Although it is a hassle to attend the annual Shot Show event in Las Vegas, there are things at the Show that will be seen nowhere else. In a strange twist of, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” some hopefuls introduce products at the Shot Show, never to be seen again; while other products succeed beyond their originator’s wildest expectations. This is a place where the marketplace speaks to entrepreneurs and lets them know in sometimes cruel terms if their products are desired or not.
Each show appears to emphasize different themes across product lines. This year’s show had an expanded tactical side, and these parts of the show, even with more space given to their exhibits, were always crowded. In comparison the “civilian” sporting goods side was not nearly so thronged with people, although it appeared that more business was being done than at last year’s events. Some people who I usually call on in the gun and knife trades were much too busy writing orders to pause and chat – good for them, and for the industry as a whole in this dismal economy.
The fear on the part of retail customers that the economy and U.S. society would fail combined with twelve years of continuous foreign wars was apparently driving store owners to purchase more things on the combat-tactical-survival end of the sporting-goods spectrum. While the got-bucks segment of society could still buy high-priced traditional goods, buyers had more interest in things that had more practical appeal – particularly if they had a “black gun” tactical look, rather than wood and blued steel. The medium-priced decorative parts of the market, like art works and knickknacks, slacked as people were apparently using their money for things that they saw as more useful.
Appealing to an older segment of the market, companies like Case could not write orders for their traditional pocket knives fast enough, and more Colt 1911 frame pistols in .45-ACP and other calibers are seen than ever before. There were also more self-defense and police style handguns from all parts of the world vying for the U.S. market. Large-caliber lever-action rifles also appeared in more variety and in greater numbers. Some of these lever-gun sales are driven by the Cowboy Action Market, but others are purchasing modernized versions of these rifles, like the Model 71 Winchester (.348 from Browning, .444 Marlin and .45-70 from Davide Pedersoli), for hunting.
Makers of muzzleloading guns, which I specialize in, continued their trends towards producing either exacting replicas of Civil War Guns (Davide Pedersoli and Chiappa) or lighter-weight versions of their in-line drop-barreled hunting rifles, such as Traditions’ Vortex and CVA’s Accura. In an unusual turn of events, CVA and Traditions are offering .50-caliber big-game-capable muzzleloading pistols with drop-barrel actions. I enjoy hunting with muzzleloading handguns, but this is a tiny part of the gun market. Such guns come and go fairly quickly. If you want one, buy it now while they are to be had.
One potentially significant muzzleloading shotgun was introduced by Davide Pedersoli. This is a single triggered double-barreled 12-gauge Coach Gun with 11, 20 and 28-inch barrels. This is a new design with back-action locks, and while the shorter barrels are cylinder and cylinder bored, the 28-inch barrel version has cylinder-modified choking in its right and left barrels respectively. This gun should be a fine upland-game gun when used with moderate loads. I hope to get one to use next season – stay tuned.
Hog hunting is receiving increasing attention as a sport and needed activity to help control these rapidly breeding animals. They can be extremely destructive to the environment and absolutely wreck food plots and even large-scale agricultural plantings. In addition, hogs will eat anything smaller than they are, including endangered plants and animals by chomping down on sea turtle eggs, young of gound-nesting birds and anything else that they can catch, kill or root up. Once they reach 200 pounds, almost no predator is going to take them on. A 600 lb. boar hog is “king of the woods” throughout most of its rapidly expanding range in the U.S.
Although not particularly my style, AR platform guns are often used with night-vision equipment to help control these animals. They allow rapid repeat shots at multiple targets from a line of guns that may range from .223 to .50 caliber. This year Winchester introduced their Razorback bullets with delayed opening to insure penetration in hogs which may be protected by mud, hide, a thick gristle plate, shoulder bone and ribs before a bullet can get into the vitals of the animal. They recommend the .223 for smallish hogs weighing less than 100 pounds and the .308 caliber for bigger ones. I never had any great love of the .223 as a big-game cartridge, and would certainly elect to use the .308 so that I could take out a huge hog if one appeared. It was also noteworthy that the AR that I shot at the Winchester Ammunition booth on Range Day was made by Rock River and had the best trigger of any such gun that I have shot.
Although Barnes, Remington and others have offered hollow-pointed solid bronze bullets for use as saboted muzzleloading projectiles for years, this year saw increasing emphasis on machined brass bullets for muzzleloading and cartridge gun use. Knight Rifles has a new “Blood Line” bullet in sabots for its .50 and .52 caliber rifles and Cutting Edge Bullets offers bronze bullets from .223-.50 caliber for cartridge guns. To improve the long-range ballistics of these bullets, Cutting Edge has an optional polymer tip to streamline these projectiles.
Thompson/Center Arms introduced a new Dimension bolt-action rifle with interchangeable barrels and stock components that will be available in calibers from the .204 Ruger to the .300 Winchester Magnum. The gun uses four bolt-magazine-barrel groups which they name as Groups A-D. Ruger’s new bolt-action, The Ruger American Rifle, has a polymer stock, two-point bedding, weighs 5.25 pounds and is chambered for the .308 and .30-’06 families of cartridges. The bolt on this gun works as slick as many straight-pull actions for rapid follow-up shots. Mossberg is also offering a variety of “black stocks” and add-on components for the Winchester Model 94 and its Model 500 12-gauge shotgun in addition to its already large selection of interchangeable shotgun barrels. These stock components can be changed out very quickly to fit perceived needs as the “Flex Your Mossberg” system. In-store promotions will include stand-up store displays with multiple stock-forend-barrel add-on options.
These and many more items are discussed in my radio shows on Hovey’s Oudoor Adventures. These include “Deja Vu Vegas: Shot Show 2012. Part I was aired on January 30, 2012, and Part II which will be broadcast in early February. More photos and contact information for the companies appears on my “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures Radio Show Blog.” Should these links not work you can access the materials from my website page www.hoveysmith.com. For the radio show click on the live link immediately below the banner and for the blogs continue to the link at the very bottom of the page.