For my final day at the 2018 SHOT Show, I opted to disregard my practical approach to the gear on display and instead go on the hunt for just the coolest, most interesting stuff I could find. Sure, I may not have a legitimate reason to need to reverse-repel up to the ceiling of my house, and I may not have plans to devote an entire room to building a virtual range… but there’s nothing wrong with a little window shopping. In many ways, that’s what SHOT is all about.

On the main convention floor, you can find offerings from just about every name in the tactical or hunting markets, including tried and true standbys like Kershaw, Glock, Ruger, and Buck – but you can also find the sort of stuff that most folks outside the tactical world may not be particularly savvy to. One significant for instance, would be a piece of gear I could really only describe as a real life approximation to Batman’s grappling gun – a system designed to help individuals or even groups of geared up operators to quickly cover vertical distances. The Australian gentlemen operating the booth were great guys, and after I took their set up out for a spin, we asked if they had already secured any government contracts.

They hadn’t secured a contract with the U.S. military, but they were proud to report that they were already equipping “Tier One” Chinese special operations units. To be honest, I might have left that part out when trying to market a piece of equipment to a U.S. Marine Corps veteran that now makes his living analyzing international security issues.

The SOFREP crew moved from booth to booth, looking over new equipment being unveiled and, to be honest, drooling a bit over some gear we were already familiar with, but still wanted to get our grubby mitts all over. In my mind, this is the fun part of SHOT – grabbing the firearms, blades, and tactical gear I’ve looked at and considered buying before and seeing how they really feel in your hands. Sometimes, it even works in reverse – and you grab a piece of equipment you’d already disregarded and suddenly change your mind. In my case, that happened with the Glock 19X.

I may love my Glock 19, but I struggled to appreciate the value of the 19X to a guy like me when looking over the specs and press releases put forth from the company. What is effectively a Glock 17 polymer frame slapped together with a Glock 19 slide and barrel sounded a bit too much to me like the kind of Frenken-firearm I had no use for. The 17’s grip size makes for a larger footprint, making the firearm harder to conceal, while the 19’s slide and accompanying shorter barrel reduces potential accuracy… as far as I was concerned, the pistol bastardized what each workhorse Glock platform was good for and the result was a pistol made of vague compromises.

Then I held one in my hand, and realized that, no matter how hard I tried to talk myself out of it, I really liked the damn thing. My complaints still stand, but there’s something to be said for the feeling you get in your gut when you hold a pistol you want to tuck into your waistband. The price point may still be a bit high for me to want to scoop one up based on nothing more than a gut feeling – but I will no longer adversely judge my buddies if they opt to.