The Column, No. 33:
Quick Takes on the 2008 SHOT Show
By Randy Wakeman, Chuck Hawks and the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The 2008 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, which coincided with Super Bowl Weekend, was very crowded. Once again, a new attendance record was set (58,769).
Perhaps the Show was too well attended if you were trying to get reasonable flights in and out and find a room in Sin City. The SHOT Show has outgrown the huge Las Vegas Convention Center and hundreds of exhibitors had to be housed in three giant "tent buildings" erected in a vast, vacated parking lot across the street. This, of course, served to intensify the already extreme parking problem in the vicinity of the Convention Center.
All of this comes as little surprise to those familiar with the SHOT Show or Super Bowl Weekend in Las Vegas, yet some attendees were apparently bemused by it all. We heard many attendees comment that the SHOT Show has grown too big and should somehow be divided into two shows held six months apart. Just how this would be accomplished, however, was usually not specified.
Our suggestion would be to have a Shooting Sports Show in the summer (June) that is limited to guns, gun and shooting accessories, ammunition, reloading and scopes/optics. In the winter (January) would be an Outdoor Trade show, which would include knives, lights, clothing, camo, blinds, stands, camping, hunting, fishing, backpacking, bird watching and everything else. That would put each show between two and three months before the beginning of the most popular season for these activities.
Representing Guns and Shooting Online at SHOT Show 2008 were Senior Editor Randy Wakeman, Owner and Managing Editor Chuck Hawks, Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays and Technical Assistant Jack Seeling. A good time was had by all.
The highlight of the 2008 Show for Rocky and Chuck was the traveler version of Merkel's Franz Jager designed, break-open, K1 single shot carbine. This little jewel incorporates a full length Mannlicher stock, 19.7" barrel and can be ordered complete with a scope in a new detachable mount that is (allegedly--we will see) guaranteed to return to zero when removed and replaced, packaged in a custom-fitted traveling case by Americase. This elegant bit of luggage looks like an executive's briefcase. The highly innovative K1 rifle incorporates a cocking/uncocking tang safety, external trigger pull adjustment lever on the left side of the trigger guard and weights only 5.5 pounds sans scope. Iron sights are included. Available calibers include .243 Win., .270 Win., 7x57R, 7mm-08, .308 Win. and .30-06. Merkel USA's ever patient Einar Hoff must have been worn out by G&S Online staffers fawning over his trick little rifle, but we will be getting a sample in 7mm-08 for a full review early in March.
Also in evidence, and scheduled for a later Guns and Shooting Online review, were Merkel's good looking and very nice handling B3 Super Light O/U rifles. These are available in calibers .30-06, .30R Blaser, 8x57JRS and 9.3x74R; our review rifle is supposed to be a .30-06. Last, but certainly not least, we have a Merkel Petite Frame double rifle in caliber 9.3x74R scheduled for review, so 2008 will be a big year for Merkel firearms on Guns and Shooting Online.
Another treat at the Merkel, Anschutz, Heckler & Koch and Grulla pavilion (Merkel USA is the importer of all four brands) was the presence of Dieter Anschutz, whom we were very pleased to meet in person after a long e-mail "pen pal" relationship. Many thanks to Dieter for sending us several of his excellent Anschutz rifles for review over the years.
Blaser was showing their Attaché K 95 single shot carbine, also built on the Franz Jager break-open action. This is very similar to the Merkel version, but features an elegant octagon barrel. It is also available as a cased set complete with a scope and detachable mount system.
Savage Arms impressed us with with their new Model 25 Lightweight Varminter, a magazine-fed .223 Remington varmint rifle with a medium contour barrel. Some guns seem just “right” in weight and balance to give great utility as a target rifle, coyote rifle and general purpose CXP-1 game rifle. The new Savage Model 25 appears to be just that; substantial enough to shoot those bug-hole Savage groups at the range, but not so ponderous that it cannot be carried in the field. It is hefty enough to be mild-mannered in the recoil department and priced where most folks will have a rough time finding an excuse not to buy one. The new Model 25 line will also include a model with a laminated thumbhole stock and a “Classic” version. Expect a full review of the 2008 Lightweight Varminter on these pages.
Also in the varmint rifle line, Savage unveiled a new version of their acclaimed Model 12, this time with a laminated thumbhole stock that we think is very likely to become a best seller. A full review of this rifle is also in the works. This rifle will be paired with a new Nitrex 6-20x50mm riflescope. This Nitrex scope is part of a whole new upscale scope line introduced by the good old boys at ATK.
Savage did a better than expected job on their Special 50th Anniversary Model 110. Savage is one of the few companies that have not beaten the "limited edition" (limited, that is, by how many they can sell) idea to death. (Remember the Winchester 94?)
Savage’s new “Palma Rifle” garnered a lot of interest in their booth. Randy spent some time at the range visiting with the Savage crew, notably Savage CEO Ron Coburn and V-P Brian Herrick. Ron Coburn was doing a lot of shooting with the rifles and when it came to their new camo .17 Hornady HMR package series rifle, well, we never saw Ron Coburn miss. Randy couldn’t miss, either, and we don’t think that most shooters will. We had not realized until recently that Savage, among other things, was the largest rimfire rifle maker in the world. The way their guns shoot, they should be.
Savage introduced their “P.A.D” recoil pad, potentially the most valuable addition to their line since the AccuTrigger. Speaking of which, many firearm enthusiasts have been stuck with lawyer inspired factory triggers that are poor, bordering on the unusable, for years. Now, Savage’s Accu-Trigger has changed the landscape. Looking around, it is hard to miss the ever increasing number of “New Improved" triggers that are popping up in the industry. Thank Savage Arms for getting the ball rolling.
The same has been true with the various buttplates offered on factory rifles for a long while now, along with many generic recoil pads. Savage testing shows a 45% recoil reduction compared to factory “OEM” pads and a 27% recoil reduction compared to Limbsaver pads. This P.A.D. is being gradually introduced across Savage’s broad centerfire and muzzleloader synthetic stocked line and it is going to please a lot of us. Cutting felt recoil in half compared to various buttplates, 45% compared to generic pads and over 25% compared to premium “high-tech” pads is an addition worth applause.
Sturm, Ruger has taken their 10/22 action and released it as the “22 Charger,” a sexy looking, 10 inch barreled, semi-automatic "pistol" featured both at Media Range Day and in their booth. The Charger looks like a .22 rimfire version of a heavy varmint pistol, styling that originated with the old Remington XP-100 bolt action pistol of the 1960's.
The "Hawkeye" treatment is gradually expanding across the Ruger M77 bolt action rifle line, edging out the Mark II models. Ruger's top of the line rifle, the elegant No. 1 falling block single shot, is available in an ever expanding array of calibers. Some of these, such as the 9.3x74R and .450/400 NE, are truly useful, well proven calibers that are not well known (yet) in the US, but should be. Ruger is giving you a chance to find out what you have been missing for the last hundred years.
Ruger also seemed excited about their new small framed LCP (“Lightweight Compact”) .380 semi-auto pistol. This little polymer framed .380 is a little smaller in overall size than a Kahr PM9 and weighs only 9.4 ounces. The LCP will soon be reviewed by Guns and Shooting Online.
Also new from Ruger, and perhaps the biggest news of all, is the introduction of the new .327 Federal Magnum and a 3" barreled version of the Ruger SP101 revolver in which to shoot the new cartridge. The .327 is, in effect, a lengthened .32 H&R Mag. loaded to higher pressure and performance. .327 Federal revolvers will also chamber and shoot .32 H&R Mag. and .32 S&W Long cartridges, reducing the ammunition supply problems inherent with any new cartridge.
Marlin had their new XL7 bolt action centerfire rifles on display, notable due to their low retail price. These show considerable Savage 110 influence in their action design. The XL7 joins the Stevens 200, Remington 770, Smith & Wesson "I-Bolt" and Mossberg 100 in the matte black, bottom of the barrel, bolt action centerfire rifle category. The competition here seems to be to see who can make the cheapest, un-polished, poorly finished rifle that will still function (at least part of the time). By that modest standard, the new Marlin XL7 is one of the better entries.
On the brighter side, we were impressed, to say the least, with Winchester’s reintroduction of the classic (pre '64) Model 70. Made by FN in the USA, it appears to be the best Winchester Model 70 ever, with special congratulations to the new trigger mechanism. Nicely turned out Featherweight models are likely to appear first, followed by Super Grade and other models. Guns and Shooting Online will be reviewing a Featherweight .270 and a Super Grade .30-06 as soon as they can be delivered.
The Winchester O/U shotgun line has never looked better and the more frugal among us will be interested in the return of the Winchester Model 1300 pump shotgun. In a dramatic change for Winchester it is made in Turkey, so we will see how it all plays out.
Browning's biggest news was the introduction of the new “X-Bolt” centerfire rifle. This is the (considerably) improved model that will eventually replace the familiar A-Bolt and will soon be featured in a Guns and Shooting Online review. The Hunter model will probably hit store shelves first, followed in turn by a complete X-Bolt line.
Remington Arms was showing a newly produced and very nice version of their classic No. 3, New Model 1875 single action cartridge revolver, as well as a New Model 1858 .44 caliber percussion revolver. These are not exactly reproductions, as they are being made in the US, marketed by Remington, and serial numbers will start where they left off when the originals were discontinued. We have already requested a sample Model 1875 in .45 Colt for a full Guns and Shooting Online review.
For 2008 only, there is a Model 700 CDL Limited Edition with a stainless steel, fluted, barreled action. This honey of a rifle is being offered only in the excellent .260 Remington caliber, a Guns and Shooting Online favorite.
Remington also showed their new super recoil reducing pad, the SuperCell, 10 years in development. This is touted as the world's most effective recoil pad and it will certainly give the new Savage P.A.D. some serious competition. Kudos to Remington. It is good to see the major manufacturers putting time and effort into recoil reduction. The proliferation of ever heavier shotgun loads and lightweight rifles chambered for magnum cartridges has brought a whole new meaning to the word "kick."
Mossberg had a myriad of inexpensive pump and autoloading shotguns on display, as well as "4x4" and "ATR" centerfire rifles based on their Model 100 bolt action. The latter clearly shows the influence of the Remington Model 700 in its design. Perhaps of more interest was Mossberg's new Model 464 lever action .30-30 rifle, loosely derived from the recently discontinued Winchester Model 94 AE lever action with a couple of Marlin 336 design features thrown-in for good measure. There is also a rimfire version that, at least externally, resembles the discontinued Model 9422.
Benelli was showing their new Destino side-by-side shotgun. This handsome 20 gauge offering is scheduled to be the subject of a future Guns and Shooting Online review.
CZ was showing a very complete line of rifles and handguns, as well as a few shotguns, and has become a major player in the American market. We have scheduled a review of the well regarded CZ 85 Combat 9x19 pistol.
Randy enjoyed shooting Knight Rifle’s new KP-1 (again!) and it appears that general distribution is at hand. Knight has yet another new muzzleloader, the Knight Shadow, an economical yet Green Mountain barreled break-action that looks to be one of the best values in muzzleloaders today.
On the topic of muzzleloading in general, the most significant development is Western Powder’s “Blackhorn 209,” formally introduced at this year’s show and previously reviewed on Guns and Shooting Online. Corrosion and crud rings are now a thing of the past for many modern inlines, and it is about time.
Hornady is promoting their new .300 and .338 Ruger Compact Magnum cartridges, developed in cooperation with Ruger, as well as factory loaded match ammunition in 6.5mm Creedmore caliber. Also new from Hornady is their Dangerous Game Series ammunition featuring Spire Point-Recoil Proof and new DGS (solid) and DGX (expanding) safari bullets. These are claimed to be the best dangerous game bullets on the market today. Calibers include such safari classics as 9.3x74R, .375 Ruger, .375 H&H, .376 Steyr, .450/400 NE 3", .416 Rigby, .450 NE 3-1/4", .458 Win. Mag. and .458 Lott. The LeverEvolution ammo line has been expanded to include the classic .32 Win. Special, as well as .357 Magnum and .44 Rem. Magnum. There is also a new rimfire .22 Magnum (WMR) load using a 30 grain V-Max bullet for improved downrange ballistics.
In other ammunition news, ATK is offering their new .327 Magnum cartridge to revolver fans in the Federal brand and a new Fusion Lite line of reduced recoil ammunition. We are very glad to see reduced recoil ammunition, pioneered by Remington and Federal, catching on. Cor-Bon has introduced factory loaded match ammo in 6.5-284 caliber and Aguila/Centurian is reintroducing the 5mm Remington rimfire cartridge to the marketplace. (We cannot help but feel that Guns and Shooting Online's coverage may have helped spur a resurgence of consumer interest in the 5mm Rem.)
SCOPES AND SIGHTS
The outlook in optics is bright for 2008. In the interest of brevity, we will merely mention a few highlights. These certainly include the revised, top of the line, Sightron SIII side-focus scopes, the new Nikon Monarch line and the new upscale Nitrex scope line from ATK. Merkel USA is now importing the European Doctor Optic scope line. Reviews of all of these will be forthcoming. Not optical, but a sight, is the newly introduced Lyman No. 2 tang sight for Uberti '66 and '73 rifles. We will be ordering one of these for review on our '73 Uberti.
Leatherman had a nice display of their utility tools and knives. We at Guns and Shooting Online have neglected the fine products of this Oregon company for far too long, although we have individually used their multi-tools for years. This will be at least partly corrected by a couple of Leatherman product reviews in the near future.
New from Remington licensed products is a lighting line, Remington Lighting. This included some neat lanterns, flashlights, headlights, tactical lights and an innovative, compact, flashlight/lantern combo that we hope to secure for a review. New in the cutlery line are Remington Sportsmen Series Tectonic CTi knives, featuring 420HC stainless steel blades with titanium coating and carbon fiber handles. Also new are the Premier Rescue Escape series knives.
Coast Cutlery, another Oregon company, introduced the LED Lenser high performance flashlight line. These impressive lights come in 14 models of all sizes and feature proprietary optics and an advanced focus system that transitions seamlessly from a flood light to a spot light. The impressive LED Lenser Light Cannon is the brightest LED flashlight ever offered. It produces a blinding 1280 lumens and is powered by four D-cell alkaline batteries. Coast LED Lenser lights will also be featured in a Guns and Shooting Online review.
As you can probably tell, we had a very busy SHOT Show 2008, checking out the new products and arranging for samples to review. 2008 is going to be a good year for Guns and Shooting Online readers!
Copyright 2008 by Randy Wakeman and Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.