Ammo & Gear Reviews

New Guns And Gear – The Big 2016 SHOT Show Review

Guns and Gear Contributor

By Scott Smith

Every January, the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade Show, SHOT Show occurs in Las Vegas. This is the largest gathering of the industry where manufactures show what is new in clothing, ammunition, firearms and other gear for law enforcement, hunting, competition, field craft and even the military. Over the twelve plus miles in the aisles of The Sands Convention Center; dealers, media, wholesalers, and marketing firms pour over thousands of items for the upcoming year in the outdoor industry. Every year it becomes harder to find what is truly new and exciting, but those of us in media do our best to share our picks with our readers.

After twenty plus trips to the SHOT Show many of the items being displayed are in their second and third iteration; which shows that these companies are improving their products to meet the needs of shooters. Springfield Armory is  one of these companies, introducing the XDS Mod2 5” Tactical Model. This pistol is an enhanced model of their 5” XD Tactical, introduced several years ago. While it was a successful pistol, when the XDm 5.25 Match was introduced, the Tactical languished in the land of “steady sales.” The XDm was introduced as a competition ready pistol and it is, but it does not allow the shooter to use the magazines from the XD series. In today’s economy this hurts both the shooter and the manufacture. Springfield Armory knows this and set about giving shooters a competition ready 5” XD.

To resurrect the XD Tactical, Springfield Armory added their Mod2 Grip Zone to the Tactical. This is a recontoured grip that allows for a higher grip and texturing that gives the shooter a better purchase on the pistol and better overall hand to pistol feel. For fast accurate shots the white dot front has been replaced with a fiber optic sight and the rear sight is low profile model. This pistol is competitively priced at $599, shipping with two sixteen round magazines. If you own a 9mm XD Service Model, the Mod2 Tactical will be a perfect companion for competition.

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Springfield Armory’s 5” Tactical with Mod2 Grip to improve the ergonomics and feel of the XD.

Another company reintroducing an iconic firearm is Inland Manufacturing with modern versions of the M1 1944/45 Carbines. The M1 Carbine served the military in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. The M1 Carbine is still in use by militaries around the world and can be found in armories of police departments nationwide as well What continues to make the M1 Carbine popular after seventy years is the handy size, ease of operation and modern 30 Carbine ammunition that reliably expands for personal protection and for hunting use where legal.

The modern Inland also does not carry the $1500+ price tag of the original, it retails at $1049. Using modern steel barrel, a cast receiver not a forged one like the WWII model so the receiver has tighter tolerances, and with quality ammunition will consistently shoot 2-3” groups with iron sights at 100 yards, where a WWII veteran will shoot 4-5” groups.

It should be noted that Inland Manufacturing is in no way associated with the Inland Mfg. Division of GM that produced the WWII M1s.  Inland offers both the 1944 and 1945 models of the M1 Carbine. The 1945 model is an enhanced model of the ’44. The ’45 has a bayonet lug, an improved magazine catch to allow you to use thirty round magazines in place of the supplied a fifteen round magazine. At this year’s SHOT Show Inland added a “Scout” 1944 with a polymer stock, jungle flash hider and the wooden barrel shroud is replaced with a metal Picatinny rail to allow you to attach a red dot or mid-eye relief scope.  As of this writing the MSRP has yet to be determined but it will be priced less than a collectible veteran Inland M1 Carbine.  I am a fan of the M1 Carbine and will be adding this new rifle to my vault when it hits the market in the second quarter.

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Inland Mfg’s new M1 Carbine Scout (L) and Model 1944, bringing new life to an iconic carbine.

Double Star also is listening to their customer base and introduced the PhD 1911. This pistol will be nearly half the price of their C2G series 1911s. Where the C2Gs are built with forged frames, the PhD will use cast frames; cost effective XS 24/7 sights are used, there are no front cocking serrations, the frame is not checkered; all of which drastically reduces the cost. What Double Star did not sacrifice was performance. During my brief range session at the SHOT Show Media Day, the PhD proved itself reliable and accurate; you have to get used to the XS Sights. According to the staff on the range; nearly three thousand rounds went through the range sample and it never had an issue. Once the PhD is in production, you should be able to find it for around $1500-1600.

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Double Star’s PHD 1911 is an example of building a solid entry level pistol that the customers were demanding.

If you are looking for a custom pistol that will not break the bank and can be had without waiting months, CZ-USA’s Shadow Custom is the pistol you are looking for, CZ’s custom shop has the details. This pistol is built for three gun and USPSA/IPSC competition; if you want a CZ Shadow for IDPA the Shadow Target II would be ideal. The reason for this is the barrel bushing and the low mounted sights of the Custom, they are disallowed in IDPA.

What makes the Shadow Custom special is the virtually perfect fit of the CZ75. Next CZ installs their SRTS (short reset trigger system) to eliminate nearly all trigger reset, the sights are upgraded to a competition rear and a fiber optic rear, the standard black grips are replaced with purple ones and it ships with 3-18 round magazines. With a $2,200 MSRP CZ’s Shadow Custom making this a competitively priced pistol that is readily available. Support gear such as holsters and magazine pouches are plentiful and can be had for both right and left handed shooters. I have shot earlier versions of the Shadow Custom; all have performed perfectly and are far more accurate than I will ever be. This is one firearm that a test sample will be shipped to my FFL for extensive testing.

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CZ’s Shadow Custom, a solid 9mm pistol ready for competition right out of the box.

One of the most talked about new handguns at SHOT was Ruger’s American Pistol. This is Ruger’s first foray into the world of striker fired duty size firearms. This pistol was originally built as a .45ACP before being “scaled down” to a 9mm version. The logic behind this is simple, if we can build and make a pistol built around the larger caliber the smaller will be easy.

This pistol uses real three dot Novak sights which will allow the end user a wide variety of sight options to suit their needs if they do not like the factory sights. Each unit ships with a small and large grip insert with the medium being installed on the American. To keep the pistol fed, each on ships with two magazines (magazine capacity is 17 in 9mm, 10 for .45ACP), you will find plenty available at shopruger.com. Every American Pistol ships in a lockable hard case with a cable lock. Aside from the reliability that Ruger has become famous for, Ruger is also know for giving shooters exceptional value with a MSRP of $579, the American Pistol carries on that tradition. A quick range session during Media Day showed that this Ruger is also capable of superb accuracy.

If you consider a Ruger American Pistol for daily carry or competition you will be able to find a holster to fit your needs. Ruger planned the release date of this pistol in conjunction with the various holster manufactures delivery dates of holsters.

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Ruger’s American Pistol is sure to become a popular pistol for competition, duty and self-defense.

For those who prefer old school firearms for personal protection, fear not you were not left out. Kimber introduced the K6S, six shot .357 Magnum snub nose revolver. This diminutive blaster retails at $899. While this might seem pricey, you have to consider it is stainless steel, has a real rear sight not a barely there notch, the rubber grips are designed to fit your hands to mitigate recoil and the action is smooth as silk.

While I confess to not being a devotee of the revolver, I did shoot several full cylinders during Media Day. All the ammunition I fired was 38 Special, but it did allow me to see this is an accurate revolver. If I were going to carry this firearm, I would want to spend some time testing various loads to see what it preferred. You will be surprised how accurate and effective these two inch wonders are with the right load. It was not all that long ago snubbies were the sidearm of choice for detectives and agents nationwide. Kimber did its due diligence with the K6S and built a revolver for the 21st century.

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Kimber’s K6S, a purpose built revolver for duty and self-defense.

Another pistol that was well received during Media was the Browning Black Label .380ACP 1911. No you did not read that wrong, a 1911 chambered in .380ACP; well sort of.  With its overall length of 7 ½” and 18 ounce weight, the Black Label is less than half the size of a Government Model. Aside from its size, weight and caliber; the Black Label is all 1911 right down to the grip safety.

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Browning’s Black Label 1911-380, a practically perfect pocket pistol for 1911 devotees.

Media Day was the first time I have shot this pistol. When I wandered into Browning’s test bay it was late in the day so the pistol I shot had digested well over one thousand rounds. All that this pistol suffered from was a sluggish dirty slide; but it still kept on firing. The slide velocity noticeably increased with a quick shot of oil. Even when crusty dirty the Black Label Pro still cycled properly and showed better accuracy than I thought it would. Every time I pulled the trigger, a .380ACP bullet knocked down a steel plate that was down range. If you are in the market for a reliable pistol the 1911-380 Black Label Pro should be on the short list. The $799.99 price tag might seem high, but with the performance and fit and finish, I would say that is not overly priced.

Firearms are always the feature attraction of the SHOT Show, optics also attract a lot of attention. Red dot sights are the big draw with Trijicon’s Miniature Rifle Optic being the most talked about sight. Trijicon uses an objective lens than it does on the ocular lens to do away with the “tube” effect that occurs on so many red dot sights. Another feature of the MRO is the angled front lens that does away with the halo effect around the dot. These might seem minor but they affect quick sight acquisition and accuracy. The MRO has a $639 MSRP with a base; shop around the web you will find it for less.

Another innovative sight manufacture is C-More Sights. This company has been building sights that dominate USPSA’s Open Division for years now. C-More’s following is nearly cult like because of their durability. The latest entry from C-More is the C3 Competition Rifle Scope. Developed with the input of multi-discipline/multiple champion Todd Jarrett, this scope is ideal for three gun, hunting and tactical applications.

Like its contemporaries the C3 retails around $1700. With the ballistic compensating cross hairs, eleven intensity illumination, 30mm tube with 1-6 power range; that is the going rate for quality glass. Adjustments for vertical/horizontal impact were smooth and positive while the magnification moved as smoothly as silk. This optic should quickly dominate the competition world like their holographic sights do.

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Optics like firearms dominate The SHOT Show, Trijicon and C-More are bringing shooters some of the toughest and most innovative on the market.

In days gone by The SHOT Show used to be about just the firearms, optics, various support gear and the latest in hunting clothing. These days you will find food preparation, quads, crossbows, items to deck out your vehicle. You name it for the outdoorsman; you will find it at The SHOT Show.

While we are all there to see the latest in gear for duty, personal protection, competition, hunting or whatever your outdoor ventures are; you will run into many celebrities—from entertainment and the industry as well as true American heroes. If you looked this year Steven Segal was strolling the halls, Big & Rich and Darius Rucker were hanging out at the Daniel Defense booth, while if you kept your eyes open you could find SFC (Ret) LeRoy Petry MOH recipient, CPO (Ret) Marcus Luttrell Navy Cross recipient, and others lurking the aisles.

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Media folks climbing the hill at Media Day and folks getting photos with Big n Rich with Darius Rucker.

The SHOT Show is by far the largest event in the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade. If you cannot find it here odds are it is not to be found.  It is about celebrating America and the American way of life. The SHOT Show is the living embodiment of The Second Amendment of The Constitution. While it is about the equipment it is also about We the People and those who support and defend our freedoms.

Scott Smith is a Disabled Veteran serving in the Army and USAF Reserve. He has been a federal police officer, is a charter member of IDPA and is actively involved with USPSA and various three gun competitions.