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?)
Colt Clearly Wants Consumer Business, Our Business!
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!
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.
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!
Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!
© 2015 Inside The X Ring.