By Mike Keleher
OK. Industry Day at the Range is held every year on the Monday before the SHOT Show starts in Las Vegas, NV. I was fortunate enough to get an invite again this year and it remains my favorite SHOT activity.
Why is this range day much better than my birthday? Well, here is the deal. Invitees are bused to the Boulder Rifle and Pistol club about a half an hour from Vegas and when you arrive, they give you eye and ear protection and you are allowed wander at random up and down a line of booths displaying all brand new firearms- the latest and the greatest as it were. You then take turns shooting all of their new guns, using their ammo and then walking away…and don’t clean or put anything away. Yes, that walk away part is particularly good for me. Oh, and that line of booths that face down range targets- it is about a quarter mile long, side by side with rifles, shotguns, carbines, machine guns, suppressed everything and pistols. Blaze away and smile. I also frequently made some notes on paper and made kind remarks- manners can get you invited back again next year!
I was a firearms instructor for a federal agency for over 25 years and quarterly had to obtain and haul all the ammo and targets to the range as well as any special weapons. Put up the targets, arrange the ammo (9mm in a .40 is a bad idea), run qualification shoots and any training drills for the agent corps, then take it all down and haul the targets and ammo back to the office and clean any special weapons. As a firearms instructor you don’t get to shoot much. Soooooo, getting to shoot and walk away feels great!
The temps were cool today and wind was raging up to 25 mph wind gusts. I of course am from the land of ice and snow…a bit of polar fleece with some Eddie Bauer goose down over and I was fine! Not everyone had as much fun as I did, sniveling for free gloves and stocking hats and Black Rifle Coffee.
After driving away from the range, I had to reflect back on all that shooting today, and decided my favorite fun gun of the day, was a “new” second generation AR-15 by American Tactical chambered in .410 shotgun. It was (pardon me now…) just a blast to shoot! Sales and Support Rep Kevin Stasik was quite proud of the Milsport AR .410 Shotgun Gen 2 and kept handing me loaded mags of .410 slugs. I in turn kept blazing away…hey it’s only polite. He started it! They went off with about the same recoil as a 5.7 carbine, certainly less than a .223. It was just plain fun! You can get the .410 upper for $399, pop the pins on any 5.56/.223 AR lower and drop it on. Or you can get the whole gun for $599 and American Tactical will throw in pup up sights a deluxe butt stock, full length picatinny rail and plenty of modular slots on the forend, and a flash hider. It comes with a 5-round mag, but you can get a 15 round magazine as well. Kevin said people are enjoying the gun at home and use it to shoot varmints and since it will shoot buckshot and slugs can be a very low recoil home defense weapon in that oh so familiar AR package.
The most innovative pistol of the day is the brand new ARMSCOR/Rock Island Armory 5.0. It was designed from the ground up and looks like an odd duck. The extended dustcover looks too long, the beavertail looks too short. The slide is not very tall, and the grip angle is somewhere between a 1911/Glock/Childhood Dart Gun.
The barrel is of course square, with a round 9mm hole in it. They threw out the rule book building this one. It has a patent pending recoil system unlike anything else on the market. Picking it up you notice right off the bat it is nose heavy, and the trigger is another piece of wizardry going off about 3 lbs. I shot a couple mags through it and then had to dry fire and cycle the trigger to get some kind of a description to tell you about it. I have no recollection of recoil. None. I don’t think it moved during the ejection cycle. Accuracy was of course very good with the pistol not jerking around and functioning was flawless, and I watched a lot of people shoot it. It is the new wonder-kid on the block. Looks like nothing on the market and is doing a lot of uber modern things all at once. My only negative, was the trigger did not fit my finger right, but I refused to cut off the digit to accommodate. Maybe later.
Savage has introduced a set of 1911 .45’s that are so new they are still hot to the touch! Boy are they nice. I got to handle and shoot a Stainless-Steel model and it contained all the add on features people pay big money for to make their 1911 “good.” Shooting it was just like you would expect from a quality 1911 and seemed to be dead nuts accurate even for me shooting head shot targets on a windy day. Savage knows how to make guns. Period.
I like this picture of “Savage Recoil” alot…not just because I’m in it, but you can see how that big steel pistol behaves.
Close by the RIA tent I got to shoot some new Winchester pistol ammo they call “Big Bore Pistol” which consisted of 10mm JHP loaded 200 grain rounds headed out at 1175 fps. Shot it in a Glock 20 and you notice the round leaving and a fair amount of vibration in the gun frame. “Snappy” I said (oh wordsmith you…) There is a picture of a roaring bear on the ammo box so I am pretty sure Winchester agrees to you shooting big animals with it.
Down at Springfield Armory I got to see ever present in-house celebrity expert Rob Leatham and he was having a ball putting the new pistols in people’s hands and challenging them to say what they did not like about the new guns. Who does that?
I got to shoot their new Prodigy pistol. I liked it immediately. The Prodigy is a 9mm, double stack magazine pistol on a 2011 or 1911 like receiver. It was built to go head-to-head with custom double stack 2011 pistols, and Rob said all parts are interchangeable with those other brands’ pistols, even the grips swap out. Grabbing up a double stack .45 ends up feeling like, well a .45. The grip is only something like a quarter of an inch wider than most 1911s. Racking the slide is the first thing that made me say “Whoa” and I had to do it some more. The slide goes back and forth like it is on ball bearings. I knew anything that felt that good just cycling was going to be good on the back end. It was. The trigger was great, one of the best of the day and the sights were good. I spent my ammo time popping little plates out of a steel head. Easy peasy. I could see why 3 gunners, IDPA and USPSA shooters are loving it. Oh, and one more thing, the magazines for the Prodigy cost about a third of the price as their competition-and Rob assured me they have plenty in stock.
Glock had a big booth of course. They are rich. They also gave away all the best freebees, including insulated bottles and 3” long plastic Glocks which have a USB memory stick hidden as the magazine. Non-famous gun writers are complete suckers for free stuff.
I don’t get too excited with Glock most years when their new items look like their old items. “Now mit sprinkles!” This year was more of the same. Now they have added Gen 5 MOS to the G20 and G21 in 10mm and .45 respectively and the G47 in 9mm…but if you are a Glock fan you knew that already. What did interest me, was Glock just introduced the Glock Performance Trigger (and trigger bar, connector and rear shoe and ejector).
Apparently, they got word they were losing money on their gritty triggers to all those aftermarket types and decided to build their own better trigger (where has this idea been hiding since 1987?) I got to shoot one of the triggers in a G47, and it was very nice. Reminds me of all those other aftermarket triggers! You still have some take up, but the break from there has no crawl or gritty feeling to it. It was good! Glock said they come with a 3.5lb trigger pull and coming in at $99 it is about $50 cheaper than the nearest competitor. One of the Glock reps and I talked about the Performance Trigger to get the words right and he said it best “It is night and day over a factory original trigger.” I am keeping his identity a secret lest he be thrown on the Glock factory bonfire at the next corporate event.
Speaking of triggers, Walther had their own Dynamic Performance Trigger on the firing line and they said it could be installed in most of their PDP line. I got to shoot their latest PDP that has the fabulous ergonomic grip which goes way back 20+ years to the original P99. The trigger pull on this pistol was probably the best I shot the entire day. I asked the rep if this was indeed their Dynamic Performance Trigger, and he shrugged “No. That is the regular trigger.” I am not sure what else they could do to make it better!
I shot a Diamondback DBX carbine with a folding wrist brace. The use of polymers everywhere resulted in a PCC like little shooter at about 3.5 lbs. It was chambered in 5.7mm and with a nice dot sight on it I was pinging 100 yd steel to the point of my brain wandering elsewhere. Cool little gun, but it is in 5.7mm- an expensive and sometimes hard to find cartridge, and as you probably know the BATF is after that wrist brace like the Wicked Witch after Dorothy and Toto.
I got to try out on the new Shadow Systems CR920 pistols which is the size of a Glock 43/48 and they are quite proud of being kind of Glock Plus…evolving beyond the original Glocks while allowing most parts to interchange. This single stack pistol comes with 10, 11 or 13 round magazines in 9mm.
All across the line today I shot many Aimpoint Acro P2 red dot sights in many booths on many guns. The Aimpoint rep said they have put them on pistols, rifles, carbines and even shotguns. The P2 has a 2.5 MOA red dot in a square housing. There is something right about that square housing and it kind of disappears. They have a nifty mount that allows the dot to be twisted and removed completely in about .5 seconds. Aimpoint is apparently selling these things to world military like hotcakes and keep building in new upgrades. Latest was it was submersible down to 45 feet because some nation’s mil wanted to lock out of submarines with them…so it has that going for it just in case you ever need to do a lock out swim.
American Tactical was also showing off their South Carolina made .45’s the Moxies with patented polymer frames which can be had for less than $500 in a variety of lengths to include a Commander model with Glock sights of all things and fitted to take optics. They also make a Double Stack .45 6he FXH-45. I shot one of the Commanders and felt the familiar Glock-like vibration in the frame but did not experience a lot of recoil with the slide cycling.
Just when you saw it all at the Range Day, Wilkinson Tactical had a CR-12. Yep a 12 ga upper that drops onto an AR-10 lower to make a magazine fed AR shotgun. I shot one and the first time it went off the charging handle hit me in the nose. Must have been my nose’s fault being up there and all.
Finally, I shot at Brugger & Thomet (I never spell it right and practically unpronounceable in Americanese) a B+T 11” Carbine the APC9 in of course 9mm. B+T are well known internationally for their excellent engineering and this one is no different. It even comes with and Elfmann trigger ($$$$ trigger). The rep said he thought the market was saturated with PCC’s and carbines and at first blush customers were not too enthusiastic about the specs and looks. Then they shot it. I shot this one on steel torsos at 100 yards. Ping, ping, ping. It works.
I am including this last item just because I thought it was cool… yes that is a Honda generator running a portable internet hot spot in the desert at a gun range. Cool right? I am sure someone with a new Apple I-phone could hot spot for the whole group without breaking a sweat, but this looks like some guys with some thinking time on their hands put it together! You go guys.