January 26, 2016
In a moment, I am going to share a full-page ad from the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) with a small grain of salt. I am not in lockstep with everything this industry organization has to say. I think, at times, the NSSF has pushed the bounds of reason (e.g. using misleading and unbased information to garner opposition of the lead ammo ban). By and large, though, the NSSF is extremely consistent in what it is… a foundation to represent and promote the interests of the shooting sports industry. Understand and accept this, and their messaging is logical and en pointe.
What is presented in this “Open Letter” is pretty much spot on, and while I’ve heard a lot of anti-gun voices contesting these points, it is difficult to deny the facts.
The NSSF has, indeed, taken a wide variety of actions to address illegal firearms sales (pushing for NICS enhancements, promoting the “Don’t lie for the other guy” campaign against straw buyers, etc.), promote and enhance firearms safety (firearms training for retailers, Project ChildSafe, gun lock campaigns), and encourage the enforcement of existing firearms legislation.
It’s also a fact that many of the Presidential statements on gun control, as well as those from some other Democrats, have misrepresented the realities of firearms commerce and availability in this country. They have done so, relying on the viral nature of misinformation to spread across the uneducated voter base. Unfortunately, the NRA has such low credibility (because they too often use the same tactics), that any counterpoint they offer is dismissed out of hand by the general public. That’s the NRA’s own doing, though… their own diseased chickens, come home to roost.
Nevertheless, in the interest of offering up a counterpoint to the vocal and widespread arguments of the anti-gun contingent, here’s the NSSF’s “open letter” to the President. Take it as you will, keeping in mind the source… and feel free to offer your rebuttal here if you’d like. However, I am unlikely to dive into a deep argument about the 2nd Amendment or firearms regulation on this site.
And, as always, if it gets ugly I’ll apply the Delete key with extreme prejudice.
January 19, 2016
Well, the noise level is dropping by a few dozen decibels as the crowds are filtering out toward the taxis and shuttle buses. Day One of the 2016 SHOT Show is pretty much winding down, although probably not as fast as I am. I didn’t have high hopes of accomplishing much today, but I actually got around to more than I’d expected.
Apologies for the use of Press Pack images, but as mentioned earlier, I left my camera in NC. I did take photos and video with the GoPro, but my USB port is being finicky. In other words, real-time photos just aren’t gonna happen right now.
It started in the New Products room, which is usually one of the best places to get a feel for what I’ll see on the floor. Well, unless you want one more of a million ways to customize your AR, I can’t say that this visit was particularly productive. Scattered in and amongst the uppers, actions, barrels, and accessories, there were a couple of products I thought might be worth following up. Unfortunately, a technical glitch cost me my list of products (you use a bar code scanner to mark the things you want, and then there’s a printer at the exit where they print out your list). I’m pretty sure, for example, that I did not flag a $3000 thermal imaging weapon sight or the Century Arms C39v2 AK pistol.
Since the New Products list provides something of a map for my visit to the floor, I was left a little rudderless (and yeah, I could have shouldered my way through the khaki clad hordes to try another list, but really?). So I wandered. I had a couple of specific things in mind, so I figured while I looked for those, I’d just see what stood out to me.
First of all, I slid by the Garmin booth to see what they’ve done with the Rino. The Rino, for those who don’t know, combines a FRS radio with a GPS navigation system. If you’re talking with someone else on a Rino, it will post their location on the map, which is a cool feature when you’re in big country or out on the water. The latest version, the 650t, still does this with many performance improvements and extra features over the many years since I bought mine, and still lists for about the same MSRP, $549. I do like the USB port for upgrades and updates, as well as charging. I also like that it allows you to upload files to other Garmin users. So when you tell your buddy to bring the horses, you can send a picture of the big bull you just shot, while the Rino transmits your coordinates for the pick up.
Earlier, I was bemoaning (again) the absence of nice wood in gunstocks. Yes, the synthetic stocks are great stuff, but it’s still nice to enjoy the beauty of a well-finished piece of lumber. Purely by accident, I stumbled into the Ithaca booth. On display, right at the front, was one of their new bolt-action rifles, stocked in an classic piece of maple, tiger stripes and all! When I spoke to the rep and complimented the beautiful work, he informed me that not only are they offering fine wood on their rifles and shotguns; they are offering custom stocks for other firearms as well. Who knew?
Many years ago, I found a customized version of the Marlin Guide Gun, manufactured by a company called Wild West Guns. They’d turned an already solid rifle into a really cool (in my mind) piece of weaponry. It was designed, initially, for bush pilots and Alaskan hunters who needed something portable (did I mention it’s a take-down rifle) in big bear country. I think the one I looked at was chambered in .50 AE. Anyway, the company has done a lot since then, and when I saw their sign on the booth, I had to slide by and drool a little bit. The guns have gone through some iterations, but something I thought was really cool was that they now have their own chambering… the .457 WWG. This is basically a magnum 45-70. According to the rep I spoke to, it will also shoot standard 45-70 ammo, as well as (in single feed operation) .410 shotshells. That’s a lot of versatility, and if you think of this as a backcountry survival rifle, that’s a lot of options available for everything from smacking small game and birds for the pot, to keeping the grizzly bears at bay. It doesn’t come cheap, though, at $2979.00. But what good things do?
There are a few other things that I will get to later, because they’ll take more than a few hundred words. But if you want a teaser, one of those things is a new offering from Morakniv. You may (or may not) remember I reviewed their Bushcraft knife a couple of years back. This new knife, the Garberg, promises to be even stronger and more versatile.
I also spoke with the folks from DRT ammo about their non-lead, controlled expansion, frangible bullets. I wasn’t all that thrilled with my previous frangible experience (it was not DRT ammo), but the rep told me that they’ve made some improvements specifically to resolve some of the issues I had.
Finally, I stopped by the NSSF Project Childsafe booth. I’ve written about this project before as well, but I think it’s time to take another look. I’ve planned an interview with a representative from the organization this time, and hope to offer a little more insight into what they are all about. In the meantime, check them out for yourself.
That’s it for now. They’re running us out of the Press Room.
January 19, 2016
Well, here I am, ensconced in the Press Room at the 2016 SHOT Show. As the week progresses, something in the neighborhood of 63,000 attendees will pass below and above this third floor sanctuary. Well, it’s a sanctuary of sorts, since only press and our guests (interviewees and such) are allowed in here. But then, it’s still crowded and noisy, but there’s free wi-fi and lots and lots of press kits, resources, and knowledgeable folks. It’s also a great place to meet up with friends and contacts.
At any rate, like always, I’m doing a little pre-work before I hit the floor. Since I have really limited time to browse the 630,000 square feet of booths and displays, it pays to have a plan. In the course of my studies, I’ve found a little more info on some of the stuff I saw yesterday.
To begin with, if you want to learn more about the new Browning ammunition, they have a site just for you. Checkout Browningammo.com. It’s actually a pretty full line, which makes sense since Browning tends to have all their ducks in a row before they roll out any new, branded merchandise. I think it’s an interesting choice for Browning, by the way. I’d sort of expected some sort of merger with Winchester Ammunition instead of branding their own line. But there ya go… I don’t sit at the back tables to understand these things.
The Browning X-bolt I was shooting yesterday is the Hells Canyon Speed bolt-action. I guess it’s a new configuration, with a composite, camo stock. I’ve sort of gotten over my lament at the disappearance of fine wood (it’s still there, but mainly in pricier rifles), and the weight and balance that can be achieved with the composite stocks is pretty amazing. The 30-06 I was shooting weighs in around 6 1/2 pounds, and with the brake, really has minimal recoil. I really liked shooting this rifle, and at a MSRP around $1200, it falls in the upper mid-range. There’s a pretty wide range of short-action, long-action, and magnum chamberings as well. Of course, retail availability may be a challenge, especially at first.
Just one more note for Browning at Range Day. I wasn’t patient enough to wait my turn with it, but the “reintroduction” of the Sweet 16 has made a big splash with some shotgun fans. It’s not quite the A-5 our grandfathers shot, and the lines have changed a little, but watching it at work on the range suggested that it’s probably going to be popular.
Stay tuned for more, I’m heading to the floor!
January 18, 2016
It’s sort of a game I play at the airport before and after the SHOT Show. Waiting at the gate for my Las Vegas departure, I try to spot other Show attendees. Sometimes it’s easy. Tactical clothing or camo gear is usually a giveaway (although flying from Texas or North Carolina, passengers wearing camo aren’t necessarily winning bets). Other times, it’s polo shirts with outdoors corporate logos. Sometimes, it’s just a sense of the Industry types. That one is harder to describe, but they’re usually discussing strategies, show set-up, or client lists. I catch myself eavesdropping (hey, don’t say you don’t do it when you’re sitting by yourself at an airport), listening for names or brands.
And suddenly the plane boards. (As I boarded, I realized that I’d left the camera in my duck hunting jacket. Oh well… a blog about the SHOT Show and new gear doesn’t really need photos, does it?)
And I’m in Vegas (not so suddenly, but you don’t want to hear all that stuff in between). I travel with a big, soft-side, camo suitcase. Most of the time, it’s easy to pick out at baggage claim. Guess what. It’s not so easy at SHOT. Camouflage of every stripe is rolling onto the conveyor, in big bags and small. I almost grab the wrong bag… twice.
I’m up at 04:00, because time difference and stuff. Hotel rooms in Vegas generally don’t offer coffee pots, so I roll downstairs to get a cup in the casino. (There’s a Starbucks beside the elevator, but I don’t drink that over-roasted, overpriced crap. Sorry. If you like it, good on ya. I think it’s nasty.) A guy strolls over and pulls up the stool next to me, exaggerated motion and baggy eyes suggest he’s been making the best of his visit so far. He’s wearing a logo shirt with a brand I recognize. He mumbles a greeting, and has somehow made me out as part of the SHOT crowd too.
We chat for a moment, and my coffee comes. I’ve just dropped a couple of bucks into the poker machine, and I’m playing hands while we chat. He orders a coffee and two shots of tequila. The shots arrive and he slides one over to me. He seems like a nice guy, so I hope he’s not offended when I decline. He’s not… more for him. We talk a while, and I actually triple my money in the poker machine. But I’ve got stuff to do, so I make my excuses and exorcise myself from his morning. I feel for how he’s going to feel later.
That little story really has nothing to do with my morning at the SHOT Show Media Day at the Range. I just figured I’d toss it in.
I’ve looked forward to this for a while. It’s even valid to say that it’s the only reason I came to SHOT this year. I enjoy shooting, and getting my hands on the new stuff… sending rounds downrange and enjoying different trigger pulls, the slick action of well-machined bolts, the balance of a well-made firearm, and so on. I dig the innovation and creativity that meld with the gunmakers’ art.
I didn’t get much of that this year.
“Underwhelmed.” is the word that came into my mind, as I limped to the bus at noon. I just wanted to go back to the hotel. I usually stay until they shut down the range and chase us home, but not today. My bright-eyed excitement dulled within an hour, as I wandered through booth after booth of AR platform rifles, semi-auto handguns, and other tacticool stuff.
I get that people like these guns, and I’m fine with it. It’s like Starbucks coffee. It’s a taste, I guess, but it doesn’t suit me. A nice, classic cup of Kona or Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, properly roasted… that’s my thing. And when it comes to firearms, give me a well-made bolt-action, or a nice lever gun.
There were a couple of nice lever guns, by the way. Browning/Winchester had a selection of models on hand. Most of the rifles weren’t new, though. Like the Model 94 some TV guy was shooting when I stumbled into the booth, the rifles were primarily on hand to showcase the expanded line of Winchester’s Deer Season XP ammunition line. The Deer Season XP ammo features a polymer-tipped bullet that is designed for rapid expansion. This year, they’re adding to the line to include ammo for lever-guns, including the 30-30, 45-70, and .44-40 (I believe… I’ll learn more tomorrow at the Show. This is where my camera would have been a handy thing.).
I also took a few shots with the Browning X-bolt, again, not a totally new design but I believe it’s a new model. It’s a lightweight rifle with an integral brake (as opposed to the old BOSS). I need to learn a little more about it, but it was amazingly light, and the 30-06 I was messing with shot like a dream… very little recoil and a really good trigger. More to come on this one, although I probably won’t be adding one to my safe.
Probably the coolest (on a very short list) things I got to put my hands on today weren’t really firearms at all. The Pioneer Airbow from Crosman/Benjamin is essentially a pneumatic speargun for use on dry land. It slings an arrow (sort of a hybrid crossbow bolt/arrow) at approximately 450 fps, and it’s amazingly accurate. The stock design is a little front-heavy, but it balances about like a quality crossbow. Unfortunately, it’s not legal for hunting in most states at this time, but there’s no question this thing will be deadly. And yes, for those of you who are thinking it… this is a gadget. While I guess the argument could be made that there’s a niche for the Airbow, it’s really just a cool, gimmicky thing. With an MSRP around $850, it’s not a cheap gadget, but for someone looking for something different, it definitely fits that bill.
My other “favorite” of the day was also from Benjamin. Several years ago, they rolled out the Rogue, a .357 air rifle. It was cool, but there were apparently issues. The issues have been resolved, it seems, in the new Bulldog. The Bulldog is a PCP gun that really slings the 145 gr., Nosler bullet downrange. The specs suggest that it’s pushing about 800 fps At the range today, I was ringing the steel buffalo target at 100 yards with relative ease. The trigger on the Bulldog is also pretty nice, compared for example, with the Marauder I’ve been shooting at home.
And, sadly, that’s pretty much it. I didn’t shoot any ARs today, although there were certainly plenty of opportunities. There were also a fair number of suppressors to demo, which is actually pretty cool as they gain more acceptance in the hunting world. The shotguns were nice enough, but the selection was the most limited I’ve seen in a few years. I didn’t have anything specific in mind, though, and nothing really stood out to me.
Maybe I’m just jaded. Maybe “traditional” sporting guns have had their day, and the ARs are just something we’re going to have to embrace. But this was the least exciting SHOT Show Range Day I’ve ever experienced.
January 14, 2016
It’s been quite some time since I did one of these. I hope I remember how.
Actually, the lead ammo issue has been simmering quietly along for a while now. It’s boiled up occasionally in Minnesota, where the discussion has ebbed and flowed (I love mixing metaphors), but the state is apparently moving steadily toward a ban on lead ammo for all hunting on state wildlife areas.
Interestingly, the topic has also been pretty heated in the U.K., as “environmental” groups have been pushing a strong line of rhetoric targeted at confusing/convincing non-hunters/shooters. It’s largely based on the same unfounded or over-hyped arguments that we heard here in the U.S., pointing at the “risk” of lead shot poisoning humans and even the groundwater. Likewise, the counter-arguments focus on the centuries of lead ammo use vs. the absence of related cases of lead poisoning in game consumers. As they have pointed out, there’s more lead in the typical bottle of beer than there is in a pheasant or grouse killed by lead shot.
Of a little more interest here in the U.S., it looks like an appeals court is going to allow the Center for Biological Diversity (and crony organizations) to go forward with a lawsuit against the US Forest Service in Arizona. The suit charges that the Forest Service is failing to protect the endangered California Condor by refusing to ban the use of lead ammo on Forest Service lands. The suit was denied earlier, because the plaintiffs were unable to show that the use of lead ammo harmed them personally, but the appeals court sees it differently.
This is sort of a big deal because of the amount of hunting land managed by the US Forest Service in Arizona. Probably most notable is the Kaibab National Forest, which is one of the premier, big game hunting destinations in the U.S. It may be extraneous to note that the widespread, voluntary use of non-lead ammo in this area by hunters has already resulted in an apparent reduction in lead-poisoning cases for scavengers like the condor and eagles.
It’s also important because if this suit is successful, it opens the doors for similar suits across the condor habitat, including Oregon and Utah. It may also provide ammunition for lawsuits in other states, although without the banner of an endangered species for leverage, I can’t say how it will play out.
In much older news, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) back in October. Does this sound like a win for sportsmen? On some levels, I think so. Secreted away in the language of this Act is a provision that clarifies, once and for all, that the EPA does not have authority to restrict or control ammunition components (e.g. lead). That should close the book on the CBD’s efforts to sue the EPA to ban lead bullets. Of course, this act has nothing in it that limits the powers of other state or federal agencies to regulate ammunition.
Stay tuned. After the SHOT Show (next week!), I should have a little more news on the lead front…
January 12, 2016
No matter how hard you wish it, a hooded merganser will not morph into a wood duck.
I tried, though. The three mergansers zipped into the decoys just after legal shoot time, but the shadows linger in the edges of the river swamp so I couldn’t get a bead on them when they landed. They came in low over the water, and skidded across the slick surface with that soft, swooshing sound. I could see the wake as they coasted to a stop, but between the dim light and the intertwining branches, I couldn’t tell what they were. A low approach like that usually indicates diving ducks, but all I’d ever seen in this stretch of the Northeast Cape Fear had been woodies.
The trio motored toward the decoy spread, silently cruising across the inky water, and as they broke into the open, there was no mistaking the big, white sail on the drake’s head. I blinked my eyes, hoping that they were just playing tricks. This had to be a wood duck. I really wanted it to be a wood duck. I needed it to be a wood duck.
But it was still a hooded merganser, as were the two hens sailing along behind him.
They put on a show for me, paddling around in the decoys, ducking and dodging. The drake stretched his neck and lifted his boldly striped breast up out of the water, showing off his full glory. It was a display that any wildlife artist would give an eyetooth to capture in oils or watercolors. But all I could think was, “why can’t you be a wood duck?”
The plastic ducks floating still on the water must have become boring, and the three mergansers paddled on upstream a bit. About 40 or 50 yards away, where the little cut opened into a pond, they idled away the morning. The sun rolled up over the cypress trees, painting the sky with that magical palette that rewards the early-morning outdoorsman. For a moment or two, I really wished I’d brought the camera.
But then I caught a glimpse of the mergansers at the edge of the swamp, and forgot about the scenery playing out along the treeline. I squinted my eyes, peering through the tangled cat claw vines and hanging cypress branches. Was that a white-feathered head, or was that the topknot of a wood duck? I knew the answer before the question, but that didn’t dim the wistful thoughts.
If that were a wood duck, how would I get the shot? I could slip over the side of the canoe into the shallow water. I could sneak along the edge of the cat claws, up to the trunk of that big cypress. Then I could step out, and as the duck launched himself into the air, I would give him a few feet and then, “BANG!” I’d let the little 20 gauge speak death.
But it wasn’t a wood duck. It would never be a wood duck. I do not possess the magic to turn a hooded merganser into a wood duck. So it remained a hooded merganser.
Finally, the three birds decided it was time to find something else to do… maybe go find some fish to eat or something… and they took off in that low, skipping, diving duck way. They came across the opening in front of my hiding place, streaking by in a telltale flash of black and white that tells the experienced waterfowler, “fish duck, don’t shoot.”
It would have been a beautiful shot, if they had been wood ducks. I’m pretty sure I could have made the single, and probably could have taken a hen too. But I don’t eat mergansers, so I don’t shoot mergansers.
If only they had been wood ducks.
January 8, 2016
It’s the best headline I could come up with on relatively short notice.
In a few states around the country, feral hogs are not only a “threat”, but a real problem for farmers. Texas, Florida, Louisiana, California… millions of dollars of crop and property damage are happening every year, and both government and private sector “experts” are trying to find solutions. Shooting doesn’t help on a big scale, because it just moves the hogs away. Trapping can be good, but it’s not widespread enough to make the sort of impact that’s required. And research is still being done on poisons.
Sometimes, though, the solution comes from unexpected quarters. For example… high schoolers…
We’re not the only country dealing with wild and feral hogs. Japan is too, but there may be an innovative (and economical) solution right at our latex fingertips. Like this…
January 6, 2016
I’ve started and stopped this one a dozen times or more. Hell, I started trying to write this before Christmas, and here it is, well into the new year, and the days are running by like they know where they’re going.
Hemingway strove, each day in Paris… maybe throughout his career… to write “one true sentence.” That’s something like what I’ve been after here, but I guess it’s hung me up. (Hemingway also said something along the lines of, “if you can’t write, don’t write.”)
Last Friday, New Year’s Day, was the end of my first deer season at the new house in North Carolina. I reflected on that as I sat under the maples and gum trees in the pre-dawn, the crossbow balanced on my knee, and some unseen creatures moving closer, and then away in the darkness. But within two hours of daylight, my nose running from a wicked head cold and my stomach growling for breakfast, I called it off. There’s a little room in the freezer, but I don’t think we’ll be buying red meat in 2016.
That’s not really what I wanted to write, though.
Anyone who’s followed the chaos and cacophony that has been The Hog Blog knows I generally steer clear of politics. It’s not that I don’t have my own opinions and convictions, but I learned a long time ago that trying to hash that stuff out on the Innerwebz is a fool’s errand. Nevertheless, I’m compelled to write something.
It seems to me that we’re at a unique and strange point right now, both politically and socially. I don’t think it’s just this country either, but all over the world, things feel like they’re teetering on a tiny, sharp point.
Maybe it’s just the inundation of information, both from the mainstream news media trying to stay relevant in the digital world, and from non-traditional media that appears to be blazing new trails and constantly blurring the lines between fact, opinion, and fiction. Maybe it’s age and my growing cynicism. Whatever it is, I can’t avoid the sensation of tension near the breaking point… between races… between religious zealots… between economic classes… between political extremes. It’s like a big wave rolling onto a sandbar… all the energy condensing, forcing the roiling water into a peak that’s growing higher and beginning to crest and curl.
When I moved to Texas, part of my plan was to essentially pull a big rock over my head. I would live out my days on the frontier (and it truly is as much of a frontier as you’ll find in this country), happily doing my own thing, and leave the world out there to go to hell as it might. I would turn my back on political bullshit that seemed to, more and more, consume people’s lives (and attitudes). I figured that, no matter how screwed up things got, this would be the last place to feel the effects of political or even economic upheaval… or at least, it would be the place where I could ignore it the longest.
Maybe it would have worked out. The truth is, though, I can’t just not care.
I can’t not care that our political process is rapidly declining into pig slop. Elections at every level have all the integrity and dignity of Jr. High School politics. Rather than the ideal of an informed and engaged electorate, the general voter pool appears to be increasingly susceptible to the most ridiculous rhetoric, intentionally ignorant, and focused on knee-jerk reaction rather than thoughtful consideration. As a result, we’re seeing everything from a growing movement to surrender Federal lands to State and local ownership (which is the fast lane to privatization), to blatant erasure of any aspect of our country’s history that may give offense to any portion of the citizenry.
I can’t not care about the evolution of extreme ideology. The ugly realities of xenophobia and racism, never extinguished but at least dimmed for so long, are being blown into full flame under the guise of “patriotism” and “common sense”. Good people are being sold a bill of goods. The currency of the day is fear and loathing (Hunter Thompson should be here now). Part of me wants to think they deserve what they’re getting, but really, it hurts something inside of me to see it happen. Negativity breeds negativity, and that affects everyone, bystanders included.
All is not darkness, of course, and if I turn off the news and step away from the Internet for a few minutes, things brighten appreciably.
2016 is full of promise on a personal level. The Texas house is sold, the new house is bought (and one day, the rain will stop and they’ll finally get the new house in place), and I can start to re-learn the home place. Hunting season is pretty much done for the year, but after a mercifully short (I hope) winter, it will be time to focus on the ocean. Last summer was practically a loss, but this year will bring fishing and diving. I can’t wait for the first dinner of fresh, grilled, spanish mackerel, or grouper speared on one of the offshore wrecks.
From a blogging perspective, I’m pretty sure I’ll still have something to write about. Guns and hunting aren’t going anywhere, despite the panicked rhetoric. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned about the future of public lands, especially in the West, but the direct impact on me… I dunno. I still want to hunt the wilderness in Montana some day. I know I’ll be making the occasional trips back to Colorado for elk, and that relies on public land and access. But really, I’m pretty sure that, like most hunters, I’ll find a way to keep doing what I do.
I’m heading to the SHOT Show in two weeks. I’ll only be there a couple of days, but I have no doubt that it will be a couple of days dominated by political discussions of varying logical and factual integrity. I intend to drown the noise in the general chaos of the Show floor, inspecting new products and (hopefully) rekindling relationships with various vendors and PR representatives. Fingers crossed, I’ll be looking for some quality products to review over the coming months.
As long as the world doesn’t end between now and then.