This weekend, as you gather with friends and family, shop sales and hopefully enjoy fireworks, I ask that you take a conscious moment to reflect on, marvel at, and Thank God (whatever God that is) that if you are lucky enough to live in the United States of America, we enjoy so many freedoms, some of which don’t exist anywhere else in the World.
Now, I know everyone doesn’t always agree on the issues, the salient points, nor the outcomes, but perhaps just for this weekend, let’s put those differences aside, and unite as Americans, realizing that Freedom is what makes our Country such a great place to live. Some of our key freedoms include:
Freedom of Speech
The Right to Bear Arms
Freedom of Religion
The Right to Equal Justice
The Right to Own Private Property
Freedom to travel anywhere within our nation
Freedom to work at any job for which one can qualify
Freedom to marry and raise a family
The Freedom to Vote
Although I sometimes [often?] disagree with the things some people say, I still recognize and respect the right of free speech. With that in mind, I believe everyoneshould support the Second Amendment– even if you choose not to exercise your 2nd Amendment right.
Well, if the FIRST or SECOND CONSTITUTIONALLY provided RIGHTS are ever infringed upon, or taken away, then it’s just a slippery downward slope towards an America that is no longer truly free, and that’s just plain Un-American! Not to mention something our enemies would like to see.
Finally, as you contemplate our freedoms, please take a moment to Thank God that there have been, and continue to be, very brave men and women who stand up and fight for those freedoms,regardless of whether they fight for freedom in the streets of Everytown USA, in courtrooms, in the Legislative Branch of Government or on the battlefield, in some cases making the ultimate sacrifice. After all, Freedom isn’t free.
So on this Independence Day Weekend, Let Freedom Reign, and God Bless America!
Earlier this month I was an official media guest of the NRA at the Great American Outdoor Show. It’s a big show, with plenty to see and do. The Great American Outdoor Show is open to the public, and open for business! That’s right, in many cases, you can buy products and book trips right on the spot!
Direct form their site, “The Great American Outdoor Showis a nine day event celebrating hunting, fishing and outdoor traditions that are treasured by millions of Americans and their families. The show features over 1,000 exhibitors ranging from shooting manufacturers to outfitters to fishing boats and RV’s, and archery to art covering 650,000 square feet of exhibit hall space! Not to mention a jam packed schedule including country concerts, fundraising dinners, speaking events, archery competitions, celebrity appearances, seminars, demonstrations and much more!”
A major highlight for me was ALL of the major firearms and accessory manufacturers in attendance,who brought plenty of guns and products for attendees to handle, and plenty of expert reps to happily answer your questions.
Another personal favorite were the many new, smaller, niche-market vendors I met, some with extremely innovative, exciting new products. It’s the quintessential, grass-roots American Dream in action.
I spent the better par of the day and evening at the show, but there were so many manufacturers and vendors to visit, products to see, demos to watch and seminars to attend, I wish I had at least two full days to cover everything!
Highlights, with Specials Thanks To…
Major Firearms & Accessory Manufacturers
Representatives fromMossberg, SIG Sauer, and Winchester Repeating Arms all spent a lot of time with me discussing their products, giving me detailed, hands-on demos, or even just finding product catalogs when they weren’t otherwise available. I certainly appreciate their attention.
Geissele Automatics Based in North Wales, PA, Geissele Automatics makes products for “the Competitor, the Warfighter and the Protector.” In short, their triggers are the best you can put in your firearm! This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the U.S. Government. In fact, the DOD tapped Geissele for triggers for semi-automatic sniper rifles, and M4 carbines. (Now you understand why a Geissele S3G found it’s way into my own AR.) Geissele brought some great guns to the Great American Outdoor Show, all of which were, of course, fitted with Geissele triggers. They also had a bunch of trick, innovative trigger housings that let attendees try out the triggers without having to install them in a firearm, and without damaging the trigger mechanism. I spent a lot of time talking to James about their products, the guns they brought, and my own build. The forest green AK they brought, with their new ALG AK-47 Trigger was lusted after by many!
Since I had already highlighted Bond Arms in my 2015 SHOT Show coverage, it was great to get more hands-on with their product line, and to meet some of the key folks behind this innovative company, including President Gordon Bond. As I examined all the different models of Hand Cannons, the interchangeable barrels, beautifully crafted grips, holsters and even Buck based knives, the words that kept coming to mind were, functional, overbuilt, high-class, and quality. I can’t wait to spend some time at the range with a few of these models!
IWIUS, Inc. was also on-hand with an impressive selection of UZI PRO pistols, GALIL’s and TAVOR bullpups. In case your not familiar, IWI has an 80 year history, dating back to the (IMI) Israel Military Industries, of producing some of, “the most innovative, and legendary firearm brands used by militaries, law enforcement agencies and security personnel around the world.“IWI’s TAVOR SAR, launched in 2013, was the company’s first firearm squarely aimed (pun intended) at the US civilian / commercial market. New 2015, after an almost 25 year hiatus, the AK-47 based GALIL ACE family of riles and pistols is coming back to the US civilian / commercial market. One of the IWI reps spent a lot of time with me reviewing their products – some of which I had never before seen up close, or wasn’t familiar with at all. She even took the time to field-strip the TAVOR, right there, in mere seconds, with nothing more than a pen. (The fact that she probably could have just as easily killed me with the same pen did not escape me…) I can’t wait to get my hands on a GALIL for a detailed review!
Up and Coming Products
Viper Holsters, LLC. – A good holster is like a comfortable pair of jeans. If you don’t find a good, comfortable holster, you’ll likely start leaving your gun at home. That’s not a good thing. Unfortunately, you can’t test holsters until you buy them, and with an overwhelming array of choices out there – from super cheap to luxury items that are more fashion than function – most of us end up with a rather expensive box of “not quite right” holsters. Well, Joe from Viper Holsters noticed this trend, and has created a line of Kydex and leather products to address the need for economical, high-quality, comfortable holsters. Joe highlighted some of the product features that set his Viper Holsters apart from existing competitors, and it all makes perfect sense to me. I did see both quality and feature improvements in the samples Joe highlighted, when compared to commonly known competitors. I’m hoping to get my hands on some of Joe’s Viper Holsters for a more in-depth review and comparison.
TacticalWalls –This company’s “hidden in plain sight” idea is gonna make you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” Let’s face it, if you have guns in the home, it’s a major responsibility to keep those guns out of the wrong hands. At the same time, if you have guns in the home for protection, quick, easy access to your guns, and probably when you least expect it, is important for all the obvious reasons. Made right here in the USA of high-quality (real wood), furniture grade components with high-end fit and finish, TacticalWalls has come up with a novel solution to both the security, and quick-access challenges. I spent a lot of time speaking with Chris, and am really impressed by not only the basic idea, but how well it’s executed, the fit & finish, and the people behind TacticalWalls. I’ll tell ya, even the Sig Sauer folks, who were right across the isle, couldn’t get enough, and helped make sure the TacticalWalls booth didn’t go unnoticed. Look for an upcoming, detailed product review.
Knives, Holsters & Other Gear
Battle Horse Knives – Let’s face it, guns and knives go together like peanut butter and jelly! If you’re into the shooting scene – be it for recreational, tactical, or hunting reasons – you’re probably into the broader outdoor scene, to include fishing, camping, hiking and bushcraft. This means, you’re probably into knives. Well, BHK makes custom quality knives at production prices, so you won’t be afraid to actually take ’em out and use em in the woods! Since I already have a couple of their knives and sheaths, it was great to see them, and the rest of their product line in person, at the Great American Outdoor Show. Look for some future in-depth reviews, and a special one-off project already in the works with BHK. In the meantime, you gotta check ’em out: Battle Horse Knives.
Ballistol –“The world’s most useful and environmentally friendly lubricant.” I first learned of Ballistol from fellow firearms enthusiast and product reviewer Hickok45, and his Youtube channel. (Hickok45 is on a very short-list of video bloggers, or vloggers, I find spot-on in terms of their logic & information, and first-rate in terms of quality.) Supposedly good for firearms, knives, tools & hardware, leather, home & garden, marine, road & trail, I’ve been seeking out Ballistol ever since. I walked away from the Great American Outdoor Show with some product in hand, so look for an upcoming review.
Cold Steel – I’m a big fan of their products, which can easily be summed up as High-Value. The Cold Steel Recon 1 and Voyager knives, both with the Tri-Ad lock, are regarded by many as two of the best hard-use folders on the market. Cold Steel was in attendance with product on hand, and some phenominal pricing. In fact, the Cold Steel Recon 4 and Lawman products I wanted were long gone.
OK Auto 4WD & Tire – While guns, knives, related gear, fishing equipment, hunting guides, and taxidermy services dominated that show, there was a section dedicated to ATV’s, RV’s, 4×4’s and boats. The guys from OK Auto 4WD & Tire spent a lot of time with me showing off tricked out vehicles from their shop and AEV. If you’re not familiar with OK, click this link for a great, in-depth write-up.
Finally, I’d like to thank the NRA, America’s oldest civil rights and sportsmen’s group, for not only such a great event, but also for being such gracious, easy to work with media & press hosts! I’m certainly looking forward to the next large scale NRA event!
That’s right, this year’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show just wrapped-up. I’ve scoured the Web, watched hours of videos, and checked out the latest posts from other blogs. Here are the trends I noticed, and the products I’m excited about.
The AR-15 craze is slowing, but customizable offerings, 3-Gun ready models & AR-10s are still extremely popular.
Don’t get me wrong, the AR-15 is still the most popular rifle in America, and for great reasons! (Click here to understand why the AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America.) Make no mistake, AR’s were still hot at SHOT, but they didn’t seem to dominate the show like in recent years. Colt’s OEM1 & OEM2 bare bones offerings, the four new FN-15‘s and out of the box, 3-gun ready, affordable rifles, like those from Armalite all piqued my interest. 18″ barrels are again popular. Makes sense to me!AR-10s continue to gain popularity. Same familiar, reliable, accurate, quick handling form factor and manageable recoil (at least in semi-auto), just delivering a bigger 7.62×51 payload?!Yeah, I’m in. Finally, just Right Carbines also has some cool looking pistol caliber AR based carbines.
AK-47’s – American Made AK-47’s!!
So, while the AR-15 continues to be the most popular rifle in America, the AK-47, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov is the most popular rifle in the World! Why? They’re cheap and easy to produce. They’re easy to use. They’re effective. Finally, they’re reliable.Unbelievably reliable. Loose tolerances that negatively impact accuracy, allow the AK to just keep running in the harshest, muddiest, dirtiest, dustiest, sandiest conditions. Though traditionally seen by some as a “bad guy’s gun“, the AK-47 has always enjoyed some popularity in the United States. This year the AK’s popularity has increased exponentially. In part due to current Russian sanctions, which prevents importation, and in part due just to the increase in popularity of the platform, I’ve noted several “American Made” AK-47s, an AR-AK combination, and AK accessories from some of the best in the business.Century Arms, Palmetto State Armory and former importer RWC Group all plan to produce American made AK-47’s.Century Arms has incorporated a clever bolt hold-open into the safety selector. Purely an admin feature, but helpful to those of us who like to comply with range safety practices. Geissele’s got a new AK-47 trigger. Magpul’s got new AK furniture and magazines. There’s even a mutant AR-AK combination; late 2014 CMMG released an AR-AK hybrid. Mossberg also has a new .22 rimfire rifle, called the Blaze-47, styled after – you guessed it – the AK-47. I shot a friends AK-47 back in 1994, and it was a blast!(pun intended). Such a fun gun to shoot, and I just had another friend, and fellow “good guy” pick one up. Personally, I want one, but can I can get past the “bad guy gun” stigmatism??(Does knowing some of our brave men and women in the armed forces have allegedly used AK’s as far back as Vietnam, and certainly in more recent conflicts help justify the decision? Does buying an AK manufactured and assembled completely in the U.S. help? I guess only time will tell.)
Concealed Carry Handguns & Pocket Pistols Continue to Reign Supreme
No surprises here. People want personal protection. Yes, even outside the home… After all, isn’t that a basic right?! There are still tons of great, and ever increasing options, but unlike the past few years, there was no specific, hotly anticipated new concealed carry gun. Bond Arms has some new CA legal Hand Cannons amongst other things, S&W introduced ported variants of their very popular M&P line, Ruger increased the size of the LCP with various new offerings, and Taurus introduced the curve. Still no return of the Remington R51, though I read on Guns, Holsters And Gear that it might be mid-summer. Nor was there any sign of a single stack Glock 9mm. (Would a G42 in 9mm be any more concealable than the existing, and ever popular G26? Is the striker fired, polymer framed, 9mm pocket pistol market too saturated? Are they possibly working on it now?)
Despite history dating back to a manufacturing plant in Paterson, NJ in 1836, a long, successful history supplying firearms for the military & law enforcement, and one of the most iconic names in the business, I think it’s fair to say it’s been a while since Colt has been an “A” player in the consumer / civilian market. Technically, they may have re-entered the civilian / off-duty concealed carry market back in 2007, but for the first time in a long while, at least in my opinion, Colt now clearly wants our consumer / civilian business, and this is a great thing! Just look at their AR-15 and 1911 based product offerings, with features inspired by both the success of their USMC adopted CQBP (Close Quarters Battle Piston), and customer feedback. Colt’s Rail Gun is 100-plus years of proven performance and historical significance, in the familiar 1911 battery of arms, combined with the modern convenience of a M1913 Picatinny Rail. I have to admit, I want one!
People Like to Customize Their Guns & The Manufacturers Have Noticed!
Customized sights & trigger.
Let’s face it, people like to differentiate themselves from the crowd. To make their things work better for them, based on their application and use. To make things distinctly their own. We do it to our houses, cars, trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, computers and even our bodies. Why not customize our guns, either with custom accessories, or even just custom colors & accents! It’s a growing trend I don’t see slowing down anytime soon. It’s also a trend that hasn’t been lost on the manufacturers. While many mainstream firearms manufacturers have traditionally offered “custom shop” variants at significantly higher prices, some – Strum, Ruger & Co., Inc. in particular – now offer many more options than ever before for customizing production guns, either at time of order, or via owner / gunsmith installed accessories.
Double-Taps (aka quick-hit updates):
1911’s, 1911’s & More 1911’s! Still riding high from it’s 2011 Centennial, John Moses Browning’s timeless classic is as relevant and popular as ever. Remington R1’s, Colt .45’s, Sig 1911’s, Ruger SR1911‘s, S&W 1911e’s and many, many more. Though originally seen by die-hards as sacrilege, Full-size and Commander model 1911’s in calibers beyond just .45 ACP, particularly 9mm, had a strong showing at SHOT 2015. There was even a polymer 1911 from American Tactical Imports (ATI). Personally, I’ll stick to classic .45 ACP, in some kind of metal based frame and slide.
10mm Handguns. Favored by handgun hunters and brown bear backcountry explorers, 10mm fans have two new options in the Glock 40 MOS and Sig 220.
Optics on handguns, and factory slides milled for them. Putting red-dot style optics on handguns is becoming more and more popular. So it seems natural that certain manufacturers are making this easier than ever, milling attachment points right into the factory slide, while retaining the traditional iron sights. Glock’s MOS (Modular Optic System) is just one example.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown Bull Barrel & Stock Option. Honestly, if you don’t have a Ruger 10/22, you need to get one!! Ruger’s iconic, rotary-magazine-fed 10/22, introduced to the public in 1964, is one of the most popular, and customizable rifles of all time. Since being announced in March 2012, the Ruger 10/22 takedown, like all other variants, has enjoyed tremendous popularity. Well, the aftermarket is finally catching up with the takedown. Popular 10/22 barrel & accessory manufacturer Tactical Solutions teamed up with famous grip and stock manufacturer Hogue to offer this new, very cool looking bull-barrel / stock combination.
Courtesy of Tactical Solutions
Knives & Flashlights… The future’s getting sharper, and looking brighter!
Knives – There are great new offerings from familiar names like Spyderco, Benchmade, Gerber, Kershaw / Zero Tolerance, SOG, ESEE, Buck, Condor Knife & Tool, CRKT, Emerson, Mora Kniv and Victorinox (Swiss Army). Across the board, steels, handles, grinds, designs and features continue to get better. (Honestly, I’m still enamored with some 2014 models; the proven Spyderco Manix 2 in CPM S110V with Dark Blue FRN handles, and Benchmade Hunt Series Grizzly Creek folder are prime examples.) There’s always a place for hard-use, no BS tactical / self defense blades. They are, and will always be popular, especially with military and law enforcement personnel. The same can be said for the never-ending need for good, high-quality EDC (Every Day Carry) blades, whether they be Chris Reeve Sabenza style ‘Gentleman’s Folders’ or more basic, utility type blades. I couldn’t possibly cover all the new models here, but the good news is there’s really an overwhelming array of great choices available, so you almost can’t go wrong. On the general public, mass-marketing end, focus seems to have shifted away from the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’, Doomsday, Rambo Survival Knife, towards more practical, Outdoors, Bushcraft and Hunting knives. The Zombie Apocalypse phase was fun for a bit, but I think this new trend is a good thing. While not exactly breaking news, ESEE’s Camp-Lore line is a prime example. That RB3 is something I’m really hoping to get my hands on for a review.
Flashlights – By now, everyone knows LED’s are, no doubt, the way to go! The lights keep getting smaller, lighter and brighter, while packing in more features. There are handheld flashlights available today brighter than most automobile headlights. Think about that… As if the ability to carry the sun in your pocket wasn’t enough, waterproof ratings & USB charging capabilities top the list of 2015 highlights. Surefire and Streamlight have traditionally topped the list for Military, Law Enforcement and EMS professionals, for good reason, and of course they have new 2015 models. In my own experience, and while there are some newer players to the game, I’ve found FOURSEVENS and Fenix Lighting to offer, high quality, competitive alternatives – sometimes even at a lower price point for more lumens. While not exactly new for 2015, take the Fenix UC35; aircraft grade aluminum construction, waterproof, USB rechargeable, 960 lumens – all for under $100?!!Seriously, how do you beat that?!! There are also very interesting options, some at even lower price points, from EagleTac, ThruNite and Nitecore. Though to-date I’ve no personal experience with those three brands. (Look for that that to change in the very near future.)
That’s clearly not everything at SHOT 2015. I didn’t even get into the many new, or improved more traditional, hunting / sporting and tactical marksmanship rifles. Nor did I get into all the bags, packs, pouches or clothing. There’s just not enough time in the day! Anyway, that’s my initial take on this year’s SHOT Show, the products I’m looking for, and a bit on where I think the Shooting, Hunting & Outdoor Industry is going.
What caught your eye? What’s on your 2015 Guns, Knives, Flashlights & Gear Wishlist? Let me know what you think!
Well, here it is… New Year’s Eve 2014. A time to be Thankful for all that we have. A time to reflect. A time to look forward.
2014 went by a bit fast, but I have to say, it was a pretty good year for us at Inside The X Ring. We got to the range a bunch of times, shot some cool guns, attended some truly great events, like Gun For Hire’s 1 Year Anniversary Celebration. We got out for some bird hunting, and spent some good time in a deer stand. We may have also purchased some news guns, knives and other outdoor equipment. Finally, we continued to strengthen our brand, expand our network, and increase readers. Thank You!
Looking forward to 2015…
Look for some long overdue product reviews.
Look for a possible guest post or two from some colleagues at other Adventure and firearms related blogs.
Look for more some possible trips and/or outdoor experiences.
Inside The X Ring Wishes All Of You a Happy, Healthy & Safe 2015.
As most people know, the Fourth of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, following the Revolutionary War, thus declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain (now the United Kingdom), and serving as the precursor to the United States Constitution.
While those two key documents in American history were inked at different times, and though we don’t have a national holiday to celebrate our Constitution, it’s really the United States Constitution that outlines how our Government operates, as well as what freedoms and rights we American citizens enjoy.
In case you’re a little rusty, the United States Constitution commences with, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The Constitution then goes on to include a number of Amendments, the first two of which protect the Freedom of Speech, and the Right to keep and bear Arms.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
On this Fourth of July, and regardless of where you personally stand on the Second Amendment, I urge you to think about the freedoms and rights we Americans have. Wherever and however you celebrate, spend a moment reflecting, and thanking those who fought for the rights and freedoms we enjoy today. Remember those who fought in the Revolutionary War, those who fought during our country’s infancy, those who continue to fight for our rights and freedoms today, and everyone in between.
I also urge you to think about what would likely happen if those Constitutionally Protectedrights and freedoms were ever taken away. Taking away rights and freedoms is a slippery slope that takes our country backwards, not forwards. We are a country founded from the beginning, in principle, on personal responsibility, accountability, reliability and empowerment.
So go ahead and think about, or better yet, Exercise your Rights and Freedoms. Get out there and hit the range!
So, here we are. The end of December. The end of 2013. A time for reflecting on the past, and looking forward to new beginnings.
2013 – The Year in Review
Thanks to many of you and your support, 2013 was a good year for Inside The X Ring! I met many great people, did some really fun shooting, a little hunting, I built some great guns (hint, hint), and after many years of providing informal instruction, I became an NRA Certified Instructor. Though I didn’t post as frequently as I’d like, I am happy with the information I shared, and the support I’ve received from many of my peers in the online firearms, shooting sports and general outdoors communities. The AR Series has been especially well received. In the broader industry and the political scene, cooler heads have prevailed (for now), AR’s and associated parts are again available, and reasonably priced. Likewise, most ammo is again available, and getting closer to being reasonably priced, (including small quantities of .22lr) 🙂
2014 – A Look Ahead
As usual, I’ve got some big plans for the year ahead. At the top of the list, is continuing to provide accurate, relevant and appropriate information for my audience, in an easy to read, interesting, even entertaining format. Of course, I have to finish my AR Series. After that I may shoot for (pun intended) more frequent, shorter posts, and I’ve already got almost too many ideas for topics. There’s a long list of Product and Range Reviews I’ve been meaning to do. I’ve got several posts planned, specifically with new and novice shooters in mind. I’ve got some ideas for interviews I think could be interesting, and I’ve got plans for another fairly detailed, multi-part series I think will be relevant and interesting to many. Also high on the list, and at the suggestion of a good friend and subscriber, is finding ways to make the site more interactive. I want to hear form you, and I want your feedback! I want your topic suggestions, questions, to know whether you built or bought, how it worked out, and in general what you think.
Aside from the Blog, but certainly related, I want to get out to the range more often (don’t we all…!) I also want tobring more family and friends with me to the range, and I’d love to take more people who’ve never been, or might be a little bit timid!! I plan to teach more NRA Pistol and Rifle courses, and possibly pickup a few more ‘NRA Instructor‘ Certifications. Finally, I’d like to attend more firearms and shooting sports related events, whether they be State level Outdoor Shows, ‘Friends of NRA’ dinners, or something on the National scale, like SHOT Show or the NRA Annual Meeting. Ambitious? Yes! …but hey, it gives us something to shoot for… 😉
So, that’s it. 2013 is a wrap from my end. Happy New Year!
A few weeks back I had the pleasure of spending some time on the 50 yard line with a few of the very lovely and talented Gotham City Cheerleaders, (aka the unofficial cheerleaders for the New York Football Giants). However, it wasn’t the usual 50 yard line associated with cheerleaders. We were on the 50 yard line of an indoor shooting range. Yeah, it’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it, and you can’t deny how perfectly this fits into my AR series! (In case you were too distracted by the pretty smiles and pom-poms, two of the young ladies in the picture are holding AR-15 rifles.)
The picture above was taken when I attended a breast cancer charity event hosted by Gun For Hire at the Woodland Park Range. It had all the makings of a Bond movie, (X Ring, Inside The X Ring), itwas for a good cause, and it was a great time!
However, it got me thinking more broadly about women with guns, and their participation in shooting sports.
Mom’s a Dead-Eye
It started for Mom and Dad well before I was born, but from the time I was five, target shooting was a family activity. My Dad is a retired New Jersey State Trooper, and as one of the tools of his trade, guns were in the house. It was a responsibility he took seriously, so he wanted Mom and me to know how to safely and properly use a gun, for all of the reasons you can imagine. (For me at the time, at the age of 5, it was more about, hey, real guns are NOT toys, they are extremely powerful. There is a right way and a wrong way to handle them. There are certain things you never do with a real gun. This firearms education and experience eliminated any natural curiosity, and gave me a healthy respect for guns.)
Anyway, we spent many a memorable day at the range, shooting as a family, and sometimes with other families: kids, Moms, Dads ‘n all. These trips taught very valuable skills, instilled safe shooting practices and were overall good practical exercises. They taught responsibility and built confidence. (See that, shooting guns can be a wholesome family activity.) Family trips to the shooting range are fond memories from my childhood. I remember well how much fun and how exciting those days were.
The other thing I remember from those trips is that man,my Mom can shoot!! While I’m sure some of it is a function of my Dad’s training and instruction, to her own credit, Mom isa Dead-Eye. She’salways been, and remains, a great shot with a gun. Something I’ve always thought was pretty awesome!
Females & Firearms, a Rising Trend
In case you haven’t realized, more women than ever before are getting into guns and the shooting sports. It’s a welcome trend that I fully support, and I’m happy to see. Just so you know I’m not blowing smoke….
From 2001 to 2011 the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has seen a 51.5 percent increase in female participation in target shooting and 41.8 percent increase in female participation in hunting, according to the National Sporting Goods Association’s annual sports participation report.
The NSSF also reported that gun-store owners reported a 73 percent increase in female customers between 2010 and 2011.
An October 2011 Gallup poll reported that 43 percent of women polled reported having a gun in their house, a record high since 1993.
When you think about it, this trend shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Why the Rise…
Let’s face it, knowing how to properly handle and shoot a gun is a great, and very important skill. (I think it’s something everyone should learn, and learn at an early age. If so, there would likely be fewer gun accidents, especially those involving children who are naturally curious.) So as men and women of all ages, and from all walks of life strive to become more independent and more self-reliant, learning how to shoot a gun is high on the list. Also, as people get bored with the same-old, same-old, prepackaged activities and look for something more adventurous, many are learning just how challenging, fun, exciting and stress relieving target shooting can be.
Additionally, and even though I started this post focusing on the social and recreational aspects of shooting, you’d be remiss not to acknowledge the practical applications of self and home defense.
There’s an old saying, ’God made men. Sam Colt made them equal’. The gun is The Great Equalizer, and as eloquently stated in an article by that very name, “Firearms reduce the power differential between the weak and the strong, making it harder for the strong to prey upon the weak.” And while it’s not pleasant to think of anyone in such a situation, there are those who believe a gun is the best way for a woman to defend herself in a worst-case scenario. (This assumes she knows how to properly use her gun and is well practiced.)
Combine that knowledge with the fact that in the United States of America since 2008:
There have been unprecedented and unrelenting attacks on the Second Amendment.
The economy has been and remains in a protracted state of uncertainty.
There is record, or near record, prolonged unemployment across many parts of the Country.
State and local budgets are strapped, potentially impacting local law enforcement.
Illegal drug use, and/or legal drugs used illegally remain ongoing issues, with use of new, scary drugs like Meth, Bath Salts and Krokodil potentially on the rise.
Simply put, there are potentially more bad guys, or more increasingly desperate people willing to do bad things for their own survival, or people under the influence of dangerous substances, with potentially fewer good guys around. At the same time some of our most basic, core, fundamental, near-and-dear American Constitutional Rights are seriously threatened. It’s a toxic combination.
Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that legal gun ownership spiked in 2008, spiked again in 2012, and continues to rise significantly today. Nor should it be a surprise that as women specifically strive to become more and more independent and self-reliant, many of those gun purchasers are women.
In-line with what you’d expect from the number of women purchasing firearms, the number of women enrolling in firearms training, and those applying for concealed carry permits are also significantly on the rise. Again, these are trends I’m very happy to see.
I’ve also noticed that many women in shooting are great shots, just like my Mother. I think it’s fair to say that among many other wonderful qualities, most women are blessed with high levels of patience and focus. These two traits are likely what make many women naturals on the range.
Famous Females in the Shooting World
While we’re on the subject, and while I’m sure there are others, here are a few famous females in the Shooting World:
Il Ling New –Gunsite Academy instructor who was also recently profiled on NRA Women TV’s ‘New Energy’ series. A good family friend and his wife have taken an annual trip to Gunsite Academy for the last 10 years or so, where Il Ling New has been their instructor. From what I’m told, she’s not only a phenomenal instructor, but she is quite the Bad Ass; every bit the real deal you’d expect to be instructing at a facility like Gunsite.
So, Annie, grab your gun, and go ahead ladies, strike your bestCharlie’s Angel’s pose. (Just make sure you always follow those safety rules!!)
…and in case you’re wondering, right after the photo shoot, those Gotham City Cheerleaders sent rounds downrange with the very same ARs used in the picture, and they had a great time doing it!!
Sincere and Special Thanksto Anthony Colandro, of Gun For Hire &the Woodland Park Range, and to the Gotham City Cheerleaders.
The Woodland Park Range & Gun For Hire – The Woodland Park Range is a 5 Star indoor shooting facility located “15 minutes from almost anywhere in Northern NJ, and just 12 miles outside NYC.” To just call this place just a range would be an insult!Gun For Hire is a premier firearms and self defense training institute. Look for an upcoming, in depth post on this great facility.
Gotham City Cheerleaders – Currently the unofficial Cheerleaders for the New York Football Giants, these girls are looking to make it official. If you’ve been to a Giants home game lately, you’ve no doubt seen them strutting their stuff and showing off their talents outside the stadium. Check ‘em out here, and while you’re at it, pick up their “All In, New York”, 2014 calendar.
Since it’s Memorial Day, it’s the perfect time to say “Thank You” to our Troops in the Armed Forces, who fight not just for our Freedoms, but for Freedoms everywhere. It’s also a great time to say “Thank You” to All First Responders, (Police, Fire, EMT) who work to keep to other people safe.
In those posts, I talked about what we wanted to see at this year’s show, covered some overall industry trends, and basically judged how SHOT 2012 delivered against our wants. (All-in-all, we did pretty damn well, especially for an evolutionary, not revolutionary year.) To finish our SHOT Show 2012 coverage, this post highlights other guns, gear and equipment that peaked our interest, or further exemplify the industry trends we highlighted.
The Springfield XD-S in .45acp. Furthering the trend of ultra concealable, small form factor pistols in larger calibers
Like the rest of the XD line, this is a polymer frame, double action only handgun, using Springfield’s Ultra Safe Assurance (USA) Action Trigger System, with a 1911-esq grip safety, and a loaded chamber indicator. Dimensionally, the XD-S is 1″ wide, 6.3″ inches long overall (with a 3.3″ barrel), 4.4″ inches tall and weighs in at 21.5oz unloaded. It even has an accessory rail for a light and/or laser sight built into the frame – a pretty cool feature for a gun this size. At first glance, you’re likely to guess this is just another new entrant in the red-hot “pocket” 9mm niche. You’d be wrong.The XD-S is chambered in .45acp. I find this to be a really great looking little gun. Pleasing to the eye, it definitely has that “Second Kind of Cool” appeal. With only a 5+1 capacity, round count seems a bit light. I also want to shoot it myself before I pass judgment on things like recoil and follow-up shots. It might be perfect for those guys that just like .45 acp, and want something smaller than what they’re carrying now. Who knows, maybe there’s an XD-S in 9mm or 40 on the horizon?? Check back in after I get my hands on one at the range and shoot it, but in the meantime, here’s a link to Springfield’s site so you can check out the XD-S for yourself: http://www.xdspistol.com/
The trend of high-quality, user configurable, accurate and versatile firearms continues to evolve. I think it’s great!! Sure, ‘kit guns‘ have always been around. Likewise, the military has always been focused on modularity for quick and easy combat and machine gun barrel changes, an/or quick, low-cost caliber changes. However, current factory offerings are taking things to an entirely new level for the civilian market. The custom hot-rod, ‘pimp my ride‘ craze has finally hit the firearms market…and why not?!
The Mossberg Flex
I’m a huge fan of O.F. Mossberg & Sons. My first shotgun was a Mossberg 500 with interchangeable barrels; a 28″ bird barrel with threaded chokes, and a 24″ rifled slug barrel for deer and bear sized game. It was a recommendation from my LGS owner, and a great one at that! It is the definition of high-value, and it’s made right here in the U.S.A. I couldn’t be happier.
While maybe not as popular as some other well known brands, Mossberg has successfully passed the stringent US Army’s Mil-Spec 3443E test and as such, has a very proud history of use in Military & Law Enforcement applications. Additionally, Mossberg shotguns have always had some great design features, like the easy to reach, easy to operate, ambidextrous tang safety. In my opinion the tang safety is a superior design to those offered by most of the competition. (Doesn’t sound like a big deal until you start losing birds and other game – or worse – because you couldn’t get that safety off fast enough. I’ve seen it happen on at least a few hunts.)
Now, anyone who currently owns a Mossberg 500 already knows how versatile of a platform it is. You’ve got 18.5″ home defense barrels, all kinds of different length and configurable choke bird barrels, various rifled slug barrel choices (with & without the cantilevered scope mounts) and muzzle loader conversion kits. Yes, I can make my Mossberg 500 pump gun a muzzleloader! Hell, I think they even have a line thrower conversion kit. O.F. Mossbertg & Sons has always been about high-value and versatility.
With the FLEX, Mossberg is capitalizing on this platform, making the 500 even easier to customize, and more versatile than ever. Compared to a standard, or old school 500, the FLEX has some design changes to make stock and forend changes easier for the end user. Expect numerous accessories to customize the look, operation and performance of your ride…err, shotgun.
The Thompson-Center Dimension
Thompson/Center Arms (now a subsidiary of Smith & Wesson) conjures up one of two images for most firearms enthusiasts; muzzleloaders, or break-open, single shot hunting firearms, available in both handgun (The Contender) and long gun (The Encore) configurations. Now, if you’re familiar with these platforms, you already know that like O.F. Mossberg & Sons, T/C has a long standing history of providing high-quality, high-value, and user configurable (modular) platforms. Nothin’ new there. What was new back in ~2008, was T/C’s first attempt at a bolt action gun (The Icon). It was a resounding success. Then in 2010, T/C released an everyman’s version of that bolt-gun (The Venture), touting similar high-quality craftsmanship and accuracy in a more affordable, high-value package. For 2012, Thompson Center has released something new that is a combination of the high-quality, high-value, modular firearm platforms they’ve always been known for, with their more recent experience and success for producing bolt-action hunting rifles. The Dimensionis born. If O.F. Mossberg & Sons just ‘pimped’ your ole’ pump-scatter-gun, Thompson/Center Arms just did it to your bolt-action rile:
Everything Old is New Again…
Colt Manufacturing – At one point in the not too distant past, and for a long while, Colt was synonymous with high-quality handguns – with plenty of military and LE support. The Colt Single Action Army, aka ‘The Peacemaker’.The Colt Python. The Colt .45, M1911. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, many believed that if you had a S&W revolver, and a Colt .45 M1911, you pretty much had the best-of-the-best – almost all your handgun bases covered. Then unfortunately, at some point around the late 80s and early 90s, Colt kinda’ lost their way a bit. Like the “bad” Harley years under AMF, it was generally accepted that Colt’s Quality Control suffered. In ~April 1985, the Beretta Model 92 beat out the Colt .45 to become the U.S Armed Forces chosen handgun. Around the same time, a rash of ‘new‘ companies, with some ‘revolutionary‘ handgun designs began entering the U.S. handgun market (like Glock in ~1986). Yeah, between the perfect storm of QC issues, and then-new “space-aged” designs, people drifted away from Colt.
Well, now Colt Manufacturing is making somewhat of a comeback and enjoying a bit of renaissance.
While not new this year, except for the black finish, the Colt Rail Gun 1911, chambered in traditional .45 acp was on-hand at SHOT 2012. Michael Bane, of ‘Shooting Gallery‘ highlighted that gun in his segment on “Most Significant Guns of the Year“.
The original mini-1911, the Colt Mustang Pocketlite, is also back. Like the original from 1986, it has an aluminum frame and is chambered in .380. It was on-hand at SHOT 2012, and from all the coverage I saw, it was pretty well received. (Though personally, I’d have rather seen a 9mm). No doubt, between Sig’s p238 and 938 offerings, Colt has some serious catching up to do… That said, you have to give them credit for bringing back an “old favorite” design. One that is as welcomed today as when the original debuted – if not more so.
Rock River Arms Polymer 1911
Rock River Arms is known for custom quality, yet affordable (high-value) AR Platforms. Handguns? Not so much. Maybe until now. The polymer 1911 in .45acp is nothing new, not even in double stack variants, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t caught on as much as other polymer framed handguns. New for 2012 RRA has jumped into the handgun market…and their first offering is a polymer frame 1911. From all the research I’ve done, I’m a fan of their AR platform. Some of their AR offerings and parts ranks high on my list, so I’m anxious to see how this poly 1911 is received. That said, and while I’m certainly no 1911 expert, I just can’t get excited about “ole’ slab sides” that is anything but….well, ole slab sides…. You can check it out here: RRA 1911 Poly
Holsters, Knives and other gear:
Blackhawk – High-quality gear, but probably best known for their SERPA Holster system. New for 2012, and debuted at SHOT is their women’s line of holsters. I’d swear I also saw a convertible IWB / OWB holster… Check em out here: http://www.blackhawk.com/
ESEE Knives – Outstanding, hard-use survival blades. New for 2012 are the Cadiru and Laser Strike Series – as well as the Venon Green series. Check em out here: http://www.eseeknives.com/index2.htm
Spyderco Knives – Outstanding blades of all kinds. Let’s just say that at a minimum, I’ve got a Delica 4 FFG VG-10 that’s with me at almost all times. Need something for defensive, utility, everyday carry, fishing / hunting, marine or other purposes? Spyderco has you covered. Check em out here: http://www.spyderco.com/
SOG Knives – I won’t argue with Gunny! SOG offers some great blades for defensive, utility, hunting and survival purposes. Check em out here: http://www.sogknives.com/
Gerber – Innovative, high-value products, and not just great blades – entrenching tools, axes, survival kits, etc. Check em out here: http://www.gerbergear.com/
Leatherman – Looking for something significantly more hard-use and heavy duty than the average multi-implement knife? Hey, sometimes you need a real set of pliers with your blades and drivers – and wouldn’t it be nice if the blades and other implements locked open? Back in the early 1990s, I bought what was then their completely revolutionary original version. I’ve been a huge fan ever since; upgrading or getting different variants and giving them as gifts on more than a few occasions. While there is a lot more pretty good competition these days, you can never go wrong with an original! Leatherman is contnually innovating and improving their products, with some new offerings for 2012, and they’re all made right there, in the U.S.A. Like my Spyderco Delica 4 FFG, you can bet there’s a Leatherman almost always on my person, or very close at hand…. Check ’em out here: http://www.leatherman.com/
Victorinox –The classic Swiss Army Knife. Possibly a “first” or only knife for many. For 2012 are some “new” twists and re-releases of old favorites. Victornox is also getting into the fixed blade market aimed specifically at hunting and survival. Check em out here: http://www.swissarmy.com/us/content/swissarmy/category/1
FourSevens Flashlights – Very high-quality, high-value LED flashlights. Because who doesn’t need a flashlight?! For 2012 they’ve rebranded from 4Sevens to FourSevens. Otherwise, it’s the same great products with slightly different names, and a few new, high-end offerings. Word to the wise, if you can snag some Quark, Mini or Preon 2 products on sale with the old branding DO IT…DO IT NOW! (That is if you can still find them with the old branding.) Even if you don’t find a sale, FourSevens lights offer almost unbeatable value. You’ll be amazed at the amount of light you can get from something so small and light weight – yet still tough as nails. I got Mini 123’s for every member in my family, who promptly put them on their key chains. Never be without a flashlight again. Check em out here: http://foursevens.com/
MaxPedition – Hard-Use Gear Everyday. Being an evolutionary year overall at SHOT, MaxPedition continued to show-case current favorites (like the Jumbo Versapack) and new variants on those favorites. If you need a new adventure bag for every day carry, travel bag, backpacking or survival, give these guys a good look. Check em out here: http://www.maxpedition.com/
Again, this wasn’t everything at SHOT – there are literally thousands of things at SHOT. But beyond what I really wanted to see for 2012, this is just the stuff that caught my eye and gear I always stay current with. Look for product reviews and links to other reviews as content expands. Post comments, questions or check my links for additional coverage.
I’ve watched countless YouTube videos. I’ve read all kinds of blogs. This could just be a function of what I’m “tuned-into” at the moment, but here are some trends I’ve noticed from SHOT Show 2012 coverage:
Likely somewhat of a function of the overall economy, but overall, it seemed like an evolutionary year, as opposed to being revolutionary.
Highly concealable, pocket pistols rule the day! Increasing numbers of ‘pocket pistols’ are being chambered in larger calibers – like the 9mm, .40S&W and even the .45ACP. This isn’t a new trend, but it certainly continues with offerings like the Sig p938, the Beretta Nano, the Springfield XD-S and Colt has even gotten back in the game with the everything-new-is-old or everything-old-is-new-again Mustang.
Modularity! Modularity across the board in ARs (of course, where ‘ya been), but also in pistols, rifles and shotguns. One gun value. One gun versatility – HUGE versatility. One gun training / muscle memory. More gun for less money. Empowered owners; no gunsmith required to change calibers. Start small and expand over time based on needs and budgets. It’s a trend I really like, and I’m very happy to see. Perfect handgun examples include the Beretta Nano, a new Rock River Arms pistol offering, the Thompson Center Dimension and the Mossberg FLEX top the non-AR platforms for me.
Better triggers. Most shooters know trigger squeeze is one of the keys to accuracy. The modern [r]evolution in better factory triggers arguably started almost ten years ago with the Savage Arms then new AcccuTrigger, but more and more manufacturers are putting high quality triggers in their factory guns. This is something that not too long ago, a typical intermediate or expert shooter would pay good money for, after the initial purchase, and requiring the work of a qualified gunsmith.
An increasing number of firearms, accessories and related products aimed squarely at women shooters. It’s a trend I welcome. I’m happy to see it!
Factory competition firearms. Handguns and long guns setup for 3 Gun, IDPA an other forms of competition, like Stag Arms 3G, as well as offerings from Ruger and CZ.
Airsoft! YouTube video and blog updates about Airsoft guns seemed to everywhere. Why not? They’re cool. They look like the real thing. The shooting fundamentals are the same and you can practice shooting them arguably many more places than your real guns.
So,how’d we do with what we really wanted to see??!!
The Sig Sauer p938 is Here!!
Hoped for by many for a while, rumored as early as September 2011, then formally confirmed by the company in November, the Sig Sauer p938 is in fact a reality, and it sure to be a home run!! It is exactly what the market has been demanding from Sig. This highly anticipated, mini-1911 pocket gun is now chambered in 9mm. As expected, it is the p238’s slightly bigger brother – same height, same width, same single action trigger and battery of arms, just .4″ longer overall and ~2 ounces heavier. Aimed squarely at the concealed carry, personal defense market the Sig p938 was on-hand at SHOT Show 2012. From what I’ve read four variations of the p938 will hopefully hit the market around April. I think we all hope street price is well below the ~$795-823 list, and that the p938 doesn’t suffer from some of the initial growing pains experienced by it’s “Little Brother”, the Sig p238. Click here for more pictures, spec and information.
While on the topic of Sig, the Sig Sauer p224 and p290 were also on-hand.
The Sig Sauer p224 is considered by many to be Sig’s answer to the Glock 26 / 27 sub-compact, double-stack backup or concealment guns. If the p226 is the “Father” of the the p224, this is the “Grandson”. It is intended as an on-duty backup gun or an off-duty / civilian concealment gun. It will be offered in traditional Sig DA/SA or DAK, which is Sig’s version of Double Action Only. Click here for more.
New for 2012, the Sig Sauer p290 has double-strike capability.
Highly anticipated in 2010, released at SHOT Show 2011 and then unfortunately not the hot seller Sig had hoped for (due to its weight and perceived bulk), the Sig p290 Double Action Only (DAO), polymer frame, hammer fired “pocket” pistol now has double strike capability. Certainly a welcome feature, especially give its intended defensive purpose. Click here for more.
The Beretta Nano
Announced in early September 2011. Released at the end of October. The single stack, polymer frame, striker fired Nano with no external controls from the World’s Oldest gun maker was on-hand at SHOT Show. Judging from all the coverage via YouTube vids and other blogs, this pocket gun is certainly a big hit. In one YouTube video I watched of this year’s SHOT Show, Beretta representative Ben Cook mentioned that new color, and NEW SIZED grip frames will be available. However, Beretta didn’t have any of those new grips frames at the SHOT Show, and Ben didn’t go into much detail. (What new colors will be available? What new sizes will be available? Will the new sizes be minimally different, to accomodate different sized hands – or fundamentally and game-changing different – like giving users the ability to drop a serialized, stainless steel Nano frame into a full-size double-stack frame or anything in between ? ) Nor did I hear anything about a .22lr conversion kit or extended magazines. I keep watching closely for updates, and will post when there is news. Click here for more from Beretta on the BU9 Nano.
Unfortunately (but as generally expected), there was no surprise of a new single stack, smaller G26 / G27 to compete with the likes of the Nano, the PM9, CM9, PF9, etc. That said, there was plenty to be excited about from Glock, with two “new” Gen 4 models: the full-size G21 in .45 ACP and the mid-compact G32 in .357 Sig. The first Gen 4s were released at SHOT Show 2012 and every model in the Glock Gen 4 lineup offers multiple, adaptable back straps, new gripping surface, an ambi-magazine release, and the new recoil system. All of these modifications are in response to customer feedback and demand. They are geared towards making this rock-solid, reliable performer more user friendly and comfortable to shoot. Click here for more.
The Black Rifle – The Stag Arms 3G
So what it announced a couple ahead of the SHOT Show? The Stag Arms 3G was on-hand, and it was a HUGE hit. Aimed primarily at the 3-Gun competition shooter, it features a stainless steel, heavy fluted 18”, a rifle length gas system, the new Stag Arms 3G compensator (said to reduce recoil to provide faster, more accurate follow up shots), a long, free floated Samson Evolution handguard (which supports multiple modular rail sections in various positions), a Geissele Super 3-Gun trigger (specifically developed for 3-Gun competitions), Magpul MOE pistol grip and Magpul ACS collapsable buttstock. The Dueck Defense Rapid Transition Sights (RTS) are optional. While pricier than some of their previous models, the Stag 3G is still very high-value! You get a lot of high-end features for the extra dollars. 3-Gun shooter or not, this is one hot, top quality AR. I imagine it will serve all AR shooters well, except for maybe the those in Close Quarters Battle, but I want one in my gun case! I anticipate this will be one of the hottest ARs of the year, and you can check it out here: Stag Arms Model 3GHmmmm, my AR Build Vs. Buy decision is no longer so easy…
So, that’s SHOT Show 2012 Wrap-Up, Part 1. Please stay tuned for Part 2, and thanks for reading!