Gerber

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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!

MediaCredentials

 

Direct form their site, The Great American Outdoor Show is 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 from Mossberg, 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!

Geissele2

Geissele

Up & Coming Firearms Manufacturers

Bond Arms, makers of the Derringer style Hand Cannon, and  IWI (Israel Weapon Industries), were on hand, and very happy to speak with me at length, about their products.

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!

BondArms2  BondArms

 

IWI US, 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!

IWIBooth

IWI_GALIL

 

 

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.

 TacticalWallsMirror TacticalWallsShelf

 

 

 

 

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.  WellBHK 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


BHK_Booth

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.

Ballistol

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!

 

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2015 Inside The X Ring.

2012 SHOT Show Wrap-Up (Part 2) – Finally!

In case you missed it, here are links to my previous 2012 SHOT Show posts.

Anticipation – What I’d really like to see this year!

Part 1 – How we did against what we wanted to see.

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/

 

Modularity

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 Dimension is 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.