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My First SHOT Show

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I’ve been involved with the firearms industry for many years – not just as a shooter, but someone with business interests in the industry.  I started working gun shows with my father when I was still in high school.  Later in life, I started teaching CCW classes as an NRA Certified Instructor.  Most recently, I’ve done product reviews, both on this website, and for 3-GUN NATION magazine starting in 2016.    However, despite a long history of being involved in the firearms industry, I’d never made it to SHOT Show – the largest firearms and related product tradeshow in the US.  For the reason as to why, I’ll tell you my own personal opinion about SHOT Show – it’s the Kim Kardashian of the firearms industry.  SHOT Show is famous for being famous – but it’s largely unnecessary.  Think about it:  Would gun companies release new products if SHOT didn’t exist?  Sure they would.  Would distributors and dealers place orders with manufacturers if SHOT didn’t exist?  You betcha.  Sure, there’s obviously a benefit for many product manufacturers and for the industry as a whole for all that new product to be timed with SHOT.  But there are also disadvantages as well – how many new, innovative, start-up companies have tried to launch at SHOT, only to be drowned out by the noise and hoopla created by the new product announcements of the “big boys?”  For media types, the SHOW is in many ways counter-productive.  The press releases that most companies put out on their new products are in many cases available right before SHOT opens.  And if you’re at SHOT, you’re not back home at your office discriminating information about those products to your audience.  Still, I decided to go this year – I figure it’s something every true “gun guy” should do at least once, and the outcome of the US Presidential election might well make this particular SHOT Show a memorable one.  So I secured media credentials to attend through my association with 3-GUN NATION Magazine:

I decided I would stay three full days – one day for Industry Day on the Range, and two days to walk the show.  I also decided to go “on the cheap” – I booked at one of the least-expensive hotel options which was recommended by SHOT with their negotiated rate of just $80.00 per night – the Monte Carlo:

I’ve never stayed at the Monte Carlo before – I’ve kind of lost track as to how many times I’ve been to Vegas, but I’ve stayed at most every desirable hotel on the strip.  Despite the Monte Carlo being one of the older hotels on the Strip, I was not at all disappointed – the room was clean (about the same size as the usual Marriott Courtyard room I’ve ever stayed in) the shower was warm and strong, and the Wi-Fi was free and quite good.  I paid about $15.00 each way to get to and from the Sands Expo Center where SHOT is located (the Monte Carlo is on the South end of the Strip, and the Sands Expo is on the North end), but even with the additional $30.00 each day, I saved money – the next cheapest option was about $150.00 a night as I recall.  I flew in on Sunday before the show and did a little sightseeing that afternoon and evening before the show officially started.

Monday started bright and early with Industry Day At The Range.  To the extent that SHOT itself is a little difficult to get into, Industry Day is very difficult.  Technically, you need an invite.  The first half of the day of Industry Day is media-only – after 12:00 noon other invited industry types are also allowed in.  For those that don’t know, Industry Day is a collection of firearms industry manufacturers that set up tents at a private range about 20 minutes outside of Las Vegas, and allow folks to try out their products in a live fire setting.  So you basically go from tent to tent standing in line to shoot various guns, which of course is much fun.

My only complaint about Industry Day is that the bus transit out to the range wasn’t particularly well organized.  You have to get up at zero dark thirty to make that first bus out to the range, so you’re already less than a happy camper.  And they kept us standing around waiting for about an hour longer than we should have waiting on the bus.  But once we got there, it was a great time.  I saw a lot of folks and shot a lot of guns, but here’s some of the highlights:

Coming into the range I met Michael Bane of Shooting Gallery fame:

Later at the Hudson Manufacturing tent, I ran into Tactical Defense Institute owner and founder John Benner:

Speaking Hudson, I did try out the new H9, which was the darling of SHOT Show:

I wasn’t quite as “wowed” by it as others were, but then again I see only limited value in shooting these pre-production examples that manufacturers typically trot out to events like this.  I’d rather spend some real time trying out a production version, which I look forward to doing with the H9

The folks at UTM have an interesting training concept they’ve put together in their training ammunition.  It comes in various capabilities, but their option I’m most interested in is their training ammunition which makes no noise, fires no projectile, but causes slide reciprocation and “recoil.”  They’ve partnered with SIG Sauer, and already have the (required) barrel and ammo options for the P320 platform, which also interested me as a P320 shooter.  If they can bring this ammunition to market at or close to the price of a box of regular range ammo, I can see an application.  But spending the price of the special barrel AND twice the cost of regular range ammo will make for tepid market acceptance IMHO.  But the concept does seem promising for us winter shooters who rely primarily on dry fire to keep our skills fresh in the off-season of winter.

I spent a fair amount of time at the STI tent, playing with their various 2011 competition offerings.  I really don’t want to like a 2011 – I’m one of those guys that would prefer to shoot what they carry in competition (or darn close to it).  But darned if I didn’t like what I tried.  At some point I may pick one up just because…but there are a few guns on my list I’d like to get first.

I stopped by the Cobalt Kenetics tent mainly to meet and speak with 3GN Pro and legend Keith Garcia (with whom I’ll be taking a shotgun training class in the Spring) but I did shoot some of their rifles as well.

I also stopped by the S&W tent to shoot the new M&P 2.0.  I did like the new aggressive stippling, but not enough to make me want to run out and by another one:

While I was there, I met and watched Jerry Miculek’s world record-breaking demonstration:

They just about should re-name Industry Day at the Range to YouTube Day at the Range – I ran into just about every YouTube Gun guy of note, including Gun Collective’s Jon Patton, The Legal Brief’s Adam Kraut, MixFlip, and of course the guys from The Firearms Blog:

I probably should have gotten some video footage for my own YouTube channel, but I just didn’t have the time/energy.  I really needed a camera man were I to go that route.

Perhaps my biggest disappoint with Industry Day was learning that SIG Sauer does their own “Industry Day” at a time and location separate from Industry Day proper.  I know I could have swung an invitation – I just didn’t know to ask for one.  I used my free lunch ticket at one of the food trucks, then boarded the bus to back to the Sands Expo.

The next day (Tuesday) SHOT Show opened for business:

You read about the massive size and scale of SHOT, but until you see it for yourself, you just can’t imagine it.  The SHOT Show mobile app is invaluable for navigating the show, and the rented “help” at the show is often anything but.  However, I quickly gained a strong dislike of Daniel Defense, the official sponsor of the SHOT Show app.  Every time I opened the SHOT app, I was subjected to their marketing screen, which often reset whatever I was looking at before, forcing me to navigate through the app again.  Who exactly at SHOT and Daniel Defense thought that this was a good idea??

One of my first stops was the NRA booth, just to shake hands with and thank as many folks as I could for their efforts on behalf of gun owners.  I’m a lifetime member:

One of the many gun industry celebs I ran into at SHOT was Colion Nior.  My wife has her CCW and takes a passing interest in guns and shooting, but we’ve watched many of Colion Noir’s YouTube vids together and howled laughing.

I spent some time getting to know Aaron Hayes – I’m hoping to get the opportunity to test one of his M2’s later this year:

The one booth I went to twice while at SHOT was the SIG booth.

I spent a lot of time fondling the new P320 X-Five pistol:

Yep, this sucker will be mine – no question.  SIG should be sending me an example to test and evaluation for 3-GUN NATION magazine soon, but my initial impressions were quite positive.  About the only things I saw that I would change would be the trigger (my Gray Guns trigger replacement kit for the P320 is actually en route as I type this) and some silicon carbide treatment to the grip module.  But if this gun shoots half as good as it looks and feels, it should go a long way to bridge the gulf between the 2011 platform and the striker fired options for competition.  The fact that the rear sight panel can be removed and an optic added is icing on the cake.  Must.  Have.

The only question mark in my mind is what to do about the new X-Five Carry model:

As much as I wouldn’t need it, strictly speaking, I did like it.  The big advantage for CCW is that it will hold a 17 round magazine flush in the grip (as compared to 15 rounds in the current P320 Compact).  I already have 2 examples of the P320 Compact.  I really don’t need another “compact” model…and yet…the X-Five Carry model calls to me.  We’ll see.

Since starting 3-Gun, my interest in shotguns has really grown and I’ve become quite the Benelli guy.  I just ordered a 2nd M2 for competition, but I think next year I’ll be picking an M4 with the collapsible stock – I played with one quite a bit at the Benelli booth:

I also spent quite a bit of time at Mark Roth’s RCI booth:

As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, I actually have a Taran Tactical Innovations Benelli M2 inbound, but I was quite curious about RCI’s customization of the Benelli M2:

As shallow as this sounds, I probably went with TTI to customize my (2nd) M2 for aesthetic reasons as much as any other.  The customization work being done by the 4-5 major players in this space is all pretty darn close (the guys doing the work will even tell you that).  So I figured why not pick the one I thought looks the coolest?  Still, as with many choices in life, I wish I could combine RCI mods and TTI mods into one shotgun.  There are definitely some unique features on the RCI I I would like.  For example, the rear sight post that RCI does – I currently have a Benelli Performance Shop M2 3 Gun Edition (which RCI does the customization work on), and I’ve gotten used to that rear sight post.  I also like the QD attachment points (for a sling) that RCI puts on both the M2 stock and forend.

As much as I think the SIG P320 X-Five is the competition option that’s right for me, I did go back to the STI booth and played with the STI DVC 3-Gun model that I shot at Industry Day:

 

About John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

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