Shot Show 2010
The second day of Shot for me and many other journalists was the first official day of the Shot Show 2010. As stated in the previous entry, I am here in Las Vegas for a number of sources including Wired, The Firearm Blog and others.
Shot Show is an annual trade show for the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) industries. It has also become one of the largest firearm trade shows in the world with an overall attendance of 58,444 this year walking over 700,000 square feet of booths and exhibits in the Sands Convention Center. The spectacle appropriately fits Las Vegas and while Las Vegas has suffered mightily under the global recession, this industry has appeared to be largely immune to the global financial meltdown and brought with it some much needed dollars to the local economy. While there is much in the way of interesting reporting that can and should be done as to the larger financial aspects of the industry, this visit was more granular, focusing on individual devices and technologies associated with the outdoor and firearm industries. As such, I was one of the over 1,800 media attendees at the event reporting on everything from clothing, optics, camping and outdoor equipment to firearms. Wired's interest of course is anything technological and the aforementioned Firearm blog's focus is as advertised, firearms. There is no way to see everything needed in a day or two, and since I had to get back to the lab, this is simply an abbreviated survey of the things Aaron, Steve and I ran into covering the show for Wired and The Firearm Blog.
The introductory image is of the M953 night vision binoculars from L-3 communications that also has a line of thermal imaging products that you can see here.
For better or worse, Shot Show this year was held in The Sands Convention Center, adjacent to and connected to The Venetian Hotel and Casino. Hosting this event there made for some awkward moments including getting lost in the casino en route to the convention center (part of the game plan I suppose) and not being able to find certain exhibitors without a little sleuthing. That said, walking past/underneath glass exhibits by Dale Chihuly is never a bad experience.
My first stop inside was at the Heckler & Koch display to take a look at the new 5.56x45mm MR556 rifle. HK originally came out with the replacement of the direct impingement system with a piston design taken from their G36 rifle. Unfortunately, HK missed a great market opportunity after announcing the rifle back in 2005 because they released it to military and police agencies only, neglecting many other commercial sales opportunities. Since then it seems that just about every company on the planet that manufactures AR type rifles has been releasing piston designs taking potential sales away from H&K. For 2010 however, HK has decided to release the HK416 for the civilian markets in the form of the MR556. There was some controversy initially when it was said that the upper and lower receivers would be pin incompatible for the AR standard, upsetting many. However the good news is that the MR556 will be pin compatible with the AR standard allowing folks to swap out parts at will. I am actually very much looking forward to the MR556 release and it looks like we'll be reviewing one for The Firearm Blog in the not too distant future. HK has historically been fanatical about their level of quality and this rifle should prove to reflect that commitment.
HK also had some of their 7.62mm rifles on display. They also have plans to release this rifle as the 7.62x51mm MR762. This is a mighty attractive possibility and my hope is that H&K will release a 20in barrel option in addition to the standard 16in barrel when the MR762 is released for sale later in the year.
HK also had a display showing off an HK P30 9mm pistol that had gone through an amazing endurance test shooting over 75,000 rounds using 15 different types of ammunition from 8 separate manufacturers. The pistol was cleaned on average every 5,769 rounds and was still going strong after 75,000 rounds. There may be plans to extend the test, but at the very least 75,000 rounds through a sidearm is pretty impressive.
HK also had on display their HK GMG or grenade machine gun. This platform is a belt fed, blowback operated machine gun that fires 40mm grenades! Its actually been in service for some time going back to 2005 or so, but this is the first time I've seen one up close. A number of countries currently field this including the German army, the UK, Ireland, Finland, Netherlands and Sweden among others.
A very interesting addition to Sig's line is the new Sig 716 rifle, a 7.62mm AR-10 based rifle utilizing the Armalite AR-10 2nd generation magazine. Sig has said that they want to become a company known for their rifles and it appears they are making good on that claim. The Sig 716 will be offered in four configurations, all with chrome lined barrels and free floated quad rails. Offered will be a Tactical Patrol with 12.5" barrel (law enforcement and military), Patrol with 16" barrel, Precision Marksman with 16" barrel and Precision Sniper shown above with the 20" barrel.
The Sig Arms booth was huge this year with a number of new products. Some products were interesting and innovative such as the new reduced grip P226 and P229 E2 pistols. Other products are simply cosmetic dressing of other pre-existing products which Sig Arms appears to have been doing more and more lately. If it is making the company money, who am I to argue, but it is always encouraging to see real innovation and engineering.
Sig had a number of their other rifles on display as well as the 716 and their new entry in the AR line the 516. Sig's 556 DMR was on display with a couple minor improvements as well as Sig branded Blaser and Sauer rifles. Sig Arms has historically been a company that has been known in the U.S. as a company that manufactures sidearms. They are trying to change this and become known as the company that produced rifles as well as sidearms. Though why they've simply not taken some of the Sig rifle designs and implemented them here in the US as US manufactured rifles is beyond me.
Knights Armament was present as well with a number of their products. They've had the market cornered with high quality, reliable and accurate AR type rifles in 7.62mm/.308 for years with their SR-25 type rifles. In the last few years, a number of other companies have stepped in to the fray. Knights has produced some of the highest quality products, but have largely focused on the defense contracts rather than the civilian market. This is starting to change with increasing competition. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few years.
Armatix, a German company was present with a new biometric authentication technology called SmartSystem. This technology essentially disables the weapon when a wristwatch previously authenticated with a fingerprint is physically removed beyond a set distance away. The watch essentially functions as a wireless arming signal to the gun and is designed to prevent misuse. The .22 cal pistol shown here will be shipping next month at a cost of 7,000 Euro, though the company claims that costs will go down with increased production and economies of scale. Of course there are other concerns with this technology that will give the company issues with sales, but I'll leave that discussion for other forums.
Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC) produces suppressors for small arms. AAC has been one of the most aggressive corporations in the suppressor market recently and as of a couple of months ago was acquired by Remington Arms, likely a smart purchase. AAC produces a wide variety of suppressors and with this purchase they will enhance many of their operations and secure production for a wide variety of their own firearms.
I had a good time talking with Cara and Mike (pictured above) and look forward to talking with them and Steve from The Firearm Blog more tonight at the famous AAC Big Bang party. I'll bring the cameras, so look forward to photo documentation of that little affair...
As an aside, suppressors have a long history of use to reduce the sound, concussion and recoil associated with using firearms. Unfortunately, they have a rather dark association in many countries as being associated with assassins. However, in many civilized parts of the world including Finland, Norway and France, suppressors are completely unregulated and in fact required to reduce noise pollution and protect hearing. Here in the U.S., suppressors are regulated under the National Firearms Act. Suppressors are legal to purchase, but one has to go through an application process and pay a $200 tax to legally own a suppressor. Shooting with a suppressor is a much more enjoyable experience than without. Long distance shots with higher caliber rifles can be made with more comfort and less risk of damage to hearing. Suppressors also make it more pleasant for the people shooting next to you as the concussion or recoil through increasingly popular muzzle brakes (shown immediately above) direct muzzle blast rearward and to the sides.
George Gardner along with the GAPrecision crew was present with some of their wares. GAPrecision recently got a contract from the FBI to build a number of rifles for their Hostage Response Team. I've said it before and I'll say it again here: GAPrecision builds some of the best rifles in the business. The quality and workmanship are at very high standards. I can routinely put rounds into .25 MOA or less at 100 yards and have successfully engaged static targets with the .300wm built by GAPrecision out to 1500 yards.
Badger Ordnance was present sharing a booth with the GAPrecision folks. Badger Ordnance crafts high quality precision components for firearms to the US military and many other government and law enforcement agencies. They've been building iPhone mounts for some of the new ballistics software that has become available for the iPhone. These apps allow one to calculate ballistics of rounds including range, atmospheric conditions, angle calculations dullet drop, velocities, flight time and even the coriolis effect as the earth rotates underneath some of the longer shots sharpshooters may make. Behind that iPhone mount is a "tactical beverage holder". Its a joke accessory they showed last year and it still amuses me. Badger Ordnance in the last couple of years has been manufacturing their own receivers which look very nice indeed and would make a lovely build for George and the crew at GAPrecision.
Blaser released their new R8 rifle at Shot Show. I had the opportunity to shoot it yesterday at the media day and was absolutely impressed. They have a new design that incorporates the trigger mechanism into the magazine, reducing the length of the rifle into a much more compact design. Blaser's straight-pull bolt system is also present making for very fast followup shots. My only concern with this design is that replacement magazines will be made very expensive with this design. More details with images can be seen on The Firearm Blog here. I actually entered a raffle to win an R8 rifle, but alas... it was not to be.
Daniel Defense was well represented at Shot Show with many examples of their high quality components including rail interfaces systems and replacement barrels. Daniel Defense is world renowned for their quality, and I wish I would have been able to get more images of their products, but honestly... getting photos of their products was difficult due to their very bright backlit display stand. To get decent shots of any of their products, you had to physically remove them from the display.
Dillon Aero is famous for their miniguns. Conceptually a very old design going back to the 1890s with a set of rotating barrels that allow for astoundingly high rates of fire. The current Dillon Minigun is fixed at 3,000 rounds/minute, a rate that can deliver large amounts of suppressive or destructive fire for sustained periods. This is obviously a mounted weapon needing to be placed on a vehicle or mount to be useful as it would simply be too heavy for individual implementation despite what Hollywood or the video game industry would have you believe. This implementation is placed in a retractible mount inside a Chevrolet Suburban, not the most stable platform, but attractive enough to some private groups and government agencies who have purchased the systems for remote or high risk areas.
Kaiser was present with some of their new products including an interesting new design for a receiver and charging handle. Their website does not appear to be ready for prime time, but the prototypes we handled certainly did appear to be of high quality and an interesting new concept for integrating easy to access charging handles in traditional designs.
Kriss was showing off a number of their products including a new pistol configuration of their famous KRISS. We had the opportunity to shoot the short barrel KRISS in semi and fully automatic modes yesterday and I do have to say that the controllability lives up to the hype. I was able to easily keep all rounds from a .45 cal fully automatic, short barreled weapon on small targets with no difficulty whatsoever. Try that with any other .45 cal automatic submachinegun currently on the market! I have some time with fully automatic H&K UMP submachineguns and even the much older (and heavier) design Thompson submachinegun and this level of controllability is simply not possible with those designs. Impressive indeed.
Lewis Machine and Tool brought their new .308 rifle to the show. It seems that everyone now has an AR type .308, but the LMT L129A1 in .308 makes for a mighty compelling platform. LMT's monolithic upper receiver design in a 308 is something that people have been requesting for some time. LMT delivered and the UK Ministry of Defense responded by selecting it as their new marksman's weapon. The quality was very high and the selection of the increasingly standard SR-25 magazine design was a smart move on the part of LMT. This current design is a direct impingement gas design and not the piston design. That aside, this is a solid design that should be highly accurate and provide Knights Armament with some needed competition at a much more affordable price point than the current SR-25 provides.
Other shots are available on The Firearm Blog here.
FN brought out their newly available SCAR 16 and SCAR 17 rifles as well as a very interesting new design that nobody in the FN booth seemed to be able to provide information on. It was called the SCAR sniper support rifle or something like that and the role is designed to be a designated marksman rifle. I heard it called several different things by multiple people in the booth and the representative that apparently had *some* information on this platform was not around. I'd love to be able to provide more information on it, but I simply could not get it from the FN folks other than the fact that this was an accurized version of the SCAR-H rifle in 7.62x51mm/.308 Winchester.
Remington had a *huge* presence at this years Shot Show with multiple booths showing of clothing, safes and firearms. While most attention was on the ACR rifles, I was most interested in the MSR platforms. The ACR is essentially the Magpul Masada rifle that is finally being made available for purchase after many design revisions. The Magpul Masada made huge news back in 2007 when prototypes were shown, but it was simply not available for purchase. The design was licensed by Bushmaster who will produce it with the help of Remington Arms. The improvements were much needed as the time I spent with it a couple years ago revealed a number of deficits in function. We'll see how it performs with the new design changes and support of Bushmaster and Remington.
However, the more interesting platform to me was the MSR. This platform will be sold as a complete rifle and also as a chassis system much like the Accuracy International Chassis System. This platform has a folding stock and allows for easy operator side barrel changes as well as caliber changes from .338 Lapua Magnum to .338 Norma Magnum to .300 Winchester Magnum and 7.62mm NATO. Claimed accuracy figures are remarkable for a 13lb rifle. It was very comfortable to shoulder, but I have not had any opportunity to actually shoot this rifle. Hopefully getting some trigger time will not be too far off.
In addition to long range rifles, Steyr finally brought the AUG A3 bullpup design carbine to the U.S. market. This rifle is a bit heavier than a typical M4 styled carbine, but they are a bit more compact. While the bullpup style is attractive to many, precision shooting with them is difficult due to the typically high trigger pull weights. That said, certain maintenance issues on this rifle are amazingly convenient. For instance, changing out barrels on these rifle is as simple as pressing in a detent, rotating the barrel and removing it.
Taser has been one of the leading manufacturers of non-lethal weapons and this year, they've released the 3 shot model, capable of firing three times before reloading. Personally, I think that people and law enforcement agencies have been too liberal in their employment of tasers and taser like devices, but they are good options to have. This model is a civilian model capable of three shots, but limited to 15 feet, though there are improvements here including a built in laser sight and a white LED light illuminator. Also shown here is the new Surefire Stratum flashlight, a miniature flashlight capable of 150 lumen output. Very impressive.
There are lots of other products at SHOT that are not necessarily firearms related and this is one of my absolute favorites. The Rite in the Rain line of notebooks and papers are absolutely essential for anyone that spends time outside making notes. I use these products as a photographer and whenever I am outdoors. Just carry along a little notebook (or a big one depending upon your application) and a supply of pencils. They will serve you well.
Another non-firearm product that is absolutely a must have for anyones outdoor emergency kit is Wetfire from Ultimate Survival Technologies. Wetfire is a proprietary mix of paraffin and vegetable oil, so it is non-toxic, waterproof and amazingly effective tinder, even when sitting in water or in soaking wet conditions. I'll be picking some of this up for our outdoor and emergency kits immediately. You can see a movie of Wetfire in action here.
A huge number of clothing manufacturers are also present at SHOT. Here for example is one of my favorite boot companies Altama. There really is so much to see at SHOT that a single or even a couple of days does not do it justice. You are on your feet for many consecutive hours and as many of the journalists covering SHOT were doing, I was hauling 30 or so pounds of camera gear and wishing for some more comfortable shoes. Don't forget your feet folks.
Thats it for Shot Show 2010 except for the AAC Big Bang party later tonight. If we are lucky, I'll have the energy to haul along a camera and bring back pictures. See you next year.
Content in this entry has appeared in the following publications:
Wired, High Tech Guns, Digital Revolvers, Koosh Bullets and Triple Tasers
The Firearm Blog, Sig Sauer Sig 716 Rifle
The Firearm Blog, Armatix Wireless Gun Safety
Posted: Tue - January 19, 2010 at 10:31 AM