SHOT Show is bigger than the huge Las Vegas Convention Center where it is held most years. The show spills out into the city of Vegas and beyond. The official starting time this year was 9:00 AM Friday morning, but like many members of the gun press I flew in Wednesday to catch the pre-SHOT Show events on Thursday sponsored by various companies.
GUN WRITERS UNITE
This is where my web log begins, at the first event I attended bright and early Thursday morning. It was the Winchester/Browning/Bushnell shootfest at the Desert Sportsman’s Club. Since none of the hosting companies chamber a handgun for the new .45 GAP cartridge, Springfield was invited as well so writers could try out Winchester’s new GAP loads in Springfield’s new XD’s chambered for the controversial round. With all these companies on hand to let writers and others in the industry get some range time in with their wares there were, needless to say, a lot of bullets sent downrange.
Here’s the point where I’d like to tell you about the new cartridges and rifles unveiled at this major media event. I’d like to tell you about them but fact is nothing earth shaking was forthcoming. There were of course some new variations of existing rifles and cartridges. I’m kind of glad there isn’t yet another new cartridge. It’s about time Winchester took a breather and worked on building up a good selection of loads for the many rounds introduced by them in recent years as well as some classic favorites. That’s exactly what they seem to be focusing on now, expanding and improving the loads offered in a wide variety of existing rifle, handgun, and shotgun chamberings.
There will be plenty of info available in future issues of Primedia Outdoors magazine titles covering the new loads and arms so I will not go into detail here. Instead I’m going to gossip a bit. Winchester and Browning are none too happy with how some on the Internet rumors cast aspersions on their WSSM cartridges and branded them barrel burners early on without even have seen, much less shot one. The .223 WSSM in particular was convicted and condemned before the first cartridge or rifle hit the dealer’s shelves. Are these short fat rounds quick death on barrels or no worse than other popular small bores?
Now that we have the rifles and cartridges readily available we should have a definitive answer. Right? Wrong. The debate rages on.
Winchester attempted to counter the bad publicity with a somewhat vague press release handed out to attendees of the shoot claiming the Internet experts were wrong and barrel erosion in the .223 WSSM is no worse than with a 22/250. They also invited us to shoot some .223 WSSM’s that had 700 to 900 rounds through them to see for ourselves accuracy was still excellent. The rifles grouped well but even a thousand rounds is not what most would consider long barrel life.
In my opinion, the jury is still out. No doubt the .223 WSSM will burn out a barrel quicker than a .223 but we all knew this. The final judgment will come, as it always does, from the rank and file shooters. They will decide if the high velocity vs. barrel life is in reasonable balance with this cartridge. In the meantime, it’s certain some folks on the Internet will keep parroting a lot of rumors and a few facts and Winchester will continue to defend the round. Welcome to the Internet age.
It was 7:30AM, an hour and a half before the show officially opened, when I navigated my way to the Media Direct press conference. I was on time but the fresh cinnamon rolls were late. A good breakfast was had nonetheless.
Media Direct is a public relations firm with a long list of shooting/hunting related clients. After breakfast they took turns pitching their new and/or improved products. I saw a trend developing here. As with the Winchester/Browning outing there was not much truly new but all companies involved had made a serious effort to improve on existing products. This is good for consumers but tough on reporters looking for hot new items to share with his readers.
I did see one product I’m excited about, or I should say several new products, an impressive assortment of flashlights marketed under the name Cyclops. They feature some of the latest technology like LED’s and lithium power wrapped up in rugged handsome designs at working man prices.
WALKING THE FLOOR
When the show opened I headed for the Ruger booth to get my first hands on look at the redesigned Vaquero single-actions. It’s no mystery Ruger wanted these cowboy guns to more closely resemble the King of cowboy guns, the Colt Peacemaker. They do in both appearance and handling characteristics. The smaller, lighter frame and sleek lines make these sweet handling six-shooters. The Flattop Blackhawk Limited Edition .357 Magnum model is likewise sleek and sexy. Suggestion to Ruger: Make one of these in .44 Special.
Other new Rugers included the Alaskan, a serious snub-nose for dangerous critters of the four-legged variety. It’s a nice gun but being a long-time fan of the Super Redhawk my first reaction was they forgot to put a barrel on it! Here are some photos of a couple more new model designs.
Later in the day I attended a Leupold press conference and the presentation was pleasantly short and interesting. A few new scope models but nothing radical.
Leupold is introducing a new line of accessories, the genesis of which should be obvious to any photography buffs. The new Alumina line consists of various lens adapters that screw into the objective bell of Leupold scopes. They look and perform just like camera lens filters. Depending on the model chosen you can increase contrast to better sort your game from the brush, reduce glare, or with the Rain Guard adapter lessen scope fogging. A simple and useful accessory. I’m happy to see Leupold is also focusing attention on their fixed power line of scopes. I’ve long felt the huge variable high powers in vogue in recent years were overkill for most big game hunting applications and it’s nice to see a return to more classic designs.