SHOT Show 2020 Range Day Highlights

Each year before industry insiders flock to the halls of the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show – better known as SHOT Show – a contingent of firearm folks head out into the desert of southwest Nevada for a pre-show lineup of exhibitors. Live ammunition is forbidden on the SHOT Show floor and any firearms in the exhibit hall must be disabled and are inspected to ensure that they are non-functional.

This policy, however, is not in effect at the annual SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range in Boulder City. Not by a long shot.

At this pre-show demo day, invited members of the media and buyers have the opportunity to meet with manufacturers and vendors among smaller crowds than those at SHOT Show proper. Attendees also have the opportunity to get hands-on live fire trigger time with the latest guns and gear to hit the market and many that are yet to be released. The GunLink team has again been invited to this event and did just that.

We got to see some pretty great firearms and gear at Range Day that seem to indicate that the industry has actually been listening to consumers and developing some new products that fit their needs. And the show has not even begun yet! If this demo day is an indication of what else we will be seeing at SHOT Show 2020, we think this will be a great year for a firearms industry that has shown some signs of slowing down somewhat in the past couple of years.

Read on to see our Range Day highlights and be sure to watch the GunLink Blog and GunLink Forums for more.  

Ruger 57 – The New 5.7×28 Kid on the Block

Possibly one of the biggest buzz generators of SHOT Show 2020 is Sturm Ruger’s latest offering – the Ruger 57. This market disruptor is sure to upset the apple cart in the world of 5.7×28. With an MSRP of $799 and a likely lower street price, the new Ruger is nearly half the price of it’s main competitor, the FN Five-seveN, which often sells in the neighborhood of its $1435 MSRP… for now.

Along with arguably better aesthetics and ergonomics, the Ruger 57 holds 20+1 rounds of the screaming 5.7x28mm and features an ambidextrous thumb safety, reversible magazine release, fiber optic front sight, and adjustable rear sight or the option to upgrade to a mini red dot sight.

Given the size of the pistol (and coming from an era where Ruger was nearly synonymous with weight and bulk), my first impression of the 57 was how light it was. Next was how accurate, easy shooting, and soft recoiling it was when sending the relatively powerful rounds down range.

Anyone looking for a 5.7×28 firearm would be doing themselves a disservice by not seriously considering this new pistol. Aside from the “neat” factor of it, our team is pretty excited about the new Ruger 57.  Along with some of the other new releases in this caliber (such as those from CMMG and Diamondback – more on those later in our coverage), they should put real pressure on the market, not only in terms of possibly bringing down prices for consumers, but also to grow the popularity of the round and make it more worthwhile for ammo manufacturers to expand offerings in this arena.

Mossberg MC2c Compact 9mm

After breaking their 100 year pistol making hiatus with the sub-compact MC1sc last year, Mossberg now seems to be on a roll. Moving up a step in size, the new MC2c features a proprietary double-stack magazine made in Italy by Mec-Gar while gaining only 0.07″ in width and 0.6″ in height but, remarkably, growing in capacity from 6/7+1 to 13/15+1. The MC2c also gains nearly an inch in overall length but maintains the DLC finished (or not) stainless slide, comfortably aggressive grip texture, optional crossbolt safety, safe & easy takedown procedure, and other features of its predecessor.

Although I gently chided the MC1sc as yet another entry in a crowded field of micro 9mm pistols like the G43 and XDS, I noted that it was well executed for what it was. The MC2c, in my opinion, is even more well executed and I struggled to find anything I didn’t like about it during our session with it on the Range Day firing line.

The MC2c fit my hand well enough with the flush fitting 13 round magazine and even better with the slightly extended 15 rounder. The patches of textured area on the grips is enough to keep a good, solid grasp but not aggressive enough to chew up your hands. And it shoots well. Really well.

While they may have been fashionably late to the subcompact single-stack 9 party with the MC1sc, Mossberg seems to have done a great job with their latest pistol, entering a segment of the market that somewhat bridges the gap between higher capacity micro 9s like the P365 and Hellcat and mid-sized pistols like the G19.

Springfield Hellcat & XD-M Elite

Although not brand new for SHOT, probably the hottest pistol release of the past year was the Springfield Hellcat – the pocket-sized 9mm with an actual respectable round count aimed at taking on the likes of Sig Sauer’s P365. We’ve had the opportunity to handle the Hellcat a few times since its release, but hadn’t had the opportunity to shoot it until SHOT Show range day.

This 18oz, 1″ wide package ships with both 11- and 13-round magazines and virtually disappears in a waistband while even fitting in many pockets. While the MSRP is just a hair under the P365’s at $569, good luck finding one, as they are still pretty rare in most markets, often selling as soon as they hit the shelves – if they even make it to the shelf.

The Hellcat shoots about like one might expect a 9mm of its size to shoot. It’s big enough to get a decent grip on, but it’s still small and light, and just a little bit snappy – more than manageable, but not especially something I would want to spend the entire day with at the range. Unsurprisingly, it was easier to shoot with the +2 magazine that offered slightly more purchase.

Newer to the Springfield Armory lineup is the XD-M Elite. This new model features what Springfield calls the Match Enhanced Trigger Assembly (META) system, with a flat face and overtravel stop, offering a nice, crisp trigger pull. The Elite remains a bit chunky, as with the rest of the XD series, but it puts that bulk to good use with plenty of area to hold onto and the flared magwell ready to accept the up to 22 round magazines.

The XD-M Elite that we shot sported a standard-length slide and 4.5″ hammer-forged barrel, with U-Dot rear sights and fiber optic front sights. All of this came together to make for a very nice shooting pistol. I’m not a fan of the blocky full-size XD series pistols, and I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the company’s political shenanigans in Illinois, so I didn’t want to like this pistol, but I couldn’t help it.

The 2020 Colt Python

Wheelgun aficionados, rejoice. After a two decade hiatus, the Colt Python is back – new and improved, as it were.

Made of stronger stainless steel than its predecessors and featuring a sturdier frame and one-piece barrel, the 2020 model also has a user replaceable front sight, a recessed target crown, and a trigger. Oh, that trigger!

Although the DA trigger breaks somewhere in the 7-9 pound range, it is so smooth and consistent that it doesn’t feel like it and the heft of the new snake gun is still plenty to tame the .357 Magnum.

At around $1500, the new Python may not be for the average shooter, but it’s a great way for collectors (and aspiring collectors) to get into a new, well built Colt for much less than a vintage one would run them.

Glock’s New Rimfire Pistol – the G44

Glock billed their latest firearm, announced during a live online event, as “Legendary.” While it may be a fun range toy and useful for shooters who employ pistols from the Glock family, I don’t know that I would call the new Glock 44 legendary.  The G44 is a G19-sized (what Glock calls “compact,” but still a moderately sized pistol) pistol chambered for .22lr.

While it was not the PCC that many were hoping for, the G44 does seem to represent a bit more actual – if not rare – innovation than the ubiquitous Austrian manufacturer’s other recent “huge” releases. Those groundbreaking firearms are mainly comprised of creating various combinations of different sized slides and frames or upgrading the latest generation of pistols to mimic their older designs.

The new rimfire plinker features a hybrid steel and polymer slide that keeps the weight down enough for reliable cycling with the diminutive .22lr ammunition. The slide features front serrations to aid manipulation for loading and unloading while the frame is of the Gen 5 flavor, with semi-aggressive texturing, no finger grooves, interchangeable backstraps, and ambidextrous slide stop levers and a reversible magazine release. It also features adjustable rear sights.

The G44 shoots well, obviously offering the soft shooting low recoil of .22lr in a platform familiar to fans of the Glock family of pistols.  For those who use Glocks, particularly those of the same compact size such as the G19 and G23, the new G44 would make a fine training pistol, allowing for lots of practice with inexpensive ammo while keeping the same feel and controls as their centerfire counterparts. It could also make for a fun plinker or field & trail pistol for cans, small pests, venomous snakes and such.

We do give the new Glock a couple of dings against it, however. The first is the low capacity – the G44 uses just 10-round magazines, as do many of its rimfire brethren. This singlestack design has been somewhat of a de facto standard to allow for reliable feeding of the rimmed cartridges. While this accomplishes that goal and keeps it from, absurdly, being an “assault weapon” in some freedom-hating states, it is disappointing, especially given that other manufacturers such as Taurus and KelTec seem to have figured out reliable staggered .22 magazines.

The other negative is the price. With an MSRP of $430, and Glock street prices often hanging around MSRP, the plinker cost is in the neighborhood of a “real” Glock centerfire pistol and substantially higher than many of its competitors. Add to that the fact that .22lr conversion kits from the likes of Advantage Arms and Tactical Solutions have been around for a while that not only cost less, but also allow for practicing with your actual carry pistol as well as converting full size, compact, and sub-compact pistols such as the G17/19/26 family.

I’ll likely pass on this one. However, if I were in the market for another (or a first) semi-auto .22 pistol, the G44 might be worth a look.

Ruger LCP II Lite Rack .22lr

Ruger also joined in the carry-gun-turned-plinker game with another new release: the Lite Rack LCP II chambered for .22 long rifle.

If the .380 ammo compromise of occasionally carrying my original LCP wasn’t cringe-inducing enough, choosing a .22LR for defensive carry might make us go a little cross eyed. However, the Lite Rack LCP II has a couple things going for it versus something like the new .22lr Glock 44 or a bigger .380ACP.

The first is its size, which makes it a decent choice for a backup or deep concealment pistol for those who might not be able to work the often-stiff slides of tiny pistols that have very strong springs to account for the low slide mass. Eleven rounds of even .22 can certainly be a better defensive tool than harsh words, pepper spray, or a more powerful pistol that you are unable to use.

The other thing going for the new LCP is that Ruger seems to be focusing their marketing for this pistol as a training pistol rather than a carry pistol. To be sure, the tiny LCP chambered in .380 is snappy and is not necessarily something I would want to spend a full day shooting at the range for practice. The Lite Rack LCP II in .22 affords LCP owners the opportunity to practice more comfortably with the same size pistol with the same controls without the punishment or expense of shooting boxes of .380.

The controls, however, are not identical to the pistol’s centerfire sibling. Unlike the .380 ACP variants, the .22 model features a push-forward thumb safety on the left side of the frame. While our original LCP has no safety, I am more than comfortable pocket carrying it thanks to its heavy double action trigger. Many feel that, with the lighter trigger of LCP II models, they may have been well served with an optional thumb safety. I am curious to see if this feature makes its way to the centerfire models.

The Lite Rack also features protruding cocking ears at the rear of the slide, further easing slide manipulation along with the front and rear slide serrations.

Basically, the Lite Rack .22 is to the LCP what the Glock 44 is to the Glock 19, with the exception that there are likely more instances when the Ruger may come in handy as a carry pistol due to its small size. Also like the Glock, however, the LCP II Lite Rack also comes with a $349 MSRP solidly in line with its “real” centerfire counterparts.

KelTec P17 and CP33 .22lr Wonder Pistols

Although the CP33 33-round .22lr target pistol was introduced last year and they are actually shipping, we had yet to actually hold or see one in person, let alone shoot one. We finally got the chance to change that this year at Range Day. Despite the range blaster-esque novelty feel of having nearly three dozen rounds in your hand, the KelTec CP33 lives up to it’s ostensible role as a target pistol. It shot great and we were glad to have the opportunity to send some rounds downrange with it.

New this year, however, is the P17 – a compact 17 round .22lr that’s easy to take apart, includes a threaded barrel adapter with installation wrench, has an ambidextrous safety, and is plenty accurate enough to blast coke cans. The best part, however might be the price – an MSRP of just $200, making it a great choice for a tackle box gun, trail gun, or just a cheap aid for disposing of the tens of thousands of rounds of .22lr that you hoarded when you thought it would never be on shelves again.

The P17 reminds me of the good old days of just-for-fun shooting when it was more “let’s see if we can shoot down that dead tree” and less “better practice my draw and train for headshots in case a dirtbag tries to smoke my church congregation.”

Keltec reps say that the P17 is shipping now, but in small quantities, and they hope to be shipping a few thousand a month by the end of the year, so I guess maybe regular folks can expect to see them on shelves 3Q 2021.

 

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