By Massad Ayoob
SHOT Show, among other things, is a good place to see what’s trending according to the manufacturers’ market analysts. Here are some products sure to stand out to your customers.
Carry optics are a hot trend in the defensive handgun market, bracketing two ends of a bell curve: aging boomers with imperfect eyesight — who greatly benefit from the red dot appearing to be on the same focal plane as the target — and tech-savvy Millennial Gun Culture 2.0 folks who simply gravitate to new technology.
Another trend is carry-size semi-auto
pistols designed for ease-of-slide manipulation.
Aging boomers are a target here, as is the
growing women’s market.
SIG has brought out a couple of packages, P365 and P320 formats, not only optics- ready but come out of the box with SIG’s own ROMEO optics. Heckler & Koch introduced an optics-ready VP9 at SHOT 2020, and Springfield Armory’s Hellcat is available in the same option. Stoeger introduced an optics-ready version of their popular, low-priced ($399 MSRP) STR-9 pistol. Smith & Wesson has an optics-ready version of their uber-popular Shield 2.0 concealment pistol.
A “Sales Tip”: You’ll get more “I’d like to try that” impulse sales with pistol and sight together as a package, which SIG is betting on heavily.
Another trend is carry-size semi-auto pistols designed for ease-of-slide manipulation. Aging boomers are a target here (arthritic hands and all that), as is the growing women’s market. Ruger really started this trend a few years ago with the LC380. Followers include the Walther CCP 9mm and particularly the new-for-SHOT 2020 CCP M2 .380. This pistol offers easy slide racking and soft recoil. Smith & Wesson has had great success with the M&P variant they even named the “EZ” for light slide resistance, and this year upped the ante from the original .380 chambering by adding a full-power 9mm version.
For 2020, Ruger introduced another pistol in the same vein: the .22 LR LCP II with “Lite Rack” feature. The very light recoil spring required by a locked breech .22 combines with tiny ears at the back of the slide, reminiscent of the HK VP9. It can be easily racked with thumb and forefinger. The one I tested was reliable with CCI high-velocity ammunition, and was surprisingly accurate with it.
The LCP II .22 crosses over into another 2020 trend: .22-caliber “understudy guns.” GLOCK is the preeminent polymer pistol in sales, and a few weeks before SHOT they introduced the G44. This is essentially the super-popular GLOCK 19 9mm rendered in .22 LR, with a super-light slide to run reliably with the .22’s feeble recoil impulse but otherwise the same in feel, from grip-frame to trigger pull.
Look for lots of customer interest in both the GLOCK 44 and the LCP II .22!
The return of the Colt Python may have indeed been the headline story of the SHOT Show. A study in whether modern CNC machining can equal the handcrafting of the old masters, it has a single-stage double-action trigger pull instead of the famously smooth two-stage of the original. Priced at $1,499 retail, it promises to be a major seller, with 11,000 backordered before SHOT.
A “Sales Tip” here: Customers may complain about the price. Remind them with inflation, the $125 price tag of the first Pythons in 1955 extrapolates to about $1,250 today, but serious double-action shooters paid extra to “revolversmiths” like Fred Sadowski and Jerry Moran to turn them into single-stage, double-action guns. Colt performed this operation on the Python’s production line thanks to the new internal design, which at least equalizes the price to yesteryear.
On the other end of the revolver price scale, starting at $398.33 MSRP, Taurus introduced its Model 856 revolver. Sporting a 3″ barrel, the Model 856 is a six-shot, chambered for .38 Special (and rated for +P ammo) and weighs 16 oz. with an aluminum frame and a front night sight.
9mm 1911s & “Fun Guns”
Another strong trend observed at SHOT is the 9mm 1911 pistol. Considered a contradiction in terms back when “1911” and “.45” were all but synonymous, today’s shooters appreciate both improved 9mm defense ammo and the incredibly light recoil of the sweet-shooting 1911 with the Parabellum round.
Introduced a few weeks before SHOT, Wilson Combat’s eXperior is a high evolution of the concept. Founder Bill Wilson tells me he’s now building more 1911s in 9mm than in .45, and he considers the eXperior the best he’s designed yet. I’ve shot it and can confirm it’s the sort of pistol that makes the customer understand the difference between a price tag in the hundreds and one in the thousands.
With the Ruger-57, Ruger introduced a 5.7mm pistol at a price to undersell the primary previous offering in this caliber — the FN Five-seveN. Early reports from those who shot it indicate an appreciation of its 20-round magazine, light weight, good ergonomics and shooter-friendly trigger pull. Carried “cocked and locked” it may jumpstart interest in a controversial caliber.
You can count on consumer gun magazines to write about it heavily, and you can expect significant interest from two directions: customers seeking a light-kicking defense pistol, and the many who will see it as simply an interesting “fun gun.”
Trending Long Guns
Speaking of 5.7x28mm: CMMG introduced an AR-15 upper in this chambering. Standard magazines will hold 40 rounds.
Diamondback previewed its DBX in 5.7, resembling a scaled-down AR-15 pistol and using FN Five-seveN magazines.
TNW Firearms introduced a super-light (4 lb.) takedown carbine in 9mm. Called the LTE Aero Survival Rifle, it will carry an MSRP of $799. The company plans other calibers including 10mm Auto.
Winchester is once again producing Silvertip hollowpoint ammunition, in a variety of calibers. Three rounds in the line are of particular interest. The 10mm Auto is resurgent, and the 175-gr. Silvertip had an excellent record “on the street” back in the day. Velocity has been slightly reduced, to 1,200 fps. The 145-gr. .357 Magnum Silvertip also earned a reputation as one of the best duty/defense loads in the caliber. Finally, the 155-gr. .40 S&W Silvertip proved both accurate and remarkably effective in the field. (A lot of customers will remember this …)
Federal has some interesting new offerings. The .380 is hugely popular because of the new generation of tiny pocket pistols in that chambering. Wound ballistics experts raise an eyebrow at the .380 cartridge because it only reaches the FBI’s minimum 12″ penetration depth with ball ammo — which does not expand and has a poor record as a “manstopper.” New for 2020 is a .380 iteration of Federal Hydra-Shok Deep, with a 99-gr. JHP the company promises will hit that foot-deep penetration mark and still expand.
HST, Federal’s premium police/self-defense handgun ammo line, is affordable but not cheap; this year, Federal announced a new line, Punch, as an economy self-defense load. I haven’t seen any testing yet, but the Punch bullet looks very much like the street-proven HST and will come at a lower price point.
What self-defense products from SHOT stood out to you? Send us your predictions! email@example.com, facebook.com/shootingindustry