t want to accuse NSSF of acting in bad faith, but some of their social media posts leading up to the show seemed completely unwilling to engage with the reality of what was going on. I guess that’s the hallmark of a good industry PR organization, but it did rub people the wrong way.
Today is my last day at SHOT; too many personal and professional conflicts to justify trying to work it on Thursday as well. I tried to hit as many places of interest to me as I could in this final outing. This time, I was on the first floor of the expo hall – “the dungeon”. This is the cheap seats of SHOT, and while there’s many reputable vendors there… there’s some sketchier ones as well. There were a surprising number of no-shows down there; I would have imagined they’d be eager to get some eyeballs with some of the big names out of the way.
Ghost: It’s no secret that I shoot a lot of competition and training classes. What I’m maybe less vocal about is that most of the time, I’m using Ghost magazine pouches. Ghost USA imports very high quality pouches from Italy. When I asked them what the big release this year was, they pointed to their Hydra holster. The Hydra tries to split the difference between a race holster and a shell holster, and has a positive locking mechanism for between stages. They have models for all the popular competition guns, and a couple different attachment mechanisms. Unsure that I’m going to run out and buy one tomorrow, but it does look like a nice option for 3gun and the like.
Blackhound Optics: When I was talking to the rep at JOL, he told me that “you may want to talk to those Blackhound guys. They’ll have something of interest.” Well, I’m nothing if not a sucker for a reference, so I went on the hunt for Blackhound Optics down on the first floor. Luckily, I found them and was able to have a long discussion with them about their products.
They’re now selling three lines of products: 1. Emerge – made by JOL in Japan. High-end optics priced like high-end optics. 2. Evolve – made in China. This is higher quality Chinese stuff that just came out. 3. Genesis – made in China. This is Blackhound’s original line of products.
I took a look at the Emerge optics and… they look good! They had features like an elevation turret indicator, lever on the magnification ring, the MOA holdover + mil ranging reticle I talked about previously, and illumination. Glass seemed on point, too, but that’s hard to evaluate in the hall.
What really surprised me, though, was the Evolve 1-6x scope. I had asked where the Emerge LPVO was, and they kinda demurred on it, instead showing me their Genesis and Evolve LPVOs. The Genesis was… OK? Nothing special (sorry, Blackhound). The Evolve promptly blew my mind. Daylight bright fiber optic reticle! On a Chinese-made scope! When did this become a thing? I am very well acquainted with the different LPVO illumination mechanisms, and there was no doubt in my mind at what I was seeing. We can talk about whether the reticle would be improved with some holdovers (it would be!), but this is a real game changer and I’m curious to see where it goes. The Blackhound scopes in this line come with a mount and everything you need to get going, so they’re a packaged solution.
M+M Industries: There’s a new version of the M+M M10X with a shortened handguard and a lighter receiver. It weighs 7lbs. Despite goons on the Internet calling it a two piece AK, it is very, very similar to a Sig 55X on the inside, all the way through field stripping.
MEAN Arms: The guys at MEAN Arms were more than willing to talk about their roller-delayed 9mm AR – it’s apparently on the fifth generation, and it is in production. Expect to see uppers compatible with standard lower receivers, coming in at ~$1200. Given the cost of the JP5, which is exorbitant, this sounds like a real deal if it works as well as I was told it does. The bolt design is really quite clever, and is easily adjustable for different ammo energy.
Girsan: Girsan downstairs was much more amenable to me, and was showing off their new Regard Gen3 and Gen4 pistols, as well as the P35. The Regard Gen3 looks like a super slick Beretta 92 clone, and checks all the right boxes (frame safety, gas pedal takedown, optics cut, and a surprisingly reasonable trigger).
SDS: I wanted to talk to SDS about their fantastic SDS S4 clone of the Benelli M4. Well, if you liked it, but thought the stock was meh, you are not alone – SDS is working with the factory to improve the stock and make it much more like the factory Benelli M4 stock (hopefully shorter!). In less awesome news, the SDS Duo-Sys M3 clone is getting discontinued due to poor sales. Pick it up now while you have a chance, if you want one. The firearms on display were a bit sparse due to some shipping mishaps between Dallas and Las Vegas, but they were quite proud of their retro shotguns.
HasGrok: I’m a geek, and I took a real stab at writing a computer vision program that would be able to sort case headstamps. It kinda worked, but the mechanical part never quite came together. HasGrok has a solution that DOES work, and they told me that they’ve got an improvement coming that will also be able to sort on case profile – so that it can distinguish between 223 and 300 AAC with the same headstamp (ie, conversions) and even determine overall length of a cartridge to determine whether it needs trimming. Super clever!
They’re also working on getting their case feeder set up with WiFi so you can adjust the digital clutch from your phone. Sounds good to me.
Savior Equipment: Savior Equipment’s new 2022 products are some camo rifle bags. I own zero camo anything, so this was not of much interest to me. I still think they make some of the best rifle bags you can buy, however.
Panzer Arms / AR-Five Seven: I had a long, long chat with the rep at the Panzer Arms / AR-Five Seven booth. I’ll skip straight to the import part: the AR-57 upper is coming back. The previous version had some issues, and they took a few years to resolve. (I was also told ProMag P50 mags will never work right, and you should get FN ones.)
We also had a rather interesting conversation about Turkish shotguns. Panzer Arms owns the factory in Turkey. They know precisely what is going in, and they make most of it. They also have copious spare parts to fix things if they go wrong. Many other importers are not in such a favorable position. He was quite insistent that their guns work, and that they can fix whatever lemons accidentally find their way here.
THRiL: I have some THRiL MPX magazines. They work fantastically well. Alas, most people have never heard of them. The company is new (2018), and has some Lancer heritage engineers running the show. Besides having MPX and AR15 magazines, they are also the OEM for PSA’s Scorpion and AK (steel-lined, steel lugs, and steel feed lips) magazines. They’ve got some other OEM projects ongoing, and it sounds like they’re quite happy with the way their new Bantam compact stock came out. This is yet another small company that probably gets unfairly lumped in with a number of smaller companies with lesser products, and I hope they can break past that for the reputation they genuinely deserve.
Dasan / Alpha Foxtrot: Alpha Foxtrot is South Korean Dasan’s US arm, and they sell a variety of rather interesting guns, including metal framed Glocks and 1911s. The cool stuff this year was a compact 1911 that took Shield magazines, and a 2011-style gun that could switch frames between single-stack and double-stack. I know the latter sounds like a bit of an edge use case, but it’s potentially tremendously useful to competitive shooters who want to use the same gun for 3gun and single-stack USPSA/IDPA. It’s not going to be cheap, but I believe the target is still under $2000.
Recover Tactical: Right before SHOT Show, Recover Tactical announced the P-IX chassis for Glocks. According to Recover, this will accept nearly any Glock you can think of. The basic premise of it is to make your Glock into a bullpup – sort of like a Corner Shot, but without all that Corner Shot foldy stuff. The trigger pull was… spongy. Whatever linkage they’re using clearly has some play and/or flex. But the premise seems solid, and it will at least eliminate some of the dust cover flex problems that other chassis systems invoke. They’re selling the chassis for $200 sans a buffer tube / stock / brace – you can install your own to do whatever you want.
CHPWS: The big news at CHPWS is that they are moving to the v5 plate system. This will be thinner, with a redesigned T-nut to maintain appropriate plate strength.
Caldwell: I had one, and only one question for Caldwell: WHERE IS THE VELOCIRADAR? Answer: it’s still on the roadmap, it’s still being worked on, and supply chain problems have made getting the electronics for production a nightmare. It will be at SHOT 2023, but no firm word on release (whether before or after). But they know people want it… badly.
The Hebrew Hammer Blog’s SHOT Show coverage continues today with a tour of the more interesting (to me) exhibitors in the Caesar’s Palace show extension. For those of you unfamiliar with SHOT Show, most of it takes place at the Sands / Venetian, but this year, there was an extension into the Caesar’s Forum right across the road. They did this with an aluminum extension bridge, which was kind of neat. I think you could make a pretty compelling argument that they didn’t really need to do this after Sig, Beretta, Ruger, et al pulled out, but I suppose you can’t really alter floor plans and reservations like that last minute.
Frankford Arsenal: It’s no secret that I’m a heavy reloader, and so progressive presses are of particular interest to me. Frankford Arsenal has been teasing the X10 press for quite a while now, so I was excited to go down and take a look at it.
Good news: it felt silky smooth when I hand-cycled it (I assume due to the ball bearings), and I thought some of the improvements they made were quite intelligent (built-in lights, magnetic low primer rod, spring-loaded case locators, etc.). Check out the demo of the low primer alarm:
Bad news: it’s been delayed again, and is now coming in late summer / early fall 2022. Ugh. Also, no powder measure included in the base price. As consolation, here’s a cool video of a dumb electric motor (NOT AN AUTODRIVE) turning it:
I still think the X10 has the potential to make a huge impact on the reloading market, and I am definitely going to be pressing Frankford Arsenal for a review unit.
Dillon Rifle Company: Another big announcement from Dillon at SHOT was the launch of the new Dillon Rifle Company. Their initial product line includes some various bags and so on, but let’s be real: the trigger is what everyone wants to hear about. TL;DR: it’s safety-oriented, but has a pretty good trigger pull on the whole. It has a Glock-esque blade that will block your trigger from releasing the hammer if it’s not pulled. Check out this very terrible video I made of how it works on their giant mockup:
The takeaway here is that it makes NO IMPACT on the interface between the hammer, trigger, and disconnector. It will merely block release. It does not make your pull any better or worse.
They have a couple different models. One of them is a bit more forgiving to trigger finger position. The other requires a genuinely “finger pad on trigger, pull straight back” maneuver to work due to a lack of rounding. The rep felt it would promote proper marksmanship, and he might not be wrong. They’re available to buy right now from DRC’s website for $265. This may seem steep, but consider the following demo of a “sling in trigger guard” situation:
It pulled absolutely fine when I gave it a try in the normal fashion. This rep took a while to pull it with a sling, and let me tell you that he was not playing around when doing it.
Hiperfire: I own four Hiperfire triggers (three Eclipses and a Blue Line), and I was eying a fifth by the time SHOT swung around. Now, it’s looking like that may be more like “a fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth”, because Hiperfire had some very exciting new products on display today.
First, the new hotness: a two-stage trigger system. I gave it a few tries, and it works exactly a Hipertouch with more initial takeup. The actual break is that same phenomenal Hipertouch break: light, sudden, and with very little overtravel. For a gun meant for precision work, being able to stage the trigger a little further than the normal Hipertouch triggers may prove quite useful.
But, in my opinion, the really impressive product I saw was their AK triggers. These are priced competitively (top end is $95!), and more to the point, they are fantastic. They’ve also got some trigger pins and an improved, adjustable safety coming out. The feel of the safety was perfection due to the adjustment possible; this could be a really great upgrade for guys with meh factory AK safeties.
Armanov: You probably haven’t heard of Armanov. Or if you have, it was because you were searching for some reloading accessories and ran across them. These guys are based out of Slovenia, and they are a small business making various (quality!) reloading parts. I was extremely impressed they made it out, so I made it a point to talk to them.
Their pride and joy – and deservedly so – is their new Dillon 1050/1100 toolhead. These are CNC milled, and they look SWEET. They couldn’t quite figure out how to implement their own QD die system like they did on the 650/750 heads, so they milled it out for Hornady LnL bushings. Keep in mind that this toolhead also has its own built-in lighting system, and from my brief perusal, it looks like it’s going to work very, very well.
Besides their toolheads, Armanov had a couple other great reloading products. One was a click-adjustable wheel for adjusting the Dillon powder measure. The other was their pistol case gauge system, which can check for min OAL, max OAL, case dimensions, and then dump everything straight into an MTM case… one hundred rounds at a time. They also had a configurable version for 223 cases that could accomplish much the same things.
I love the thought that Armanov is putting into their products. It’s clearly a company run by reloaders for reloaders, and I hope they get more publicity soon… they deserve it.
C-More: I visited C-more because I own a few of their optics and wanted to see what was coming up.
Bad news first: the C3 is not scheduled for a refresh anytime soon. This is a shame: it’s an excellent scope that could really benefit from a fiber optic reticle.
But, good news: C-More has heard you all loud and clear that the Railway could use better battery life and a green reticle. The latter isn’t really in the cards (lens coating being an issue), but the former is being explored as part of their research into their other red dots like the RTS2. There are technical challenges I won’t get into, but they get that the people like the Railway’s form factor and just want a more efficient LED solution.
C-More’s big product for SHOT was a concealed-carry optimized micro red dot using a Shield SMS mounting pattern called the CRC. I took a couple pictures for you!
Caracal: Finally, we’ve got a fan favorite, which is Caracal. Caracal was making HK416 clones for a while, which was great news for everyone who wanted an HK416 but didn’t want to go broke buying one. Well, I am pleased to tell you that Caracal has made a bunch of them, and is in the process of getting them to distributors. MSRP on the 816 complete rifles is ~$1850, but the uppers are a far more affordable $1254. Not sure what street will be, but presumably less than MSRP.
They also showed me their enhanced quick action pistols. You’ll recall that the original pistols had some issues leading to their complete recall and refund. Well, they’re back as the “Enhanced F Pistol” line, and they’ve got the option for their (in)famous quick sights with super short sight radius. Now, these do work, but the reality is that reliable single-plane red dot sighting systems have made this kind of thing a lot less useful than perhaps it was in the past. The trigger pull was also not exactly great.
After my last post, I spent some time back on the floor checking out the latest and greatest from various manufacturers.
Lyman/Mark7: No new products for SHOT from Mark7. We had a conversation about my own Mark7 Evolution press, and the growing pains that Mark7 has had in the past couple years. Long story made short, support was not always as good as it should have been. But that has been steadily improving, and I can attest to it from my own personal experience. Once they get their supply chain under control and can ship product faster, I suspect they’ll be even more popular.
Dillon Precision: The hot, hot new product from Dillon is the Dillon Automation autodrive “DA3000”. There’s some good news, and there’s some bad news. Good news first: it’s real and it works. Here’s a video:
Here’s the bad news: it’s an AmmoBot, there was no sensor suite, and it’s like $2400. I am sure the Dillon diehard crowd will ignore these problems (disclosure: I own a Dillon 650 and have loaded a ton of 9mm on it), but I simply don’t see how this competes with the Mark7 autodrive in any way other than “well, you get to keep your warranty!” It doesn’t seem to know if you’re out of primers… let that one sink in. On the positive side, the DA3000 is probably phenomenal for bulk case processing with the CP2000, because it’s basically just a way to mechanically cycle your press and not much more.
Magpul: Magpul had a few outstanding product releases the week before SHOT, but the most intriguing was the “X4” collaboration between Maztech and Magpul. The X4 is what I thought it was: a heads-up display for your rifle that uses sensor fusion to provide its benefits. The two big ones are a round counter and a laser rangefinder. The Maztech engineer I was chatting with was really enthused about it, and the state of maturity it was already in. He was talking a Christmas release for the civilian side. It’ll work with 30mm and 34mm scopes, but here’s the limitation: you can’t have an objective bell. It needs to be a straight tube. This rules out scopes like the Accupower 1-8x and the Razor Gen2-E. The Vortex Razor Gen3 will be perfectly fine, though.
Hot take: this is Magpul’s attempt to enter Wilcox’s space. We’ll see how it works out.
Girsan: Girsan didn’t have a whole lot to announce. They seemed less than pleased with me when I told the optic they were including on the 1911 was garbage, and they needed some more optics plates included. Not everyone appreciates my expert product management consulting services even if when they’re free, oddly enough. Their big new product of the year is their Browning High Power clone, the MC P35. It feels like a BHP, and it has a trigger like a BHP. It scratches the itch.
SAR USA: SAR USA and the gent I spoke with were quite enthused with their products. I think this is justified; I love the heck out of my SAR K2, but the after-market sight situation is awful. They told me they were working on it this year (in fact, at SHOT!) and to expect better. The rep acknowledged that they’re just not great at marketing, and have made that a much bigger focus going forward. In my opinion, SAR is a hidden gem; they’re the Turkish military’s pistol manufacturer, and they don’t make many lemons. I also saw SAR proper’s rifle display, including a nifty 7.62×51 rifle. Unclear to me if this was going to be imported. It has a carry handle with backup irons… I’m not sure what the use case is.
Bushnell: Not much new from Bushnell on the high-end optics front. The DMR3 and XRS3 were very nice scopes, with excellent reticles (no illumination). A new high-end LPVO is completely MIA, which is a gaping hole in their line-up. The world is ready for an SMRS III, guys… make it happen.
Federal: One of the big SHOT stories this year is 30 Super Carry, and Federal had a nice little display out. I was the only one at it when I visited. That’s a little disorienting, and makes me wonder if there’s really a lot of market demand for it. They had a couple of 1911s (one was a sweet Nighthawk), a Shield EZ, and a Shield Plus there. They all held like +2 rounds when using 30 Super Carry as advertised. My personal feeling is that in this day and age of stagger stack mags in micro compacts, that additional +2 rounds is a lot less critical than it is in single stacks.
Kel-Tec: Kel-Tec is a quirky firm, and they never fail to deliver at SHOT. This year, their hot new items were the aluminum-frame P15 handgun and the P50 carbine kit.
Yes, that’s right: Kel-Tec is making a kit with a stock and a 16″ barrel for $300 so you can turn the world’s weirdest 5.7 pistol into the world’s weirdest 5.7 rifle… and I love it.
The aluminum-framed P-15 is a bit more conventional, but it represents Kel-Tec’s first gun with an aluminum frame (or so I was told). To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even realize I was holding what was apparently a prototype pistol in my hands. It’s surprisingly classy. (I guess this is a Hebrew Hammer Blog exclusive because I’ve seen zero other outlets report on this.)
On the downside, they did disappoint me by saying that the PLR/SU lines were basically dead for the time being. No MLOK handguards incoming. 😦
Aero Precision: Aero was showing off a Remington 700-style action and chassis. It’s still under development, but, hey, it looks good to me. If you are expecting an ultra-cheap barreled action with bolt, you are going to be disappointed; the rep’s numbers were closer to a thousand dollars if I recall correctly.
Hurricane Butterfly: Finally, we have Hurricane Butterfly. HB was importing some sweet mag-fed Hawk 870s in some oddball configurations a couple years ago, but there was apparently some patent litigation that put a stop to that for a while. It was unclear in our discussion whether they were going to go back to doing those imports. They also brought in some HK416 pistols that were about as close to the real thing (without full-auto) as you could get. It sounds like they’re currently focusing on value-added import/export activities (such as setting up ACOGs with offset spacers) while they figure out their long-term business plan. I’m hoping to speak more at length with them tomorrow, because they are one of the few small firms that seems to be genuinely creative in what they do.
Tuesday is when SHOT Show officially kicks off, which means the main show floor opens up.
Attendance this year is supposedly down from last year, but you wouldn’t be able to tell it from the packed hallways.
Anyways, I hit about… one third of the main floor this morning, and had an opportunity to talk to a fair number of exhibitors, and take a look at some new products.
Eotech: Some of the guys on SnipersHide wanted me to take a look at the new Eotech 1-10x for a preliminary eval. If you haven’t heard, this is a $1799 MSRP scope that is made in Japan and is, in theory, a direct competitor to the $3599 MSRP Razor Gen3 . But these scopes always live and die by glass quality and illumination. Here’s my non-expert analysis:
First and foremost, my evaluation is that the red reticle appears to be using the diffractive reticle illumination, which I confirmed with a rep on the floor and through my own eyes. I have a Razor Gen3. The way that the illumination reflects off the numbers in the reticle is extremely distinctive, and the Eotech 1-10x did exactly the same thing. It is pretty freaking cool to see it go from a (daylight) bright circle dot to a pretty decent christmas tree reticle. Glass quality seemed alright, but this is a terrible place for such evaluations.
I am not sure that the green reticle is using the same technology. My gut feeling is that it is not. I will also say that it seemed fairly bright on the floor show, but, again, the general haze of SHOT show (mental and physical) doesn’t make it a good place for evaluating such things.
I really did not love the illumination controls. The buttons didn’t feel intuitive compared to using a dial. I’m looking forward to what Ilya Koshkin has to say about all this and his evaluation. But, personal opinion, if this thing is street at $1500 or less, it’s going to be the LPVO to beat.
I also went hands-on with the Eotech EFLX. It looks good! It’s definitely not a holographic sight. My understanding is that it’s using a DPP footprint, and it seems like a worthy competitor at a $389 MSRP. The window is not quite as big vertically, but no slouch. The controls are way easier to use, but the battery compartment is not tool-less to open. I did not ask where they were made.
Aimpoint: The only thing you care about is the Duty RDS. I went over and checked it out. It’s pretty much exactly what everyone thinks it is. The dot looks crisp, and the housing is attractive. It even has night vision settings. Assuming some baseline of durability is there, I am unsure why in the world I would ever buy a T2 over this other than flexing rights.
Manta Defense: I used to use a ton of Manta Defense’s wire routing cables back in the bad old days of when quad rails were the hotness. Now that MLOK is a thing, I use less. Still, I wanted to check in to see if they had any interesting new products… and they did.
First were their MLOK rail covers, which were suitably grippy, but, unfortunately, did not provide wire routing. It is obviously something of a design trade-off to put wiring routing in since it increases thickness.
The other thing that was cool was a 600f-capable heat tape wrap that uses no adhesive. It adheres to itself, and nothing else. You simply wrap up your handguard and you’re good to go. I could imagine this being amazing on the Gemtech Integra to provide a spot to hold your hand without getting burned.
Holosun: Much like Aimpoint, Holosun had two big new items this year: the SCS (nee BLPS) and the EPS Carry.
The EPS (Enclosed Pistol Sight) Carry is a sealed reflex sight that is kind of a “K” version of the 509T. I took a couple really bad pictures so you could compare the two:
If you’re thinking “huh, there’s not a lot of difference there”, you’re not wrong. In fact, there’s very little difference despite the EPS being substantially smaller.
The SCS, on the other hand, is the more revolutionary sight. This is an evolution of the BLPS from 2020 with all the right improvements: an internal battery (instead of super capacitors), a power/reticle change button, and a green reticle variant. It also uses two light sensors for a much more advanced bright auto-adjust system. I have been doing my best to avoid Chinese made optics, but I may have to break my streak and put this on my Maxim 9. Holosun is really innovating by working with top-tier US shooters to understand their needs and requirements, and the bigger guys could take some hints…
Windham Weaponry: Windham owns the licensing and assets from the old MGI Hydra weapon system, but I hadn’t seem them on the market for a while, so I decided to investigate. According to the rep I talked with, the multi-calber weapon systems just required too much production line time in comparison to their other products, so they were put on hold for a bit while they worked through the 5.56 backlog, but they will return. Sensible. I talked the rep’s ear off about giving AK-74 magwells. We’ll see. The new focus is on 308 ARs since the AR-15 supply chain is about back to normal at the moment.
Tristar: Tristar didn’t have a lot that was new, but was proud of their new 10mm 1911 from Metro Arms. They didn’t have any of the double stack Metro Arms competition 1911s on display, unfortunately.
Kestrel Ballistics: I went to Kestrel Ballistics and asked them the obvious question: you guys bought Magnetospeed, where is the Bluetooth control box? The answer is 1) it’s coming and being worked on (ETA unknown) and 2) it’s harder to implement than people think. Fair enough.
The big product they were showing off was their new shot timer. It’s coming in a couple months, and has an MSRP of $299. That’s very high. But it is also the nicest shot timer I’ve ever seen. Fantastic controls, dual transflective backlit screens (!) on the top and front, a really loud beep (that scared the heck out of everyone), and some serious durability for the elements. Did I mention it has Bluetooth and they’re working with Practiscore to add AMG Lab Commander-esque functionality to it? I’m not going to lie, I’m a die hard AMG Lab Commander user, but this may be the shot timer that convinces me to switch. They were also confident that production could easily keep up with demand, which AMG Lab has a bit of a problem with.
ESS: I use ESS crossbows as my eye protection, so I talked with ESS about what they’ve got on the docket. The big new product is a line of ballistic lenses that will protect against green lasers, plus a product (not at the show) that apparently will protect against IR+green by sandwiching lenses. That’s a really great piece of gear for law enforcement officers dealing with violent protests.
Derya: You may not know who Derya is, but many of my readers should be familiar with the VR80 shotgun, which is currently one of the best bets for a mag-fed Open division shotgun in 3gun. Derya didn’t have a lot new to show, but did call my attention to their ISPC competition line (big in Europe) and their new 22s (which have metal magazines in 10 and 25rd capacities). The 22s are being imported by RIA; the competition VR80s aren’t, but you can acquire all the same components from Advanced Tactical (the base actions are the same as what RIA imports). AT also has the factory shotgun drums.
Geissele: The rep at the Geissele booth wants you all to know the Super Sabra will return. They have not been discontinued and they love them dearly. They are all very appalled at the crazy Gunbroker prices on these, and were stunned that they sold out in two minutes on Black Friday. The problem is production time, and the Super Sabras are simply time-consuming to make. Just wait for them to come back. They will!
PSA: Palmetto State Armory had a shock SHOT show announcement with their Dagger 5.7×28 pistol. The price points are $499 (no optics cut) and $549 (optics cut and threaded barrel). Obviously, you want the latter model. Ergos felt reasonable. It’s a stretched-out Glock at heart, with kind of a weird-reengineered take-down lever (albeit it felt much easier to operate). I’m not a 5.7 guy, but it seems good? Capacity was 23 rounds so I recall.
Wolf Ammunition: Finally, we have Wolf Ammunition. Wolf is obviously taking it on the chin with the announcement of the Russian ammo import ban, but was putting a good face on it at SHOT. However, check out the new addition to the line: reloading components, including primers. They refused to tell me where they were from, except for confirming they’re not from Murom (in Russia). They will be arriving in 2023. I definitely wonder if these are Taiwanese or from some other Asian country.
The situation on the main floor: there’s big honking gaps on the floor. The pullout of some big exhibitors left some holes, and they were a bit too obvious in some spots.
Despite what you may have heard, SHOT is definitely not dead in this year of 2022, and there are still many, many exhibitors at the show. I spent this morning at the “Supplier Showcase”.
The “Supplier Showcase” is an exhibition hall with the business to business suppliers – services and OEM products for anonymous reuse and rebranding. There is really not a lot here that would interest most of my readership; I doubt many of you are dying to find out about the latest coating firm, or the fifteenth place making OEM BCGs.
However, this is not to say that there were no exhibitors of interest. I saw a few familiar (or perhaps not so familiar?) names and struck up some conversations.
Tuff OEM: Tuff Products makes a variety of end user products, which I would broadly classify as “fabrics based” (including their magazine pouches, which I’m pretty sure I have a couple of). What you may not know about them is that they are also a major OEM of such things for major manufacturers – Leupold, Hornady, and so on. They have manufacturing capability worldwide in the US, Mexico, and China.
I’m more familiar with Tuff these days from their collaborations with Steve Fisher of Sentinel Concepts. I brought this up with them, and they confirmed that this is a thing they could really do with anyone, at a reasonable R&D cost (or at least, they bill less per hour than I do at my day job) and not terribly high minimum runs. I look forward to seeing what they do with other big name collaborators in the future.
JOL: Japan Optics Limited is the “other” big Japanese optics OEM. Their main factory is in Tokyo, but they also have manufacturing capability in the Philippines and China. Many of the lower-priced Japanese scopes you’re familiar with (eg, Crimson Trace) were made by JOL.
The (very friendly) rep was quite proud of a 3-18×40 scope on the table. I picked it up and looked at it… it was a scope. Not particularly light, but not crazy heavy. But then he told me to look through it… that was where the surprise was. JOL had put together a reticle with MOA markings and MIL markings in a simple way that wasn’t a nightmare to use. I’m not sure if there’s necessarily a huge use case for that in terms of holdovers, but if you’re ranging with your reticle, it could simplify some lives. My camera not up to taking pictures of this, but it was cool!
The other topic we discussed was daylight bright first focal plane reticles. I don’t think it’s a huge secret that we have not seen these on JOL scopes yet (to the best of my knowledge), and that Leupold/Vortex/etc. basically all use the same patented (with royalties) approach to the problem. While I can’t divulge specifics, it appears that this is a problem that JOL is working on, and from a different angle than some other manufacturers have gone. They didn’t have any prototypes at the show, but I am really excited by the prospect of seeing some more competing technology in this space.
Faxon Firearms: I use Faxon Firearms barrels on a couple of my guns, and I’m broadly pleased with them. They’re one of the best value barrels out there, and miles above some cheap-but-popular barrel makers I will not name.
The big thing at Faxon this year was 8.6 Blackout and the barrels they’re making for Q. 8.6 Blackout, for those of you who have forgotten, is a .308 Winchester cartridge chopped down and necked up to .338 caliber. This is a bit different than 338 Federal in that 338 Federal isn’t chopped down. There are pluses and minuses to these approaches, but suffice it to say that 8.6 Blackout makes a lot more sense for subsonic use.
To stabilize those subs, Faxon utilizes a 1:3 twist rate. For those of you playing at home, this is basically crazy fast and the rifling inside of the barrel looks more like a series of spirals than what we tend to think of as rifling. What caught my attention when talking to Faxon, though, was their statement that they thought faster twist rates were going to be the next big thing in the future due to the extra energy that the ultra-fast spins imparted to targets as measured with ballistic gelatin. There are apparently videos out there of this, and more coming soon.
I’m not sure what to think. Increased twist rates sound like a free lunch, except that while bullets don’t “over-stabilize”, they can certainly suffer in-flight structural integrity issues from spinning too fast. This can lead to accuracy loss or, in severe cases, total failure (the infamous “mid-air poof” of over-spun 223 varmint bullets). It would be interesting to see some tests of 1:5 and 1:6 barrels in 5.56 to prove or disprove the point… Faxon definitely warned me this was early days for the concept, but that it was intriguing.
KAK Industry: The KAK Industry company is best known for their cheap-ish blast-forward flash cans (and the numerous knock-offs that they spawned) and ultra-short rifle barrels using their micro gas tube length, but they also have a significant business in selling OEM parts. The rep at the booth told me they sold 6.1m parts last year, and the goal for this year is to double it. That’s a big goal, but they are also opening an entirely new (huge) facility to build out their manufacturing capability, which they were justifiably quite proud of. They also won the contract for providing 50 cal dummy rounds, which you can see in the gallery above. Very shiny!
GSL: It is tempting to call GSL the successor company to Gemtech, but the reality is that GSL provided much of Gemtech’s manufacturing capability (and, apparently, design licensing). However, most consumers will rightly see them as the inheritors of Gemtech’s suppressor line, which is definitely the case.
GSL’s entire suppressor line was on display, but they took the time to show off their “Fat Man 9mm” can, which is a big bore can designed for PCC use. I asked them if large diameter cans were a trend they expected to pursue going forward, and they seemed a bit diffident on whether it was going to be a big theme; this was a mission-specific can for entry teams and the like.
MK Machining: My relationship with MK Machining is pretty simple: I bought my Razor Gen 3 from them, and I watch their Facebook page for glorious industrial-level 3D printing videos. But they also do quite a bit with CNC milling, such as this bolt action bullpup stock.
The trigger on it is really, really good. The linkage is super solid. You can also see a pseudo-engine in the background that was printed as one piece. That’s not something my Ender 3s can do! MK Machining is working hard to make production-level 3D printing an economic reality, which is something that could really revolutionize the components industry.
Ikon Weapons: Finally, I followed up with Ikon Weapons, who I spent a fair bit of time talking to 2020. They are still in the process of manufacturing “milled receiver weapons” that look a whole lot like Galils. They are trying to branch out a bit to other guns (such as the pictured 1911 grips) and provide more business-to-business services.
They’re also importing those sweet Indumil chamber flags, which are being sold straight on their site. As you’ll recall, these chamber flags have a cartridge head on them so they can be racked/ejected right out of the gun by just using the charging handle.
Final Thoughts: there were some empty booths. It was hardly a ghost town. The premise that everyone was dropping out “because they had to wear masks” is hilarious. Most people on the floor were masking as requested, and the people who dropped out did it because of Omicron concerns, not because they would not mask under any circumstances. But for the haters out there, check out who was making your masks possible:
Good times! I will have more coverage tomorrow, and maybe even today.