SHOT Show Day 2: Eotech, Aimpoint, Manta Defense, Holosun, Windham Weaponry, Tristar, Kestrel Ballistics, ESS, Derya, Geissele, PSA, Wolf Ammunition

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.

SHOT Show Day 1: Tuff Products, JOL, Faxon Firearms, KAK Industry, GSL, MK Machining, Ikon Weapons

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.

Green Ops Introduction to Shotgun Clinic AAR (SDS S4 Edition)

I was remarking to an acquaintance a couple weeks ago that “I’m not a shotgun guy”. And it’s true. I have shot zero rounds of clays/skeet/trap in my life. I respect the shotgun as a weapons platform, especially in close range capacities, but I’m a pistol guy when it comes to home defense. Most of my shotgun shooting is in 3gun, where it’s definitely not my strong suit, Yet, when I look in my safe, I’ve got six shotguns in there. To your usual non-gun-ethusiast normie, this would make me the shotgun king.

While I have to admit I’d probably most benefit from a competition-oriented shotgun class, I always make a habit of taking shotgun training when I can. I was really excited when Green Ops announced that they’d be getting into the shotgun training game, and signed up for their class as soon as I heard about it.

Continue reading Green Ops Introduction to Shotgun Clinic AAR (SDS S4 Edition)

Green Ops Defensive Carbine II Class AAR

I don’t like how I perform with a carbine. I am not all that bad with a PCC at typical USPSA distances, but I have always felt like I just lacked some of the expertise with a regular old 5.56 rifle. This is why I always try to take intermediate and advanced carbine courses when the opportunity presents; I am hoping some more hands-on instruction will bridge some of that performance gap.

To that end, I took the Green Ops Defensive Carbine II class recently… read on for my thoughts.

Continue reading Green Ops Defensive Carbine II Class AAR

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).

Continue reading 9mm AR Upgrades Part 2

Quick Review: First Spear Missing Link

After doing my annual review of my gear and holster box a few weeks ago to see what I should probably sell to other people, I noticed that I had a couple HSGI Tacos that were still plenty usable, and in fact, would be quite helpful for the Green Ops AK class (since I have no kydex AK pouches). Unfortunately, these were PALS attach items, and I don’t really use MOLLE battle belts… I’m a competition double belt guy for the most part. (Note: PALS is often referred to as “MOLLE”, but this is not technically correct.)

Enter the First Spear Missing Link. The Missing Link is basically a connector that works with MALICE, WTFix, or similar clips that provides a belt interface. They come in packs of six for $25 (I bought mine from SKD Tac). It is stupidly simple, and has some pluses and minuses as a result of that.

The Missing Link interfaces with PALS by essentially riding the clip and using the sewn in bits of the strips to provide a stopping point for the Missing Link loops. There is also a hook interface on the back (part of the “hook-and-loop” system, also known as “Velcro”) that you can use to attach to a loop interface on your belt. First Spear’s video on the Missing Link shows them putting it on a different way than I do, because that’s how their belt’s loop interface is positioned. On a competition double belt, you want the hooks on the outside. It took me a bit to figure this out, but it works quite well.

Installation is easy enough, and can be demonstrated in pictures, or in that video shown above.

Now, review time… there were things I liked about the Missing Link, and things I didn’t love.

On the upside… the interface is pretty secure, or at least as secure as your clip and belt are, especially when using the hook interface. The installation of the Missing Link is also fast and easy, or at least as fast and easy as threading the PALS is. They’re also not all that expensive.

There are downsides, though. There is a tiny bit of movement since the Missing Link isn’t all that tight. Not a big deal for mag pouches, but some people like their gear to never move at all on their belt. It’s also not really perfect for double belts because there’s nothing to secure placement on the outer belt. It won’t fall off, but it will move around until you place the outer belt on your inner belt securely. The biggest problem, though, is that they’re just a little too loose for a double rifle mag pouch, and they hang out at a pretty bad angle out to the side. Single mag pouches are great, I’ll probably try a different solution for the double pouches.

In any event, if you’ve got a single mag PALS pouches that need a belt attachment, this seems like a pretty good option that won’t break the bank.

TOC Active Threat Response AAR

Ever since I started coaching a youth shooting sports team, the medical aspect of shooting has loomed a little larger in my consciousness. While we run very safe practices, life comes at you fast, and you need to be prepared for the worst eventualities. It was serendipity, or at least a nice coincidence, when I saw that TOC was offering a class that combined active threat management, Stop the Bleed, and some shooting. When another class with them got canceled, I applied the payment to their Active Threat Response class.

What did I think? Read on!

Continue reading TOC Active Threat Response AAR

Green Ops Defensive Kalashnikov AAR

The first really expensive guns I ever bought was a Galil SAR SBR that was built by the fine gentlemen “TennGalil” over at Hillbilly Firearms . The full build cost me about $2000, which, in retrospect, I suppose doesn’t sound like a lot compared to what higher-end AKs cost now.

Despite it being a rather amazing piece of kit, I barely ever shoot it anymore. There’s not a lot of room in the competition world for an iron-sighted AK if you care about really competitive. Thus, I was quite enthused about Green Ops offering their newer Defensive Kalasknikov class You can read on for my impressions.

Continue reading Green Ops Defensive Kalashnikov AAR

Sentinel Concepts Practical Shotgun AAR

I make no secret that I like to train with a diverse variety of instructors. I think this makes you a better shooter, and it also gives you a lot more perspective on what you see in classes. In this case, Green Ops was hosting Sentinel Concepts for a shotgun class. Sentinel Concepts is a one-man show run by Steve Fisher, who’s one of the biggest names in the tactical shooting community. Needless to say, I was excited by the opportunity to train with him, and signed up months in advance.

Was it worth it? Read on!

Continue reading Sentinel Concepts Practical Shotgun AAR