SHOT show 2002

The Las Vegas Convention Center was the setting for the 24th Annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show this year, and having nothing better to do I decided to go!

This year was somewhat muted I thought, because of all the hassle at the airports attendance appeared to me to be slightly down, although according to their press release there were a lot of people who showed up on the last day when I wasn’t there and apparently it was the second most attended show in history (so what do I know).  I also thought there were less new products than average, but there were still enough doodads for me to write about.  It was worth going and you, the lucky reader, get to live vicariously through me!

This isn’t going to be as long-winded as the article I wrote in 1999, I’m just going to cover the things I saw that caught my eye.

First up was Beamhit, a company I am constantly impressed by, they have developed a system whereby you put a laser in the barrel of your gun that goes off when it detects the vibration of the hammer or striker being fired.  You point your gun at the screen of your PC, and the light is detected and registered on a target on the PC screen.  Basically it makes dry-fire a lot more interesting, and moreover it works well and it is inexpensive.  Highly recommended, every serious shooter should buy one in my opinion.

Next was Benelli, best known for their shotguns although they do make pistols as well.  Of interest to me was the M4 Super 90, recently adopted by the US Army and Marine Corps.  This uses a gas-assist mechanism to ensure the gun functions all the time.  Although the inertia-operated M1 works pretty well in my experience, you do have problems with them when you add on gizmos as the gun becomes too heavy for the inertia system to work.  The M4 system is welcome and I was told that it would be available for police sales around July, with sales to the civilian market shortly thereafter.  I was also told that versions with longer barrels (e.g. for IPSC) were a possibility, I hope so, I think an M4 Super 90 along the lines of the current practical model would be an excellent shotgun for Practical Shotgun competition.

Beretta were of course in attendance, with various new products.  One was the Vertec series of pistols, essentially the 92/96 series with straight backstraps for smaller hands.  I have big hands and obviously it wasn’t my cup of tea, but if you have small hands this may be what you have been looking for.  The 92 variation that really got my attention was the Billennium, I suggest you click on the link as my photo was crap:

The gun is nickel-plated and has a single-action only mechanism and various other interesting details.  Only 2,000 will be made.

Of far more interest to shooters in the British Isles I suspect was the Neos pistol, an inexpensive .22 plinker:

This is of interest because although we can’t have handguns, a carbine version is planned:

Not sure how it will compare with a 10/22, but anything to increase our choice of guns is welcome!

Bleiker is a company I hadn’t heard of before, but the 300m ISSF standard rifle on their stand was very impressive, if you’re in the market for a 300m rifle I suggest having a look at this one.

I suppose I should have been paying more attention on the Browning stand, the only thing that caught my eye were their rifles chambered for the range of Winchester Short Magnums.  Short magnums by the way were one of the trends at the show.  I did notice another model of the Buckmark rifle.

Bushmaster was one of a blizzard of companies making and selling AR-15s, I mention them only because I have been impressed by their Y-Comp, which seems to be one of the more effective muzzle brakes I have come across.

Cavalry Arms is another maker of AR-15 parts with a neat product – one-piece injection-molded plastic lower receivers.  Inexpensive and they seemed to work okay from the ones I handled on the stand.

Colt’s had quite a large stand, with a very wide variety of products that I thought had been discontinued.  Whether they are all available or not I don’t know – but the price tags seemed to be a lot higher than I recall.  Another one of the trends at the show was vintage handguns, and Colt’s joined in with a replica of the M1911A1 from World War 2, even down to the US Property markings!  A bit pricey with a retail price of $950 and there were a couple of details that were not authentic that I noticed when I handled it (trigger design and the roll-marking on the chamber), I will be interested to see how they sell as you can still buy the genuine article for less than $950:

A neat touch was the replica box with the grease-proof paper.

DPMS was another maker of AR-15s at the show.  DPMS always impress me because they go to the effort of redesigning the rifle rather than simply knocking out endless obvious copies of the original Colt product.  They are known for their side-cocking upper receivers for example, or the pump-action version.  One variation that is in their new brochure is a single-shot version, which should be of serious interest to shooters in the UK because it is legal here.  Essentially it is an AR-15 without a magazine well.  If you are a shooter like me who does a lot of “load one, shoot one” with your AR-15, then this may be the gun for you because the gas-operated action means you don’t have to endlessly manually yank the bolt back as you do on the popular straight-pull variations of the AR-15 made for the UK market.  Because it is single-shot only, it is not “self-loading” and is thus not prohibited under UK law.

Eley had their EPS ammo on display, which is apparently the best .22 rimfire ammunition ever for target shooting.

FN Herstal had lots of toys on their stand, albeit all banned from civilian possession.  Included were the P90 personal defence weapon and the Five seveN pistol, a new version with a single-action trigger was on display.  I think I saw the F2000 assault rifle there too, although it might just be my imagination from looking through the brochure.  The problem with these guns is that the F2000 is about 15 years too late, as all major armies have re-equipped with 5.56mm rifles.  The P90 is a clever gizmo, but although the 5.7x28mm can penetrate 48 layers of kevlar the actual terminal ballistics in gelatin aren’t all that impressive, akin to a .22 rimfire magnum.

They have however hit paydirt with their “less lethal” gun, which fires hard plastic bullets with a muzzle energy of about 40 ft/lb and it’s powered by a bottle of compressed air.  This has the serious advantage over a baton gun of having a rotary magazine, and the advantage over sprays and the taser of being usable at longer distances.  I suspect they will sell heaps of them to the police.

Glock didn’t have any new models other than an “America’s Heroes” tribute model for the Glock 21 and 22.  These have USA prefixes on the serial numbers and there will be 1,000 each of the 21 and 22.  Glock has however made various changes to what you get with your gun, worth mentioning.  The most notable (because all guns will have it) is the new extractor, which has a lump on it that protrudes from the gun when the chamber is loaded, otherwise known as a loaded chamber indicator:

Also, Glock has redesigned the famous box to make it more user-friendly for civilians, it is now easier to lock and looks less like Tupperware:

For those of you who like doodads, there is a Glock light (sorry about the bad photo):

And also as an optional extra you can now have a key-operated lock:

The key goes into the bottom of the grip, you turn it, the striker assembly is blocked and a white tab protrudes from the back of the grip.

I had a moan at them about the finger-groove grips, which I don’t like, I prefer the old ones because my fingers don’t fit the grooves.  I was told by the rep. I spoke to that it was a common complaint, so hopefully they will make models without the grooves at some point in the future.

Heckler & Koch had the USP Elite, which isn’t all that new as it has been around in Europe for awhile.  Yes, it’s nicer than an ordinary USP and I’m sure it’s accurate, but the trigger is made of plastic and is pretty spongy, and I can’t stand the lever magazine release.

Insight Technology had an impressive array of gizmos, they apparently make the LAM for the SOCOM offensive pistol that H&K makes.  I had a play with one on their stand, no doubt very expensive, it has a laser, light and an IR laser and can probably make a cup of coffee also.  Probably very expensive but a clever piece of kit given how small it is.

Kahr Arms had some yet smaller, yet lighter models of their pistols, we can’t own them and even if we could they’re useless for target shooting, but it’s new so I have to mention it.  Personally I’ve never been able to get along with the Kahr guns, the trigger pull is too unusual for me.  Nice and smooth, but too long.  Great for you guys who shoot those round thingies (revolvers?<G>)

Kimber had lots of 1911s and their bolt-action .22 rifles.  Someone import the rifles please, they’re very, very nice.

Korth have risen from the dead.  More of those round thingies.

Les Baer had the best AR-15s I have ever come across on their stand, which is saying something as there were about a zillion people selling AR-15s at the show.  They just ooze quality and they come with a 0.5 MOA guarantee, which is pretty astonishing if you think about it.  I came off the stand trying to figure out how I could get the money together to buy one, as they aren’t cheap.  I don’t see that making one straight-pull would be much of a problem as they make their own barrels, and all the other main bits too, which is why they’re so accurate.  If you have the money I suggest you buy one, they’re that good:

I didn’t see too many other stands with test targets next to their guns!

Magnum Research is the US importer for Israel Military Industries pistols, they are best known for the Desert Eagle, but they had an interesting new pistol on their stand called the Barak, which means “Lightning”:

It’s weird looking isn’t it?  The slide is tubular for most of its length, and there are two recoil spring guides.  Riding inbetween is a buffer.  Here’s the other side:

It looks so odd that I’ll be surprised if it takes off in a big way, however Israel has a large enough domestic market for pistols that I suspect it will be at least marginally successful.

Marlin had lots and lots of stuff that will be of great interest to shooters in GB.  First is the “Cowboy Competition Carbine”, the 1894 in .38 Special with a 20-inch octagon barrel and 10-shot tube.  Second is a stainless steel version of the 1894 in .44 Magnum, and third the model 795 .22 semi-auto is also now available in stainless steel.  There are also new rifles in the new Hornady .17 Magnum Rimfire.  I suspect the new versions of the 1894 (which is already one of the biggest selling rifles in Britain) will be extremely popular, now all we need is a stainless steel 1894 in .357 Magnum!

Uncle Mike’s had a new range of Kydex holsters, not of much use to us but an interesting development in the holster world, as they are so inexpensive.

PMC had two new products, they have a line of hunting ammo using Barnes XLC bullets, plus a range of “less lethal” shotgun ammunition, rubber buckshot and slugs.  They also had a line of inexpensive shotgun loads, however I suspect they will not be that competitive with our domestic makers.

Remington had various bits and pieces, but the product of most interest was the model 700 with a titanium alloy receiver, which obviously makes the rifle lighter.  I’m not sure I agree with this trend to ever lighter guns as it means ever heavier recoil, but it’s a neat toy!  Remington has their own range of short magnums called “Ultra Mag”, I suggest you go to their website for all the nitty gritty on them.  They also have a range of non-toxic shotgun loads called “Hevi-Shot”, which is worth a look at if you’re a field shooter, this appears to be pretty clever, with the shot made from a combination of tungsten, nickel and iron.

RUAG Munition had a small stand, but I had a look at their 6x47mm load for 300m ISSF, which is used by the World Champion.  Very high quality as with all RUAG ammunition, I recommend you buy some if you get the opportunity.

Sabre Defence Industries have resurrected the M85 sniper rifle, which is sure to be of interest to practical riflemen:


They’re also making their own AR-15 lowers in the UK, which is helpful and also have a personal defence weapon based on the AR-15 in development.

Savage Arms have a number of new models chambered for the Remington Ultra Mag cartridges.

SIGARMS didn’t have anything spectacularly new, although they have started importing the P226 SL (stainless P226) into the US, and also the P226 Sport II SL is now available with a standard length 112mm barrel.  There were a huge variety of variations of the SSG3000 on the stand, but these models are unique to the US market apparently.

Smith & Wesson, now also the US importer for Walther, had a new range of guns called the “Heritage series”, which are recreations of some of S&W’s old standbys.  None of them are entirely authentic to the original, although most of them are pretty close.  Plus they’re new and you don’t have to worry about harming the value of the gun by shooting it.  There’s a substantial number of models in the range such as the Model#3 Schofield revolver, Model 29 Hand Ejector, the Model 15 and the Model 1917.

My favourite was the Ed McGivern Model 15 in blue, although it is available in nickel and also with a case hardened finish, note the sights and barrel profile and grip on this gun:

It also has a recreation of a sideplate with Ed McGivern’s shooting records on it:

Note the four-screw sideplate.  Shame we can’t own them in GB, but c’est la vie.  The model 952 target pistol is also being re-introduced, which is good news for target shooters in Europe.  I have to say the trigger pull on the one I tried wasn’t that impressive, but the general idea of a target pistol in 9mm will sell well in Europe, I’m sure.  Trigger pulls are after all what gunsmiths are for!

One of the significant new products of the show was the Sphinx AT-3000 pistol.  This is based on the older AT-2000 model, (which in turn is based on the CZ-75), but uses a new modular frame:

You can see in this picture the frame has a distinct top half and bottom half.  This may sound not too interesting, until I tell you that the bottom half is made from titanium alloy.  Not only that, but they can make the top half from titanium alloy too if you want (and you’ve got the money!)  The ones I handled were noticeably lighter than the equivalent AT-2000 model.  The AT-3000 also has full-length slide rails, which usually mean better accuracy, and there is an attachment for a light, another popular feature at the moment.  Here is a picture of the other side, but it didn’t come out too well:

That big lever is a decocker.  However, they do make the pistol in competition models with a standard thumb safety and also a single-action trigger if you want.  They’re a bit pricey but then quality always is.  I took a picture of Armin Landolt, proprietor of Sphinx with his new pistol:

You can see the target shooting model on the poster in the background.

Steyr were noticeable by their absence.  Apparently they have fallen out with their US importer, although a new one has been obtained.  Steyr itself has moved premises and reportedly has some new management.  This would seem to be the case as they will apparently make a straight-pull version of the AUG assault rifle for the civilian market later this year, something they have previously said repeatedly they would never do.

Sturm, Ruger & Co., better known to you and I as “Ruger” introduced a new side-by-side shotgun called the Gold Label.  I’m not much of a side-by-side enthusiast so I won’t embarrass myself with a critique, but it seemed well-made and Bill Ruger is a big shotgun enthusiast so I’ll assume for the time being it’s a nice gun!  The main selling point of the gun is that it is a high-quality gun at a lower price, thanks to the manufacturing method.  This will undoubtedly appeal to field shooters who have a tight budget, although I suspect the nostalgia of a hand-made gun will mean that London and Italian makers still have their market.

Taurus are still expanding their line of “Silhouette” revolvers, which is good news for us as they have 12-inch barrels, so made with a wrist brace they are legal in GB.  The newest calibre is .218 Bee, a rather odd choice, I suspect it won’t sell although it’s an interesting idea.  They are also made in .22 Magnum (which apparently has been around for awhile but I hadn’t seen one before), which is a more likely candidate for success.  Here is a picture of the .218 Bee model:

The big news from Winchester of course was the expansion of the short magnum range to include the .270 WSM and the 7mm WSM in addition to the .300 WSM introduced last year.  There is a range of model 70 rifles to accommodate them.

The more interesting new product from my point of view I have to say was the old standby, the model 94 lever-action rifle chambered in .480 Ruger!  I suspect this is a bit painful in terms of recoil but interesting nonetheless.  I’m not sure there is any non-expanding ammunition in this calibre so target shooting with it legally in GB will be quite difficult, although I’m sure there is a handloading option.

Also of interest is the 9410 lever-action shotgun, basically a model 94 chambered in .410.  This was introduced last year although there was a new shorter model on display.  The version with the 24″ barrel would be legal on a shotgun certificate in GB with the magazine permanently restricted to two rounds.

Anyway it was a long walk as per usual, you get all the information from the comfort of your chair! 

IWA 2000

I decided to go to IWA this year, as my impression (which I believe is correct) is that IWA in Nuernberg offers more that is of interest to shooters in the British Isles.

This time I have made the pictures separate, click on the link to see pictures – some of the links go to company websites:

First is Aimpoint, who stole the show with their LaserShot setup, this is an interactive system made by LaserShot, but an excellent demonstration for Aimpoint’s products.  Eric Gauffel, IPSC World Champion was on hand, showing us all up!  My efforts on the IPSC Challenge course of fire elicited the comment: “Hey, he’s not bad!” from Eric, which is without doubt the best complement I have ever gotten!

Airmunition were there, with their innovative air cartridge system.  This is detailed at length in the SHOT show 1999 report.  Currently it is for sale to law enforcement only, due to the staggering price – a Glock 17T costs about £450, the air cartridges cost £18 each (eek!) and you also have to fork out for the reloading press and the pellets themselves.  It’s as close as you can come to a centrefire semi-auto pistol and be legal in Great Britain, but you won’t have much change out of two grand.

The Russians were there in the form of Baikal and Izhmash, several guns caught my eye, the first was the 12 gauge version of the Kalashnikov, which theoretically is legal in the UK although I think you will be hard pressed to come up with a “good reason”, but more power to you if you want to try.  There is also a .410 version, which could be used on indoor ranges with slug.  I’ve seen Cotswold Arms advertising both of these guns.  Also on display was the 9mm pistol that may become the new Russian service pistol.  Although it looks a bit crude, in the hand it actually felt surprisingly good, and the safety was well-located and easily operated.  It’s also a very solid piece of ordnance.  As Mikhail Kalashnikov likes to say: “ ‘The Best’ is the worst enemy of ‘Just Good Enough’ “.  I also took a picture of a double-stack Makarov, because in the hand I couldn’t tell any real difference between it and the CO2 version that is becoming popular.

Beamhit were in attendance, I covered this in the 1999 Shot show report, it is a very neat gadget which I mention again only because I am told they will shortly have a UK distributor.  It is a very clever widget that makes dry firing practice much more effective.

Beretta were showing off their new pistol, the plastic framed 9000S.  This still uses an open top slide, but has an innovative new locking system that is similar to the Browning delayed lockup but without the top locking.  Reviews I have read do not indicate stellar accuracy, however.  I personally found the trigger reach to be too short and narrow, making it difficult to cycle the hammer in DA mode.  Also the hammer is narrow and quite difficult to thumb back.  On the bright side, the magazines are similar to those of the 92FS, similar enough that you can use 92FS mags in the gun.  Capacity is 12+1 in 9mm, 10+1 in .40.  The gun uses a traditional safety mechanism, as found on the CZ-75 and Government Model.  Also worth mentioning are the natty holsters, available in a variety of different colours.

Another new gun is the Cougar 8000L, basically a slab-sided compact version of the Cougar, which I found to be superior to the original model.  One of my complaints about this pistol is the bulky slide, but Beretta seem to have solved that problem.  Also my concerns about the magazine release have been addressed, it is now the same as on the 92FS, without the exposed spring.  Capacity is 13+1 in 9mm, the invariable 10+1 in .40.

Beretta also has a .22 conversion kit available for the 92FS.  There are several new models of the 92FS, the most interesting to me was the 92FS Inox Brigadier, essentially the Brigadier model in stainless steel.  They also had the 98FS models, engraved and with silver or gold plating, if you want!  And if that isn’t enough for you to pose with, there is also a line of Beretta clothing.

Blaser now has their own range of hunting ammunition, UK importers are Beechwood if you want some.  It seemed well made but the proof is in the shooting, obviously.  On the stand they had the intriguing Blaser 99, essentially a side-by-side with an overtop rifle barrel.  Blasers are lovely rifles, but if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford one.  Of interest to target shooters was the R93 Long Range Sporter 2, which goes for around £1,500.  Available in 6mm Norma BR, 6.5×55, 7.62 NATO and .300 Win. Mag., I expect I will be seeing these at the range shortly!

Briley were there, makers of extremely accurate rifles, pistols and superlative shotgun chokes.  Their brochure was by far the best I picked up in terms of design, suffice to say their products are along the same line.

Browning had one of the larger stands, of definite interest to shooters in Britain (but not on the stand, unfortunately) are their new range of Buck Mark rifles, essentially the Buck Mark pistol fitted with a 16-inch heavy barrel and a shoulder stock.  I expect these will sell very well here.

Another new product is the BDA compact, a compact version of the “new” BDA, that is not new at all but is in fact somewhere around 20 years old.

Also I got to fondle one of the FN Five-seveN pistols, this is chambered for the toy-like 5.7x28mm round, designed to penetrate body armour.  An interesting design, although the ballistics don’t impress me much.  It may go through body armour but it doesn’t appear to do much after that.

CCI-Speer had some of their large range of products on display.  I think very highly of CCI ammo, it’s the best factory ammo going, IMO.  CCI also own Federal, and there appears to be some cross-development now going on, as Federal is making practice ammo with the CCI cleanfire primers.  CCI has a new improved hollowpoint .22 Mag loading.  What intrigued me the most was the Blazer .357 SIG load, which is the first Blazer load I have seen using bottle-necked cartridges.  I will have to try some of this out.  The main snag with Federal and CCI ammo is that in the UK it usually costs over the odds, though Edgar Bros. sell their .22 lines at reasonable prices.  Federal now has an inexpensive 62gr load in .223, another one for my “must try” list.

Another stand that caught my eye was Cybergun, a distributor of airsoft guns.  The Beretta copies are very hard to tell apart from the real thing, they’re made by Western Arms Co. of Japan.  Also the FA MAS replica by KWC is pretty good too.  Their UK agent is Shooting Planet in Brighton.

Colt’s were noticeable by their absence, their stand was empty.  However, they have entered into an agreement with CZ, apparently.  On the CZ stand was the Z40 pistol, essentially a DAO .40 CZ-75 shaped to look like a 1911.  It’s actually not as awful as it sounds, it felt quite good in the hand and the trigger pull was smooth.  It would not be a bad option as a cop gun, but I doubt they will sell many, and it really does show how desperate Colt’s are.

Feinwerkbau were displaying their new air pistol, the C55P.  This is essentially their CO2 gun redesigned to use compressed air.  A very interesting repeating air pistol, competition for the well-known Steyr LP5.

Fiocchi were there too, although there wasn’t anything earth-shatteringly new.

FNM, a division of INDEP, the Portugese military suppliers were there with their intriguing line of rifle ammunition in some of the more oddball calibres such as 7.5×54 MAS and 7.5×55 Swiss.  I asked them why they made ammo in these calibres, and the answer was intriguing: apparently most of their sales are to Germany and other countries which hold 100m competitions using as-issued military rifles that were in service prior to 1964.  I hadn’t heard of this competition before but apparently it is very popular and MAS and K31s are among the guns used.  I think this is something we should be doing in the British Isles as it offers real opportunity for international competition plus it is something which can be done at the club level here also.  York Guns import FNM ammo.

Geco had a fascinating new product, a shotgun slug developed specifically for practical shotgun competition.  Finally, my prayers are answered!  Importers are Dynamit Nobel UK Ltd.  Geco are also sponsoring the “Geco Slug Cup”, looks like fun!

I was fascinated with the Gehmann stand, they are makers of add-on widgets for ISSF rifles and pistols and also clothing for ISSF events.  I’ve heard good things about their gloves, they’re used by many top shooters, not just in ISSF.

And where would we be without Glock?  Robert Glock was on hand, shame they’re banned in GB, although you can still own the cutaway guns and some of the training guns.  They had a new holster which didn’t really impress me much, what was fascinating was the test Glock 17 in the display cabinet, which Hirtenberger had fired over 348,000 rounds through!  Impressive, especially considering this was in the AC prefix range, well before the later improvements to the barrel and the finishing of the gun.

Next are Hämmerli, who appear to be taking the same approach as Anschütz, in having a clothing line.  The Swiss effort is less impressive, and called X-Esse.  It seemed to me to be an attempt to make shooting hip and appealing to younger people.  I suppose it might work in Switzerland.  In addition, they are offering a range of coloured plastic grips in the “X-Esse” range.

Of more interest, Hämmerli were offering two new airguns, the AP40 pistol and the AR50 rifle.  The AP40 appears to be a development of the old 480, and the AR50 a competitor for Walther.  The .22s marketed in the US as the “Trailside” are being marketed in Europe under the “X-Esse” label.  They are set up more with target shooting in mind and I suspect will be very popular given their reasonable price.  X-Esse have their own website.

And now we move to Heckler & Koch, that famous British firm, lol.  H&K have a new semi-auto hunting rifle called the SLB2000.  It’s very dull, though I’m sure it works well.  There were several new permutations of the USP, I think it was called the USP Super Elite or something like that.  I’m sorry, but I can’t stand the grip of the full-size USP so I didn’t really pay attention.  There was a 50th anniversary model of the USP compact, wow.

Of vastly more interest to all concerned was the SL8 rifle.  I want one!  This is essentially a sporterised version of the new Germany Army rifle, the G36.  The European version is more interesting that the US one, as it will accept the G36 mags.  All the reviews I have read have been favourable to the gun.

What I found most fascinating about the gun (and why it is better than the competition) was the gas system.  The gas plug is a true innovation, with the gas rings around it, preventing gas from ingressing into the action as with most competing designs.  There is no gas tube or gas piston tube as such, just a slender rod that extends back to the bolt (at the top of the picture, not the bit in the middle).  Thankfully I can show you this as they had a cutaway on the stand!

It would be very easy for H&K to make a straight-pull version (for places where semi-autos are banned, like here) as you can tell from the pictures, but don’t hold your breath.

And now a real British company, HPS Ltd, makers of HPS target rifles and ammunition.  Their rifles are very impressive, and so is their ammo as I can attest to from personal experience.  Very accurate stuff, as good as Federal Gold Medal and a lot cheaper.  And it uses RO powder!  I was staggered by that.

Israel Military Industries were also exhibiting.  IMI are makers of Samson ammo, and will be known to most British shooters although they appear to have stopped selling to the civil market in the UK for reasons I’m not too clear on.  This is a shame as IMI must be one of the largest suppliers of ammunition and guns in Europe and I for one miss their presence here.

On the stand was their bolt-action .44 Magnum carbine, this was nothing spectacular, basically a surplus Mauser 98K action rebarrelled and adapted to use the Desert Eagle magazine.  However, it would appeal to target shooters in the UK and I have no idea why they aren’t trying to sell them here.

I also had a chat with Kempf Waffentechnik, who make a sporterised version of the SIG SG550 rifle for the German market, essentially the same gun with a thumbhole stock and the flash hider and other “military” features deleted.  I mention them because they told me to special order they could make the guns as straight-pulls, basically the same gun without a gas port in the barrel.  I’m very fond of the SG550 and I may have to buy one, though they are pretty expensive at around £1,900 each.

Lapua were there, they make loads of neat types of ammunition.  I only wish someone in the UK could stock them all, check out their website.

Lothar Walther had an uninspiring stand, however, pretty is as pretty does, and they make barrels for so many gun makers around the world it’s hard to keep track.  Good kit.

CBC, better known as Magtech had a stand, they are well-known as a maker of pistol ammunition, which means their presence on the UK market is virtually nil since the handgun ban, however, they also make a .22 semi-auto rifle which might be of interest to UK shooters, being inexpensive and having a detachable box ten-round magazine.

Many shooters in GB bought Marlin rifles to replace their handguns, Marlin had a new rifle that should be of interest called the 1894P.  This is a .44 Magnum lever-action with a 16-inch ported barrel.  I found it to be very handy during my brief examination, I expect I will be seeing local shooters buying these.

Mauser, now owned by SIG Arms, had never-ending variations of the classic 98 on display, from the standard model which costs around £350, all the way up to the Magnum models, which cost over £4,000.  Mauser also has other models such as the M96 straight-pull, a 98-year younger design that I suspect is still outsold by the 1898.  Mauser has come out with a new pistol design called the M2, from what I have seen of it I don’t like it, though I can’t really comment until I’ve tried one.  Beechwood are the UK importers for Mauser.

I also visited the stand of a company called MEN, short for Metallwerk Elisenhütte Nassau, who you may never have heard of but they are the contractors for the German Army, and make all their ammunition.  I found out the name of the UK agents, but I suspect they are more orientated toward the military end of things.  It certainly looks like quality stuff though, I’d like to try some of their 5.56mm if I could get hold of it.

NORINCO, our copycat Chinese friends were there breathlessly waiting for other people’s patents to expire so that they could copy their products.  SIG appears to be the latest victim, given the NC226 pistol, a copy of the P226.  The Chinese version has a chromed barrel.

Dangerous Dave from the Old Western Scrounger was there, this guy comes across as being a bit nuts, but what can you say about someone still advertising 7.92mm Kurz?  If you can’t find it, call Dave, there’s a good chance he’s got it!

Pardini had a stand, (drool), it’s at times like this I truly resent Tony and his chronies taking our handguns off us, but they do make some air pistols.

And if Pardini is not cool enough, there is always Perazzi, whose display was at risk of serious rust from people drooling all over their shotguns, most of which are in the six-figure range.  Look on the bright side, they’re legal in the British Isles, if you can afford the insurance!

Coming back down to Earth there was PMC, makers of a wide variety of ammunition.  A Korean company that now makes most of it’s ammo in the US, PMC now apparently means “Precision Made Cartridges” although it used to mean something unpronounceable in Korean!  Importers are York Guns.  I have used PMC ammo for years without any problems.

Another ammo company was Pretoria Metal Pressings, better known as PMP.  I have used PMP pistol and rifle ammo, my main complaint is that the primers are a bit hard.  PMP were promoting their line of hunting ammunition.

I spoke to Remington, expect their electronic-ignition ammo and guns in Europe by Autumn, I was told.

Another company making clothing that we don’t see too often in the British Isles is Sauer, interesting stuff, follow the link!

Schmidt & Bender had a stand.  They have a well-earned reputation for quality.  This was my first time having a look at their mil-dot scopes – this is a recticle with dots along the lines every MOA.  I didn’t dislike it, this is one of those things you have to try before you buy, hard to do with stuff this expensive!

Sellier & Bellot were there with their extensive line of ammunition, several things caught my eye: first were their brass .410 shotgun cases for reloading.  These should be of interest to UK shooters as using .410 shotgun slugs seems to be becoming more popular.  S&B also had a 12 gauge slug load designed for target shooting, which is another new choice for practical shotgun.  Finally, they also have their own .357 SIG load, with an unusual 140gr bullet.

I visited the Sierra bullets stand where they were giving away free key rings that lasted about halfway through the first day.  I’m fond of MatchKing bullets as they seem to be able to cope well in military spec barrels, but deliver vastly superior performance to any open base bullet.  Of course, the purists among you would argue for a nice custom barrel and VLDs, but I’m stubborn.

Cripes, at we’re at SIG Arms already.  SIG Arms is up for sale, as apparently SIG prefers making food packaging to making guns, unfortunately I don’t have €20 million to hand.  SIG Arms has bought up several gun companies, and had the biggest stand at the show.  They were heavily promoting their line of SHR 970 hunting rifles, which are available in most popular calibres, and most popular colours too.  Not sure if bright green is really up my alley.  They appear to be a decent if somewhat ho hum hunting rifle.

There is also the inevitable new compact version of the SIG Pro pistol, the SPC2009 etc.  And also new models with slide-mounted safeties, I assume either for stupid cops or to deflect silly American lawsuits.  These models have an “M” suffix.

There were loads of interesting gizmos on their stand, including by far the cleverest cutaway pistol I have ever seen.  I also finally got my hands on a custom shop brochure, I’ve been after one for awhile.

I picked up a brochure for their barrel-making division, and there was an impressive display of barrel corrosion resistance on their stand (sorry, forgot to take a picture).  I suspect you need to order large numbers to make it cost effective, but they’re probably among the best there is.

Sauer is also trying to flog what look like badge-engineered shotguns – give it up guys, stick with the rifles.

Smith & Wesson, probably the stupidest company in the world, going by their recent agreement with the US Govt., had a stand, but everything was locked up in display racks, so everyone went down the aisle to one of their distributor stands.  S&W make guns specifically for the European market, the Super 9 is one of them.  This is a 9mm pistol that has seperate barrels for 9×21 and .356TSW (9×21.5mm)  I have never seen any .356TSW in Europe and I seriously doubt I ever will.  They also make a version of the 686 for the European market, the 686 International DX, essentially the standard 686 with an unfluted cylinder and target wood stocks.  S&W have also started adding attachment rails to their tactical models, it looks very clumsy as a result.

My only comment really is that S&W better start hoping international sales go up sharply, because their US sales look set for the dustbin going by the text of the agreement they signed!

Sommer und Ockenfuss are a company unknown in the UK, although I was told that John Reed of London(?) are their distributors here.  This is a company of some interest, because they make a pump-action rifle that is legal here.  It’s legal because the action is cocked by moving the pistol grip back and forth, rather than the forend.  Not cheap though, around £1,300.  As a bullpup design it has a so-so trigger pull, though it it’s certainly usable.  Calibres are 7.62 NATO and .300 Win. Mag.

Sphinx were displaying their range of pistols.  I’ve owned two Sphinx pistols and they’re very nice, unfortunately the .40s don’t work properly.  All the guns on the stand were 9mm.  Hmm…  the 9mms are among the best in the world though, there is no doubt about that.

Steyr also had a new pistol on display, another predictable compact model, this time of their M-series, called the S-series.  The trigger pulls on these guns are really light, compared to the prototypes that were really heavy.  Oh well, at least from the target shooting standpoint they should be quite good.

They also had on display the SBS 96 HB Tactical model, that was originally called the practical model.  These are really nice, someone please buy one so I can try it out!  Also ten-round magazines appear to be available again for the SSG.

Thompson-Center have a new .22 semi-auto rifle.  It looks quite nice although it’s not that special.  Lots of muzzle-loading rifles if you like that sort of thing!

Vektor make some interesting guns, and I cannot believe how cheap they are!  The CP1 compact pistol costs around £200 in Germany.  The weak Rand being the reason, I suspect.  Of interest to UK shooters are the straight-pull sporter versions of the R4 assault rifle.  These seem quite interesting, though not as inexpensive as the pistols.  If you are an RFD and want to be a distributor, I have their number, email me!

Walther had one of the bigger stands, and one of the larger selections.  Of interest to shooters in the British Isles is the GSP rifle, essentially the GSP pistol with a 16-inch heavy barrel dropped into a thumbhole stock.  Very nice indeed, although I have to say I think it is more likely to appeal to oppressed ISSF pistol shooters here than anyone else.  Some of the controls are a bit difficult to get to on it.

Other products included the PPK/E pistol, an “improved” version of the ancient PPK pistol – basically I think Ulm are looking for a use for their tooling.  I couldn’t see anything special about it.

There are also several “James Bond” commemoratives, which I thought were a bit naff (especially the blank firers) but you pay your money and take your choice, I suppose.

Another gun of interest was the CP99, essentially the same mechanism as the CP88 fit into a plastic body that looks like a P99.  Got to say I think the earlier CP88 is superior.  I quite like the blowback CO2 Walther PPK/S though.

And nearly last, but by no means least, were James Watson’s falling block rifles on the Border Barrels stand, made in Scotland no less.  I’m no expert but they seemed very well made and certainly less expensive than the competition.

And finally, Winchester had their timeless designs on display, not much new except for some more variations on the Model 70.

Until next year… 

“The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms.  History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so.” – Adolf Hitler

SHOT show 1999

February 1-4 saw the SHOT show take place at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. Your intrepid Editor took the trip across the pond and this is the news he came back with:

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A-Zoom ammo: I mention them only because they had some neat snap caps, made from aluminium with a plastic primer. They are much better than the stupid red plastic things.

Armalite: The gun of interest here was the new AR-50 in .50 BMG, a single shot bolt-action. It appeared to be a competent piece of kit. And it’s Section 1! Southern Gun Company are the Armalite distributors in the UK.

Advanced Interactive Systems: This company makes an interactive video system which is similar to a video game, projected onto a screen which can be used with airguns, airmunition guns, lasers etc. There are various programs available, for IPSC, police training and so on, and also there are some adapted video games, though you’ll need LOTS of ammo for the games. The cheapest system is $20,000, but it’s an option for clubs. You can also use real guns using a shoot-through screen. It’s a lot of fun, I was very impressed with it.

Airmunition: This company makes compressed air cartridges which together with a conversion barrel convert a pistol or revolver into an airgun. The cartridges telescope, and when the firing pin hits the valve, they expand, forcing the pellet on one end down the barrel and on the other end forcing the slide open. Very neat gizmo, used already in the Webley Valtro AP92 pistol. Of serious interest is the new Glock 17T which uses these cartridges. Muzzle energy is about 1.5 – 2 ft lbf, effective range about 11 metres.

Aimpoint: Aimpoint sights keep getting smaller, the US Army now uses the model M which is essentially a shorter version of the Aimpoint 5000. and

Beamhit: These are so neat that I bought one and brought it back with me. Essentially a laser reactive target and a laser device you mount in the barrel of the gun. You can use it with most rifles and shotguns, and also with your deactivated pistols if you have one with a plugged chamber rather than a rod down the barrel. Basic system comes with a laser and one target, and costs $299. The laser runs off 4 lithium batteries and the target off a 9V transformer or 4 AA batteries. You

can do basic target practice and there is also a par time function. It works up to quite a distance away, I’ve used it at 10 metres furthest so far. The newer lasers fit almost completely inside the barrel, but the older ones are better if you intend on using a deact as most of it hangs out the end of the barrel thus the rod is shorter. It’s mostly plastic so it doesn’t harm the balance of the gun. Only problem I’ve found is that it’s quite difficult to zero, and you have to zero it again when you reattach it. The zeroing adjustments are just a tad too crude, though I got it done eventually.

There are various higher priced models, with turning targets and so on. The club version costs $1,799 and hooks up to a PC serial port and tells you exactly where on the target you hit, your speed, and so on, and it can be set up for more complex functions.

This system turns dry-firing from boredom into a serious challenge, especially with the timing function, and I strongly recommend it.

Barrett: The new product this year was the Barrett 99, which is a single-shot bolt-action .50BMG with an SRP of $2,800. This puts it within the reach of most shooter’s pockets, and sales appear to be brisk. Definitely the best of the cheaper .50 rifles, IMO. Don’t know who imports them, but they are Section 1.

Beretta: New products were essentially repackaged old products. The only real thing of interest was the ES100 semi-auto shotguns, which are budget semi-autos for field use. All of the new pistols were things that were essentially relaunched, such as the 92FS Type M and the Brigadier. I tried a Brigadier out in 1994, I have no idea why it’s taken this long to get them generally distributed.

More interesting were the Stock and the Combat pistols, with cocked and locked safeties and the Combat models have SA-only pulls. The Combat guns would make good entry level IPSC guns, IMO.

Also the 96 is now available in stainless, though there were only pictures of it on the stand.

Benelli: The new product here was the Nova pump-action shotgun. It’s a competent pump, but I can’t understand why anyone would want one over a Super 90 semi-auto.

Briley: Some neat stuff, especially their custom 10/22s and shotgun chokes. Hopefully there is someone out there with the sense to bring in their chokes at least.

Colt: They had no real new products, the only one being the Pocket Nine which is essentially the Colt Pony in 9mm. The thing that caught my eye was the Buntline Special, which can be custom ordered with an 18″ barrel which would make it legal in GB. But prices would be steep.

Colt also had an AIS system set up using the same lasers as the Beamhit called the Colt HomeFire system. This is really the best of both worlds, and costs only $800. But you really need a large screen TV to get the most out of it. Available in July, they told me.

Civil Defence Supply Group: These are the people making the .224 BOZ featured in G&A. Essentially a 10mm Auto necked down to .22 using a variety of different .223 bullets. Chambered in modified MP5/10s and SVI pistols. The MP5 version I think is a waste of time, why not just get an H&K 53? The pistol is more interesting. The idea behind this is that you get ballistics approaching a .223 Remington (a long way short though) for the purpose of piercing body armour.

A bit of a niche market, though, they’re only selling it to Govt. entities so I don’t think they’ll get far with it, I’m afraid to say.

Dillon: New gizmo is the SL900 shotshell progressive reloader. Not only the best but the only such loader in it’s class. Frankly you’re mad to buy any other reloading equipment other than Dillon if you’re into quantity reloading. There’s a reason Mike Dillon has the money to buy a helicopter and put two miniguns on it.

DPMS: Getting a reputation now for seriously accurate AR-15s, Jerry Miculek waxes on about them in the back of their brochure. The sidecocking version is very neat, but could use more spring tension on the cocking bar, plus a cut-out for the cocking handle to fold down into would be nice. That version is Section 1 and is sold in the UK by Southern Gun Co.

Dynamit Nobel: I think the new CP96 is actually sold under a different name in the UK, basically a poor man’s Steyr LP5. Very neat, with a 5-shot mag, designed for UIT rapid fire, but also a good plinker for those who want something of higher quality than the Umarex CO2 guns. 425fps, pretty respectable.

Eley: Launching the Match Xtra Plus, the poor man’s Tenex. Can’t really

comment more without actually using it, also Tenex is now higher spec. Presumably whatever they’re using on the MXP they’re using on the Tenex. And it’s made in Birmingham!

Federal: Interesting stuff from these guys, even now they’re owned by Blount. A large increase in loads using the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, which should be looked at seriously by most people using rifles for field purposes in the UK, going by the specs of it. Of more interest is an increase in the loadings for Tungsten-Iron shotshells, which is claimed to be the best ammo there is bar none for use on birds. More energy downrange than lead, the speed of steel, safe in shotguns designed for steel, cheaper than Bismuth, etc. On to a winner here, methinks. Also developments in sabot slugs, which should be looked at seriously by anyone contemplating the use of a rifled shotgun, such as the Mossberg or Marlin bolt guns which are Section 1.

FN/Browning: Two new products, one of them quite big though hardly anyone noticed it. First is a straight-pull hunting rifle, which has no name yet and is still in pre-production. Basically a capitalisation on the Mauser 96 and the Blaser’s popularity with a name you know stamped on it.

Of more interest though equally unimaginative is the FN Forty-Nine pistol.

Sometimes being boring pays off, this is the first plastic-framed pistol I have come across which looks capable of beating Glock at their own game.

The top half is pure Glock, but made from stainless steel. The mechanism differs only in that the trigger cocks the striker completely when you pull it, rather than the prepped method the Glock uses. This means you can pull the trigger twice or more on a round which hasn’t gone off.

The bottom half of the gun features a very nicely shaped grip which feels better than that of the Glock in my hands, with a nice big round mag button.

The trigger pull is quite long, but not as long as a revolver, but it was clean though a bit mushy, but letoff was just in the right place. There are no external safeties at all.

This is a serious contender in the police pistol market. In many ways it is better than the Glock though the Glock still has the edge for target shooters.

Wholesale price is only $330, available in .40 and 9mm, mag capacities 14 and 16 respectively.

Glock: I didn’t make too many friends on the Glock stand, I think they have become more than a little complacent with the success of the company.

The new product is the Glock 36, essentially a Glock 30 with a single stack six-shot magazine, thereby giving the 36 the welcome feature of a grip you can get your hand around.

Another new product which is of major interest to British shooters is the Glock 17T in 7.8x21mm AC, which uses the airmunition cartridges. Apart from the barrel, recoil spring and locking insert, it is identical to a Glock 17 but should be legal in GB. Won’t be cheap though, as you need the press to compress the cartridges and also a tank of compressed air in addition to the gun and the pellets.

Glock’s other big thing was a new dealer’s kit with signs, leisure wear etc., which is all well and good but they couldn’t tell me when their website would be finished. The other thing I had a go at them about was this stupid habit they have of not stamping the full calibre names on their guns, because of misplaced pride and “Not Invented Here” syndrome. First it was the Glock 22 and 23 stamped “.40” instead of “.40S&W” (though later some guns were stamped “.40SW” but not anymore), then the 21 stamped “.45 Auto” instead of “.45 ACP”, and now, worst of all, the Glocks 31-33 stamped “.357” instead of “.357SIG”. There are quite a few handgun cartridges named .357, this is an accident waiting to happen and far too serious a matter to be left to dim-witted people in the marketing dept.

Another gripe was the new grip design, which I don’t like. This is based on the 26 and 27, i.e. finger-groove grips and thumbrests. Also there is an accessory rail now on the front of the frame. Great if your hand fits the grooves, not so great if you have thin fingers like mine. Oh well, there’s always a Dremmel tool.

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Heckler & Koch: Oooh, I’m not an H&K nut, but there was some neat toys on their stand! They had an H&K OICW in a display case, and also one of the prototype .45 P7s.

One of the talking points of the show were their new rifles, it was tough to get near them for the first two days of the show. The SL-8 is based on the G36 assault rifle, which is rapidly becoming known as the most reliable and durable 5.56mm assault rifle ever made. The SL-8 is a sporter version, with a thumbhole stock, other military features removed, and in place of the combo scope and red dot of the G36 are iron sights and a two foot picatinny rail which should mount just about anything you could possibly want optics wise. There are two versions of the SL-8, one for the European market and one for the US market. They differ in their colour, the US gun has a black stock and US flag on the butt, whereas the European version has a tan “hunting” stock, and also they differ in the design of the magazine well. The European version uses the same mag. well as the G36, but the US version uses a narrower mag. well which takes a single-stack .223 10-shot mag, neatly side-stepping the ban on the import of semi-auto rifles which take “large capacity military magazines”.

The SL-8 on the stand had a reasonable trigger pull, clean, a bit of creep to begin with, but no worse than the average AR-15 really. H&K expects to import 2,000 of them, SRP will probably be $1,495.

Obviously it’s illegal in the UK, but now that H&K have a gas piston operated gun on the market, they could always make it as a straight-pull for the UK market. Oh yes. The cocking handle is ambidextrous, imagine the same cocking method as an Uzi but with a handle which folds either way attached to it.

The other long gun is a .45ACP carbine based on the new UMP .45 SMG. Both struck me as a step backwards. The UMP is essentially a fairly ordinary closed bolt SMG using a plastic receiver chambered in .45. The operating controls are in the same place as the MP5, but the bolt is simply a big chunk of metal, as with SMGs of old. The H&K rep told me the reasoning behind it was that they had had a lot of requests for a .45 SMG as many SWAT teams were going to .45 pistols. I haven’t seen much evidence of that myself, I have to say.

However, the bigger news is that the UMP will also be made in 9mm at some point in the future, and as it is only two-thirds of the price of the MP5, no doubt a lot of police here in the UK will be carrying UMPs in the future.

The semi-auto version is basically only for die-hard H&K fans. It has a

Dragunov style shoulder stock, 16″ barrel single stack .45 mag, etc. Costs four times as much as a Marlin Camp Carbine which does exactly the same thing!

Anyway, sharpen your pencils and let’s see if we can get H&K to make some straight-pull G36s.

Kimber: Known for their superb 1911s, but their new product was a bolt-action .22 based on a modified Mauser action which was simply the best bolt-action .22 I’ve ever laid hands on. Superb quality even on the least expensive model, wonderful trigger pull, had it all. The cheapest model has an SRP of $915, but it’s more of a field gun than the quasi-target guns fitted with a standard stock.

Knight’s Manufacturing Company: Makers of top-end military rifles, like the SR-25, and also the SR-15 in 5.56mm, loads of AR-15 gizmos like the Rail Interface System, I wish someone would order some of these in straight-pull format (they said they’d make them that way if someone ordered them). Really, really nice guns. Also had a new .50, the SR-50, but it’s semi-auto, sigh.

Robinson Armament Co.: A new company making a rifle called the M96 Expeditionary Rifle. Basically an updated Stoner 63, the gun made famous by the USN SEALs in Vietnam. Most of the flaws of the Stoner have been eliminated. Their marketing guy said it could be easily made as a straight-pull, so here is another opportunity for you RFDs out there. Cocking handle is on the left side of the gun as well, just in the right place.

Actually, I forgot to mention DS Arms, who make FALs. They also said they could make a straight-pull FAL without difficulty, however I am a bit queasy about these as many of the small parts they use are Austrian military surplus, so they might be considered Section 5.

Mossberg: Two new gizmos from Mossberg (well, not that new) the 9200 semi-auto, which is a tough, bit crude, but reliable semi-auto 12G in a wide variety of models, and also the odd but original 500 series with a DA trigger pull! Felt really odd to dry fire, I doubt they’ll take off.

Marlin: These guys had various new calibres in old designs, however the guns of interest were the 7000T, a target version of the 7000 semi-auto, the 512P, a new version of the 512 bolt-action shotgun with various improvements and the odd but original 25MG, a bolt-action smoothbore garden gun chambered for .22 magnum! The 7000T goes for twice the standard 7000. A possible alternative to the ubiquitous 10/22.

McMillan Stocks: No really new products, but I was quite taken with their Sportsman’s Team Challenge 10/22 stock, which looks like the stock to get for steel matches. Though you really need one of the really high scope mounts that the top competitors use to go with it.

Michael’s of Oregon: All the fiddily bits we have come to know and love, I won’t bore you with the holsters for which we no longer have any guns for, but their Butler Creek line now features a Carbon Fibre 10/22 barrel, which is called the featherweight. Another extremely useful gizmo for the avid steel plate shooter. Also a new 10/22 target stock which looked like they might sell a few in the UK. Price on the barrel is $150, the stock is $100.

Nosler: Lot’s of neat and deadly bullets, their new product was a sabot bullet designed for muzzleloaders, for those of you who really want to get back to nature!

Otis: makers of cleaning kit, pretty good stuff this, better than your run-of-the-mill Outers kit. Distributed in the UK by Southern Gun Co.

Para-Ordnance: The new gizmo is the new DA 1911, it’s not your average DA, very smooth and light, I almost liked it! Problem is that it’s a one shot deal, you can’t go back and pull the trigger again if the gun doesn’t go off. And the gun is harder to cock with the hammer down.

PMC: now offer .357SIG ammo.

Power Custom: interesting company from Missouri, offering a wide variety of replacement 10/22 parts made from Titanium, such as firing pins, bolt handles, triggers, mag. releases and so on.

Professional Ordnance Inc. – Plastic AR-15s, what will they think of next! Lot of fun these, the rifle model with the fluted barrel was extremely light, essentially only the bolt assembly and the barrel are made of metal, the rest is plastic. Weight is only 3.9lb, while your average similarly equipped AR-15 would be twice that. They told me they could make it as a straight pull, if anyone cares to order enough of them to make it worthwhile.

Remington – Bringing more pain to your shoulder, the 870 will now chamber 3.5″ shells, and the 700 is now chambered for .300 Remington Ultra Mag, when you really must have a .30 which shoots so flat that it makes you flinch with every shot, thereby sending it in a direct straight unaltered line into the ground six feet in front of you. Kidding aside, it looks like a nifty product, should be good for the longer shots. It’s touted as the first commercially available non-belted magnum.

Also a new left-hand model of the 11-87 was introduced. They told me the electronic ignition 700 is two years away.

Ruger (or Sturm, Ruger & Co, for you purists): New item which I have to say bored me to tears is the 50th anniversary Ruger .22 pistol, which differs from the standard .22 in that it has an anniversary emblem on it, red medallions on the stocks, and comes in a red box. Wow.

Also, the Super Redhawk is now available in .454 Casull, for those of you who believe it’s safe in a DA revolver (I remain unconvinced), though as Ted Rowe pointed out to me, few if any people will put more than six rounds through one.

Of more interest is the Ruger 10/22 Magnum. Now that I’ve played with one, I’m not so keen on them as I was. The bolt is incredibly heavy, uses “ultra dense” metal, whatever that is. Balance of the gun is awful, it’s all to the rear. However, the rep told me a target version along the lines of the 10/22T is on the way next year. This will be better as the bull barrel will help balance it out. And no, you can’t use most 10/22 accessories with the magnum version, though you can use aftermarket trigger bits and mag releases, and some barrels – but not stocks, so make sure the barrel fits the standard stock first!

Also there was the new Ruger P97, a plastic framed P90 .45. Doesn’t even make a good paperweight.

The 77/44 is also now available in stainless steel.

Savage Arms: The item of most interest was the Savage Striker pistol, based on the action of the 110 bolt-action rifle. This is the best of the bolt-action pistols IMO as it has the cocking handle on the left side in the correct place. It also holds 3+1, which I think is the largest capacity of them. It would be legal in GB with a slightly longer barrel.

Also of interest is the 110 Scout model, for those who cannot afford a Steyr.

Their .22 rifles also caught my eye, didn’t realise they actually made any until now. The model 64 is a very reasonably priced semi-auto (SRP on nearly all of them is less than $150) – not exactly a target gun but for blasting bunnies at close ranges it would be great, and it has a ten-shot mag. I don’t think budget starter guns like this have much of a market in the UK, but for those of you who run miniature rifle ranges with guns that get knocked around it’s worth a look.

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SIG arms – Although they’ve been in the rifle business for ages, they’ve only recently begun to hit the US market in large numbers as SIG have now repositioned themselves as an all-around gun company, rather than just a handgun company. Loads and loads of neat toys on their stand, which was by far the best looking stand at the show.

First up is the SHR 970 series of hunting rifles, which is Sauer’s budget line. All solidly built and up to the job, but not that exciting. Available in all common calibres, .25-06 through .300 Win Mag. SRPs in the $500 range.

Then there are the well-known Sauer 202s at twice the price, and then going up to the ridiculous price levels are the Blasers. SIG arms bought out Blaser a year or two ago. These Blaser R93s are really nice rifles, and I’m not a hunter, but I want one! They use a straight-pull action which is very swift and comfortable to use. The quality is superb. Available in pretty much all popular hunting calibres. One of the reps from Ray Wards was on the stand trying them out, and we both agreed these are among the nicest hunting rifles we’ve ever laid hands on. Prices start at $1,495 for the synthetic stocked rifles. There is also a tactical model, which actually I think is better than SIG’s own SSG3000, so that will probably be a thing of the past soon. Might be a choice for practical rifle, though it’s a bit cumbersome for a gun on the run. SRP is $2,130.

Something SIG is also going to make but which was not on the stand is a pump-action SG550, to avoid Bill Clinton’s mood swings on the import of semi-auto rifles. But it’s still not legal here, dammit!

Turning to pistols, there is the new Hammerli Trailside pistol which looked as though it was based on the 208. Essentially Hammerli’s answer to the Ruger. Outrageously better though, as you might expect. The trigger pull was target gun quality, not something I would tote in the field. I expect in reality this will be seen as an entry-level gun for UIT and suchlike. No prices, but I got the impression you would be looking at about $1,000.

Turning to target pistols, there is the fairly new SP20, which is simply

an improved 280 available in various natty colours. Also tried the 480

air pistol, once again, very nice. Lovely trigger pull.

On the centrefire front, the quietest product launch of the show was probably the SigPro SP2009, a 9mm version of their plastic framed gun. All the guns on the stand had 15-round cop magazines, so whether it will be available on the civilian market is open to question, though it will be according to the price list. SRP is $596. Overall I don’t like the SigPros very much, the trigger pulls are awful, though I’m keener on the grip design since I tried the rubber grip which comes with the gun as a free accessory.

More interesting was the P245, a cutdown P220 with a 6+1 capacity about the size of a P225. Nice gun. Costs $750.

Also there was the P220 Sport, a P220 with a stainless frame and slide, Hogue grips, LPA sights, polished trigger pull and a whopping great compensator. This goes for $1,320. I personally thought it would be more interesting if they ditched the compensator, as it’s not really competitive in IPSC Open class anyway.

Basically I spent a lot of time on the SIG stand! etc. Importers are Beechwood Equipment.

Shepherd Scopes – basically the best scopes made, in my opinion. They are calibrated for particular types of ammunition, and have a recticle which allows you to aim off for Known Distance shooting. Also a rather clever method of zeroing. Takes too long to explain, go to their website!

Smith & Wesson – Ooh, I really like that 945, I really do – essentially the front end of a 4506 mated with the back end of a 1911. Felt great in the hand, better than a 1911 as the grip shape is slightly different. Costs around $1,500 which isn’t bad compared to other custom 1911s. Yummy!

Okay, back to reality – the AirLite Titanium revolvers were another talking point of the show, my feeling is that if you have a Section 3 exemption these would be ideal as a humane destruction tool, especially the .38 Special version.

Only weighs 18.9 oz unloaded, and it’s essentially corrosion proof, so it could easily be stuffed in a jacket pocket while out deer stalking. The 242 holds seven rounds. There are various other models, including one with a spur hammer whereas the 242 is DAO. Other calibres available or on their way soon as well. The cylinder is made from titanium, as is the barrel sleeve, the rest is aluminium alloy.

Of perhaps more interest were their CO2 revolvers, made by Umarex, which hold ten .177 pellets. I quite liked these, the Umarex system seems to work better in a revolver than a revolver shaped like a semi-auto. Uses a cylinder magazine, so you’re two shots better off than with a CP88.

Steyr-Mannlicher – okay, you’ve waited long enough – one of the most interesting products at the show for the GB shooter had to be the new range of SBS Tactical rifles. SRP is only $950. Superb trigger pulls, slick action, and unlike the SSG ten-round mags are readily available. In 7.62 only, I predict these will become REALLY popular for practical rifle, in fact probably every event requiring a repeating centrefire rifle. The top end model costs $1,575 and has a 26″ barrel and McMillan stock.

The Scout is also available in a tactical model, which essentially means it’s black and costs another $100.

I find it intriguing that the Scout lists at $1,895 for the basic rifle and

$2,595 with a Leupold scope attached and a carry case. No brainer there!

The Scout is also available now in .376 Steyr as well as 7.62 NATO. I know absolutely nothing about the .376 Steyr and doubt I ever will.

The new pistol is the Steyr M-series, the M9 and the M40. I doubt they’ll sell many to police which is obviously the intended market. The problem is that the trigger travel is too short compared to the Glock. Great for target shooting, but destined to be “unsafe” for cops. The gun is festooned with safety devices though. It has a Garand style safety, a Glock style safety, and if that is not enough, you can lock it with a key.

The sights were interesting as well, a triangular front sight! Problem with that was that the top edge of the sight wears quickly and you get a shiny surface. A bit too novel for the staid gun buying public. This was confirmed when Wayne Novak appeared next to me, picked one up and muttered: “Which [beep] idiot designed these [beep] sights?”

Big news for us poor individuals as regards pistols is a 1911 style grip

which can be mounted on the LP5 repeating air pistol. Very neat. Might buy one, but all up it’ll set you back a thousand quid or so. Importers

are Sportsmans Gun Centre.

Swarovski – lots of very neat scopes and binoculars. I had a play with

their laser-range finding scope. Definitely one of the better gizmos.

SRP on it is $4,994. Cough.

Nearly forgot Springfield Armory – nothing spectacularly new to report,

though it was fun hanging out with Rob Leatham!

Taurus – the big new product is their Titanium revolvers. They have one like the S&W with a titanium cylinder and barrel sleeve, but also revolvers with all major parts made from titanium. A bit of overkill, and I was wondering about galling, but they certainly looked neat, available in a variety of flashy colours.

Also they had the “Raging Hornet” which is a .22 Hornet revolver built on the same frame as the Raging Bull .454 Casull, with an 8″ barrel. It weighs a ton, and I could not see any earthly reason for it.

Thompson/Center Arms – there was nothing earth shatteringly new for 1999, though there are a substantial number of new permutations of muzzle-loaders. They also told me a UK company had bought a bunch of Contenders with long barrels, however, there’s no reason why you couldn’t buy an Encore with a shoulder stock and 12″ pistol barrel, or conversely an Encore with a pistol grip and 26″ rifle barrel and be legal (in GB).

Tikka – lots of interesting rifles on the Stoeger stand, the US importer, though I don’t think any of them were new per se. Solid rifles though, JLS arms is the UK importer.

Tijicon – newer smaller versions of the ACOG keep coming out, for those of you who haven’t used one, these are similar to red dot sights but instead of a dot there is a tiny triangle which is illuminated by Tritium. I might get one of the smaller models, but they aren’t cheap. But I suppose you save on batteries! Available in various magnifications as well.

The newer reflex sight is good too, this is a basic dot sight with no magnification but using tritium. Both sights are popular with the US armed forces. The reflex sights start at $300 and go up to about $500 depending on what you’re mounting it on, essentially. The compact ACOGs start at $600 and the full size ones at $900.

I’ve used their pistol night sights for years and never had any problem.

Tasco – the only thing I really noticed was the Firepoint sight, which is made in the UK, and is best described as a miniature C-More. It was being hawked on the Tasco stand by of all people Gerry White! It is sold in the US as the Tasco Optima 2000. I’ve finally got some contact details so I might be able to buy one now!

Vektor – The US State Dept. doesn’t like LIW, who make Vektor firearms, because they sold some automatic cannons to the wrong people a few years back but apparently they have now relented and the guns are being imported into the US.

The Vektor CP1 was one of the main talking points of the show, due to the pent up demand created by various articles in US gun magazines over the last few years. It appears to have been improved as the trigger pull was much better on the one I tried than the ones I’ve tried before. Nifty gun, racy looking and largely based on the H&K P7. I was also very impressed by the Z88, the South African service pistol. This is a direct copy of the Beretta 92F but it appeared to be tighter and of higher quality. Better trigger pull certainly.

Walther – and finally, Walther. Big news of the show is that Smith & Wesson will be making the P99 under license as a replacement for the awful Sigma. Walther also had a S&W revolver customised for hunting on their stand, called the R99 – based on a 3″ barrelled L-frame.

Of possible interest was the P99 La Chasse, which is a version of the P99 designed for hunters. However, the upmarket models of it may be legal in GB under a Section 7(3) exemption due to the engraving on the gun – SRP is over $2,000, about three times that of a standard P99.

The trigger has been redesigned on the P99 and is now more curved and feels much better than it did.

The other new product which will be really popular in GB and also Ireland is the GSP rifle. This is essentially a GSP pistol frame fitted with a long bull barrel and set into a thumbhole stock. For those of you who miss UIT .22, there is no reason you could not fit it with a pistol grip, though you’ll need some kind of stand to rest the barrel on! Ten-round magazines are also available for the GSP now. UK importers are Accuracy International – SRP on the iron sighted model is £1,250, though I recommend you get the model designed for optics.