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The annual Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trades show is over. I like to refer to it as the place those of us in the industry and media go to hang out with 65,000 of our best friends while desperately avoiding the dreaded SHOT Show plague – something akin to Ebola and pneumonia. So far – fingers crossed – I have escaped illness while a number of my colleagues are down for the count. Given that I’m alert and still breathing, let me share a few observations with you.
The state of the industry is good. The consensus is we’re going to return to a “normal” level of activity and sales, whatever that is. Companies that have lots of cash on hand (Ruger, for example) are going to remain in good shape, while outfits who borrowed heavily to produce products during the Obama and Clinton surges in sales might find themselves going under or having to sell off inventory at bargain basement prices. Just today, Olympic Arms announced they were closing and I heard discussions at the show concerning other companies that are planning on doing the same.
Sig-Sauer may have been the big news of the show. I’m convinced they’re going to take over the world at the rate they’re going. They ran a separate media range day, meaning those of us who were invited had to travel a day early, but they put on such a class act it was well worth it. Their new X series P320 pistols designed by Phil Strader are terrific and I have a compact carry version on order. I don’t normally get excited about BB guns but Sig has a Spartan air pistol that’s as close to a real 1911 as any I’ve seen so I ordered one of them too. Sig is also kicking butt at their training academy, having recently completed a new 50 yard indoor range and hiring such notables as Kyle Lamb to teach and Max Michel and Lena Miculek as Team Sig shooters and advisors along with Strader. As the show was winding down the U.S. Army announced they had chosen the Sig P320 as the new service pistol, a contract worth more than $580 million. Oh, and did I mention Sig has their own ammunition plant?
Smith & Wesson has a new version of their very popular M&P pistol they’re calling the M&P 2.0 and Apex Tactical have already announced an upgrade kit for it. I have both on order so stay tuned. The big news from Colt is their Cobra snubbie revolver, an all steel six-shooter. It has a new, slick double action design but I’m not sure it’s ready for prime time. We experienced some misfires with it at a Gunsite event in November and the action is so light you can lock up the gun by quickly pulling the trigger a couple of times. I’m hoping Colt can get it right, as we’re all cheering for them. Along with Colt, just about everyone making pistols are pushing the 9mm. Forty-fives remain strong but the .40 S&W is turning into a ghost.
New 9mm pistols include the Remington RP9 and the Hudson H9. While the Remington wasn’t getting much buzz everyone was talking about the Hudson. It’s an all-new design seeming to combine the best features of a striker fired pistol cloned with a 1911, an intriguing proposition. You can look forward to a review on this one as well.
Ruger, having sold something like 2.5 million guns this year is going strong. In the months leading up to SHOT Ruger released a flurry of new models. While I’ve already written up the Redhawk .357 and GP100 .44 Special I have the American Compact .45 and MKIV 22/45 Lite at hand and will report on them shortly. I’ve also ordered an American Ranch Rifle in .450 Bushmaster and a Precision Rifle in Hornady’s new 6mm precision rifle caliber. There are hints of an entirely new product line and I’m hoping to learn more about this is a couple of months. Lastly, Ruger’s CEO, Mike Fifer is stepping down in May. He’s a genuinely nice guy who has done wonderful things for the company. While he’s retiring he’s not going away, as he will remain on the board of directors and he’s leaving the company in the very capable hands of Chris Killoy, another great guy.
My friends at Leupold showed me a new infrared scope/seeker called the Tracker. This small, hand-held gizmo is said to be capable of seeing game like deer at up to 600 yards and runs for 10 hours on a single CR-123 battery. I sure could have used this while stumbling around in the dark during my Border Patrol days. I have one of these on order as well and you’ll be hearing about it in due course.
Everyone at SHOT was talking about suppressors. With the new administration in place the consensus seems to be we’re going to see passage of legislation to remove silencers from the draconian requirements of the 1934 Firearms Act. I think the companies who are positioned to produce quality suppressors at a reasonable price are going to be overwhelmed with orders while those making $2000 cans aren’t going to fare as well. I even heard about a company that has figured out how to make an effective, cheap, 3-D printed suppressor with plastic baffles. My prediction is suppressors will become huge drivers of the industry once the restrictions on their sale are lifted.
It looks like I’ll have plenty to tell you about over the next few months so stay tuned and I’ll try to keep you informed.
About the Author:
Ed Head is a regular on Shooting Gallery, Gun Stories and Down Range TV. He has worked for almost 30 years in law enforcement, first in the United States Air Force and then with the United States Border Patrol, retiring as a Field Operations Supervisor. During his Border Patrol career, Ed worked in a variety of patrol, investigative and training capacities. Ed has an extensive background as a firearms instructor, having trained thousands, ranging from beginners to police, military and special operations personnel. Having taught at Gunsite for 20 years, Ed first trained there under the world famous shooting school’s founder, Jeff Cooper, then later ran the school as the operations manager for more than five years. Ed lives in Chino Valley, Arizona, where he continues to teach and write.