By Mike Keleher
Last year I found out the media is invited to a day of shooting other people’s newest guns and ammo on the Monday before the SHOT Show kicks off on Tuesday. Now I have enjoyed attending the world’s largest firearms trade show in the massive Sands Expo Center, but all those guns are neutered and all the ammo is too!
Well this just could not stand! I wrangled an invitation to this year’s Industry Day at the Range and thought I’d share some of the sights and new stuff-the day before the show begins tomorrow on January 21, 2020.
I lined up with the other guys to ride the bus out to the Boulder Rifle & Pistol Club outside Las Vegas and could only hope the manufacturers would let me get their new guns all dirty and shoot their ammo…for free. A shooter’s dream come true! The gun show media attendees like me were much too cool and jaded to to show just how much they like free trigger time. But boy did all those “experts” talk up a storm on the way to the range trying to impress others with their awesomeness and who they knew and who they used to be. I had to put my hearing protection in early.
In attendance was a preview of tomorrow’s SHOT Show crowd: a salty looking bunch of men and very few women who all must have met up in the lobby to get the outfit of the day together so they would all match. Yes, black polar fleece was the fabric of the day. Oh there were variations, there was black, dark black and dusty black. This was worn over the apparently mandatory cargo pants (thank goodness the monochromatic gods have mixed up some pants colors at least). Everybody had their worn out ball caps and of course their black/black combat back packs in case they were called up on to invade Utah, and of course the nearly mandatory Tactical Assault Beard (TAB). The TAB’s are HUGE at the SHOT show with all those “operators” and if you did not know it there is even a protocol for TAB’s.
You see, when two Tactical Beards approach one another, the less prominent beard is supposed to yield the right of way. Yes those prolific beards scream out “I am a rebel” and/or “I have a job/marriage where my boss/wife does not make me shave”, and finally “If you like this beard, you should see my back hair!”
Getting off the bus my dreams came true at the massive Boulder Rifle & Pistol Club. There were 50 or 60 companies letting you line up and blaze away with anything you were interested in, and some swine shot every gun in some of those stables!
My first shot, (oh the puns) was over at the Mossberg tent. They had rows of their brand new 940 JM Pro autoloading shotgun laid out. Their genial host was no other than His Majesty Jerry Miculek. (Yes the JM in 940 JM stands for Jerry M.) The previous edition the 930 JM Pro has been a staple in 3 Gun and Multigun shooting but has had a lot of detractors who claim they are not reliable unless the gas system is kept very clean. Well Mossberg listened and consulted with Jerry again and came out with the 940 JM Pro which is intended to go right out of the box to the competition field.
They have redesigned the gas system and claim you can run up to 1500 rds through it before having to clean it. They also have spacers in the stock to make a custom fit, undercut the magwell area for quad-loading, added oversized mag release and bolt handle and threw in Briely Choke Tubes. Jerry says they are hitting the market at about a thousand dollars. The competition has always been Benelli M-2’s and a tricked out B gun can get you easily up to two thousand dollars (You can buy the John Wick 3 Benelli for even more money!)
Mossberg’s faith seemed to bear out at the range-I never saw a 940 JM hiccup with shooters new and old, and yes good and very bad. I did see quite a bit of recoil being displayed on the other shooters, and when it came for my turn and Jerry encouraging me to tear it up, I did feel what I thought was more recoil than my Benellis, but I may be more accurate to say it recoiled with a different feel and barrel rise. Nonetheless, it is race ready out of the box and I am sure they will sell alot of them.
Next up I just had to lay hands on the Colt dream-yes they have reintroduced the Python for 2020. It is an iconic revolver with a legendary reputation for accuracy and a terrific action. Colt is putting them out in Stainless Steel- I think they did have a couple in SS before they disappeared off the screen, but most were that fabulous Colt Blue and a few were nickle plated. Collector prices have skyrocketed and when I talked to the Colt rep he said the public had such a strong desire they had to bring the Python back.
I go to shoot one and I did not envision myself as Hutch from Starsky and Hutch from the 1970’s, but I did love seeing David Soul drag that 6 inch model out every week. Oh, back to today…yes it was awesome. I don’t shoot revolvers any more-but it was like coming home when I picked it up. That butter smooth double action kept me ringing a steel plate and I had stop myself and try at least one single action shot before I ran out Yes it was crisp and just what I knew to expect from a Colt Python. I did not get a price at the range but imagine it will be reasonably around and arm, and a leg, and maybe a future draft pick…but what an awesome gun!
Glock’s new G44 in 22LR was in big demand at the range. I must confess I did not get too wound up when they had their “big” announcement couple weeks ago…oh look….another Glock pistol…looks like their other pistols…except in .22 caliber. I did not get the marketing behind it and was glad I got to lay hands on it and talk to a rep. Turns out, that .22 is the same dimensions as the Glock 19, the most popular EDC civilian gun and most popular law enforcement gun. It features all the G19 feel you have come to know, and this G44 fits in your G19 holsters, and the funky big magazine even fits in G19 mag pouches. I was going to insert a picture here, but it just looks like a G19. Color inside the lines in your own imagination kids. For cheaper practice and even transitioning new shooters this G44 is now in my “pretty cool” bin.
I did not shoot the new Ruger-57 pistol chambered in 5.7mm-the line was too long! It looked like the line to Space Mountain at Disney. I have never understood the fascination with 5.7mm pistols but to each in their own flavor I guess. I holds something like 20 or 21 rds of zippy rounds that look like shrunken 5.56 to me. I did get to handle the gun and it is very lightweight polymer and reminds me of their Ruger American striker fired pistol. MSRP is going to be around a thousand dollars.
I shot hundreds of rounds of 5.56 and .223 through guns brought out by gun and ammo manufacturers as well as optic companies. I got to fall in love again with triggers from Geisselle and Hiperfire. I marveled over a very flat shooting long range .224 Valkyrie, which was the new deal two years ago at the shot show. I am not sure it has sold a lot of units lately, but it moves just fine on an AR platform with a bolt and mag you can share with a 6.8 SPC. I shot a 6.5 Creedmore at something around 600 yards and a very nice .300 Blackout out at about 100 yds-recoil was not much different than a 5.56 to me, but then of course I was in gun-love all day so you must forgive some of my lack of recoil notice.
They had a trap range and while it seemed rather tame to me there were still interesting styles to be seen….like a woman shooting with the shotgun upside down and over her head, and yes she did hit some clays.
Speaking of gun love, I got to shoot some .308 in Springfield Armory’s newest production M1A, in a short 16″ barreled Tanker version. It is solid and controls are clunky compared to AR’s, but boy when you lay hands on it, all that Walnut stock feels and smells so good! Mil type peep sight and post were great up close and the familiar military type trigger was still there and I was about to poo-poo that part and moved sights down range and started ringing steel very consistently at 200 and more yards with those iron sights. Some noise came out of me then. I think it was joyous…I just gave them their gun back and moved on. That old Garand upgrade is still a weapon to contend with and Springfield’s old slogan “Bring enough gun” certainly still applies.
One of the fun things about the whole SHOT Show is bumping into people you know or know of. You never know how you might see. You could stumble into Robbie Leatham at the Springfield Armory booth and ask him questions…he looks like he enjoys it!
I shot Walther’s new .380 they were touting, the CCP. I am in no way shape or form a fan of the .380 cartridge, but thought I’d try it out-and was pleasantly surprised. One of my complaints about .380 is stuffing the cartridge into tiny light weight guns and the recoil can be snappy and rather unpleasant at times.
Going in a new direction, Walther put this gun together into the same size frame as their 9mm gun. It is a medium sized gun with good ergonomics. Their rep told me they had a fan base who wanted .380 and some are older and have trouble manipulating strong recoil springs so this gun is engineered to be easier to chamber and shoot with a longer sight radius than other companies are putting out. It was actually very pleasant to shoot-the best .380 I have fired. Did not make me want to run out and buy one, but if .380 is your thing, have at it.
Full auto guns were present at the range with long lines waiting to shoot various Kriss versions and some weird Chinese or Taiwan things that looked like a Bren crashed into a SAW at high speed. I shot Rock Island Armory’s newest shotgun the VRBP100…it follows their very successful mag fed VR-80 but it is a bullpup design. It takes the same 5, 10, and 19 round mags that fit in the VR-80. Operating controls are all wrong for me with the magazine being back by my chest, but it shoots just fine and begs for a red dot sight and would somebody please invent a dependable 20 rd drum mag that will work in the MK1919 platform?
There were plenty of non-traditional booths and couple of good ones included Buck Knives letting you throw hatchets, throwing knives and stars at wooden targets. Everyone took time out to toss a few.
Another non-gun item was the Mission Crossbow set up across from some hay bales with baloons….98 yards away. This crossbow was so wickedly awesome in all it’s combined parts and a Sig Sauer Scope people were walking up and shooting balloons with very little prompting. The company says is is sub-1 MOA at 100 yards. There is a bit of flight time involved and the drop was dialed in on the excellent Sig scope, but dang if I didn’t bump a balloon. Very fun and a lot quieter than the other booths.
My absolute fave of the day was in the Sierra Bullets booth, my friend and awesome shooter Michelle Gallagher said “Do you want to shoot the Green rifle?” It was an F-Class .308 with a brilliant green stock with a gozillion-X power scope, on a rest dialed in for 1000 yards. Adam my coach from the Sierra Bulletsmiths brought my head off the scope when he said “By the way that is a 2 ounce trigger.” Me: Hunh? “2 ounces? ” Adam: “Uh yea. If you feel the trigger with your finger you probably just launched one down range.” Me: OK. I hit a target I intentionally aimed at that was 960 yards from the firing point. New personal record for me-I have never intentionally shot at anything that far!
I finished the day like all good shooters do, tired but happy with lots of good memories and experiences and suddenly not so excited to go drag around the SHOT show indoor hall for two days and never fire a shot. Ah well, I had a blast and came away all gun powdery smelly and best of all, I did not have to clean a single gun when done!