Law Enforcement Technology Editors Jonathan Kozlowski and Sara Scullin, and Editorial Director Frank Borelli, re-cap SHOT Show 2016.
Jonathan talks prototypes and tales of faster reload
My experience with SHOT may not have the longest history. My introduction to this side of law enforcement was a trip to Orlando some 10 years ago – back when Las Vegas didn’t hold pocket Aces to host. Memory might have fuzzed over time so I may be corrected; today’s law enforcement section seems to have not only become more visited, but the “consumer-only” side receives less and less center-mass positioning for the show floor.
Then again, I’m paying most attention to the tactical side – my outlook may be just slightly skewed.
Anyone following my viewpoint knows I lean toward the new ideas and concepts. Nothing reloads my attention better than a company saying, “Let’s talk about our prototype.” Those are my personal bulls-eyes.
I’m not alone. Companies recognize this community and use it to their advantage. One in particular, DSM Dyneema, may have not had a booth themselves – they don’t really need to, claiming that there’s Dyneema in more products than ever before. I caught up with Sophie Wray, a Regional Marketing Manager from DSM the day after they hosted 15 law enforcement leaders to talk about what they wanted in a vest. In order, she said, “They want comfort, fit, then [customer] service.”
Anyone who has worn body armor would more than likely agree with comfort – especially if their first interaction was the heavy, hot, and (dare I say clunky) vests of the long past. With the launch of the Force Multiplier Technology, things are only getting lighter. And lighter begets comfort. And with the release of DSM’s Black line, one can only guess what the next prototypes will feel like.
Speaking of prototypes, while at a “Burgers and Bullets” event, Cobalt Kinetics displayed something that made my sight-line rise just slightly. They took an AR and adjusted the magazine feed and release to recognize the final round. Once the last is chambered, the mag falls to the floor – automatically – in hopes to speed your reload time. The event itself held a crowd of people, including freelancers, gunsmiths, writers, media, bloggers, reps from various websites, shop owners, and then the hosting companies. They allowed attendees free access to Range 702, and try the firearms and accessories out in the range. I’d explain the guns were like, but I’ll let experts like our Firearm Tactics writer, Lindsey Bertomen, handle that.
No longer a prototype, BTI (Breaching Technology Inc.), released a new collapsible breaching tool. It’s exactly as it sounds, available in titanium or steel, weighs less than seven pounds, allows multiple sets of “head” configurations, etc. All this plus with a unlocking twist, shrinks down to just under a 16 inches. Pretty sure that spec in itself would make carrying such a tool in emergency situations just one factor easier.
On emergency situations, I noticed companies stopped coloring their crap and stupidly calling it zombie green. While I spent my time in the law enforcement section, years past had this fad shambling over everywhere. Did someone finally do the appropriate double-tap to the “let’s zombify everything” idea? Points to that someone.
Frank makes a plan, gets marooned in Vegas
If I count correctly and my memory doesn’t fail me, this was my thirteenth SHOT Show. There are a few things I’ve come to expect over the years: I expect to see friends in the industry that I only get to see at SHOT. That happened this year and was, as always, enjoyable. There were a few friends I missed because SHOT Show also seems to get longer and busier every year. I expect to eat lunch, at least once, at the Grand Lux Café in The Venetian. The grilled chicken Caesar salad is tasty and reasonably healthy. I expect to walk 8+ miles per day, with most days well over ten. I averaged eleven miles per day this year. I expect to see new guns, new knives, new clothing/uniform items, new boots, new armor, new... well, everything. I’ve come to realize that even with the best of intentions you can’t see everything, or even everything related to a specific item. For instance, seeing all of the new holsters might be a challenge. Seeing all the new guns and all the new holsters is work. Seeing all the new guns, new holsters and new cleaning equipment is near impossible. In other words, you have to have focus. Know what you’re there to see, work the exhibitor list, make your plan, execute.
SHOT Show was longer for me this year than ever before. It typically has been five days: Media Range Day followed by four days of the show floor. This year the show started with the Team Never Quit event on Sunday evening and my stay in Vegas was extended two unplanned days because of winter weather on the east coast. That Sunday, though, launched a week that was filled with more notable people than a “typical” SHOT Show for me. I enjoyed the great honor of meeting Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell (of Lone Survivor fame) that Sunday evening. On Tuesday evening at the Team 5 Foundation event, I got to meet Sgt. Dakota Meyer (CMH recipient), Capt. Flo Groberg (CMH recipient) and the former Governor of Texas, Rick Perry. In the show hall later in the week I met another CHM recipient, SFC Sammy Davis. This year’s SHOT Show was, for me, more about the people than the gear. Now I have to wait another whole year to see what SHOT Show 2017 will hold!
It’s not just about guns, clothes for protection/concealment
SHOT Show is full of diversity. Yes, the BIG draw is being able to get your hands on all sorts of firearms…feel the heft for yourself and sight them in. Without a question, the many hundreds of firearms manufacturers’ booths are buzzing every minute, every hour, every day of the show with enthusiasts. But each year I am reminded again that there’s a whole lot more to this event than things that go “boom”.
This year I was quite taken with the clever updates and new releases in wearables. Think body armor, uniforms, conceal clothing solutions. I saw new “yoga” pants that held onto a gun during a jog, and easy-off body armor that stood up to AK 47 rounds.
At the 5.11 booth Elissa Raigosa showed me their women’s Raven Range Tight—a super sleek and durable stretch knit pant with a wide elastic waistband and abrasion-resistant panels that support your belt and holster. This seems to be the perfect marriage of yoga pants and range wear. The look and quality was impressive. They come in black or “tundra”. The company was also thinking ahead to summer with the Shockwave short (built to be quick drying and comfy).
It was evident, too, that body armor is getting smarter and more versatile than ever. Point Blank introduced its Two-In-One plate carrier at the show. The hard armor system has front and back plate pockets for NIJ Level III or IV hard armor plates. The amazing thing about this is how quickly (we’re talking seconds) the “model” was able to remove the rear plate panel and don the plate carrier for immediate protection. Very important—this particular vest has the ability to separate the back body to become a front for another person in need of protection. I was told at the booth, while being introduced to Point Blank’s many new protection products…that they were intent on making “A better vest with all the cool-guy features”.
There were more “wearables” to ogle in the show’s exclusive New Product Center: The AR500 Armor BALCS Soft Armor line was a popular draw, as well as the Elite Defender Riot Suit from HWI Gear Inc. The company BulletSafe, which typically does a line of vests, was showing a Bulletproof Baseball Cap (priced at $129 on their website). And I was intrigued by the assortment of concealment leggings offered by Glockstore/UnderTech Undercover. The ideal garment for undercover women officers.
Another valuable product was the Blast Boxers (BCB International LLC). How were these tested you might ask? In a valley in South Wales a foam “actor” wearing the shorts was blasted by the sand, grit and air of about 33 pounds of high explosive. Despite significant fragmentation to the unprotected regions of the blast targets, and even their partial or complete destruction at close range, the shorts proved remarkably resilient. Now that’s underwear that works overtime if you ask me.