In April, more than 90 firearms dealers from across Australia descended on NIOA’s Brisbane facilities to see first-hand the latest offerings from a number of US and European suppliers. In many cases the products were brand-new and others were improvements and variations on existing lines.
International and local sales personnel representing brands such as Kimber, Leupold, Savage, GRS riflestocks, Eley, Diana-GSG, Battenfeld, Lyman, Desert Tech, Federal and RCBS gave presentations on the new items from across their product ranges. Some of these lines will be reviewed during the year by Australian Shooter and Australian & New Zealand Handgun magazines. For the meantime, this is just a taste of what our readers can expect from one of Australia’s largest firearms and accessories distributors.
Leupold used the 2017 NIOA Dealer Trade Show for its world release of the most recent in the VX series of riflescopes. The VX-5HD (high definition) scopes incorporate Leupold’s Twilight Max Light Management System for lowlight situations such as dawn and dusk to “give hunters the advantage when game is on the move”. A number of variations are available and, depending on the particular model, these include features such as Custom Dial System ZeroLock that prevents inadvertent rotation, a choice of seven reticles, some of which are illuminated and some models offering side focusing and a free Custom Ballistic dial. Also on display was the latest in the VX-3i series including the LRP (Long Range Precision) model.
NIOA now has the agency for GSG (German Sports Guns) firearms. The new model to the range is the Firefly Sport .22-calibre pistol. It has adjustable sights, a manual safety, Picatinny rail and two 10-round magazines. It is also available with a pink frame. The Firefly Sport complements the extensive range of Model 1911 .22 pistols already reviewed in the September 2016 Australian Shooter and Australian & New Zealand Handgun 15 magazines.
The Eley presentation was interesting on a number of fronts. Firstly, it was announced that NIOA was now handling Eley ammunition exclusively in Australia. Eley’s packaging has also changed to include the familiar ‘E’ in a circle to represent the headstamp on rimfire ammunition. The new packaging also includes bullet weight and muzzle velocity to make choice a bit easier. Furthermore, Eley had reduced the number of rimfire products as the wide array of ammunition was a little overwhelming for some customers. And finally, a first for Eley, as 300-round Rec Paks or bulk packs of four popular ammo types - Force, Contact, High Velocity Hollow and Subsonic Hollow - are now available.
RCBS’s Chargemaster Lite is a compact version of its big brother Chargemaster powder dispenser and scales. Seen for the first time at this trade show, the Lite incorporates an LCD touch-screen display and a multi-voltage plug pack. The unit can dispense between 2 and 300 grains with a 0.1 of a grain accuracy. Also on view were a number of other RCBS products, including new or improved Rotary Case Cleaner, Vibratory Case Polisher and two versions of lead furnaces for bullet casting.
CCI’s Copper .22 is a new .22 Long Rifle product designed for small game and target shooting. It uses a lead-free bullet made from a unique mix of copper particles and polymer compressed into a 21-grain hollow, conical-pointed bullet. The Copper .22 bullet achieves a muzzle velocity of 1850fps.
Desert Tech rifles were a major feature of the show. Previously known as Desert Tactical Arms, these rifles boast ½ MOA or better accuracy in its SRS-A1 and Covert models. The Covert has a shorter fore-end and the SRS-A1 is a full-length rifle. Both are available in left-hand versions. These rifles are convertible between seven calibres, all with impressive ballistic performance such as the 6.5 Creedmoor and 7mm WSM. The .308 Winchester barrel is available in 22 or 26" lengths and all other calibres have 26" barrels. Conversion kits comprise a barrel bolt and magazine. The third Desert Tech model is the 29"-barrelled HTI Convertible. This model is available in .50BMG, .416 Barrett and .375 and .408 Cheytac. Again, these calibres are interchangeable by swapping the barrel, bolt and magazine.
New Lyman products included some handy gadgets for the handloader including Custom Fit loading blocks where you can choose between six different hole sizes to match up with a wide variety of cartridges. There are ‘stepped’ Bleacher loading blocks with a choice of three hole sizes for rifle cartridges and two for pistol cartridges. NIOA also displayed the Lyman range of case prep kits and powder handling accessories and for the DIY gunsmith, new tool kits and Borecam digital borescope and monitor.
These products and more are featured in NIOA’s 2017-2018 Hot Products catalogue, available free from your favorite gunshop.
A recurring theme over the two-day meeting was that in many cases manufacturers want to reduce the number of catalogue items, or SKUs (stock keeping units) as they call them. It seems that there is too much choice out there these days. But this appears to be a self-perpetuating problem; as one manufacturer unveils a product, the competition immediately follows up with a version of their own. This is particularly relevant when it comes to the overwhelming choice of calibres for rifles.
One presenter at the NIOA Trade Show said that currently the 6.5mm Creedmoor cartridge, and rifles for it, is the most requested in the United States. This follows a flurry of gun and ammunition makers reinventing the 6.5mm projectile. This is seen in catalogues of most rifle manufacturers and is evident in NIOA’s catalogue with Kimber, Ruger, Savage and Desert Tech recently adding the 6.5 Creedmoor to a number of their rifle models.
On the subject of choice, in Australia, because of the size of the market, gunshops cannot possibly stock all the variations or SKUs of all the products. As one dealer put it: “A customer will come into the shop with their mind set on a particular model and of course it just happens to be the only model we don’t have in stock.” While it’s great to have a choice, it can sometimes be confusing for the customer and costly for manufacturers who have to constantly change their production line or source a range of new materials to make a variety of products. However, in many instances, gunshops, with the assistance of the distributors, can order in that special model or calibre for you, so always be sure to ask.