Now more than a week has passed since SHOT 2018, and we at TFB are finally recuperating from what is most likely the busiest single week that the entire team will have all year. With SHOT Show over, we can finally go back to the boring business of gun writing and video making. But while the show is still fresh on our minds, I think it is important to take a second and look at some of the trends and big product pushes that occurred during the show.
.224 Valkyrie Marking Campaign
Federal Ammunition, owned by Vista Outdoors, blew this one out of the park. If there were any internal issues with the design of the cartridge, reaching out to companies, I certainly didn’t hear about them. Federal really took the cartridge to great lengths with the amount of firearms companies that jumped on board, and even the amount of ammunition companies that are also introducing loads for it. Just from a quick glance, we have these gun companies that introduced a rifle for the round at SHOT- Savage, JP Enterprises, Masterpiece Arms, Seekins Precision, Lewis Machine & Tool, LaRue Tactical, LWRC, Q, Mossberg, Barrett, and CMMG.
The Rise of the “Legal” Pistol Caliber Carbine
The Trump Slump became a very real phenomenon, and that was quite evident in the amount of innovation that wasn’t seen with standard 16-inch AR15s this year as compared to last year. However, what we did see was a number of companies that are coming out with “Pistol” versions of their rifles, and even more importantly using various Pistol Braces. Even more interesting was the amount of Gear Head Works “Tailhook Brace” that I seemed to see everywhere I looked. PWS, Barrett, Robinson Armament, even a “Pistol” civilian legal M249…
I think this has much to do with a combination of two factors. The first being the ATF’s reversal of the opinion on using Pistol Braces, the second being that companies can breathe a sigh of relief under the Trump presidency/conservative congress where they can take the production risk of pushing a Pistol Brace equipped firearm to market, and not be afraid of losing an entire production line due to it now being illegal in some way.
Precision Rifles are Going Mainstream
Due to the ever-expanding rise of the Precision Rifle Series sport, almost like the IPSC of long-range shooting as I would call it, a large number of rifle companies are trying to jump on the PRS bandwagon, to include companies that only ever made parts beforehand. We also see with Accuracy International coming out with a left-handed AX, due to what PRS shooters are looking for. What is really the more interesting part of PRS is all the experimentation that is coming out of it. Shooters are finding better products, and refining their techniques in order to make shots under stress and at extreme distances. In addition, companies are supporting this innovation by coming out with products that are a direct result of the need to perform at these matches. On a very serious note some of the people who are really benefiting from the sport are those who need the help most, the precision rifle guys in the LE and Military worlds.
Although there were larger than the normal number of suppressor companies this year, I don’t think it compares to what we saw last year. Even Black Hawk! released a suppressor product line last year! I was expecting more from this year, but I feel like I was mistaken in trying to forecast more of a higher suppressor popularity prediction.
The Coolest and the most Ridiculous
My vote for the coolest new thing that I saw, was the Direct Action Grip from Tactical Applications Group. Okay, I know sticking a pressure switch into an AR grip isn’t what is going to change small arms design, but from my infantry background looking in, this was really, really neat. Having the ability to operate your lights and lasers one-handed while in a very stressful environment at night can be a huge asset. More interesting than the actual grip, was the background of the folks behind it. Everything from the materials used to not getting engaged in the actual wiring and switches of the devices used was very calculated.
A next-generation version of the ATPIAL PEQ-15 got me excited as well.
While on the opposite end of the spectrum, we have a 4-pound manually locking bayonet that takes up as much space as an M203 grenade launcher. I’m sorry, but I just can’t get behind this product in any way at all.