My top priority for day one of the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show is to beeline for the “basement” at the first ding of the opening bell. You’d think I was a greyhound chasing one of those electric rabbits around the track, except I don’t bark (quite) as much during the mad dash.

I do this because that’s where the new and interesting stuff is. Before the show starts, we pretty much know what the mainstream companies are going to be showing. Don’t get me wrong, actually seeing and handling these new products is exciting. I just know that they’ll be there waiting for me on days two through four of the show. The lower level is where the smaller booths, and new vendors, are. Not knowing who might have cleared the waiting list at the last minute, I walk by each and every booth looking for new toys.

Here are some of the more interesting items I found.

1. SEEK Thermal Camera

SEEK Thermal's new IR camera for iPhone and Android devices.
SEEK Thermal’s new IR camera for iPhone and Android devices. Image by Tom McHale.

Moore’s law is an old computer axiom that states computing power per dollar will double every 18 months because technology or something. The law seems to apply across the board to technologies like thermal vision devices, too. SEEK Thermal showed their new iPhone and Android camera off at SHOT this year and the results were enlightening, to say the least.

The new models have 32,000 thermal pixels. That’s fancy speak for “you can see things really clearly and at longer range.” You can compare the output of this $299 camera to that of devices costing four figures. The device itself is about the size of your thumb and simply plugs into the port of your respective device. Super cool.

2. Geigerrig Hydrapack

Both the pressure pump and filter are removable so you can stow them elsewhere in your pack until needed.
Both the pressure pump and filter are removable on the Hydrapack, so you can stow them elsewhere in your pack until needed. Image by Tom McHale.

Walking down one of the many SHOT Show exhibit aisles, I was struck by a man standing on a full hydration pack. He was surrounded by a crowd of nervous-looking prospective buyers who were just waiting to get soaked. All stayed dry as my new favorite product demo guy bounced up and down on the heavy duty water balloon.

That demonstration got my attention, but the product pitch got my interest. The Geiggerig Hydrapack is not only strong, it’s got built-in pressurization. Think about that. A pressure bulb allows you do secret the hydration bladder in your pack, then pump some air into it. To get water, open the nozzle. No more sucking a hose. You can share water with your buddies without being gross. You can wash things. You can fill a coffee cup in the morning. Better yet, the pressurized output allows placement of an inline filter. If your pack goes dry, dunk it in the nearest stream or pond and your water will be filtered as you use it. Brilliant.

3. Birdsong shotgun suppressor

A pregnant shotgun? Not exactly...
A pregnant shotgun? Not exactly. Image by Tom McHale.

It’s starting to sound like everything in this list stopped me in its tracks. I suppose that’s circular logic, as that’s what this list is about—new and interesting products. Walking by the Birdsong booth I noticed a shotgun with what appeared to be an oblong life preserver circling the barrel. The oversized tube resembled a suppressor, but it turned out to me more. You see, the interior of the tube is fire-retardant. My first question was “What?”

It turns out there’s a great reason for this. Imagine you’re playing cops and robbers, and you’re the cop—except it’s not a game, but real life. You’re the entry person who has to blast open the lock of a suspected meth lab. Are you with me now? Meth labs are, umm, slightly explosive. For the safety of all involved, Birdsong helps make sure the fiery stuff stays inside of the shotgun, thereby helping keep officers safe from unwanted explosions. That sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

4. Jesse James Firearms Unlimited Aero Sonic Suppressor

While it may look like a 1930's rendition of a space ship, it's not. The shape of this suppressor actually serves a purpose.
While it may look like a 1930’s rendition of a space ship, it’s not. The shape of this suppressor actually serves a purpose. Image by Tom McHale.

There are a lot of suppressors at SHOT Show. Thousands, if I had to venture a guess. But this particular Jesse James Firearms Unlimited had me agape. It’s clear it’s a clamshell design that’s made for user serviceability. Unbolt the two halves to get at the guts to clean and/or replace baffles and interior parts. I asked about the shape and was told by the company that the football-shaped profile more closely matches the gas explosion profile to smooth things out a bit for quieter and gentler operation. Whether that matters or not, you have to admit this is one exceptionally cool-looking piece of gear.

Editor’s note: The JJFU suppressor caused a bit of a stir, given that its manufacturers claim an industry-lowest noise level of 78 dB at the muzzle with supersonic 5.56 ammunition (other industry-leading suppressors reduce a supersonic 5.56’s report to the 130 dB range). Liberty Suppressors has challenged that claim, and a silencer face-off appears to be in order.

5. Great Lakes Tactical integrally suppressed 10/22

This integrally suppressed Ruger 10/22 barrel is in the "I want it now!" category.
This integrally suppressed Ruger 10/22 barrel is in the “I want it now!” category. Image courtesy Great Lakes Tactical.

Here’s another exceptionally fun toy. I love the Ruger 10/22 rifle. It’s small, light, and semiautomatic. If I ever run for President, my campaign slogan will be “A Ruger 10/22 in every home. Maybe two.”

The folks at Great Lakes Tactical have made the Ruger 10/22 even better. They get a standard diameter .920-inch bull barrel, then machine suppressor baffles right into the end. Then they trim the exterior dimensions just enough to allow the barrel to be covered with an aluminum sleeve. The outer diameter of the whole assembly is still 0.920 inches. This means it’s a standard-length and standard-diameter Ruger 10/22 bull barrel. It’s just suppressed on the inside. Suppression adds no extra length—it’s still as light and handy as ever. As the whole barrel is a suppressor, you’ll to get the normal NFA tax stamp. You can buy a ready-to-go rifle, or just the barrel, and install that on your existing Ruger 10/22.

6. Gnat Warfare

Gnat Warfare's company slogan is "We blow sh%t up!" Really, it is.
Gnat Warfare’s company slogan is “We blow sh%t up!” Really, it is. Image by Tom McHale.

Sometimes you just need the satisfaction of blowing up a reactive target. How about a super-fast remote controlled plane outfitted with explosive disks on the wings? Childhood fantasy? Nope. Gnat Warfare offers the latest in (clean) adult entertainment.

Sponsored by Fiocchi Ammunition, the company has developed a remote-control plane just ready to be blown to bits with shotguns. A lightly armored fuselage protects the electronics and most of the engine. The propeller and wings are intended to be disposable. The explosive disks ensure that wings have a short life span.

While you can buy the plane and parts, the real fun is having the Gnat Warfare folks run your next corporate event or party. They’ll launch and fly the toy plane with a death wish across a line of shooters. Teams fire alternately, scoring points as the wing disks explode. If your team blows the plane right out of the sky, causing it to crash into a flaming wreck, your team immediately wins the round. The Gnat will be ready to go for the next round in minutes, thanks to its semi-disposable design.

Trust me folks, this is absolutely real, I couldn’t make this up. Check out a video of it below.

Were you at SHOT this year? Find anything unique? Let us know in the comments.

Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.

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