We have an astounding ability as humans to progress, apply yourself for one month and the results become noticeable, 6 months can be substantial, 12 months? Limitless. Subjectively speaking, January 2018 I was just another "gun guy" who bought guns, gear and entertained myself with endless amounts of gun media, January 2019 I was attending SHOT show as an "industry insider" media creator. If you told me a year earlier this would happen I wouldn't believe you, but stranger things have happened.
With pure luck I connected with a media mogul of industry early 2018, I contributed content to his media platform, becoming a writer in the industry as result. Late summer 2018 I was asked about attending SHOT to be at the forefront of the industry for 2019. Candidly it never crossed my mind being new to the industry, but in the weeks following I'm still digesting my first experience and which direction to take my writing.
I came to the mecca of gun shows without expectations, from my interests I didn't anticipate seeing game changing products, but to educate myself further on what exists. Arriving in Vegas with a realistic mentality, my objectives were to meet existing industry partners, companies I intend on starting relationships with and find nuanced products. What I experienced was beyond my imagination.......
Opening morning: RUNNIN' WITH THE BULLS
Words only say so much about participating in a bull rush of 50,000+ gun loving attendees the opening morning of SHOT. When I walked through the doors to the main showroom it was immediate sensory overload, my eyes quickly and rapidly focused on different signage for brands within the industry I loved. With all of my nerves awakened and senses dialed in to the moment, entering SHOT show for the first time was one of life’s seldom moments you felt alive.
I found myself surrounded by many well established and respected people in the industry. My naiveté in preparation for the event resulted in underwhelming interaction time with companies I planned to do business with, finding myself surrounded by bigger names and others who were better prepared for the show I perked up like a high school senior on prom night hoping to "fake it til I made it" in some cases it was successful, others not so much but nevertheless able to begin a rapport and exchange contact information.
First and foremost I headed to Windham Weaponry, my “career” started with a review of the WW-308 and I wanted to meet the team who I only exchanged emails with prior. I praised their quality work up in Maine and shared the positive feedback from my review. Since published strangers have become friends thanking me for providing insight on a company who makes quality rifles at budget friendly prices. Having a voice in the industry remains unreal, if not for Windham Weaponry that voice wouldn’t exist!
I realize I gravitate towards black guns and majority of my time invested at SHOT was spent attending booths in that demographic. Visiting LWRC, Daniel Defense, Knights Armament, Geissele, Trijicon, Nightforce, Magpul and other companies you'd expect; my mission was to see as much gear in person I normally wouldn't. Finding new, exciting products require a fine blend of creativity and hard work when looking at endless amounts of AR's, AK's, Handguns and their accessories. I can't say I discovered a plethora of new exciting products, however I found some that were noteworthy.
Lee Armory is a quality American AK Manufacturer, assembling rifles from ROMARM parts
Making A2 rifles great again
One of my early stops was to Daniel Defense, discovering the new Omega Rail 7.0, a 6” drop-in rail which effortlessly converts A2 style AR15’s to a free float barrel. Offered in M-Lok and Quad Rail, the Omega installs using a front hinge and rear set screw to secure the rail while attaching to the existing delta ring. Notably both models bridge the gap over the ring and upper receiver with an additional inch of Picatinny rail space at the 12 O’clock position, providing end users with an additional 7” of real estate to run accessories. Converting an entry level rifle to a free float barrel can cost substantial time and money, Daniel Defense gains creativity points for inventing a cost evasive solution.
The Daniel Defense Omega Rail makes converting A2 style AR's effortless
The Franklin Armory Providence directed plenty of traffic to their booth
With a reputation for antagonizing the ATF and anti-gun states, Franklin Armory makes what seems an annual event to bring attention to their booth by releasing a new loophole defying firearm for SHOT show. The 2019 edition is the Providence Carbine and Pistol: the non semi-automatic, 1 bullet per trigger pull firearm chambered in 9mm.
The Providence features "digital action" meaning your finger (digital) manually chambers and extracts each round.
- In absence of direct impingement or blowback operations, the firing sequence begins in Condition 3 with the bolt forward, chamber empty.
- The pull of the trigger extracts a round in to the chamber, the release of the trigger fires the round, your next pull of the trigger ejects the spent shell casing while chambering the next round
- Repeat until you're empty like shooting a revolver.
The platform remains in early prototype, currently designed to accept Glock 19 magazines with future plans include modularity with Sig, Colt, HK magazines and caliber conversions to 10MM, 45, 40 S&W. Having dry fired the weapon, the trigger pull is heavy but if you live where semi-automatic guns are vilified, this is your work around!
I found Franklin Armory's previous releases to be novelty items but if executed properly, the Providence shows promise. Currently legal in 49 states (not California, shocking) the Providence could be a great solution for those in other ban states who desire an AR-Pistol or full featured rifle. There's no set release date but for reference the Reformation which premiered at SHOT 2018 wasn't available until late 2018.
Quality & Affordable red dot?
In 2015 Leupold entered the Red Dot market with the LCO which is one of the best reflex sights on the market, but with a MSRP of $900 and a street price around $700 turns many customers. Leupold listened to the market and made further strides with their new Freedom RDS reflex optic. The RDS has an MSRP of $350 and anticipated street price of $250 with Leupold quality glass becomes affordable for the masses. I predict the RDS will push competitors to lower their prices, making a quality red-dot a "must" on every AR.
Bolt gun with AR technology, the Daniel Defense Delta5 is the complete package
"Innovative" is a word thrown around liberally at SHOT often leaving yourself questioning if company representatives know what the word means, but when you hear it from Daniel Defense in regards to the Delta 5, believe it. The excitement opening day prevented me getting within 50 feet of the gun, day 2 I was able to spend an hour learning more about SHOT's most buzzworthy product.
The chassis made by Daniel Defense is remarkably ergonomic with adjustable cheek rise and length of pull. True to their AR Roots, the Delta 5 is a modular, user friendly rifle. Chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor or 308 Winchester, swapping calibers is accomplishable by anyone with an armorer's wrench and hand tools to loosen the barrel nut. The only part not made by DD is the custom Timney trigger with an adjustable pull and has an extremely clean break.
I don’t have much experience with bolt guns so I won’t elaborate further. What I do know is many black gun owners are becoming interested in bolt guns but may be unsure where to start, Daniel Defense is a familiar name they'll trust. Beyond "tactical" customers, the DD rep I spoke with mentioned another attendee, an avid hunter in a European country where they're tyrannically limited to 3 guns was ecstatic about the ability to run one chassis with multiple calibers. With an MSRP of $2200 and future plans for further modularity, the Delta5 offers a lot of gun for the money.
The Daniel Defense Delta5 is the complete package
RANDOM THOUGHTS, OBSERVATIONS
I may have hiked through SHOT with fanatical focus, but wasn’t completely oblivious to my surroundings. My ADD makes it difficult to recreate every experience through words properly, but here's random observations I made in my 2 days:
- Magpul unveiled the new D-50 Drum magazine for AR-10’s on a Knight’s Armament SR-25. Not just any SR-25, one equipped with a Nightforce ATACR 1-8, Surefire Scout light, Law Tactical Folder, Magpul Pro Offset sights, Magpul Bipod, Magpul D-50, Magpul SL-S stock….with an $8500 configuration one of the most expensive guns I’ve held.
- It blew my mind the amount of people who attend SHOT just for the free swag. I easily saw attendees by the thousands loot the booths, filling their roller carts full of stickers, patches and gun paraphernalia...annoying when walking through a crowded showroom floor. If I get to the point I only go to SHOT for free stuff, that’s when I stop going, don’t be that guy.
- The best free thing from a booth? Hand sanitizer. Exhibitors take note, buy an economy pack of hand sanitizer so attendees can clean their hands, I'll stop by your booth every year, so will everyone else.
- If you plan to attend SHOT in the future, bring your own Hand Sanitizer and back load on Emergen-C a few days prior. Unless my previous point changes the future of SHOT.
- Best gun I held? HK MP5 in Flat Dark Earth
- Most unique gun of the show? The Q Mini-Fix “pistol”
- Coolest piece of swag? The Magpul 20 Year anniversary sticker and the gold Magpul
- Favorite Exhibitor? Knights Armament, if you’re an AR enthusiast and see them at a expo, strike up a conversation with any of their reps. You’ll learn a lot of history about the AR-15 and pioneers of this industry. They may not hand out coupons or swag, but you’ll gain a greater appreciation for America’s gun.
This wasn't a business trip it was a pilgrimage, now an annual routine as an industry "insider" to incubate new ideas for the gun world. Popping my SHOT show cherry was exciting, overwhelming, exhausting but importantly a positive experience. Attending SHOT wasn't a vacation to Vegas as a gun fanboy, it was a test of how well one can think outside the box, the willpower of a rookie to stand out in a league of gentlemen and put those ideas to work. My interests rapidly change, come January 2020 they may be different and I'll be taking on SHOT show differently. I’m unsure what those will be, but I'm eager to find out.
The Q Mini Fix "Pistol"
$8500 gun, no big deal