by Daniel O’Dea
As the calendar unveiled a New Year, my thoughts turned towards packing for what has become an almost annual pilgrimage for me to the US SHOT Show. Returning for its 10th consecutive year, the US Shooting Hunting and Outdoors Trade Show would again be held in Las Vegas, Nevada, as one of America’s largest industry fairs of any description. The SHOT Show is run by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for America’s firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports.
The scale of the US SHOT Show, for anyone who has not been, is hard to describe. Held in the Sands Expo Center, this year the show hosted more than 1600 exhibitors over a massive 13 acres of display space. The record attendance reached 64,000 industry professionals and media. Again, to keep that in context, this is a trade show with no entry to the general public. In my case, I was one of more than 2000 media representatives from both the US and across the globe there to cover the event.
For a lucky few hundred invited media, myself included, the show kicks off a day early with an industry day at the range, just a 40-minute bus ride out of Las Vegas at the Boulder City Range Complex. Show exhibitors take range space so the media representatives can actually fire their newest products.
There were quite a few new bolt-action rifles to see at the show. The current trend seems to be towards tube rifles with actions supported in chassis systems that generally have pistol grips, detectable magazine housings and accessory rail layout.
The new Ruger Precision Rifle features many of these design aspects, as well as a fully adjustable stock. It carries a medium-profiled barrel measuring .75" at the muzzle with 5R rifling and comes in three calibres: .308 Winchester with a 20" barrel, 6.5mm Creedmoor with 24" barrel and .243 Winchester with 26" barrel. All possess 10-round magazines with a starting weight of 9.7lb for the .308 Winchester, up to 11lb for the .243 Winchester. The trigger is adjustable from 2.25 to 5lb and a 20 MOA rail system is included.
I shot this rifle and it was a dream. Recoil management was extremely good with the straight design of the barrel in line with the stock soft to shoot and superbly accurate. In the US, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is $US1399, so will most be likely less than $3000 once landed in Australia, which will be a bargain for what you are buying.
Following the theme, the Barrett MRAD switch-barrel unit can be swapped out between .308 Win, .260 Rem, 6.5 Creedmoor, .300 Win Mag and even .338 Lapua calibres. In the .308 Win, I had no problem dinging the 900-yard gong target.
Along more traditional lines, I could not walk pass Simon Barr on the Rigby stand with his gracious offer to fire the new Vintage Big Game Model rifle in .416 Rigby. As the company did 100 years ago, Rigby has partnered Mauser to produce a classic big-game rifle true to its pre-1940s blueprints. Based on a production 98 Mauser action, the rifle carries many features as seen on Rigby’s traditional custom London guns, including hand finishing, color case hardening to the grip cap, flame blueing to the extractor claw, an old-style stock slender in the grip with a straight comb and even the Rigby patented peep-sight off the back of the bolt shroud. Simon had me fire three successive rounds into the Cape buffalo paper target some 50 yards away. I wouldn’t say it was unpleasant to shoot, but you certainly knew when you dropped the trigger. That said, the traditional stock design made it quite manageable. It’s all yours for $US17,000.
Back to basics, I was well received on the Legacy Sports stand, the US arm of Australian importer Outdoor Sporting Agencies, and the team gave me a good rundown on some products due for release Down Under, as well as an insight into the US market. Of special interest will be a new budget rimfire entry under the Webley & Scott brand, made in Germany. This little rifle features an all polymer stock, a composite carbon fibre/Kevlar 19" bull barrel, detachable magazine and a Picatinny rail for ease of scope mounting. I understand it will be released in most all rimfire calibres .22LR, .22 Magnum and .17HMR and will have a target price in Australia of $299.
In the Howa range, there is the new Scout rifle, which is sure to be a favourite for Aussie pig hunters. It’s the well-proven Howa 1500 action with an 18.5" barrel featuring an A2-styled flash hider and chambered in .308 Win. It has a Williams one-piece rail and peep-sight, Williams hooded fibre optic front blade sight, Hogue pillar bedded stock and recoil pad, a tough cerakote grey finish, three-way safety and 10-round detectable magazine. Pricing is ‘to be advised’, but expect perhaps a package deal including a Nikko Stirling Panamax 3-9x40 scope.
STI already has a strong following in Australia and Australian distributor Edge Firearms Imports was on the range to run me through the new introductions compliant for our laws. Firstly, the DVC Limited, available in 9mm, .38 Super and .357 Sig, boasts a hard chromed finish, slide lightening, adjustable rear-sight and fibre optic front-sight on a double-stack 2011-style frame. Also the new DVC Classic Single Stack where the slide lightening is replaced with neat scalloped slide serrations. Both handguns are approved by the IPSC world body for use in its competitions.
Smith & Wesson had a lovely new .22LR target pistol to view. Called the SW22, it has a simple but modular design. It comes standard with a bull barrel, front and rear adjustable fibre optic sights and a Picatinny rail for mounting optics. It has textured front and rear backstraps, swap-outside grip panels, a textured magazine release button and an adjustable triggerstop. Knowing the desire of many shooters these days to be able to personalise their firearms, this neat little pistol has a single screw takedown system and quick change of barrel for a myriad of aftermarket barrels that will be available. I shot the SW22 and it is certainly a tack-driver. The grip angle is superb and as an Australian-compliant pistol, it would make a perfect choice as a first gun for any new pistol shooter.
Don’t ask me why I even picked it up, but Ruger had a new Super Blackhawk Single Action revolver in .480 Ruger. I guess it would be compliant in Australia for both Single Action and Handgun Metallic Silhouette competition, but in this calibre it would almost be best suited to a Northern Territory primary producer with a handgun licence who may need to lay down a charging scrub bull with one shot. I would have been happy to shoot it just once, but the Ruger representative filled the cylinder up with five of the big dumpy cartridges - an exercise that was character building.
Kimber had an all-new designed revolver, the K6S, but presently this one only comes with a snub nose, so it is strictly a security pistol in the US unless the manufacturer decides to build it in a 100mm-plus barrel length. That aside, it is an interesting development.
Most shotguns I encountered at the show were self-loading or ‘defensive’ models. However, I caught up with Steve Haberman, from Perazzi Australia, and drooled over the company’s merchandise on display. According to Steve, sales are strong in Australia and keeping up with available supply - a fine position for a great premium product.
I also was able to bust a few clay targets at the range day with the new Beretta 690 over-and-under Trap gun. It suited me just fine and I had no problem smashing the clays as they came up.
Of course, it is not just about the guns at the SHOT Show, as the event covers everything related to shooting and hunting, including parts, accessories, apparel, services and even history. Remington and Winchester were each celebrating major anniversaries: 150 years for Winchester and 200 years for Remington. Both stands featured historic displays with famous guns from yesteryear. Likewise, the NRA had a museum display with guns that had been owned by people such as John F Kennedy and Charlton Heston.
In line with the 200 years, Remington will be launching five 200th anniversary models all featuring bespoke timber, high-luster blueing and engraving. The compilation will include a Model 700 bolt-action rifle, Model 7600 self-loading rifle, Model 870 pump-action shotgun, Model 1100 self-loading shotgun and an 1911-style .45 ACP-calibre pistol. All models will be reasonably priced, but there will only be 2016 of each type, so I would imagine most will sell within the US at launch.
Among all the big guys were lots of smaller and new companies working hard to secure their niche in the industry as well. Briefly, a couple of my favourites included Maglula Ltd. Guy Tal and his father Ran specialise in magazine loaders. I first reviewed the loaders back in 2012 - their UpLULA universal pistol magazine loader has long been admired. Once they were all the same, all black. This year, Guy has added color to the series, so now you can take your pick from pink, purple, yellow, orange or green. If you haven’t got one of these loaders, do yourself a favour and buy one. Nioa is the importer in Australia.
Samson Manufacturing is a company that specialise in handguards, mounts, rail accessories, sights and armourers’ tools. I yearly find myself gravitating to the Samson stand to see what clever knick-knacks they have designed over the past 12 months. These days with the modular design of firearms, many of these attachments are applicable to all styles of guns. The new Ruger Precision Rifle for instance has a Samson Evolution Keymod Handguard. Samson has a great little riser mount for the Aimpoint H1. It is quick, detachable, lightweight and has a sight tunnel so you can still use your iron sight. There is a full online store at samson-mfg.com and it is worth a look.
Walking around the show you would be amazed just who you can bump into. Of course, the whole Duck Dynasty television series crew have been in the industry for years, so no surprises there.
Likewise, R Lee ‘The Gunner’ Ermey, who famously played the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket and who has featured in countless movies including Disney’s Toy Story and more recently hosted the History Channel series Lock n’ Load and Mail Call, is always a repeat performer at the show.
Sponsored by Glock yearly, the line of admirers spreads for hundreds of metres through the arena, waiting just to grab his picture and autograph.
The Hoffman crew from Gold Rush were on the Garrett metal detector stand and the guys from the National Geographic series Diggers were with Garmin.
Of course, every manufacturer had their sponsored shooters on the stands. I saw Jerry Miculek, Doug Koenig and Julie Golob, all from the Smith & Wesson shooting team, to name a few.