I didn’t have a lot of time for SHOT Show this year. I could only squeeze a few days off work, so with travel time I had Monday and Tuesday to try and see everything I wanted to see and talk to everyone I wanted to talk to. There are a few products I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on this year, and I did get to see them all, along with a few other items of interest.

The Rise of the PDW

One trend that seems to have affected the entire industry this year are PDW’s (Personal Defense Weapons).   With the BATFE softening their stance on “stabilizing braces,” and shortened Form 1 times on SBR’s, the industry has adopted little guns in a big way. Almost every manufacturer of AR’s is offering a PDW in .300 Blackout or a pistol caliber this year. 10mm auto seems to be making a comeback as a popular PDW caliber.   Whereas pistols in 10mm might be a bit much for some shooters, the slightly larger, stabilizing brace-equipped guns might prove to be the perfect platform for this cartridge.

Heckler and Koch has decided to show the American market some love with the release of their SP-5 pistol (shown here with stock in SBR configuration). As someone who has spent years and thousands of dollars playing with HK clones, take my advice: if you need some MP-5 goodness in your collection, this is probably the way to go.

That said, there are clones by all the usual suspects, including Zenith, PTR, and a new one by Palmetto State Armory that looks promising. If you don’t need the classical MP-5 look, you should check out the innovative updates to that system by “Revolutionary Roller Locks.” I think we can expect more good things from them. To top it off, Magpul had some of their MP-5 furniture on display.

Magpul’s MP5 furniture, the grip seems a little slick, but it’s functional.


If you like the 5.7X28 cartridge, in addition to a new Ruger pistol in that caliber, Diamondback Firearms DBX is a 5.7 PDW. It uses standard 20 round magazines and isn’t equipped with a bolt-hold-open for the sake of simplicity.

Some classics re-released

Colt has brought back their King Cobra and Python, I was very interested in trying these out.

The Python is an iconic handgun, with it’s vented rib and robust frame, it stands out. I fired this one at range day and, despite some reports of recalls, the example I tested shot great. .

The new python has an improved trigger and is available in a polished stainless finish that is unusually dark.  It almost looks a bit like nickel-boron.  I didn’t get to shoot the King Cobra, but I did handle one and found the size just right for those who still favor the wheelgun for concealed carry.

The 10/22 is alive and well

Franklin Armory released their binary trigger for the 10/22 this year. It’s not a “match” trigger, the pull is actually a little stiff, but it is a fun way to dump a magazine and it lends itself well to the 10/22.

Tactical Solutions seems to be the go-to provider for actions and barrels, particularly since the Magpul 10/22 takedown stock pairs so nicely with their aluminum-sleeved barrels. The Tactical Solutions actions use 2 balanced recoil springs rather than one offset spring.  They also use a round-nosed firing pin that gives more consistent ignition. These are the superlative 10/22 actions.

If you are looking for a match trigger for your 10/22, Timney has a new Calvin Elite 10/22 trigger with trigger shoe that is amazing.

…and optics

The exciting optic this year is Vortex’s new Razor HD Gen III First Focal Plane 1-10X.

We are starting to bridging the gap between “low” variable power optics and just variable power optics.   There are some unique challenges to overcome making a First Focal Plane optic with this magnification range. The eye-box isn’t overly generous, but the glass is clear. The reticle is a bit busy, but that’s largely driven by demand and Vortex is VERY good at giving the customer what they want. I’m hoping to get my hands on one of these soon to run it through its paces, but I think this will be THE optic.

Aimpoint released their new Comp M5 B, this is a compact, long battery life red dot with a spring-detent loaded drop-compensating elevation knob. It’s still a simple 2 MOA red dot, but now making hits at extended ranges will be less of a guessing game.


One other optic that I spent some time with is the American Defense SPEK. We all know American Defense makes great mounts, but their SPEK red dot is legit.

Geissele is also releasing a 1-6 optic that I took a quick look at.   In characteristic Geissele fashion, it’s a quality piece of gear, but it’s a Second Focal Plane optic and I definitely prefer FFP. No left-handed Super 700 trigger yet from Geissele.

Last but not least, AERO precision announced their new 9mm AR lower and their Thunder Ranch Carbine.

The AERO folks worked with Clint Smith to design a configuration well suited to the Urban Rifle concept. The cutouts in the magazine well aren’t for weight reduction, they are for allowing shooters with shorter fingers to get into the mag well and clear failure to extract or actual “double feed” malfunctions.


The AERO 9mm will take Glock mags.  Another pistol-caliber carbine ready to be stabilizing braced into a PDW.

Final thoughts:

The last few SHOT Shows I’ve been to have been an orgasm of AR15-style rifles, and while the AR is America’s Rifle and still well represented,  we are starting to see some more variety, which I think is healthy. This was the year of the PDW. We have a new group of consumers that aren’t interested in optimal barrel length for terminal ballistics, they don’t know who Dr. Martin Fackler was and they don’t care, modern ammunition technology has reduced the perception (if not eliminated the reality) of the importance of mass and velocity as functions of projectile performance.  They are experimenting with different action types and calibers, and they have been influenced (as many of us were also years ago) by the news and entertainment of the day.  Something to keep in mind as an instructor:  the traditional pistol and carbine classes probably aren’t what a lot of this next generation of customers wants.  It will be up to us to strike that balance between what the modern student wants and needs in order to stay relevant and keep up with an equipment market that is listening to consumer demand more and more.


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