De’j`a Vu Vegas. Shot Show 2012, Part I.
This show may be heard following its broadcast date by clicking on the following link: http://webtalkradio.net/shows/hoveys-outdoor-adventures/. If it is not the current show, it is still available as an archived show and on iTunes.
For me the Vegas Shot Show got off to a ripping start with shooting a replica .45-70 1877 Gatling gun which is being sold by Colt for about $39,000 each. It has been a long time since I shot that much lead down range in so brief a period. For most of us writers at the Range Day, which precedes the Shot Show, shooting the Gatling gun was a stand-out event. This touch of the Victorian-era past was much more pleasurable than blasting off a similar number of rounds through a .50-caliber Browning machine gun – which many of us had experienced in the military. The displays at the Range Day are not restricted to firearms, and a variety of exhibitors participated in this pre-show event. Colt also offers its line of more conventional handguns and rifles at: www.colt.com.
Among the non-gun exhibitors at Range Day was the Eddie Bauer company that had a variety of shooting and outdoor clothing intended for outdoorsmen/women. This was something of a return to the Washington company’s original roots as an outfitter to hunters living in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. When I lived in Alaska, I often used Bauer’s gear and still sleep in one of their down bags that I purchased in the 1960s. It could use some refurbishing, but it is still as warm as it ever was. Good gear will last. To see this gear on-line go to www.eddiebauer.com.
More relating to shooting, was EHP’s Hearing Protection equipment which includes an ear canal hearing aid device for about $300 as well as an ear-muff design incorporating the same technology with an ear cup that will resist ballistic impact from shot charges. Both have circuits that cut out potentially damaging noise while allowing normal conversations to be heard. For more information go to: www.ehphearing.com.
Although I did not have a chance to shoot it, Cabot Arms introduced a left-handed .45 ACP 1911 Colt. This gun is an addition to their line of expensive, but very well made, 1911s which may run as much as $6000 a gun for match pistols. Not only does Cabot make these guns, but they have an associated company that actually builds machine tools to specifications that can range as close as one-millionth of an inch. Each part of their guns is made with such precision that no hand-fitting is necessary. For more information on Cabot Guns go to www.cabotguns.com.
In recent years Browning has offered some of the Winchester classic lever-action rifles, and this year the company has brought back the Model 71 lever-action in 348 Winchester. This gun was much-loved when it was introduced as THE gun for heavy northern deer and elk and for the ease that it packed on the horses used to get hunters into Western mountains during the late 1930s. I have hunted with earlier Browning versions of the 1886 Winchester in .45-70 which was a similar half-magazine lever gun using the same action, and was very pleased with it. To see these and other Browning-Winchester products go to: www.winchesterguns.com.
Following somewhat along the path of earlier Barnes and Remington solid-brass bullets, Cutting Edge Bullets has introduced a line of machined bullets that may be loaded as hollow points, reversed and shot as hollow-based solids or fitted with a tough polymer tip to reduce bullet drop at longer ranges. These are now available to reloaders, and plans are to have these bullets offered as premium loads by a major manufacturer next year. This bullet is designed to penetrate about 2-inches, fragment its front end to make secondary projectiles, while the solid base continues through the animal. If this concept is appealing to you, get your bullets now, because once a contract is signed with an ammo maker, the company may have few bullets remaining for other customers. For additional information go to www.cuttingedgebullets.com.
Although almost all of my present shotgunning is on game with muzzleloading shotguns, I found one gun of the several that I fired on Range Day that really appealed to me. My feeling about shotguns is that if I can hit something with it, it is a worthwhile gun. If I cannot, it does not appeal to me regardless of who made it or how much it cost. Franchi introduced their Instinct L 12-gauge over-under, and I was able to break targets with it with monotonous regularity. The steel-framed version fit me and shot well. That was the only one of the many shotguns I saw and shot at the show that I had any desire to shoot again. The gun is moderately priced at under $1,200, and would be a serviceable gun for upland work , close-in ducks with 3-inch loads and an occasional round of skeet or sporting clays. At 5′ 10″ and 185 lbs., I fit the profile of the “average hunter.” If you have a similar body size you may also be able to shoot this off-the-shelf gun just as well as a custom-fit model that will cost many more bucks. I prefer the heavier steel-framed Instinct L over the aluminum framed SL. For a look at this and other guns in the Franchi line go to www.franchiusa.com.
If you ever find a shotgun that you can really shoot, let not money, love or kinship part you from it. You may never find another, not even of the same model gun, that you will ever be able to shoot as well.
The next four days of tromping through the Shot Show exposed me to thousands of products. For the purpose of my radio show, I elected to cover them in categories. On this episode I concentrated on muzzleloading guns and accessories which fit in with my gig as a Corresponding Editor for Gun Digest.
CVA offered one new gun this year which is the Optima muzzleloading pistol in .50 caliber which comes with a 15-inch barrel and their now-standard quick detachable breechplug. This gun was introduced mid-season last year and has a suggested retail of $315. I hope to hunt with this gun next year. In addition, they offer their 6.5-pound Accura with a new WeatherGuard coating and a ramrod with a build-on palm saver. Other premium features on the gun include an adjustable trigger, one-piece scope base with rings, improved recoil pad and PBI’s new sling with steel fittings.
The interchangeable barrel Apex is available as a .45 or .50-caliber muzzleloader or in a variety of centerfire rifle calibers up to .35 Whelen and .45-70 as well as a 12-gauge cartridge shotgun. CVA continues to offer their low priced Wolf drop-barreled gun as well as the bolt-action Elkhorn and, at $177, their least expensive muzzleloadeing rifle, the striker-fired Buckhorn. For more information go to www.cva.com.
CVA and Thompson/Center Arms have largely stopped producing side-hammer muzzleloading guns with T/C only retaining their Hawken and Firestorm rifles. Most attention at the T/C booth was with their new switch-barrel and switch-stock bolt-action gun which puts the interchangeable barrel concept in a price range that the average hunter can afford. The Dimension features a polymer stock, free-floating barrel and is offered in calibers from .204 Winchester through .300 Winchester Magnum. Caliber and bolt-face interchangeability is aided by offering four bolt-magazines-barrel groups (A-D) to help the shooter properly match the gun’s components.
For those who liked the Encore style action, but had no need for the interchangeable barrel capabilities in a muzzleloading rifle, T/C has introduced the Pro Hunter FX (Fixed Barrel) which comes with the recoil-reducing stock, Encore action and a fixed barrel which considerably reduces costs. All of the Encore stock options will fit the frame, and this gun is also offered with a scope and the other features available in Encore-pattern guns, except for the ability to interchange barrels. For more information on these guns go to: www.tcarms.com.
Traditions continues to offer historic pattern muzzleloading rifles, pistols and miniature cannon. In their line of drop-barrel muzzleloading rifles, Traditions has reduced the weight of their Vortek and Pursuit models by using chromium- molybdenum alloy barrels. The result is that the Pursuit is the lightest of similar production muzzleloading rifles at 5.15 pounds in a .50-caliber rifle. The new Vortek Ultra Light LTR also has an aluminum receiver and 30-inch barrel which may now be purchased with a scope and detachable bipod. While the market generally applauds this trend towards ever-lighter guns, it comes with some costs in off-hand stability and increased recoil. If you are only going to walk your gun a 100 yards or less to your deer stand, a heavier gun will perform better for off-hand shots. With these untra-light hunting rifles, it is imperative that they be shot from stable rests if you are going to try to consistently hit an animal beyond about 30 yards.
If I am going to carry a lightweight gun I prefer a pistol, and this year Traditions’ Vortek pistol is
offered with a scope package which is an aid to us older shooters who can no longer depend on our eyes to focus well enough to take game with iron-sighted guns. It is unusual that both CVA and Traditions are now offering big-game capable muzzleloading handguns with such similar characteristics the same year. This is a small market. If you feel that you want to buy one of these guns, purchase it now because limited sales will likely cause production to stop after a few years.
I have probably used more of Davide Pedersoli’s replica guns than those of other makers because this company has offered a larger variety of guns that have been suitable for hunting. This year they have introduced four new models related to the Civil War which are a CSA Richmond rifle, two patterns of Enfield, a Springfield rifle and the Mississippi or Zouave rifle with its distinctive brass patchbox. These models are made to exacting standards to replicate the originals in all respects including appropriate engravings and stampings.