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De’j`a Vu Vegas. Shot Show 2012, Part I.

January 25, 2012

Fewer than half of the shooting events at the Range Day are shown in this photo.

 This show may be heard  following its broadcast date by clicking on the following link: 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:

Some of Bauer's new hunting line.

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

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:

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

Cabot left-handed Model 1911 below right-handed version.

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:

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


Mike Leeds holding the Instinct L.

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

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's Optima Pistol.

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

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.

The new Dimension bolt-action rifle is offered with interchangeable barrels and a variety of stock options.

   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:


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

Tradition's Vortek with scope.

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.

From the top a Richmond rifle, Enfield rifle and a Springfield rifle.


   Chiappa, who introduced two rifles last year that were sold with a pair of differently marked locks, are now making an exacting copy of the Enfield rifle. Both companies have similar objectives in making their guns look and feel as much like the originals as possible including hiding the Italian proof marks under the barrel, reshaping components and copying the fine-line engraving on the hammer and lockplates as it originally appeared.  Chiappa has also in recent years introduced .22 L.R. versions of many guns and this year brought a .22 L.R. version of the U.S. .30-Caliber carbine to add to its 1911, Beretta 9mm and  AR-platform .22s. Their very interesting  .357 revolver with the barrel at the bottom of the cylinder has gathered increasing attention over the past year because of its low recoil and easy shooting characteristics. For more information on Chiappa products go to:   The new owners of Knight Rifles relocated production to Tennessee last year and resumed production of some of the Knight guns. They have decided  not to produce cartridge guns or the Revolution and Rolling Block rifles. Instead, they have concentrated on the striker fired TK -2000 shotgun, entry-level BigHorn and the bolt-action Disc Extreme rifles. The Disc Extremes are offered in both .50 and .52-calibers in styles that are similar to the old Master Hunter shown below. The new guns will be offered with breeches to take either the plastic 209 primer holders or with breechplugs that will accept bare 209s. Preloaded plastic primer jackets will also be available loaded with Winchester Muzzleloading primers. 

Knight .52-caliber rifles similar to this Long Range Hunter will be available with a simplified breech plug.

   Not at the show, but in the works, is a fixed barrel version of the KP 1 which will be offered in mid-year only as a .50-caliber muzzleloading rifle. This rifle originally had interchangeable centerfire barrels, but this option will not be available in the new guns. For more information on the new Knight rifles go to:   Dixie Gun Works has a place in the muzzleloading world as being a supplier of not only replica muzzleloaders and black-powder cartridge guns from various manufacturers, but is also a source of  hard-to-find parts, shooting components, information, supplies, books and materials related to muzzleloading and reenacting. In addition, Hunter Kirkland sells antique and hand-made muzzleloaders produced by some of the finest craftsmen. On this show I did an interview with Kirkland that traces the evolution of black powder self-defense guns from the flintlock through the percussion eras. For more on Dixie’s product and how to get their valuable annual catalogue go to their website:

Two other companies Taylor’s & Co., Inc. ( and Cimarron F.A. Co. (, supply both muzzleloading and cartridge guns to Cowboy Action Shooters in styles that extend from the Civil War through the 1880s. I cannot say that between the two companies they offer every variant of every gun seen in the American West during that period, but they make a good stab at it. There are Colt and Remington percussion revolvers, both original-style and modern revolver conversions, Colt, Remington and Smith and Wesson cartridge pistols and an equally complete treatment of lever guns from the Spencer Rifle and 1866 Winchester through the 1887  Winchester 12-gauge shotgun. These guns are largely made by Pedersoli, Chiappa, Pietta and Uberti, which are all Italian firms.  One non-traditional varient is the Cimmaron Hybrid which takes a double-keyed Sharps Rifle and converts it into a .50-caliber muzzleloader by employing a 209 primer in a breechplug while leaving the Sharp’s set triggers, sights, etc. intact.  If some of the muzzleloading rifles that I discussed may be too lightweight, the Hybrid  is overly complicated and heavy, but if you’ve got to have a Sharps-style rifle to take your muzzleloaded beasties, this one should certainly do the job and will look good on your wall during the off-season.

  Harvester Muzzleloading has made hard-cast saboted bullets for muzzleloaders for about a decade and has recently introduced a ribbed sabot that reduces loading pressures by 50%.  This Crush Rib Sabot is offered with their Scorpion hollow pointed and polymer tipped bullets in both .50 and .54 calibers. The sabots are available for separate purchase to take  .40 caliber bullets in .45-caliber guns, and for 40, .44 and .45 caliber bullets shot from .50-caliber guns.  A quite-different bullet is their Saber Tooth which has an attached polymer base, similar to PowerBelt bullets, with a star-shaped hollow point. This bullet is available in .50-caliber in 250, 270 and 300-grain weights. This company also makes shotgun wads, including one identical to the Red Winchester wad for 1 1/4-ounce of shot that I commonly used in my muzzleloading shotguns. This wad is no longer sold by Winchester and I am pleased to see that it is available from Harvester. For more information on these products go to: and

  After I returned home from the show, I received a catalogue from Rock River Arms, Inc.  I had shot a .308 version of this AR-platform gun at the Winchester Ammo booth using their new Razorback loads, which have delayed opening and are particularly designed for hog hunting. These rounds are available in both .223 and .308. I found the Rock River rifle to be the best shooting AR that I have ever fired. I was impressed with its good, although a little long, trigger pull, adequate weight for the caliber and shot-to-shot stability. Rock River has guns of this type in several configurations and calibers including the .5.56 mm – .223, 6.8 mm Remington, 7.62 mm – .308 Winchester, 9mm Luger, and .458 SOCOM.  Winchester Ammo could have chosen any of a very large number of  AR guns to showcase their new ammo. Their endorsement of Rock River’s rifles is a strong one, to which I am pleased to add my own. For more information on these excellent rifles go to:


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