Thursday, January 28, 2016

2016 SHOT Show Floor report, part 3 Wrap Up

This is my last installment for SHOT Show 2016. My apologies for the delay. The Show closed almost a week ago, but there was so much to see and tell you about that it has taken me five posts to report on it. Normally I'm lucky to get a post up once every week or two, and this is post number five in a little over ten days, so even if it doesn't seem like it, I've been busting my ... Ammo can. :-)

The last two days of SHOT Show were just as busy as the first two days, if not more so, because as the crowds thinned out, I was able to cover more territory. This last SHOT installment will cover mostly the clothing department.

Some of you may be already familiar with Girls With Guns clothing .  
If you are, you may want to look again. They have revamped their line - especially in the camo department.  I was pleased to see that they've come up with a Velcro adjustable waistband for their light weight and medium weight camo pants. This seems like a blessing for many women, but especially for those who are changing sizes frequently during their child-bearing years. Women don't stop wanting to be afield just because they happen to be carrying an extra passenger in front, or because they haven't lost all of the baby weight yet. The adjustable waist of these pants should allow those women much greater flexibility in their outdoor wear choices, without having to buy all new gear for their changing shape.

I was also impressed with GWG's addition of a series of hem snaps to this line of pants. This should allow some inseam adjustment without the actual hemming headaches of sewing around the cuff zipper. I would need to wear them to make sure that the extra fabric that is snapped up doesn't actually snag on my boots or such, and get in the way, but I'm happy that they at least considered we height-challenged women in their product development. This new line should be available come summer - in time for Fall Hunting Season. I might see if they'll let me try a pair, since I'm a novice hunter.

Also in the clothing department, I have to mention 5.11's addition of new "tactical yoga tights".
Personally, I think this is going to be a niche only item, but I may be surprised. There are many slender young women entering the shooting sports, and some shooting sports -like 3-Gun - are becoming much more athletic. The tights are designed with belt loops and reinforcement for both holster wear points and kneeling. They were designed with female shooters in mind, so there might be more demand than I think. The cranky old broad in me says "ummm, no" - I don't WANT that kind of attention drawn to my buttocks on the range (nobody wants to see that - trust me -plus there are no pockets), but  there had to be some sort of interest for 5.11 to take the chance. Having more options is never a bad thing. I'm sure the guys on the range will be watching this development closely. 

It occurs to me that this might be a good idea for a fundraiser - I "might" be persuaded to try a pair, IF y'all raised enough money for a children's medical charity. On second thought, y'all might prefer to pay me NOT to wear them - your choice LOL. Let me know what you decide :-)

A surprising and welcome NEW entry into the women' tactical wear department is the dependable uniform/occupational wear company, Dickies.
I am encouraged by the look and cut of the women's tactical and EMS pants. I'm also happy that they are offered in sizes up to 24W, as not all of us can carry off the yoga tights look. I'm hoping that since Dickies has been clothing hard-working women of many shapes and sizes for many years, that this line will meet the needs of the "rest of us", for range and field wear. There are some samples due in my mailbox soon, so I'll let you know in a full write-up later on. The line is available now, if you want to try them for yourself.

In the non-clothing department, I had the pleasant surprise at the Otis booth to discover that Otis has moved into hearing protection with a new product. They are called Flugz
I was very excited by these. (Yeah, excited by earplugs - I know my life is wild - try not to be jealous) But the thing is, these are not only moldable at home - they are RE-moldable. If for some reason you screw up the molding process, you are NOT out 20 bucks and have to go buy a new kit, as you are with other home molded ear plug kits. 

These are initially softened for molding by a few seconds in a cup of water in the microwave. After that, if you mess up (or even rip a hunk off), you just heat it up again, stick it back together, and start over. I think this is awesome, and the price is very affordable, at $24.99. They have a -21dB rating, and Otis is currently working on a design with even more protection. This is yet another reason for me to like Otis (Besides the fact that they sponsor Babes With Bullets!)

     Flugz - molded on left, unmolded as packaged on right.

Lastly, the women at Law Enforcement Targets
graciously provided me with a few sample paper targets, while we chatted about their steel dueling tree. They carry a wide variety of paper, cardboard and steel targets, not all of them specific to law enforcement. These are the folks who make the targets for A  Girl & A Gun Clubs nationwide, so you know they are a popular and solid choice. I'm excited to brighten up the range a little when the snow melts this weekend!

So folks, that's it for this year's SHOT. I'm hoping to get some follow up posts up over the next month or two, as some trial samples arrive. I've also got some new adventures lined up - like my first duck hunt, and the Babes With Bullets 3Gun Challenge coming in the next few months, so be sure to check back regularly. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Sig Adventure

Adventures in Sig Land - OR - Almost everything you wanted to know about the P320 in 40 minutes or less!

I'm kind of not kidding. This was the best product introduction I've ever had. It helps when you know both of the shooter/reps personally. My hostesses for this tour were Team Sig members Annette Evans and Jacqueline Janes, who also happen to be friends of mine. These gals are so excited about this gun, that they practically vibrate :-) Absorbing information from them was a bit like drinking from a firehose, and I finally had to resort to iPhone video just to keep up! (I'll include links to that at the end)

I reported to the Sig "Mothership" bright and early Wednesday morning of SHOT Week, where I found Annette and Jacqueline hobnobbing in their team jerseys, with men in suit jackets. I was actually kind of jealous :-D

These women are accomplished shooters. No, that's an understatement. They have a PASSION for shooting - and it showed in everything they spoke about with the P320. While they are excited about the gun, they are SERIOUS about guns.

For those who don't know, the P320 is Sig's first entry into the polymer striker fired pistol market. It debuted last year, and has been getting rave reviews. Yours truly, however, has not seen it yet. We started with the brand new P320 Target model version. This gun is the result of input from all of Sig's team shooters over the past year, based on their experiences with the full-size model. This fact in itself is exciting, as it shows how Sig is listening and responding their shooters. There is still some tweaking going on before final release this summer, but Annette and Jacqueline showed me the basics as they currently exist.

The first feature that is obviously new for the Target model is the 5-inch barrel and slide. (The regular full-size P320 is about a half inch shorter.) This lends a slightly longer sight radius and better accuracy. Adjustable sights have been added as well.
New trigger options are available, and the gals spent some time enlightening me about advantages and personal preferences for various trigger styles.

There is also a newly designed grip module, which has interchangeable panels. At first I didn't think this was a big deal - until they showed me the difference in grip textures that could be had simply by swapping out a panel. I am also assuming that this will soon mean different colors available with those different textures, as well. (I'm all about personalization, in case you haven't figured that out). I also believe that there is a grip module available which has a flared mag well already built in. The Target model still takes double stack 17rd magazines, but there will be available 21rd mags coming soon.

From the Target model display, we then moved over to the Carry model display, which is where the real meat of the deal was for me. If the AR-15 has been called "Barbie for Men" because there are so many accessories and parts and pieces that are interchangeable, then the Sig P320 is "Lego for Shooters".

What makes this pistol SO exciting, is how completely modular it is. The gals explained to me how interchangeable the parts are. The internal guts of the gun come out as a single module, which they called the Fire Control Unit. This is apparently the only part that has a serial number as a "gun". Literally everything else is interchangeable (and also shippable between friends or whatever), so you can swap out different slides and different grip modules to "Frankenstein" your gun however it suits you. 

This is possible because the slide rides on the Fire control Unit itself, not on the grip module, so size truly does not matter. Grip modules are sized by small, medium, and large, as a whole module, rather than just the backstrap. This allows a fit to the whole proportion of your hand, which you can't really get with just a backstrap switch. The grip modules are relatively inexpensive though (45 Bucks! She exclaims in the video), so you can own more than one to customize for different purposes.

As the gals explained, (and if I understood them correctly - because it seems unbelievable to me) the P320 design is so flexible that you could actually have the subcompact model as a carry gun, and the full-size version as your "match gun", but still only have "one" gun - because you could swap the Fire Control Unit out between different frame and slide combinations. OR, you could also have literally two guns, but use the carry version as a back-up at a match. Say for instance you had a catastrophic trigger failure in the middle of the best match of your life - you could just drop the whole FCU from your carry gun into your match gun, and Ta-Da, you're back in the game! I am VERY intrigued by the idea of having a match gun and carry gun be one in the same thing. Muscle memory anyone?

I've become a fan of single stack carry guns over the past few years, but this potential synergy between Match and Carry, may have me switching back to double stack. This seems game-changing to me. Annette and Jacqueline even gave me info on where to get colored basepads to fit the subcompact model! (I need another job to support this habit!)

This brief explanation really can't do the interview justice, so to round out the report, here are Annette and Jaci in their own words :-)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

2016 SHOT Show Floor Report, Part 2

I've finally had time to organize my thoughts and catch my breath to give you the next installment in my SHOT Show saga. A hot bubble bath last night to soak my tired legs certainly helped! This report will cover some of the non-firearm interesting finds I've run across on the Show floor this week.

I'll lead it off with storage boxes. If you are like me, you can never have  too many storage boxes. Doesn't matter if they are Rubbermaid or Sterlite, or whatever, but the gun corner always needs organization, and cardboard boxes usually aren't sturdy enough. (Honestly, even Rubbermaid boxes are sometimes not sturdy enough for my ammo stash). MTM Case-Gard has sturdy storage box solutions for lots of gun corner problems. .  They've got a wide variety of ammo cans, pistol cases, bullet boxes, etc  which are designed to be stackable. And if Black, OD Green or Flat Dark Earth aren't your style, they also have a Packed-N line, which is PURPLE. My own boring green ammo cans have been personalized with pink real tree duct tape, but this would save me some work and still keep the guys at a match from walking off with the wrong ammo can!  :-)

A venerable company which is often forgotten in the outdoor clothing market is LLBean.   http://www.llbean.comThey are changing that, with a new line that will be released later on toward summer. The prototypes on display are very encouraging. The plan is for a "family collection" of camo and blaze orange hunting wear - because the family that shoots and hunts together keeps the tradition alive for the next generation. The children's line, while not cheapy-cheap, will be priced to be affordable, and it will be durable enough to be passed down to the next brother or sister in line. As a mother and a budgeter, this is an idea I can get behind. 

I really loved the women's merino wool shooting sweater they showed me. The Loden green merino would be great for layering under jackets especially in damp conditions where the wool would retain its insulation despite being wet. Merino wool is the "natural" alternative to polyester fleece. It is actually more safe around a campfire, as it doesn't melt when hit by sparks. Wool was the "performance fabric" of my father and grandfather's generation, and it appears that everything old is new again. Hmmm, I wonder if Bean would let me have one to "product test" on my first duck hunt this spring? I guess it never hurts to ask. :-D

After LLBean, I stopped at The TUFF products booth. They are the company that makes the holster pouch (Actually called the Taclett Jr)  that I mentioned in a post a few months ago. Sadly, they are discontinuing the red and royal blue ripstop versions. But they may be putting those colors on clearance, so now's your chance. 

TUFF products has a few other interesting items. They have a 2 layer Velcro shooting belt that you can cut to length, unlike others where you have to order a specific size. This could be very handy for handing one down the line to a spouse or teenager. It comes in Blue, Red, and Black.

TUFF products also has a packable backpack, which folds up into its own zipper pocket. This would be just the thing to take on trips for when you have too much stuff to bring home (like from SHOT??? LOL)... or if you are taking a shore excursion hike while on a cruise, and don't want to pack an actual daypack for the hike?... or how about for an emergency "go bag"? The possibilities seem endless.

Later in the day, my friend and awesome Lady 3Gunner, Julie Waasted took the time to demonstrate for me the 3Gun case and bag by Explorer cases that she helped develop. If I understand this correctly, the hard 4-point lockable case (with wheels!) will get you through the airport, and then the compartmented, padded liner pulls out and becomes your soft range case. And it even has shoulder straps so you can wear it like a backpack! This sounds as if an incredible amount of planning and thought went into this product. I am very impressed.

Finally, (for this installment - there's more coming), I need to say how awesome the guys at the SUREFIRE booth are. I personally have three SUREFIRE lights - one for my range bag, one for my work tote, and one for my car. My range bag light was the one I jury-rigged a lanyard for when I went deer hunting at dusk -- you may have seen the photo I Facebooked. Just to give the booth guys a laugh, I showed them my redneck lanyard solution. Well, one guy felt sorry for me, and told me to wait a sec while he scrounged me up a genuine lanyard! Thank you sir - you have cemented my SUREFIRE loyalty for life! :-D

Stay tuned. The Storm out east has me extending my Vegas stay for 2 more days. So even though SHOT is officially over, I've still got lots more to tell you, and now I have the time to tell you about it! :-)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

2016 SHOT Show Floor Report, Part 1

It's been a very "Squirrel" kind of SHOT Show for me so far.
I do have some things on my schedule that I want to make it to, people I want to meet, items I want to check out, etc. But I have been very distractible up to this point.

I was on my way to a press announcement for Syren shotguns, and got sidetracked by camo. I was on my way to another meeting, and got sidetracked by wall-mounted shotgun locking mechanisms. I was eating lunch with a friend and got texted about another event I missed. I am very much the "squirrel" dog from the movie.  And NO, I'm not going to self-prescribe ADHD meds - the DEA would frown - LOL. My stimulant of choice is caffeine :-)

My concentration is not helped by the fact that my body has remained on Eastern Standard Time. I am falling asleep drooling over my keyboard at 9 pm here (midnight at home), and then my pineal gland says it's time to be up at 3AM Vegas time. So, typing/blogging in my jammies, in the middle of the night, while eating peanut butter crackers and drinking  lukewarm instant coffee made with water from the tap, has been my M.O. for the past three days. Who says being a doctor at SHOT Show isn't glamorous and party-filled? And I'm paying my OWN money to do this! :-D

So., bear with me through the typos and poor segues this week please. I'm not always firing on all cylinders as the saying goes.

My interesting tidbits so far from SHOT Days 1&2...

I completely LOVE the look of Syren Shotguns.
This is a separate division of Caesar Guerini, which was started about 3 years ago to build female-proportioned shotguns from the ground up. From listening to the press presentation, these are not just cut-down men's or youth stocks. They have been completely  re-proportioned, and re-balanced. Yes, the wood grain is gorgeous, and yes, there is beautiful engraving, but it sure seems like Syren built these for real women hunters and sport shooters. There is not just "one" model either - they have models for waterfowl, upland/field, and sport shooters and now have a trap-specific model as well. 

I did not have an opportunity to shoot one of these gorgeous guns, but the weight, balance, and mounting on the show floor was very pleasing. I am still very much on the shotgun "learning curve", but nothing about these guns made me struggle. That is a very good indication that I want one! :-) Who needs to save for a rainy day? Italian shotguns are going to be my new retirement investment!

While I was in a shotgun mood, I revisited Benelli    to handle the 28 ga ETHOS that I shot on Range Day, and also to handle the 828U that I drooled over last year. I admit that I'm still drooling. I love my 12 ga ETHOS, but the classic Over and Under is calling to me. It's just a new format/style that I haven't had any experience with yet. AND, it was an over and under 20 gauge that was the first (and last) gun I shot with my dad when I was twelve. I kind of want to readdress that experience.

While I was at Benelli, I realized that their Franchi brand has come out with a women's specific model, the Catalyst, which also mounted nicely for me.
I realize that I can't have one of everything, but it is great that manufacturers are starting to actually give us something to to have to make a decision about! Making choices between "slim" and "none" is no fun at all! LOL

I visited the Walther booth as well in my travels. I wanted to handle the PPS M2 again and talk to a rep.  The fellow assured me that they should be available immediately in 9mm, with .40 coming a bit later in the spring. I'm sure the price may be bumped due to demand temporarily, but MSRP is listed as $469.

One more new thing on the list for today that is NOT a firearm was... a crossbow!
You may remember that I was introduced to Ten Point crossbows at last year's SHOT Show, and subsequently purchased one this past August when my state made them legal for archery deer season. I bought a Ten Point Shadow Ultralight.

Well, now they've got something that I like even better. It seems even lighter and more well-balanced than my ultralight, if that is possible. It is Ten Point's first "reverse" design. (They released a reverse-draw design under the Horton name last year, and the rep tells me they fairly flew off the shelves.) This year's model is under the Ten Point brand, and is called the Carbon Nitro RDX. Not only is it a reverse design, it also boasts that it is the "first carbon reverse-draw crossbow on the market" The reverse design lends an amazing speed (up to 385 FPS), but also changes the balance for the better. I could comfortably hold this crossbow for several minutes one-handed. That honestly changes my whole outlook for off-hand shooting. This crossbow would have come in handy for me this past fall, when I was waiting ...and waiting ...and waiting for that buck to come out of the brush.

         Note, my one-handed grip

Okay,  that's it for this evening - my brain is fried - but stay tuned, because there is much more to come, including some great stuff about the Sig P320!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

SHOT Range Day 2016

Once again this year, my mind is boggled. I had to keep track of what I saw in the notes function of my phone. There was just too much to process to remember it all.

I may just post photos and comments and general impressions right now, because not everybody had press kits  ready today with all the info. I guess that's a "tomorrow at the booth" thing, once the Show opens for real.

One of the first places I stopped, was the Smith & Wesson tent. I got to shoot both the new ported Performance Center Shield 9mm, and the new SW22 Victory target pistol.
The ported Shield gave me good groups, quick target reacquisition, and was a very pleasant shooting gun. Whether that will be worth the inevitable Performance Center price mark-up over the standard Shield, will probably be a matter of personal choice. Personally, it didn't make me say "Wow, this is SO much better!" It was nice, but once I see the actual prices, I'll tell you "how" nice.

The SW22 Victory was slick. I'm not a rimfire gal (yet), so I can't speak with much experience, but it was smooth - very smooth. The rep assured me that it would eat "any" kind of .22lr, which is reassuring. The .22lr ammo market is finally starting to get back to some semblance of availability, but it is still a bit "take what you can find". So I'm happy to hear that this new addition to the line isn't finicky.

My personal disappointment for the day was the Ruger New American Pistol. Now remember that I'm no "expert" - I can only tell you what I liked and what I didn't - so if you are a Ruger fan, forgive me. My reaction was "Meh".  I thought the trigger was Spongy (and this from a gal who still uses factory Glock triggers). I thought the interchangeable backstraps were unimpressive. I have largish hands for a woman, and even with the small size backstrap, (which incidentally only comes with the 9mm - the .45 comes with a Med and Large only), I had a hard time depressing the magazine release. I could touch it, but not press it. When I asked the rep to show me how one swaps out the backstrap, it required a tool to change it out. The pistol shot ok, but it seems to me that other companies have done the 9mm polymer pistol in better ways. Maybe it just didn't fit me, and maybe if you are a guy with big paws, you'll like it better than I did.

For you 1911 fans, I got to shoot all three of Springfield Armory's tweaks to the Range Officer 9mm this year. One has a rail for a mounted light, one is a slightly more compact version, and one is a lovely stainless steel. They all were great shooters. I personally like the look of the stainless. At present there are still too many levers and switches on a 1911 for me, (heresy, I know) but I'd be sorely tempted by that stainless.

Colt also has some 1911's out this year for competition. I was chatting with Team Colt's Maggie Reese, who was attempting to counter my reservations about the aforementioned levers and buttons by tempting me with the trigger. "But they have a REAL trigger" she teased. And she was right - very sweet shooting pistols.

To break up the pistol fest, I wandered over to Benelli and took a crack at some clays with their ETHOS 28 gauge. You all know I love my ETHOS 12 ga, so I'm already a fan, but this gun is just cute, and light, and sweet, and if it had cheeks, I would pinch them. I guess this means I need to expand my hunting horizons so I have an excuse to buy one. 

I also popped in on Rebecca King at Devil Dog Arms, who let me shoot the Girls Guide to Guns AR-15. Very nice!

Right next door, was a new entrant in the compact pistol world, Honor Defense.
Honor Defense has come up with a subcompact 9mm carry pistol, which has several unique features, the most interesting of which to me, is that the inner bits ( do you like my classy non-gunsmith terminology?) all come out upon disassembly as a single modular "chassis". The pistol has an ambi mag release and slide catch, 7+1 and 8+1 magazines, and two different sized backstraps. There is also an option for an offset type FIST frame for close-quarters. This subcompact has been designed and tweaked with the input of several military, LE, and instructor types - including Julianna Crowder, founder of A Girl & A Gun. I think Honor Defense is going to be a gun to watch. I'm expecting great things from them.

I had been hoping to shoot the Sig P320 as well, but I'll blame ignorance for my loss in that department. Even though this is my third SHOT Show, I somehow didn't know that Sig has their own range and their own event at a completely different location. I went where the Media Bus took me. (Facepalm) But Team Sig's Annette Evans  and Jaci Janes have agreed to meet me at the booth to show me the ropes, even if I can't actually shoot the gun.

My Big Pleasant Surprise for the day was the Walther PPS M2 subcompact 9mm. I know who Walther is, but I've never shot any of their guns before. I liked this little gun so much, that I went back 3 times to check it out and shoot it again. It fit my hand, the recoil was manageable, and it was accurate. I haven't seen the MSRP yet, but I'd consider this one over a Shield if the price was right.           


Finally, I was fortunate to have met up with an interesting seat mate on the press bus, by the name of Tom Gaylord. Tom is the "Godfather of Airguns", so when we arrived at the range, he graciously introduced me to the fellows he knew at the Crosman booth. I wanted to see the new Crosman Pioneer "Airbow", and I admit I was impressed.

This is  essentially an air rifle that throws an arrow instead of a pellet. And it does this quite decisively and accurately, too.  The weight - or lack of it - was what I found most impressive though. I'm guessing here, but it seemed to be half the weight or less of my compound crossbow. That's a huge difference when you're schleping it around the woods. According to marketing manager Chip Hunnicutt, they are still working with the various states to see what hunting season this would fit into, but I sure hope they find the niche for it in my state!

If you'd like a more technical write-up, I'll refer you to Tom's page, as he knows much more about the air game than I.

I just know that the Airbow was incredibly lightweight, and ridiculously accurate.

That's it for Range Day, but there is a lot more for SHOT 2016 to come!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

SHOT Packing and Prep

I need to whine for a minute - HATE packing for SHOT Show. 

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE going to SHOT, and I feel privileged to be permitted to attend. So many of my shooting friends know so much more than I do, and have been shooting for so much longer - yet because I write down my ramblings, I get to go, and they don't. So, I understand that it's special -- it's just a giant pain to pack for. Being female doesn't help. Because people expect you to "try" when you're female. Guys can do the standard khakis and company logo polo and be good almost anywhere. Gals not so much.

I have this terrible push-pull over looking decent vs being comfortable walking and carrying a bag full of stuff for literally miles a day. And there are some women's meet n greet events in the evenings that I feel obliged to be a little dressy for. So there is packing tension between looking like a girl - and all the associated "stuff" that entails- and the looming overweight baggage fees.

                              Can't forget my tactical earrings :-)

I admit that I do  like to be the "pop of color" in the sea of tactical black and khaki though. (The guys who shoot with me already know this) SHOT Show is a veritable tidal wave of tactical black, khaki, OD green, flat dark earth and camo. So at least you can find me in the crowd. And let's not even get into the sea of tactical beards. Hey, I may be menopausal, but I'm not bleaching my mustache yet - LOL. So I will be the one in pink/purple/red/yellow who is clean-faced. Just in case you see a crowd shot on the news or something :-)

I did get my haircut, and I did recolor, and I'm getting a mani/pedi before I go, so it's not like I didn't put "any" effort into this. But sheesh, it's not like I'm an Outdoor Channel host or something. I'm a lowly blogger who hides behind a pen name and a computer screen. So I'm going comfy.

Just so you know ahead of time, some things that I already have listed that I want to check out are:

Benelli 828U
Sig P320
Ruger American pistol
S&W ported version of the Shield
Crosman Airbow
Syren Shotguns
Honor Defense
Offhand Gear

Suggestions for other items you want to hear about are very welcome in the comments :-)

Stay tuned - I'll try to get 2 or 3 blog posts up through the week, and a few Facebook comments thrown in for good measure. As an added bonus, I've been invited to pen some pieces for A Girl & A Gun Club as well   so keep an eye out. I hope to have some cool info and new products to share with you.