SHOT Show 2014 Day 2: Road to the Future

| January 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

I thought Day 1 was crowded — turns out Day 2 was a total zoo. We had Media Range Day on Monday, and it turns out Tuesday was Buyer’s Day at the range. This meant that today — Wednesday — the SHOT Show had all the media people plus all of the buyers all at the same time.

It was tough to compete for attention, but it also made clear who’s moving forward in the industry and who’s standing still.

Companies who didn’t get it. At all.

Arc’teryx is well known in the outdoor recreation and climbing industries. They also make stuff for law enforcement and the military with their LEAF line. Makes it easy to combine the two and get into the discreet tactical bags for the rest of us meat popsicles, right?

Nope. The company spokesperson I talked to showed zero interest in the civilian tactical market, and stated that Arc’teryx also had no interest in merging their two concepts together. There was nothing in the works.

I asked if she had any idea that there was an emerging market for well-built, discreet civilian carry bags, and that BLACKHAWK!, Voodoo Tactical, 5.11 and others were all making bags that Arc’teryx could be selling.

“Well, LEAF is only for law enforcement, and other people can buy our outdoor line.”

Standing still. Not getting it.

Kind of getting it, but willing to listen

We spoke with Detroit Sergeant Todd Svenkensen of Voodoo Tactical, who designs all (almost all?) of Voodoo’s bag products. Their discreet bags are used by law enforcement agencies throughout the US, and he stated that the Detroit police carries their PDWs in their Discreet Sling Bag backpack:

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At about $70 street, the discreet sling bag blends in well and is very understated. It looks much more like a “regular backpack” and less like a military bag. The logo is obvious to anyone who knows tactical or firearms gear, but overall the bag is very well made and very low-key. It is water resistant and the zippers are very nice. They are snag-resistant and extremely smooth.

However, the Voodoo Tactical bag betrays its LEO and military heritage with this one simple thing:

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The bag has single zipper pulls, which means there is no way to lock the bag. This might be okay for LEO and .mil who don’t have to worry about kids getting into their SBR bag at home, or worrying about the ATF’s NFA laws for secure storage. However, if you’re a normal person reading this blog, keeping your firearms secure is a top priority. I mentioned this to Sgt. Svenkesen and he took the feedback very well and said they’d consider bag security.

Voodoo Tactical, moving forward, and I expect to see good things from them in future iterations.

We got flagged down by two people from SRU Precision who wanted to show us their Rapid Deployment Case. We walked by a TON of deployment / duty bags at the SHOT Show this year, but something made us stop. I think it may have been Wei-Min Chen’s enthusiasm, but it could have also been the color scheme and shape of the RDC. It was a nice dark olive and a boxy rectangular shape. The colors reminded me a lot of the masculine diaper bags some of my friends carried around, or the interior of a Jeep.

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The RDC has some ingenious product features, such as an elastic buckle system that can be used to mount the bag to something (or someone), a bipod that can elevate the bag for easy access to the internals, and a modular, padded interior.

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The interior of the RDC is cavernous for our SBR needs. I don’t consider this a carry bag, but something to put in your car, truck or SUV in lieu of a traditional rifle case or duty bag. Thieves know what those look like, and this looks more like a utility bag than a firearms bag.

My favorite part: the MSRP was only $160. That puts it in the upper-middle of our price range, and about half of what the most expensive bags cost. It’s loaded with features, and we’ll do a more complete write-up soon.

Getting it

I’ve already talked about Chris Laack from BLACKHAWK! and their offerings two days in a row. They obviously get it.

Also going down the “we’re getting it” path is 5.11, known for the tactical / duty clothing and accessories. We were fortunate enough to speak with Craig Metzger, 5.11’s marketing and PR chieftain. When you send an email to 5.11’s PR team, it goes to Craig, so he’s pretty high up the food chain there.

Mr. Metzger was very excited to talk to us about their covert carry bag line. As our experience in the rest of the SHOT Show, each vendor’s booth was pretty busy, with not much activity around the discreet bags. However, the vendors were exceptionally motivated to talk to us about these products, and were enthusiastic about how much the discreet carry market was booming.

Craig was very interested in discussing 5.11’s Covrt18 backpack and Zone sling pack.

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The Covrt18 has a street price of $115 – $140 depending on color. It looks very similar to an everyday backpack. The 5.11 logo is a discreet navy blue tag at the bottom of the bag. The bag has two water bottle holders on the side, just like my Mountain Hardware bag that carries my AK47 SBR every day. The green color blends very nicely into the retail bag market color pallet, and looks great.

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There is a compartment for your weapon, and a compartment for you stuff. The weapon compartment has a velcro area that allows you to mount the included nylon strap to hold a pistol. There are several rows of elastic to secure other gear and items.

We are going to do a more in-depth review of the 5.11 bags, but what we saw was promising.

5.11 and Craig Metzger clearly “get it” and are moving in the right direction. Aside from the green, the rest of their color palette was influenced by LEO and .mil. It would be easier for folks to discern the origin and intent of these bags if they were familiar with the colors of duty gear and other tactical items. Still, good stuff and choices are nice.

We ran into Mike from Marz Tactical Gear out of Phoenix, Arizona. If BLACKHAWK! and 5.11 understand where the market is going and are moving forward, Mike from Marz is charging ahead full steam and screaming.

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The M4 Go Pack is a little large for every day carry, but aside from the form factor it has every feature someone would want in their discreet carry bag. It looks like a hiking bag. The colors, the construction, the buckles, the padded shoulder straps — you could buy this at REI.

Mike was very humble, and it shows in the lack of ego in his product design. One example is the lack of logos anywhere. Mike stated that some of their products have a logo on the back or inside, but never on the front. This guy gets it.

The M4 Go Pack quietly did its job of looking discreet but allowing for a massive storage area for an SBR, PDW or even an AR carbine with the stock fully compressed.

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The bottom of the Marz M4 Go Pack has a reinforced plate and bottom to eliminate muzzle printing.

The bottom of the Marz M4 Go Pack has a reinforced plate and bottom to eliminate muzzle printing.

All of the Marz products we saw were modular and integrated. For example, there was a storage area on the M4 Go Pack perfectly built for Marz’s field repair kit. Their medic kit could be contained in the pack instead of running it parasite-style like a .mil / tactical bag. You get all of the modularity and mission-configurable aspects of a tactical bag, but it looks like you’re ready to go on a hike.

The bag is at the higher end of the pricing segment at $299, but it is very well made and obviously created by someone who understands what the fuck is going on with discreet carry.

We got an extensive tour of the Marz product line, and look forward to doing a more in-depth post about them in the future. I can’t wait to tell you how they field test their products with drunken pals and some duct tape.

SBRs

We talked to some really cool people today about their SBR offerings for 2014. Just like the bag manufacturers, these companies were eager to talk to us due to our specialization. Instead of releasing a single stack .380 or a nearly 100 year old pistol design with a grip safety, these companies are moving forward in the SBR / PDW fields.

Bob Faxon from Faxon Firearms took time out of his day to talk to us about his piston-driven AR15 uppers. Talk about a fair deal from a good guy. Instead of nickle and diming his customers, Faxon offers flexibility for the same price. Upper color, right- or left-hand operation, barrel length and barrel profile (medium or heavy) are the same price. Do you want a lefty 12.5″ heavy barrel on a blue upper? How about a right handed black upper with a 20″ medium profile barrel? Same price. Honest and straightforward. The only price difference is for the fluted stainless barrel, which can be had on its own or via a reasonable $145 upcharge fee.

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The complete barreled uppers from Faxon Firearms are beautiful and well crafted.

The ARAK uppers are interesting for two reasons: they are piston-driven and also have an AK-style charging handle. The charging handle can be reversed for left- or right-handed operation.

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The Faxon Firearms ARAX comes in a 12.5″, 16″, and 20″ barrel. Right now they’re only offering 5.56×45, but a .300 Blackout model is in the works.

Barreled uppers with a single barrel start at $935 retail, and a two-barrel kit option is available for $1199 and up.

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Jacob from Adams Arms was nice enough to talk to us about their piston-driven AR uppers.

 

They offer a conversion kit for direct impingement ARs for $570 MSRP. It takes a novice about 30 minutes to install all of the parts on their existing upper. There is an instructional DVD included, and the Adams Arms guys were so nice I’m sure they’d help you if you needed it.

If you want a complete upper you can get a 7.5″ or 11.5″ barrel in two different rail configurations. The Tactical Elite features a Samson rail and has an MSRP of $1056.94 (how’s that for precise pricing? Holy shit). The base model is $922.14. Both models have a pinned gas block, as opposed to the bolt on style you get with the conversion kit.

Adams Arms is announcing a .300 Blackout upper this Friday at SHOT Show, and pricing will be available then. It will be available in a 9.5″ barrel, which is nothing earth shattering but should be very reliable.

If you like big projectiles, you’ll love the .416 Hush Puppy round by AM-TAC Precision. I had the chance to talk with Damon, the designer of the cartridge.

GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY. My dorm room was smaller than these projos!

GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY. My dorm room was smaller than these projos!

The .416 Hush Puppy is based on a .50 Action Express cartridge and fits a 450 grain Hornady .416 bullet. The round is meant to be fired suppressed, and according to Damon has an extremely flat trajectory.

AM-TAC will sell a barreled AR upper in a 10.5″, 14.5″ (pinned to 16″) and 16″ barrel length. The upper uses a 7.62×39 BCG that is made out of a durable stainless steel instead of the usual carpenter steel entry-level AR bolts are made out of.

Damon told me to only use USGI mags, which are inexpensive and plentiful, due to the lack of a rib found in other AR mags such as those made by Magpul. A 30-round 5.56 mag will hold 10 .416 rounds, and a 20-round AR mag will hold 7 .416 rounds.

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AM-TAC will have complete uppers and ammunition available for sale by the second quarter of this year, with barrels available by the end of 2014. Factory loaded ammunition will start at $2.50 per round, with the price dropping as production kicks in. They also intend to license the reloading data and dies, and the components for .416 Hush Puppy are readily available on the market.

Ballistics are bonkers. It has about seven times the energy of a 9mm, and three times that of .300 Blackout. AM-TAC is going to send me some more data for a future write-up.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to connect with LAW Tactical, makers of the folding AR buffer tube adapter. I really wanted to talk to them about their adapter and my Honey Badger project, but LAW didn’t have a booth this year.

However, I was able to connect with one of my favorite firearms personalities, Chris Cheng. Chris was the Season 4 champion on Top Shot. Chris graciously agreed to an interview at 1:30 tomorrow, and I hope to sound more coherent than normal.

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SHOT Show has been great, and I’ve really enjoyed meeting tons of great people from great companies. I am really looking forward to writing more in-depth articles on some of the things I’ve touched on in these posts, and do further long-term testing on several products.

 

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.
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