2018 SHOT Show Range Day Round Up

GunLink-SHOT18_0062The GunLink team spent the day before the official opening of SHOT Show 2018 walking the grounds of the Boulder City Pistol and Rifle Club, where we were able to handle many new firearms from well known, big name manufacturers as well as new companies trying to get their name out there. While many companies had completely new weapons, it still seems that the firearm industry is leaning towards “high-end” modifications of existing platforms. Some of the offerings were fairly innovative, showcasing the fruits of lengthy R&D processes while others made small improvements on existing platforms to enhance the shooting experience.

Franklin Armory Reformation
GunLink-SHOT18_001Some of the biggest buzz at SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range surrounded Franklin Armory’s new Reformation line. Franklin kicked off the hubbub a couple of weeks ago with a mysterious press release boasting a new AR15 with an 11.5″ barrel and a Magpul SL stock. Big deal, right? We’ve all seen SBRs before. The catch was that Franklin Armory said that the Reformation was not a rifle (or a shotgun) and, despite the diminutive size coupled with a regular stock, is not subject to NFA regulations or taxes.

After picking our way through the crowd gathered around the Franklin shooting bay, we got some trigger time on the display model, outfitted with the short barrel, adjustable Magpul stock, Franklin’s BFSIII binary trigger, and magazines loaded with standard 5.56 ammo. Taken together, this blew many of the theories about how it escaped NFA purview, but the company reps wouldn’t give out any more details until tomorrow’s press conference at their booth on the show floor.

Mag-Fed Shotguns – Mossberg 590M and Remington 870DM
Mossberg’s domestic competitor, Remington, may have beaten Mossberg to the punch with last month’s announcement of the 870DM, an update to their popular pump-action shotgun to feed from a detachable magazine, but we think that Mossberg came out on top in the execution department with their new 590DM. Full disclosure, we are Mossberg fans out of the gate, preferring the 500 platform over the 870 in most regards.

Remington’s edge came with the announcement of a wider variety of models of the 870DM, including a Magpul equipped, camo thumb-hole, hardwood, tactical, and stubby non-NFA TAC-14 models that will accept Remington’s in-house built single-stack magazines in 3- and 6-round capacities.  

The Mossberg starts off with fewer varieties at the outset, but given the modularity of both systems, we foresee a lot of different models available from both manufacturers. Available models will likely be driven predominately by what the market wants, which means that we should probably see a detachable magazine version of the Mossberg Shockwave before long. Additional models will be welcomed, as the length of pull on the standard model in Mossberg’s shooting bay posed some difficulties for our female shooter.

Mossberg, however, gains the edge in the capacity department, offering double-stack 5, 10, 15, and 20 round magazines, manufactured for them by Adaptive Tactical, already known for their Mossberg magazine conversion kits. Aside from capacity, another difference in the magazine department is the procedure for seating the magazines. Where the Remington mags go straight in, Mossberg’s rock in, similar to an AK.

ATI Brings Back Favorites and Introduces New Items
GunLink-SHOT18_0047Another standout shotgun was the ATI AR-style .410 shotgun based on ATI’s Omni Hybrid polymer receivers. Over a decade ago, I remember a college friend having an imported Turkish .410 upper from ATI that he was very impressed with. By the time I got around to being interested in it, I gathered that they were no longer being brought in, so we were pretty pleased to see the .410 AR return. This thing was just plain fun to shoot. ATI will be selling the base model rifle, with extras available such as extra and extended magazines and choke tube sets.

GunLink-SHOT18_0044ATI also had another exciting gadget on display in their shooting bay that grabbed our attention: their new AR-9 Glock magazine adapter for standard AR lowers. Not even requiring the upper and lower to be opened, the adapter installs in the magazine well, held in place with the factory mag catch. This might be a blessing and a curse if your muscle memory has you constantly dropping the entire adapter instead of using the bottom-mounted release for the pistol magazine. Not only is it easy to install and use, it also brings a number of welcome features such as last round bolt hold open and a friendly feed ramp.

Stag Arms Now Making Their Own Handguards
GunLink-SHOT18_0021Since they were nearby to a few of the other shooting bays where we wanted to stop early in the day, we stopped by the Stag Arms setup at Industry Day at the Range. There wasn’t a whole lot going on here, but we did get to see Stag’s new M-Lok handguards, available in both 13.5″ and 16.6″ lengths, that they are making in-house, as opposed to having Samson make them, as with some of the other drop-in and free-float rails offered by Stag.

While there, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to put some rounds down range through the big brother of one of our personal rifles – a .308 STAG-10, which is also available in the trending 6.5 Creedmoor chambering. Just from sending a few rounds down range at decent sized targets at intermediate ranges, we didn’t notice anything spectacular but, likewise, we did not see any glaring issues. We like Stag and, while it is interesting to see new AR manufacturers popping up all the time, it is good to see established brands like this expanding.

GunLink-SHOT18_0030While meandering through the pistol shooting bays, we were wrangled into the SAR USA booth to get the rundown on the new SAR9, and we’re glad that we stopped in. The pistol is made in Turkey by Salismarz – manufacturer of firearms for the Turkish military and, as it turns out, the SAR 9 is now the sidearm issued to Turkey’s armed forces. After hearing the company rep’s, who sounded like a sales engineer, big talk about the SAR9, the bar was set pretty high. He spoke so highly of the weapon that we just had to shoot it to bring our expectations back down to a reasonable level.

But we weren’t let down. The SAR9 was quite comfortable to hold and shoot, easily rivaling the Walthers that generally occupy my top spot in that category. The backstrap is interchangeable and is available in three sizes to accommodate various hand sizes and, unlike my EDC G19, the generous finger grooves actually fit the fingers of both of our shooters. The grip texture is aggressive enough to provide a good hold, but not so aggressive that it felt like it would rub you raw when carried IWB.  The sights were easy to pick up, the trigger smooth, and the recoil was more than manageable. More importantly, avoiding a common problem for many female shooters, the slide was easy to manipulate.

The $450 MSRP gets the buyer the pistol, two magazines, hard case, and a cleaning kit. We doubt that the SAR 9 will unseat any of the usual kings-of-the-hill in the CCW, EDC, or duty markets in the US, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it develops a healthy cult following.

More Pistols
GunLink-SHOT18_0077Last year’s SHOT Show pistol talk was largely dominated by the Hudson H9. Due to time constraints at the 2017 show and the huge crowds at the Hudson shooting bay and show floor booth, our team didn’t get a chance to shoot the new wonder-pistol or even handle it for more than a few seconds. We didn’t consider it to be a tremendous loss that we didn’t handle the niche-market, $1200, 2.1-pound pistol.

This year, we managed to make our way to the front of the shooting bay to try out both the H9, and the new H9A – it’s lightweight younger brother. The H9 shot well, with its straight-pull trigger, low bore axis, and 34-ounce (empty!) heft. The H9A shaves fully a half-pound off of the original pistol and, with it, a substantial chunk of the price, bringing it well below a grand. It seems like it would still be a tough sell, but at least it moves it into a more realistic market for a carry gun.

I was loathe to even stop into the Springfield Armory shooting bay after they threw Illinois gun owners under the bus, but the LGS with which we work has been getting some XD-E pistols in and all I had been able to do so far was handle them unloaded while pretending to shoot holsters in the shop.

It is difficult to describe what a disappointment the hammer-fired XD-E was. Despite the same 3.3″ barrel length, the XD-E adds half an inch in extra length, a few ounces of extra weight, anywhere from .25-.6″ in height depending on the magazine, a tenth of an inch in width, and MSRP $25 higher, and a hammer that we aren’t really sure anyone wanted. Their new Low Effort Slide (L.E.S.) allegedly requires 27% less effort – good for those with trouble chambering semi-autos – but it didn’t handle or shoot very well for either of our shooters. At least it still has the goofy GRIP ZONE (!!) markings to let people know where to hold it – almost as useful as the stickers on new Canik pistols informing the user which end is the dangerous end.

The XDs Mod 2, however, wasn’t nearly as terrible. Honestly, it was a nice tweak to the single-stack sub-compact XDs and it shot pretty well. An 3.3″ XD-S 45 occupies a place among our teams CCW stable, so we gave the new Mod 2 version a try. With nearly the same dimensions in size and weight, the Mod 2 felt similar in the hand, albeit a little more comfortable with the less coarse, but still relatively aggressive, grip texture and oversized molded finger grooves. The slightly higher hand position seemed to help get behind the .45ACP recoil and make better follow-up shots. If we still spent money at Springfield, the Mod 2 version of the XDS-45 might be an upgrade we would consider.

GunLink-SHOT18_00117Another fun stop at range day was the booth of Archon Firearms (nee Arsenal Firearms) to get some trigger time with their Archon Type B (the pistol formerly known as Stryk B). The rename comes as a result of trademark issues, and will require making new slides and filing more ATF paperwork, further delaying an already long wait for the pistol, which is expected to launch in the spring. The pistol itself, with its incredibly low bore axis, feels about like what a Glock should feel like and, with the 9mm’s already manageable recoil put directly back into the meat of the shooter’s hand, it is very nice to shoot and make easy double and triple tap shots.

HiperFire also had three of their triggers n the line. Our favorite was the flat trigger, the hipertouch is called the ECLipse.   It had a very light trigger pull, and a very short reset. Everything about the trigger was likable. Personally, I do not notice a difference in a lot of the triggers that are out there; I do not get excited bout triggers very often. The photographer that they had on hand to capture shooters managed to catch our female shooter with a very big grin as she was firing the rifle.

Odds and Ends
GunLink-SHOT18_0089Our team had the opportunity to visit with dozens, if not hundreds, of companies exhibiting their wares at the 2018 SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range. There were far too many to write about in depth in this round-up post, but we want to give readers a taste of what we found interesting. Be sure to keep watching the GunLink Blog and Forums for more about some of these honorable mentions and more.

GunLink-SHOT18_0088The big draws at the Walther shooting bay were the new sub-compact pistol, the PPQ SC, and the Q4 Tac. The PPQ SC scales down the popular pistol to more carry-friendly dimensions, making it just 4.4″ long with an unloaded weight of just over 21 ounces while keeping the familiar, comfortable ergonomics and crisp, short-reset 5.6 lb trigger pull. The Q4 Tac version of the pistol delivers an optics- and suppressor-ready platform with the same ergonomics, trigger, and features of the rest of the PPQ line – essentially a slightly shorter and lighter threaded version of the Q5 match.

GunLink-SHOT18_0099Prior to the show, members of the media were invited to RSVP for a demo PhoneSkope adapter, which provides an convenient way to attach your smart phone to your optics – such as a weapon-mounted scope, spotting scope, or telescope. While we haven’t had much of a chance to play around with it, it appears pretty easy to use. The only downside we have seen so far is that the phone-specific mounts fit the naked phone and won’t work with the Magpul Field Case and Otterbox Defender cases that our team uses on our iPhones. By happy coincidence, aside from shooting activities, PhoneSkope also markets their devices to microbiologists, one of which we happen to have on the team. While the adapter is cool, what was really impressive was the different setup that they had in their shooting bay that allowed a shooter to look through the scope while also diverting the image to a side-mounted smart phone, allowing for the recording and sharing of shots.

GunLink-SHOT18_00116Something else that had been generating buzz in the months ahead of SHOT Show was the “featureless” FightLite Raider.  Similar to the birds-head Mossberg Shockwave and Remington Tac-14 shotguns, the Raider features a proprietary shortened bolt carrier with a hinged action bar that tilts down into the raptor grip instead of coming straight back into a traditional receiver extension. From what we had seen when it was first released, it looked like a pretty neat little toy, but shooting it was incredibly fun! Range Day out in the desert was pretty chilly, and the fireball that the shoot-from-the-hip 7-inch AR threw was actually enough to warm us up (and rattle our teeth! whose idea was it to have the AR pistol and belt-fed machinegun shooting bays under a corrugated metal roof?).

We were a little disappointed with the KelTec shooting bay at Range Day, where attendees usually have the opportunity to play with their new toys that will (maybe) make it to market sometime in the next few years. The big thing at the booth again this year was the RDB Survial bullpup, which our team (and maybe only our team) already saw last year. Yes, the one made especially for people who drink their own pee.

GunLink-SHOT18_00110At the opposite end of our excitement spectrum from the RDB-S was the new Ruger 9mm take-down rifle, which we were looking forward to handling ahead of the show. Using the same fire control group and similar take-down mechanism as the 10/22, the PC Carbine ships from the factory with a 1/2-28 threaded barrel to accept silencers or other muzzle devices, a top and bottom picatinny rail, and – perhaps best of all – interchangeable mag wells to accept both Ruger’s own SR-series magazines (which it comes with one of) as well as Glock magazines. We really liked this one. The Ruger PC Carbine isn’t down here with the rest of the miscellanea because we it was some little thing but, rather, because we hope to have a bigger write-up coming soon.

We also got a chance to see new AR triggers from Hiperfire, the IWI Tavor TS12 bullpup shotgun, completely redesigned XM42 flamethrowers which are now modular (with backpack tanks coming soon), Real Avid gun cleaning and maintenance tool kits, new chamberings of affordable ammo from Aguila and more. All of which we will share more about in the Range Day Thread on the GunLink Forums.

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