Volume 26, Number 2 February/March 2018

In-Depth Look at an Extraordinary Four Days
in Las Vegas at 2017 SHOT Show

Without question, one of the major attractions of the 2017 SHOT Show is the vast amount of new product lining the miles of aisles. But it’s really much more than that, as this sampler, taken from the pages of SHOT Daily, amply demonstrates.

Nikon’s Top Sales Reps

Nikon Sport Optics recently announced the winners of this year’s sales rep awards. Recipients were selected based on a number of criteria, including superior customer service.

Nikon Sales Reps Awards, 2017 SHOT Show

“This year’s sales rep award winners deserve a lot of credit for standing out among our excellent sales team. We firmly believe that we have the best salesforce of any optics company in our industry,” said Randy Garrison, associate general manager of Nikon Sport Optics sales and operations.

Nikon’s Salesman of the Year award was presented to David Deveny of Owens Outdoor Sales. Deveny’s professionalism, reliability, and significant sales percentage increase over 2016 made him a clear choice for the award.

“My focus this year was to spend significant time with my customers and provide the best customer service possible. I also tried to identify the right Nikon products that will sell the best for each dealer to help them grow. I credit Waylon Owens for setting the mantra, ‘Attitude determines altitude,’ ” said Deveny.

The Staff Choice award went to Mike Freiberg of Elevated Outdoor Sales. Nikon also announced six Elite Salesmen: Tom Wiley, Professional Marketing, Inc.; Aaron Doolin, The Dolph Co.; Brent Vogler, Owens Outdoor Sales; Jake Porter, Odle Sales; Nick Gamel, Odle Sales; and Bret Dolph, The Dolph Co. (nikonsportoptics.com)

Otis Technology
Sales Awards

Outstanding performance merits recognition, and Otis Technology honored two of its best at 2017 SHOT Show

OTIS Sales Awards, 2017 SHOT Show

J.B. McCarty (center), of Ken Jefferies & Associates, is the Otis Technology Sales Representative of the Year.

Otis Technology announced its 2016 Sales Representative of the Year award Tuesday morning at the 2017 SHOT Show. The manufacturer presents this award annually to the sales representative who has shown initiative, sales growth, and outstanding effort and customer service. The recipient was J.B. McCarty of Ken Jefferies & Associates. McCarty covers North Carolina and South Carolina, and he is an avid outdoorsman. In addition to being an accomplished sales professional, McCarty is also a pit master who has won the North and South Carolina State Championship as well as earning consecutive top-five finishes at the World Champion-ship Barbecue Cooking Contest in Memphis, Tennessee.

Jeff Scarlett, Otis Technology’s Eastern region sales manager, said, “J.B. has been integral in expanding business in the Carolina market. His concentration in farm and home accounts has been instrumental in the growth of that channel and the brand as a whole.”

Frank Devlin, director of commercial sales at Otis Technology, said, “The synergy between J.B. and Jeff is one of the main drivers behind the growth of the territory. Their collaboration has really had a positive impact on sales results this year.”

Otis Technology also presented Sokol Associates with the 2016 Sales Agency of the Year award. Sokol, based out of Oakdale, Minnesota, took top honors in 2013 and 2014, and has more than 50 years of experience in the outdoor sports industry. It represents Otis Technology in the upper Midwest and Great Lakes -territories.

The award was presented to Jon Sokol by Devlin, who said, “We are extremely fortunate to have aligned ourselves with outstanding sales agencies. The Sokol team as a whole has really embraced the Otis brand and is an excellent extension of our salesforce.”  Otis Technology is known for manufacturing advanced gun-cleaning systems. Its Breech-to-Muzzle design has positioned it as the gun-care system of choice with the U.S. military. (otistec.com)

Sign of the Times

2017 SHOT Show, Avenger Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)

Call it a sign of the times. Med-Eng, a division of Safariland, used the 2017 SHOT Show to launch the Avenger Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The bomb disposal and tactical robot has been engineered to provide police and military response teams with enhanced capabilities to manage ongoing and emerging threats posed by terrorists, particularly in urban environments where car bombs are of concern. The Avenger’s dexterous arm and claw can easily reach inside, above, and below cars, pickup trucks, and delivery vans to remotely investigate suspicious devices. The system includes an on-board computer that fuses data from multiple Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear & Explosive (CBRNE) sensors and cameras and relays it to a command post. This integrated sensor suite provides a mission-critical tool for managing CBRNE and Hazmat threats, such as a terrorist’s dirty bomb, mitigating risks to the surrounding public. The numerous sensor ports are compatible with many specialized sensors that bomb squads already have, so they can make use of their existing equipment and attach new tools in the future. (med-eng.com)

TNW Tweaks the ASR

TNW Firearms, a designer and manufacturer of modern and historical firearms, located in Vernonia, Oregon, is now offering the innovative and popular Aero Survival Rifle in versions that comply with California and New York firearms regulations. Previously prohibited in these states due to restrictions on long guns with a pistol grip and a detachable magazine, this new variant of the Aero Survival Rifle (ASR) comes with an ergonomic fixed stock that meets the criteria allowing the use of a detachable magazine with a rifle. Like all ASRs, the California-compliant model is a takedown firearm, “making it the perfect pistol-caliber carbine for outdoor enthusiasts, ranchers, pilots, or anyone else who needs a portable, rugged, and reliable semi-automatic rifle,” says company spokesman Matt Foster.

Aero Survival Rifle, 2017 SHOT Show

The popular Aero Survival Rifle is now offered in a California-compliant version that features an ergonomic fixed stock. The rifle, which uses a Thorsden stock, ships with one 10-round magazine.

Though similar in appearance and manual-of-arms to an AR-platform rifle, the ASR is an original design that uses Glock magazines. It is available in 9mm Luger, .357 Sig, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and 10mm. The design allows a user to switch between similar cartridges with nothing more than a change of barrel and bolt assembly.

Blowback-operated for simplicity and reliability, the ASR has both an upper and lower receiver machined from 6061-T6 aluminum, and is available finished in hard-coat anodized black, dark earth, and OD green, as well as two variegated finishes—Tiger Pink and Tiger Green. Like an AR, the ASR has a buffer tube and a right-side push-button magazine release. The California-compliant ASR uses a Thorsden stock. It also comes with one 10-round magazine. SRP: $829.99. (tnwfirearms.com)


When a pair of pros team up, the result is a superior line of tactical knives

When Browning introduced its Black Label line of knives at the SHOT Show a few years ago, nobody knew exactly where the venture would lead. To some, it seemed like yet another attempt by a company to extend its name into a different product category by shamelessly slapping its logo on products it really knew nothing about. But what Browning did was different. The knives it produces are of superior quality and honor the brand’s storied heritage.

2017 SHOT Show

Black Label Tactical knives are designed primarily as a joint effort between world-renowned veteran SWAT officer and martial arts instructor Jared Wihongi and master bladesmith Russ Kommer. The line has since expanded to include a variety of tools and implements of self-defense for various situations and needs. They also happen to be quality blades that are well-made, always with an eye toward style.

“For me, there are three basic elements to a good knife: functionality, quality, and good looks,” says Rafe Nielsen, Browning’s product manager. “The Wihongi Signature Series knocks all three of these out of the park. Especially the good looks part. It’s hard to beat a knife that just flat out looks cool.”

It’s Wihongi and his unique background that bring the extra flair to many of the Black Label knives. Their shape, construction, materials, and even attitude are all on full display in his new Signature Series.

“Jared Wihongi is one of the most respected knife experts in the country. To have his influence on his own Signature Series really brings the authenticity to a new level,” says Nielsen. “And then to have it based on his Maori background, it almost feels like a custom knife from him.”

And it appears Wihongi and Kommer have been busy. There are seven new entries coming to the Black Label line this year, five of which bear the knife designer’s name.

“Our Black Label knife line continues to grow and develop into a comprehensive line for our tactical customer. For 2017, we have something for just about everyone,” Nielsen says. “These are fully functional, high-quality, and authentically designed knives that live up to the Browning name.”

First up is a distinctive new tool, the Wihongi Signature Series Tomahawk. The blade, which is ¼-inch thick throughout, is etched with a Maori warrior tribal motif as a tribute to Wihongi’s heritage. The hawk features a semi-sharpened blade edge on the spike end and holes machined into the steel for balance and weight control. The head is attached to a forked tang with three flush-mount screws atop a cord-wrapped handle. The hawk also comes with a rugged Kydex belt sheath. SRP: $69.99.

A bit small but just as stylized, the Wihongi Signature Dagger has a fixed double-edge full-tang blade of hollow-ground 7Cr17MoV steel with a brushed finish and etched Maori designs similar to the Tomahawk. It also includes flush-fit mosaic scale pins, a stainless-steel bolster, and a butt cap with silver accents. The dagger comes with a black Kydex sheath with slots and eyelets for easy attachment to belts, packs, or other gear.

Another etched blade, this one a bit bigger, is the Wihongi Signature Kukri (pictured above). The knife has a vicious-looking recurved full-tang kukri blade, again with a brushed finish Cr17MoV steel and a deep-draft reverse tanto blade profile. Again, the blade is etched with a Maori tribal design. The folder features an ambidextrous thumb stud and a steel pocket clip. (browning.com)

David Maccar

The Power of Passion

Passion, not price, is the key to continued success

Elk, 2017 SHOT Show

Ken Schmidt, former director of communications at Harley-Davidson, began his tenure with the company just months before its near collapse. But he was on board during a storied brand recovery. Schmidt’s passion for the outdoors parallels his love for motorcycles. As the keynote speaker at the NSSF’s Executive Management Seminar, he opened with the question, “Who in this room created a hunter this year?”

He then explained the need for every member of the shooting sports to take responsibility to bring one more hunter into the fold annually. “It’s about changing the conversation to how much fun we have as hunters, instead of engaging in the arguments that are against our industry. Let’s talk about how cool it is to shoot a deer, drag it back to camp, and put it on the dinner table. It’s simple: If we don’t bring new hunters into the sport, we will die.”

Schmidt pointed to numerous parallels that motorcycles have with the shooting sports industry and warned about the race to the basement. His example included the flat-screen television market, which has seen prices plummet from $1,200 to under $500. “You can buy a Honda for $16,000 less than a similar Harley, but enthusiasts still pick a Harley. That’s the power of passion.”

And it’s that passion that can help ensure the future of the shooting sports. “Everyone must be on board with a brand that’s committed to passion for the American dream,” he said. “That’s the key.”

Peter B. Mathiesen

Science and Colors

2017 SHOT Show

First Lite Performance Hunting is launching an addition to the technical apparel brand’s arsenal of camouflage and solid-color options. Using the scientific backbone of the popular Fusion pattern, Cipher offers a lighter color palette for hunters who understand Fusion’s effectiveness but want an option with lighter colors and tones.

Launched in 2015, Fusion was warmly received by hunters because of its ability to provide a sense of depth almost anywhere in the field. The DNA of First Lite’s family of patterns is derived from the Golden Ratio, which is the recurrence of particular shapes and colors throughout nature. By adhering to this algorithm and incorporating the perfect ratio of light and dark colors, First Lite believes Fusion and Cipher promote the negative space created by large and small-scale breakup instead of creating the “blob effect” found in most patterns.

“We see Cipher as the best possible complement to Fusion, one of the most effective patterns currently on the market,” says First Lite founder and co-CEO Kenton Carruth. “The key is the ability of the patterns to work at any distance. What we call ‘color blobbing’ has always been the biggest hurdle in traditional camouflage patterns. Most of these appear as a dark blob of color outside of 10 yards. But Cipher and Fusion incorporate enough visually disruptive qualities to give both bowhunters and rifle hunters an advantage both in close and at long range. We wanted to give the hunter a choice of proven, highly effective patterns, and we feel we’ve achieved that by offering Fusion, ASAT, and now Cipher.”

Cipher will be available throughout the First Lite product line as a sister pattern to Fusion, beginning with existing product late next month. New 2017 styles will be available in Cipher and other options later in the spring. (firstlite.com

Subtle Changes

S&W’s M&P M2.0 is right on target

S & W Pistol, 2017 SHOT Show

Input from experienced M&P users resulted in an improved pistol­—the M2.0.

When a pistol is already a remarkable machine, people get nervous when that pistol undergoes changes, new versions, or updates. But if they’re done well, those changes amount to refinements that make that remarkable machine a truly fine pistol.

Such is the case with the new Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0, an update of the incredibly popular M&P line of handguns. The fact that it took 11 years for an update to be necessary is a testament to the original M&P’s design. The M2.0 is still a short recoil–operated, locked-breech semi-auto that uses a Browning-type locking system. It features a unique takedown method that doesn’t require a dry-fire pull of the trigger, for added safety.

While the original M&P’s target demographic was law enforcement, it quickly got into the hands and holsters of shooters in all walks of life and for all purposes for which a pistol is suited. The M2.0 is just different enough to make M&P fans giddy. The changes are subtle, but they were made with input from law-enforcement officers, professional competitors, and everyday concealed carriers who rely on the M&P.

New Grip
The M2.0 retains the proven 18-degree grip angle of the original, which allows for natural pointing. But S&W engineers also looked at and made changes to the part of the pistol that contacts the hand the most, adding a more aggressive stippling. They also added a fourth interchangeable palm-swell insert that falls between medium and large on the size scale and is dubbed medium-large. While it may seem trivial, when you shoot the M&P in rapid succession with the different-sized inserts, you can really feel the difference in stability and comfort.

New Trigger
The factory trigger was always the big gripe about the M&P. Shooters found it to be mushy and quickly replaced it. S&W listened, and the M2.0’s redesigned trigger is crisp, with a lighter pull and a positive, audible reset.

And the Rest
The controls on the M2.0 are nearly identical to that of the original, with an ambidextrous slide stop, a reversible steel magazine release button, and an optional thumb safety lever. The M&P M2.0 is chambered in either 9mm or .40 S&W, and it comes with a 4.25-inch barrel. Best of all, it is available in gun shops now. (smith-wesson.com)

David Maccar

What Is All the
Rage in Social Media?

Social Media, 2017 SHOT Show

Social media is increasingly important to retailers, and Instagram is a vital part of the equation.

Is Twitter dead? Should businesses pay more attention to Instagram and Facebook? And how can YouTube help increase exposure in a crowded marketplace? The latest in social media strategies for the firearms retailer was laid out at a 2017 SHOT Show University seminar with Michelle Scheuermann of BulletProof Communications, LLC, during her presentation, “Advanced Social Media Strategies.”

In the seminar, Scheuer-mann focused on three platforms she says deserve the most attention: Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. “Ignore the popular line of thinking that Twitter is the place to be. There are too many trolls, making the experience unpleasant and providing little to no value,” said Scheuermann.

She also stressed that retailers should only take on what they can comfortably handle and do well. “You aren’t giving your business any further service by halfway focusing on something,” she said. And if, as an owner, you find you can’t do it all, you can hire a specialist or find a trusted employee to manage the task.

Scheuermann said she’s having the most success with Instagram at the moment, even though it is owned by Facebook and they are starting to tweak the algorithms. Her tips for the photo-driven platform are to post often, use 5 to 10 hashtags per post mixed between unique and popular tags, and switch your personal account to a business account.

Finally, Scheuermann discussed YouTube strategies for increasing views on branded channels. Of all the platforms, YouTube is the easiest for making simple changes resulting in big gains.

“YouTube is very specific in its method of tracking videos and making them available to users. It needs to see you post often and use very specific keywords in your title, description, and tags,” she said.

No matter which platform retailers focus on, Scheuermann stressed that they have fun with it. “Above all, you need to show the personality of your store, and create a tribe of your own online. User-generated content is probably your best friend, so find those people who are zealots for your brand and cater to them, comment on their posts, and create a relationship.”

Blaser Steps Up

Womans Shotgun, 2017 SHOT Show

When Blaser USA executives went looking for an authority to guide them in their entry into the women’s market, they found Anne Mauro, who was instrumental in designing a line of shotguns for an Italian shotgun company. Blaser’s new line of shotguns and rifles is called Intuition.

Mauro, who is also the coach of the University of Maryland shotgun team, has applied her international competition–-winning knowledge of shotguns not only to the Blaser F16, but also to a woman-centric version of the R8. Everything in the R8 is modular, and one gun can be configured in 47 different calibers. The stock length, grip, cast, and pitch have been reduced and redesigned to fit a woman. SRP: starts at $3,787.

The F16 features assisted-opening, and Mauro says, “The crisp closer is very keen for a sporting clays shooter.”

A shorter length of pull, a slight Monte Carlo comb, a smaller grip radius, and a low-profile receiver make this 12-gauge well–suited to women.

“I can’t wait for the ladies to start shooting this gun,” said Mauro. SRP: Sporting, $4,195; Game, $3,795. (blaser-usa.com)

—Barbara Baird

Hybrid Pack for Women

Hybrid Packs for Women, 2017 SHOT Show

Looking to bring its signature designs and features to the first woman-specific, Western-oriented daypack in the Extreme line, Alps OutdoorZ has created the Monarch X. “After successfully introducing the Extreme line of hunting packs, we knew we couldn’t stop there,” says product manager Zach Scheidegger.

That was the impetus for the new Monarch X daypack–meat hauler hybrid. It can be used as a standard daypack, but it can also be used to haul out meat. The shoulder straps and waist belt are designed to fit a woman’s physique more comfortably than a standard hunting pack. Dual aluminum stays help distribute the weight evenly, while Lycra shoulder straps with built-in load lifters and a molded foam waist belt ensure a comfortable fit. (alpsoutdoorz.com)

Built to Last

After a century, Browning’s BAR is still going strong  

Browning's BAR, 2017 SHOT Show

The BAR providing covering fire during World War II’s Okinawa campaign in 1945. The rifle’s ability to work effectively in challenging conditions is one reason for its storied reputation.

In 1917, the Great War in Europe was in its third year. Here in the United States, John Moses Browning was working on an idea for a light, gas-operated machine gun that might help break the stalemated trench warfare being waged across the Atlantic Ocean. What was needed, he felt, was a relatively lightweight rifle that could be carried by an individual soldier, but that would still be able to fire fully automatic. 

Existing machine guns already had proved themselves deadly on the battlefields. But they were large and heavy, needed to be mounted on tripods or wheeled carriages, and required two- and even three-man teams to operate. 

It took him all of three months, but John Browning came up with a rifle the U.S. Army quickly accepted: the BAR M1918, aka the Browning Automatic Rifle. Or, as we know it, the BAR. The .30-caliber BAR was considered one of the most effective light machine guns ever made, and it saw significant action in World Wars I and II and the Korean War, and was even used during the Vietnam War. 

Approximately 50 years after the BAR’s inception, the Browning BAR sporting version was introduced. While mechanically different from the original BAR, the sporting BAR featured a similar look and was as tough and accurate as the original. It soon became the go-to rifle for many American hunters.

All of which makes 2017 a doubly significant year for Browning: the 100-Year Anniversary of the iconic BAR and the fifth decade of the sporting BAR. 

“The longevity of the BAR is a testament to Browning’s commitment to high quality as well as the strength of the basic BAR design,” says Aaron Cummins, Browning’s product manager. “Of course, the sporting BARs are much different internally than the full-auto military BARs. But both are Brownings, and that means they are built to last.” 

To celebrate these milestones, Browning introduced new and upgraded BARs at the 2017 SHOT Show. The commemorative model is the BAR Safari 100th Anniversary rifle, and only 100 will be made. All are chambered in .30/06 SPRG. The stocks are made of oil-finished Grade V Turkish walnut, and there are special anniversary gold engravings on both sides of the receiver. With a 22-inch stainless-steel barrel and an overall length of 43 inches, the BAR Safari weighs in at just an ounce over 8 pounds.

Browning is also making the BAR MK3 and BAR MK3 Stalker, BAR MK3 in Mossy Oak Break-Up Country, and the BAR MK3 DBM. The MK3 models feature aircraft-grade alloy receivers and multi-lug rotary bolts as well as hammer-forged barrels.

Detachable magazines with the unique Browning hinged floorplate allow a shooter to drop the floorplate, detach the empty magazine, and pop in a new magazine in seconds. These BARs are drilled and tapped for optics, too.   

“All of these 2017 BAR MK3s will also come with special 100th Anniversary serial numbers,” Cummins says. “It should add some collector value to these rifles as well as give people a chance to own a piece of Browning’s history. Not that we are going anywhere. We expect the BAR to be around for another 100 years.”  (browning.com)

Brian McCombie

Clearing the Air

The redesigned Black Cloud ups its performance 

Federal Premium, 2017 SHOT Show

Flitecontrol Flex, an improved version of Black Cloud, will burn cleaner and perform better in ported choke tubes.

Federal Premium’s popular Black Cloud waterfowl ammunition now comes in an improved version: Flitecontrol Flex. The new load will perform better and it will simplify a retailer’s life, too. Original Black Cloud was deadly stuff, but it patterned badly in ported choke tubes, leading to dissatisfaction and confusion among waterfowl hunters. Now you’ll be able to sell Black Cloud to all your waterfowling customers regardless of which choke they use, and you’ll be able to sell them ported tubes without having to explain that they shouldn’t shoot Black Cloud.

The Flitecontrol wad is designed to produce tight patterns by staying with the shot 15 feet past the muzzle, then separating cleanly. Rear braking fins pop open to slow the wad while window-shaped cuts in the side allow air inside the wad to equalize internal and external pressure. That’s all fine until you run a Flitecontrol wad through a ported tube, where the ports first chew the side windows like graters, then bleed off the pressure from expanding gases that are supposed to open the rear fins. The results are poor, erratic patterns instead of the deadly downrange performance for which Black Cloud is known.

The new wad is redesigned with new materials and thinner brake fins that will deploy regardless of drops in pressure. The side windows are gone, replaced by slits that are compatible with ported tubes. The results, as I saw on an early September goose hunt and on the patterning board, are excellent. Flitecontrol Flex patterned very well through the ported Patternmaster tubes I used on the hunt.

The new Black Cloud Flex contains the same mix of ridged Flitestopper pellets and round shot for better on-game performance and patterns. The new, lead-free Catalyst primer promises more consistent ignition and much cleaner burning performance, alleviating the complaint that Black Cloud dirtied gun barrels. Available in 10, 12, and 20 gauge. (federalpremium.com)

Phil Bourjaily


CRKT’s Homefront just might change the face of field knives forever 

CRKT, 2017 SHOT Show

CRKT’s Homefront is an innovative folder that quickly can be completely field-stripped for cleaning in the field.

Sometimes the simplest ideas can be the most complicated concepts to carry out. Renowned knife designer Ken Onion and the team at Columbia River Knife and Tool weren’t necessarily looking to create a new knife category when they set out to design the CRKT Homefront, which they launched late last year. They were simply looking for a way to develop a versatile workhorse of a knife that was easy for people to field-strip. What they delivered, however, was a knife that might very well change everything.

“With most folders, if I’ve just gutted a moose, I’m probably not going to want use the same knife to spread peanut butter on my crackers at lunch,” Onion says. “But you should be able to, right? I mean, if you look at most of the things a soldier carries into the field, he can take them apart, clean them thoroughly, and put them back together without any tools. Why not a knife?”

It was that motivation that drove Onion and the team at CRKT to want to create a knife that could be taken apart, cleaned, and put back together in the field without any tools. It might seem like a simple idea, but the practical application proved to be anything but.

“We worked with Ken and came up with several ways to make it work, but we could never figure out how to create something for mass production,” says Doug Flagg, vice president of sales and marketing for CRKT. “We truly believed in the concept, though. So about three years ago, we made it a priority, and Ken dedicated himself to figuring out how to make it work.”

Onion and CRKT went through the arduous process of trying to materialize an idea from concept to reality. There were the usual ups and downs, successes and failures. Each solution led to new problems, but the biggest challenge the team faced was one of simplicity.

“Folding knives seem so simple, but the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts working together that the average consumer will never see,” Flagg says. “We had to figure out how to incorporate all those moving parts in a way that they were completely contained within the knife. You can’t have screws and other small parts falling out in the field when people are trying to clean it.”

The design also had to be intuitive. If it required a user’s manual in the field, there wouldn’t be too many people who would be eager to attempt the disassembly.

“When you are introducing an entirely new concept into the market, the first generation needs to be so obvious that everyone can understand what it is and how to use it just by looking at it,” Onion says.

The challenge wasn’t coming up with a solution; it was coming up with a solution that could be manufactured with consistent results. This proved especially difficult with the knife’s pivot point.

“You can’t have any blade play at all. But it also can’t be so tight that it doesn’t open smoothly every time. It’s a big challenge,” Onion says. “I probably had 20 different ways to do it, but the manufacturability was the problem. You had to be able to replicate it and have it work the same way every time.”

The solution was a small switch on the outside of the Homefront’s pivot point. By sliding the locking lever to one side and rotating the wheel at the base of the knife, the handle separates, leaving you with three easy-to-clean pieces. Simple? Yes. Game-changing? Yes, again. (crkt.com)

Christopher Cogley

Voice, Activated

2017 SHOT Show

Henry Ford once remarked, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” It’s a good example of how customers are much more in touch with their needs (in this case, more speed) than they are with practical solutions for their problems.

Gerry Katz, vice chairman of Applied Marketing Science, explored this dichotomy during Monday’s inaugural NSSF Executive Management Seminar session “Voice of the Customer: The Most Misunderstood Term in All of Marketing.”

In a nutshell, the voice of the customer is not about listening to customers’ demands for features or technical specs, and it’s not about following industry thought leaders or reacting to anecdotes from your sales staff or tech support. Instead, Katz described a methodical process in which one-on-one interviews are conducted with current and potential customers, which are then transcribed and culled for key phrases about things the customers need. Next, those needs are grouped into categories and prioritized by those customers.

It’s important to have customers involved in each step. Our industry is full of enthusiasts, and Katz warns against mistaking our own voices for the voice of the customer. We may share values and need many of the same things as our customers, but we often prioritize those needs differently, and use the wrong words to describe them. Those words matter—they carry the emotional freight of the needs, and help ensure that the solutions you arrive at are the ones your customers are asking for.

—Robert F. Staeger


Think suppressors are a fringe product? Think again 

Suppressors, 2017 SHOT Show

Top: The Ti-RANT 45M is a modular centerfire pistol can that gives the end-user added flexibility regarding length, weight, and sound reduction. Below: Other new accessories include flash hiders and subsonic pistons.

In February 2016, the BATFE reported the number of registered silencers in the U.S. had exceeded the 900,000 mark. This statistic does not surprise Matt Ohlson, Remington’s director of consumer accessories. “Obviously, with our military contracts as well as growing civilian interest, it was a natural move for Remington to augment our firearms and ammunition lines with a silencer portfolio. That’s why we acquired Advanced Armament Corporation,” he said in an interview last September at Remington’s annual new-product seminar. “Silencers are not becoming mainstream; they are mainstream now, and once users realize the myriad benefits, they want to shoot everything suppressed.”

Ohlson also says that by SHOT Show 2017 he expects that well over one million silencers will be in consumer hands, boosted by hundreds of thousands of applications waiting to be approved for tax stamps in an effort to beat the ATF 41F July 13, 2016, enactment date. During previous years, tax stamp wait times stretched out to longer than one year. Last fall, though, approval time estimates fell to between six months to a year. Ohlson noted that the majority of the silencers added to the record had been sold in the past five years, with double-digit increases year over year. Presently, 42 out of 50 states allow for silencer ownership, and 40 states allow for some form of hunting with them. Prospective owners have to fill out federal paperwork, undergo a background check, pay a $200 tax per item, conduct the transfer through an FFL/SOT in their state, and wait for approval until they can take possession. This is in stark contrast to certain countries in Europe in which silencers, where legal, can be purchased relatively easily.

“Wherever there’s a firearm, there’s a silencer benefit,” says Ohlson. “Target shooting, plinking, home defense, hunting, military, law enforcement—even patrol officers. It really is an across-the-board benefit for any shooting discipline that you’re doing.”

According to Ohlson, three trends are currently driving the suppressor market.

Trend #1:
Choices, Choices, Choices
Ohlson sees more companies coming into the market, new designs pushing the technical envelope, and prices dropping with increased competition. “Five to 10 years ago, suppressors were the realm of the specialist gun owner, someone who navigates all the legalese behind it and how to own it. What’s happened now is that suppressors are more mainstream. As a result, more everyday gun owners are jumping on the silencer bandwagon. As the market matures, there will be more product choices, and logically more price-point plays.”

Trend #2:
Do-It-All Silencers
There is increasing interest in the one-can-to-do-it-all, aka the do-everything-can for pistol, centerfire, and rimfire firearms. For one tax stamp, you can own one silencer that can be used on multiple hosts and multiple calibers.

“AAC offers suppressors that will cover multiple rifle calibers—such as .308 Win., 300 AAC Blackout, and 5.56 from a .30-caliber silencer—and pistol cans that shoot both centerfire pistol and rimfire cartridges. However, we don’t offer a do-it-all right now,” he says.

Trend #3:
Modular Silencers
The modular silencer allows the user to switch the configuration from a full-size to a compact version by removing a module from the main tube. Again, for one tax stamp you can own one silencer that allows for some level of adjustment for different applications or scenarios.

“Our Ti-RANT 45M and our new Ti-RANT 9M are modular centerfire pistol cans that give our end-user the added flexibility to configure length, weight, and sound reduction to their specific needs,” Ohlson says.

The Ti-RANT 9M was launched at SHOT 2017. “That silencer is an extension of our legacy Ti-RANT 9 pistol silencer, which was, and still is, one of the quietest and softest shooting 9mm pistol cans in the market,” says Ohlson. “It was discontinued about 18 months ago when we introduced the Illusion 9 [an eccentric silencer]. The Ti-RANT 9M is a concentric can with all the features of the Ti-RANT 9, but now with the added modularity. We also include a standard ½-28 and a metric 13.5-1LH piston in the box.”

AAC has also been busy with the launch of a variety of new accessories, including SquareDrop Handguards, a new take on KeyMod-compatible MSR handguards; Glock 34 threaded barrels, with ½-28 and M13.5-1LH options available; new flash hiders for AR9 pistols/carbines with ½-28 and ½-36 thread pitch, M14-1LH AKs, and MP5-style 9mm three-lug mounts; a new adapter that enables AAC’s Ti-RANT 45-series cans to shoot subsonic 300 AAC Blackout with a direct thread attachment to an MSR; and new fixed–barrel, improved-design spacers for Evo-9/Eco-9/Ti-RANT 9/Illusion 9, and Ti-RANT 45 series silencers.

“If people want to support expanding our freedom to use silencers, they need to get behind the HPA (Hearing Protection Act) and support organizations like the American Suppressor Association and the NFA Freedom Alliance,” says Ohlson. “The HPA would take silencers off the NFA list.” (remington.com)

—Barbara Baird

Honoring Leaders

Lew Danielson, Crimson Trace, 2017 SHOT Show

Lew Danielson (left) and Slaton L. White.

At the Bonnier Outdoor Group 2017 SHOT Show breakfast, SHOT Business honored seven industry leaders through the presentation of the SHOT Business Awards. The honorees were Centennial Gun Club, Independent Retailer of the Year; Cabela’s, Chain Retailer of the Year; Granite State Indoor Range and Gun Shop, Range of the Year; Rick Insley of the RSR Group, Sales Rep of the Year; Lipsey’s, Distributor of the Year; Smith & Wesson, Company of the Year; and Lew Danielson, Person of the Year.

“I take such pride in our team, and it’s magical to watch them accomplish their personal goals as well as our company goals each day. They know how to make things happen. This award means everything to us, and we appreciate the recognition very much,” said Laurie Lipsey Aronson, president and CEO of Lipsey’s.

Danielson, who recently announced his retirement, founded Crimson Trace Corporation in his garage in 1994 and built it into a global company with more than 250 laser-sighting and lighting products. He said, “It is with great pleasure that I accept this recognition on behalf of the Crimson Trace employees and the many customers who have purchased Crimson Trace laser sights.”

Southern Pride

Zac Brown brings passion and precision to the knife business  

Southern Grind, 2017 SHOT Show

Few things go together like firearms and knives, unless you want to add country music into that equation as well. Zac Brown’s Southern Grind, which was founded by the three-time Grammy-award-winning artist, had a booth at 2017 SHOT Show for the first time in its young history. It’s a mash-up encapsulating a knife company owned by a country music star on display at the largest shooting sports trade show in the world.

Brown’s passion for high-quality blades drives his focus to create some of best knives on the market, without taking away from the blue collar roots of the company. For example, all the Southern Grind fixed-blade knives start their lives as reclaimed sawmill blades, work-hardened from creating thousands of board-feet of lumber. Their first life slicing through tree after tree is made stronger by a constant cycle of heating and cooling numerous times a day.

Taking strength and durability even further, the GranDaddy knives are differentially heat-treated for maximum edge hardness, but they still retain enough flexibility to bend 90 degrees without fracturing the blade. Cerakote and Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) coatings are added to finish the process with a corrosion-resistant and non-reflective surface.

The folding knives also exhibit numerous features that don’t necessarily need to be on a standard production knife, but Brown has made sure that his products are held to a higher standard. For example, they all use solid 6AL4V titanium locks and liners, for strength and to save weight.

The Southern Grind metal workshop in Peachtree City, Georgia, is part of the Southern Ground family of brands. Located on 8 acres and totaling 150,000 square feet, this facility houses a collective of talented artists and craftsmen. Each person is a master in his respective craft—wood, leather, metals. Everyone who puts their hands on a product is passionate about quality, and there is definitely a sense of pride that they are being made in the U.S.A. However, the primary goal of Southern Grind isn’t just to manufacture high-quality knives—it supports Brown’s non-profit passion project, Camp Southern Ground.

Located on more than 400 acres in Fayetteville, Georgia, Camp Southern Ground provides extraordinary experiences for children from all backgrounds, races, and religions. The camp puts a special emphasis on those with Autism Spectrum Disorders such as autism and Asperger’s, as well as learning disabilities such as ADD/ADHD and dyslexia, social or emotional challenges, and those with family members serving in the military. A portion of the sales from Southern Grind helps support the camp. (southerngrind.com)

Justin Moore

Quiet, Please!

Ear Protection, 2017 SHOT Show

Most shooters know that hearing loss can occur from a one-time incident or happen gradually over a lifetime of pulling the trigger. In many cases it’s a combination of the two—which is why it’s so important to wear hearing protection every time you use a firearm, whether in the field or on the range. There are several brands of quality hearing protection on the market today for shooters to choose from, but one manufacturer has steadily been building its reputation for quality over the past 30 years: Howard Leight by Honeywell.

“We’ve always been dedicated to keeping our core customers—professional and recreational shooters and hunters—safe through superior hearing protection,” says Sean O’Brien, president, Honeywell, SPS Global Retail.

Expected to hit the market in spring 2017, the new Howard Leight Impact Sport Bolt electronic earmuff will have the same Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 22 dB and slim profile of the already popular Impact Sport, but with new and improved -features. The Impact Sport Bolt will offer improved circuitry, increased amplification of ambient sound, and an industry–leading attack time of .5ms, which is 250 times faster than the current model.

O’Brien says “attack time” is the interval between when the external sound level goes above safe hearing levels—such as when a shot is fired—and when the circuitry reacts to lower the amplification of external sound to a safe level. (howardleightshootingsports.com)

—W.H. Gross

Equal to the Task

SOG’s new pack line is cleverly conceived and built right 

SOG, 2017 SHOT Show

Though best known for knives and multi-tools, SOG has branched out with a new line of tough packs that can handle the elements.

good pack is hard to find. Over the years, I’ve used a broad assortment of backpacks, gear, duffel bags, and other configurations of pouches and straps to haul things around in urban and rural environments. Not all were equal to the task. It usually comes down to the little things: the quality of the zippers and waterproofing, the stitching and the seams, how the fabric edges are finished, and the overall arrangement and design of the components. You can’t really get a feel for how a pack will function until you use it.

So when a company known for great edged items—such as tactical knives, hunting knives, folders, field tools, and tomahawks—says they’re going to start making backpacks, it’s natural to be a little skeptical. You think maybe they’ve strayed from their skill set. But in the case of the new line of heavy-duty packs from SOG Knife and Tool, I can state unequivocally that these are not novelty items with a company logo (though the green-beret skull does make a prominent appearance). They are solid gear-haulers with a ton of thought and engineering poured into their design.

The packs have been introduced as a full line, ranging from the compact 18L EVAC sling bag all the way up to the spacious 35L Seraphim backpack, with four other models in between. All have killer features in addition to 500-denier nylon construction (with a water-resistant polyurethane coating). The shoulder straps on all the bags are padded, have a rigid suspension system, and come with quick-release buckles, so you can cinch down the straps and still get the pack off in a hurry if you have to. The straps on all packs accept the sling bag and have an elasticized sternum strap that’s adjustable for length and height, something missing from many smaller packs. Plus, the small plastic buckle has an emergency whistle built in, just in case. Every SOG pack also has the ability to carry a hydration bladder, with pass-throughs for drinking tubes, plus guides on the straps.

The Scout 24 pack and the two larger models have stowable, padded hip belts, giving users the ability to carry heavier loads for longer periods. The Ranger also has a hip belt, but it’s unpadded. The two largest packs—the 33L Prophet and the Seraphim—feature stowable shoulder straps, so they can function as duffel bags, with the appropriate grab handles right where you need them.

That’s the great thing about the entire line—they have zippers, pouches, grab handles, and straps all over the place, but you never feel like the features are cumbersome or that they get in each other’s way at all.

Even the smallest pack has a pass-through laptop compartment, as computers are so often a component of our lives these days, even in the field. The larger packs have sleeves built into them meant for laptops or tablets, and every pack sports a semi-rigid impact-resistant top pocket (that’s the shell-looking thing with the hook-and-loop panel and SOG logo), with plenty of pouches and sleeves inside to organize fragile electronic devices. It’s crush-resistant, not crush-proof, but way better than just having things hanging out in a nylon pouch. Plus, it even has a walled-off place to stash a pair of sunglasses. These packs also have pass-throughs for earphones.

In addition, all the packs feature a laser-cut Hypalon MOLLE panel on the exterior for attaching additional gear. It works just like traditional MOLLE webbing, but it has a much lower profile and is stronger for extended use.

As a final touch, ring-shaped zipper pulls make it easy to get at them, even with gloves on. Speaking of the zippers, it’s truly amazing what adding a couple can do for a big pack.

The Prophet and Seraphim packs have four zippers on their main compartments, allowing users to open them from the top or bottom to access gear. (sogknives.com)

David Maccar

The Value of a Name

With licensed products, the key is quality and performance 

Browning, 2017 SHOT Show

The lightweight Browning Buck Shadow will be available in three versions with four camo options.

Branded ancillary products are big business. It’s a cost-effective way for a company to extend the reach of its brand without having to add expensive factory floor space. The issue is finding the right licensing company so that the products it develops reflect the values of the company that granted the license. It’s harder than it seems, but one company that has mastered the process is Utah-based Signature Products Group (SPG). “We do a lot of things with a lot of companies,” says Steve McGrath, SPG’s director of marketing and public relations. “In the shooting sports arena, we partner with Mossy Oak, Ducks Unlimited, and Realtree, among others. But our biggest relationship is with Browning. It’s a trusted name in the outdoors, a name synonymous with innovation and commitment to excellence. So, the products we create for them have to reflect that. And they do.”

For 2017, SPG is rolling out three new Browning-branded product categories: footwear, socks, and pet accessories.

“The reintroduction of the Browning footwear line is a big deal,” McGrath says. “Back in the day, Browning was the first to come out with a lightweight upland boot—the legendary Kangaroo Featherweight.”

The new hunting line will consist of three categories—big game, upland, and rubber. The big dog in the big-game category is the Buck Shadow.

“This will be the signature boot, a lightweight 8-incher built for the spot-and-stalk hunter in demanding backcountry terrain, where light weight, stealth, and complete waterproof protection are essential,” he says.

McGrath notes that the trend toward lighter-weight boots continues to evolve. “Anyone can go lighter; that’s not the issue. Maintaining quality and performance, that’s the fine line. I think we’ve struck a great balance with the Buck Shadow. We’ve got a lightweight boot that’s structured so it can handle the heavy loads when big-game hunters pack out. As for durability, we’re using topnotch materials, and we expect it to last.”

The Buck Shadow will be available in three versions with four camo options. The boots utilize modern technology such as Ortholite open-cell foam for long-lasting cushioning and  OutDry, a lamination process that bonds the waterproof membrane to the boot. (spgoutdoors.com)

Slaton L. White

The Right Tools

Something sporting arms customers won’t see at retail is a special build Remington Defense calls the MSR/PSR/Mk 21. This modular sniper rifle features a Remington MSR titanium action, with a 60-degree bolt and a lightweight skeletonized chassis. Other features include a right-folding fully adjustable buttstock, a modular handguard with removable accessory rails, a Cerakote Gen II IR reducing finish, a two-position trigger, and two detachable magazines. It’s also available in three calibers—​.308 Win., .300 Win. Mag., and .338 Lapua Mag.

Remington Military, 2017 SHOT Show

“The key concept behind the MSR/PSR was adaptability and operator-serviceability,” says Joshua Cutlip, of Remington Defense. “Traditionally, bolt-action sniper rifles have had set configurations and required depot-level service for barrel replacements when the installed barrel was worn out. But with the MSR/PSR, the operator can change his own barrel in just a few minutes—all without losing the capability the weapon offers on the battlefield. This adaptability is valuable for many reasons—for example, to support more cost-effective training or to suit the ammunition that is available in the theatre. Sniper rifles are highly specialized weapon systems, and offering an added layer of adaptability can be a huge benefit.” The system was created to meet specific requirements of the U.S. military’s elite war fighters. (remingtonmilitary.com)

—Photographs By J
ustin Appenzeller

Read More Online
To see all four issues of SHOT Daily in full, go to shotbusiness.com/shot-daily.