SHOT Show Sneak Peek – Media Day at the Range

Authors Current Events Paul Helinski

Every year, the day before SHOT Show, several industry manufacturers gather at a remote range near the show to demonstrate some of the new stuff they have coming out that year. It gives you a chance to go shoot the guns that everyone else will only be able to handle at the show, and just about everyone in the firearms media makes it a point to be at “media day” before SHOT. Here are some of the highlights I found today at the range.

Springfield Armory “Range Officer”

Competing with a 1911 style pistol can be a very expensive and very confusing exploration in frustration. In IDPA, USPSA and NRA competition, the range of options you can build or perfect on your 1911 are almost endless. Many options that are considered religious to some are merely preference to another. And a professional like Springfield Armory’s Rob Leatham will tell you that spending money on ammo and time on practice will get you much further in competition than any one or even several 1911 modifications or improvements.

I spoke to Rob today at SHOT Show range day where I was able to check out the new for 2011 “Range Officer.” The premise of the gun is brilliant. It is called lowest common denominator. Springfield asked the simple question. What is the minimum platform you would want in a competition gun with all the other bells and whistles? This was their answer:

  1. A Match Barrel. – You might think that this means that the inside of the barrel is different from a regular 1911 barrel, but that isn’t the case. A match barrel is about fitting. Tighter tolerances that you wouldn’t want in a defense gun are desirable in a match gun, and a match barrel is made to fit the gun perfectly.
  2. A tight and clean frame to slide fit. This is also about fitting, and again, you wouldn’t want this in a pistol used mainly for personal defense. A tighter pistol is more accurate, but also more likely to be effected by dirt and other contaminants that a carried gun can pick up.
  3. High quality adjustable sights. – The is the way you can outwardly tell a competition or target gun from a gun created for carry. Adjustable sights are large and sharp, and can snag on clothing when drawn. But for any competition gun being able to adjust point of impact is crucial, and the fineness required can’t be done with a standard drifted dovetail.

“The problem with buying an out of the box competition gun,” explained Rob, “is that what I may like in my gun is not what you may like in your gun. For example, you can go out and pay hundreds extra for a gun with advanced checkering on it, then discover that you like skateboard tape better. You may like one mag-well better than another, one trigger better than another, but if you already bought a gun with upgrades in all the standard categories, you may end up throwing out parts. The Range Officer is made on the same line as our TRP(tm) and Trophy Match pistols, but it is made without all the extra specialty parts. It delivers the basics of a gun that you will expect to perform over tens of thousands of rounds in year. Then you can pick and choose what additions you make, as you feel you can judge your need for them and ability to afford them.“

A manufacturer who designs a product for an educated consumer I feel is a cut above the rest. Springfield Armory has done that with the Range Officer, and I think it is going to do very well as a product for them.

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Springfield Armory XDm 3.8 Compact

This is kind of a non-story for those of us who are fans of the XD and XDm lines of pistols from Springfield Armory. Last year when the first 3.8 came out in the XDm line with a full size grip, it looked a little bottom heavy (though it felt great to shoot regardless). Everyone agreed that it would be followed by a shorter grip, true compact model as soon as the frame could be worked out at the XD factory in Croatia for import to the US. Well, we were right, and at media day today we got the first look and first shots on the gun. It is a great little gun, slightly larger than the XD subcompact which is a 3”, but with that same small yet comfortable grip, in a 13+1 capacity. It also takes the extended mag that the subcompact does, that gives a full three finger grip that resembles the first version of the 3.8.

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Savage 11/111 Lightweight Hunter

Less is more when you are traipsing through the back country all day. This rifle is possibly the most newsworthy product in a hunting rifle this year. It is going to be the gun everyone wants. Weighing in at 5.5 lbs in a short action and 6 lbs. In the long action, Savage has brought a new rifle into the market that has all the trimmings of a custom, hand made lightened rifle in a production gun at $875 MSRP.

In this case, pictures aren’t worth a thousand words, but after a long day at the range in the desert I don’t have the energy to expound about this gun like I should. Hopefully we’ll get Savage in for a GATV segment this week to talk about how they pulled off this truly elegant rifle. Check out the circular fluted bolt. They did that to take weight out, and figured out that the circular flutes were smoother, so they just went ahead and made it like that without even realizing that it also looked really cool too. There are slots in the frame to drop weight, the barrel and stock are thinned down, basically every part of the gun was altered to achieve the weight goals. Yet in the .308 we tested, the recoil was balanced and manageable. Great gun!

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Got My Hands on a Ruger LC9

Press releases and marketing slogans don’t sell guns. Well, maybe for a couple weeks they do, but they don’t sell a lot of guns. Great guns sell a lot of guns, and Ruger is going to sell a lot of LC9s. By the time I made it back over to the Ruger booth after jumping them so Shooting USA could spend some time with them, the ammo was pretty much gone for the day. I was able to put one mag through the LC9, so I wouldn’t call this a comprehensive review, but WOW. They had targets out at about 15 yards, and I put my one mag into a 2” hole off hand after spending the previous six hours walking in the desert. With Hornady Critical Defense combat loads there is very little felt recoil and even more surprising, muzzle flip. The ergonomics of the gun are SUPERB. The engineers at Ruger I’m sure have another winner on their hands.

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KRISS Importing New Sphinx Pistols and Defiance Suppressors

You probably know the KRISS line of sub-machineguns and semi auto carbines that have been in the US market for several years now. We shot some video with these brilliantly engineered guns today and hope to get it out later in the week. You would think that the KRISS gun would be the story, but this year that appears to not be the case.

KRISS has added two new lines to it’s family this year. The first is the Sphinx line of pistols. These guns even smell Swiss! I don’t want to confuse you with technical terms, but they feel… perfect. No word on the price yet, but don’t expect them to be inexpensive. They are sharp, clean, accurate, flawless in function and form, come with a tritium fiber front sight and tritium rear, and the options on them seem to be endless. In march the first batch should be in the country and they will be this black double/single with a drop safety. De-cocker models, double action only, single action and alloy models should soon follow, and there should also be an all steel competition gun in single action coming soon as well. I think that if there were a new James Bond style character coming, these would likely be his gun of choice.

Add to that the second new product at the KRISS booth this year, a new design in supressor under the name Defiance. My understanding is that they will be made US due to import restrictions, but the design is all Swiss. I don’t know a ton about suppressors, but these appear to have two novel characteristics. The first is that there is a twist ring on the gun side of the can. When you twist the ring, it will hold the slide from coming back, making the gun almost completely soundless upon firing, with no slide noise as the gun re-chambers. You do of course have to rack the next round manually, but the idea is that you won’t generally have a use for that second round. The other feature I found somewhat confusing because there was no time to sit down to understand it. Apparently you can “zero” the suppressor to your sights with an internal adjustment. Hopefully we’ll have more to come on this. Interesting and very cool!

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Chiappa Rhino 3” and Kodiak 45-70 Lever Gun

I finally got a chance to shoot the Rhino today and I have to admit that I blown away by the lack of felt recoil with full snot 158 grain .357 mag loads in that gun. You have to shoot the guns to believe it. They are aluminum frame, lightweight, flat on the sides of the cylinder for concealed carry, sport 6, not five rounds in even the snubby, and do in fact recoil straight back into your hand as advertised, making the entire experience of shooting even a 3” snubby not unpleasant in an aluminum revolver. The 3” is now in the US and for sale and comes with its own custom paddle holster.

New this year from Chiappa is a lever gun in .45-70 with a brushed stainless finish called the Kodiak. I didn’t get to shoot it today, but if it is anything like the other guns from this fine Italian company, I am sure it will work good and shoot good. I hope to have more on this gun soon.

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Colt is Back!

After many years of letting the Colt brand slip noticeably out of the consumer eye, the company appears to be back on track to re-claim it’s place in lexicon of leaders in American firearms. From traditional to tactical Colt has a strong new push into 2011.

The most exciting product I found at our sneak peek media day today was the new .308 AR platform that Colt is releasing in 4 different finishes. You don’t get a lot of time to shoot any one thing at media day, but we did get to shoot the woodland camo model you see here. Ars don’t have a lot of elegant finer points to talk about, but the Colt reps did explain that this gun is convertible to .556 as well. How you do that with a .308 mag well I don’t know, but we hope to get more information this week on them at their booth.

In the 1991 world of Colt this is of course the 100th anniversary of the model 1911 (which wasn’t really made in 1911 but that is a side story). This year at least some of the production Colts are going to carry a special role engraving of the 100th anniversary logo, which should make them extremely collectible in coming years. We got to try a couple new models from Colt. They have some new double action only 1911 framed guns coming, as well as some New Agents with Crimson Trace grips with a Colt logo on them.

For those of us true blue Colt fans out there, the revolver market is back on Colt’s radar with the re-release of the New Frontier, and I actually got to shoot it. The example at the range had adjustable sights and shot exactly to point of aim at 50 yards. They loaded cowboy action style (only five rounds with an empty chamber) at the range today because the New Frontier has a pin hammer, not a transfer bar, and I clinked steel on all five rounds.

And last but by all means not least, the Colt Sporter AR-15 is coming back this year. I hope to get some info at the booth this week as they didn’t even bring one to range day, but this is a favorite that a lot of us missed, and it is good to see Colt putting the consumer market back in their priority list.

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Barrett 50 Cal Suppressor?

No, I’m not kidding. Barrett has come up with a new muzzle break and noise suppressing system for the rifle we all know as the M107A1 that is currently in service with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Utilizing a new aluminum upper, some titanium internals and a completely different bolt carrier, Barrett has created a long range weapon for our American troops that significantly reduces the “Hey I’m over here” effect of firing the .50 caliber round. Muzzle flash, the giant fireball, and noise reduction are significantly reduced, allowing the war fighter to take sniper postions in locations never before thought possible. Upgrade kits for existing consumer grade .50 cal Barretts out there are under contemplation from what I have been heard, but nothing is on the market yet. This new Barrett will retail for about $12,000

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Beretta Xcel Competition Shotgun

Built on the Xplor platform introduced last year, the Xcel is the newest offering the Beretta line of competition shotguns. It has a traditional vent rib and is available with and without the patented Beretta Kick-Off(tm) recoil system.

There are a lot of surprises in the Xcel for those of us who would think it is simply a repackaged Xplor with a vent rib. In researching the need for a new auto-shotgun Beretta discovered that the Xplor was too light, so inside they took some of the aluminum and polymer components and replaced them with steel. They also added a weight system at the end of the screw cap, and completed the shotgun with a completely new piece of shotgun competition technology. There is a computer in the stock! Every round you shoot with the Xcel is counted by the gun, and you can’t reset it. Turn the gun upside down and you will see an LCD display with buttons, and this display will tell you a variety of factors about your shots. If the batteries run out, the Xcel keeps counting. When you put the new batteries in it will tell you what you shot when the batteries were dead. This is nifty new shotgun that we will hopefully pick up more information and better pictures for this week.

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  • Anatoly January 20, 2011, 6:57 am

    Thanks for the information. It’s interesting.

  • Alex Doster January 20, 2011, 5:41 am

    Good stuff from the ShotShow, but who’s writing what pieces? You have such a great lineup of writers. Give them credit.
    Also, a very small thing: It’s “muzzle brake,” guys, not “muzzle break.” Always has been.
    Thanks for the first of several reports. AD

    • Halberstram January 24, 2011, 5:41 pm

      It looks like they are all written by Paul Helinski, the GA site administrator. Keep up the good work, Paul!

      • Administrator January 24, 2011, 5:53 pm

        Yes, these were. Thanks. -ph

  • Ken in Washington January 19, 2011, 2:39 pm

    Thanks for the info, looking forward to a review of the Chiappa Kodiak.

  • ROBERT COLEMAN January 19, 2011, 3:04 am

    THE OLE COLT 1911 45 MILITARY is like a Ford. They don’t work at their best until they loose a few parts and rattle a bit. I can still affectionately remember my USMC issue 45. Loose, sloppy, but deadly reliable.

    GOA. Keep those great articles coming!

  • Gene Hines January 18, 2011, 11:42 pm

    Being an ex-infantryman/small arms repair , the springfield 1911 is beautiful in itt’s simplicity and ease of maintenance . as is the Colt . Colt , however has priced itself out . I discovered that the more rattle and sloppier the pistol sounded when you shake it the better . I would recommend either for whoever wants knock down power with ease of disassembly and reassembly. Another .45 worth a look , is the Ruger .

  • ken January 18, 2011, 9:43 pm

    very good article,how about one on 325 wsm? I have two,a savage s/s and a winchester,thanx ken

  • richsplace January 18, 2011, 9:13 pm

    Admin comment: It is impossible to write a true review when you only shot five rounds rushed with five people behind you waiting to shoot.
    My comment: I think it IS possible to write a TRUE review, limited though it may be.

    Admin comment: If it doesn’t excite you, maybe there is something else that will!
    My comment: You are absolutely right dude, on many levels. Although I found the article informative.

    Admin comment: To a gun nerd this is exciting stuff.
    My comment: And thanks for calling me names. Your career could be limited by tactics like that.

    My final comment: Grow up a little, son. This world needs all the maturity it can get for those who handle firearms in any capacity.

    • Administrator January 19, 2011, 2:37 am

      There are different kinds of maturity Rich. Maybe if you could capture a little of the wonder of a child you might not think that when someone calls themselves a gun nerd they are calling you one. Those of us at the heart of the firearms industry aren’t here because of a career decision. We live and breath guns and 2nd Amendment freedom.

  • Charles Coker January 18, 2011, 8:33 pm

    The Chiappa 357 is certainly interesting, talk about a low bore height
    Between that and the grip / overall ergo design it should definitely not have as much muzzle flip

    certainly one of the most interesting things and perhaps one of the few truly innovative things to come out in quite sometime.

    Will definitely get by to check one out

    I would like to get one to test and my review will be honest, direct and no BS

    Tactical Gun

  • MIKE January 18, 2011, 8:07 pm


  • Stones January 18, 2011, 7:05 pm

    As I understand it, SHOT show is for dealer’s/industry related people (this includes gun store owner’s, etc.). So unless you’re in the industry, you won’t get in unless you know someone and can get passes.

    Trust me, I’d be there in a heartbeat if it was open to public. We can dream and thank GA and others for their reviews.

  • CommonSense January 18, 2011, 6:57 pm

    While reviews are appreciated, real reviews also point out flaws. When there’s lines like “Less is more when you are traipsing through the back country all day. This rifle is possibly the most newsworthy product in a hunting rifle this year. It is going to be the gun everyone wants.”…that just smacks of official marketing copy given to you by the marketing department of the manufacturer.

    This really reads more like “They gave me a free one, so it’s amazing!”…not objective reviews, sorry.

    • Administrator January 18, 2011, 8:20 pm

      It is impossible to write a true review when you only shot five rounds rushed with five people behind you waiting to shoot. This is news, not reviews, and I wrote it, not a marketing person. If it doesn’t excite you, maybe there is something else that will! To a gun nerd this is exciting stuff.

  • kent bogard January 18, 2011, 6:33 pm

    Hey how bout the shot show location. Went to the one in Atlanta and we are always looking for new items.I believe it is invitational only but can you confirm? Thanks Kent

  • Law Behind The Law January 18, 2011, 6:24 pm

    It is most helpful to read your opinions on weapons, before I go drool over them.
    Although my business in now photography (since leaving law enforcement many years ago) I am possessed by the “gun demon” within and still enjoy killing targets every chance I get (targets don’t bleed).
    Your thoughts on these new weapons tickled my curiosity so I know what to look at when the urge hits me to go to the range or the next gun show.
    Thanks for your down to earth and faithful reporting!

  • Albert January 18, 2011, 5:00 pm

    This is my first time on this site I am looking form somr info on a few old guns that I have

  • Albert January 18, 2011, 4:57 pm

    I picked up a lot of information

  • robbie January 18, 2011, 4:32 pm

    Thanks for the sneak peek. I’ll take one, maybe two of each one I see. Keep’em coming, so we can keep on hunting .
    when and where is the show?

  • bill January 18, 2011, 3:42 pm

    more than ever are right to own firearms is coming under attack we as a nation better give voice to are rights as american’s

  • Craig Pfleger January 18, 2011, 1:30 pm

    Would have loved to showen up! How do we find out about these events? I get NRA mag & alerts, belong to GOA, USCCA, never read a thing about it… where was it Las Vegas? I live in Southern, AZ.
    CRaig Pfleger 520-609-3032

    • Ron Hollow January 21, 2011, 5:15 pm

      Craig, what have you got going there in Oracle? I too would like to know where this shot event is, and the dates it will be running. I live in Tucson, and am in the planning stage of building an indoor shooting range and gun store in central Tucson, near Broadway and Campbell. Curious what your plans are for the location you are building.

  • Douglas McNeely January 18, 2011, 1:12 pm

    Keep up the GREAT WORK !

  • chris keyes January 18, 2011, 12:13 pm

    Can’t for Ruger”s little 9mm. Never like my Kel-tec and love my 3 J frames but feel under gunned.

  • DAN J HULL January 18, 2011, 11:49 am

    Just a average guy, they call us hillbillies, because i live in the center part of the ozarks. I don’t like this stuff i hear about all the bickering back and forth, because, some idiot, retard, shot that nice lady, for what?? I love GunsAmerica, and what it stands for, I have lived , useing guns, from a very young age, and i will not change, untill i draw my last breath. I live, by the law, and i will defend, our Rights, and, our Freedom. I will defend the constitution, bill of rights, the flag, and all we stand for, in the most, savage way, a human has ever known, the gun is a part of my body, just as, my arm, or leg, a tool we cannot, live without.

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