In the world of firearms and firearm related goodies, the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show (it just wrapped up in Orlando) has such a gravitational attraction that it is impossible to ignore. I know that Frank Borelli has already filed a report, but I'm going to offer a few of my observations as well. We both saw the same things, but never managed to actually see each other, so massive is the area involved and so varied are the items displayed. I'll pass on reporting on the guns of little interest to law enforcement, such as the CVA Electra muzzleloading rifles with electronic ignition, the AR crossbow and the Beretta single barrel, break open, semi-automatic, 2 shot, 12 gauge shotgun. Likewise the LaserLyte PB-1 pistol bayonet. (If you think you've seen it all folks, just go to the SHOT Show!) Here are a few that might actually be useful.
Ruger Is At It Again
Ruger created the big stir at the 2008 SHOT Show when they introduced the LCP, .380 caliber pocket pistol. Recall and all, it's still making waves. (More on that later). 2009 is the year of the LCR (Light Compact Revolver). What makes this revolver different from all the Ruger revolvers that have come before, as well as all other revolvers, is that a good bit of the frame, specifically the Fire Control Housing System, is composed of Long-Strand, Glass-Fiber Filled Polymer. I've been joking for years that if Glock wanted to do something really different, they should build a polymer revolver. Well, too late, Ruger got there first.
There is plenty of metal in the LCR, of course, with a stainless steel barrel and alloy cylinder, but the over all combination yields a lightweight (13.5 oz.) pocket revolver that is unlike any other Ruger. Other than the materials and the appearance, the most striking thing about the gun is the trigger mechanism. It has been completely redesigned from the typical Ruger l-o-o-o-n-g trigger pull associated with the SP and GP revolvers and has a short, smooth, crisp feel, similar, dare I say, to that of an S&W revolver. It isn't the same however, and discussing the mechanism with the engineer who designed it revealed that his new approach gives you that excellent trigger feel right out of the box. The LCR that I shot at the Media Day event was pleasant to shoot, even with its light weight, and was easy to control. The sights were a little off on that particular gun, as all of us who shot it were hitting a bit high and left, but the front sight is pinned on, allowing for swapping it out for different sizes and styles. Word has it that XS Sight Systems is already planning big dot sight for the LCR. What this means is that you can have a lightweight, 5 shot, .38 Spl +P snubby for your pocket or ankle at a more affordable price than any of the similar weight scandium/titanium/ultralight revolvers currently in use. Suggested retail for the LCR is $525 and actual selling price will certainly be less than that. And, there is already a Crimson Trace LaserGrip version, the LCR-LG, for about $250 more. Keep an eye out for the LCR. It is supposed to be available beginning in March, but they may be hard to find for a while, due to heavy pre-booking by many dealers.
Get A Grip
Speaking of Crimson Trace, they introduced some new styles that will be helpful in the LE world. First of all, there is a new, improved grip mounted module for Glocks, the LG-417. It will be more directionally stable than earlier models that tended to shift a bit as the retaining pin wore in. The new version actually wraps around the grip, like the current Springfield XD model, and places the activation switch on the front of the pistol grip, directly under your middle finger. They will still make the other model, for those who prefer that style, but I think the LG-417 will be an improvement for service Glocks.
Also new and expanding is their line of Laserguard grips, which attach to the front of the trigger guard on many of the small pistols commonly used as backup guns. The Kel-Tec P3AT and the Ruger LCP versions have been available for a while, and models for the compact and baby Glocks, Kahrs and others were announced at the Show. Of particular interest to the tactical rifle crowd is CTC's new AR model, the MVF-515. It is a vertical foregrip with both a light and laser incorporated into the handle. Activation switches for both the flashlight and laser are built into both sides of the grip, allowing easy selection of light/laser options and full ambidextrous capability. It may take a bit before we see this one on the shelves, but look for it if you are using a front pistol grip on your patrol rifle or entry gun.
The .380 cartridge has been almost forgotten here in the U.S. since the late 1960s, even though a few pocket pistols have survived and kept the 9mm Corto/Kurz alive. Ruger's LCP announcement last year, however, has been at least partially responsible for the explosion of interest in the caliber and small autos to fire it. Despite Ruger's problems getting the LCP into peoples pockets, new post-recall guns are finally coming off the assembly line and demand is still outpacing supply. Virtually all of the LCPs we have received at our shop have been sold before they made it to the display counter. This demand has not gone unnoticed by others and new players in the .380 market are challenging the LCPs, the Kel-Tecs, et.al.
Taurus, for example, has announced a pocket .380, the PT 738, that looks much like the Kel-Tec and the Ruger. It won't actually be available for a while, as it is too small to import from Brazil, so Taurus apparently will be building a manufacturing facility here in the U.S. Once that is finished, you'll be hearing a lot more about that gun. If a single action, cocked-and-locked pocket pistol appeals to you, check out the new SIG P238. Most folks notice right away that it looks a lot like the old Colt Mustang, examples of which are suddenly becoming more and more desirable on the used gun market. Again, the SIG may be a while before it is in hand, as they are not even showing it on their website yet.
Another entry in this arena is the Magnum Research Micro Desert Eagle. I've been able to actually shoot this one, thanks to a test gun in the possession of my colleague Chris Christian. It is a solid feeling, sub-14 ounce gun with reasonable accuracy for a pocket gun AND it seems to be utterly reliable. Chris has reported that even attempts to make it mis-feed, jam or otherwise malfunction have been to no avail. It just keeps on running. When I shot it, it had a fairly hefty trigger pull, but was accurate and easily controllable. Certainly a worthy belly gun. It looks like retail on it is $535, so it should be available for a bit less than that when it hits the gun shops.
Finally on the .380 front, my favorite of them all at this point, the Kahr P380. Picture a Kahr PM9, only smaller. It has all the classic Kahr looks, design and feel, including the superb Kahr double action trigger, and real sights on top of the slide. The first versions, due to start shipping this month, will have the standard Kahr white bar-dot, drift adjustable sights. Tritium night sights are promised by mid-summer. Why am I impressed with sights on a belly gun? Ok, I've shot this one also. My friend, Massad Ayoob, has one in hand for an article he's writing and we T&E'd it after a Pro Arms concealed carry class last weekend. We had already handled the gun at the SHOT Show and discussed it with Justin Moon during an interview we did with him for our Pro Arms podcast series.
Shooting impressions of the P380? It's smooth, easily controllable and accurate beyond my expectations for such a small gun. The first six rounds that Pro Arms owner Jon Strayer fired out of the gun, offhand at approximately six yards, were in a tight, 1 inch group at the point of aim. My first run yielded a 1 ¾ inch group, but then I'm old and feeble and Jon is young and strong. Regardless, I was impressed, even though I'm not a big fan of mouse guns and have not owned a .380 since I traded away a Walther PPK/S a couple of decades ago. The P380 will certainly be more expensive than the other polymer framed .380s. List is $649 for the standard model and $758 for the night sight version, but, if I have to have a mouse gun, this one has everything I want. I'll probably buy one of these.
One of the problems with going to the SHOT Show is the hit the wallet invariably takes. The other is that it is not unusual for products to be introduced well before they will actually be available. Waiting can be the hardest part.