Well, SHOT show 2017 is in the books and as I could tell, a major success. Range day was a blast (pun intended) and afforded a huge number of firearms and ammunition manufacturers the opportunity to have clients, distributors and the media put hands on the products they want to get out the door. The show itself is a massive affair every year with 2017 being no exception. Despite having days upon days to tour the booths, I found myself still having a number of shops on my list I hadn’t been able to visit. I did however get to stop by plenty of stalls and meet up with some really enthusiastic professionals who did a great job marketing their wares. Below are just a few of the highlights I saw.
Industry Range Day:
What surprised me the most wasn’t the number of manufacturers who are putting out suppressors these days, it was the quality. With the Hearing Protection Act having a decent chance of being enacted into law, it makes sense that everyone with the capability to make suppressors would want to have em ready to go in the event that the law does indeed pass. With my basis of reference being what AAC, YHM and SAS were putting out 5-6 years ago when I was running a class III (sot) gun store; the cans (essentially EVERY can) being put out at this year’s SHOT show that I was able to test far outpaced those cans in reduction, tone and reduced blowback.
The one industry range day stop that was all I expected and more, was that of Q. The Kevin Brittingham founded company might have its most famous star in the Honey Badger 2.0, but believe me when I say before long you’ll know just how kick-ass the rest of their line-up is. The HB 2.0 was everything I’d hoped it would be: soft shooting, incredibly light and very accurate. I wasn’t prepared for “The Fix” though. This modular rifle with quick caliber swap capability, The Fix innovates a number of improvements to the standard bolt-action rifle design; the trigger on this thing is out of this world smooth.
Pound-for-pound the most fun I had at the range day was with CMMG. Their full-auto 7.62×39 “Mutant” was a blast (again with the puns) and was entirely reliable which wasn’t what I expected with this caliber in this platform. One-upping the Mutant was their Anvil. Firing the beastly .458 Socom, this mid-sized rifle had less recoil than I’d expected but tons of authority downrange.
SHOT Show Booths
I’m a lucky guy to have even attended SHOT, this I know. Even better was having an editor line up some killer meetings for a first year guy who was over his head on day 1. I met some great people and was able to put faces on names from companies I’ve worked with via email so far. Below are some brief high points.
Best New Direction
5.11 Tactical. 5.11 has long led the way in comfortable, durable tactical every-day wear. My only gripe was how successful they were in doing so! It seemed like every time I hit the range, there were 4-5 guys who arrived separately all wearing tacti-khakis. Now, 5.11 is leading the charge into “Gray man gear”. With their Defender jeans, Dart pack and line of CCW ready purses, 5.11 is wholeheartedly embracing the low visibility lifestyle.
Best in Blades
Kershaw and Spyderco both managed to impress with their lineups this year. Kershaw (and Zero Tolerance knives, their premium brand) showed some blades with smooth lines and shockingly light weights. Spyderco wowed me with a few vicious defensive blade designs.
Put on your boots, boots, boots
Danner and Bates are two very well-known names in the boot world. Products from the two have combined to provide probably 80% of the boot-miles I’ve trekked in the last 15 years. Both had a wide variety of foowear available: Danner’s Tachyon (26oz, like a sneaker) and Bates’ Ranger II (very comfortable, hot weather boot) were two of the standouts.
Most full featured booth
I have to give this one to Safariland. The sheer variety of gear they had on display was only trumped by how many times it made me drop expletives under my breath. New holsters, an innovative new thigh rig design, ear pro (both active and passive) and the creme de la creme, their Hardwire body armor. The soft Hardwire plates are level IIIA protection at a mere .19″ thick. You read that right. It weighs about as much as my wallet (a handful of business cards and a Ranger coin, no money).
Just a few special mentions before I blow too far past 800 words and turn this article into a George R. R. Martin novel:
The gals from V7: I’m very enthused to help bring attention to what you’re bringing to market in 2017, Shane Meisel at Leupold, Walter Keller at Safety Harbor Firearms, Jason at Pantac for a great display of an impressive CCW pack, and of course my bosses; Scott Witner (editor of Loadout Room) and Brandon Webb (CEO of Hurricane Group). Hell of a show, looking forward to SHOT 2018.