My first plan of action for my annual pilgrimage to SHOT Show is to attack Level One with the enthusiasm of a Dalmatian puppy on Red Bull. I’m not talking about a video game, I’m talking about the basement level of the SHOT Show exhibits. Of the thirty two ump-tillion and seven square feet of exhibits, the main room downstairs is where the action’s at. New vendors tend to show up there first, as established vendors have a perpetual lease on prime upstairs hall space. Before the show, I generally know whether Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, or others will launch a new gun and I have all week to see those things. What I don’t know is what fledgling start-up finally cleared the waiting list, packed up their gear, and claimed space literally hours before the show.
With that goal in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting finds at SHOT Show 2014.
Wicked Grips and the miracle 1911
What if I told you that a frighteningly talented guy who works with Wicked Grips, manufacturers of exceptionally innovative and cool designer grips and accessories for handguns and rifles, made a functional 1911 entirely out of wood? No, it won’t fire a projectile, but everything works—slide, hammer, trigger, and magazine release. Stop and think about this for a minute. When I say everything is wood, I mean everything. Frame, slide, barrel, sear, and, most surprisingly, screws, pins, and springs. Yes, screws and springs. Handling this Brazilian rosewood, walnut, and curly maple masterpiece, I was speechless—and that’s a rare situation for me. Apparently, the craftsman has made a handful of these, but the others weren’t “perfect enough” to display. Stunning.
World’s coolest knife sharpener
Since we’re on a “wicked” kick here, let’s talk for a minute about Wicked Edge. Walking down an aisle on Level One, I saw a couple of folks furiously working a contraption that looked like a cross between a miniature exercise machine and some sort of futuristic fire starter.
Turns out it was a knife sharpening system. You mount your knife blade up in a center vise. Sharpening stones are then slipped over two steel rods mounted on ball joints. This allows you to rapidly work the stones over the entire blade while maintaining the desired blade angle. Start with rough 100 grit stone attachments and work your way to 1000 grit to finish. They did a wonderful job sharpening my BLACKHAWK! MOD SFK folder as a demonstration. I could shave with it in a pinch.
End of the shooting chronograph?
I almost walked right by the LabRadar booth because you have to move fast if you have any hope of covering the whole show in only four days. If I had immediately grasped what was displayed, I would have made this booth my first stop.
You might be familiar with shooting chronographs. They are devices that optically track the passage of a bullet over two or more sensors and calculate the velocity. They’re notoriously finicky due to effects from varying light conditions and muzzle blast, and even the material (lead, copper, etc) of the projectile itself. They’re also short-lived, as you have to place them down range and shoot very close to the sensors. Yep, they get shot. Frequently. And fancy electronics don’t tend to withstand hunks of lead flying at Mach 2.
LabRadar invented a radar-based system. Not only does it track the exact velocity of your bullet, it tracks it all the way down range, out to 100 yards or so. You can see muzzle velocity and 10, 50, and even 100 yards. The best part? You set this on the shooting bench, behind your muzzle. You won’t shoot it and you don’t have to worry about setting up and retrieving equipment down range. It will be available in April for less than $500. I want one. Bad.
Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 air rifle from Crosman
I was able to shoot this hot new .22 caliber air rifle at Media Day at the Range. It’s sweet! Why? It stores energy completely with a gas piston. No springs involved, so there’s no “sproing!” The trigger is outstanding. Stay tuned—we hope to review one in detail here in the near future.
Kakadu Traders concealed carry clothing
You might know I’m a certifiable holster geek. I’m familiar with Kakadu Traders, as I included their Kakadu Concealed Carry Briefcase in the first edition of The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters. When I found them on Level One, I was blown away by their new line of concealed carry clothing, which includes shorts, shirts, vests, and jackets. They’ve learned new tricks, as the vests and jackets include interior harnesses to help support the weight of the gun. Gun holsters and magazine pouches are in hidden pockets on both sides, so they work for righties and lefties equally well. And they’re stylish. I must have one of their Water Buffalo hats. Hint, hint.
I met the tritium guy!
You may have heard that there’s only one company on the planet that manufactures those tritium vials for watches and night sights. From what I can tell, that’s almost true. Supposedly there is a manufacturer in Canada and there are rumours of a Chinese plant, but that’s hearsay. The important thing is that MB-Microtec, owner of Traser watches, most likely produced the stuff that makes your gun sights glow.
Traser was showing off some nifty sport watches—all tritium-powered, of course. I just thought it was cool to meet the tritium guy!
Walther PPQ .22LR with threaded barrel
I had to include at least one actual firearm, right? There were far too many to pick a single favorite, but one that caught my attention was the new Walther PPQ chambered in .22 Long Rifle. It comes with or without a threaded barrel, but is there a decision here? Threaded, of course! Balance and ergonomics were outstanding. It’ll make a great suppressed gun. Keep an eye out on Walther’s website for availability. As I recall, we’ll see them in March or April.
Crimson Trace 2014 catalog
A catalog makes my SHOT Show list? Yes, but only because I’m in it! I had the honor of including a two-page spread that speaks to carrying with confidence by selecting the right holster. Included with the free catalog is a free DVD—The Laser’s Edge. It includes a series of training videos and lot’s of other helpful material. Order your copy here!
I could easily add about a hundred other items to this list, but space denies the opportunity. SHOT Show is not just a convention, it’s an adventure.
Images by Tom McHale