SHOT Show 2016 was a blast. Terrible pun I know but that’s really all I can say about the show in general. I spent a pretty considerable amount of time catching up with mates, so I found I had trouble seeing everything on offer. Here’s my overview of SHOT Show 2016. I’m sure I’ve missed out on some of the new products and companies at this year’s show. Contact me with any suggestions for products/companies that I’ve missed, and should get in touch with!
Phosfect Light Technology
The first stop for the day was Phosfect Light Technology, where I met up with my mate Clint and Paul Britton from PBA Imports. While Phosfect’s line of illuminated targets was interesting, what really caught my eye was their range of Accu Tac bipods. Priced to compete with other high end bipods, Accu Tac obviously did their homework when designing and manufacturing their product. Clive Blair at Phosfect was great to talk to, and walked me through the Accu Tac bipods. The feature set is rich with functionality, as you would expect from a high end product. Everything was easy to adjust. The angle of the bipod legs (which, like the Atlas, can be locked at multiple angles) adjusts by pulling down on the leg to move it from one locking position to another. The feet are spring loaded like a Harris, and have a very solid locking detent. A thumbscrew under the bipod adjusts the stiffness of the cant. Every model on display had a QD picatinny rail clamp, and locked positively. The most noticeable feature of the Accu Tac bipods is the relatively wide stance, especially in the LR-10 model. All in all, a competitive product at a competitive price.
SHOT is ostensibly a Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show, except the “outdoor” part tends to get skipped over. Lifestraw is a product that originated as a humanitarian project focused on delivering clean drinking water. Lifestraw is a major contributing factor to the near eradication of guinea worm disease in Africa. It is estimated that by 2017 guinea worm disease will be eradicated, making it the second disease successfully eradicated by humanity, the first being smallpox. Fresh, clean water is a luxury in many parts of the world, and Lifestraw has changed the lives of millions by filtering out bacteria and impurities that cause diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery.
Even though I am familiar with the product, I got Neil Conlan to run me through what they had on offer. What separates Lifestraw from chemical solutions like iodine and chlorine tablets is the fact that it filters impurities as well as bacteria, which makes it a safer product to use in the field. The standard practice for using iodine and chlorine tablets is to strain the water first and reduce impurities as much as possible, but this isn’t always possible. Furthermore, the effectiveness of iodine and chlorine is dependent on water temperature, pH level, concentration of pathogens in the water, and are limited by expiration dates. Some parasitic larvae (like guinea worm) are resistant to water purification tablets, and require a larvicide. Savvy outdoorsmen would say “just boil the water for 5 minutes, then you’re done”. True, but sometimes you won’t be able to boil water. As with any survival tool, two is one and one is none. Lifestraw should be one of the two water filtration/purification tools a serious outdoorsman/traveller should carry.
The regular Lifestraw will filter out any impurity down to 0.2 microns, which is plenty small for filtering out harmful bacteria and 99% of harmful viruses. For the price of a fancy meal, you can buy a Lifestraw product that practically guarantees your water is safe to drink. Lifestraw now offers larger capacities ultrafilters that filter down to 0.02 microns and removes 99.999% of harmful bacteria and viruses. For around $50 you can be assured that you won’t be shitting your guts out during your next trip out bush or overseas.
You can generally find Lifestraw products at any outdoor retailer like Anaconda, BCF, and some smaller more specialised boutique vendors like Mountain Equipment. I highly recommend Mountain Equipment for outdoorsmen seeking a higher quality product, and more importantly, staff who know their products inside out.
Moroka.30 had a fairly large stall at SHOT this year, with their 45L and 75L bags front and center in prime real estate. Speaking with the staff there I got a good rundown of their 75L pack, which was impressively well thought out and manufactured. Constructed from 600D nylon, packed with features such as a GPS pouch attached to the shoulder strap, a 10 round elastic ammo card in the side pocket, a detachable map bag, clever compartmentalization of the main pack body, and three access points on the main body, the 75L pack easily competes with other market leaders. The rifle retention system can be mounted to the back or the sides of the back, offering hunters a versatile range of carry options. Moroka uses a X frame in their 75L pack, which increases torsional stability over packs with traditional alloy stays. All in all, a quality Australian designed and manufactured product.
Check them out at www.moroka30.com.au.
Southern Shooters/Impact Dynamics Intro to LR Presentation
Sam rustled some Jimmies with his talk, I’ll tell you that much. How to choose a scope beyond “my mate reckons this one’s pretty good”? Rifles don’t really matter; they’re generally good enough for the job? Achieve an accurate drop chart for all distances from point blank to the edge of supersonic within 20 rounds? True ballistics calculators to match the algorithm to your bullet’s unique drag curve? Preposterous! Everyone knows you need a Schmidt and Bender 5-25×56 H59 MRAD scope on top of a $6000 custom rifle, shooting magic bullets blessed by the Gods of Ballistics to even think about shooting out to 1000m, right?
Sam’s presentation really only just scratches the surface of long range shooting, and was definitely one of the highlights of the show for me. It’s not because I got much out of it myself, but because the audience left with a whole new perspective on what long range is, how they can achieve it, and how its become so much more accessible in this day and age.
Check out Southern Shooters/Impact Dynamics at www.southernshooters.com.au.
Steve at Evolution Gear was kind enough to talk to me at length about Evolution Gear and what they are bringing to the Australian market. Evolution Gear provides Australian shooters with a mid range hard rifle case that incorporates features found in more expensive products. Their hard cases have the same features as a top dollar product like Pelican, including user customizable foam inserts, an environmentally sealed interior, air pressure bleed off valve, and tough injected polymer construction. Basically, a more reasonably priced Pelican hard case.
Evolution Gear also has a line of soft shell jackets for general outdoor use. The soft shells are a three ply construction design, with a polyester-spandex outer layer, a water resistant and wind resistant mid layer, and a microfleece base layer. In the sub $200 price range the Evolution Gear soft shell is poised to compete with more established products from 5.11 and similar manufacturers.
Check them out at www.evolutiongear.com.au.
I spent a fair amount of time at C.R. Kennedy talking with Marwan and Victor about their re-introduction of Kowa Optics to Australia. For those who don’t know, Kowa are world leaders in optical technology, and have a respectable line of spotting scopes. With the introduction of Kowa’s TSN-880 series spotting scopes, Kowa is now competing with European titans like Zeiss and Leica. The TSN-880 series spotters have an 88mm objective lens made from fluorite crystal rather than glass. Fluorite crystal is superior to ED apochromatic doublets and triplets when properly coated, and provide contrast and depth of field superior to glass lenses. Zeiss and Leica also use fluorite crystal lenses in their top of the line spotters, it’ll be interesting to see how the Kowa stacks up to the European titans of optical excellence.
Along with the re-introduction of Kowa products into the Australian market, C.R. Kennedy has apparently secured distributorship of Minox scopes. The Minox ZP5 5-25×56 tactical scope caught my eye, and delivered solid performance. The turrets were solidly built and the clicks were very tactile. There is a visual second rev indicator, but no tactile indicator which I would prefer for low light/stressful situations. The second rev seemed a little stiffer than the first rev. The reticle is basically a P4F, and does not have a “Christmas tree” for elevation and windage holdovers. Victor told me to expect a price tag of about $4000. Without putting it side by side with other leading optics it’s hard to say whether it will be a top performer or not.
Finally, Victor briefly walked me through some of the Athlon scopes on display. I was handed the Midas 4.5-27×50 which had the APMR1 SFP IR MIL reticle. Quite a mouthful. The scope felt solidly built, and the turrets were reminiscent of Bushnell’s mid range optics. From memory Victor told me to expect a retail price of about $1100 but don’t quote me on that.
Check out C.R. Kennedy at their website: www.crkennedy.com.au.
Tacmed was my MVP of the show. Tactical medicine is one of the missing links in sport shooting. The reality of our sport is that we are setting off controlled explosions in close proximity to our body, which propel bits of lead and copper down range at some significant velocity. The potential damage that can be caused by an errant bullet ranges from relatively insignificant to life threatening.
Tactical application of trauma medical training and products is something that should be on the forefront of our minds, especially for hunters who may be hundreds of kilometers from the nearest hospital emergency department when hunting in the outback. When you’re that far from help, every risk should be accounted for, whether it is a ND to the leg or environmental factors. Touch wood I never have to patch up a guy who lost a wrestling match with an angry boar, or fell onto a star picket, or broke a leg and has a bit of bone sticking out and blood everywhere.
Tacmed supplies high quality medical gear and training to public, private, and government entities, and will sell direct to public. You can buy individual items to stock our own kit like I did, or you can buy a prepackaged IFAK or immediate trauma kits. Tacmed trauma kits are designed by paramedics with pretty extensive military and civilian experience, and are geared towards pre-hospital treatment of penetrating trauma and gunshot wounds, among other more “mundane” injuries. Everything is handily packed into a vacuum sealed bag. Tacmed also sells more generalized first aid kits as well – a must have for any concerned citizen, and sporting shooter.
Check them out at www.tacmedaustralia.com.au.
As expected, Beretta put on a very good show. Everyone wanted to see the Sako M10 on display, and soak in its precision Finnish engineered glory. It took me about 10 minutes of patient waiting to snap a half decent, non-crowded picture of the rifle! Unfortunately none of my friends who worked for Beretta are there anymore, so unlike 2014 I wasn’t given an extremely thorough rundown of the products on display. Regarding the M10: despite my brief time behind the rifle (cut even shorter by folks impatiently milling around waiting for their turn on the rifle) I came away quite impressed. Unlike the TRG42, Sako got it all right this time around.
Designed to compete for the USSOCOM (United States Special Operations Command) PSR (Precision Sniper Rifle) contract back in 2009, the M10 features excellent adjustability, modularity, and first-in-class ergonomics. The M10 competed alongside the AI AXMC and Remington MSR for the contract which was eventually won by the MSR. Having spent a little time behind an AI AXMC I can say that I prefer the ergonomics of the M10 over the AXMC. The bolt was not as sensitive to galling as the AI AXMC either, but that could boil down to my technique when working the bolt. Beretta has the 338 Lapua Magnum barrel kit in the M10 on display. Personally I would have liked to see a faster 1:9 or even 1:8.5 twist barrel rather than the demure 1:10 twist in the current M10 .338 barrel. I’d love to spend some time with the rifle, sending rounds down range but alas, c’est la vie.
Another unique product on display (for me at least) was the Beretta M9A3, the handgun designed to replace the M9 as the US Army’s service pistol. When updating the aging M9 pistol Beretta finally listened to the not insignificant amount of end user complaints regarding the M9, and fixed all the little troublesome issues. The M9A3 improves on the combat proven (to some degree) M9 handgun with greater modularity, better ergonomics, and better reliability. Unfortunately for Beretta, the US Army was adamantly uninterested in considering the M9A3 as a contender for their Modular Handgun System (MHS) Program. Fortunately the M9A3 is available for civilian shooters, at a recommended retail price of around $2000. M9 fans rejoice, Beretta Australia has answered your prayers.
And finally we have the Tikka T3X rifles on display. I’m gonna get a little salty here because everything new and wonderful about the T3X is something Tikka should have done in the first place. Softer buttpad? Check. Alloy bolt shroud? Check. Better stippling on the stock? Check. Modular stock? Also check. Sarcasm and saltiness aside, the T3X has opened up the gap between the basic Tikka rifle and similarly priced rifles even wider than before.
Beretta is bringing in the Burris XTRII tactical optic as well now, which is great news. The XTRII packs most of the features of high end tactical scopes into a more affordable optic, and gives more established mid range optics like the Bushnell ERS/XRS a fair run for its money. About time they were brought into the country too, I remember speaking to Rick years ago (when he was still with Beretta) about bringing them into the country, but alas, pricing and availability issues made that a difficult proposition. Better late than never!
All in all, great showmanship, great products and a strong crowd characterized Beretta Australia’s SHOT Show 2016 performance. Bravo!
Check them out at www.berettaaustralia.com.au or your local dealer.
Swarovski had an open stall with a bunch of optics on display, set up on tripods and mounted onto dummy rifles. I try to keep an open mind when it comes to Swarovski but I’ve never been much of a Swarovski guy. Anyone who’s ever seen me write about Swarovski knows this, and considering the number of die hard Swarovski fans out there I cop a bit of heat for it from time to time. Something about me never having looked through high end glass.
The X5i on display was disappointing. The optical quality wasn’t noticeably better than the Z6 and Z8 series scopes, but what really rustled my jimmies was that for what was, for all intents and purposes, Swarovski’s flagship long range optic, they’ve put together a scope that, apart from the optical performance and digital illumination, belongs in the 80s. A SFP, duplex reticle with 1/4 or 1/8 MOA turrets? What possessed the design team to use such an antiquated reticle choice in SFP is beyond me. As a long range hunting scope it has its merits but why pigeon hole your flagship optic into such a niche market? The quality of the turrets bothered me too. The turrets are plastic. For a scope competing with other European titans of optical excellence, plastic simply won’t do. That’s not to mention the turret clicks felt as though they had a distinct backlash effect. I can’t justify the almost “POA” price tag of an X5i in light of these issues.
Sorry Swarovski, I’m just not impressed.
Check them out at www.swarovskioptik.com.
Rob Woods and I actually go back a few years to when I was working in the industry. Plus, we share mutual friends, so it was a good opportunity to catch up. Huntsman Firearms is probably the largest repository of high quality and advanced shooting equipment and ancillary products in the country. The great thing about Huntsman Firearms is they don’t pretend to know everything, even though their shared pool of knowledge, experience, and expertise in long range precision marksmanship is deeper than probably any other shop in the country.
Huntsman Firearms had a number of quality products on display: a comprehensive line up of TAB Gear products front and center, as well as quality muzzle devices from Surefire and APA. Other precision rifle accessories on display included Badger Ordnance mounting solutions and Accuracy First bubble levels. I really regret not buying a bubble level. Several publications by Applied Ballistics were also available. The crowd magnet of the stall was the disabled rifle on display, a Remington 700 in an AICS 1.5 with a Nightforce 5-25×56 ATACR F1 with a Tremor3 reticle. The AICS chassis was fitted with a Badger IMUNS rail system for NV and other accessories, and an Atlas bipod was attached via a spigot mount. A Badger FTE was fitted to the barrel, and a TAB Gear sling was attached via AI hooks. The whole rifle was set up on a tripod with a HOG Saddle, and just goes to show what can be done to a modern precision rifle with a little bit of considered forethought and the use of the right equipment. Without a doubt one of the best displays of the show.
Shooters looking at getting into long range precision shooting should definitely give Huntsman Firearms a call, and visit their website.
Check them out at www.huntsmanfirearms.com.au.
Despite meeting Paul first thing in the morning I wasn’t able to catch up wit him properly at the show. I blame Josh and Mark for trying to sell me on a CZ Shadow 2. I actually really want a Shadow 2 but the bank account says no.
I was very impressed with the pistol when I finally got around to fondling it. The original Shadow was and still is a great gun. The Shadow 2 fixes some of the small issues with the handgun, while staying faithful to the original design. Rob at PBA told me that the Shadow 2 shares 80% parts commonality with the original Shadow.
The most noticeable difference between the Shadow 2 and the original Shadow is the grip angle and beavertail height. The grip angle is more aggressive, and the beavertail is cut higher than the original Shadow, which gives the Shadow 2 a lower bore axis. Combined with the more aggressive grip angle, this will translate to less muzzle flip and faster time back on target. The Shadow 2 slide is taller than the original Shadow, with wider, more deeply machined front and back slide serrations. I was able to get a very authoritative grip on the slide with the new serrations, which made press checking the pistol and power stroking easier than on the original Shadow. The sights have been updated, and obscure less of the target than the original Shadow sights, not to mention they knocked the sharp corners off the rear sight. Finally the manufacturing process of the pistol has changed too, going from investment casting on the original shadow to a forged and CNC finished frame and slide in the Shadow 2. The expected retail price is $1700 or so. Definitely on my “to buy” list.
I also picked up a ResQMe Quick Car Escape Tool, which incorporates a seatbelt cutter and spring loaded glass breaker into a single small and handy tool. Less than $20 for a life saving tool? Yes please.
Check out PBA Imports at www.pbaimports.com.au.
Beattie is my runner up for MVP of SHOT Show 2016, purely for the fact that Australia finally has a Lowa boots distributor. Lowa is the only boot manufacturer in the world that has been awarded an ISO 9001 quality standard, and their products are some of the world’s best and most thoroughly tested by military SOF (Special Operations Forces). The Zephyr GTX Mid boot has been my go to all terrain, all weather, all purpose boot for the last two and a half years. Unlike my previous pair of Salomon Quest 4D GTX boots which suffered from sole separation after two years of moderate use, the Zephyr boot has yet to show any sign of giving up.
Lowa boots are proven products, with decades of hardcore mountaineering, and in recent years, military service, informing and influencing their designs and manufacturing processes.
I had a really good look at the Z6S, which is basically a Zephyr with greater torsional stability and less flexibility – perfect for humping a heavy pack over rough terrain. Another product on my “to buy” list.
Beattie Matheson currently supplies to Safari Firearms and Mountain Equipment. For those interested in high quality outdoors gear, definitely check out Mountain Equipment. In my opinion they are the best outdoor outfitter in Sydney. Check them out at their Sydney CBD and Chatswood store.
Meplat Firearm Services
I met Daryl of Meplat Firearm Services earlier this year during the 2016 Southern Shooters Precision Rifle Invitational. Meplat specializes in importing high end custom bullets from Cutting Edge Bullets, as well as importation of firearms. They had two Serbu .50cal rifles on display, which attracted a fair bit of attention. For good reason too, the price on these rifles was unbelievable. Unbelievably low that is.
If you’re in the market for a .50cal but don’t want to fork out over $10k for one, check out Meplat Firearms Services and speak to Daryl. He might just have what you need. Likewise if you’re in the market for precision CNC turned high BC bullets, Daryl might just have the right Cutting Edge Bullet to suit your needs.
Check them out at www.meplat.com.au.
I was seriously contemplating just a casual, brief walkthrough of Lithgow’s stall. The Model 102 was out on display and shows a maturity in the design and engineering team at Lithgow that seems to have escaped a lot of newer manufacturers. I liked the 60 degree bolt lift, and Mauser style 3 position safety and the flush fitting detachable magazine. All in all, a solid design. I’d like to spend some time behind one to really wring it out, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t perform as expected.
Lithgow has picked up the Hart clothing distributorship as well, which is a breath of fresh air into the Australian hunting clothing market. I’m not saying the existing stuff isn’t good, I’m saying we’re lacking new products from new manufacturers, especially world leaders in outdoors clothing. Good on Lithgow for bringing a world class product into Australia.
Check them out at www.lithgowarms.com.
Aus Tec Arms
Aus Tec Arms was the last stall I visited at the Show. By then my phone was dead, and I had about 10 minutes before the show was over. I was first made aware of Aus Tec Arms a few months ago by some friends on social media. Its great to see an Australian designed and manufactured chassis hitting the market at a reasonable price. The chassis itself is machined from billet 7075T aluminium alloy, which is tougher, harder, and more wear resistant than the more typical 6061T aluminium alloy used in firearms accessories and parts.
The chassis is solidly constructed, quite angular in design, and seems well optimized for prone shooting and perhaps barricade positional shooting as well.
Its obvious that Aus Tec Arms put a lot of time and effort into their Ares chassis, and it just goes to show what can be achieved by Australian companies. I’m really looking forward to getting behind one and putting it through its paces.
Check them out at Aus Tec Arms.
Where to now?
And that wraps up my SHOT Show 2016 overview. I missed out on a lot of things I’m sure, but I made a point to speak to the people and companies that interested me and what I felt would contribute most to the firearms lifestyle of the modern Australian shooter. Apologies to the crew of Magnum Sports, I got so caught up chatting away I had to rush off to see other vendors and forgot to take picture of the awesome Bushnell stall. Likewise, apologies to Nightforce/APRS, I just didn’t have the time to swing by this year.
Also, massive shout out to Projectile Warehouse, STS Targets, The Armoury, and Armoury Athlete, for making the post-show shenanigans as entertaining as the show itself. I also ran into Brett and Jessie-lea from Cowboy Guns and Gear in Cowra. They just bought a tonne of STS steel targets, so if you’re in the area check them out.
SHOT Show 2016 finished up with recording a podcast with Precision Shooting Podcast. I’m not sure popping my podcast recording cherry while stumbling around after a 20 hour day on 1.5 hours of sleep was a good idea, but whatever. Check out our SHOT Show episode!
The best part of SHOT Show 2016 is the affirmation that the show is continuing to progress in the right direction. The usual cross section of the firearms industry was intertwined with an increased number of outdoor goods distributors and companies, which is great to see. The firearms lifestyle encompasses more than just shooting. Seeing outdoor retailers at the show kicked my SHOT Show 2016 experience up a notch. Hopefully this trend continues, and we see a greater diversity of exhibitors at SHOT Show 2017.
Note to self: next year, bring a better camera!
Stay sharp, stay safe.