In 1997, the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Tradeshow (SHOT) didn’t look so much like a candy store for the right to keep and bear arms and to use those arms to defend ourselves. Back then, the “tactical” side of things, or more properly, the Personal and Professional Armed Defense portion of the industry, was forced to hide–literally. Full-auto guns? Special room, nothing displayed on the show floor. Law Enforcement & Tactical Section? Non-existent. For a long time, even Benchmade Knives had to hide their automatic knives in a closet and could only show them to someone with LE credentials!
Sometime in the late 1990s, SHOT bowed to industry pressure and common sense and started a Law Enforcement & Tactical Section. Ever since, that has been the fastest-growing portion of the show floor and there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon. The fact is that the shooting industry in this country rests on the foundation of defensive, law enforcement and military use of firearms, and that is no longer being treated like a dirty secret.
This is good news for me because I’m the Managing Editor of Personal DEFENSE Network, a co-host of The Best DEFENSE, and the producer of S.W.A.T. Magazine TV. I also run a training company devoted to helping armed professionals and firearms owners prepare as efficiently as possible to use guns for self-defense, and we have about 50 courses scheduled for this year.
Over the course of a decade, the SHOT Show has gone from a giant sporting goods store that I could barely get a meeting at to an amazing collection of companies devoted primarily to helping people defend themselves and others. Now I can’t turn a corner or enter a booth without knowing someone. How much fun did I have this year?
SHOT is a closed industry event, so people who can’t get in often ask me what my favorite part of the show is.That answer has really changed over the years. The first couple of times I went, SHOT was all about the guns for me. Seeing guns that I had only heard about. Handling prototypes of guns that had only been rumors before SHOT (or sometimes, even surprises!). Buying at industry discounts guns that I had wanted to add to my collection.
But for me, as the years went on, the show became more and more about the people. It became about successful meetings (or just getting meetings in the first place) and connecting with new people in the industry. Lately, the best thing about the SHOT Show has been seeing people I’ve been friends with for over a decade or have become good friends with more recently. Sometimes I have to remember that, especially for people who haven’t been to the show, SHOT is still about guns and gear. So, what guns did I like? Here are my top picks:
Here are a couple of guns that seem really well thought-out and built for convenient carry, efficient operation and personal defense in close quarters. They have decent triggers, integrated lasers with ergonomic activation switches and usable sights, yet they are light and compact. The .38 revolver also has a new cylinder release design that is ambidextrous and congruent with the use of the laser.
This gun might be a failure mechanically, it might be too heavy for anything but bedroom defense when loaded, and it might even be (rumor mill alert!) banned by the ATF as a destructive device before it even hits the streets, none of which I cared much about while I held it in Kel-Tec’s booth on the third day of the show. It’s a pretty cool gun, and that counts for a gun enthusiast like me. It’s a bullpup style, 14+1 12-gauge shotgun that will sell in gun shops for under $800. Neat.
Taurus enters the “black gun” market for the first time with a well thought-out, truly ambidextrous home defense or patrol carbine in pistol calibers. This rifle felt good in my hands and is sure to be easy to shoot. Many people are interested in pistol-caliber defensive long guns and, with Taurus’ penchant for high quality at a low price, this could be the perfect one.
Lightweight AR-Type Rifles
I spend most of my time with AR-type rifles on a training range, as do many of the people I know and train. The small number of my students who actually use AR-type rifles professionally might need a heavier gun with a heavy barrel designed for high rates of fire over sustained periods, but I don’t. The very first AR I bought, from Parro’s Gun Shop in Waterbury, Vermont, was a Colt Sporter Lightweight, and there have certainly been times when I’ve missed it.
This year, I got a chance to talk with training legend Larry Vickers at the Daniel Defense booth about the viability and logic of that company’s new 6.1-pound lightweight patrol carbine. This is a full-size AR with a full-length quad rail and adjustable stock, but it comes in at about the same weight as the original AR adopted by the U.S. military. For guys shooting semi-auto and not looking to turn their AR into a portable accessory shop, this could be the ticket.
Another stand-out among the dozens of AR/M4s that I handled was the Primary Weapons Systems MK114, which features an extremely lightweight piston system. Piston ARs have become very popular over the past year or two, but most of them feel like they weigh as much as a Garand–not the PWS MK114. I’m looking forward to some range time with both of these lightweight guns.
OK, I admit it … SHOT may no longer be all about the guns for me, but it’s still a lot about the guns.
Let’s Hear From You
Over the next few months, you’ll be seeing magazine stories and internet threads about these guns and many more. Hopefully, you’ll get to shoot some of them at the range too. Maybe you’ll even decide to own one.