I don’t really go to SHOT to look at gear, but on Friday I had the whole day to get out and look at stuff. Prior to that I only saw gear on a “hit and miss” basis as I ran between appointments and meetings. Here’s what I managed to see:
– The first thing I have to report (and the most exciting for revolver enthusiasts) is that Korth, the top-tier German revolver maker, is looking for a new importer to expand their presence in the U.S. They understand that they’ll never sell a ton of guns here, but they also understand that they’re a small company; any market share they get would probably double their sales! I got a chance to talk at length with their representatives and also got to play with one of their clear-sided demonstrators. As expected, the actions are superbly smooth and the workmanship is perfect. (The big news is that they’re planning on making a left-hand version this year!)
Korth revolvers start around $4k, which sounds like a lot – and it is. Let’s put that into perspective, however: when I discussed the possibility of reviving the Python with the head of Colt’s Custom Shop, he indicated that to reproduce it to the quality of the “classic” Python would mean a price tag of five large. (For those of you under 40, that’s five grand or “five kay” – $5,000.) That level of hand fitting costs, no matter where it’s made, which puts the Korth in the same ballpark a modern Python would have to be. The Korth people believe that there is a market for a high end revolver in this country, and I agree with them; the only question is whether people will understand that ANY revolver of such a grade is going to cost that much. I’m sure some will complain that a Performance Center gun is 1/4 of that cost while ignoring the fact that they’re hardly in the same fit-and-finish ballpark.
– Speaking of high grade guns, I had a talk with Ray Rozic at Cabot Guns. Cabot, you may remember, makes the Python of 1911s. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if I were to ever buy another 1911, it would be a Cabot. They’re put together like nothing else I’ve ever seen; the quality of workmanship rivals the very best hand-built customs and simply blows away any other production 1911. Cabot’s first full year of production was 2012, and Brian Zins used one to win the 2012 NRA National Pistol Championship at Camp Perry! Not bad for the first time at bat, and speaks volumes about their quality.
Their position in the 1911 market is much like that of Korth in the revolver world, and the prices are even similar: starting just north of $4k. Again, that level of quality simply costs that much no matter who does it.
(Oh, I asked Ray if Cabot would ever consider making a similarly high-end revolver; he simply smiled. I’m keeping my eye on him!)
– One of the interesting products I saw was one that got a lot of attention last year: the Flashbang Bra Holster. Not being a woman, I thought the product was a gimmick like every other bra holster that’s been made over the last 40 years. Turns out I was dead wrong. This time I visited their booth with three women who are trainers and authors of shooting books and articles; all three of them told me that the Flashbang actually works and took the time to explain the ‘why’. My take? It works well because it was actually designed by a woman!
The woman is Lisa Looper, a sharp and inventive young lady whose enthusiasm is absolutely infectious. I spent some time taking pictures of her and her products for a new book being written by Gila Hayes, and later had a talk with her about her invention. She’s a great example of the next generation of gun carriers and shooting industry entrepreneurs, and I felt a lot better about the future of our industry after meeting her. If you’re a woman looking for a discreet and apparently comfortable way to carry a handgun, or know one who is, give the Flashbang serious consideration. The women who know tell me it’s a top notch product.
– I also stopped in at the Elzetta booth and talked with them about their world-class flashlights. They’re coming out with a new light, one featuring an LED module of their own design and manufacture. It puts out an honest 500 lumens with a very nice beam pattern. I was impressed, and was assured that the module features the same type of robust construction we’ve come to love about the Malkoff modules they’ve been using. I’ll probably need to own one!
– Speaking of flashlights, I dropped by the booth of the most well known tactical flashlight manufacturer. At one display of perhaps 8 or 10 lights the sales rep could not make two of them function properly due to bad switches. When I left he was desperately twisting and pushing, trying to make one work. That pretty much mirrors my own experience with their products, and is why I now use an Elzetta for my defensive illumination.
– Remington was showing their AR-10 type rifle, available in .308, .243 and 7mm-08. What makes the R-25 a little unusual is that the controls are completely ambidextrous: magazine release, safety, and even the bolt catch. It’s well engineered and seemed to work very smoothly. Bonus: it takes DPMS type magazines, which are not exactly common but at least they’re a little less proprietary.
– Redfield has a neat new scope out, and in fact it is so new that their one display unit arrived via FedEx the day the show opened! It’s a 2x-7x scope with a bullet drop compensator for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge (36gn hollowpoint at a nominal 1250 fps.) It should make for a dandy varmint hunting scope, and at $189 list price should sell easily. Optics were pretty good for a sub-$200 unit. I’ll probably buy one for sage rat hunting.
– Speaking of varmints, Winchester showed off their new .17 caliber rimfire round – the .17 Winchester Super Magnum. It spits out a 20 grain bullet at over 3,000 fps and has a fairly flat trajectory out to 300 yards. It’s a better performer in every respect than the .17 HMR, and according to the Winchester rep I talked with is only about 20% more expensive than .22 WMR. While spendy, it’s still cheaper than shooting centerfire! Initial chamberings are in an affordable Savage bolt action and one of the Browning single shots.
Gunsmith Todd Koonce, who was with me at SHOT, was so impressed that he immediately bought a chamber reamer for the new round. He has something up his sleeve, and I can’t wait to find out what it is.
– While I’m on the subject of ammunition, Federal has introduced a line of suppressor-ready centerfire ammunition in their American Eagle brand. It’s to be packaged in black boxes and labeled “American Eagle Suppressor”. We all know that suppressors are hot, hot, HOT right now, and it’s great that at least one of the major ammunition makers sees the potential in a product made to provide the best performance in a suppressed gun. I just hope they can produce enough of it!
– Springfield introduced their subcompact XD-s in 9mm. They told me it is exactly the same size as the .45 ACP version, but it sure feels smaller to me! No matter; it’s a neat little gun and the 9mm cartridge is an eminently more sensible chambering for that tiny pistol. It will sell as easily as it shoots.
– One compact 9mm I’ve not paid any attention to is a cute little polymer gun from Bersa, the Argentinian maker of “affordable” handguns. Make no mistake: the single stack BP-9cc appears to be of high quality construction, fits the tiniest hands easily, and has a superbly light and smooth trigger. It surprised me by being smooth to the hand, with no unfinished edges or seams. At under $400 MSRP, should it prove to be reliable I can see them selling every single one they can make. I’m hoping to get one for a long-term torture test and see just how well it handles the strain. I’m told by people who’ve shot them that they’ll stand up to whatever I can dish out, so we shall see!
– Down in a little out-of-the-way booth in the basement sat a little Chinese company called Op.Electronics, who is selling a neat electronic target gadget called TopGun. It consists of a laser module which goes into the barrel of your pistol and an electronic target pad which hooks to your PC. The target pad is magnetic, and a reduced size target of your choice is held on the pad with some tiny magnets. That target shows up on the software running on your computer! The target pad tracks muzzle movement before and after the “shot” is fired. The target shows a green track before the shot, a red dot where the shot would have landed, and a yellow track showing follow-through.
The cool thing is that targets can be scanned in and added to their selection, so it’s theoretically possible to get any target of any configuration you want.
I’m not generally a fan of extensive dryfire practice for defensive shooting, but this has some intriguing possibilities for training if used intelligently. It’s a big step beyond the laser “hit” targets which are on the market now, and though more expensive ($299) I think it’s a justifiable cost.
– Oh, I forgot: Korth was also showing their autopistol, a gun which has never intrigued me, in a heavily engraved edition with superb ivory grips. It was one of the most beautiful guns I saw in the entire show, even with the stupendous examples shown at the Perazzi booth. I did not ask the price; somehow, it just seemed gauche to do so.
– The Tavor bullpup from Israeli Weapon Industries (IWI) will be imported this year – assuming the State and Commerce Departments don’t come under contrary orders, of course. This is a rather exotic gun for us, as I never expected to see it on our shores. It’s currently the issue rifle for the Israel Defense Forces and was purpose built for their unique needs. It’s compact, like all bullpups, and can be easily converted from right-hand to left-hand operation (though not without partial disassembly.) Though it has the rotten trigger typical of bullpup designs it has tremendous practical accuracy potential, as Todd Koonce demonstrated on Range Day by rapidly landing shot after shot on a 100-meter steel silhouette target. Uses standard AR magazines, of course – the Israelis are very pragmatic about such things.
– Merkel was showing a neat straight-pull bolt action rifle called the Helix, which features rapid caliber change. I thought it was really cool, even if the price was a little much for my wallet: starting “around” $5,000.
– Caracal introduced their pistol caliber carbines, taking the same magazines as their pistols (of course.) The thumbhole stock, like that on the competitive Beretta carbines, seemed a little awkward to me but Todd found it usable.
– The rep at Ithaca, my favorite shotgun company, tells me that they’re selling all the guns they can make. That’s good news, as it means this iteration of the company will be around for some time yet. Those sales include their “tactical” line of police and home defense shotguns. Oddly, though, he says their 20 gauge defensive shotgun barely sells. I’m a huge believer in the 20 as a defensive tool, and specifically the Ithaca 20 gauge – I’m surprised they don’t sell more of them.
Not content to make just shotguns, Ithaca has returned to their roots and is once again making 1911 pistols. Ithaca was a major producer of those guns during World War II, making almost the same number as did Colt. As you all know I’m not a 1911 kind of guy, but the examples I saw were quite nicely done. They’re also working on their AR-15 (which they showed in prototype form last year, but was conspicuously absent this time.) They say they’ll have an announcement later in the year.
That exhausts my notes. This show was notable for not having a lot of exciting introductions; the truly new items, which were few and far between, were evolutionary rather than revolutionary (new people making 1911s and AR-15s just isn’t all that exciting.) I got the impression that all of the companies are too occupied with their growing pile of backorders to put a lot of effort into new products. That isn’t the case for everyone, of course, but sure appears to be so for the majority. I predict we’ll see many more new products introduced at the next show than we did this time – assuming that this buying frenzy slows down a bit!
-=[ Grant ]=-