Archive for the ‘Featured’ category
By David E. Petzal
Photos By Justin Appenzeller
The design philosophy of Scandinavian knives allows a retailer to offer something completely different
Is there a Norse knife in your future? Probably. Because the United States
started as a yowling wilderness in which a knifeless man would soon be a lifeless man, our country has always been slightly nuts about knives. We have our own thriving cutlery industry, make our own fair share of cutlery steels, and have something on the order of 3,000 custom knife makers who will hammer you something really fancy if you want it.
But American knives are not the whole picture. Scandinavia has—for 1,000 years or more—turned out its own very distinctive knives, all of which are at least very good, and in some ways better than ours. Also, they sell.
Of the Scandinavian cutlers who have made it over here, Morakniv and Helle are probably the best known. Morakniv is Swedish and Helle is Norwegian. Finland’s most familiar knifemaking name is Marttiini. It owns Rapala, best known for its fillet knife—which has been around so long and is so popular that most people probably think of it as American—but recently branched out into hunting knives as well.
Scandinavians have developed a philosophy of knifemaking which states that if something has worked for 10 centuries, it doesn’t need to be changed. Because, as the Vikings put it, you dance with who brung ya. As a result, Scandinavian knives omit features that are almost universal on American knives and incorporate others that we hardly ever see.
Rambo would not carry a knife from northern Europe. The typical Scandinavian belt knife is small, with a blade of 3 to 4 inches. The one exception to this is the Finnish leuku (lee-ooo-koo), which is what we call a camp knife. It’s a big knife (though not a heavy one), with a 7- to 9-inch blade, which Lapplanders use for butchering and chopping firewood. Scandinavian knives do not have hilts. Their makers view a hilt as unnecessary on a knife with a correctly designed handle; they also believe the hilt is something that interferes with the making of a properly designed sheath.
Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish knife makers also don’t believe in straps with snaps that can be cut through or pop open. They make pouch-style sheaths that swallow the knife except for an inch or two of handle. Most of these sheaths don’t ride rigidly fixed to a belt; they have big loops, attached to rings that allow the sheath to move with you.
Handles are, for the most part, wood, and of that, birch burl is the favorite. It’s cheap and durable, and will not cause you to yell in pain when you grasp it in really cold weather. Morakniv, in some of its more modern lines, has gone in for synthetics, but the basic handles are wood, some of them dyed red. Helle uses contrasting disks of wood or wood and antler; its handles are distinctive and quite beautiful.
In steels, the Scandinavians have us beat. Sweden, in particular, has had a highly advanced steel industry for years. Swedes not only produce very high grades of the natural metal, but also their own dedicated knife steels. They work in laminates of stainless steel and of tool steel, and in stainless that is better, by and large, than anything we have. Many American knives, especially the less expensive ones, employ the 440 series stainless steels: 440A, 440B, and 440C. About the kindest thing you can say about this trio is that they’re resistant to rust and that factories, with factory-sharpening equipment, can get a fair edge on them.
(A California cutlery company that specializes in knives for Special Ops personnel was asked to make a number of knives whose blades would fail in use so the people who were training with them would learn how to cope if it were to happen. Their choice for a guaranteed-to-fail steel was 440C.)
But once that edge is gone, and it will depart pretty quickly, very few of your customers will be able to get it back. The large number of outdoorsmen who claim they can’t get an edge on a knife is probably due to the large number of 440 series knives out there.
Not so with the Scandinavian knives. They all come with razor edges, and they can all be resharpened with ease.
There are no choils on Scandinavian knives. The choil is the cutout on the cutting edge just ahead of the handle. Descendants of the Vikings regard a choil as a waste of cutting edge. There are no fullers (lengthwise grooves in the blade), either.
Although some Scandinavian knives can have impressive price tags, most of them are remarkably inexpensive for what you get. A great many of the Morakniv models sell for under $20. The most expensive knife the company offers—a survival model with a high-tech sheath—goes for $115.
However, most of the prices you see in all three lines run from $30 to $80, with more on the $30 side than the $80.
By Christopher Cogley
Photos By Justin Appenzeller
Figuring out which type of knife a customer needs is easier when you break down product lines into four basic types
Knives come in a seemingly infinite array of sizes and shapes, both of which affect functionality and, ultimately, customer appeal. To streamline the process of matching the customer to the knife that best suits his needs, think of this broad product category as a storage bin with four sections—hunting, tactical, everyday carry, and collectibles. The job of your sales associates is to ask questions that help them determine from which section of the bin they should pull a product.
“Hunting knives are more use-driven than any other knife type,” says Chris Cashbaugh, marketing director for SOG Specialty Knives and Tools. “When it comes to hunting knives, there’s more emphasis on function because the customer is buying it for a very specific purpose.”
The first step toward effectively selling hunting knives is to figure out what that purpose is and demonstrate how the knives in your case are best suited to accomplish that task. It’s important for sales associates to understand which knives are designed for the various aspects of hunting and be able to speak intelligently on topics such as the attributes of an effective skinning knife for big game versus the characteristics that are more suited to caping or quartering, or even breasting waterfowl. Aside from the knife’s size, shape, and design, much of the functionality of hunting knives comes down to the one element that isn’t necessarily obvious by looking at it.
“One of the most important aspects of selling any knife is the ability to understand steel types and why price points vary so much even if the knives look similar,” says Diane Carver, Browning’s knife and light product manager. “That ability is even more important when it comes to selling hunting knives.”
Because hunters view their knife as a tool that they will call on to perform a very specific task, and they need it to be able to handle that task quickly and efficiently in conditions that are often less than ideal, it’s important to explain to them how the different types of steel are designed to be more effective in different situations.
“Most knife customers are interested in shape, usage, materials, and blade steel once they realize their purpose,” says Joyce Laituri, public and media relations director at Spyderco. “From there, it’s relatively easy to see how one model suits them more efficiently than another.”
With the wide variety of steel types that are available today, it can often be overwhelming for sales associates to keep up with the latest introductions, but most reputable knife manufacturers are happy to provide training on steel types and knife design for retailers who request it.
“Insufficient knowledge or understanding of the product can be stifling when you’re trying to make that connection to the customer that will lead to a sale,” says Derrick Lau, Benchmade’s public relations and communications manager. “Knowing this, Benchmade Knife Company has implemented a wide array of resources for retailers, including online product training, in-store product training, a dealer portal, and even physical collateral.”
“With tactical knives, the type of steel generally isn’t as important as it is to customers who are looking at hunting knives,” Carver says. “And that’s simply because tactical knives typically aren’t used and sharpened as much as are hunting knives.”
Although most tactical knives are made with functionality at their core, that isn’t necessarily the aspect that appeals to the majority of consumers who come in looking for a tactical blade. “How the knife fits in the customer’s hand is certainly important,” Cashbaugh says. “But tactical knife sales tend to be driven more by style and looks than by functionality.”
The reality is that most tactical knives are very rarely—if ever—used. They are, however, a statement of the customer’s values and beliefs, an extension of his personality, and as such, they tend to be more of an emotional purchase than a hunting knife is. That doesn’t mean, however, that practicality doesn’t come into play.
“One of the most important considerations with a tactical knife is the sheath,” Carver says. “Knowing where the customer is going to carry the knife so they’ll be able to get to it when they need it will tell you which sheath will work best for them. From there, it’s usually not too tough to find the right knife.”
Tactical knives provide peace of mind for the people carrying them. They want to know that the knife will be there and be ready if they ever need it. Show them how a particular knife’s shape, design, blade material, and carry options can give them the sense of security they’re looking for, and it’s a safe bet you’ll see more tactical knives walking out of the store on the hips of your customers.
No knife category is as broad or diverse as the everyday-carry category, and the reason for that is simple—no other knife customer is as broad or diverse as the one who comes in looking for an everyday-carry knife.
“With everyday carry, it really comes down to what appeals to the individual customer. And all too often, what appeals to the individual customer usually comes down to price,” Carver says. “Browning tries to always have a wide variety of price points in our everyday-carry offerings, and that’s what retailers need to do, too, so they can be sure to have an option ready for everyone who walks in the store.”
That’s because the reality is that all of the customers who walk into your store can use an everyday-carry knife—whether they realize it or not. And the best way to demonstrate that fact is by first understanding the person on the other side of the counter.
“Ask questions,” Lau says. “If the customer has a favorite hunting knife, simply asking him what he likes about that particular knife can assist you in steering him to a knife in another category that may have similar characteristics, or perhaps even more enhanced characteristics.”
When you figure out what category of knife the customer is familiar with, you will have a better idea of what qualities are most important to him. And, because you have a diverse selection of everyday-carry knives in your case, you can easily direct the customer to a selection of knives that have the characteristics you know will appeal to that particular person.
“A hunter can certainly appreciate a sharp tool when field dressing, and translating that into everyday use is not a far leap,” Laituri says.
The same is true for customers who prefer tactical knives and are more likely to gravitate toward an everyday carry that has more tactical characteristics or a collector who leans toward a more classical style of a gentleman’s pocketknife. Sometimes, however, when it comes to everyday carry, it’s also a little bit about the bling.
“Everyday carry almost becomes a fashion statement—especially for guys, because we only have a couple of things that we ‘accessorize’ with,” Cashbaugh says. “A knife becomes a reflection of a guy’s style. It’s something he wants to show off.”
“The first—and biggest—difference in the collectibles market versus hunting or everyday carry is that the scope and breadth of products offered is much different,” says Fred Feightner, consumer marketing and communications manager for W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co. “For instance, when Case produces its Limited XX Edition knife series, it typically includes anywhere from 6 to 10 individual patterns. Case will offer single knives of each pattern for collectors, but they’re also accepted by those who carry knives every day. At the same time, we might offer the more hardcore collectors a complete mint set of these knives that bear special embellishing, serialization, and packaging. We try to mix things up a bit to keep the collectors active and engaged in the hobby. It’s what they want that truly drives the collectible offerings.”
Collectible knives are attractive because they offer something special that sets them apart from the other knives in your counter. Some of these differences might be minor, but others are extremely important to the collectors who know their trade. Just as in every other knife category, sales associates need to understand what traits are most valuable to the customer and be able to point out those characteristics to both the educated collector as well as those who are new to the hobby.
“The history is important, like our tang stamps, which help enthusiasts determine when almost any Case knife was manufactured,” Feightner says. “People also need to be reassured that the brand is here to stay, so we impress upon them our strict quality standards that are a result of more than 127 years of knifemaking experience.”
Although experienced collectors might know exactly what traits to look for in a collectible knife, it’s important to provide novices with a foundation of understanding upon which they can build. Encourage them to research collectible knives and figure out which features make a knife increase in value over time. At the same time, though, it’s also important to realize that the characteristics that the collectible market holds in the highest regard might not necessarily be the traits your customer values the most.
“It’s best to get to really know your consumer’s preferences before trying to sell him a knife he wouldn’t choose to buy for himself,” Feightner says.
As with each of the other categories, getting the right knife in your customer’s hand starts by understanding the customer.
“It all really does circle back to asking the customer questions,” Lau says. “Knowing what the customer needs out of the tool and knowing what tasks the tool will be used for helps you hone in on the product that will best serve the customer’s needs, regardless of the category.”
By Christopher Cogley
Photos By Justin Appenzeller
Firearms retailers who also sell knives can gain a step on the competition
It is no secret that firearms retailers inhabit a highly competitive world ruled by razor-thin margins. That’s why smart retailers have also invested in knives. Because knives offer significantly higher margins with significantly less hassle, they have the potential to quickly increase your store’s overall profit. Knives also take up a lot less real estate, so you can stock more product in far less space.
“One of the most obvious benefits of selling knives in your store is that they provide a much better margin than guns,” says Lynn Thompson, founder and president of Cold Steel, Inc. “You might get 20 percent on gun purchases, but with knives, you can expect to get 60 to 70 percent. That’s significant.”
That margin also takes a lot less of your sales associates’ time to achieve because, unlike with gun sales, selling knives typically doesn’t require mountains of paperwork to fill out, file, and store. Thompson also likes the economics behind knife real estate. “Your investment in shelf space is significantly smaller with knives. And because of the margins, that shelf space suddenly becomes significantly more profitable, especially when you consider how many knives you can fit in the same space as one handgun,” he says.
“For many of our retailers, knives are the most profitable category in their store.”
But this profit doesn’t just come out of thin air. You must be willing to give your sales associates the tools they need to successfully sell those knives on a consistent basis. “It all starts with the display,” Thompson says. “The time you spend on your display case will always come back to you in the form of increased profit. If you display knives correctly, they will sell every time.”
Thompson also stresses that the quality of your display depends on the quality of the knives you put in it. “You can fill your counter with cheap knives, but for the same space you could offer your customers really good knives.”
And though those “really good knives” will deliver the higher margins you’re seeking, keep in mind that it’s just as important to match the customer to the correct knife.
“There have been times when I’ve actually talked someone out of an expensive knife because I knew it wouldn’t do what they needed it to do,” says Nick Thomas, the knife buyer for Ashland, Ohio–based Fin Feather Fur Outfitters. “But those same people are still coming into my stores five years later and asking me for advice on which knife they should buy next because they trust me.”
That kind of trust comes not just by knowing your customers, but by knowing the product.
“Education is key,” Thomas says. “If you can get a guy on the floor who loves knives and knows knives, you’re going to sell knives. In fact, you’re going to sell a lot of knives.”
Although the passion for knives might come naturally to many of your sales associates, a comprehensive understanding of the different kinds of metals and edges and forging processes can often be overwhelming for even seasoned veterans of the knife industry. To help keep his sales staff educated on the basics of knife anatomy as well as the latest industry developments, Thomas says his employees routinely participate in in-house training sessions offered by Benchmade and several other knife manufacturers.
“A lot of people don’t understand the benefits of carrying a $200 knife, and if you’re going to have any chance of selling them that knife, you have to make sure your sales associates know what those benefits are,” Thomas says. “An educated sales associate is going to sell more knives than a non-educated sales associate. It’s as simple as that.”
Your sales associates’ education shouldn’t stop with a basic knowledge of the features, however. By making sure they have the practical experience to carry their knowledge to the next level, it will make all the difference in their ability—and their desire—to sell knives.
“My employees own the knives we sell,” says James McAnelly, owner of Kentucky-based Elizabethtown Gun & Sporting Co. “They use them every day and in the field, and that makes selling them easy because all they have to do is tell their own stories about the knives. It’s the best endorsement you could possibly have.”
That personal connection is also what can help you separate your small brick-and-mortar shop from the online megastores that will always be able to undercut your prices.
“The online stores can’t tell the story,” McAnelly says. “Experience is the best seller, and people are usually more likely to trust someone they can look at face-to-face.”
Even so, it’s hard to escape the fact that you will inevitably have those customers who come into your store, pull out their phone, and show you how they can get the knife online for significantly less than you’re selling it for. And while you might not be able to counter every determined penny-pincher, you do have some distinct advantages that can help you close the deal more often than not.
“You already have them in your store, and they obviously are interested in the knife, so now all you have to do is discuss price,” Thompson says. “Because of the margins that you’re getting with knives, you can sometimes match online prices when you add in the shipping costs. But even if you don’t make the margin, you’re still creating a customer who will likely come back and buy from you again.”
And that might just be the biggest benefit of selling knives.
“The most important aspect in business is your customers,” McAnelly says. “Once I get them in the door, I certainly don’t want to send them down the street to my competitor, so I try to make sure and get them the tools they need to make their time in the field more enjoyable. I know if I can do that, there’s a good chance I’ll get them back in the door again.”
That prospect is even more likely when you consider the one over-arching truth that has been undeniable from the time man first sharpened stone—it is fundamentally impossible for anyone to ever have too many knives.
By Slaton L. White
Crimson Trace takes laser-sight retail education to the next level
It’s certainly no secret that Crimson Trace sees its mission as one of enhancing a person’s ability to protect family, home, and country. That phrase has been part of the company’s marketing plan for years. But marketing director Kent Thomas likes to go one step beyond by saying, “Our goal is to make laser-sighting systems standard equipment. Just as no hunting rifle sold today is complete without a scope, no personal protection handgun is fully equipped without a laser.”
He notes that between 2007 and 2013, 42.9 million firearms were added to the U.S. market. Of that number, he says, surveys show that 87 percent of those purchases were for home defense, 76 percent for self-defense. “This emphasis on personal safety is driving strong growth in firearms ownership. It’s the white-hot core of the market,” he says. “Laser sights increase accuracy and confidence. And Crimson Trace has grown along with the market.”
“Furthermore, we know that consumers are increasingly looking to customize their firearms by adding enhancing attachments. The firearms accessories and equipment industry is a huge market, something around $5.6 billion. We know that consumers spend almost as much on firearms accessories as they do on the firearm itself. For example, men typically spent $547 on accessories after they spent $554 on the firearm itself. Women spent $457 on accessories, $469 on the firearm.”
That’s a lucrative market for CTC, as it commands more than 50 percent of the laser-sight market. “We’re more than twice the size of our nearest competitor,” Thomas says. “As the leading brand in the category, we can provide significant price points and margins for retailers under a well-recognized brand halo.”
To further drive home the message to retailers about the importance of the accessories market, Thomas notes that the average margin on a firearm is less than 10 percent, but the margin for accessories is far higher. “In fact, the margins on Crimson Trace products are three times higher than that for most firearms. The ability to upsell with our products can put a lot of money in a retailer’s pocket.”
Market domination gives CTC another advantage as well. “Right now more than a dozen original equipment manufacturers work with CTC to offer co-branded products,” he says. The approach helps cement CTC’s reputation as the go-to company for laser sights. It also means that when one of these manufacturers comes out with a new product, there is a corresponding CTC accessory right there with it.
Innovation is also a big driver of the company’s success. “We pride ourselves on our patent portfolio, and it continues to rapidly grow,” Thomas says. “Nobody offers as much innovation in this market category.”
At the 2016 SHOT Show, Crimson Trace rolled out another innovation—the LinQ system, a laser/light unit and pistol grip designed expressly for the MSR platform. According to Thomas, CTC worked on the design for 10 years. Essentially, it’s a closed wireless system that uses a 2.4 GHz signal, similar to what is found in common wireless mobile electronics today, to seamlessly link the controls in the grip to the module on the rail. In the process, a unique, encrypted bond (pairing) is established between the grip and module.
The unique “code” is stored in the memory in both units, Thomas says. Once paired, neither unit will be able to effectively communicate with any other LinQ systems. At the same time, the system, unlike Bluetooth technology, will not be visible to other wireless devices, which eliminates the potential for interference.
“In this way, the pistol grip and laser/light module synch up with each other so the operator can control the laser and light from the pistol grip,” he says. “There are no cables or touch pads, and the operator doesn’t need to use his support hand to control the laser or light. The LinQ system is activated by Crimson Trace’s proprietary Instinctive Activation, another innovation that no other manufacturer offers—period.”
Given the technological innovation of this accessory, some customers might assume that it will be difficult to install. Not so, says Thomas.
The grip installs like any other aftermarket AR-15/M4 grip. “We include the single mounting bolt,” he says. “The module installs onto a rail by tightening one hex bolt. The hex key is also included. The whole thing takes only minutes, and all of the required tools are included.”
The Big Issue
The big issue with laser sights, Thomas concedes, is retailer education. “We know that if the retailer doesn’t understand the technology, he won’t be able to explain it. And if he can’t explain it, he won‘t be able to sell it.”
To try to remedy that, CTC has undertaken a series of retailer education seminars under the trademarked name Crimson Trace Classroom. I recently attended a training seminar conducted by CTC regional sales manager Matt Frank at Williams Gun Sight Company in Davison, Michigan. The course is broken into two segments: classroom instruction with a printed guide on how laser sights operate (including references to specific Crimson Trace models) and range time, in which the store’s staff runs though a course of fire designed to drive home the points made in the presentation.
“We want to dispel any myths about laser sights,” Frank told me. “We want to break it down to its barest form: what a laser sight is, what it does, and how it applies to your personal-defense system. Basically, all a laser does is project the front sight onto the target. By doing that, you’re on one focal plane and you’re better able to focus on the threat. That’s where your attention needs to be.
“By definition, defense shooting is unconventional shooting,” he added. “It’s something that is very hard to replicate during practice. But this is exactly where a laser sight shines, so we’ve created some drills that show how effective a laser sight is in these situations.”
Frank starts with the basics—how to turn the CTC laser sight on and off. Next up is dry-fire trigger control. He does that because a laser sight delivers instant feedback to the shooter: Is he on target or off target? Is he flinching? That done, the range goes hot.
CTC supplies special targets, each of which shows a pair of silhouettes. The left is for iron sights; the right is for laser sights. The participants first fire five rounds using iron sights. The second five-round set uses the laser sights.
“We start with what most shooters know, then break it down and go to a non-dominant hand drill (both supported and unsupported),” he says. “Then we impair their vision through the use of special shooting glasses with fogged lenses.”
The impaired vision drill helps emphasize the fact that in a defensive shooting situation, you may be dealing with a variety of challenging environmental factors.
“Maybe you can’t find your glasses, maybe you have allergies,” Frank said. “But even if you can’t see clearly, in a threat situation, you still need to be able to defend yourself. This drill shows a shooter how a laser sight helps you do just that.”
That done, Frank lowers the lights and has the shooters fire from a modified retention position, which simulates a situation in which you are unable to bring up the gun to a traditional line of sight.
“These drills take people out of their comfort zone, but they show participants the value of laser sights in defensive shooting situations,” he says.
Live fire over, the shooters recover their targets for a closer look.
“This is the ‘aha moment,’” Frank says. “They can clearly see the benefits of a laser-sighting system. More important, they can explain it in simple terms to a customer. Many of our shooters keep that target behind the counter and use it as a reference tool.”
After going through the course of fire myself, I can see the value of the program. I also experienced a key insight about personal-defense situations that Frank touched on when he described how a laser sight works.
“Defusing a situation without actually having to pull the trigger is a real positive,” he says. That’s because the threat may disengage when the laser paints the target. And, as Frank says, “Disengagement is what it’s all about.”
By Wayne Van Zwoll
Photograph by Wayne Van Zwoll
The accuracy of Ruger’s precision rifle will bring a smile to any shooter’s face
The naked joy of hitting targets set farther than you can see well without optics has prompted a run on new rifles and scopes, and a new crop of cartridges. The latest rifle built for accuracy at distance is the Ruger Precision Rifle, which vaulted from idea to steel quickly. I first dropped prone behind it at the FTW Ranch, a rural Texas property with hills that twist and throttle wind to blow bullets wide of distant gongs.
“It’s 18 inches tall,” said Doug Prichard of the speck floundering in the mirage, now at high tide in my 20X Burris XTR. “Figure a minute of drift, add a half.” A former Navy SEAL, Prichard calls wind expertly. Before conditions could change again, I pressed the trigger. The speck shivered. Three seconds later a faint thwop floated back.
Distilled, the purpose of any rifle is to send a bullet to a distant mark. Misses don’t count. Rifles that help you hit become favorites. The newest centerfire from Sturm, Ruger & Co. was designed to hit. A bolt-action built around the company’s wildly popular American, the Ruger Precision Rifle has elements of that entry-level sporter, but its profile is distinctive, with an MSR-style buttstock and handguard—even a hanging grip. It certainly doesn’t look like a hunting rifle.
“You’ll get to wring it out for three days,” said Mark Gurney. “We’ve had stunning results at the factory. Averages for five 5-shot groups come in under an inch.”
That got my attention. It’s one thing to put three bullets, or five, into a nickel-sized knot. Few rifles stand the test of multiple five-shot groups.
Hitting little targets has bumped my pulse since my parents relented and loaned me $5.95 for an airgun. I learned about trajectory by watching BBs arc from that asthmatic Daisy. Their metallic slap on cans, bottle caps, and then nails in barn boards thrilled me.
I got my first centerfire rifle about the time American troops were landing in French Indochina. A sniper’s stage, Vietnam influenced the form of rifles for long shooting. In 1966, the Marines contracted for a stiff-barreled Remington 700, ordering 800 in 7.62 NATO (.308), 550 with Redfield 3–9X scopes. This Model 40 USMC rifle wasn’t a scoped infantry arm. Unlike its predecessors, it had more in common with the varmint and target rifles of civilian marksmen. It proved deadly. Twenty years later, Remington rolled out an updated M40: the M700 Sniper Weapons System with a Kevlar-reinforced, bipod-equipped stock. It weighed almost 14 pounds with a 10X Leupold M3A optic.
The new Ruger Precision Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor is a bit lighter: 10½ pounds without a scope. The XTR II on my sample added considerable heft, but it delivered the sharp images and parallax correction useful in long-range trials. It also featured an elevation dial marked to match the arc of my factory loads. Over three courses of fire, with targets as far as 800 yards, the RPR treated me very well. The rifle banged out clean tallies on all, topping scores fired by other marksmen. (I erred by a click to overshoot a 630-yard gong on my last record shot the last day, a humbling finish!)
The brainchild of young Ruger engineer Jonathan Mather, the RPR owes much to the American rifle series, which has prospered since its 2011 debut on FTW’s 12,000 acres of Texas Hill Country. Owner Tim Fallon has made this complex of steel-target ranges an ideal testing ground. FTW shooting schools help riflemen improve their long-range skills and get faster in up-close dangerous-game scenarios. The American’s full-diameter bolt has three lugs in a low 70-degree lift. But the triple-lug design makes primary extraction (and bolt lift) harder because cam angles are steeper than they are in twin-lug rifles.
“We attacked that problem with dual cocking cams,” Gurney told me. Indeed, cycling the American is easy. Cartridges feed smoothly from a four-shot spool magazine. A bolt-face extractor and plunger ejector are sunrise-reliable.
The new RPR parts company with the American in several ways, but most clearly in stock design. The American’s molded polymer is of a traditional profile, mated to the tubular receiver with what Ruger calls “Power” bedding. (Actually, it was “PWR,” for Dwight Potter, Scott Warburton, and Bruce Rozum, the engineers who came up with it.) Power bedding comprises two steel V-blocks embedded in the stock. The guard screws pull angled mortises in the receiver’s belly into these blocks.
Starting from scratch, Jon Mather abandoned the American’s stock, to give the RPR its vertical grip and a “lower” composed of halves machined from 7975-T6 aluminum. The receiver and one-piece bolt are of machined, pre-hardened 4140 chrome-moly steel. A Picatinny rail, secured by 8-40 screws, has 20 minutes of gain, sloping up at the rear so you can click to targets far away without hitting stops or tilting the scope’s erector tube steeply. A reversible selector-style safety replaces the American’s tang safety.
Like an MSR, the new Precision Rifle features a tube-centered buttstock that brings recoil straight back. Hinged at the wrist, it folds to the left and can be locked there. Fold-and-lock latches and length-of-pull and comb-height adjustment cams require no tools. A pliable rubber buttpad pampers your clavicle and doesn’t slip. Ruger installed a toe rail to accommodate a folding monopod.
Up front, the lightweight tubular alloy handguard is rail-friendly and easy to hold with your palm. The barrel floats inside. I used a Harris bipod but also installed a Brownell’s Latigo sling on a QD swivel stud underneath. The RPR has push-style QD swivel receptacles for a side-mounted sling.
Of 4140 chrome-moly steel, the mid-weight, 24-inch, hammer-forged barrel in 6.5 Creedmoor has 5R-style rifling, and 1:8 twist. It mikes .75 at the muzzle, which is threaded 5⁄8-24 (protector supplied). Mather insisted on minimum bore, groove, and chamber specs to enhance accuracy. A gunsmith can rebarrel the RPR with AR tools, though you’ll want to think very hard before abandoning the factory tube.
This rifle is a cornucopia of clever ideas and why-didn’t-I-think-of-that? refinements. Beyond the finger-adjustable stock, Ruger installed a hanging grip with more slant and a quarter-inch more reach than most. (More than half of all riflemen find a standard MSR grip falls too close to the trigger.) The RPR grip fits both smaller palms typically found on women as well as my pork-chop paw. Want more reach? I’ve used the aftermarket AccuGrip to replace other MSR grips. A serrated base block lets you adjust the AccuGrip fore and aft.
The RPR’s oversize bolt knob is threaded and easily replaced, but in my view, you’d be nuts to do so. Ruger made this one just right; it helps you cycle from the shoulder. Perhaps because Mather, too, has misplaced Allen wrenches, he housed the trigger wrench in the bolt shroud. You can adjust trigger weight from 5 to 2¼ pounds without disassembly, through the magazine well. That sturdy, beveled well is also easy to grasp or hook on an improvised rest. It accepts a variety of boxes: M110, SR 25, DPMS, Magpul, and AICS. Dual latches secure side and rear lips.
If exceptional accuracy is the defining feature of a precision rifle, the RPR is only one in a field that includes models of many forms. But accuracy is a fickle mistress, and not entirely understood. It should follow tight tolerances: a snug chamber behind uniform rifling, and an action trued so the bolt aligns with the bore. Glassing and/or pillar bedding can stabilize the rifle. Stiff barrels and actions presumably enhance accuracy. Still, because rifles can show streaks of independence, I’ve drilled tiny knots with inexpensive bolt guns turned out like cookies and selling for little more than lawnmowers in January. Not all accurate rifles are, by design, precision rifles.
While the type is yet young, the precision rifle might be pegged as a mid-weight bolt-action with adjustments uncommon on sporting rifles (movable combs and buttplates), plus provisions for accessories that help you hit at distance (toe and front rails and an MSR-style grip). Alloy tubes are replacing traditional forestocks. Barrels commonly wear threads for suppressors. Some of these features have carried over from so-called “tactical” rifles. Others owe their genesis to target rifles. Both evolved to deliver hits without regard to the lithe form, modest weight, and pleasing cosmetics of popular hunting rifles. At this stage, rifles with the “precision” label lean heavily to modular design. Top-end modulars—like the AXMC from Accuracy International, the McMillan Alias, and Kimber’s new Advanced Tactical SRC—can plunge you quickly into poverty. Shooters out to save rubles by using their own Remington 700 action can tap Robar, which “accurizes” and fits a stainless barrel to produce its half-minute SR21.
“We designed the RPR from scratch,” Mather says. “It’s not a copy. We wanted a modular, mid-weight rifle that would sell at a modest price.” He’s quick to credit his Ruger team. “I had a lot of help and owe a great deal to suggestions from shop supervisors and experts in tooling.”
On its face, selling this new Ruger might seem a challenge. It’s not for hardened traditionalists. It can’t pace the self-loaders of Black Ops wannabes and 3-Gun competitors. It’s heavy for hunts afoot. But if you spend a week with the RPR, you’ll work hard to tear yourself from it. My three days in Texas left me itching for the next Vortex Extreme Challenge, a hike-and-shoot match I fired last summer.
The Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf range sprawls across the hills and valleys north of Tremonton, Utah. The event is scored mainly on shooting, but also on speed. If a congested station imposes a wait, that delay is deducted from finish time so as not to penalize affected teams. Each pair of competitors has eight minutes at a station, though the number of shots varies. One rifleman calls wind, spots, and coaches as the other fires. Then they swap functions. Except for a couple of targets designated for other positions, shooters fire over a bipod.
The first station, with gongs from 200 to 1,200 yards, tested our zeroes and teamwork. Once we’d signaled “start,” we had to load, aim, fire, find new steel, spin the elevation dial, load, re-assess conditions, aim, and fire again. The four silhouettes allowed us a minute each. We finished in time, but I missed easy shots. We picked up and marched off across a coulee to Station 2. The target was barely visible in sage shadow at 1,000 yards under a glaring sun.
And so it went. At the final station, three tiny targets bobbed in soupy mirage. We each had a choice: Fire three shots at the 500-yard target for a point per hit, three at 780 for three points. If you feel lucky, go for the gong at one mile. Six points.
Confident of my 700-yard zero, I chose 780 and bellied down. The gong quivered; the thud floated back. I repeated for a trio of hits and bonus points. My partner pounded the 720-yard mark twice, plus the bonus. We’d hiked 7 miles and finished in the upper quartile.
In the RPR, I knew I’d found the perfect rifle for the Vortex Extreme Challenge. It’s designed for prone shooting, and heavy enough to steady easily, but it’s not ponderous. It has a good trigger, a quick bolt, and a slanted rail. Stock adjustments help fit it to field conditions, a requisite for consistent accuracy.
The best part of the rifle may be its price. Few rifle enthusiasts cruising gun racks will spring for a $4,000 long-range rifle, no matter how accurate. But at $1,399, this new Ruger is easy to bring home to Momma.
The RPR’s introductory chambering is 6.5 Creedmoor, an efficient short-action round I adore for its light recoil and flat arc. I’ve used it on animals as big as elk and eland, though it’s more at home on deer-size game. Designed by Dave Emery and company in Hornady’s shop, it was inspired by 600- and 1,000-yard target ranges. The shoulder is set back on the .308 parent case to yield a neck long enough for leggy boattails that hold up well at distance. My RPR routinely sent 140-grain A-Max bullets into ¾-minute groups. One-holers at 100 yards were common. To broaden the rifle’s appeal, Ruger will be adding the .243 and .308.
“Have you seen this?”
That‘s a start. Pick up the rifle. Demonstrate its unique features, from the folding, easily adjustable stock to the magazine well that accepts side- and rear-latching boxes. Remove the bolt and pop the trigger wrench free. “You won’t lose this. And you adjust trigger weight through the mag well!” Note the RPR has many of the best features of Ruger’s SR-762 (MSR) rifle and the super-accurate American. “You can scope it with anything, on this rail.”
Challenge the customer to match the RPR’s accuracy: .8-MOA average for five 5-shot groups. Then, incredulously: “You don’t have a 6.5 Creedmoor?” Pause. Smile. “Well, this rifle makes the most of it!” Light recoil, flat flight, bullets that pull the rug from under deer-size game. Finally, the price. Say, “I can’t believe Ruger can sell this rifle for so little.”
By Richard Mann
Photograph by Richard Mann
Hitting at distance on a range is a very different animal from doing the same in the field while hunting. On the range, a 12-pound rifle is not a burden; if you’re chasing a bull elk at 6,000 feet, it is. Hunters want reach, not field artillery. To fill this niche, a proliferation of super magnums, such as the 6.5-300 Weatherby and .30 Nosler, are being chambered in rifles like the 8-pound Weatherby Arroyo and the even-lighter Nosler M48. These rifles can be carried all day. Proof Research’s less-than-6-pound Lightweight Mountain Hunter, which uses a carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel, is a high-end lightweight tack driver. At the other end of the price spectrum is Mossberg’s Night Train Patriot; it retails for less than $800 and comes with a riflescope and bipod.
Hobbyist long-range shooters and competitors only carry their rifles from the truck to the firing line. They like the added weight for the additional stability it can provide, and they have no interest or need to make a snap shot at a coyote. They want precision projectile launchers, purpose-built for static shooting. They want rifles like Weatherby’s Mark V TacMark Elite. This is a five-grand 12-pound boomer chambered for beast cartridges like the .338 Lapua and the .338-378 Weatherby. It offers buttstock adjustment, and with a suitable optic it can weigh as much as 15 pounds. Weatherby’s 10-pound Vanguard Laminate H-BAR offers the same adjustability but costs $3,500 less. It’s also chambered for tamer cartridges. Another option in this category is Bergara’s BCR 30 Heavy Tactical Chassis rifle. It, too, is chambered for smaller cartridges and offers adjustability like that seen in the Ruger Precision Rifle.
Sporting shotgun shooters preach the importance of fit. How a rifle fits a shooter is just as important for long-range success. This is because shot-to-shot variations in the launch platform—the way the rifle recoils and interacts with the shooter—alter point of impact. Little errors at the muzzle are magnified as time of flight extends. Because of this, length of pull and comb height become critical.
This is why the Ruger Precision Rifle, Bergara Competition Chassis Rifle, and the more affordable Mossberg Light Chassis Rifle have the attention of many long-range shooters. All three have highly adaptable buttstocks that allow for a custom fit that permits the launch pad to be tuned. The importance of fit also applies to more traditional sporting rifles intended for long-range hunting. Mossberg’s MVP LR Tactical with its adjustable comb is an example of how manufacturers are addressing this issue.
The mistake most new long-range shooters make is the assumption that they need high velocity and magnum force to go the distance. Truth is, flight time is what matters. The faster the bullet gets to the target, the less time gravity and wind have to affect it. It’s an aerodynamic thing, and it means even moderately powered cartridges, such as the 6.5 Creedmoor, can hang with hot-rod rounds if the right bullet is used. Because you don’t want to overburden a customer with a hard-kicking rifle, you need to be able to effectively communicate that the bullet’s ability to retain velocity is what really matters.
By David E. Petzal
Photograph by Tim Irwin
Long-range shooting is a big-ticket business. but before you can cash in, you need to know precisely what your customers need
The highest-grossing film of 2014, the highest–grossing war film of all time, and Clint Eastwood’s highest–grossing film were one and the same—American Sniper. It’s the story of SEAL marksman Chris Kyle, who killed more people while aiming through crosshairs than any other member of our armed forces.
Yet there was a time not long ago when one did not use the word “sniper” and “American” in the same sentence. Sniping was somehow less than honorable. It was something The Other Side did.
But that, along with a hell of a lot else in shooting, has changed—and with a vengeance. In the past decade or so, we’ve seen a blurring of the lines between military/police shooting and hunting. The modern sporting rifle has been widely accepted for civilian use. And the hunter who is admired is not he who relies on stealth, but he who is master of wind and trajectory.
So, long range is in, and it’s another world in which ordinary rifles, scopes, and ammo do not hack it. What does hack it is expensive—in many cases, very expensive—gear. But in order to sell that, you have to acquire a new wealth of knowledge. Back before I had become familiar with NightForce scopes, which are leaders in the world of long distance, the only dealer I knew who carried them explained to me that they had a feature that enabled a shooter to return to zero simply by pushing on the elevation knob. This is not how it works, and wallowing in such ignorance is the quickest way that I know of to lose customers. You, or someone else in your store, have to walk the walk and talk the talk.
For a century, the maximum range at which hunters were supposed to shoot was 300 yards. If you wanted to try beyond that, you bought yourself a fearsome rifle with tons of muzzle blast, recoil, weight, and velocity, and then relied on sheer speed to overcome distance. Now, with the development of range-compensating scopes and reticles, laser rangefinders, and superbly accurate sporting rifles, you can hit reliably way beyond 300 yards with a rifle that will not require you to know an orthopedic surgeon.
Back then, target shooters who wanted to shoot at long distance were pretty much restricted to NRA-sanctioned matches requiring a military rifle, lots of equipment, and the ability to shoot from bone-cracking positions designed for 19-year-old Marine recruits. That, too, has changed. The NRA now sanctions what are known as Any-Any matches, where you can use damn near any rifle and sight you want, do all your shooting from prone, and fire at targets from 200 to 600 yards—or farther, if the range allows. There is also F-Class, where you shoot prone over a pedestal rest, and F-TR, which is F-Tactical Rifle, where you’re limited to .223 and .308. F and F-TR competitors shoot side by side, and the ranges are 300, 500, and 600 yards. (There are no 400-yard distances.)
An F-Class rifle is usually less powerful than a hunting rifle, but it is more accurate and more consistent by several orders of magnitude. In F-Class shooting, the X-ring is only 3 inches in diameter, and even at small local shoots, there is no shortage of marksmen who can put 20 rounds in it at 600 yards in 20 minutes, and do so three times in an afternoon. It requires not only great skill, but a rifle that will shoot four 5-shot ½-MOA groups in a row.
Most F-Class and F-TR rifles are custom-built and cost in the neighborhood of $3,000 to $4,000. There are those, and then there are the various Savage competition guns, which cost about a third as much. Savage pretty much has a lock on this corner of the market; its reputation is that of rifles that will do the job if you can do yours. Savage will probably soon be joined by Ruger, courtesy of its brand-new Ruger Precision Rifle, a chassis-stocked work of genius in five versions that costs less than $2,000.
Scopes must be different, too. One of the most basic functions of a scope is to make consistent and accurate adjustments for windage and elevation. The average big-game scope is adjusted only occasionally, but competition scopes are constantly cranked up, down, and sideways.
Most scopes will not adjust with anywhere near the accuracy or consistency that is required to shoot well at long distance. The ones that will are built to an entirely different standard and are priced accordingly, which means $2,500 to $5,000.
And then there’s ammo. If you want to shoot at long range, you pretty much have to roll your own. Handloading is the only way you can get the accuracy required and keep the costs from becoming ruinous. Even if you’re a hunter rather than a competition shooter, you learn very quickly that the only way you acquire skill is by relentless practice. If you have a rifle in a military caliber, you might get lucky and find a brand of match ammo that you can buy in bulk and that shoots well in your rifle. Black Hills makes some very good stuff, and M118 7.62 sniper ammo, which is made by Federal, will shoot very well and can be bought in 100-round and 500-round lots. But handloading is still the cheapest way to go.
Accessories. Again, it’s a different world. Do you want to shoot in F-Class? You’ll discover in short order that an ordinary pedestal rest, which will do just fine at the range for a couple of days a year, will draw looks of pity and contempt. The pedestal rest of choice is a 30-pound, rock-solid, infinitely adjustable thing of beauty made by Sinclair, with a price tag of $600.
If you’d like to shoot in F-TR, which is Tactical Rifle, you must use a bipod. If you shoot with a standard gun-store bipod, which you bought for $30 or $60, you’ll discover that it’s not nearly as good as the ones Sinclair makes and sells for $200-plus.
This is just the basic equipment, but they’re items that the average customer has never heard of—or if he has heard, it’s the wrong information. Or he’s appalled at the price because no one has explained why some of these items cost so much. That’s where you, the retailer, come in. Your job is to know and to be able to explain.
Let’s take a simple case: There is no end of range-compensating reticles available. They all work—mostly. One claims to have survived 250,000 trial adjustments in its development, but I’ve seen one of these scopes so wrecked in the course of a prairie-dog hunt that it could not be gotten on target. Another, which relies on a battery-powered laser and calculates holdover for you, will do fine unless the temperature gets down to 10 degrees or below, which is the point at which its batteries drop dead.
If you want to sell successfully—have people happy with what they’ve bought—you have to remember that many of those customers will not work to achieve proficiency; many, if they bother to read directions, will not understand them because most directions are incomprehensible; and many, in the heat of battle (whether it be hunting or competition), will have what they do know go right out their head the moment the shooting starts.
So it falls on you to figure out what is simplest and easiest to master, as well as that which is least likely to fail under stress—and then push it.
It’s invaluable to be aware of ranges that offer shooting at more than 200 yards. In some parts of the country, finding one can be a real problem, but in others they’re relatively common. When I started working at long distance, I had to drive six hours each way to the range. There was simply no other choice.
You also need to know who can help. In April and October, the Scarborough (Maine) Fish and Game Club holds multi-class programs for beginners who want to try their hand at distance. It starts in the classroom and ends at the 600-yard line. Down the road in Exeter, New Hampshire, is a range run by SIG SAUER that goes out to 1,000 yards and offers professional instruction. Your job is to know about these programs.
With whatever you sell, you have to make this clear: No one who is good at long-range shooting got that way without work, usually years of it. Your customer is going to meet people who shoot so much better than he does that he will want to throw his rifle in the dumpster in despair. Remind him that no matter how much he spends, he is not going to shoot like a High Master without putting in the hours and the ammo and the effort. He is going to have to be patient and keep trying, and by and by it will come.
If he has any sense, he will thank you for your honesty. And he will come back to your store again.
By Mark E. Battersby
Managing inventory is a thankless task, with serious tax consequences if it’s done wrong
One of the most onerous chores facing shooting-sports businesses involves managing inventories. As a firearms retailer, you obviously must keep scrupulous Acquisition/Disposition records to comply with ATF regulations, but you also need to account for your overall store inventory.
Doing so not only helps compute the cost of goods sold for accounting and tax purposes, it also helps you gauge the overall health of your business. Recently, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), the non-profit group that creates accounting guidelines, proposed new rules designed to simplify the way inventory value is calculated. Although the new accounting rules are still only “proposed,” they’re already exposing the complexities associated with maintaining an inventory.
As a general rule, most businesses get about 80 percent of their total sales from only 20 percent of their inventory. Little wonder, then, that under both the tax and accounting rules, inventory is classed as an “asset.” And, as any business with dust-covered product can attest, not all assets are easily converted into cash, adding to the already high cost of most inventories. The cost of carrying inventory can include storage, insurance, risk of obsolescence, damage, taxes (yes, currently more than a dozen states impose a tax on inventories), and lost opportunity costs. In many shooting-sports businesses, the greatest cost of carrying an inventory is often the lost opportunity cost—the amount that might have been earned if the funds tied up in inventory had, instead, been otherwise invested.
The amount that a gun shop or firearms dealer has invested in its inventory has a direct impact on both profits and cash flow. Managing inventory is especially crucial to the success of every business that sells products. If too much inventory is on the shelves or in the warehouse, the operation runs the risk not only that the inventory can’t be sold in a timely manner, but that it might even become obsolete and never sell. Too little inventory, and the result may be out-of-stock issues.
Finding the right balance between inventory and customer demand is an ongoing daily numbers game. Managing the business’ inventory investment to maximize profits and cash flow while minimizing expenses means knowing precisely how much capital the shooting-sports business has tied up in inventory.
Since inventory is constantly coming into and going out of most businesses, it’s difficult to track the cost of inventory. Fortunately, FASB’s Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) permit several methods for valuing inventory, the two most common of which are First-In, First-Out (FIFO) and Last-In, First-Out (LIFO). Under the former, it’s assumed that the oldest inventory is being sold first; under the latter, inventory valuation assumes that the newest inventory is sold first. FIFO method is the inventory method used by most businesses.
To assess the relative values of LIFO and FIFO, it is necessary to look at the way the operation’s inventory costs change. If inventory costs are going up or are likely to increase, LIFO may be better, because you’ll be able to take those higher-cost items (the ones purchased or made last) and consider them as sold first. This results in higher costs and lower profits. If the opposite is true and prices are going down, FIFO might the better option. Because prices usually increase, most businesses prefer this method.
Unfortunately, there often is no practical way to determine the cost of each item in stock at the end of the year. Because many gun shops list inventoried merchandise only at their retail selling prices, any attempt to trace each item back to its original invoice cost is impracticable. One attractive alternative to such painstaking bookkeeping is the Retail Inventory Method (RIM).
RIM is usually used by retailers or distributors who have nothing but finished goods in stock. Under RIM, records are kept of goods available for sale at retail prices, and sales for the tax year are deducted from this total to determine the ending inventory at retail prices.
To determine costs under the retail method, the total selling price of goods in stock is reduced by the average markup originally applied to the inventory, thereby yielding a close approximation of the original cost. RIM may be used instead of valuing inventory at cost or the lower of cost or market.
In essence, RIM is an averaging method that has historically been more convenient for inventorying most types of merchandise, especially as volume increases. This method takes and subtracts the recorded sales for one year (or accounting period) from the goods available for sale during that same period in order to obtain the estimated closing inventory level at retail prices.
If a perpetual inventory is maintained, a business can determine profit (other than shrinkage) without taking frequent physical inventories. Of course, the use of this method must be designated on the tax return and must be used consistently from accounting period to accounting period.
The FASB’s proposed rules aim to reduce the complex ways in which businesses currently calculate the value of their raw materials, supplies, and finished goods. The proposal would require all inventory to be calculated using either the Lower of Cost or Market (LOCOM) or Net Realizable Value (NRV) methods.
NRV is the estimated selling price, minus the cost of completion, disposal, and transportation. With this method, businesses would no longer be able to use replacement cost or net realizable value less a normal profit margin when measuring their inventories.
Unfortunately, the proposed rules don’t take into account the nuances of calculating inventory using LIFO or RIM. Using LIFO, for instance, usually means making a LOCOM adjustment when inventory cost exceeds the market value. RIM approximates inventory cost by using current retail prices and applying a cost to selling price ratio. Although many retailers believe RIM is the more practical measure, those forced to follow the FASB’s proposed changes will have to increase their inventory balances. Given the impact of FASB’s new rules on your business, it’s time to set up a conference with your accountant.
By Richard Mann
This year, it’s mostly about seeing the bad guys
As evidenced by the new duty pistol from Ruger, firearms innovations and advancements continue in the law enforcement arena. But for 2016, the real news for cops is new optics. The devices utilized to help law enforcement better see the bad guys continue to improve, and many have become more mission-specific. Law enforcement officers benefit because they are more appropriately equipped to serve and protect. Retailers benefit as well, both from the higher profit margin and the up-sell that can accompany a firearms transaction.
• The FLIR LS-X and LS-XR are handheld thermal cameras built for law enforcement. They feature enhanced high-resolution color displays, extended-range performance, and video output. Designed for single-hand use, the cameras have multiple imaging modes that can detect body heat through fog, rain, and smoke. SRP: less than $3,500 each. (flir.com)
• The Leupold Carbine Optic is a compact 1X red-dot sight that provides natural, rapid target acquisition. Its 1-MOA dot reticle has 16 brightness settings and is night-vision-compatible. Battery life is estimated at five years. SRP: $1,299.99.
Leupold has refined the Delta Point reflex sight. Its patented Motion Sensor Technology detects any movement, automatically activating illumination. The Auto-Brightness sensor continuously samples light conditions to provide optimal reticle intensity. There’s also an adjustable rear backup handgun notch sight incorporated into the unit. SRP: $779.99. (leupold.com)
• The new SHV riflescopes make the legendary Nightforce ruggedness more affordable. The latest SHV is a 4–14x50mm that brings first-focal-plane reticle performance into the SHV line. SRP: $1,250. (nightforceoptics.com)
• The SIG OSCAR3 mini spotting scope is light and compact, and its electronic image stabilization eliminates the need for a tripod. It’s easy to pack in a cruiser or tactical vest for when reconnaissance is necessary. SRP: $499.
A rangefinder isn’t often thought of as “cop gear,” but during 13 years of working accidents and various investigations, I wish I’d thought of keeping one in my cruiser. SIG’s KILO 2000 rangefinder can read distances beyond 2,000 yards. SRP: $499.
SIG SAUER’s TANGO riflescopes are built to cater to the tactical operative. They offer extreme clarity and low-light performance while incorporating glass-etched illuminated reticles and first- or second-focal-plane designs. TANGO 4 riflescopes are the ideal solution for designated police marksmen, and they include SIG’s unique motion-activated reticle illumination. Three versions are offered, ranging in price from $599.99 to $999.99. SIG has four premier-quality TANGO 6 riflescopes, including a 1–6x24mm, a 2–12x40mm, a 3–18×44 mm, and a 5–30x50mm. Prices range from $1,399.99 to $2,399.99. Every TANGO riflescope comes with a coupon for a free custom ballistic turret.
SIG did not forget to address pistol sights. The X-RAY 3 sights incorporate a blacked-out rear sight as well as a high-contrast front sight. This 3-Dot tritium system has been torture-tested to 20,000 rounds and is available for the SIG P230, P250, P938, and P238 pistols. SRP: $129.99.
Realizing cops need to see detail when they’re conducting surveillance or analyzing a disaster scene, SIG SAUER has also included the ZULU Series of binoculars in its optics line. Models are loaded with features like low-dispersion glass and phase-coated BAK4 prisms. Sizes range from 8x42mm to 15x56mm. SRP: $249.99 to $1,199.99.
There’s a never-ending demand for zero-magnification red-dot/reflex sights and low- to mid-range magnification compact electro-optics. SIG enters 2016 with a full selection, starting with the BRAVO 3, BRAVO 4, and BRAVO 5 prismatic sights, which offer 3X, 4X, or 5X magnification and high-resolution performance. All were specifically designed for MSR/AR rifles. SRP: starts at $350.
The ROMEO 3 reflex sight is an ideal sighting solution for MSRs, shotguns, carbines, submachine guns, and even full-size handguns. It’s designed to work with Picatinny and KeyMod mounts and features a motion sensor for automatic on/off. It weighs only 1.4 ounces. SRP: $380.
The SIG ROMEO 4, 5, and 7 are lightweight, compact, illuminated red-dot aiming solutions for carbines and shotguns. The ROMEO 4 can be mounted extremely low, the ROMEO 5 offers motion-activated illumination, and the ROMEO 7 will run an astounding 65,000 hours on one AA battery. SRP: $300.
The SIG SAUER electro-optic that takes the jelly doughnut is the ECHO 1. This is a Digital Thermal Imaging Reflex Sight, and it might be the most innovative direct-view thermal sight yet. Based on the newest generation of thermal-imaging sensors, the ECHO 1 provides for day- or nighttime viewing while functioning similarly to a conventional reflex sight. It comes with ballistic reticles, but it allows the user to create custom ones as well. At less than $2,500, it’s an incredible bargain for what it does. (sigsauer.com)
• The Trijicon MRO is a red-dot sight tough enough for combat. Light and rugged, it mounts easily and zeros quickly. The large objective lens and shortened optical length virtually eliminate the tunnel vision common to so many red-dot sights. The illuminated 2-MOA dot is adjustable in half-minute increments, with 70 MOA of total travel. SRP: $579. (trijicon.com)
• The SPARC AR red-dot sight is light and compact and has rear-facing controls. The illuminated 2-MOA dot automatically returns to the last intensity setting when powered up. Features include fully multicoated optics, an aircraft-grade aluminum body, and integrated flip caps. It’s powered by one AAA battery. SRP: $259.
The new Spitfire AR 1X riflescope delivers incredible optical quality in a compact package. It has rear-facing controls and is parallax-free, with a forgiving eye box. The DRT reticle is etched directly on the prism, so shooters have a point of aim independent of illumination. SRP: $349. (vortexoptics.com)
• Bergara USA’s new Premier Series Tactical Rifle is built with the Bergara Premier action and has a 416 stainless-steel barrel with a Dead Air suppressor-ready Key Mount Brake. The custom chassis stock features an adjustable length of pull and changeable comb height. This designated marksman or police sniper rifle is available in .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor. SRP: $2,200. (bergarausa.com)
• The QRC (Quick Response Carbine) is configured, out of the box, as a patrol-ready carbine. It weighs only 6 pounds, has a 1:8 twist for use with 62-grain .223 ammo, and comes with a mini red-dot sight already installed. With a suggested retail price of only $769, it has to rate as one of the best law enforcement firearms buys of 2016. (bushmaster.com)
• In response to the demand for suppressor-ready firearms, CZ has more than doubled its threaded-barrel pistol lineup. CZ’s limited-edition Urban Gray Suppressor Ready Series of pistols comes with high suppressor tritium sights. For tactical units looking for that suppressor-ready edge, there are a variety of CZ options to consider. SRP: $537 to $723. (cz-usa.com)
• Daniel Defense’s newest rifle is chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO. The DD5V1 has innovative features, such as a four-bolt connection system, an optimized upper receiver, an improved bolt-carrier group, ambidextrous controls, a configurable modular charging handle, and a cold-hammer-forged barrel. A Geissele SSA two-stage trigger is standard. SRP: $2,899. (danieldefense.com)
• The HP 18 was designed for the tactical operator. This 40-inch semi-automatic shotgun is available in 12- or 20-gauge and comes with an 18.5-inch barrel fitted with a muzzle brake. The pistol-grip stock is modular, and the high-profile rear sight is fitted to a Picatinny rail. Unload-ed weight is 6 pounds 6 ounces. (iverjohnsonarms.com)
• As part of the Value Series Plus product line, Kahr’s new .380 ACP CW380TU features a 2.5-inch barrel, a trigger-cocking DAO action, a locked breech, and a Browning-type recoil lug. It’s only 4.96 inches long and weighs a scant 10.2 ounces, making it ideal for backup or off-duty carry. SRP: $419.
Another Kahr Value Series Plus pistol is the .380 ACP CT3833TU. It has a 3-inch barrel, a trigger-cocking DAO action, a locked breech, and a Browning-type recoil lug. Though slightly larger than the CW380TU, it can serve the same off-duty role. SRP: $419. (kahr.com)
• The DI is a completely new direct-impingement rifle featuring many of the same high-performance attributes found on LWRC’s popular gas-piston rifles. Features include a Monoforge upper, a one-piece free-float rail, and an LWRCI cold-hammer-forged spiral-fluted barrel. The rifle has fully ambidextrous lower controls and is an option for officers looking for the cleaner-running longer-life performance of a direct-impingement rifle. The rifle is chambered for 5.56 NATO, and the 16.1-inch-long barrel has a 1:7 twist. Unloaded weight is 5.9 pounds. (lwrc.com)
• Mossberg’s 500-ATI Scorpion 12-gauge is outfitted with an exceptional set of components designed to make it the ultimate tactical shotgun, ready for dynamic entry or patrol work right out of the box. It has an 18.5-inch barrel and a six-round (2¾-inch) capacity. Weight is 6.75 pounds. Available only through TALO Group Distributors. SRP: $588. (taloinc.com)
• Two 870s have been added to Remington’s line. Outfitted the same as the black synthetic 870 Home Defense (18.5-inch barrels, 3-inch chambers), these new models have hardwood stocks. One comes with a four-round tube, the other holds six 3-inch Magnums. Either would be a good choice as a cruiser shotgun for departments on a limited budget. SRP: $450 to $475. (remington.com)
• The big news from Ruger comes in the form of a new polymer-framed striker-fired duty handgun. The American Pistol, which has a modular grip system and can be field-stripped with no tools or trigger pull required, features a trigger with a short take-up and positive reset, a low-mass slide, low center of gravity, and a low bore axis. It comes with Novak sights and is +P rated. It also has an ambidextrous slide stop and magazine release, an internal and automatic sear block, and an integrated trigger safety. Available in 9mm Luger or .45 Auto. SRP: $579.
Ruger has added a compact revolver chambered for the versatile .327 Federal Magnum to the LCR lineup. This six-round LCR is double-action-only with a concealed hammer. It comes with Hogue grips, has a 1.875-inch barrel, and weighs 17 ounces. It should be an ideal and versatile backup or off-duty revolver. SRP: $619.
The Ruger Precision Rifle is an all-new in-line-recoil-path bolt-action rifle. It is highly configurable to the individual shooter and is available in three models: .308 Win. with a 1:10 twist and 20-inch barrel weighing 9.7 pounds, 6.5 Creedmoor with a 1:8 twist 24-inch barrel weighing 10.6 pounds, and .243 Win. with a 1:7.7 twist 26-inch barrel weighing 11 pounds. SRP: $1,399. (ruger.com)
• The P225-A1 retains the look and feel of the original, but it now boasts an enhanced trigger. This single-stack 9mm has a double-action/single-action trigger system and utilizes a fully machined stainless-steel slide with a Nitron finish. It should be ideal for plainclothes officers looking for a compact duty gun for everyday carry. SRP: $1,175.
The ambidextrous modular 9mm SIG MPX Carbine maintains all of the ergonomic superiority of the MPX short-barrel rifle and pistol variants, but it has a 16-inch hammer-forged barrel. A full-length aluminum KeyMod handguard provides ample room for mounting lights, lasers, and grips, and it can be turned into an SBR with a simple conversion kit. SRP: $2,055. (sigsauer.com)
Smith & Wesson
• Smith & Wesson has added a ported-barrel option for 9mm and .40 S&W Shield pistols. As exclusive Performance Center pistols, they include a host of premium features such as fiber-optic sights and enhanced triggers. SRP: $490.
Smith & Wesson has also added to the premier line of M&P pistols. Two new variations come with an additional threaded barrel. The new 9mm variants, which include the Performance Center M&P Ported and the Performance Center M&P C.O.R.E., allow tool-less sound-suppressor attachment. For officers who serve double duty on patrol and on tactical teams, this could be the one-gun answer. SRP: ranges from $519 to $919. (smith-wesson.com)
• Working with Lehigh Defense, Black Hills Ammunition has developed a deep-penetrating, barrier-blind, 100-grain .38 Special Xtreme Defense load. Purpose-built for short-barrel revolvers, this load performs on a par with conventional hollowpoints, but with deeper penetration. For .380 ACP backup guns, the 60-grain Xtreme Defense load does not rely on a hollowpoint design, which can plug with clothing or fail to expand. Instead, it uses a new homogeneous copper projectile developed in cooperation with Lehigh Defense. With cutting edges on the forward surface, flutes on the ogive of the projectile, and a muzzle velocity of 1,150 fps, this load brings deep-penetrating life to the .380 ACP.
The .300 Blackout is becoming more popular with law enforcement, and Black Hills has a new load for this cartridge that utilizes a 125-grain Tipped Sierra MatchKing. The bullet has a polymer tip capable of delivering a ballistic coefficient of .332 at 2,200 fps. The tip also improves expansion. (black-hills.com)
• The new 9mm Luger Micro HST load utilizes a heavy-for-caliber 150-grain HST bullet. It is optimized for terminal performance and low recoil from micro-sized handguns. SRP: $31.95.
Federal’s American Eagle Syntech loads in 9mm Luger ($19.99), .40 S&W ($26.95), and .45 Auto ($33.95) are designed to limit the metal-on-metal contact between the bullet and bore. As a result, the new polymer-encapsulated bullet eliminates copper and lead fouling. Combined with specialized clean-burning powders, guns stay cleaner. All are available in 50-round boxes.
The Tactical Ballistic Tip loads from Federal for the .223 Remington and .308 Winchester benefit from the bullet’s polymer tip, which enhances accuracy and contributes to rapid, controlled expansion. Specifically designed for use in semi-automatic rifles, this ammo uses law-enforcement-appreciated low-flash propellants. (federalpremium.com)
• Ruger entered the ammunition business by partnering with PolyCase, and its new line of ammunition uses PolyCase’s ARX bullet technology. The non-expanding ARX bullet exploits velocity to redirect energy laterally, via flutes in the bullet’s ogive. It feeds like a round nose, yet it transfers energy over a wide range of impact velocities. Lightweight, high-velocity loads are offered for the .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, and .45 Auto. (ruger.com)
GEAR AND GADGETS
• With their continued acceptance by law enforcement, you could say laser sights are no longer accessories but necessities. Of all the law enforcement products for 2016, the LiNQ system from Crimson Trace might be the most innovative. This wireless-operation system utilizes a replaceable power-control grip to activate and operate a remotely located light and laser-sight module. It’s designed to equip and upgrade nearly all standard long guns with M-1913- and Weaver-style rails and replaceable pistol grips. There are no wires or activation pads, and the output light/laser module is similar to Crimson Trace’s Rail Master Pro. It provides a 300-lumen light and green laser in the laser-only, light-only, and laser-and-strobe-light functions. Future possibilities with the LiNQ system are limitless. SRP: $549.
Crimson Trace also has two new compact handgun lasers. The first is a Laser Guard Pro, which combines a bright 150-lumen LED white light with a red Crimson Trace laser, for the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield (SRP: $279); the second is a Laser Guard that fits Remington’s new compact RM380 ($229). So equipped, both pistols are ideal for backup or off-duty carry. (crimsontrace.com)
• CRKT’s new 0909 folding knife has a distinctive curved look. It also has a nearly 4-inch S35VN blade, G-10 scales, and extra-thick liners. A reversible, deep-carry pocket clip allows the knife to ride comfortably low for convenient, everyday clandestine carry in duty trousers.
SRP: $225. (crkt.com)
• The new Zero Tolerance 0095BW folder is built with premium materials, including an S35VN blade and a solid titanium handle. Added niobium gives this powdered-metallurgy steel improved toughness without loss of wear resistance, and the ball-bearing opening system is fast and efficient. SRP: $275. (zt.kaiusaltd.com)
• The Bungee Sling is designed for tactical rifles, carbines, and shotguns. It’s a single-point design and is constructed of shock-absorbing elasticized synthetic material. The sling works perfectly for transitions to the backup handgun, support-side shooting, and muzzle strikes.
Galco’s new neutral-cant BlakGuard belt holster combines the best properties of Premium Center Cut Steerhide and injection-molded plastics. Twin tension units allow quick adjustment for ease of draw, while a tension-locking unit secures the handgun at the trigger guard. A “trench-style” sight rail easily accommodates most suppressor sights. SRP: $49.95.
Heavy Duty Instructor Belts are constructed of rigid SCUBA webbing. They feature a drop-forged parachute-spec buckle. Available in 1½- and 1¾-inch widths. SRP: $59.95. (galcogunleather.com)
• The Ballistic Band is a simple way for a designated marksman to record and reference ballistic information. It’s a polymer band that can be written on and then worn on the wrist. SRP: $5.16, pack of two. (hornady.com)
• Timney is offering two-stage triggers for the AR 15 and Remington 700. The AR 15 Targa triggers have a set first-stage and second-stage weight of 2 pounds. The 700 Targa is end-user-adjustable from 8 ounces to 1.5 pounds for the first stage, 1.5 pounds to 4 pounds for the second stage. This is as cool as a free doughnut-and-corndog deal and should make department armorers very happy. SRP: $195.95 to $228.75. (timneytriggers.com)
Photographs by Justin Appenzeller
For the shooting-sports industry, SHOT Show remains “the show of shows.” And like the three-ring circus, it offers something for everyone.
Shoulder to shoulder, the attendees at the 2016 SHOT Show demonstrated the inherent strength of the shooting-sports community. Here’s a look, taken from the pages of SHOT Daily, at the show’s incredible vibrancy.
Read more about the 2016 SHOT Show in the April/May edition of SHOT Business.