Category Archives: Thoughts

SHOT Show 2022 Wrap-Up

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[1], 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.

[1] 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.

9mm AR Upgrades Part 2

While I recently spent a lot of time and money upgrading my multi-gun competition rifle to a high standard, I didn’t forget about my competition PCC. Whenever I go out and shoot Steel Challenge, I like to do the “two guns” thing and shoot both a PCC and a pistol. I figure most of my investment is time, and I may as well shoot as much as possible while I’m at the match.

The experience with my competition PCC hasn’t been smooth. In fact, I’d probably say it has been the most finicky ARs I’ve ever built. I spent a lot of time just getting my basic functionality working, and then I later had a very unfortunate catastrophic failure when a bullet got stuck in the rifling during manual extraction. But I persevered through those problems, and wound up with a reliable, accurate PCC. Now I’m on the next step: increasing performance.

When Taccom announced their Delayed Blowback Recoil System (DBRS) a couple years ago, I was intrigued, and to be honest, a little skeptical. Using magnets to delay bolt movement sounded hard to believe. But I saw some positive reviews of it, and decided to give it a try, in conjunction with Taccom’s Extreme Short Stroke Bolt (ESSB).

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Shotgun Upgrades: 2021 Update

I signed up for the Steve Fisher shotgun class in June, so I felt like this was an opportune time to make a couple changes with my shotguns. Realistically, I’m only going to bring my standard 870, with Stoeger M3K as a backup (unless I somehow acquire a Beretta 1301 in the meantime), but the fun thing about common platforms is that an upgrade in one gun can sometimes also turn into an upgrade in another gun.

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Advice For Your First Shooting Class(es)

I’m writing this post for my friends who are looking at training, but are afraid they’re gonna do it wrong.

First of all, even training imperfectly is still an improvement over not doing it at all. You don’t know what you don’t know, and going to a shooting class is a great way to figure out those unknown unknowns in a safe, controlled environment.

But, if you want some specific suggestions about how to get the most out of your class, here’s a list I compiled from my experiences and some friends I talked with. Just to keep it real and less preachy, I’m also going to list when I failed at doing what I recommend.

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Building Out The Katana: High-Speed Competition ARs

I recently built out a multi-gun AR on a pre-ban lower in an effort to create a rifle that would be more suited to shooting multi-gun competitions. I find that the full top-to-bottom of the parts selection process isn’t always discussed thoroughly, so that got me thinking that I should lay all of that out.

After the break are the elements of my “high-speed” AR, with some explanation of why I chose them.

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A quick thought about multi-gun LPVOs

While I wait for my Razor HD GenIII 1-10x MOA/BDC to get delivered, I wanted to discuss multi-gun LPVOs, and why people don’t seem to get what makes for a good one.

What do you do in multi-gun? Shoot lots of not-small targets at distances of 10-500+ yards on a timer, usually in decent weather. This generates some requirements for our LPVO.

You need to be able to shoot at a distance without dialing in – quickly. I know a lot of people bash BDC reticles, but if you’re trying to hit a target at 475 yards on the clock followed by another target at 350, dialing isn’t an option. I don’t think most people are going to remember their holdover in mils for every 50yds in the middle of a competition. BDC is where it’s at.

Further, if you have an array of targets at 150yds, you do not necessarily want to have to dial to 6x/8x/10x to engage. FFP becomes important.

You need to be able to shoot close-in – quickly. Field of view is important for fast target transitions. Having a bright reticle that you can easily find in the sun is important. Being able to shoot both eyes open at 1x is important. Having a scope that doesn’t weigh your gun down is a nice thing.

So what are we looking for in an ideal multi-gun scope?

  • Efficient FFP/DFP BDC reticle compatible with our rifle/ammo. This may mean altering your rifle or ammo slightly. The reticle also needs to be easily usable at 1x.
  • Bottom end magnification of 1x, with a wide field of view.
  • Top end magnification as high as it can go – preferably 6x or higher.
  • Daylight bright illumination.
  • Ability to quickly change zoom levels (think magnification lever).
  • Lightweight, or at least not too heavy.
  • High-end glass clarity.

What makes the Razor GenIII interesting is that it meets all of those criteria. There are scopes that can compete with it – the S&B Short Dot coming to mind – but they all tend to be a lot more expensive.

Of course, there are a lot of quality scopes that meet some or most of those criteria, and they may be perfectly suited for other uses. For example, I have an SMRS 1-8.5x FFP scope that I really like on my AR-308… but it has a mil/mil reticle, it’s heavy, and it doesn’t go daylight bright (just daylight visible). It would just not be a great choice for a multi-gun scope. It’s probably a pretty great choice if I’m OK spending the time to dial in for that first shot hit on a 2MOA target, though.

There is also a whole school of thought that says that you can get by with an RFP scope with a good BDC reticle that doesn’t have daylight bright illumination because if you use the BDC, it will always be at max magnification. There is nothing wrong with this viewpoint, but I am a little suspicious that scopes with top-end magnifications of 8x or 10x might find it constraining for things like 200yd shots with fast transitions.

An email I wrote to a friend regarding home security

I’ve been quiet lately because all the ranges are closed, and classes and matches are getting cancelled. Dealing with the kids’ distance learning and working from home full-time has also been a combination of stressful and distracting.

One recurring theme I’ve seen online (and in person!) is that gun stores are getting hit hard by new gun buyers who are just figuring out that the state isn’t always the best thing to rely on to protect you in a crisis. I’d like to share an email I recently wrote (lightly redacted) I wrote to a friend when he asked me about home security. My response is not gun-oriented, but goes over options that include them. I’m not an SME, and doubtless left things off I shouldn’t have, but I think it covers a number of topics that people who are unfamiliar with protecting themselves should think about.

Continue reading An email I wrote to a friend regarding home security