Layoffs at Remington, a huge arms/ammo manufacturing entity and something of a bellwether for the industry.
Layoffs at Colt, too – including Brent Turchi, head of the Custom Shop, who has long been one of Colt’s great ambassadors. American industry has an unfortunate habit of trying to lose weight by cutting away brain tissue instead of fat. Rumor is that Mark Redl will be adding Brent’s duties to his own. Mark is another of Colt’s great assets.
SHOT week finished today, leaving a lot of exhausted people after the miles of aisles. While AR15 sales have softened since we learned in November that Hillary Clinton wasn’t going to be in charge of anything, sales in general are still good and the firearms industry is overall in optimistic mode.
My editor and old friend Roy Huntington opines that with gun-banning pressure from the White House turned for at least four years, shooter folk are turning more to recreational firearms. This year’s Show certainly featured lots of traditional double barrels, sporting rifles, and John Wayne-esque lever action rifles and single action revolvers. Double action revolvers are coming back strong, with entries from Colt as mentioned previously, Smith & Wesson, and Ruger. The latter just before SHOT announced a Redhawk snub-nose that holds eight rounds of .357 Magnum and a five-shot, three-inch barrel GP100 in .44 Special. You can read my take on the latter here. At a writer’s intro last September at the fabulous FTW hunting and shooting ranch in Texas, Ruger had an impromptu match in which we all shot these two powerful wheelguns on bowling pin tables. I had the good fortune to win, followed by Tamara Keel of Shooting Illustrated and Gail Pepin of the ProArms Podcast. (That told me two things: double action revolvers can be very amenable to the female of our species, and I was apparently in touch with my feminine side that day.)
A high point of the show was touching bases with many old friends and colleagues, a few of whom appear below.
It had been years since I’d seen Bruce Gray, whom I shot with on the first Team HK back in the day. Bruce and his GrayGuns firm are the acknowledged masters of tuning HKs and SIGs, and he consults for the latter company. Bruce has done a lot to publicize SIG’s relatively new P320, just adopted by the US Army as announced during the SHOT Show.
Anthony Spitale, left, gets a lot of the credit for Colt resurrecting its iconic double action revolver this year. Mark Redl, at right, is another Colt exec whose deep knowledge from the end user perspective has been invaluable to Colt. He and I shot together for Team Panteao not too long ago.
Dennis Reese, honcho at Springfield Armory, showed me their new economy version of one of my favorite guns, the little EMP 9mm subcompact 1911 they introduced back in 2004. It shoots very well and will put this great concept in the holsters of more good people.
The mood was upbeat at this next to last day of the SHOT Show as we awaited the January 20 inauguration of the most pro-gun President since maybe, oh, Theodore Roosevelt.
Interesting gun news: it was announced today that the Army will adopt as its new pistol the SIG P320. The announcement comes as a surprise to many. The Glock 9mm had been seen as the front-runner. After all, though, the contract was for an MHS – Modular Handgun System – and the P320 with convertibility in size and even caliber is as modular as the state of the art offers right now. The Army is also very big on manual safeties. That’s an option on the P320, and while this feature is not mentioned in the press releases thus far, photos accompanying the releases depict P320s with ambidextrous thumb safeties.
Lotsa new stuff this year. Some is good new stuff. Case in point: the MantisX Training System. It’s a module that slides onto your firearm’s accessory rail and coordinates with your Apple or Android device. Live fire or dry fire, aim at something and shoot. You’ll get a readout of how smooth and consistent your trigger pull was and, in the last instant, registers where even a “shot from an empty gun” would have hit. It tracks gun movement the whole time. The police department I serve IS gonna have one of these!
Some of the new stuff is…well…remember the classic gun book from 1955,“Firearms Curiosa” by Lewis Winant, with items like palm pistols and belt buckle guns? If Mr. Winant had been around to attend the 2017 SHOT Show, he would have found enough material for at least one new chapter.
There was a customized folding semiautomatic pistol in two variants, one of which when unfolded turned into a Glock with no trigger guard. There was an updated version of the pre-WWII Mossberg Brownie pistol with six barrels instead of four, which fires two .25 Auto barrels per pull of the trigger. The Evil Princess was particularly horrified by a holster that she and I figure can cost the shooter his or her life in at least three different ways. (1) The safety strap appears to be narrow enough to enter the trigger guard upon reholstering, causing the pistol to discharge as it is pushed the rest of the way into the scabbard. (2) That Velcro-closed strap, when secured on a holster designed to be worn inside the waistband, goes to the bottom of the holster requiring the shooter to reach so deeply down into his or her pants that they’re unlikely to be able to get a proper hold on it to pull it clear if they have to draw to save their life. (3) The holster is demonstrated with that safety strap going over the back of the grip panel, so with a proper drawing grasp, the web of the hand is likely to hold the strap against the gun and trap the pistol so it can’t be drawn readily in self-defense.
Overall, though, there was lots of good stuff, and a total “kid in the candy store” element for any gun enthusiast lucky enough to cruise the miles of aisles. Evil Princess logged five and a half miles on her FItBit at the Show today. I spent more than half the day in meetings and was spared some of that exercise. Lucky me.
SIG P320 with factory optional ambidextrous manual safety.
The compact MantisX training system is a stone cold bargain at around $150.
The SHOT Show goes far beyond just guns. One of the hottest accessories today is the sound suppressor – silencer – which is riding a huge wave of popularity that has yet to crest. My old friend Jeff Chudwin is a retired police chief, several-time national patrol rifle champion, head of the Illinois Tactical Officers Association, and one of the great street survival gurus of all time. He has flatly stated that he thinks every police patrol rifle should be equipped with a silencer. Not just for tactical reasons, but also because of the risk of hearing loss in training with very loud guns. He cites the case of an officer he knows who lost 50% of his hearing when a brother officer fired a 5.56mm M4 rifle near him in the course of an on-duty shooting where naturally, no one was wearing ear protection. Today’s silencers are better than ever, and we have gun-makers such as SIG and Ruger making their own.
For some time now, the SHOT Show schedule has included not just show and tell/show and sell, but training. Some of it has to do with marketing and management for firearms dealers and shooting range owners, but some of it also has to do with survival. Some highly-credentialed people are teaching initial police response to mass murder incidents, and offering tactics for unarmed civilians caught up in such atrocities.
Today some of us from Massad Ayoob Group took a well-attended class on firearms dealers’ role in suicide prevention. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has joined with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to help gun dealers recognize customers with suicidal ideation in hopes of denying those people the means to carry out impulsive self-destruction. Though some have the impression that this is a new concept, it actually follows in the footsteps of the New Hampshire Firearms Safety Coalition under Elaine Frank, and the Gun Shop Project spearheaded by gun shop owner Ralph Demicco, an active member of NHFSC. This program puts suicide prevention posters and literature into the shops themselves, and offers training for gun shop staff on how to pick up subtle indications of suicidal ideation. There have already been “saves” with it, and many other states have developed programs modeled on New Hampshire’s. It is good to see a national organization picking up that ball and running with it, given that some two-thirds of the “deaths by gun violence” that prohibitionists cite as a reason for you and I not to own firearms are in fact suicides.
Christine Moutier, MD, Chief Medical Officer of AFSP yields the microphone to Bill Bussard of NSSF at SHOT Show suicide prevention lecture.
Latest variant of Ruger Mark IV .22 pistol, the 22/45 lightweight, mounts Ruger’s own suppressor. Handy thing to have around farm or ranch. Yes, suppressor requires BATFE licensing.
It has become a tradition that on the day before the SHOT Show officially opens, media can live fire with newly introduced guns and at noon, the range is opened so attending dealers can do the same. The host range was the Boulder City Rifle and Pistol Club.
The new shotgun that most got my attention was the Super Black Eagle, the old model enhanced with changes to the bolt mechanism to keep it from being knocked out of battery if the user accidentally bumps the operating handle rearward. The feedway to the magazine has been relieved to keep from catching fingertip or glove in the shell lifter. Extended bolt handle and bolt release also make things easier for cold, gloved hands in duck blinds. Finally, I like that the comb of the stock has a soft, cushiony cheekpiece. An excellent example of a manufacturer tailoring a product to needs the end user has determined in the field.
In rifles, the feature I liked most was the bolt operating handle located forward on the left side of the receiver of Savage’s first AR15 clone, the MSR, which in their catalog stands for Modern Savage Rifle instead of Modern Sporting Rifle. It’s somewhat like operating an FN FAL. Southpaws and righties alike will probably find it much more ergonomic than the rear-mounted T-handle on Stoner’s original and now ubiquitous AR15. I first saw this feature a few years ago on an Arizona-built AR15, the American Spirit brand. The feature hasn’t caught on as much is it deserves to; maybe Savage’s greater name recognition and advertising budget will help there.
Also, more long range tactical rifles on display than ever. Which, in this day and age, is a lot.
In handguns, the greatest interest seemed by be generated by the new Hudson pistol, a 1911-ish frame with very easy trigger sitting under a Glock-like striker fired barrel/slide assembly. With a low bore axis to begin with, muzzle jump is further reduced by burying the recoil spring and guide more deeply below the barrel. Looks funny, shoots great. I’ve ordered one for testing. The most interesting revolver by far is the first double-action six-shooter Colt has produced in many years. Dubbed the Cobra, it’s actually more like the old Cobra’s progenitor the Detective Special in that it’s all steel. Lockwork and overall appearance are somewhat similar to the last of the small frame Colts of the past, the SF/VI and Magnum carry. Available to start only in .38 Special, it comes with Hogue grips and interchangeable front sights (fiber optic to start, night sight module coming soon). The most significant design improvement is a trigger guard extended to the front to allow a gloved finger. On most double action revolvers, particularly these small-framed ones, the thickness of glove material often blocks the trigger’s forward return, and renders the five- or six-shot revolver a single shot. I tried the new Cobra with gloves and was pleased with how it worked that way. Got one of those coming too. Action is VERY nice. Manufacturers’ suggested retail prices are about $1149 for the 15-shot Hudson 9mm and $699 for the new Cobra revolver.
The Evil Princess demonstrates the controlability of the new Hudson 9mm pistol. Spent casing from last shot is airborne, muzzle already back on target.
Hudson looks funny, shoots sweet.
The new Benelli Super Black Eagles are up-featured for deep cold weather shotgunning…
…and this very soft cheekpiece on the comb of the stock is a welcome “face-saver” with heavy loads.
Lotsa new tactical precision rifles, including this DAN in .338 Lapua…
…from Israeli Weapon Industries.
New 6-shot Colt Cobra .38 is all stainless steel, full length ejection, sweet trigger pull, and extended trigger guard that is glove compatible.