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Back from SHOT Show, Part Two: Gear.

I don't really go to SHOT to look at gear, but on Friday I had the whole day to get out and look at stuff. Prior to that I only saw gear on a "hit and miss" basis as I ran between appointments and meetings. Here’s what I managed to see:

- The first thing I have to report (and the most exciting for revolver enthusiasts) is that
Korth, the top-tier German revolver maker, is looking for a new importer to expand their presence in the U.S. They understand that they'll never sell a ton of guns here, but they also understand that they're a small company; any market share they get would probably double their sales! I got a chance to talk at length with their representatives and also got to play with one of their clear-sided demonstrators. As expected, the actions are superbly smooth and the workmanship is perfect. (The big news is that they're planning on making a left-hand version this year!)

Korth revolvers start around $4k, which sounds like a lot - and it is. Let's put that into perspective, however: when I discussed the possibility of reviving the Python with the head of Colt's Custom Shop, he indicated that to reproduce it to the quality of the "classic" Python would mean a price tag of five large. (For those of you under 40, that's five grand or "five kay" - $5,000.) That level of hand fitting costs, no matter where it's made, which puts the Korth in the same ballpark a modern Python would have to be. The Korth people believe that there is a market for a high end revolver in this country, and I agree with them; the only question is whether people will understand that ANY revolver of such a grade is going to cost that much. I’m sure some will complain that a Performance Center gun is 1/4 of that cost while ignoring the fact that they’re hardly in the same fit-and-finish ballpark.

- Speaking of high grade guns, I had a talk with Ray Rozic at
Cabot Guns. Cabot, you may remember, makes the Python of 1911s. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if I were to ever buy another 1911, it would be a Cabot. They're put together like nothing else I've ever seen; the quality of workmanship rivals the very best hand-built customs and simply blows away any other production 1911. Cabot's first full year of production was 2012, and Brian Zins used one to win the 2012 NRA National Pistol Championship at Camp Perry! Not bad for the first time at bat, and speaks volumes about their quality.

Their position in the 1911 market is much like that of Korth in the revolver world, and the prices are even similar: starting just north of $4k. Again, that level of quality simply costs that much no matter who does it.

(Oh, I asked Ray if Cabot would ever consider making a similarly high-end revolver; he simply smiled. I'm keeping my eye on him!)

- One of the interesting products I saw was one that got a lot of attention last year: the
Flashbang Bra Holster. Not being a woman, I thought the product was a gimmick like every other bra holster that's been made over the last 40 years. Turns out I was dead wrong. This time I visited their booth with three women who are trainers and authors of shooting books and articles; all three of them told me that the Flashbang actually works and took the time to explain the ‘why’. My take? It works well because it was actually designed by a woman!

The woman is Lisa Looper, a sharp and inventive young lady whose enthusiasm is absolutely infectious. I spent some time taking pictures of her and her products for a new book being written by Gila Hayes, and later had a talk with her about her invention. She's a great example of the next generation of gun carriers and shooting industry entrepreneurs, and I felt a lot better about the future of our industry after meeting her. If you're a woman looking for a discreet and apparently comfortable way to carry a handgun, or know one who is, give the Flashbang serious consideration. The women who know tell me it's a top notch product.

- I also stopped in at the
Elzetta booth and talked with them about their world-class flashlights. They're coming out with a new light, one featuring an LED module of their own design and manufacture. It puts out an honest 500 lumens with a very nice beam pattern. I was impressed, and was assured that the module features the same type of robust construction we've come to love about the Malkoff modules they've been using. I'll probably need to own one!

- Speaking of flashlights, I dropped by the booth of the most well known tactical flashlight manufacturer. At one display of perhaps 8 or 10 lights the sales rep could not make two of them function properly due to bad switches. When I left he was desperately twisting and pushing, trying to make one work. That pretty much mirrors my own experience with their products, and is why I now use an Elzetta for my defensive illumination.

Remington was showing their AR-10 type rifle, available in .308, .243 and 7mm-08. What makes the R-25 a little unusual is that the controls are completely ambidextrous: magazine release, safety, and even the bolt catch. It’s well engineered and seemed to work very smoothly. Bonus: it takes DPMS type magazines, which are not exactly common but at least they're a little less proprietary.

Redfield has a neat new scope out, and in fact it is so new that their one display unit arrived via FedEx the day the show opened! It's a 2x-7x scope with a bullet drop compensator for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge (36gn hollowpoint at a nominal 1250 fps.) It should make for a dandy varmint hunting scope, and at $189 list price should sell easily. Optics were pretty good for a sub-$200 unit. I'll probably buy one for sage rat hunting.

- Speaking of varmints, Winchester showed off their new .17 caliber rimfire round - the
.17 Winchester Super Magnum. It spits out a 20 grain bullet at over 3,000 fps and has a fairly flat trajectory out to 300 yards. It's a better performer in every respect than the .17 HMR, and according to the Winchester rep I talked with is only about 20% more expensive than .22 WMR. While spendy, it's still cheaper than shooting centerfire! Initial chamberings are in an affordable Savage bolt action and one of the Browning single shots.

Gunsmith Todd Koonce, who was with me at SHOT, was so impressed that he immediately bought a chamber reamer for the new round. He has something up his sleeve, and I can't wait to find out what it is.

- While I'm on the subject of ammunition,
Federal has introduced a line of suppressor-ready centerfire ammunition in their American Eagle brand. It’s to be packaged in black boxes and labeled “American Eagle Suppressor”. We all know that suppressors are hot, hot, HOT right now, and it’s great that at least one of the major ammunition makers sees the potential in a product made to provide the best performance in a suppressed gun. I just hope they can produce enough of it!

Premier Optics, the rebirth of the former Premier Reticles, reportedly fell on hard times since last year's SHOT Show. That's too bad, because their scopes were among the best I've seen. Luckily a Canadian investor thought so too, and just before the show opened purchased the company. He told me that he felt their scopes had great potential and thought it a shame that they might be lost before they could really have a chance to prove themselves. I agree; their scopes are top drawer, and I'm glad they now have the backing they need to really cement their place in the market. If you're in the market for a high end scope, I suggest looking hard at Premier.

Springfield introduced their subcompact XD-s in 9mm. They told me it is exactly the same size as the .45 ACP version, but it sure feels smaller to me! No matter; it's a neat little gun and the 9mm cartridge is an eminently more sensible chambering for that tiny pistol. It will sell as easily as it shoots.

- One compact 9mm I've not paid any attention to is a cute little polymer gun from
Bersa, the Argentinian maker of "affordable" handguns. Make no mistake: the single stack BP-9cc appears to be of high quality construction, fits the tiniest hands easily, and has a superbly light and smooth trigger. It surprised me by being smooth to the hand, with no unfinished edges or seams. At under $400 MSRP, should it prove to be reliable I can see them selling every single one they can make. I'm hoping to get one for a long-term torture test and see just how well it handles the strain. I'm told by people who've shot them that they'll stand up to whatever I can dish out, so we shall see!

- Down in a little out-of-the-way booth in the basement sat a little Chinese company called
Op.Electronics, who is selling a neat electronic target gadget called TopGun. It consists of a laser module which goes into the barrel of your pistol and an electronic target pad which hooks to your PC. The target pad is magnetic, and a reduced size target of your choice is held on the pad with some tiny magnets. That target shows up on the software running on your computer! The target pad tracks muzzle movement before and after the "shot" is fired. The target shows a green track before the shot, a red dot where the shot would have landed, and a yellow track showing follow-through.

The cool thing is that targets can be scanned in and added to their selection, so it's theoretically possible to get any target of any configuration you want.

I'm not generally a fan of extensive dryfire practice for defensive shooting, but this has some intriguing possibilities for training if used intelligently. It's a big step beyond the laser "hit" targets which are on the market now, and though more expensive ($299) I think it’s a justifiable cost.

- Oh, I forgot: Korth was also showing their autopistol, a gun which has never intrigued me, in a heavily engraved edition with superb ivory grips. It was one of the most beautiful guns I saw in the entire show, even with the stupendous examples shown at the Perazzi booth. I did not ask the price; somehow, it just seemed gauche to do so.

- The Tavor bullpup from
Israeli Weapon Industries (IWI) will be imported this year - assuming the State and Commerce Departments don't come under contrary orders, of course. This is a rather exotic gun for us, as I never expected to see it on our shores. It's currently the issue rifle for the Israel Defense Forces and was purpose built for their unique needs. It's compact, like all bullpups, and can be easily converted from right-hand to left-hand operation (though not without partial disassembly.) Though it has the rotten trigger typical of bullpup designs it has tremendous practical accuracy potential, as Todd Koonce demonstrated on Range Day by rapidly landing shot after shot on a 100-meter steel silhouette target. Uses standard AR magazines, of course - the Israelis are very pragmatic about such things.

Merkel was showing a neat straight-pull bolt action rifle called the Helix, which features rapid caliber change. I thought it was really cool, even if the price was a little much for my wallet: starting "around" $5,000.

Caracal introduced their pistol caliber carbines, taking the same magazines as their pistols (of course.) The thumbhole stock, like that on the competitive Beretta carbines, seemed a little awkward to me but Todd found it usable.

- The rep at
Ithaca, my favorite shotgun company, tells me that they're selling all the guns they can make. That's good news, as it means this iteration of the company will be around for some time yet. Those sales include their "tactical" line of police and home defense shotguns. Oddly, though, he says their 20 gauge defensive shotgun barely sells. I'm a huge believer in the 20 as a defensive tool, and specifically the Ithaca 20 gauge - I'm surprised they don't sell more of them.

Not content to make just shotguns, Ithaca has returned to their roots and is once again making 1911 pistols. Ithaca was a major producer of those guns during World War II, making almost the same number as did Colt. As you all know I'm not a 1911 kind of guy, but the examples I saw were quite nicely done. They're also working on their AR-15 (which they showed in prototype form last year, but was conspicuously absent this time.) They say they'll have an announcement later in the year.

That exhausts my notes. This show was notable for not having a lot of exciting introductions; the truly new items, which were few and far between, were evolutionary rather than revolutionary (new people making 1911s and AR-15s just isn't all that exciting.) I got the impression that all of the companies are too occupied with their growing pile of backorders to put a lot of effort into new products. That isn't the case for everyone, of course, but sure appears to be so for the majority. I predict we'll see many more new products introduced at the next show than we did this time - assuming that this buying frenzy slows down a bit!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Back from SHOT Show, Part One: People.

I spent last week in Las Vegas at the annual SHOT Show convention. For those who don't know, it's the shooting industry's major business convention and darn near any company you can name is there. SHOT is where major new products are typically released, and it's where the "people of the gun" congregate.

I go there specifically to network, to see people. The hardware isn't terribly exciting to me; don't get me wrong, I enjoy seeing a new gun as much as anyone, but I also know that I could stay home and get the same information. It's the chance to talk to people in the industry which is valuable to me.

For this trip I was accompanied by
Todd Koonce, a talented local gunsmith about whom you’ll be reading more. Todd is “Mr. Vegas!”, well versed with the recreational opportunities that Vegas offers yet possessing a phenomenal self-restraint which keeps him from going too far. We hopped in a car, drove to Vegas, and started our adventures.

The first person I wanted to meet was my editor at Gun Digest books, Corrina Peterson. I would in fact have considered the trip a complete success if I'd met only her! I've worked with her on three books over a span of almost that long, exchanged numerous emails, but had never gotten to actually shake her hand. Unfortunately I neglected to get a picture with her, but I'll remedy that next time.

Many of the industry's top trainers go to SHOT, and I got to meet both Ken Murray and John Farnam. Ken is something of an "instructor's instructor": he's the acknowledged expert in scenario based training and the author of
Training at the Speed of Life (yes, I have a copy - if you're a defensive shooting instructor, you should too.)

John Farnam should not require much of an introduction, being one of the more well-known shooting instructors in the business. He's also surprisingly non-doctrinal, amusingly self-deprecating, and very open to new ideas and approaches.

I'll be working with both Ken and John (and some others you might recognize) on future projects, so watch this space!

I managed to cross paths, very briefly, with Ian from
Forgotten Weapons. He was running around with Oleg Volk, and I sadly had to turn down their invitation to join them for a coffee break (I was running to another appointment.) Next time, guys!

Kathy Jackson, whose
Cornered Cat website is one of my recommended sources for women who are interested in defensive shooting, sat down with me for a bit to discuss her new project: The Cornered Cat Training Company. This is good news for women who want to learn about guns and concealed carry, as Kathy is well versed in the subjects. I'm glad that she's finally getting the attention she deserves for her work (even if we do disagree from time to time!)

Speaking of women and guns, I spent all of Thursday helping out Gila Hayes with pictures for her new book on concealed carry for women. Gila is one of the industry's best trainers, and her last book
Personal Defense For Women has carried my highest recommendation since it was published a few years ago. This new one promises to be just as good!

One of the things which impressed me was the number of next-generation men and women getting involved in this industry. They're bringing new ideas and energy into shooting and self defense, and only a real curmudgeon would look askance at them. They're the future, and I believe they're capable of handling whatever gets thrown their way.

On a personal note, I've attended trade shows in several industries since I was 17 years old, and darned near every time I come back sick. This time I resolved to break that cycle; I carried hand sanitizer and used it every time I touched anything or shook hands with anyone, and every time I passed a bathroom I darted in and did a thorough hand washing. Despite all of that I still came back with a mild case of the flu! I'm thinking of going in a plastic bubble next time.

In Part Two I'll talk about some of the gear I saw.

-=[ Grant ]=-

It's SHOT Show time!

It’s the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas! I’m hoping to bring you some news on the revolver front, and possibly even a neat announcement or two. Watch my Facebook and Twitter feeds, as I’ll update them as I hear anything new.

(I also happen to know that there will be a neat announcement or to come, so stay tuned!)

-=[ Grant ]=-

What is a "professional"?

Those of you who've been reading my work for any length of time might have noticed that I don't spend a lot of time talking about calibers, stopping power, or any of that nonsense - especially as it relates to self defense. That's because I believe that there are more important things with which to be concerned, things beyond those trite topics which are the staple of gun magazines and online forums.

I approach teaching with the same attitude; I tend not to get wrapped up in learning some trendy new technique to show off to my students, but instead I spend time learning how to be a better teacher, how to communicate more effectively, how to bring concepts and ideas to life for my students.

Stan Kenton once said of Lee Konitz that he was someone who was in constant study; perfection was not enough, and he was intent on achieving even greater heights. Konitz is an inspiration to me for that reason.

A chance encounter a few years back put me into contact with people in the defensive shooting world who share those same ideals. One you know, and one you should: Rob Pincus and
Omari Broussard. Their passion for teaching is infectious, and I'm lucky to be able to rub shoulders with them.

Several months ago an interesting email conversation started between us, and it’s a conversation that today is causing ripples in the defensive shooting community. Rob was intent on getting a handle on the slippery notion of what constitutes a professional in this field. He was interested in statements, in descriptions, in measurements of what a professional instructor believes and how he/she puts those beliefs into practice

He started the brainstorming session by offering up a few ideas. Omari and I gave our feedback and some ideas of our own, and before long we had seven statements that we believed described the essence of professional instruction. It wasn't just us, though - they were shared with some of the most respected and progressive people in the business, who each gave their own feedback (and sometimes justified criticism.) Soon those statements, through the oversight of many, had become principles - tenets - of defensive training.

I wrote in my SHOT Show recap that there had been an informal meeting of some of the training field's best and brightest teachers. It was at that meeting that these tenets were revealed for the first time to a large group of people, and I must say that their reaction was almost unbelievably positive. We had people who espoused many different positions on
what they were teaching, but who quickly found solid common ground on how they should teach and on what an instructor should be. We all signed the same document that said, in essence, "this is what I, too, believe."

Last week, in an article over at Downrange TV,
Rob formally unveiled the "Code of the Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor" to the world. If you haven't seen it yet, go read his article. Many people in the training community are now coming forward and saying that they agree with the rest of us, and that they too strive to be professionals.

This is just the beginning. More great things are coming, and soon.

I'm proud to have played some small part in what may be a seminal event in the defensive shooting world. We have agreement from a wide range of professionals not about guns or calibers or stances or reloading techniques, but rather the important stuff: how we teach, how we evolve, how we behave, and how we bring the best we can to our students.

As I said, go read Rob's article and the Seven Tenets. Then, for the next seven days, I'll be exploring each of those tenets here. I'll explain what I think about each one, why I thought it should be included in the Code, and how it affects what I teach and why I teach it. (That's right, seven back-to-back days of blogging - and you won't want to miss a single one!)

In case you got here from an outside link, here are the links to the individual entries (updated as each one is posted):

Tenet #1: “I am committed to the safety of my students, and hold that the expected benefit of any training activity must significantly outweigh any known or perceived risk of that activity.”

Tenet #2: "I believe that it is my responsibility to understand not just what I’m teaching, but WHY I’m teaching any technique or concept, or offering specific advice."

Tenet #3: "I recognize that defensive shooting skills, along with the drills and gear used, are inherently specialized and usually distinct from those of target shooting, competition and hunting endeavors."

Tenet #4: "I will encourage my students to ask questions about course material, and I will answer them with thorough and objective explanations."

Tenet #5: "I understand that Integrity and Professionalism are subjective traits and I strive to maintain high levels of both. I am capable of, and willing to, articulate the reasons for the way I conduct my courses and how I interact with students & peers."

Tenet #6: "I believe that it is valuable to engage my peers in constructive conversation about differences in technique and concept, with the goal of mutual education and evolution."

Tenet #7: "I believe that the best instructor is an avid student, and I will strive to continually upgrade my own skills and knowledge. As part of this belief, I understand that my own teachings need to be subject to critique and open to evolution."

-=[ Grant ]=-

What I did at SHOT Show: now it can be told.

In my SHOT Show recap, I mentioned that there was an informal meeting of movers and shakers in the defensive training field.
Rob Pincus has posted over a DRTV about that meeting, and what came out of it. I think you'll find it interesting!

-=[ Grant ]=-

What I did at SHOT Show, Part Four.

More of the 2012 SHOT Show!

It seems that I’m always looking at new riflescopes. I'm pretty particular about image quality, and given how I tend to treat field gear (roughly!) I also need a scope that will stand up to abuse. In past years I've been happy with the price/performance balance of the IOR/Valdada and Leupold scopes I’ve owned, but their optical quality isn't as good as the more expensive brands. I’ve had the privilege to use a Schmidt & Bender scope, and while I love the optical (and mechanical) quality I can’t afford the stiff tariff! I’m thus in a constant quest for something approaching the quality of the S&B, while costing closer to the Leupold. Believe it or not, there may in fact exist such a scope.

At SHOT I managed to stumble upon the
Premier Optics booth. Premier is familiar to me (and I suspect a few of you) as the maker and installer of custom reticles in Leupold scopes. Unbeknownst to me, a couple years back they decided to start making their own scopes. They hired some very experienced German scope makers to do the engineering, then started building them here in the U.S. I've got to say that what they've come out with is stunning!

Premier was showing their two basic lines: the Tactical line, which features 34mm tubes and the biggest, best adjustment knobs I've ever handled; and the Light Tactical line having 30mm tubes and smaller (but still big) knobs. I examined the scopes closely, and did a quick-and-dirty optical evaluation. I could find no obvious spherical or lateral color aberrations and no field curvature. The scopes have great contrast while color, to my eyes, was a little on the cool side (but not so much that there was a cast.)

The Premier rep assured me that all of their scopes would pass a box test with flying colors and return to zero perfectly. Given their long experience in military and long range competition circles, I’m inclined to believe them!

I was particularly taken by their Light Tactical 3-15x50. I has very solid click adjustments, and they even built in a mechanical turns counter so that you don't get confused trying to remember how many clicks you've put into the adjustments. Neat!

Turns counter, underneath dot on upper turret, shows the number “1” - meaning the turret has been rotated one full turn.

As noted, optical quality was top notch, which is not surprising considering the pedigree. All reticles are in the first focal plane, making rangefinding with the mil-dots a snap at any magnification.

I did a double-take when I looked through their new 1-8x Tactical scope. At magnifications under 3x you see a red dot, designed for speed of acquisition and rapid close-quarters shooting. Once the magnification is set beyond 3x, the reticle magically changes into a standard cross-hair mil-dot! It's a cute trick, and I can see this scope being very popular with AR-15 shooters who want its unique attributes.

Like with anything else, quality costs - but not as much as it might from some of the German brands. Yes, you’ll spend north of two grand for the cheapest of their scopes, but given the very high construction and optical quality I think that’s a bargain.

There were quite a few vendors of what has come to be called ‘tactical gear’, things like pouches and bags and load-bearing equipment, at SHOT. One I'd not heard of is
Marz Tactical Gear, a Phoenix-area company who proudly marks their stuff as Made in USA. They showed a couple of products that intrigued me.

First was a first aid kit pouch perfectly sized for a trauma kit. Called the "Patrol IFAK", the pouch will hold a tourniquet, pressure bandage, a roll of hemostatic gauze, and a few incidentals. The cool part is that the back is covered with Velcro, and they have a matching plate that straps onto the backside of an automobile headrest. This keeps the kit in a known and easily accessed location; in use, you simply grab the handle and rip the kit from the mounting plate. You can then take it to where it is needed. Very useful; I think I'll be buying a couple of them.

The other thing that caught my eye was what they call their "Field Kit". It's a large piece of waterproofed Cordura nylon attached to a couple of zippered pouches. The pouches can hold cleaning supplies, lubricants, or even spare parts. When unrolled you have a decent-sized work surface to catch parts and keep dirt away from mechanisms, with the pouches on one side for easy access to the aforementioned incidentals.

It would make a great field cleaning station or armorer's go-anywhere emergency shop, and might be very useful for the instructor who occasionally needs to fix a student’s gun. A neat little idea to make life in the field (or at the range) a little easier.

All week I kept hearing about Mossberg's new "tactical" lever action. At least a half-dozen people told me that I just had to go see it, so I did.

“Tactical” has officially jumped the shark.

My initial reaction: “you’ve GOT to be kidding.” Where to start? Mossberg managed to design out all of the lever action's positive attributes while adding very little to its usability. The collapsible AR-style stock wobbles and doesn't have a comfortable grip; the rails add unnecessary weight and make holding the forearm quite unpleasant; and the action was, to put it charitably, rough.

The myriad protrusions of the butt stock and fore end rails simply destroy the smooth, snag-free handling that is one of the chief virtues of the lever action. It's a rifle that has been styled as opposed to designed, perhaps by someone who might not have had the opportunity to become familiar with the lever action and how it is best employed.

Available in .22LR or .30-30, I'm sure it will sell - just like the Taurus Judge sells. I'll stick to my traditional models, thank you, as they've proven themselves capable of a wide range of tasks, without poseur bolt-ons, for quite some time now.

(This is a perfect example of my belief that the rifle, particularly the lever action, is a general purpose tool. The more crap you hang on it, the more specialized and therefore less useful it becomes. My AR-15s are pretty much stock, and I've found that they're the most versatile in that configuration. As my eyes continue to deteriorate I may have to fit them with optics, but even then I'll make sure that the choice will leave them usable for the variety of tasks I expect to encounter. The same can be said of my lever actions. Someone at Mossberg, in my opinion, just doesn’t Get It.)

More to come tomorrow - stay tuned!

-=[ Grant ]=-

What I did at SHOT Show, Part Two.

As it happens,
this year’s SHOT was a record-breaker: more than 61,000 attendees, with 2,466 of those being media (including yours truly!)

I'll start today with what I didn't see: any big introductions from the major revolver manufacturers. Smith & Wesson had a couple of Performance Center variants (I'd not seen the Model 647 Varminter before), Ruger was showing the previously announced four-inch SP101 in .38/.357 and .22LR (the smallbore having vastly improved sights), while Colt didn’t show any double action revolvers - and probably won't any time soon.

I had a great chat with Brent Turchi, the head of Colt's Custom Shop. He said that new revolvers weren't in the cards for at least a few years yet, and if they ever do release a new wheelgun it will probably be something like a King Cobra or Anaconda, or possibly a lightweight concealed carry piece based on the SFVI/Magnum Carry action. It’s all just speculation at this point, he emphasized.

The Python is gone for good, he said - too expensive to make, and they no longer have the skilled workforce to do so even if they could justify it economically. In fact, the people who today work repairing Pythons are nearing retirement, and when they go a lot of knowledge and skill will go with them. On the plus side, 2011 was a very good year for Colt as they were able to sell tons of 1911s. Of course.

The big handgun news at SHOT was the official U.S. introduction of the Caracal pistol. This is a new polymer striker fired pistol made in (of all places) the United Arab Emirates. Apparently the UAE has decided that even their large oil reserves won't last forever, and have decided to get into manufacturing firearms. Their first products are full-size (think Glock 17) and compact (Glock 19-ish) pistols in 9mm (.40 S&W versions will come later this year.) The Caracal is the brainchild of Wilhelm Bubits, former Glock employee and designer of the Steyr M series of pistols. His new design borrows some elements from the Steyr, but most of it is new.

I first heard about the Caracal when Rob Pincus went to Italy last year and found a couple of his students armed with this unknown handgun. Apparently it's been sold in Italy and a few other places for almost two years, and the reports he got from those students were glowing. The guns were used hard during the three days of intense training, and there were no failures. That says a lot about the design.

The Caracal is unusual in that everything inside the gun is modular. The fire control group in the frame, as well as the striker assembly in the slide, are modules that are quickly and easily removed for service, and just as easily replaced. The bore axis is very low, approaching that of an HK P7, while the slide mass has been reduced. The result, I'm told from those who have fired them, is reduced recoil impulse and muzzle rise.

Ergonomics, even for my small hands, are superb. The Caracal fits me better than either the Glock or the Steyr, and I can even hit the magazine release without too much contortion! The trigger is very smooth, very linear (once you get past take-up, of course) and has a nice, jar-free letoff. It's very impressive.

What is also impressive is the construction quality. The machining, inside and out, is superb - the underside of their slide makes a Glock look like a gravel road. Everything is polished, there are no tool marks, and even the plastic castings are perfectly clean. This is top-notch quality, an amazing feat for a young company.

Caracal was all over Vegas; all of the buses for the convention had Caracal banners on their sides, their booth was large and set up for doing lots of business, and their marketing materials were big-league. The folks behind Caracal have invested a ton of money into both the product and the marketing, and it's obvious that they intend to be a big player in this business. If the product holds up to its promise, I think they will be. (Oddly enough, despite seemingly being on top of every little detail they still haven’t gotten their USA website up - even though the URL is printed on all their materials!)

I'm impressed with the gun, and so was nearly everyone I talked to who'd seen it. I think this might be one of the top autoloading pistol choices for defensive shooting, particularly when the sub-compact versions come out later this year. Caracal is worth watching.

-=[ Grant ]=-

What I did at SHOT Show, Part One.

For those of you who might have wondered, I spent last week at the annual SHOT Show in sunny Las Vegas. It was a busy week for me, as I had several meetings lined up and those meetings generated still more meetings, all of which turned out to be for the good. In fact, I was so busy meeting and talking with other people that I didn't get to see as much of the show as I'd wanted!

That actually fit in with my plan, as I go to trade shows to network, not necessarily to see new products. From way back I learned that every magazine (and today every blog and discussion forum) will have tons of information on what was new at the show. I could learn all about the new stuff from the comfort of my living room, but I need to shake hands in order to get things done - that’s what a trade show is really for!

This was my first SHOT, and I must say that compared to other (larger) trade shows I've attended it is fairly compact and relatively easy to navigate. The show organizers could stand to do a little more work on attendee comfort - sideline benches and beverage sources were scarce, for instance - but overall it was pretty well set up. (The SHOT Show iPhone app, sadly, was more trouble than it was worth, forcing me to rely on an old-fashioned map that was surprisingly hard to lay my hands on.)

I didn't get there for Monday's media range day, an event which I determined I really didn't need to attend (a view which was reinforced after talking with those that did.) Tuesday was the first day of the actual show, and was primarily spent going to those meetings I'd arranged prior. A couple of those spawned the first of my on-the-fly meetings, wherein someone would say "gee, you should really meet so-and-so" and off we'd go!

My biggest meeting on Tuesday was with my publisher, Jim Schlender at Gun Digest Books. We talked about the Gun Digest Book of The Revolver, of course, but also some future products. I won't spill the beans just yet, but there will be more Grant Cunningham titles to come - along with some other great projects.

Me with Jim Schlender of Gun Digest. I’m the short one with the really cool hat.

(Sadly, I didn't get to meet my editor, Corrina Peterson, who had to stay back at headquarters to mind the store. I'll get a picture with her yet, even if it means flying back to Wisconsin to do it!)

In case you didn't know, Gun Digest has an email newsletter that goes out weekly, and often contains great information and deals on Gun Digest publications.
If you aren't subscribed, may I suggest you do so?

Wednesday was more of the same, and one my favorite meetings was an interview with Paul Carlson at the
Safety Solutions Academy podcast. I like Paul's podcast because he always has interesting topics and the production is well done. I'm a big fan, and it was an honor to be on his show. He was working like a madman, doing a half-dozen interviews a day, and you can hear mine at this link.

That afternoon I was able to get out a little bit and see some of the actual show, rather than catching glimpses of it as I passed through on my way to see someone else. I met up with Omari Broussard and Eli Brown of 10x Defense, along with Bryan Collins (a low-key but respected law enforcement instructor who is slowly moving into the private sector) and as a group we went to some of the booths that interested us.

I also got a rare chance to sit down and talk about training concepts with Omari and Eli, who are working on a unique approach to integrated instruction that I think will make some waves in the training community. These guys are smart, organized, and motivated, and I can see 10x Defense becoming a model for the rest of us in a few years.

Thursday morning I got around to see the major revolver manufacturers, visiting with Colt (whose people liked to talk); Ruger (who would talk but didn’t have much to say); and S&W (who wouldn't give me the time of day.) I also checked in at some of the booths that were around them, including that of
Honored American Veterans Afield. This is a group that's doing good work with a small budget, and deserves all our support.

I made it a point
not to stop at the Chiappa Arms booth, as the grapevine had alerted me that I was persona non grata for daring to point out, in print, some of the Rhino's flaws. I also didn't stop at the execrable GunsAmerica booth, but I did (very discreetly) flip them off as I went past. (Yes, I know it's childish. Yes, I know it's beneath my dignity. Yes, I know they probably didn’t even notice. But it felt so darned good!)

Thursday afternoon was jam-packed: first, I was invited to a meeting of some of the movers and shakers in the training business. A low-key call had gone out to meet up at a specific place and time, and you wouldn't believe the talent that showed up! It was an honor to be invited to take part in that informal but influential gathering. It gave me a chance to meet some of my heroes in the field, including Claude Werner (something of a legend among those whose opinions count) and Dr. Robert Smith of
Direct Action Medical Network (who developed the "human weapon system" concepts.) When great minds get together great things happen, and I think 2012 is going to see more than its share of great things in the training world.

One of my Tuesday meetings had unexpectedly spawned another meeting which was scheduled immediately after our instructor get-together. It proved to be extremely intriguing. You never know how such things will pan out, but it might just result in something really cool. I'll let you know more as things develop.

I finished Thursday having a great
interview with Doc Wesson on a live edition of The Gun Nation podcast. It was a lot of fun (it always is with Doc), and we covered my book, my impressions of the show-in-progress, and a bunch of other stuff.

Friday was "shiny rock day", a term coined by Diane Walls (an honest, reliable writer whose work can be seen regularly in Concealed Carry and
Women & Guns magazines.) Along with her husband Tom ("Pharmacist Tommy"), we walked around the show without any preconceived plan, but rather looking for things that caught our eye the way that shiny baubles dominate a magpie's attention. We found plenty before the show closed for this year. A long drive home (18 hours!), and here I am!

I'll be updating the blog daily until I get through all of the material I gathered. Coming up this week: yet another gun maker is clueless on the concept; a new line of revolvers from an unlikely place; you won't believe who was showing yet another prototype AR-15; the most impressive autoloading pistol I've seen in years; rifle scopes I'm lusting after; keeping your first aid kit handy; a real Gat; the only 1911 I'd want to own; and more. Stay tuned!

-=[ Grant ]=-

"It's got electrolytes!"

A Bad Idea is not magically transformed into a Good Idea simply by virtue of a rise in the MSRP.

When reports of a Smith & Wesson .410/.45 revolver began making the rounds on Monday, my initial reaction was great skepticism. Then it was confirmed by a
trustworthy source, and finally showed up on S&W's website. It’s real. Unfortunately.

If truth in advertising laws had any teeth, they would require this thing to be called The Brawndo.

-=[ Grant ]=-