Off the Porch: Shooting new guns on the SHOT Show roadtrip

Jan. 17, 2014 @ 10:46 PM

As a gun writer, my friends often envy me for all the things I get to do. I get to test all kinds of guns, go to great shooting venues, and sometimes gun makers fly me somewhere to test their newest stuff. As we normally do, Cherie and I drove to SHOT Show this year, but this time, GM is loaning us a new Denali SUV to drive. We’ve bird hunted in Alabama and Arizona and, best of all got to see the geography and faces of America, the best country in the world to live, in spite of our problems.
Those who know what SHOT Show (the National Shooting Foundation’s Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show) is about, always are more jealous of me getting to attend SHOT Show’s Industry Day at the Range. Imagine a firing line a half mile long with every manufacturer you can imagine. There are targets set out and cases of ammunition on the tables. All you have to do is walk up to the table and sample the newest and best the firearms industry has to offer. This is what Industry Day at the Range is all about.
Believe it or not, my week at SHOT Show is probably the most grueling week of my year as a writer, probably more exhausting than shooting some of the week long competitions like the Bianchi, National High Power, or Midnight 3 Gun Invitational. It’s tough because there are so many things to see and work out the details for reviews and future projects. It’s fun because there are so many wonderful friends who are in the business and you want to spend a little time with them.
Industry day is the chance to actually feel the recoil level of a new cartridge or gun. There’s no substitute for actually shooting a gun and this is a once in a year chance to do this. There’s simply nothing else in the world like it. Last year, it was so cold I saw a politician on the range who had his hands in his own pockets; this year, the weather was much nicer.
I covered the entire line, and I know I missed some great stuff, but I have to mention the most outstanding products I tried. Most are new this year. During the upcoming year, I hope to get to spend some real time with all of them. Here they are in no particular order.
Lancer LRT Rifle (Long Range Tactical Rifle) Lancer is introducing a new .308 AR platform rifle designed with accuracy in mind. As a retired high power and long range service rifle shooter, I can truly appreciate the features on this rifle. There’s a heavy match 24” 10 twist barrel, a great trigger, and an adjustable stock. There’s little chance to truly test accuracy at Industry Day, but this rifle seems to have everything it needs to cut the mustard. I’d love to get it out for some shooting out past 600 yards. It seems to me this would be a great rifle for a Designated Marksman or Sniper match, and it certainly looks like it might be up to the task, providing a sniper with a serious tool.
Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston II Rifle This is on the opposite end of the spectrum, but air rifles are wonderful training tools. The Nitro Piston II is a break barrel pellet rifle that operates on a gas piston system instead of a spring. It might sound strange, but one of the biggest enemies to accuracy in break barrel guns is recoil. The bounce of the mechanism of a spring powered gun disturbs the gun and air rifles have a long barrel time. The movement of the gun will adversely affect accuracy unless the gun is held the same for each shot. The Nitro Piston gun uses a dampening system at the end of the stroke to smooth out this recoil. It’s called Recoil Arrest, and it should make a big difference and make it easier to shoot accurately. The thing that impressed me most though, was the trigger. Benjamin has developed the Clean Break Trigger (CBT) and it’s simply the best trigger I’ve ever felt in a break barreled gun, by far. It’s a two stage trigger with a long first stage, but a very crisp second stage that’s as good or better than many quality centerfire rifles. I can’t wait to test this one.
Beretta Paralello 486 Once again, Beretta is in the side by side shotgun business and this makes me happy. I must be a broad based gun lover because I love black guns and also have a passion for classic side by side shotguns. In fact, my wife and I compete every year in several side by side events and she’s won three championships. The new Beretta is a classic boxlock and an entirely new design. It’s a round body action, making it a handy gun to carry with no sharp edges like the old 471. The barrels are of conventional construction instead of the more common monoblock construction that cuts costs but leaves a ring around the barrels just ahead of the chambers. It also reverts back to classic design with an English straight stock and a swamped rib between the barrels. With screw in chokes, a selective single trigger, and selective ejectors that can be converted to extractors by the owner, this is a feature loaded, quality game gun.
Colt CRX 14.5 Not long ago, I published a review of the Colt CRP18 and said it was the best AR 15 I’ve ever shot. That statement still holds, but at Industry Day, I shot a new gun from Bold Ideas Texas. The CRX 14.5 is at the lightest and fastest in the line of Bold Ideas guns. This is a super light, carbine with many of the features that make the CRP series guns so great. It uses the same compensator, a heavier trigger, but there is no tool free adjustable gas system. Still, it’s remarkably stable in rapid fire for such a light rifle. The 8 twist match grade barrel is only 14.5 inches long, yet there’s no need to pay for a Short Barreled Rifle stamp, because the excellent compensator is pinned and welded to the barrel, getting it to the acceptable length of 16”. Super light and fast and selling for under $1,400 but still carrying the Bold Ideas one year warranty and one MOA guarantee, I can’t wait to do a real wring out on this one.
While Media Day was fun, we’ve been wandering the aisles of the biggest shooting and hunting show in the world all week and now we’re packing up the Denali for the trip home. We’ll be covering the Ken Middleton Youth Hunt in Mayer, Arizona, and shooting some pheasants in Texas, at Tule Creek. All this is wonderful, but it’s going to be nice to get home and sleep in our own bed.