SHOT Show Industry Day: Lots of Gun Smoke in Vegas
The smell of gunpowder was constantly on the air. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
By: Lynn Burkhead, OutdoorChannel.com
BOULDER CITY, Nev. – On the eve of the 2015 SHOT Show, sunny skies, mild temperatures and a little bit of desert breeze could not obscure one of the outdoor sports’ most delicious aromas – the smell of gun smoke on a Vegas wind.
At the show’s annual Industry Day (previously known as Media Day), the smell of burnt gunpowder was heavy on the breeze, thanks to bazillions of rounds fired by media types – including yours truly – along with buyers, reps, and industry figures.
While Industry Day represents only a small slice of the 1,500 plus vendors that fill the show floors of the Sands Expo and Convention Center this week, there was still far too much to see, do and experience on Monday.
But the OutdoorChannel.com editorial crew tried to visit as many of the shooting bays and vendor booths at the Boulder Pistol and Rifle Range in Boulder City, Nevada (home of Hoover Dam) as we possibly could.
Unlike the actual SHOT Show trade show floor near the famed Las Vegas Strip, Monday’s Industry Day offered the chance to actually use the products being unveiled this year and to put them through their paces.
Meaning that from start to finish, our crew shot. And shot. And shot some more.
Click image to see photos of "A Day at the Gun Range"
Personally, I sampled everything from shooting clay targets with a .410 shotgun at 20-yards to cranking out howitzers at steel targets with a .338 Lapua Magnum just under 1,000-yards downrange. By day’s end, my ears were ringing a bit (even with hearing protection) and my shoulder was battered and bruised from shooting dozens upon dozens of rounds.
But I wasn’t alone. The countless spent brass cases and empty shotgun shell hulls that littered the shooting range grounds by the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of rounds, all told the story that this year’s Industry Day was another big success.
While taking photos, gathering material and visiting with industry reps and old friends, here’s what caught my eyes and ears at Industry Day 2015:
- Oakley’s Tombstone Shooting Eyewear – Long familiar with the superior eyewear crafted by Oakley (Major League Fishing champion and Bassmaster Elite Series star Kevin VanDam swears by his Oakley sunglasses), I was intrigued by the company’s new Tombstone shooting eyewear. After getting to see and sample the line up close-and-personal, I came away highly impressed with the ability of the Oakley Prizm lens tint technology that helped me acquire the target more quickly (thanks to better contrast). The difference between the Tombstone line-up of eyewear and a pair of regular old safety shooting glasses was amazing. Add in the wide field-of-view that the eye-shield line offers and there’s plenty of reason to believe this product will be a big seller for gun enthusiasts ranging from 3-gun shooters to sporting clays enthusiasts. I’d even bet that the Tombstone eyewear from Oakley will help waterfowl hunters do a better job out in the field.
- .338 Lapua Magnum Combo – From the Savage Arms rifle chambered in the rocket-ship of a bullet caliber to the actual bullet itself, a Federal Premium Ammunition load, to the new Bushnell rangefinder aimed at helping long-distance shooters achieve greater accuracy with just a couple of simple procedures, there was much to like when I stopped by to visit old friend John Vaca on the range. While Vaca assured me that even I could make a shot at 950 yards, I had my doubts. Two rounds later though – after waxing the steel target downrange both times according to Vaca – I was a believer. Now I’m a new long range shooting enthusiast, as long as I’ve got the new Bushnell rangefinder in my hands.
- Winchester’s Longbeard XR Turkey Load – Before I go any further, let me say that I wouldn’t personally take the first shot at a wild turkey strutting at 50 or 60-yards. But if I ever had to do so for any reason – say a necessary second shot – I can assure you that I would be letting that shot go with some newfound confidence after test-firing this new Winchester load. Using Shot-Lok technology to fill the space between pellets, the shot string is protected during its flight down the barrel. Once out of the gun, it produces unreal power on the business end of a gobbler-hunter encounter, delivering tremendous penetration and superior patterns downrange. After seeing first-hand what the load can do at 50 and 60-yards, consider me a believer in this spring turkey load.
- Winchester’s Deer Season XP – With a huge diameter polymer tip at the end of this new whitetail bullet, the idea is to achieve immediate expansion upon impact and the ability to put a deer down for the count almost immediately. With better accuracy included in the package, this new Winchester bullet is a great answer for hunters in the field hoping for high-end performance at a middle-of-the-road price. After firing a couple of dozen rounds on the range and looking at the ballistics – including the results seen in ballistic gel blocks – I’d predict that this will become a best seller for the 149-year old ammo maker.
- Winchester’s XPR Rifle – When you’re sampling a new reasonably priced ballistic tip bullet from Winchester Ammunition, what do you run it through? The new Winchester XPR rifle featuring a chromoly steel barrel with a recessed crown, the XPR one-piece bolt, an INFLEX recoil pad and an advanced polymer stock in matte finish. With a healthy supply of bowling pins hanging downrange, I sampled this rifle in the .270 and 30.06 chamberings. After punching a dozen or so rounds downrange, I moved over and knocked around a few more bowling pins with the .243 round in Winchester’s old stand-by Model 70 rifle.
- Beretta Shotgun – I’m a huge fan of Beretta shotguns, especially the grand old gun maker’s semi-autos and over/unders. But on Monday, it was the 20-gauge Beretta side-by-side in the 486 Parrallelo model that kept me shooting at clay targets. If I can knock a few clays down with a gun on the range, then I can assure you that anyone else out there will knock down plenty of pheasants, dove and quail when hunting.
- Benelli 828U Over/Under – Longtime semi-auto and pump gun manufacturer Benelli is making waves at this year’s SHOT Show thanks to its introduction of the new 828U over/under. With a removable trigger assembly, a gel-comb cheek pad, a carbon fiber rib, pulse ejectors and an auto safety, this scattergun will be more than home for shooters on the sporting clays range or out in a pheasant field.
- Browning Citori 725 .410 Over/Under – With most hunting seasons over in my home state of Texas until next fall, I’m already marking the calendar down until the Sept. 1 dove season opener. When I do go afield to chase mourning doves and white-wings in my home state, I’d like to be carrying a Browning Citori 725 over/under chambered in .410. With a trim and easy to maneuver design, little recoil and enough firepower to knock down a limit of birds, this supposed “kid’s caliber” shotgun was a big surprise to me on the clay range.
- Mule Deer Foundation’s Chili, Summer Sausage and Jerky – While there were plenty of good food truck vittles available at Industry Day, I think the fine folks at the Mule Deer Foundation booth – where a 206 0/8 inch mule deer full body mount stood guard – eventually had to chase me off. I enjoyed snacking on MDF’s superb mulie grub consisting of chili, summer sausage and venison jerky. In my humble opinion, it’s worth joining the organization, even if it’s just to get the recipes to prepare all of that wild grub.
- Hi Mountain Seasonings’ Jalapeno Salami Kit – Not to be outdone in the food department (SHOT Show officials scrubbed the food category on the show floor this year, a big mistake in my cookbook), Brian Tucker allowed me to sample some of the jalapeno salami he had made recently. The company’s easy-to-use kit contained everything a would-be wild game chef needs. It was some of the best salami I’ve ever tasted. How good was this wild cuisine? I had to be chased off from the booth, yet again.
- Glock 40 Gen 4 – Set up in the new Glock MOS (Modular Optic System) configuration, this long slide 10 mm pistol was a beast on the range and the last one I shot that day. After getting a chance to run a few rounds through the weapon and sample the company’s convenient method to mount reflex sights, I understood why the lines had been so lengthy at the Glock booth all afternoon long. If you like whacking steel or hunting with a handgun, this hard-hitting Glock unit might be for you.
- Springfield Armory’s XD MOD 2 Subcompact – Following on the heels of the 2014 release of the .40 caliber and 9 mm versions of this sub-compact double-stack semi-auto, Springfield Armory’s new.45 ACP version hit a home-run in my book. It was fun to shoot, offered plenty of stopping power and didn’t chew up my hand. Offering a user-friendly grip and a conceal-friendly size, this gun was a great performer on Industry Day.
- Browning 1911 .380 ACP – While the .380 ACP round gets cussed and discussed by many, I enjoy shooting it, especially on the range. Working some of Winchester’s unique Train-and-Defend practice rounds (that hit the same spot as the pricier JHP rounds do), I found perhaps my favorite handgun of the day, the slightly reduced size Browning 1911 frame chambered in .380 ACP. While I love shooting steel, punching paper with this firearm might have been the most fun I had all day.
- Cabela’s Euro HD 15x56 Binoculars – The premise is simple: build a European quality pair of optics at a “don’t break the bank” kind of price. Cabela’s has answered that challenge for years with its Instinct Euro HD line-up of binoculars and scopes. With the nearby Mud Mountains – and the hope of a big mule deer or two lurking on the range’s sun-bathed slopes – I was able to spend some time putting the big 15X56 set of optics through the paces. While a tripod would have made the glassing experience even better, even hand-held, I could tell this is a powerhouse set of optics at a price that even I can afford.
Okay, there you have it. A few sights, sounds and observations gleaned from the 2015 version of Industry Day at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
While the actual “hands-on” experience and the smell of gun smoke on a Las Vegas Valley wind may have ended at the conclusion of Monday’s Industry Day event, there was enough reason to believe that this week’s SHOT Show will make some big promises.
Promises that will bring out plenty of new products, some amazing technology and a plethora of new innovations that cause more than a few of us to have some “why didn’t I think of that” moments.
Fortunately for you the reader, what happens here in Vegas at the 2015 SHOT Show will not stay secret here in Vegas. Because we here at OutdoorChannel.com plan to bring you all of the latest in SHOT Show news, on-the-floor stories, wealth of new products and thoughts and advice straight from the mouths of Outdoor Channel television hosts and celebrities that are here in droves.
It’s time for the SHOT Show 2015 to begin. Come along with us for what promises to be a grand ride.
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