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Shot Show 2020 A to Z

January 23, 2020

By Mike Keleher

What is it like to attend the SHOT show? It is enormous. That pretty much sums it up. Enormous. They will have 60-70 thousand visitors visit in three days-it’s like holding the Superbowl of firearms and firearm accessories inside a hotel expo center. I could not tell you how many miles of tables and booths there are, but just believe you can wander it all for three days and not see it all.

By the end of your visit, you don’t want to see another AR-15 variant, Glock clone or anything black, camo or with Velcro on it for two weeks….and please don’t let me see any other products called “Tactical” on the way out of town until I regain my equilibrium.

It is days of jostling and bumping other enthusiasts, and some of the attendees did not shower today, this week, or apparently have psychological or religious beliefs about deodorant and soap.

It is always nice to bump into people you know at the SHOT Show-you spend a couple of days bumping and being jostled by strangers so it is a pleasant surprise to see some old friends. The attendees are always upbeat and friendly, but seem to stop and block aisles in random attempts to drive one crazy or mob up over the latest tiny gadget which has absolutely no appeal to me.  The fact I routinely yell at people who are just too damn slow in grocery store aisles does not serve me well at SHOT.

Vegas swallows up the SHOT Show with nary a gulp. It runs alongside a huge building trade show and the Adult Video Industry Awards all held in the same week. You see a lot of interesting people in a town known for interesting things. Sitting in traffic I saw a gun store van with two .30 Browning machine guns mounted on the roof, and another vehicle advertised “Shoot a machine gun-from a helicopter.”  Ya gotta love Vegas. They pretend these mega-conventions along with $20 hamburger and $200 shoe tickets are “normal.”

The strangest thing about The Show, is there are no firearms sales going on at the show.  None. You just get too look and touch, but not buy or carry out. It is the worlds largest  firearm trade show and just to get in you have to be in the gun “industry” as determined by the Show administrators. Yes you have to show you are worthy or at least sufficiently gun connected to be allowed in.

Exhibitors expend huge amount of money to display on the floor where competition is fierce with probably over a thousand booths you will see every gun, bullet, knife, holster etc you ever heard of.

I checked a computer site trying to get a count on this year’s exhibitors, and it listed 156 pages of them…I did not take the time to count any further-you get the idea. Looking at a sea of lookie-loos and vendors, I am always struck by the thought everyone there is either making a living off of firearms or outdoors products or hoping to sell their products to those who do.

As far as big money fancy booths, I believe this year’s biggest would easily have to be Sig Sauer who had about 75 yards of booth. It was all very fancy. By all appearances I think their business is doing pretty well.  They even had their own invitation-only range day where 1400 of their closest friends stopped by.

The big motivation for the show is to display the newest and most innovative items in the industry to the wholesale and retail consumers. Business is transacted by companies meeting the sellers on site and putting in yearly orders for products, but you are not going to cash and carry anything from the show bigger than a pocket knife or a pair of socks. Free give away stuff varies from year to year, and this year plastic Velcro backed patches and stickers were quite evident. Small bottles of oil were not being handed out this year-just as well I always ended up with leaky bottles in my go-home luggage.

(Mike’s unofficial winner of the SHOT Show “You kids get off my lawn” award-a MK-19 belt fed 40mm grenade launcher.)

Why are people so ravenous to attend? Well it is fun to see the newest stuff and get your hands on it for that oh so important “feel.”  Also, they have education classes, dinners, celebrity appearances and all kinds of side activities if you are not there just to do commerce.

The show has it’s own App for your smartphone so you can find company booths on the map, see when speakers are up next, and quite handily to find out where you are in the sea of booths and where a bathroom is located.  The show halls are so big you can’t see the opposite walls if you are standing in the middle.  Did I say it was enormous?

Everyone wears a large name tag with your company or particular affliction and where you are from. I saw tags from everywhere you can imagine to include foreign countries like Korea, Singapore, Israel,  Germany, Denmark, Phillipines, Japan, France and a bunch o’ the Stans and former USSR countries.

Here are some of the interesting items I saw this year in an alphabetical order-not by level of interest!

Alien Gear Holsters showed off a large combo pack “Shape Shift” holster set which includes set ups for their classic hybrid inside the waistband holster (IWB) with clips which can convert with included parts to an appendix carry unit, a belt loop outside the waist band set up and a paddle backed holster.  They also showed me a tacky feel level 1 retention pocket/waistband or IWB holster with removable clip for $33 and a matching IWB “sticky type” mag pouch for $25.

Brownells- they made another big “announcement” yesterday at 11AM on Tuesday.  I was there two years ago when they announced they were going to produce in-house Retro M-16 type rifles for some reason.  It must have been a success, as they expanded the trend to Retro AR-10’s and an XM-177 Commando clone too. In the off years, they have also started turning out parts for upgraded Armalite AR-180 type rifles-the short piston, folding stock rifle Eugene Stoner designed after the M-16.

So the big announcement this week included Brownells and partner Ke Arms apparent love of Eugene Stoner to say they were now producing AR-180 lowers in forged and machined packages and available today on their website. This was followed by showing off their new ultra light weight rifle the WWSD2020. Yes “What Would Stoner Do 2020”, a “cutting edge carbine with the soul of a Retro rifle.”  They believe this new technology combined with advanced manufacturing processes produced a carbine Stoner would approve of. It has a one piece polymer stock/buffer/lower receiver similar to the old CAV Arms offering.  It has a pencil thin barrel and carbon fiber hand guard. The safety can be engaged when cocked or un-cocked and the whole thing weighs less than 6 pounds. Offering price is $1699.

Colt- They brought back the .357 Python in gorgeous stainless steel. They brought back the .357 Python. End of message.  Any questions kids? Nope, didn’t think so. It is as awesome as you remember or have heard the legends about it.

Glock- They were of course running high on their sub-compact pistols and the newest trend to take the smallest 9mm and  now make it a bit longer. I like this trend as the extra half inch of barrel and sight radius are a plus up to me in their models.  Everyone clamored to see newest Glock, the Model 44 in .22 LR, which has the exact outside dimensions as the ever popular G19.  You can use G19 holsters and mag pouches for the G44.

Glock also brought in their Big Gun to take pictures and sign autographs-Chuck Norris. People lined up to pay homage and get a chance to shake the legend’s hand. Chuck seems to genuinely love these meetings and smiles non-stop. I am way too jaded to stand in line to meet him, but I always have plenty of time sneak around and take pictures of Chuck-you know the price of digital film is practically nil.

Mossberg- They were showing off their new auto loading 3 gun competition shotgun the 940 JM Pro, designed in conjunction with Jerry Miculek to be an upgrade to the previous 930 JM Pro. They have a lot of competition ready features one the new shotty and it should be race ready right out of the box with promises of the formerly touchy gas system going 1500 rds without cleaning. Mossberg also had their one year old polymer 9mm pistol the MC -1 (mid sized frame and 6/7 rd capacity) there to meet it’s brand new larger brother the MC-2. It is also a polymer version 9mm about the size of a Sig 320 or Glock 19 with a double stack magazine.  Offering price is $490.

Palmetto State Arms- This company always draws a large crowd along with inquiries about “When is your MP-5 clone coming out?”  PSA showed a prototype MP-5 to the public at the SHOT Show two years ago along with estimates of “later this year.” This year they had two awesome prototypes on the wall with wrist brace stocks and the answer was “Um, look to third quarter.”  Wait, two years back you said “Later this year”- “Um it wasn’t me.” The rep said they were currently producing the parts and hopes to get it on the shelf yet this year.

Palmetto also had a grand unveiling of their first pistol, the Dagger 9. Which looks like a Glock 19 to my oh so jaded eye. Reps advised the pistol would indeed take all original Glock parts if you want to soup one of the Dagger’s up, and it of course uses Glock and any other Glock-ish mags. Price will be a fairly amazing $299, and they will be introducing a red dot compatible slide version and a version with suppressor sights.

Ruger- The hue and cry to see their new 5.7mm pistol was palpable in their booth. People love that tiny cartridge in a pistol format ever since FN brought them to America around 2005 and Kel Tec sold a boat load of them too. Ruger also put out a new Security 9 compact 9mm pistol with a 3″ barrel and only 6.5″ long-it is a bit smaller than a Glock 26 for comparison sake.  Initial price is $319.

SCCY- The underdog of the American made 9mm world, advertised heavily in the last two weeks about their new Striker fired DVG-1 pistol with a 5.5lb trigger pull. I was never a fan of their original trigger system and the company apparently heard me (fanciful thinking right?) and built a striker inside their already proven pistol that features 10 rds of 9mm in a stainless steel slide and polymer frame. Squeezing their Striker system trigger was light years past their original trigger in my not so humble estimation. SCCY also started putting out their pistols with red dot sights already mounted on them this fall, and introduced a .380 version with a light weight lock up system which makes it much easier to manipulate the slide for people who don’t have a lot of hand strength or some debilitation.

Sig Sauer- The modular Sig P320 came out at the SHOT Show in 2015 and everyone knows they have been a huge success and have captured the current U.S. Army and SOCOM pistol contracts. When I say it has been a success, I was still bowled over to see the One Millionth Sig P320 in a display case at this year’s shot show. One million of any gun is a big deal-selling that many in five years is amazing.

The newest P320 version has been bumped up to an out of the box competition gun with the X5 and Legion treatment. The gun has an internal tungsten weight in the modular grip. The extra weight really makes a huge difference in the gun. It changes the whole feel of the pistol and leaves you with the tactile impression “Substantial.” I imagine the recoil reduction benefits are huge.  I have seen Osage County Guns sell the X series grip weight separately on their website for $40 but they seem to be the only distributor in the U.S. who can offer it outside of Sig Sauer.

At the SHOT Show two years ago, Sig introduced their “micro-compact” P365 single stackish 9mm with 10 rd, 12 rd and 15 rd magazines. It has sold like hot cakes as the “must have” pistol for every day carry.  The P365 may well be the most popular small 9mm being sold in the U.S. Their XL Model came out earlier in 2019 and is now the new go-to-gun being just a tad longer in the slide and barrel. Both are good for the extra sight radius and target focus without really making the gun more than a half inch or so longer. It remains small and thin and very dependable in the longer format. Did everyone go too small with their 9mms and are now backing up?

Smith & Wesson- After Sig made their XL version of the 365 micro-compact pistol and Glock made their slightly longer version of their G43X, Smith is offering a new Shield 2.0 9mm with a longer 4 inch barrel up about a half an inch from the regular Shield. They can be had in standard versions, with mounted red dots, and even a ported/red dot version from the Smith Performance Center.

Sticky Brand Holsters-  Those very popular and handy holsters now have an accessory belly band that can be used where loose clothes or no belt are the uniform of the day, or an IWB or belt holster is not going to be comfy like riding long distances or exercising.  The concept is not new, and I know some Federal agencies that use belly bands for some pretty large guns. The Sticky band has a friction fit for a holster and has a magazine pocket on the other side and has a large container pocket suitable for wallet, ID or a cell phone.  Sticky also now sells a “Guard Her” belt that is a thigh rig based upon the belly band concept.  Sticky also showed me a nifty and cheap elastic based undercover horizontal magazine carrier fit for single and double stack magazines.  I have always been a big fan of the comfort horizontal mag carriers offer to avoid mags jabbing me in the ribs and/or moving organs around in or near my  well tended muffin tops.

Springfield Armory- Springfield brought out the Hellcat sub-compact 9mm pistol in 2019, and are showing off the gun’s awesomeness because as a further descendant of the XD line it touts a 11+1 capacity and thus being the largest ammo load of any sub-compact pistol with the Sig’s and Glocks having a paltry 10+1 rd capacity-until you put in a larger capacity mag. Springfield also partnered with Air Venturi to offer some very nice air guns to include XD and 1911 pistols, and a nifty M-1 Carbine and an M1A rifle. They are well made, and have definite hand pleasing heft. The M1A is only $229 and may scratch that particular itch to own and shoot an M1A that shoots .177 lead pellets.

Sierra Bullets- They have an ultra modern joint venture with True Velocity to produce rifle ammo in a polymer composite case topped by a Sierra Match King bullet.  The polymer casing is fairly amazing stuff and the Government is interested of course. The rounds weigh less than brass rounds-always a troop consideration. The polymer manages the heat of detonation better than brass does, and a steel rim which holds the primer is magnet friendly! Imagine recruits “brassing” with a magnet someday. A recent article on this round bragged on it producing sub half an inch rounds at 100 yds from a .308. I got to shoot a few of the rounds through an F-class gun this week and hit a steel target at 960 yds . I think it works just fine.  One of the down sides to the cartridge, is it will not be reloadable. Ah well, it is still cutting edge and is a glimpse of the future.

STI- The Stacatto single stack 8 round Compact 1911 profile pistol (aka 2011 design frame) in 9mm is their biggest offering this year. It is a handsome piece and eminently comfortable and shootable like all 1911 profile guns. Size wise the C model has a 3.9 inch barrel and putting it between the Colt Commander 4.25 inch barrel and 3 Colt Officer’s length 3.5 inch.  Their advertising lists the compact C model as the carry handgun of the year in 2019 named by Industry Choice Awards. MSRP is $1499. The larger STI models are touted as duty and competition grade guns, and the picture of a certain white hatted shooter with “Texas Rangers” on the slide of a Stacatto P model shows how serious these guns are taken.

STI also had a very nice side lecture presented  in their booth by professional firearms instructor and pro shooter Corinne Mosher. Corinne addressed the topic of issues female shooters encounter with concealed carry.  If you were not aware, firearms, holsters and tactics to deploy them successfully are often at odds with female anatomy and clothing items.  Mosher presented a large number of real world examples and some work-around solutions for well armed women. The topic was well thought out and interesting enough many attendees walking the isles were drawn in to hear this topic from a professional.  At the end, men asked more questions than the females did-who knew men were still teachable?

Tippman Armory- These guys love to do the unusual. This year, I was stopped dead in my tracks when I saw their mini hand cranked Gatling gun-with a large Glock 9mm mag sticking out of the receiver. Yep. They said they were challenged by all the demand (you have friends like that too don’t you?) and so they built this 27″ long semi-auto Gatling (yes you can own it) and crank out all the Glock 32 round mags you want through it.  Price is $5000, but what a conversation piece, and when the boogaloo comes you would be the only guy on your block with a Gatling gun. Let the liberals try and write a law against Gatling guns! What headlines!

One Response to Shot Show 2020 A to Z

  1. Bill Schauff on January 23, 2020 at 4:54 pm

    Good article Mike. That show is on my bucket list some day if I can find someone tag along with.