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Best of SHOT: What's new and what's improved in 2012

Feb. 9, 2012 - 03:07PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 9, 2012 - 03:07PM  |  
Above, the LaRue OBR Hybrid Costa-Edition 5.56.
Above, the LaRue OBR Hybrid Costa-Edition 5.56. (LaRue)
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Talk to 20 people at SHOT Show and not one will give you the same answer to the most-asked question during and after the show: "See anything cool?"

That's how massive this show is.

We sent a small crew of gear hounds to this year's SHOT Show on the lookout for two things: serious innovation and tangible evolution in the tactical marketplace. It's hard to look at the list of products we brought back and not appreciate the growth in the industry. So here is our 2012 Christmas wish list, in no particular order.

A. IWI Tavor Rifle

After a two-year hiatus, Charles Daly Defense is back with shotguns, AR15s and pistols. But more interesting is that CD Defense is bringing over a semi-auto version of the IWI Tavor, the Israeli bullpup assault rifle that uses a piston system, making a Tavor available in the U.S. for the first time. CD Defense has some kinks to work out, including barrel-import issues, but IWI will have no problem finding suitable U.S. manufacturers to help it round out the rifle with enough U.S. parts to comply with 922(r) importation law. The price isn't locked down yet, which makes sense with the barrel details up in the air.

Price: Still a moving target.

Available: Hoping for a fall release, may see some earlier in small runs.

B. Gerber De Facto

Gerber says the new De Facto was designed with input from U.S. troops who wanted a dagger for up-close-and-personal work. The De Facto has a 4-inch blade, is made of S30V steel and comes with a lockable sheath. The sheath is almost as interesting as the blade itself, with an easy-to-use lock in addition to the knife's normal friction lock. This is meant to let guys jump with the knife and still have easy access to it. We pulled on the knife pretty hard with it locked in place and couldn't get it to budge. After releasing the sheath lock, the friction lock worked without any problem. One of our concerns was whether the lock could get stuck if it was hit hard, but this doesn't seem to be an issue judging by our limited time with it.

Price: $140.

Available: Now.

C. The RAC

William McMurray from U.S. RAC is passionate about firearm safety, and for good reason — a close friend lost a child in an accident involving an unsecured weapon. McMurray showed us a new lock, the RAC, which comes in two sizes and can be mounted to any structural foundation, including a vehicle. The rubber-coated arm swivels 360 degrees for access, and a stationary locking post passes through the trigger housing, where it is secured in place with a barrel lock. The steel assembly is rated to withstand up to 4,700 pounds of pressure and can secure both pistols and rifles. Whether you're keeping your weapon safe from children or burglars, this is something you should check out.

Price: $70 for the 3-inch (single firearm); $80 for the 5-inch (up to three weapons) http://www.theusrac.com/">online.

Available: Now

D. Crye HalfJak

This one is about as simple as it gets. Crye wanted to give service members wearing body armor protection from the elements without a complicated donning and doffing process. Anyone who has worn a set of armor knows it keeps your core fairly warm. Crye just built a jacket that covers arms, shoulders and upper torso that can be packed away in seconds into a GP pouch. The HalfJak will come as a loft layer and a separate Gore-Tex shell that can be layered for warmth and protection from precipitation.

Price: Not available.

Available: Not available.

E. Silencerco Saker

The guys at Silencerco have stepped into the rifle suppressor market with their trademark style and innovation. They were at SHOT to unveil the most exciting suppressors to come along in recent memory. The 5.56 Saker features a modular mount section, an industry first for a rifle can. They call it the MAAD mount (Multiple Accessory Attachment Device). The initial line-up of MAAD mounts will fit your choice of: the new Silencerco Trifecta R/S (Resonance Suppression) flash hider; your existing 51-Tooth or "Y" flash hider mounts; or a 1/2x28 threads per inch direct-thread mount, with more to be announced in the near future.

Silencerco says the 5.56 Saker is built around its proprietary "Hoplon" blast baffle, which the company claims combines new geometry and materials into the strongest, most erosion-resistant blast baffle and baffle stack available. The 5.56 Saker has interchangeable front cap features, which allow for easy end cap replacement in the event of an end cap bullet strike. This also allows for the attachment of accessories, such as the Trifecta Flash Hider end cap (shown), with many more front cap accessories slated for introduction.

Price: $1,200 for the 5.56 Saker, including the Trifecta Flash Hider mount module and one Trifecta Flash Hider; $300 for the "Y" and 51T mount modules; $150 for the thread mount module.

Available: Expect to see the Saker and its accessories in June.

F. LaRue OBR Hybrid

Chris Costa dialed in a major hit with LaRue offering the Costa signature series gun that combines the lightweight PredatAR chassis with an OBR 5.56 14.5-inch heavy barrel. To keep it from becoming a short-barreled rifle, which would require a $200 federal tax stamp and a lengthy wait, it comes with your choice of a pinned and welded Surefire muzzle brake or flash hider. Weighing in at 7.9 pounds, the direct gas impingement gun features a 1/8 twist barrel, a Geissele SSA trigger, a 13-inch handguard with LaRue grip panels, a two-position gas port (suppressed or unsuppressed), and Magpul furniture. It's finished in flat dark earth and comes with a Costa Ludus logo engraved.

Price: Not available.

Available: Not available.

G. US Palm Quad Stack AK mag

Banana mags are fine, but AK shooters are always on the lookout for ways to make their rifles more compact. This quad-stack design is not new in high-capacity mags, but this is the first time we've seen this engineering in a 30-round magazine. Adding two more feed stacks cuts the length of a standard AK mag by a good margin and has a few advantages. For one, it allows the shooter to get lower to the ground when prone. US Palm promises this to be a lightweight, highly reliable magazine, though we will hold out on making that call until we get a chance to put some rounds through it when it hits the street.

Price: Not available.

Available: Not available.

H. Leupold Mark 6 1-6x20mm

From red dots to high-powered rifle scopes, the optic we kept coming back to on the SHOT show floor was the new Mark 6 1-6x20mm from Leupold Tactical Optics. Nicknamed the "baby CQBSS" by us, the MK6 features Leupold's typical bright glass wrapped in a strong 34mm main tube. Inside that body is a new CMR-W first focal plane illuminated reticle, available calibrated for 5.56 or 7.62 NATO. Rounding out the package are locking windage and elevation turrets with tactile and audible feedback on their 2/10 mil-per-click dials.

Price: $2,440.

Available: April.

I. Barnes VOR-TX 300BLK

Barnes is the latest member of the firearms industry to jump into the 300 AAC Blackout (7.62x35mm) pool. And it's making quite a splash with its new 110 grain VOR-TX ammunition. It provides a 300BLK-optimized bullet, ensuring not only trouble-free magazine-length loading, but full (50-caliber) expansion and penetration (20-plus inches) out past 300 yards, even out of short-barrel rifles. Its solid copper construction provides consistent terminal performance through a wide variety of intermediate barriers. The 110-grain polymer-tipped bullet achieves speeds of 2,400 feet per second, delivering 1,407 foot-pounds of energy out of a 16-inch 300BLK reference barrel. Additionally, Barnes' new 300BLK 110-grain TAC-TX bullet is available directly from Advanced Armament Corp. for military, law enforcement and government clients.

Price: VOR-TX 300BLK will be $34/box of 20.

Available: February.

J. BCM Gunfighter Enhanced Pistol Grip

Bravo Company Manufacturing is probably best known for its line of AR15 upper and lower receivers, but its lineup of non-AR gear continues to grow. The new Gunfighter Enhanced Pistol Grip takes the angle of the standard M4 pistol grip and straightens it out a bit. For guys who are using their carbines with the stock most of the way in and squared up to the target/threat, this will take pressure off your wrist.

Two versions in three colors are slated for release in the near future. The first is slightly smaller, and the second is a bit thicker from front to back and incorporates a swell on the back of the grip that arches up on the receiver. The front of each has two interchangeable pieces — one that extends slightly out to reduce bite from under the trigger guard, the other which does not extend and works well for anyone using an enhanced trigger guard. The interior of the grip is hollow for storage, and the trapdoor is hinged so it can't pop off and get lost. Colors are black, FDE and OD Green.

Price: $30.

Available: Coming soon.

K. AAC Handi Rifle

There was a lot of 300 AAC Blackout buzz around the SHOT floor this year. At least half a dozen more manufacturers released new rifles chambered in this exciting cartridge, and we are told up to twice as many have 300 BLK guns in development. We saw a good number of AR15-style rifles in almost every configuration and a variety of bolt gun platforms, but one of the most interesting was the Handi Rifle in 300 BLK. This simple, single-shot, break-action rifle looks to provide a low-cost companion to a 300 BLK AR15 rifle. The Handi Rifle can serve as the perfect truck gun, brush hunting gun or youth rifle, or in any role in which you want a compact, lightweight and low-recoiling firearm.

It features a phosphate finish on its lightweight-profile 1:7-inch twist 16-inch barrel. It comes prethreaded in 5/8x24 tpi with a thread protector, ready to accept any variety of muzzle device or suppressor. A Picatinny on the receiver allows the mounting of any optic.

Price: $359.

Available: March.

L. S&S Precision Plate Frame

One of the biggest must-sees of 2012 is this piece of thermo-molded polymer that snaps around the edges of an armor plate. The rig is held in place with a system of polyurethane-coated and radio-frequency-welded straps that are tough and have no sewn stitches to fray. Its futuristic looks belie its backward compatibility with the MOLLE/PALS pouch system. Using S&S Precision's new pouch system will afford a more stable platform. The plate carrier will be dipped in any camo pattern available and will come in two versions — "Tactical" and "LE" — the difference being the thickness of the material and resulting weight. S&S told us the tactical version is 18 ounces and the weight of the LE version hadn't been determined.

Price: $381.

Available: Summer.

M. FirstSpear Tubes

This quick-detach system replaces Velcro flap cummerbunds and crazy strap-deployed, wire-based armor cutaway systems with a simple rod-and-sleeve design. One piece is a reinforced nylon rod sewn to one side of the garment, and the other is a tube sewn to the mating side of the garment. To join the parts, simply slide the rod into the tube from either end. A levered arm on the tube captures a notch in the center of the rod. To release, just pull a toggle attached to the tube and the rod passes freely through. FirstSpear is making Tubes in two lengths, 2-inch and 4-inch, to work as shoulder and waist attachment points, respectively. The technology is used in three of FirstSpear's upcoming armor carriers, the StrandHögg MBAV or SAPI cut plate carriers and the Seige-R.

Price: StrandHögg MBAV or SAPI cut plate carriers with Tubes, $400; Seige-R with Tubes, $500.

Available: Spring.

N. Noveske NSR-11

A new rail and mounting system from Noveske Rifleworks stands out from the AR15 rails we usually see. The keyhole-style interface is beveled on the back side, and it auto-centers items as they are installed. There is no need to reach inside the rail, and a screw tightens the accessories into place. When I say "accessories," I'm talking about the entire lineup of accessories in the works for this rail. Think of this as a complete rail system, to include optional heat shields, covers and mounts. We'll cover more on the GearScout blog as the accessories roll out.

Price: Estimated $245.

Available: Likely by summer, if not sooner.

O. Benchmade Interdiction Kits

Benchmade's family of narcotics probes will let anyone doing sensitive site exploitation inspect and sample bags and spaces. Three versions cover short and thin (model 118), short and burly (model 124), and long and burly (model 164).

Price: $65 to $160.

Available: Now.

P. Raven VanGuard2

Concealable holster selection is a deeply personal process. It always begins innocently with a hunch of what style of carry will offer comfort and accessibility. It ends with a box of holsters under a desk. Raven Concealment Systems' VanGuard2 is an extension of the original VanGuard trigger cover that covered exposed Glock triggers while carried in nontraditional modes, such as Mexican carry or inside a bag or pack. The new version is an all-out holster that weighs in at a fraction of other holsters and offers a microscopic footprint. This will be a great holster in warm weather, though there are caveats to its use. For safety, you must remove the holster each time you want to reholster, and this is not the right holster for extended range sessions — there's nothing fun about a hot metal slide burning into your flesh.

Price: $35.

Available: In a few weeks.

Military Times staffer James J. Lee and http://militarytimes.com/blogs/gearscout/author/stickman/">GearScout blogger Stickman contributed to this report.

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