I departed Austin, Texas on Sunday the 21st in a Xanax-fueled daze. After my first pill kicked in I forgot I’d already taken it. So I took a second one, reserved for the return flight. I haven’t taken this sort of stuff in years so my tolerance is apparently very low. Needless to say . . .
I had a stress-free flight. With Van Morrison in my headphones and Iceberg Slim’s Pimp in my hands I was in Sin City before I knew it. Literally.
I met Robert and Jeremy at Airport Van Rental, a dingy off-site operation as far removed from a hi-tech Avis counter as, say, a soccer mom minivan is from an MRAP. As head of logistics, Jeremy had reserved us a Dodge Caravan (not exactly the “badass TTAG tactical vehicle” as described in his e-mail). From the look of the lot they weren’t in high demand.
Jeremy immediately drove us to a sketchy looking neighborhood close to the airport. Although they swear they did, Jeremy and Robert refused to tell me what we were doing parked in front of a suburban crack house.
The house was stocked with beer, food, a bunch of guys who looked like they’d enjoyed both, a lot, and more than a few ZERODelta Genesis Z9 pistols. My SHOT Show had started without me even knowing it.
After snapping a few pictures of Robert filming Jeremy making love to a table while filming the ZRODelta guys demonstrating the features of the Genesis Z9, we headed to the Venetian. The TTAG crew settled into a pair 11th floor suites which would function as our headquarters for the week.
Jeremy, who’s spent seven weeks jailed in the Venetian for various corporate conclaves, would function as our navigator.
The day before the main SHOT Show floor opened in the Sands Convention center, the TTAG team trooped about 45 minutes into the desert to SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range.
The gun range is massive. There were shooting bays as far as the [desert sun-blinded] eye could see. The rifle lanes sat on the top of the hill, with targets out 1,000 yards. The trap ranges were trapped behind appropriately-named food trucks, like Strip Cheese.
I made a quick lap around the range to get my bearings. I kept a lookout for new bolt-action rifles or shotguns, my assigned area of coverage.
I had to shoot the new Tavor TS12 bullpup shotgun before the line grew longer.
Winchester brought a WWII era M1 Garand for a new writer to test their new line of old ammo.
The Kel-Tec KSG-25 was fun . . . for a while. After 10 rounds I was ready to move on. Jeremy, not as much.
The RDB-S was light, easy to maneuver, comfortable and pretty much beaten to death with an ugly stick. We are working on getting one to review. I think I’ll wear gloves.
FightLite had a full-auto MCR (and their Raider). I got to shoot a short belt through it. Recoil was minimal and controllable. F*ck the NFA.
The recoil generated by the FightLite Raider was way less than I expected from such a small pistol. Not surprisingly, it is loud. Very loud.
John Baker of Axeon Optic Solutions with his custom-built hyper-accurate bolt gun, dressed for winter.
I shot a mag through the Franklin Armory Reformation with their Binary trigger. I either liked it or didn’t. For around $2,000 it will shoot factory ammo around four MOA. If you want closer to one MOA you will need to buy their fin-stabilized ammo, which I doubt will be easy to find. Or affordable.
So, $2,000 for an inaccurate not-an-SBR that prefers proprietary ammo or $1,000 or so plus $200 for an SBR or just get a brace-equipped “pistol.” Discuss.
Tactical dogs need tactical eyewear, apparently.
Who doesn’t want a 40-round magazine full of 12 gauge?
The TTAG team piled into the Caravan and headed for dinner. After Thai-ing one on, we explored the Sands convention center. The security guards blocked access to the show floor. A quick peek revealed enough pallets and crates to occupy an army of top men. Top men.
The first order of business on the first day of SHOT Show: Franklin Armory’s press conference. I needed details on their new Reformation firearm (though Ron was assigned to cover ARs), a much-hyped non-NFA short-barreled AR-looking gun.
The Reformation turned out to be an AR-15 with an 11.5″ barrel with straight lands and grooves. The ATF doesn’t consider this rifling so it’s not a rifle so it’s not a short barreled rifle so it’s not subject to the NFA. Nor my interest.
The next few days I walked an average of eight miles per day elbowing past 60,000 other show attendees trying to see 1,760 exhibitors occupying over 645,000 square feet of floor space. SHOT Show is split up on five levels.
The first level, which we called the basement even though it wasn’t a basement, contained mostly smaller manufactures, law enforcement specific suppliers, and the new product center.
The main SHOT Show floor is on the second level. This floor houses all the major manufactures. The crowds here were dense and endless.
If a booth was giving away products or having a celebrity appearance, the entire area around the booth was impassable. The amount of effort people exerted to get a free sticker or patch was unbelievable.
The third level of SHOT housed the press room and NEXT, a hallway packed end-to-end with manufacturers that are still on the waitlist to get a “real booth” on the first or second level of the show. This is a great area to find start-ups with new, unique, and sometimes silly products (last year’s NEXT silly product, this year’s. No offense).
The fourth level of SHOT Show was reserved for education seminars on executive management, law enforcement education, retail management and other industry related issues.
The fifth floor housed the supplier showcase. For the first two days of SHOT Show, OEM suppliers along with designers, machine and material suppliers highlighted their capabilities.
Most of my time during the day was spent running between the show floor and the press room.
I’d move from booth to booth asking exhibitors if they had any new products. I’d grab a few quick pictures, get some basic information and move on.
After I had a few products to blog about I’d return to the pressroom, write them up, then head back to the show floor. This process continued for the next three days. By the last day of the show I was exhausted and mentally drained.
A North Face backpack I have had for almost half my life functioned as a brochure depository. A collection which grew continually. Seen above is just about half of the brochures I’d assembled at the end of the show, and I was trying not to take brochures.
Unfortunately our resident Pinballer, Robert, had to leave the show early to take care of his flu-riddled daughter, so Jeremy was responsible for testing the Real Tree pinball machine. Review probably not pending (though just try and talk RF out of it).
By the last day of the show the long lines and dense crowds had taken their toll on everyone. My brain stopped functioning around 2:00 PM Thursday afternoon, which, thankfully, was after I had talked Jeremy into putting the machete down.
By Friday I was glad the show was over. At the same time I knew I’d miss being around so many like-minded people and cool gear.
The flight home was not fun.