“We can’t stop here, this is bat country!” — Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas


Being a huge Hunter S. Thompson fan, our CEO ordered Team SOFREP to rent a huge red convertible and drive through the desert into Las Vegas to SHOT Show this year; practicality be damned, this was the only way to properly do it, he said. Here the Managing Editor is caught catching his first sight of bats on the way to Sin City. Maybe I should have laid off the Mountain Dew.

The reality that is SHOT聽 (Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade) Show is only slightly less surreal than the trippy masterpiece written by the master of Gonzo journalism. Yours truly took this image from afar as we approached the enormous range complex near Boulder City, Nevada.聽 This is as close as you can get to the planet Mars on Earth if Mars was cold, windy, and wet. It’s a fantastic place, a Disney World for enthusiasts of all things that shoot projectiles. A half a million rounds would be fired this day, one day before the official start of the show. Team SOFREP would send rounds downrange at 1000-meter targets in addition to shooting pepper balls 100 meters, live firing tasers, and going spearfishing.

The voice of SOFREP radio, Aaron “Rad” Radl, was there, omnipresent microphone in hand, in shades that would make the King jealous. Before long, he would be using the blue spear gun you see to the right of him to go spearfishing for rubber fish in a tank of water in the Nevada desert.

This is the Umarex Air Javelin. Using compressed carbon dioxide, it fires a 170-grain air bolt at 300 fps. In this case, the bolt is attached to a reel which you use to reel in your desert fish. Impressive and unusual.

Here I am, plinking away at the 960-meter target with a “Hitsville” 6.5mm Creedmoor rifle from Detroit Gun Works. The bolt action weapon is as smooth as butter.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the folks that made my day a bit more comfortable and helped to save the remainder of what’s left of my hearing. If you look closely, you can see that I am wearing a FalCom Pods Pro headset. It’s not only state of the art active hearing protection, but it allows you to have full awareness of where sounds are coming from. A real plus for situational awareness on the battlefield and a huge help on days like this with dozens of active ranges. Honestly, without them, I would have barely been able to communicate.

Another ton of thanks go out to my friends at Legend Compression Tactical. This was a cold, wet, semi-miserable day, and their over-the-calf merino wool tactical boot socks kept my feet and legs energized and dry. I’m particular about my feet, and theirs are the only products I wear.

Industry Day on the Range occurs one day before the official start of SHOT Show, and is by invitation only. Team SOFREP is proud to be among the relative “chosen few” among the media to get the nod.

Once the show started on Tuesday, about 65,000 of us converged on about 2,500 vendors on over a million feet of convention space spread out over two major properties. It’s impossible to see everything, but I did my best to take in all the cool stuff I could.

One of the most badass products in all the land was the MRADELR, lovingly made by our SOFREP 300 partner, Barrett Firearms. I didn’t get to fire the big gun that day. The line was simply too long, but you could sure feel the concussion in your chest every time someone pulled the trigger. It brought a smile to my face to see so many people enjoying the newest member of the Barrett family. One day, I, too, will have my chance.

Never have I ever imagined there were so many manufacturers of flashlights on this planet. My new favorites are from a company called Olight. To date, I own four of them. Above, we see the Marauder Mini…all 7,000 lumens of it. And that’s no BS; this thing is like holding a small sun in your hand. Don’t tell anyone, but I accidentally pushed the “on” button with the light pointed at my face. I advise not doing that, and I was seeing spots for a few minutes. It’s that bright. And everything I own from Olight has a great, hefty hand feel. They are solidly built, and the ergonomics are second to none. I don’t own a Marauder yet, but it is next on my “must-have” list. Do I really need another ultra-bright flashlight?聽 No. Do I want one? Hell yes.

Being Vegas, the fun went on well into the night at well. Here I am (right) with Team SOFREP’s Loadout Room Editor Garfield (left) and Green Beret Sergeant Major (Ret.) Vince Makela. Vince was part of ODA 595, the “Horse Soldiers” who were some of the first US boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Vince is a brand ambassador for the completely awesome Horse Soldier Bourbon. Seriously, it is quite good. I’ve got a bottle of the stuff sitting about 5 feet behind me that I’m saving for a special occasion. That particular night, the event was put on by our good friends at 5.11 tactical.

There are just so many items I want to share with you guys. Ladies and gentlemen, you are looking at a picture of ‘Merica. The Pulsefire is a flamethrower that mounts under your AR-15 platform rifle. It uses compressed gasoline to spit fire several feet while you continue to put rounds downrange. You have to watch the YouTube video and see this thing in action. Words don’t do it justice.

I need to own one of these just to piss off my neighbors. If you don’t want to mount it under your AR, they have a stand-alone unit that will roast marshmallows quite well.

My favorite Knives of the Show award goes to these beauties from Stroup Knives out of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Stroup is a small veteran-owned, family-fun business. The quality is second to none, and the sheaths are custom-made to fit the knives. I believe this model is called the TU1. The “TU” stands for tactical use.

Want to be able to keep your pistol secure in a biometric lock box, charge your phone, and be sure you wake up on time? Then you need a Lockbox from the LifePod line by Vaultek. These are extremely well made, and it is my hope that one of these babies will grace my nightstand in the near future. It’s the perfect fusion of practicality and peace of mind.

Well, dear reader, all good things must come to an end. One could easily write an entire book on just one of these conventions; the scale is that large. I didn’t get to cover everything I wanted to, but I managed to hit the high points.

Postscript – Origin USA

These are the boots that I was supposed to wear during SHOT Show. Due to no fault of the company, they didn’t make it to me on time and they arrived in my Florida home shortly after I touched down in Vegas. I’ve been wearing them ever since I got home. These are hands down the best pair of boots I’ve ever owned (and I’ve owned lots of boots in my day). They are handmade in America out of American components. This particular pair is the Coronado 6″ boot with big lug Vibram soles. There was virtually no break in time. The leather is so soft it’s like wearing gloves on your feet.

Origin was founded by Pete Roberts and is co-owned by former SEAL Jocko Willink. You won’t find two more patriotic men anywhere. They make a complete line of hunting apparel, jeans, boots, and Jiu-Jitsu gis. All are made in America by American hands and with American soul.

A million thanks to Pete and Jocko for keeping it old school and doing everything they can to bring industry and manufacturing back to the United States.