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Sunday, January 23, 2011

All that is Real and Right in the World: SHOT Show 2011

I remember the first time I walked into the main hall of the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show vividly. It was as though I had been transported to a planet in a different solar system where only people who thought like me had been invited. I was enthralled by the huge booths and elaborate displays from all the major firearms, ammunition, optics, and hunting manufacturers in the world. Like a kid in a candy store, I just sat back, pinched myself, and took it all in. As a rookie, I collected a brochure or catalog from hundreds of booths… and then had to carry them around with me all day!

Now, as a “veteran” of a half-dozen shows, I don’t quite get the same feeling as I did that first day, but I still seem to feel a little more at peace while I’m there. I now know a ton of people in the industry thanks to attending each year with Chris Denham, my editor at Western Hunter, who has been to 23 straight SHOT Shows. Thankfully, now nearly all the companies post their information their websites, so gone are the days of packing around all those catalogs. However, I still seem to end up with a solid 25 or so from companies with new releases or something I’m really interested in.

I just opened an email from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) with some stats about this year’s show: overall attendance of 57,390 ranked it as the third largest SHOT Show ever, it set records for the most buyers (31,769) and the most media (2,074), and there were 1,600 companies taking up 630,000 square feet of booth space. Wow!!

Mainly Chris and I attend so we can meet with advertisers, explore new advertising opportunities, and check out all the new products. We met with all the premier optics companies and a few of the top clothing companies. Our days were spent running from one meeting to another, while trying to look over any new stuff anytime we could. Of course, we always make time to check out cool stuff, too. Chris always likes to look at the longrange tactical bolt guns; I always check out the new pistols. Overall, it was another successful show!

Here are just a few of the best things I found this year:

Badlands: In addition to their awesome pack line, Badlands is introducing a camouflage clothing line that should prove as technical and innovative as their packs.

Christensen Arms: Using their carbon-barrel technology, they now make a lightweight AR-10, and have just started building titanium-framed 1911s with carbon grips.

HiViz: Multiple new sights for shotguns, pistols, and rifles were on display. The MiniComp is their smallest shotgun sight, while the Two In One is a magnetic sight that allows you to quickly and easily change your sight to the current conditions – just rotate it 180 degrees!

Kel-Tec: The KSG (Kel-Tec Shotgun) is an ultra-compact personal defense shotgun. With two 7-round magazines that feed into an 18.5” cylinder bore barrel, this high-capacity pump shotgun should prove perfect for home defense.

Ket-Tec’s KSG loads great firepower in a compact package.

Kestrel: The top-end Kestrel Pocket Weather Meter now has integrated ballistic software from Horus. With just a few button clicks, it will estimate holdover and windage adjustments based on your current location and the environmental factors.

Kimber: My Ultra Elite 1911 feels like an extension of my hand and the new Solo 9mm feels the same only in a smaller package. It combines the feel of a 1911 with the mechanics and style of the striker-fired pistols.

Kimber entered the small carry pistol market with the Solo 9mm.

The small size and 1911-style ergonomics should make this a very popular carry pistol.

Kowa: This Japanese manufacturer has floated under the radar for over 40 years. This year, they introduced a 500mm camera lens that uses a series of adapters to mount it to any major camera body, as well as their standard spotting scope eyepieces. A hunter can now carry just one optic to cover longrange photography and trophy judging!

The new Kowa 500mm lens can be used for photography…

…or as a spotting scope.

Leica: The riflescopes they introduced last year are now available with custom BDC turrets.

Nikon: The new EDG binocular has a traditional look and design, but the high focus ring, innovative method for keeping objective lens covers attached, and superb optics should light up the western hunting market!

Realtree: The launch of should give Realtree the edge in online hunting video content. They also are in the process of developing widgets and mobile apps aimed at the hunting community.

Sitka: As the first clothing company to combine technical features found in mountaineering clothing with quiet fabrics and camouflage, they improve upon their previous designs every year. This year they updated their Core layers and added a Merino wool line. The coolest new product is a Traverse Hoody Zip-T that can be worn as a base layer or second layer, depending on temperatures.

Sitka’s line now includes a Merino wool base layer.

Sitka’s new Traverse Hoody Zip-T.

Steiner: A new binocular line with retail pricing under $500 and a high-end tactical riflescope line should make Steiner even more competitive with American, European, and Asian optics companies.

Swarovski: The industry-icon EL binocular is now available in 10x50 and 12x50 configurations, combining the excellent image quality with the lightweight dual-hinge design.

Vortex: I have always said that if you are unwilling or unable to spend the money for the “Big 3” optics, check out Vortex. Each year they seem to close the performance gap a little bit while keeping prices very competitive. This year, they are introducing the Razor HD binoculars, Viper spotting scopes, and Viper HS riflescopes.

Zeiss: The introduction into the American market of the Dialyt 18-45x65 spotting scope should prove a great option for hunters wanting a lightweight spotting scope with a price point around $1200.

The Zeiss Dialyt 18-45x65 is small, lightweight, and should retail for about $1200.