Dealers, Executives Identify Their “Best-In-Show” Products
By Carolee Anita Boyles
As it is every year, SHOT Show 2018 was crowded and lively. Buyers were upbeat, booths were busy and aisles were packed. Attendees had a chance to see and interact with more than 1,600 exhibitors to look for this year’s new products and bestsellers. On the floor and after the show, Shooting Industry asked both retailers and exhibitors to discuss their favorite products and point out what they thought was new and trendy for 2018.
Some retailers noted more than just products.
“There was a lot more space for people to sit and eat,” remarked Calvin Iona of Ransberger Cal Customs in Fallbrook, Calif. “Prices aside, the meals were better in terms of choices, and the food was better.”
Mike “Alex” Alexander, owner of M A Custom Firearms and Ammunition in Jesup, Ga., found a whole floor of the SHOT Show he had never seen before: the Supplier Showcase.
“I never knew there was a fifth floor,” he admitted. “It has industrial-related stuff. Machining stuff. Metal suppliers. Things like that.” One company he mentioned was Accro-Met, a full-range metal distributor.
S&W Performance Center 686 Plus
Dixie Gun Works has a new muzzleloading shotgun.
“It’s a single barrel, percussion 12-gauge,” said VP Charles Kirkland. “It’s geared toward the 4-H, Boy Scouts and other youth shooting programs using black powder. There’s never been a quality, affordable, muzzleloading shotgun for those markets.”
Don Fraley, master gunsmith and owner of Advanced Weapons Technology in Russell, Ky., liked the products at Best Damned Gun.
“They make a modular chassis for rifle builders,” he recalled. “It takes the place of the gun stock, and the action portion of the rifle bolts to it. It allows you to put an AR-15 style handguard or buttstock on it. It makes the gun very modular and allows you to configure the rifle however it suits you.”
At the Kahr Arms booth, President Justin Moon was showing the “We the People” gun. This Desert Eagle 1911 in .45 ACP has a stainless steel frame and slide. It’s engraved with “We The People” on the left side and “Our right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” on the right side.
Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center guns are a step above the company’s regular firearms.
“They come with custom sights, custom grips and integral rails,” explained Tony Miele, Performance Center GM. “For instance, you may have a 3.5-lb. trigger pull on a single action and around a 10-lb. trigger pull on a double action. From a retail standpoint, the margins on these guns are a little higher than on most others.”
Environ-Metal (makers of Hevi-Shot) is continuing to develop new tungsten loads.
“We’re introducing our new HEVI-X here at the SHOT Show,” announced Michael Narus, VP of sales and marketing. “You get 40 percent more knockdown power at 40 yards and 50 percent more at 60 yards. HEVI-X comes in 12-gauge and 20-gauge. It’s made for waterfowl, but it’s also a great load for turkeys and upland birds.”
Black Hills Ammunition has extended its HoneyBadger line of ammunition. New offerings include 100-grain 9mm, a .44 Special load and .45-70 load, and a couple of new loads in 7mm and .300 Win. Mag.
“We also have two loads coming out for 6.5 Creedmoor,” said Carl Bullock, Black Hills customer service representative.
Federal Premium Ammunition has redesigned all their turkey products.
“We’ve incorporated the new FLITECONTROL flex wad, which first debuted last year in Black Cloud,” noted Product Development Engineer Adam Moser. “What this does is it allows the user to shoot the load through any ported or non-ported choke tube.” Another new product, HEAVYWEIGHT TSS, has tungsten shot and a buffered payload for turkeys.
Products For Range Owners
Range operators were out in full force during SHOT Show, scouring the miles of aisles for the “extra edge” to offer in-store customers.
Kim Ball and her husband, Dr. Carl Ball, owners of Locked & Loaded Arms, are building a new range and a new store, and were looking for suppliers to assist them with their endeavor.
“The Ti V23 Range System is an interactive system that can be used to play games or you can use it with live fire,” Ball observed. “Or you can take it off the range and use it with CO2 guns, or in a classroom setting. It’s very versatile with good return on investment.”
Ball also really liked the SHOT Show NEXT Pavilion.
“We spent a lot of time up there, because it’s where you find things that are really new,” Ball shared.
Kent Burkhart is president of Emerald Coast Shooting Sports, a new retail store in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
“I’ve always liked Range Systems,” he maintained. “We’re going to be using them on our indoor range for bullet traps, baffles, range dividers and all that stuff. Those guys have been very accommodating as they’ve worked with us on our project.”
Burkhart also liked Laser Shot.
“We bought one of their interactive simulators to start making some money early on,” he submitted.
One thing Burkhart sees as the future of the industry is laser etching and 3-D metal printing.
“We were impressed with several of the laser etchers,” he stated. “There was one from Z-Tech we liked.”
Birchwood Casey is producing a line of 3-D printed targets called Threat Perception, which are made to encourage handgun shooters to keep both eyes open instead of closing their non-dominant eye and focusing on the sight instead of the target.
“With the Threat Perception targets, 3-D printing is matched with 3-D glasses,” said Ben Johnson, product development manager for Birchwood Casey. “When you have the glasses on and both eyes open, you see the target rings.”
The company has also introduced two new rimfire targets, the Spoiler Alert and Bushwacker. Both are metal targets, with the Spoiler Alert designed to create a much louder gong than other steel targets.
“The Bushwacker has a two-paddle assembly,” Johnson remarked. “When you shoot one paddle down the other one pops up. So there’s no resetting, just continuous shooting.”
For holding targets, Birchwood Casey created a scissor-type stand extending out to 24 inches so it adjusts to any size paper target.
ShotKam lets a shooter analyze his shot and see what he’s doing and how the bullet is behaving on its way to the target — a great feature for new shooters.
“The ShotKam mounts on the rail and is a training aid for instructors and competitors, and for anyone who wants to improve their marksmanship,” said Richard Smith, director of the rail mount division. “It digitally records your shot and has its own internal Wi-Fi which connects to an app on your smartphone. The recording shows where you’re aiming and where the shot lands. Now you can improve marksmanship without expending a lot of ammunition.”
Frogg Toggs Pilot II Waterfowl Jacket
At AirForce Airguns, company President John McCaslin said airguns are becoming increasingly popular for hunting. A driving factor is the increased performance of PreCharged Pneumatic (PCP) guns from a power and accuracy standpoint. AirForce Airguns has PCP guns with calibers ranging from .177 to .45. The company will introduce a line of repeaters in high-grade wood stocks, aimed at the bench rest and field target markets.
Upstairs in SHOT Show NEXT, Wildlife Biologist Tim Neuman relayed the unique approach Ani-Logics takes to supplemental feeding for deer.
“What sets us apart is our Ani-Shield TX4 blend of essential oils, probiotics, chelated minerals and vitamins,” he explained. “All those work together to boost immune system function. A healthier deer can grow bigger antlers.”
Ridgetec’s newest product is a 4G LTE cellular trail camera they’ve dubbed the Apex Mountaineer.
“It operates on AT&T and T-Mobile,” Anthony Jowers, product development rep, pointed out. “The camera is motion-based and time lapse, and will capture photos or video clips.” The system operates on 12-volt batteries, and users should get about six weeks of battery life.
Fraley liked the Swagger Field Model all-terrain bipod.
“It’s very flexible,” he observed. “You can stand and extend the bipods and tuck them into your belt, or you can hold onto them, and it gives you a standing shooting position. If you’re shooting it prone, the flexibility of the legs allows you to adjust for height or left or right, simply by canting the gun a little bit. The legs aren’t 100 percent rigid, but you can slide them into two notches and they become rigid; they’re more stable than shooting sticks.”
At Vortex, Iona liked the Venom and the Viper red dot riflescopes.
“One of them, you have to take it off to change the battery,” he said. “The other one (Venom) you just change the battery on the top.”
For non-lethal options, Burkhart liked Guard Dog Security.
“Their business model is all non-lethals,” he informed. “They have some very impressive options, including a desktop calendar backing resistant to most small calibers.”
At frogg toggs, Iona found lightweight rain gear able to be stuffed into a backpack.
“It’s inexpensive and fits the need,” he said. “Backpackers want to travel light; they don’t want things that are going to be bulky. The 12-oz. rain suit is perfect for backpackers, and their 18-oz. option is even better.”
Although Ruff Tough Kennels is well known in dog circles, it’s new to the gun industry. Company representative Doug Sangl said these kennels are designed and built by sportsmen in South Dakota.
“Our business has expanded into all aspects of the dog world,” he conveyed. “We’re working with Sports Inc. right now and we’re planning to work with another buying group in the future.”
The Versatile Rack Company makes wire pistol racks to maximize the space in a gun safe.
“We moved away from doing a vinyl coating this year to PPA, which is what the football players use for their facemasks,” stated company President Robert Cardenas. “PPA stands for Performance Polymer Alloy. We came out with 15 colors this year.”
Dealers, this is just a sampling of the hundreds of products on display at the 2018 SHOT Show. What would you have added to this list? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best Damned Gun
Black Hills Ammunition
Dixie Gun Works
Guard Dog Security
Ruff Tough Kennels
Smith & Wesson
Versatile Rack Company