As I noted in my Green Ops shotgun class AAR, I am a HUGE fan of my SDS S4 shotgun. This is a Benelli M4 clone that, unlike the previous M2 and M3 clones, is damn near perfect in. Read on for some thoughts, and how I upgraded mine.Continue reading Quick Review of the SDS S4 with some upgrades
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SHOT Show Day 3: Ghost, Blackhound Optics, M+M Industries, MEAN Arms, Girsan, SDS, HasGrok, Savior Equipment, Panzer Arms / AR-Five Seven, THRiL, Dasan/Alpha Foxtrot, Recover Tactical, CHPWS, Caldwell
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.