NRA Expo Displays Gun Industry Trends
The April 13-15 shooting industry expo at the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in St. Louis showed that many of the trends we’ve seen evolving over the last couple of years are still alive and well – especially the “undead” ones, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
This year’s lineup of guns and ammo from the major manufacturers continues to blur the line between hunting arms and competition/tactical guns. Larger controls and bolt handles are making their way onto guns that are traditionally thought of as hunting models, and the number of AR-15/AR-10 rifles and components tailored for hunting purposes is still climbing. On the flip side, lever-actions and double-barreled shotguns are showing up with tactical rail systems for mounting flashlights, lasers, and other accessories.
Modular weapon systems are also sweeping the industry as the market demand for customizable guns which can be configured for multiple purposes continues to rise. New products hitting the market are giving shooters versatile firearms which can be set up for a variety of hunting and defensive purposes, can be easily adjusted for shooters of various sizes, or can be swapped from one caliber to another with minimal effort.
If you’re in the market for a brand new semi-auto shotgun for turkeys or waterfowl, this is a great year to go browsing at the gun shop. Several new guns designed to shoot everything from the heaviest to the lightest loads while taking the edge off of felt recoil have hit the shelves in 2012. Meanwhile the ammo makers have been busy adding more loadings to their lines of high-tech scattergun fodder.
And the industry hasn’t forgotten rimfire shooters who like to shoot a lot at a lower cost. Several of the major handgun producers added new .22LR plinkers to their lineup for this year. There were also some cool new rimfire rifles on display, and you can keep looking for more AR-styled guns and conversion kits in .22LR to keep showing up in the near future.
For details on some new products exemplifying these trends, check out the upcoming print issue of Illinois Outdoor News. But for now, just for fun, here’s one last industry trend not covered in the print article. Zombies.
That’s right, the once in vogue vampire has faded out of the limelight and there’s a new favorite “undead” in town. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Zombies are all the rage now and many in the firearms industry seem to have embraced the new trend. This year’s expo included life-size zombie targets, zombie-themed stocks and grips, zombie reticles for aiming devices and special zombie ammo. Zombies were everywhere - even handing out literature at the DPMS booth - and by the end of the day I couldn’t help but be a little amused, myself.
So to complement the hunting and recreational shooting arms covered in the pages of Illinois Outdoor News, I’ll use the remaining space here to share my picks for the new “zombie” guns to hit the market this year. They’re actually just new defensive/tactical weapons that I found interesting, but don’t tell the zombies that.
This year Para-USA has added another double-stacked Performance Class 1911 pistol to its lineup and this one is chambered in .40 S&W. Dubbed the 16-40 TT, the gun has a 5” barrel, magazine capacity of 16 rounds, adjustable sights and an MSRP of $1899. The grips of Para’s double-stack frames are a handful, but for a person with large hands it offers a lot of firepower in the classic 1911 configuration.
As a backup, Smith & Wesson just released a slim, concealable, single-stacked version of its popular M&P pistols. Chambered in 9mm or .40 S&W, the M&P Shield debuted to an enthusiastic crowd. The .40 caliber has a 6-round flush-fit magazine with a 7-round extended magazine as a spare, and the 9mm magazines hold one more round per clip, respectively. Also new from the company is the Governor revolver, a six-shooter which can fire .410 2 1/2” shotshells, .45 Long Colt, or .45 ACP ammo (using moon clips). The gun is much lighter than it looks and can be purchased with Crimson Trace Laser Grips. Both new guns feature excellent triggers.
Kel-Tec just released a slide action 12-gauge with top and bottom tactical rails in a bullpup configuration that measures only 26.1 inches overall. The KSG has not one, but two 7-round tube magazines and a magazine selector switch to choose which tube will feed the next round. The expected MSRP will be around $880.
Remington now has a new tactical version of its Versa Max shotgun. The gas system is designed to handle 2 3/4” – 3 1/2” loads adjustment-free for maximum versatility (hence the name) and the tactical model is dressed out with an oversized bolt release, trigger guard and safety as well as an extended magazine offering 8+1 capacity. Tactical chokes are included and the gun points very nicely for me.
For conditions that change from close quarters to longer ranges, the DPMS Panther M4-styled flat-top carbine has a 16” barrel and MagPul MOE stocks. Suggested retail is $1,199. DPMS has gone so far as to host a zombie event in June for its customers, and this gun would fit right in topped with an EOTech XPS2 holographic sight with special Zombie Stopper chevron ($559).
Finally, for long-range shooting with a modular, multi-caliber rifle, the FNH-USA bolt-action Ballista rifle should make some waves when it reaches the civilian market. The rifle can be converted from .308 Win to .300 Win Mag or .338 Lapua with a barrel/bolt-face change that takes about 2 minutes. The wrenches required for the conversion ride neatly in the forend. The FNH rep said that a price would be available once the final details for the civilian version were decided.
Stoked with Winchester’s PDX1 Defender ammo or Hornady’s Zombie Max with green-tipped Z-Max bullets, these babies are ready for anything. And if the zombie apocalypse skips your town, no worries. These guns should still be a lot of fun to shoot at the range.