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SHOT Show 2013

SHOT Show is the COMDEX of the firearms industry. The primary, once a year event where the new products are introduced, the deals are made, networking happens, etc. My first time at the Show was last year, and this year I was lucky to come again.

The Show was positively abuzz. I am not sure if attendance records confirm it, but my feeling is that there was a lot more attendees, and a slightly different set of exhibitors. I missed CDNN - they occupied quite a bit of prime real estate at the last show, and didn't show up at all this time. Of course all the big names were here - Savage, Remington, Sig, HK, Beretta, Steyr, and many, many more.

Hi-Cap Cap

So... first things, first. No lowers, no ARs, and no high capacity magazines.

There is no magic - everything is backordered, and all manufacturers are at least 6 months behind. The more realistic are quoting one year, the more optimistic hope for 6 months. The inventory that people can get is either being sold at inflated prices, or goes straight to Gunbroker, where it fetches amounts of monet that can only be described as astronomical.

In actual fact, given that a lot of dealers have probably placed orders with several distributors for a lot more stuff that they need, so it appears a lot worse than it really is.

Then again, my money is on high capacity mags are going to be banned, so - who knows? Perhaps by the time the current orders could be filled, they won't be for this reason.

Do keep in mind that during he previous ban the prices skyrocketed just around the ban, and came back to pre-ban levels shortly after the ban went into effect. The reason is, you don't really NEED a high-capacity magazine for target shooting. Heck, you don't even need it to commit a crime - only 3% of all shootings result in more than 10 rounds fired.

So people who buy them up now at hyperinflated prices are doing so because they expect them to appreciate more, or because they expect them to become collector items - but not for practical reasons. Eventually though it all comes down to actual USE, and the number of high-capacity magazines TODAY is sufficient to satisfy the practical needs for many years.

But I digress, so back to the Show. Everyone is backordered, and no one I spoke with things that this is a good thing. Pretty much everyone recognizes what is going to happen when the madness passes. (Imagine yourself a tulip grower in the Netherlands right after the Great Tulip Bubble has burst. All these people who have lost huge amounts of money on your product are not going to buy flowers for a long, long, long time, and no matter how much money you made in the last year, it is not enough to compensate for the next 5 years of massive losses). But I digress again.

The new, new, new things

As you can imagine, firearms market is rather mature. So no really revolutionary products. Well, except for this thing.

An outfit called "Arsenal Firearms" have figured out how to make 1911 into a high-capacity, bannable gun. And yes, you can actually buy this... thing... for $4500. Personally, I prefer 2 Les Baers for the same money.

Also, here is a three-barrel shotgun from Chiappa...

...and this - I don't even know what to call this - target? - stock.

Other show curiosities included this colorful Glock 17...

...this, admittedly cool EOTech "radioactive" sight...

...and this 12" S&W 17HMR revolver (note, most of its barrel is hidden inside the plastic tube that holds the gun on the wall.

My favorite manufacturer Savage has introduced a new rimfire rifle, supporting 17WSM. Admittedly, 2000fps velocity at 200 yards is very, very cool, and the rifle has a pretty sexy look as well as intriguing set of features.

To counterbalance, they also went to a much less nicely looking yellowish matte finish on their target rifles:

When I asked a Savage rep why they did it, he said that this was by popular demand. I can entertain the idea that hunters wanted a less shiny barrel to make the gun blend better with the environment. But target rifles? Really?

Attach of the Clones

One of the biggest surprises for me at the Show was the number of CZ 75 clones. CZ itself had a relatively small booth with about a dozen guns.

It was a good opportunity to paw through the whole lineup. P07 and Phantom did not wow be - the triggers on them were not very crisp, and the steel frame, this distinct feature of CZ pistols that is so hard to find elsewhere these days has been replaced by plastic.

On the other end of the spectum there was the Czechmate. Everything about this gun was perfect - the balance, the grips, the trigger...

Part of CZ booth was occupied by CZ Custom. It is amazing what these guys were doing with CZ triggers - one gun seemed to have an unreal 3lb double action pull.

While the CZ proper was rather small, CZ design was everywhere. Tanfoglio was making the higher-end CZ pistols, mostly competition models. They have nicer finish than the original, and ship in nicer boxes.

This is their Hunter model, with a 6" barrel.

...Gold Custom...



...and one more model which I no longer recognize.

Tafoglio pistols seem to have on average better - pre-tuned - out of the box triggers compared to their progenitors at CZ, and come in nicer presentation-grade boxes.

There were a lot of Turkish clones of lower end CZ 75 models. Zigana, Sarsilmaz, Canik all make what look like identical copies of various CZ models.

Most of these clones have triggers which are not very crisp, and make strange springy sound when fired. However, I was REALLY impressed by Canik production - I tried their pistols at their own booth, at the Century's booth, and at the Tristar booth. The trigger on all them felt actually better than CZ orginal, especially in double action mode. They were almost the quality that come out of CZ Custom. In addition, the finish on them was top-notch, again, it looked better than the original, especially the chromed version.

I was so impressed that I bought 9 of their pistols for my regular stock, 6 shorter C55s (CZ 75 P-01 equivalents), and 3 with full barrels (CZ 75 B).

CZ 75s were not the only pistols copied though. Tokarev is going through a kind of rebirth - not only Zastava has restarted production with M57 in original 7.62x25 and M70 in 9mm, but several other companies are now making them, too. This Zigana model was just a stock knock-off, and generally uninspired...

...but there was a Pakistani Tokarev on display with both nice engravings and very impressive crisp trigger.

And while people will say that CZ999, now imported by Century, is not technically a Sig P226 clone, I took it apart and it looks suspiciously similar. And having torn my own Sig apart completely to replace DAK trigger with SA/DA, I still remember it well enough. I also could not tell the difference in the trigger pull between that model and my own P226. I bought 3 of these.

Training wheels

There was a proliferation of shooting simulators at the Show. This seems to be one of the most innovative and dynamic segments of the industry.

Last Show a decent system would go for many thousands of dollars. This show I bought a set from a Taiwanese company that is very similar to the famous SCATT for $450 (review to follow; I may get a few of these in stock if I like them).

SCATT itself was also on display, for $1200 - which is not that expensive, considering its leading position.

Walking the Show

The best thing about the show is you get a hands-on experience with a lot of products. They are here, they are touchable, you can really look through that scope and see if it indeed works as well as the ads say. So below, in no particular order, is the account of my experiences just walking around and touching stuff, dry-firing stuff, looking for stuff during the last 3 days. And taking a few photos.

Smith & Wesson

Their revolver triggers are really, really, really great. Bar none in their price category. Very light and very crisp. If you need a target revolver for under $1000, just like no one has been fired for buying IBM, you can not go wrong with a Smith & Wesson.

On the other hand their M&P series - meh. Not sure why the world needs another variety of Glock-like pistols, because Glock has the segment of single action, stiff triggers with a very long pull covered pretty well with its own 50 or so different models.


Here are a few Rainbows and Unicorns...

PMR 30 actually has a very nice, trigger, crisp and light. PLR-16 has plastic scope rail - this I do not understand. SU-16 and SUB2k fold nicely, and if they were plentiful and cost $200-$300, they should make a VERY NICE camping/boating all-purpose gun.

By the way, the plastic of which these are made - it is not expensive-looking Glock plastic. These guns were not designed to look expensive, or be expensive. Kel-Tec sets MSRP for SUB2k series at just over $400, and with the wholesale price being what it is, they should be selling for low $300s. And that's how these guns look. So if you are one of these people whi bid them up to $800 - in a few years the novelty will wear off, and you will have paid almost a thousand dollars for a solid $300 gun. Congratulations on your win!

As it happens, Kel-Tec also makes small, cheap pistols. I have never seen anyone asing for them, or bidding them up on Gunbroker. They are always in stock at the distributors.

I confronted a Kel-Tec guy who seemed genuinely surprised that there is a shortage of Kel-Tec guns, in particular, PLR-16s. He said that they make a lot of them, and gave me a business card for the distributor who is most likely to have them in stock.


Surprisingly nice pistols - nice finish, nice triggers. Nice balance. Walther PPK form factor. Half of the price. Probably merit a look if you are looking for a slick, compact pistol.


AKs. Stroke a conversation with a guy manning the booth. Told him about IO claims about 1" accuracy on his rifles. He sounded dubious about it. My own tests show more like 4" groups.

Accuracy International

I am sure these are... accurate.


...on the inside.


Had a very big booth, like the last year. I learned what the difference is between 92 and M9. Apparently, it's desert-rated springs.

More importantly, Beretta owns TRG, but nothing new here this year.

Sig Sauer

Their big thing this year was a new modular pistol series. NFA though, so nothing to see here.

Like the last show, and probably the one before, and the one before - premium P226es.

...and of course you cannot have a respectable booth without really big guns...


Very cool lineup of competition pistols - excellent balance, comfortable grips that literally swallow your hand, feather light triggers.


They were in the Steyr booth.


I was always curious about Taurus. The make a lot of licensed clones, and I have heard claims about accuracy of their 992 rimfire revolvers. After pawing through the guns though I was left unimpressed. Beretta clone did not have the luster of the original, and the pistol felt a bit loose. The revolver's trigger was heavy.


Their match model is usually hard to find in stores, so this was a good opportunity to play with it. After spending 10 minutes with it, I still do not know why would I prefer it to a Glock 34/35. They seem substantially similar, but the Glock has all the aftermarket parts.


The salesman was grumpy and refused to explain their pistols to me. The trigger on USP 45 Match was creepy and heavy - and the pistol is very large and heavy.

They had the big guns though.