This year’s 28th Annual SHOT Show was huge, the biggest show yet. There was 615,000 square feet worth of exhibition space this year. I don’t know about other guys, but it felt like I walked at least 5 miles a day there. My wife, Deveni, attended with me this year and she complained about being tired and having sore feet. She’s a dancer and a dance instructor, and she dances for 12 hours a day. So for SHOT to put a beating on her feet, you know the show is rough. The smartest guy I saw at SHOT was riding a Segway, one of those two-wheeled, electric scooter things. To go over everything at SHOT would require me to write a tomb size book that would take me until SHOT 2009 to finish, and you really wouldn’t be interested in reading it anyway. I’m going to go over the highlights and give you the cliff notes version with some of the things that I thought were important and would be of interest to readers. The only question is where to start.
Smith & Wesson
S&W’s newest guns are the M&P family. These are medium/full- size, 9MM and .40 caliber, automatic pistols, and a line of AR-15 type rifles. The pistols feel good in the hand, and they look pretty good too. The only thing about them that I don’t like is that they remind me too much of the Sigma series.
The AR-15s look great, but to be honest, I can’t tell the difference between them and anyone else’s AR-15s these days. It seems that everyone is making an AR-15 now, and I was almost afraid I’d even see one at the Spyderco booth. They have a new Gunsite model, which means that for some extra bucks you can get a nice, no frills 1911 with a dark finish and the Gunsite Raven on it.
Taurus hits the show this year with a whole fleet of new guns. The 24/7 Pro series of guns comes with new models in compact versions, with 2 different grip lengths, a titanium slide, a long slide and a factory porting option. Very nice. These guns look good and feel good. I’m looking forward to testing one of them. They are finally bringing out a 1911, and I have to admit that I like it, and it gives budget-minded shooters a good 1911 option with a lifetime warranty and a better build quality than any of the low cost options (especially from the Philippines). You can get them with or without rails, stainless or blued, and in .40, .45, .38 Super, and 9MM calibers. Full length or compact are options as well. Talk about hitting the ground running! Good work Taurus.
I’m loving their 10MM revolvers, a big 6 shot job and a smaller, handier, 5 shot Tracker. This might be an ideal platform for those who love the 10MM cartridge, especially in full power loads. They have a number of new revolvers out now, sporting their 2-inch barrel option for those who really need a short tube, even in .44 magnum and .454, if you really think you need a 2 inch .454 Casull. (I don’t know why they bypassed the 3-inch barrel option, which I personally find to be the ideal length.)
Taurus also looks very serious about getting into the cowboy action shooting market. Their Gaucho line of arms is impressive, stainless, blued, and case hardened, with barrels from 5 1/2 to 12 inches. Gaucho calibers are .44-40, .38/.357, and of course .45LC. Their Gaucho Carbine is a neat, revolving rifle that looks like just the ticket for cowboy rifle competition.
I went to SHOT after hearing the rumor of Colt being sold to General Dynamics. The people at the Colt booth denied any such thing has or would happen. They seem to have been offended at the idea. Even more so, when I wasn’t the only one with a press pass who asked about it. If Colt had anything new there, I didn’t see it. I was just happy to see them still taking orders and making sales. Good for them. It would have been nice to have seen some indication of any attempt at innovation from Colt.
Glock said they that didn’t have anything new, but they did have little plastic Glock key chains…Lovely. I guess we won’t see any new guns from them until someone makes a new pistol cartridge. The last time, Glock had to make their pistol cartridge, and that was an “iffy” proposition, to say the least.
STI’s little LS9 pistol is not brand new, but this was the first chance I got to take a look at it. The slide is the thinnest I’ve seen, even thinner even than my wallet. It’s now on my “To Do” list.
STI guns are outstanding pieces and the LS9 is no different. What is different is that it is only partially a 1911. From the frame rails upward, it is unique.
Beretta is still making the famous 92 series, but with some changes. The frames now sport polymer-inlayed, interchangeable grips and a newly designed slide that features some really snazzy, but snag free lines. It looks good. This might be an improvement in some people’s minds, but I’m not one of those people. I liked the classic 92 as it was, thank you very much. The one new thing on the 92s that I liked was a simple, plastic cover that hides the accessory rails. The new Cx4 pistol is an excellent piece on all counts. I bet Beretta makes this pistol a priority. It’s a largish handgun of generous proportions, and not one well suited for concealed carry. You could carry concealed if you had to, but it wouldn’t be a first option. I just hope Beretta learns to market it better than they did the Cougar. They try to cater to the Land Rover crowd, and that works to a point, but it’s a lower point than they should be aiming for.
These guns are some of my personal favorites. Dan Wesson is now owned by CZ, and they have a new, little, “bobtailed” Commander-size 1911 that is just excellent. Better yet, it’s available in 10MM. For you “more power” type guys, your prayers have been answered. Mine were not, as I inquired about the possibility of a compact CZ 97B. The response I got was that the little Dan Wesson I just mentioned has taken up that slot in CZ USA’s line-up. Drat. I am disappointed. The Dan Wesson might be fine and all (and it really is), but it isn’t a 97B. CZ had a couple new guns that I liked, one was their classic 75B in stainless. Not a stainless looking finish, but made in actual stainless steel. I know a lot of guys who are going be placing orders for those. Another thing that I liked was their CZ 2075 “RAMI” with a polymer frame. As if the RAMI needed to lose any weight, but handling it, I could see that this was a very good move—makes it much easier to carry in a pocket or a purse.
Jim West was present and accounted for, standing on duty at the Wild West Guns booth. We know Jim from his outstanding and famous line of rifles. You have no doubt heard of the “Co-Pilot” rifle. This is a take- down lever-action rifle in serious calibers and it is fantastic. Jim took the time to show off a pair of super lightweight and compact 1911s. They were jewels. Custom detailing to the Nth degree. A real gentleman, Jim West. It was a pleasure to talk with him. If you want something that’s one of a kind, go West.
SIG has some new guns out, mainly their regular guns in their new SAS theme. “SIG Anti Snag.” These are melted and contoured in such a way that it really changes a lot of the original model’s handling characteristics—in a good way. I spoke with a great guy there, Steve Thain, one of SIG’s regional managers. He was proud to show off their new P226 X-Five models, a Tactical and a competition model. The Tactical X-Five gun sports a frame rail, while the Competition has a large mag funnel. Both guns are extremely well made and have something very interesting, 1911 style safeties. This will make the manual of arms perfectly familiar with most American shooters looking for a very serious gun for fighting, for winning matches, or both. The grip frames feel great in the hand. Steve Thain is a great guy. It was fun to talk with him. Looking forward to working with him in the future.
Mary Ellen Giangiulio of Stream light showed me their new, weapon-mounted lights. The one important thing that makes them different from the Surefire weapon mounted lights is that the Steam lights can pop on and off without putting your hand forward of the muzzle. I like that…a lot. You shouldn’t have to break one of the four basic rules of firearm safety to attach or detach a light. The Stream light system was fast, simple and easy to use. The light is compact, a good size for concealed carry work, and it would prove to be very useful. One version of the light comes with a laser-aiming module that would be a big help in low light situations.
North American Arms
Over at the North American Arms booth, I talked to Sandy and Ken, the head honchos of NAA. They have a new, small framed, .32H&R Magnum revolver in the works that should be truly outstanding. If it is made with the same attention to detail that their other little handguns are made, it will be. .32H&R is an interesting option for CCW. For a small cartridge, it packs a lot of penetrative energy. In my opinion, it sure beats .22 Magnum. Their Guardian pistols are amazing. They pack a lot of firepower into a pocket-size package; 6+1 rounds of .380 is nothing to sneeze at.
Another maker of very small pistols is Karl Rohrbaugh. Talking to him for the first time was like talking to an old friend. His story starts out back when he was a little kid and wanted a bike. Since his Dad didn’t buy him one, he built his own. When he couldn’t find a small 9MM that he wanted, he built his own. He makes his guns exactly the way he thinks they should be made. The slides, the frames and all of the other parts inside are machined from solid billets. No cheap casting in a Rohrbaugh (pronounced like Rush Limbaugh). The springs are all high quality Wolff springs. The fit and finish of these little R9 guns are impeccable. Outstanding pistols. You pay for the quality, but these gems are worth it.
Kel Tec has a new, small 9MM out now. This one is about the same size as their P11 pistol. The difference is that this gun is a single stack and it is slimmed down like Jenny Craig on amphetamines.
If you like Kel Tec pistols, you will love these. They do make for a good carry package and an affordable one at that.
Over at Wilson Combat, I talked at some length with John May, Wilson’s purchasing manager. He showed me a fantastic little pistol that Wilson is going to be bringing to the market later this year. I promised I wouldn’t spill the beans on it, but let me just say this: Save Your CCW pennies for this one.
No, it’s not a 1911…Oh sure, Wilson Combat has a great CCW minded 1911 called the Sentinel. This is an officer-size piece, with a nice set of Novak sights, clean lines, and a fine 30 lines per inch checkering on the front strap. It is so cool that you can see your breath when you hold it. But that’s not the new gun that I’m talking about. Wilson’s skunkworks pistol is—shhh—I didn’t tell you about it. It’s striker fired.
Attending the SHOT Show is a treat and a curse. There was food available at a number of places, pretty much anything you would want. One day for lunch, my wife and I had a slice of pizza and a drink—twenty-five bucks. Oh sure, it was good, but not that good. That was the same day that we went upstairs and found that we had just missed the press luncheon…Great. Friday night there was the Budweiser Outdoors Press Reception at the Hard Rock Hotel. Before we went to the reception, we decided that we were hungry, so we stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe and had chicken fajitas that cost forty bucks.
Then, at the reception, we found…you guessed it…chicken fajitas, amongst other good things—free too. I have to give Budweiser credit here. The conservation work they do is a big help to the whole industry. A guy looking just like Uncle Jesse won the award this year. The band Budweiser booked to perform was just horrible. The lead female vocalist looked like a cross between Billy Idol and the Bride of Frankenstein, and she sounded worse than both combined. But it was still fun. We stayed almost half way through before the caustic vocals forced us to pull the French Maneuver. We retreated back to our hotel room.
Photography by Deveni.