Even though the 2014 SHOT Show ended over a month ago, there were a lot of things there that we released and displayed for the first time. Although I am finding that the industry is going away from launching at SHOT or NRA so their products are not buried along with every other product launch. I did see a lot of innovative products this year, and a definite theme to the show in terms of what everyone was doing and where they were taking their product lines. It almost became redundant at points, going from booth to booth being shown the same things over and over. I wanted to recap some of what I saw at SHOT this year in a hope that our readers would be able to get a better idea of where the industry is headed, and the things that I saw just about every company was doing. While everyone has a different style to their product, the basic premise was the same. These were the themes that I saw repeated this year.
It seems like everyone is doing Keymod now, and that probably is because everyone is. Every booth I stopped into was eager to show me their new keymod system that they would be rolling out for consumers in the next few months. Before SHOT this year, I was aware that keymod was out there and being used by consumers, but the market was not nearly what it is today. For a little history on keymod, it was created by Eric Kincel back in 2012 in conjunction with VLTOR. The first true specifications were released in July 2012. Keymod is now open source, and being used by just about everyone in the industry. The idea is sound, create a modular system like a picatinny rail that is universal, and able to take attachments, but also be lighter and more friendly to the hand. Just like the picatinny rail, what ends up setting the different keymod systems apart is the finishing that is done to them. Many I saw had sharp edges that were not milled with a chamfer or tumbled to remove the mill cut from the key slot. This created an almost razor sharp edge that felt as if it was going to cut your hands, or tear up your shooting gloves with continual use. Proper finishing and user comfort were the deciding factor on the successful keymod systems for me this year. Some of the rails on the winner side were BCM, with their 5oz KMR system, Odin Works KMod system and Midwest Industries K-Series rails.
On the other side there was the not-so-good, but really only one stuck out in my mind as being a finishd product that was not great. That was the Geissele Automatics Mk4 Keymod Series, which was heavy with their barrel nut and attachment system for the rail system. On the side of your tail there is at least a paragraph of writing on it giving the user every possible type, name, system, mod, serial, run, length and who knows what other numbers, really there is no reason that it all needed to be put on the side of the rail, in white. Also it was sub-par as far as machining with sharp edges and waviness in the metal on the underside of the forend. While the waviness could have been an attempt at a nice visual aesthetic, it really came across of nothing more than really bad machining. The machined in picatinny rails at the end also seemed very redundant, as they added weight, are permanent and the keymod allows for attachments anyway, making the entire rail seem rather redundant. Having both just seemed really strange, especially right where your hand would go on the forend. There were others that were sub-par, and in all fairness to them they did indicate that their forends were not completely finished with R&D yet. Hopefully they will take note, and clean their edges from being sharp, and make sure they have a well made product before releasing it to the public.
All in all, keymod is a great direction to take the forend, with more companies coming out with accessories that fit directly to keymod, I believe we will begin to see the end of picatinny rails, which tend to be heavy and work like a cheese grater on your hand, that is unless you buy covers for your picatinny rails, but those just add more weight anyway. Keymod is here to stay and is being accepted by the industry as a new standard, but also by shooters looking to lighten their rifles and have a more comfortable forend. I look forward to what another year of R&D will bring in the keymod market in terms of accessories, lighter forends and stronger materials.
Just like keymod, many companies are also coming out with some sort of bullpup rifle. DesertTech has the MDR that will be offered in .223 and .308 as well as a .338LM compact sniper system, which is also in bullpup. Also at SHOT was the Six12, Crye Precisions new bullpup 12 gauge. The receiver of the shotgun is actually designed to fit the bottom picatinny rail of a AR15, but also has a mount that give the shotgun a butt stock and top rail for optics. The Six12 was designed to give military and police the ability to quickly breach a door, and have their primary weapon system already in hand rather than peeling away after breaching.
Desert Tech had their new MDR series rifles, but also in their compact precision rifles. The MDR, slated tentatively for a 2015 release is a new design on the old favorite. Designing the system from a blank slate, and not being influenced by any other rifle on the market shows. The design is fully ambidextrous and even has a lefty-friendly ejection system that sends the brass forward, and not into the shooters face. The other feature included with the rifles is the ability to quick change barrels, and the sighting system stays with the barrel, meaning the user can zero the barrel on the rifle, and remove it with the confidence that when re-fitted to the rifle the zero remains the same. Many are calling this the “most innovative new rifle on the market” and “best thing to happen to the bullpup since the Steyr AUG.”
While the rifle is indeed innovative, it sure has nuances of trying to be a competitor to the successful Tavor, also a bullpup, released in the US last year and becoming more readily available in the past few months.
The bullpup design is by no means new, but is making a comeback, especially with the success of the Tavor in the US market. Several companies are now putting R&D time into bullpup designs for the shorter feeling to the overall rifle for the user. While I agree that swinging a full sized AR15 through a door can be a little awkward, swinging a bullpup makes things much smoother. In the next few years, we will continue to see the development of the bullpup design from various companies, and who knows we might see a bullpup take over the tactical rifle market at some point.
Glock and Beretta seemed to lead the pack on this one. Glock in particular lead the pack, by releasing the Glock 42 just before SHOT, and then having it there for hands on. Weighing in at just 12.5oz empty, it it markedly smaller than anything else in their offering. The compact .380ACP is good as a backup gun, and also women shooters or people with smaller hands. The .380 cartridge is good for those that might be recoil sensitive or want something lighter to carry. While every caliber seems these days to have their own fan base and detractors, the .380 is still a venerable round that has come into it’s own in terms for reliability and power in the last 10 years.
Beretta also released the Pico, a remarkably light weight .380 that is just 11.5oz empty. At just 5.1″ OAL, it is small enough for a jogging pack or even a pocket. I have heard a lot of comments on the melt-treatment that the Pico comes with, making their edges smoother and the entire pistol less prone to snagging. Also the polymer lower can be swapped out for one with a laser or a light. Produced by LaserMax, the polymer lowers are available to quickly augment your pocket pistol to your needs. Like the Sig P250, the serialized receiver is a metal insert that sits inside the polymer meaning that the number of polymer lowers you have can be endless, you can match them to your outfits if you were to choose to.
Bringing up the .380 micro-pistols released is Sig with the P290RS. The heaviest at 20oz, it is still small and light enough for pocket carry. Previously available only in 9mm, Sig appears to have decided to also take advantage of the newer loads coming out, making .380 a great choice for a personal defense gun.
While some are going to dismiss .380ACP as a mouse gun of not enough power, the truth of the matter remains that it is better than nothing at all. It is perfect for a backup gun, purse carry or just a small pistol for the summer months when you might not be wearing as much. With the new cartridges available, the .380ACP is a viable self defense handgun. Which one of the many new ones coming out is up to you.
4. .300 AAC Blackout
Also, not new by any means but certainly making a bigger splash this year is .300 AAC Blackout (.300BLK). While .300BLK was SAAMI apprived back in 2011, there seems to always be trepidation in the shooting community to calibers, until they begin proving themselves, ammo becomes available and companies begin making them standard. The popularity has been from the fact that it is a very easily silenced round, has better ballistics out to 300yds and it is nothing more than a barrel swap to make you current 5.56mm AR a .30cal rifle.
Many companies now are beginning to offer their rifles chambered and barreled from the factory in .300BLK including Bushmaster, Smith & Wesson, CMMG, PWS, Olympic Arms, Diamondback, Wilson Combat, Alexander Arms, Noveske, & DPMS. While there are those selling the complete rifles, just about every barrel maker is now making a .300BLK barrel for the AR. So if you are looking for an easy change for better ballistics, a bigger round or just looking for something else .300BLK is here, and growing in popularity.
These were some of the things I ran across this year. At every turn new keymod or another rifle in .300BLK. There was a lot of individual things that were very successful and totally unrelated to anything here in this list. But this was just an overall, here is what I saw just about everywhere. As one writer told me this year “You cannot swing a dead cat without hitting some keymod or a bullpup at SHOT this year.” That ended up being a very true statement.