Top

SHOT Show 2014 – Range Day (a day late)

January 14, 2014

Merkel RX HelixWhat did I learn at the SHOT Show Media Day at the Range this year?

Well, I saw some interesting stuff.  I found out that Cabelas is running out a line of nice guns (shotguns and rifles), including a pretty sweet Turkish side-by-side that has all the things I love best in a SxS… splinter fore-end and double triggers.  I shot some clays with the 20ga version and it just sang to me that wicked siren song.  If I remember correctly, MSRP will be well under $1500, which isn’t too bad at all for a SxS these days.

I learned a little about a potential new, lead-free bullet and shotgun slug material which, if it pans out, could be huge in reducing the cost of lead-free ammunition.  More on this later, as I learn more about the stuff.

But as important as anything else, I learned that I don’t handle the big, hard-kicking guns so well anymore.  I woke up today with a Crowded boothssplitting headache, a painfully stiff neck, and a right shoulder that is only now loosening up.  I guess I should know better, but maybe a little whiplash will make the lesson stick this time.

Overall, the Range Day wasn’t all I’d hoped it would be… but it was pretty much everything that I expected.  ARs dominated the day, along with variations on the personal defense/combat/competition handguns.  Conversations were punctuated by the rattle of full-auto gunfire, which, depending on where you were standing would either add a period or an exclamation point to whatever you might have been saying.

Between the “bullpups”, carbines, and “precision, long-range rifles”, I simply didn’t see a whole lot to get excited about.  I made a pass along the one firing line that had the majority of traditional rifles, and didn’t see a whole lot that made me want to wade into the crowded shooting benches for a closer look.  Maybe I’ll see something on the floor today.

There were a couple of outstanding moments, though.  First was the Merkel RX Helix (pictured at the top).  It’s a straight-pull rifle, similar to the Blaser R-8 in both function and quality.  Pricewise (about $3700), this isn’t something that every hunter can afford, but it will sure make you drool with gunlust.  The fact that you can interchange barrels without the use of a tool, makes it almost seem like a bargain, though, as you can add a couple of additional calibers without buying additional rifles.  I shot the .308 version at the range, and I am really starting to like that straight-pull for quick follow-up shots.  The rifle is balanced nicely, and I didn’t feel much recoil at all while shooting off-hand or from a sandbag.

While most people at the Kimber booth were playing with some new variations on Kimber’s already sweet 1911, I noticed a relatively tiny bolt-action over on the rifle bench.  The Kimber Adirondack is their latest, ultra-light offering.  At a shade over four pounds, this thing feels like a BB gun.  Unfortunately, the sample rifle wasn’t operable due to a mix-up (the shooter was sent to the show floor, and the show demo with the cut off firing pin was sent to the range), so I didn’t get to see what recoil would be like.  The Kimber rep swore it wasn’t bad at all.

Speaking of BB guns…  I stopped by the Crosman booth to see what they might have going on this year.  I guess the biggest news is the new Benjamin Marauder, with synthetic stock.  Compared to my wood-stocked Marauder, the new guns are much lighter and far more ergonomic.  I sent a few .22caliber pellets downrange and was impressed to see that accuracy was just as good as the older version.  I’ve also been getting more interested in a break-barrel air rifle, since the biggest drawback for my Marauder is keeping my air tanks filled (not many SCUBA shops around Camp Wood).  I had a chance to try out the new Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2, and while I’m no expert on air guns, I was reasonably impressed.  I know there are fancier air guns out there, but I see no reason that this wouldn’t be perfect for whacking squirrels or small varmints and pests.

There was a bit more, but I’ve got work to do and almost 12 and a half miles of displays to visit… and not much time to do it.

So please, stay  tuned…

 

AR Mania At 2014 SHOT Show?

January 10, 2014

As I’m gearing up for SHOT, I can’t help but be a little concerned.  I sure hope there will be some “traditional” hunting rifles and shotguns to play with on Monday.  If I based my assumptions on the inundation of SHOT Show press releases I’ve received, the only thing in Las Vegas will be ARs… parts for ARs… and ARs.

Look, I’ve got very little against the AR platform (more recently dubbed “Modern Sporting Rifles”), except that I don’t care for them.  Aesthetically, I find them sorely lacking.  I guess I’m getting old, but I think they’re ugly as sin.  Give me the artistry of a nice Sako or Blaser… technology and beauty in one, sweet, functional package.  Or even if I had to go to a synthetic stock (it’s no sin), I still find a bolt gun or lever-action much more to my tastes than some modular, space weapon.

Performance-wise, if you want a quality AR you’re going to spend the equivalent of a higher-end bolt-action (some of the better ones cost as much as a custom rifle).  Sure, there are “less expensive” ARs, but good luck finding one that shoots or handles half as well as a basic Savage 110 or Remington 700.  It’s just not likely to happen.

And forget about the big-bore, “sniper” guns.  They are a kick in the ass to shoot, of course, but only if you’re shooting someone else’s ammo.  And while I won’t rush to judgement on other folks’ happiness, I don’t see much joy in shooting a deer or elk from two zip-codes away.  I’ve got no use for them.

I have yet to see anything from Browning/Winchester, Ruger, or even Remington touting the latest bolt-action or lever-action… much less anything in the form of a double-barrel shotgun.  The handgun manufacturers are representing, but if you look at what they’re offering, it’s almost all semi-autos, designed for fighting off the zombie hordes, serial killers, and third-world militia.

Even the ammunition makers are rolling with the trend.  A big chunk of the Winchester press release is about ammo designed for self-defense firearms with stuff like “Train and Defend”, “Defender”, and Win1911.

Am I slouching toward obscurity… clinging to the past? Did I miss the memo?

Seriously, I recognize that the AR platform, or MSR, is a huge part of the industry right now.  I’ll definitely be interested in learning a little more about some of the new stuff, although I doubt I’ll be relaying a lot of it back to you guys… unless you ask.  The Hog Blog is, after all, about hunting.  Hunting guns are what I’ll look at, regardless of configuration.  But I’m human, and I’ll be paying the most attention to the guns I love best.

That’s just how it is.

This Is Why I Go To The SHOT Show

February 5, 2013

This is the kind of thing I go for, and one of the reasons I hate that I missed it this year… new ammunition, targeted for hog hunters and for the lead-free market. 

I had to hear about it on YouTube…

What the hell am I talking about?  The Remington Hog Hammer ammo was announced at SHOT 2013.  It features the Barnes triple-shock (TSX) bullet, and will be available in seven calibers, from .223 Rem to .450 Bushmaster.
 

The new round appears to follow on the concepts introduced the year before last with Winchester’s Razorback XT, including a special propellant to reduce muzzle flash (for night time or low-light shooting) and nickle-plated cases to ensure clean feeding through the popular semi-automatic rifles (black rifles, modern sporting rifles, ARs, or whatever you want to call them). 

Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to establish a relationship with Remington in order to get samples of their ammo.  As a result, it’s not likely that I’ll be testing any of these personally to let you guys know what I think of them.  If any of you readers gets a chance to put these things through their paces, though, I’d love to hear what you thought.

In the meantime, I do have a pretty good relationship at Winchester, so I will be trying out their latest Razorback XT offerings in my .44mag.  I’ll let ya’ll know more about that one fairly soon!

2013 SHOT Show Vicarious Round-Up

January 21, 2013

On Friday, my return trip from Spokane carried me through the Las Vegas airport.  As I moved to my connecting gate, all around me I saw them… camo-clad, vendor hats sporting logos like Smith and Wesson, SureFire, Beretta, and much more.  As I ate breakfast, I overheard conversations about the new .17 Winchester Super Mag, some hot new AR-styled rifles, the hot girls at a certain vendor booth, and the party at the Outdoor Channel’s Golden Moose Awards dinner.  I felt like I’d just missed the biggest party in town, and honestly, when it comes to the hunting and shooting trades, SHOT Show is exactly that.

This is the sort of thing I always look forward to seeing at SHOT.

This is the sort of thing I always look forward to seeing at SHOT.

I’ve attended a bunch of SHOT Shows, and you might wonder if the attraction doesn’t wear thin after a while.  In some ways, it certainly does.  You get jaded, cynical, and hard to please.  I used to think it was because I’m virtually a Nobody in the industry… just a small-time blogger in a sea of small-time bloggers.  But I’ve got friends who are much higher placed than I am, and they feel it too.  SHOT can be a grind.  It’s interviews and presentations, picture-taking, talking to reps and engineers, and a LOT of walking.  You see some awesome innovation, but to find it you pick through booth after booth of the same old thing, salted with the occasional idiotic idea and things that are just plain silly.  Trying to see all there is to see at SHOT in three or four days is like trying to do the Smithsonian or the Louvre in an afternoon.

But it’s still a big event, and most years I find myself counting down the days of January like a kid waiting for Christmas.  And Christmas didn’t come this year.  So sad.

Then again, on the upside I’ve got friends who did make it this year, like Eric from Varminter.Com magazine,  and Jesse, from Jesse’s Hunting and Outdoors.  And, of course, I’ve got the Internet, the source of all knowledge.  According to reports, there were approximately 1200 registered media at SHOT this year, and most of them have posted their reports on blogs,  YouTube, and Facebook.

So, I guess at this point I could just point you to a bunch of other websites and call it good.  Which is sort of what I’m gonna do, but it’s not because I don’t care… I do… I want you all to have a wonderful experience here on my blog, even if I only lived the SHOT Show vicariously.  Razorback .44 mag ammo

First, my friends at Winchester have put up a handful of cool new ammo this year.  At the forefront of my personal interests is the new Razorback XT in .44 magnum.  You may recall that I had the opportunity to try out the initial release of the Razorback ammo a couple of years back. 

I had no idea they were coming out with a handgun load this year, and I look forward to getting the chance to put some of it to the test on some Hill Country hogs or exotics… or at the very least, I’d like to try it on paper.

Speaking of Winchester, my friend Eric does a lot of writing (and shooting) about small calibers and varmint/predator hunting.  Winchester really pushed the envelope this year with the release of a whole, new rimfire round… the .17 Winchester Super Magnum.  Unlike the .17HMR or Mach2, the WSM is a whole new cartridge, from the ground up.  Pushing 3000 fps with a 30gr bullet, it gets past a lot of the challenges that faced the previous .17s.  It bucks wind, and carries way downrange.

To really make the most of it, Savage has created a new rifle to go with this round, the B-Mag.  Eric was at Media Day and had the chance to shoot this thing (color me jealous), and his write-up is excellent.  Check it out at the Varminter.com site.

On the big media side, Field and Stream sent their Gun Nuts guys to the show and came away with some pretty good info.  Unfortunately, they host their own videos now, so I can’t send you to a YouTube site.  But the blog is excellent, and well worth the effort to check out.  I was particularly interested in Weatherby’s new rifle, which came off pretty good in Dave Petzal’s review.

YouTube has a ton of excellent video reviews, even without Field and Stream.  My friend, Jesse, has a good collection of video on his YouTube TV station.  One of my other favorite gun-related YouTube channels is Fate of Destinee.  Yeah, she’s cute and that doesn’t hurt her appeal, but her videos really are informative and well-produced.

Anyway, that ought to keep you busy for a while.  If you need more, let me know and I’ll see what I can dig up.

By the way, if you’d like a little more info about that Chiappa, triple-barrel shotgun in the first photo, check it out here.

 

2013 SHOT Show – No Live Coverage This Year

January 8, 2013

It’s that time of year again!  The SHOT (Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trades) Show is about to kick off for the 35 year next week in Las Vegas, NV.  For those who don’t know, this is one of the largest trade shows in the world, and is the opportunity for people in the hunting and shooting industries to get their hands on the newest products of the year.  It’s huge.

I’ve attended SHOT every year since 2001, and it’s provided me with a ton of great content for the Hog Blog, as well as some great exposure to gear and gadgets that I’d never see otherwise.  In addition to seeing and handling new gear, I’ve made contacts that provided me with test gear to try out in the field, and others who’ve kept me up to speed on various developments in the industry.  Overall, it’s been a great resource.

Up until a month ago, I was set to attend the 2013 event.  I’ve got my media passes, contact lists, and a pile of email from vendors, representatives, and manufacturers to come see their newest offerings.  Even after 11 shows, the lead-up to SHOT is a lot like the build up for Christmas… anticipation and excitement build until, the night before the show I can barely sleep.  The first day, as you walk through the doors festooned by four-story banners, the excitement is tangible. 

So it was with a real sadness that I realized that, due to work obligations, I wouldn’t be able to make it this year. Frickin’ day job. 

I’ll do what I can to touch base with my contacts, and hopefully I’ll still be able to get my hands on some of the newer products.  I’ll also check in virtually as much as possible.  But the reality is that I won’t be able to offer the same coverage that I’ve brought every year, and for that I apologize.

SHOT Show Isn’t All Shooting And Killing Stuff

January 31, 2012

You can hardly turn on one of the hunting channels these days without someone taking disabled kids, wounded vets, or some other special case into the field.  It’s a great thing, and an excellent use of the resources the hunting shows and their sponsors have available.

The SHOT Show reflects that philanthropic aspect of the industry as well as all of the shooting and hunting.  Several organizations that support the military were represented, as were the more traditional organizations such as 4-H and Kids and Clays.  If I tried to write about all of them, I’d be at it for days.  However, I attended press conferences for a couple that serve as good examples of what’s going on.

First of all, Bushnell Sport Optics threw a breakfast for the media.  After a run-down of their new products, they came back to the Folds of Honor program.

Folds of Honor was created by USAF Major Dan Rooney after his second tour in Iraq.  The mission of the organization is described on the Folds of Honor website as follows:

The Folds of Honor Foundation is rallying a nation to ensure no family is left behind in the fight to preserve American freedom. Through scholarships and other assistance, we give back to the spouses and children of soldiers killed or disabled in service to our country. We provide healing, hope and an opportunity for dreams to be realized…with the support of people like you. We feel this is our duty as citizens of the greatest country in the world.

This is Bushnell’s second year as a partner in the program.  Among other things the optics giant is doing, they’re offering a rebate on certain rangefinders.  The customer can then opt to donate part or all of the rebate to the Folds of Honor Foundation.  At this year’s presentation, Bushnell presented a check for $200,000 as a result of the generosity of the corporation and its customers.

Another cool aspect of the presentation this year was the appearance of Craig Morgan.  Morgan is a country musician as well as an outdoor television host (All Access Outdoors on The Sportsman Channel).  He performed a pair of songs he’d just written, and made an announcement about some work he might be doing soon to support the Folds of Honor Foundation.  I’ll let ya’ll know as soon as the news is official.

Later in the week, as I was sitting in the press room, a couple of NSSF people came through the room announcing a press conference.  I looked up and saw outdoor media luminaries like Jim Shockey and Jim Zumbo heading into the conference room, so I figured this might be worth checking out.

And it was…

The conference was to announce the kickoff of the Outdoor Legends Tour, a goodwill tour of outdoors “personalities” who would be heading over to “somewhere in the southeast asia area” to visit the troops.  Included in the group were Shockey, Zumbo, Michael Waddell, Brenda Valentine, Cuz Strickland, and many others.

From what I understood (where the heck did I leave my notes?), the tour would be similar to USO tours, only the celebrities would mingle directly with the troops, shaking hands, distributing swag, and generally doing what they could to provide a positive impact on morale.

As I mentioned, these are only a couple of the numerous programs and organizations driven by American outdoorsmen and the industry.  There’s an opportunity for all of us to take the hunt to a different level, share our heritage, and help out some folks who could really use a little extra good in their lives.

Favorite Hog Rifles From The 2012 SHOT Show

January 24, 2012

Every year at the SHOT Show I try to come up with a list of my favorite things.  This year is no different, so I thought I’d give some thought to which of the new rifles I’d like to carry on a hog hunt.

The options are fairly wide, but since I didn’t really spend any time with the ARs or military stuff, that’s sort of out.  I do have to admit to a certain satisfaction at the .416 Barrett.  Any rifle that allows me to shoot stationary clay pigeons from almost 1000 yards away… well, that’s just fun.  But it’s kind of loud, and anyway, I’m not really interested in shooting game from that sort of range.

And then, there was the RAC AR-12, shotgun.  This is a semi-automatic shotgun modeled on the AR-15 (hence the name).  I played with one a bit at the skeet range, and while I couldn’t get the hang of it enough to hit a clay, it was sort of fun just to shoot.  I wonder how it would handle slugs?  I didn’t ask, but maybe I should have.

Regardless, I doubt I’d have a lot of interest in hunting with this gun, but it would definitely be a conversation-starter!  I can only imagine the looks you’d get unpacking this thing at the duck club!

Really, I’m more of a traditional rifle sort of guy, and I do like my lever actions.  My old Winchester 94 was a trusty tool in the whitetail woods, and my Browning lever action in .243 has also been a real deer slayer.  However, Mossberg has really pushed the envelope a little too hard with this year’s entry… the 464SPX.

So what did I like?

Well, I’ve already written about the rifle that really caught my attention…  the Savage Hog Hunter.

While I’d prefer a different caliber selection, this setup really worked for me.  I’ve always been a fan of Savage rifles, both for reliability and accuracy.  The accu-trigger isn’t a new thing anymore, but I still think it makes a really good rifle great (although it took some getting used to).  Topped with the Leupold HOG scope, the rifle is quick on target and should be the ticket for rapid follow-up or on hogs breaking cover at close range.

As with most of the other offerings from Savage, the Hog Hunter is priced right too, at around $500 without the scope.  The scope retails for a shade less than the rifle… not cheap, but I still believe you pay for quality in optics.

Another rifle I thought would be great for hog hunting is Winchester’s reborn Model 71, chambered in .348win.  I stumbled onto this rifle during the range day, and couldn’t stop myself from putting a few rounds downrange.  It’s a sweet feeling rifle, and the .348 doesn’t kick as bad as you might expect.

I don’t know a ton about the .348, but from my reading it’s a very capable round to 200 yards.  With the iron sights on this rifle, I think you could have a blast on hogs, and kill them cleanly too.  The only downside I can see is that the MSRP on this thing is a bit over $1400.  That’s a lot of money for a levergun, but if you’re into the classics, it may be worth it.

I had to reach a bit to come up with my last selection.  It was close, between the new Thompson-Center Dimension and Ruger’s new American rifle.

The Dimension is a pretty cool piece of work.  I think the guys at TC (and Smith and Wesson) covered the bases well when they designed this gun… right down to the preset torque driver for assembling the barrels and actions.  With an MSRP of around $600, and additional barrels for about $200, it’s not an unaffordable addition to the gun safe.  Accuracy is supposed to be pretty impressive too, although I haven’t shot one for accuracy.  But I just couldn’t fall in love with this thing.

Ruger, on the other hand, has released a new line of affordable rifles in their American line.  These are lightweight, but sturdy rifles, priced in the mid-$400 range.  They are intially available in four common calibers, .243, .270, .308, and 30-06.

I didn’t get the chance to shoot the American on the range, but I handled the heck out of a couple on the show floor later in the week.  These are not beautiful rifles by any stretch of the imagination, and they don’t have a lot of “wow” factor, but they appear to be designed for functionality.

I’ve shot the M77 in a lot of variations, and it’s a solid rifle that can take a beating.  If the American is of any comparison, it’s going to be a hot ticket item… especially for budget-conscious hunters.

There are a lot of other great rifles out there, but I had to select a small handful to make this manageable.  What did stand out about this particular group was the price (excepting, of course, the M71).  Gun makers haven’t forgotten about the budget-conscious hunters out there, and with the general quality of modern rifles these days, you simply don’t have to spend a fortune for a really high-quality gun.  I think that’s a very good thing.

What’s The SHOT Show All About? A Video Revue…

January 19, 2012

Here are a few perspectives of the SHOT Show from YouTube.  I’ve got some of my own stuff coming, but thought you might enjoy seeing what some other folks are looking at.

First, from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, a promo from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).

Then there’s this piece from Media Day at the Range. And yes, the tactical guns were the stars of the show again this year. Check out the Gatling gun, by the way… 5000 rounds went through this thing on Monday!

And now for something completely different… but oddly cool…


 

Day 1 At The SHOT Show – Blogger Interrupted

January 17, 2012

I didn’t hit the floor for the opening of the 2012 SHOT Show until after 10:00 this morning.  This nagging thing they call a “day job” really kind of got all mixed up in the whole thing, and I spent the better part of the day doing anything but checking out new gear.  Apologies to those who may have had higher hopes, but so it goes… I have responsibilities (sorry for the foul language).

OK, enough of that…

I did get a chance to hit the floor a bit, and had a handful of specific things I wanted to see.  Among these were the components of that Savage pig rifle I was just shooting yesterday.  My first stop, then, was the Leupold booth.  I didn’t spend much time on anything else, but made my way directly over to the scopes to find the Leupold “Hog”.

The Hog is a VX-R (illuminated reticle), 1.25-4×20 scope.  With almost four inches of eye relief, this is a great scope for fast shooting in the thick stuff, but the Leupold glass at 4x provides all you need for longer shots as well.  Like I wrote yesterday, I was easily whacking the silhouette targets at 200 yards with this thing.

Once I’d found the scope, my next stop (in a round-about way) was the Savage booth to check out the rifle in a little more detail than I’d managed yesterday.  The “Hog Hunter ” is one of Savage’s Specialty Rifles, and is built on the Model 111 platform (short-action, bolt gun).  It comes in a synthetic stock, with a 20″, threaded barrel.  The threading is primarily for the installation of an after-market brake, but would also accomodate a suppressor in places where this is legal.  (For a gun that may be used for eradication, a suppressor makes good sense to me… but that discussion opens a can of worms I’m not interested in pursuing here.) The rifle also incorporates the Accu-Trigger, Savage’s awesome, adjustable trigger system.

The Hog Hunter will initially be available in .223, .308, and .338.  Honestly, I’m just not sure why the .223 and .308 are so widely regarded as hog hunting calibers (Winchester’s RazorBack XT ammunition is also initially available in these two calibers), but I’m assuming that this is based on the AR craze, and the wide availability of ammo for those calibers.  Or maybe it’s because in states other than CA, a lot of hog hunting is done at closer range with tree stands and feeders or bait.  I’d love to see this rifle in the extremely popular .300WSM… or my favorite, the .325WSM.  Still, I can see where the .338 would be a pretty awesome hog caliber too.

But what else?

A regular reader and friend-o-mine, John, asked about the Thompson-Center Dimension (by the way, the Icon appears to be alive and well, John).  The Dimension is a pretty neat idea.  It’s essentially a platform for multiple calibers on a single action.  This isn’t new, of course.  Several European companies have been doing this for years, but the big difference here is the price point.  Where you’ll pay between $10K and $15K for some of the European stuff, MSRP for the Dimension will be in the neighborhood of $650 (actual price at the store will generally be lower).  New barrels will list around $200.

What Thompson-Center (and Smith and Wesson) have done with the Dimension, though, is to make a conscious effort to make this rifle as user-friendly as possible. I don’t want to get too gun-nut technical here, but in general most modern calibers fall into “families”.  For example, the .308 family includes cartridges like the .243, 7mm-08, and 22-250, while the 30-06 family includes the .270.  The actions for the Dimension are designed for the entire family, so all you need to do is switch barrels to turn your .308 into a 22-250.  The families are designated by letters (A, B, C, etc.), and the complementary components are all engraved with the letter.  It’s hard to accidentally mix up the system.

The company goes a step further, and provides specific tools for working on the rifle.  The tools are intended to use for removing the barrel and action, but the cool thing is that the wrench/driver tool is set to torque the screws for the proper tension.  The engineers know that many amateurs tend to over-tighten and strip screws and bolts, so this multi-tool will help avoid that problem.  I’m not a gunsmith or a technical expert, but this seems pretty danged nifty to me.  If you just follow the basic directions, you can’t mess up the assembly of a Dimension.  It is smart and innovative.

I’ve got a few more things to write about, but I’ll save some of these for tomorrow.  I hope to have a little more time on the floor tomorrow.

Media Day Recap

January 16, 2012

I went to the SHOT Show Media Day at the Range, and what did I see?

A whole crowd of people in line before me.

No, I’m not going to do this whole thing in doggerel… tempting as it may be.  But it’s a start!  And this year’s Media Day at the Range had to have set new records for attendance.  According to the messages from the NSSF, there were 1200 media members (and some guests) at the shoot, and from what I saw during check-in, and at the most popular booths, there weren’t many no-shows!

Despite the crowds, the range setup seemed to function better this year, and it was easier to get in and talk to specific manufacturers and reps about the guns and ammo we were shooting.  I also noticed a dearth of the big-bore sniper rifles this year, which meant that there were significantly fewer of us walking around for hours after the shoot with perpetual flinches (if you’ve ever been around when one of those things goes off, you’d know what I’m talking about).

But what else did I see?  As I expected, there were a lot of tactical and tactical-styled guns.  This just isn’t my forte, and while I did stop to watch some of the shooting and inspect a few of the guns up close, I didn’t spend much time with them.  There is definitely something magical about full-auto firepower that makes a guy stop and stare.

How far does this AR craze stretch?  I stopped by the Crosman booth to check in with the rep there and see what was new.  I love my Marauder, and I’ve been really intrigued by the Rogue since I shot the prototype last year.  Something about a .357 air rifle that just does it for me.  I hope to get a chance to field test one later this year, once I’m settled in Texas.

While I was there, I was introduced to Scott Pilkington Jr.  Mr. Pilkington has come up with an AR upper in .177.  It’s a PCP (Pre-Charged Pneumatic), and the version I shot was complete with a match barrel.  Another of the Crosman reps is a competition shooter, and I watched him whack a 1 1/2″ spinner at 50 yards… OFF HAND.  I couldn’t shoot that well, but I was able to put a few shots on target and was amazed at the accuracy.  But even moreso, I was amazed at the very idea of making an air rifle upper for the AR platform.

As usual at the show, I ran into several of my friends from the hunting and shooting world.  This is a great place to network, and to catch up.

My friend, Eric Mayer from Varminter.com was there, and we spent some time walking around.  While I love to shoot big stuff with big guns, Eric is funny.  He likes shooting little stuff with little guns, like the Browning X bolt, in .204 Ruger.  By the way, Varminter has a really great web forum with a ton of discussions.  While predator and varmint hunting are the primary focus, there’s also a real good forum on hog hunting, as well as a pile of other excellent info for hunters and shooters.  Check it out!

Eric took a few photos of me shooting some of the other stuff, but I don’t have those yet, so that piece of the story will have to wait.  A couple of other great finds didn’t make the photo log either, but that’s usually because there were too many people waiting around to shoot, or because I didn’t have a safe place to take the picture.  I’ll get a lot more photos on the show floor later this week.

One of the rifles that caught my eye was a new offering from Ruger, the 77/357.  This is a Model 77 rifle, chambered in .357 Magnum.  That’s right, a bolt-action rifle shooting a pistol cartridge.  It’s not their first, of course.  They chambered the M77 in .44 Mag a couple of years ago (and I swear I remember them chambering the Mini-14 in .44mag also… was that a dream?).  I asked the Ruger rep what this was all about, and how much demand they were seeing for something like this.  He said the most current driver is the recent legislation in Indiana.  Previously, big game hunters were restricted to slug guns, muzzleloaders, and handguns for hunting.  That changed in 2007, when the state legalized rifles that shoot handgun cartridges.

The other market for this gun is for youngsters or other hunters who are a little shy of heavy recoil.  At moderate range, the .357 Mag certainly produces enough energy to kill deer with well-placed shots, and with the low recoil, it is easy to shoot this thing well.  I sent several rounds downrange, and it is actually a pretty handy-feeling rifle.  Recoil is very light, and with the iron sights, accuracy wasn’t too bad (considering the shooter).  I’m still not a huge fan of rifles chambered for pistol cartridges, but I can see where this would be a fun gun to own.

What about lead-free ammo?  I think I spotted a trend a little while back, and it was definitely in evidence today… at least from Winchester and Federal.  I’ve written before about the Winchester RazorBack XT ammo, and a little about the Power-Core 95/5.  Both of these offerings incorporate bullets made by Winchester, as opposed to the ETips which are made by Nosler.  But today I saw that Federal, after years of loading Barnes bullets in their lead-free ammunition is now beginning to offer some of their own, proprietary bullets and shotgun slugs.  I’ve got to get more information about this ammunition, and if I can, I’ll get a direct answer about the root of this trend (if it is a trend at all).  But what it may mean to you hunters, is lower retail prices for lead-free ammunition.

I also had the opportunity to talk to a new bullet-maker in the field.  The company, Cutting Edge Bullets, makes a line of brass bullets.  Brass isn’t necessarily new in this field, and the monolithic solids are well known for use on dangerous game in Africa.  However, their new design offers controlled expansion with “petals” that, instead of staying on the bullet as it passes through, explode outward from the wound channel like shrapnel.  I know, sounds “iffy”, but the rep I spoke to assured me that meat damage isn’t what you might expect, and that these bullets kill game stone dead… quickly.

While the current bullets do not quite meet the CA standard for lead-free (they still contain something like 8% lead), but the company intends to release a CA-legal bullet later in the spring.  If all goes well, I’ll also get the opportunity to try some of these bullets myself.  As always, when I do, you’ll get the honest review.

And now the best for last!

I was taking pictures of Eric shooting a Savage in .17 Hornet (pretty cool in itself, by the way), when one of the Savage reps noticed my Hog Blog t-shirt.  “You’re looking at the wrong gun,” he told me.

I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, or even if he was talking to me, so I turned to see.  He was holding a nice-looking, synthetic stocked rifle with a sweet little Leupold scope on it.  “You shoot pigs, don’t you,” he asked?  “This is a pig rifle.”

I started to explain that I was taking pictures of Eric, and that Eric doesn’t really have the same interest in pig rifles that I do… but then I kind of forgot about Eric.  I didn’t look too closely at the rifle at first, but just plopped down at the bench and started looking for ammo.  The rep passed me a box with an evil grin, and I loaded it up, took a rest, and put my eye to the scope.  There, right beside the crosshairs, were the words, “Pig-Plex”.  They had me! 

I fired a few shots, both from the bench and off-hand.  This rifle and scope combo is made for offhand shooting, and it balanced very nicely.  This particular gun was chambered in .308, so recoil was really minimal, and accuracy at 200 yards was pretty good (at least as far as hitting silhouette targets).  I didn’t try one with just iron sights (yes, this comes from the factory with iron sights), but I bet it would be a treat to shoot on hogs busting out of the chemise.

I’ll get more detail on this thing later, but for now, suffice it to say that this rifle made my day!

There was a lot of other cool stuff that I haven’t mentioned… not because it doesn’t deserve mention, but because there’s just so much as to be overwhelming.   I’ll gather more information on the Show floor this week.  And, as always, if you want me to check on anything specific, just let me know!

 

 

 

« Previous PageNext Page »

Bottom