My review of the AMG Lab Commander shot timer continues to be one of the more popular articles on this blog. There’s good reason for that: the Commander, while not a perfect timer, still sets the standard for size and usability. I use it weekly during the shooting season.
However, as mentioned, the Commander is not perfect. It’s not terribly loud. The waterproofing aspect has been known to be an issue. There’s no backlighting. Seeing the time while you’re wearing it is awkward, and there’s no integrated belt clip. None of these are a big deal, and are weaknesses shared by other timers. However, they did make me want to look into other timers.
Ever since I saw the Kestrel shot timer at SHOT Show in 2022, I’ve wanted to get one. While it’s certainly a fairly large piece of hardware, it seemed like it was designed to address the shortcomings of other shot timers. Did it? Read on.
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.
I would estimate that like 95% of the posts I make on this blog are about “action shooting” type things. Carbines, pistols, matches, and so on. Nothing wrong with that; it’s hard for anyone to really do it all if only due to time constraints.
But even if mastery isn’t really going to happen, I do like to branch out into other disciplines if only to attain basic competency. Precision rifle is one of those disciplines, and I got a lot out of the PNTC Intro to Long Range class that I took last year. The Kestrel class that PNTC was offering this past Sunday fit into my schedule, so I decided to see what I could do with that expensive little device.
I spent most of the afternoon in the fabled land of the first floor. This let me see some of the major exhibitors I had not managed to check in on. There’s still a lot to go for tomorrow, but I am making good progress seeing what I’m interested in.
As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve got a pre-release Kestrel 2700 that I’ve been beta-testing. I have messed around with it enough that I think I can give some useful opinions now. I am going to assume that the known bugs are getting worked out before release.
I’ll put this out up front: I was skeptical about why anyone would buy the 2700, but after having used the product, I think I see where the value is.
I managed to break my streak of taking a class once a month last month; between a family vacation and Jewish holidays, I just could not find a good Sunday to do it. This concerns me a bit, because I think you should always be learning new things and improving, and training is a vital component of that. To make up for it, I’m doubling up in July.
I just finished my first July class, which was Peacemaker National Training Center’s “Intro to Long Range Presented by Zeiss” class. I’d love to share my experiences shooting out to a thousand yards for the first time!