By Diane Walls,
If every sector of the American economy were doing as well as the firearms industry, we would all be dancing in the streets. SHOT Show 2016 recorded the second highest numbers in the show’s history with over 64.000 attendees and a record number of buyers. The aisles were crowded and the presence of women stronger than any previous show.
A Women’s Meet and Mingle event on the afternoon of January 21st was offered to encourage women involved in the shooting industry to get together and network. I walked into a room filled with ladies and abuzz with conversation. There were familiar faces and new faces and a whole lot of networking going on. It was a wonderful opportunity to touch base with women I knew away from the busy show floor and meet some new friends. It was informal and without a set program so nobody had to stop chatting and pay attention to anything other than getting to know each other a bit better. This type of event should be encouraged for upcoming years as more ladies get involved in training, competition and marketing their ideas.
The National Shooting Sports Federation (NSSF), which puts on this show, instituted a new policy for vendors that have been trying to get off the waiting list for booth space. Shot Next opened up about 100 spots on the third floor of the Sands Convention Center for new vendors to showcase their wares. Since these booths were up near the Press Room and Members’ Lounges, there was plenty of traffic to see what they had to offer. This opened up more booth space for vendors at the Media Day range event to get a foot in the door. All in all, everybody was excited to see so many new things and welcome these new companies into the community.
I determined to put my focus on new products, products for women and storage options for safe storage of all the firearms that new owners are bringing home, perhaps for the first time.
Kimber generated some of the greatest buzz by debuting their K6S revolver. That’s right, the manufacturer known primarily for its 1911 platform guns has entered the revolver market. This project has been in the works for about three years and production guns should be out late Spring or early Summer this year.
Kimber’s design team, led by Director of Engineering Maureen Lincoln, with the consultation of revolver expert Grant Cunning-ham, has come out with a .357 magnum, six-shot snubbie about the size of most 5-shot models. It’s a sleek, all steel gun with a 2-in. barrel. Kimber had some preproduction guns on the range for Media Day and lines were long to give it a try. When my turn came around, I was pleased to note that the fit to the hand was very compatible with my smaller hands. The grip is designed with a tang to ensure correct hand placement. The trigger face is rounded on the sides and it has a smooth pull of about 10 lbs. with a very positive return out to firing position for followup shots. .357 magnum was all they were offering for am-munition, but firing it from the K6S small platform was surprisingly controllable and pain free. If the production guns can keep up the quality apparent in these preproduction ones, Kimber will do well with this product.
Browning had their small, light-weight 1911s on the range in both .380 ACP and .22LR calibers. We shot the .380 with carry loads and it was a joy to shoot. Thin, light and flat, it would conceal well and fit the hand of even a small shoot-er. This could be a defensive option for those that love the 1911 but find the traditional chambering in .45ACP to be more than they want to tackle.
A couple of new polymer-framed guns from manufacturers not yet on the SHOT Show floor were out on the range. New Order Firearms by Evans Engineering of Clairton, PA, offered their NO9. All metal parts of this gun are billet machined and made in the USA. They will offer compact, midsize and full size frames in right or left handed models. These striker-fired guns are offered at an MSRP of about $675.
Another new striker-fired gun is the Honor Guard by Honor Defense, LLC of Gainesville, GA. This gun is designed for the carry market and is a compact frame in 9mm. Models of this gun can be ordered with or without a manual safety. Also available is a frame with Firearm Integrated Stand-off (FIST) that protrudes from the bottom of the frame to add a couple of inches of standoff below the muzzle. This design, suggested by a Special Forces operator, is for when things get ugly in extreme close quarters. The gun will operate at contact distance with an attacker. Honor Defense has consulted with self-defense shooters, including A Girl and A Gun’s Julianna Crowder, in its design. MSRP is $499.
Also of note on the Media Day range was the Walther PPQ in .45ACP. This high-capacity, striker-fired gun is remarkably well behaved when firing. Its fit is good, with interchangeable back panels for fit options. It was recommended to me by a female trainer of renown even more petite than I. Naturally, I had to take her recommendation seriously.
A look at sighting products came up with more guns being offered with slides cut to accommodate RMR sighting systems. Glock is now doing this for their popular Models 19 and 17. Sig offers a number of options as well. Trijicon, maker of excellent sighting systems for all types of guns, now has a pistol RMR that has their light-gathering system requiring no batteries to operate.
In laser sights, Crimson Trace now has lasergrips with green lasers for 1911s. LaserMax has a nice, easily attached and detached rail mount laser sight for ARs. They also have a nifty pop on and off rail-mounted light that is mint green instead of white to avoid glare-blinding the operator while using it.
LazrPoint from C-more sights is a magnetically attached laser sight that clamps over the slide at the rear sight. Rare earth magnets hold it firmly in place so it stays true. Currently available for most Glocks. No modification is necessary to the gun to attach or remove the sight.
Advantage Tactical Sights from WrenTech Industries, LLC, are a chevron style sight that is easy to see. The system is available for rifles, shotguns and pistols. One option is a light chargeable unit that are getting into shooting. There are yoga pants and lightweight shorts that have reinforced waist-bands with belt loops designed for threading a gun belt through. Paired with light, moisture-wicking t-shirts these would make rangewear comfortable in hot weather while training or competing. Their cargo pants and chinos are cut for a woman’s body and have the popular below the waist rise. They also have their traditional shirts with many pockets, also cut for ladies. Sizing goes up to 20 so even those of us with robust proportions can find a fit.
Girls With Guns has a nice line of hunting clothing designed for women. They also have themed shirts, pants, footwear and jackets for everyday wear.
Pack N’ Heat has ear and eye protection with matching bling for those that like to dazzle while they are on the range. The active ear protection has a 24 db rating and the glasses are from 3M and studded with matching crystals.
In holsters, kydex and other polymers were easy to find. Blade-Tech, which I recommend often to students and friends, has many offerings of outside the waistband, retention, and inside the waist-band gear that is very well made. They are very good about staying current with offerings for new guns.
In the SHOT Next booths, two new Kydex holster makers were interesting to me. Clinger Holsters offers concealment rigs for a price point of $19.99-$59.99, depending upon the model, with a lifetime warranty and excellent return policy. They have three cant (tilt) options to choose from: straight drop (0 degrees) to extreme rake (30 degrees) with the standard FBI cant of 15 degrees in the middle. Fit for most guns is offered. The gear is sturdy and well finished.
DoubleClick Holsters has an outside the waistband level one retention rig suitable for range wear or open carry. The Safe-Carry Ranger has a molded Kydex folded clip that holds the gun in the holster securely and is pushed aside with the thumb when drawing the firearm. With a bit of practice, the draw can be accomplished smoothly and quickly. Retention is good, even from a vigorous grab (yes, we tried it with replica guns). They offer several other models of both concealment and outside the waistband holsters suitable for range work. What we saw was solid and well-made.
Specifically for women, CanCan Concealment has deep concealment options that are suitable for carry in business or dress attire. The elastic used in their belly band and thigh band products is military grade and resistant to folding and rolling during everyday activities. A couple of very nice features to find on this type of product are tabs on the holster pockets to aid in re-holstering the firearm without sweeping yourself with a loaded gun and contouring of the hiphugger bands to better follow the curves of a woman’s torso. Several different colors of pretty stitching and lacing are offered for a feminine touch. A sport band is offered for the men as well with masculine accents for carry in sportswear. They offer sizes to fit most any gun and any body.
Packin’ Neat offers an option for purse carry that turns any purse into a carry purse. The insert comes in a variety of sizes to fit different sizes and types of purses and different guns. The gun is held in a pocket above an organizer tray so it is always in the same place for easy access away from the contents of the purse. The tray has compartments for keys, cell phone, wallet, and other items. For those that use multiple types of bags for different occasions or activities, this could be a handy option to be sure you can always carry your gun with you when carrying on body is not feasible.
Every trainer we spoke with at the show reported a surge in people seeking training for firearms safety and concealed carry. Fire-arms sales spike with each new incident showing that we live in dangerous times and each new threat by politicians to our right to keep and bear arms. With fire-arms safety a growing concern, most safe companies now offer a variety of smaller secure storage devices as well as their large safes.
Hornady has some nice sturdy boxes suitable for securing one or two handguns in a vehicle or home. The boxes have RFID activated locks and come with a chip bracelet and a sticker that can be affixed to something carried with you daily like a key fob or cell phone. They also have touch pad entry and key locks for back-up so you can always get into the box in some way.
ShotLock has Solo Vaults that offer secure storage of handguns or long guns mounted to a wall or in a vehicle. These sorts of options allow for safe storage of defensive guns in close proximity in the bedroom, shop or office where you might not have your main storage safe.
Speaking of bedroom storage, many of us struggle with finding a way to keep our defensive gun close by while we sleep and have it secure from unauthorized hands while doing so. ArmsReach offers a biometric storage system to keep your gun at hand. It is secured between the mat-tress and box spring and allows for single touch access of authorized persons. It has an AC power cord with battery backup should your power go out. It is keypad programmable and has key entry capability should all else fail.
Many options are available at all price points for safely securing guns away from theft, tampering or curious children. There is no excuse for leaving a gun unsecured when the industry has stepped up to offer so many choices to avoid senseless tragedies and firearms getting into the hands of criminals.
As usual, there was more to see at SHOT Show than any one per-son can in four days and talk about than one overview can cover. The atmosphere at this show was upbeat and positive about the growth every-one has seen while a thread of wariness was apparent about the political pressures that seem to grow apace.
For me, the show is always an opportunity to catch up with old friends, more to make new ones and see upcoming trends in firearms, accessories and training.