Now that the dust has settled on SHOT Show 2006, gunwriter Dan Johnson shares his thoughts and viewpoints on some of interesting and new items he saw while strolling the show.
Another SHOT Show has come and gone and as always I have returned home with a stack of catalogs, a lot of photos, and a wealth of ideas for articles for the coming year. SHOT Show 2006 was the largest yet and it will take some time to sort through all the information gathered. On my desk is a stack of business cards, many with notes scribbled on the back to remind me of things I need to follow up on. And, as always, I am remembering booths and people I should have visited but simply couldn't get to.
If you have never been to SHOT, or haven't been in a few years, it is hard to comprehend just how large the show is. The SHOT Show web site (www.shotshow.org) has some interesting statistics to bring it in to perspective. For example, there was 625,000 net square feet of exhibit space with over 1800 exhibitors, 13 miles of aisle carpet, and 4 million pounds of freight on the floor, including over 11,000 unique firearms. It's estimated if you spent the entire four days during open hours on the floor and visited every exhibit you would only have 72 seconds to spend at each booth. It's no wonder there are always things I intend to do but don't get done.
Let's concentrate on what I did see though. I spent a lot time on the floor with no set schedule or agenda. When I saw something interesting, I took some photos and gathered some information. My purpose here is to provide you in no particular order with photos, some basic info, and some personal opinion on products I found interesting.
There were few new firearm models introduced this year. The market is pretty well saturated and manufacturers for the most part are concentrating on new finishes and features for proven designs. A notable exception is the new Kimber Pro Defense handgun. It's Kimber's entry into the crowded DAO polymer-frame self-defense handgun market. The KPD will be offered in .40 S&W caliber initially and has all the bells and whistles currently popular in pistols of this design including an integral light rail, ambidextrous magazine release, ample magazine capacity (12 rounds), large dovetailed three-dot combat sights with night sights available as an option, and interchangeable backstraps that allow the user to fit the gun to their hand. It is a handsome gun and made in the U.S.A. www.kimberamerica.com
Taurus upped the flinch factor with the introduction of a 2-1/4-inch fixed sight Raging Bull revolver chambered for the potent .500 S&W Magnum. It's a belly gun for Brown bears obviously and while not pleasant to shoot would certainly be preferable to getting gnawed on by large four legged critters. www.taurususa.com
Rob Leatham was on hand at the Springfield Armory booth and is shown here holding a custom shop version of the new XD .45 ACP. This one has Bomar adjustable sights added. The introduction of a .45 ACP XD variant so close on the heels of the ballistically similar .45 GAP model raises questions on how viable the .45 GAP cartridge will be in the marketplace. It is a well-designed and useful cartridge but perhaps the overwhelming popularity of the venerable .45 ACP will be too much to overcome. Time will tell. www.springfield-armory.com
The Freedom Arms Model 97 .45 Colt with 4-1/4" barrel was introduced some time before SHOT Show 2006 but I include it here because it is a beauty and high on my want list. I included my wrist watch in the photo to illustrate how compact this little single action is. Nothing little about the price but Freedom Arms revolvers offer true custom grade quality and accuracy. www.freedomarms.com
Winchester Firearms introduced the new SXR autoloading centerfire hunting rifle this year. It's a rotary bolt design with good handling characteristics. Initially it will be offered in .270 and .300 WSM, .300 Win Mag, and 30/06 chamberings. To be honest, I spent most of my time at the Winchester booth looking over the Model 94's and Model 70's on display as if in memoriam. Winchester just announced the closing of their plant in New Haven, Connecticut ending production of these classic rifles. Rumors abound on the Internet with claims the rifles will now be made in China or Belgium. Not so. At least no plans along those lines currently. www.winchesterguns.com
Smith & Wesson is another American Icon that has had troubled times in the past, but the company is currently booming under new leadership. This year Smith & Wesson ventured into the long gun market with their version of the popular AR-15 design. I was told by a reliable source a new bolt gun may also be in the works. www.smith-wesson.com
Remington unveiled a radically new shotgun this year, the Model 105 CTi autoloader. The goal was to offer a lightweight light-recoiling shotgun that will handle all loads from field loads to 3-inch magnum. Weight is trimmed by a skeletonized titanium receiver with carbon fiber shell. The 105 loads and ejects from the bottom and the first shell can
be loaded directly from the magazine into the chamber. An oil filled cylinder in the stock links to the bolt to soften recoil and automatically compensate for various loads. The gas operated system and convex R3® recoil pad further softens recoil. Remington claims up to a 50% reduction in felt recoil with the 105 CTi. It is interesting to note, the Remington press release states and I quote, "the Model 105 CTi features a new patent pending trigger designed for crisp, consistent trigger pulls (set at 3-1/2 to 4-pounds from the factory)". It would be nice if Remington would ship their bolt guns with triggers held to that standard.
Under an agreement with Zastava of Serbia Remington will be importing rifles built on the Mauser 98 action. The Model 798 will be offered in .243, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, 30/06, 7mm Remington Magnum, .300 Win Mag, .375 H&H, and .458 Win Mag. A Mini-Mauser action will be available on the Model 799 chambered in .22 Hornet, .222 Remington, .23 Remington, 22-250, and 7.62X39. The Model 799 rifles have a Sako-style extractor rather than the non-rotating claw extractor of the Model 798. Rifles will be polished blue finish with brown laminated wood stocks. Other features include a sliding thumb safety and single stage trigger. www.remington.com
Federal bucked the trend towards more and more magnum rifle cartridges with the introduction of the very sensible .338 Federal. It is simply a .308 Winchester necked up to handle .338 caliber bullets. This cartridge has been around for years as a wildcat and is a great medium range elk cartridge and is mild mannered enough for use on smaller game such as deer and wild hogs. The only drawback is most .338 caliber bullets were designed with the higher velocities of the .338 Win Mag. in mind. Handloaders need to pick their bullets carefully to insure positive expansion at the lower velocities. www.federalcartridge.com
The new Pro hunter line of single-shot rifle/handgun/shotgun/muzzleloader from Thompson Center Arms is an upgraded Encore with some useful features added. The most notable change to the action itself is a new rotating hammer spur that can be turned to either side to better allow thumb access when using low-mounted scopes. A FlexTech stock is available that incorporates four synthetic arches in the buttstock to absorb the shock of recoil. Other new features in the Pro hunter series include a Speed Breech on muzzleloader barrels, allowing for easy removal of the breech plug for cleaning, and fluted stainless barrels in rifle and handgun lengths. www.tcarms.com
JR Nosler is holding the new Nosler Model 48 rifle named after the year, 1948, when John Nosler first made the famous Nosler Partition bullet. Unlike the first Nosler rifle, a custom limited edition model with fancy wood stock, the Model 48 will be available on dealer's shelves. The Model 48 has a top quality synthetic stock and stainless Pac-Nor barrel and weighs just 6.25 pounds sans scope. The metalwork is finished with CERAKOTE, a tough synthetic finish that is impervious to the elements. The rifle will initially be chambered only in .270 WSM but other calibers are likely to follow. Suggested Retail is $2,295.
Nosler's expanding line of products includes custom brass bearing the Nosler headstamp. JR Nosler gave me a box of .223 Nosler brass at the show and what I see so far is impressive. This brass is manufactured to Nosler's specifications and then each case is sorted by weigh, neck chamfered, and the flash holes are deburred and inspected for uniformity. I weighed ten random cases out of the box I brought home from SHOT Show and the extreme spread was .4-grains. By comparison ten cases from a batch of quality brass from another maker had an extreme weight spread of 2.5-grains. Nosler is not economy priced brass but considering the quality and time consuming prep work saved the reloader it should appeal to accuracy buffs. www.nosler.com
The Nikon Omega 3-9X40 riflescope shares the same name as the Thompson Center Omega muzzleloading rifle because it is specifically designed to be coupled with this rifle. The trajectory-compensating reticle will of course match the ballistics of other .50-caliber inlines firing a 250-grain bullet over 150-grains of Pyrodex. Four 2 MOA ballistic circles are set for 150, 200, 225, and 250-yards distance when the crosshairs are dead-on at 100-yards using this load. Available finishes are camo (shown), matte black, and silver. www.nikonsportoptics.com
Laser rangefinders continue to improve and Bushnell is on the cutting edge of this technology. The ARC in the Bushnell Elite 1500 ARC name stands for Angle Range Compensation. The Bow Mode calculates true horizontal distance from 5 to 99 yards, which allows for more accurate shots when shooting a bow from a tree stand. Rifle Mode displays the angle of the shot and provides estimated bullet drop/holdover. The unit is watertight and external lenses are coated with Rainguard. www.bushnell.com
No, this rifle and scope were not dropped out of a deer stand. The scope is Leupold's new VX-L. These scopes have 50 or 56mm objectiv
es, depending on model, for high light transmission yet mount low to the rifle due to the recess in the bell. It may look odd but a low mounted scope improves the handling characteristics of rifles. I wonder though, since that recess does reduce the lens area, how much it reduces light transmission. I suspect the amount of light reaching the eye is still very high but likely not as much as with a round bell of equal quality and size. www.leupold.com
If you have not tried one of the new foaming bore cleaners you are likely working harder at keep your firearms clean than you have to. The foam clings to the bore and allows the chemicals to work more efficiently. Gunslick's Foaming Bore Cleaner works amazingly well at removing copper fouling and does it quicker than other cleaners I have tried. Some foaming cleaners require you to let the foam sit in the bore overnight. Gunslick Foaming Bore Cleaner requires only 15 to 30 minutes. I tested it on a rough bore that generally takes a lot of scrubbing to get all the copper fouling out. I sprayed the Gunslick foam down the bore, waited a half-hour, and after running a couple patches through the bore I found only a trace of copper remaining. A second treatment removed it all. It doesn't seem to remove powder fouling as well as some cleaners but sure gets the copper out. Good stuff. www.gunslick.com
As to powder fouling, Hoppe's Elite Gun Cleaner seems well suited to this task. A poster in the Hoppe booth caught my attention. It showed photos of the front of a stainless revolver cylinder before and after cleaning with Hoppe's Elite. I decided to try it for myself and brought a small bottle home with me. My 12-year-old Ruger Super Redhawk has been a bit neglected of late and the face of the cylinder and areas on the inside of the frame had heavy carbon deposits. I sprayed it with Hoppe's Elite, waited a couple minutes for it to soak, and then cleaned it up with a cloth and toothbrush. It quickly removed all the carbon fouling leaving only some minor burn scars that are impossible to get out without buffing. I have not tried it for bore cleaning as yet but this initial test shows great promise, at least as far as powder fouling is concerned. www.hoppes.com
In my report last year on SHOT Show 2005 I mentioned a conversation I had with Ted Werner, owner of HySkore Shooting Products. We discussed handgun rests for accuracy testing and I lamented that all I knew of on the market had shortcomings; most notably the platforms are too high off the bench to afford a good solid two-hand hold. He asked me to help in designing a rest and, to make a long story short, it's now in production. Ted is shown here holding the new HySkore handgun rest. I have been using a prototype of the rest for the past couple months and it works very well. Good job, Ted. www.hyskore.com
One of my favorite knife manufacturers is Knives of Alaska located in Denison, Texas. If you are wondering why a company in Texas is called Knives of Alaska it is because company President and owner, Charles Allen, is an Alaskan outfitter and big game guide who understands how a knife designed for hard outdoor use should be made. The designs are simple and elegant and made from the best steels available. They also come from the box wickedly sharp. This year Knives of Alaska introduced the Alpha Wolf Drop Point Hunter shown here. It was love at first sight when I picked one of these knives up. It's very lightweight with a thin well-shaped blade and the grip feels perfect in the hand. It's available in either D2 or S30V steel finished natural or with a Melonite coating. The suregrip handle is shown here but can be had with Olive Drab G10, Stag, or Desert Ironwood slabs. www.knivesofalaska.com
One of the best things about SHOT Show is seeing all the exhibition grade firearms on display. Manufacturers put out their fanciest wares to impress the crowds. If you have a fondness for single shot rifles, as I do, you'll appreciate these examples of the gunmaker's art from Dakota Arms. www.dakotaarms.com
One of the products I found most interesting this year did not have an official presence at the SHOT Show. Ballistic Technology is a small company and did not have an exhibition but their product could be found at the booths of some of the biggest names in bullet and ammunition manufacturing. Bullet Test Tube is a reusable wax-based substance for testing terminal bullet performance. It is easier to use than ballistic gelatin because it is not as temperature sensitive and it provides more information than gelatin in that a clear measurable wound cavity is left in the bullets path. As the name implies, the media comes in a tube that can be cut open after shooting to examine the wound channel. Additional empty tubes can be purchased and the substance can be melted down on your kitchen stove and poured into a new tube. Bullet Test Tube is already in use by a number of bullet makers and will be available soon to individual firearms enthusiasts for home testing of bullets. www.thebullettesttube.com
I have only scratched the surface here in regards to new products introduced at SHOT Show 2006. Look for in-depth reviews of new products in upcoming issues of Primedia magazines. In the meantime, you can discuss these products or any firearm related topics with fellow firearms enthusiasts by visiting our message boards. See you there.