Question. Whatís better than a
three ring circus? The obvious answer is a four ring circus. Well, what
would you think about a circus with 1,846 rings? Mind boggling would be
Show is the firearms and related industries annual trade show where the
various manufactures show off their new products for 2006 to the 24,000
attending dealers/buyers from the huge sporting goods chains, mom and pop
gun shops, and everything in between. The purpose of the show is strictly
business. There are no retail transactions done here and the public is not
This year the
Show was held in Las Vegas last Feb 9-12. One of the most amazing things
about this event is the fact that itís like this little fat kid I used to
go to school with - he keeps getting bigger and bigger. Well over 39,000
people attended this time around. Interestingly, the Show had already
booked even more exhibit space for 2007ís event before this 2006 Show was
finished. That practically guarantees that the 2007 Show will easily have
over 40,000 people attending. Whoever says the gun industry is dead, just
isnít paying attention.
the Show is a great way to get a preview of the industryís 2006 products
which will be showing up at the retail level this Spring, Summer, and
Fall. With 1846 manufacturerís booths, thereís just no way to cover even
20% of whatís there to see. So the alternative is to hit just the oneís
that are of interest to our sport and to oneís self. Hereís a synopsis of
what I saw.
Redfield - An American classic since 1919, the new 21st century
Redfield rifle scopes have more technology incorporated into their design
than any other brand on the market. No small statement, but true - any
brand. Additionally, the materials used in their construction are the best
thatís commercially available. So what makes them so good? For one, ED
glass (the very best that there is for resolution and color correctness)
is used in the sophisticated apocromatic objective lens element. The body
is magnesium, not aluminum. Lanthanum glass (the clearest there is) in the
eyepiece. They use a unique three cam zoom system that results in a 5X
magnification range i.e. 5X - 25X, 6X - 30X, etc. All other rifle scopes
use a less advanced 4X system. I could go on and on. I hope to get hold of
one of these scopes soon and will do a complete review. This is one very
exciting product thatís just entered into production and should be
available very, very soon.
"The new Redfield's technical features are intensely
Redding - Their new 2006 case trimmer is the
coolest, best product of its type available. I hate the tedium of case
trimming but this trimmer goes a long way to make that job bearable. So
whatís different? For one, itís equipped with a precision micrometer, so
making fine adjustments is now simple and easy. As you well know, this is something
thatís very difficult to do on a consistent basis with regular trimmers.
It also has a universal collet that will accept just about every cartridge
made so thereís no having to buy multiple collects for this cartridge or
that one. One of the best features on the Reddingís is the fact that the
trimmer rotates the case against the cutter head and not vice versa. This
insures you get a true and even cut across the case mouth. Also newly
available, is an optional ($12) power adapter. So now you can hook up an
electric screw driver to the trimmer to make the job even easier and
faster. Neat! These new trimmers should be available in the May time frame
and I hope Iíll be able to do a complete review once they come out.
way, if youíre lucky enough to own one of the Redding T-7 turret presses,
check out the new slide bar primer feeding system. Should make reloading
Leupold - Thereís no doubt that the VXL scopes
that I reviewed last month in these pages were the hit of the Show. The
brilliantly simple solution to a problem affecting all large diameter
scopes had all their competitors shaking their heads and saying ďWhy
didnít I think of that?Ē When I first saw a picture of a VXL, I couldnít
help wondering whether the new shape of the objective lens would similarly
affect the image that the viewer would see in the scope. The answer is no.
When I examined the scope at the show, I saw a very bright, crisp,
perfectly round image that was indistinguishable in shape seen in any
other Leupold riflescope.
the VXLís, Leupold also has an 80mm spotting scope in the pipeline. (What
took so long?) This is a Wind River product, so the price should be fairly
affordable for almost anyone.
interesting and fairly new trend that will accelerate at an ever
increasing speed is the blending of sports optics and electronics. The
digital rangefinder is certainly one of the earliest examples. Leupoldís
new RX line kicks it up a notch by giving the humble range finder
capabilities that are truly sophisticated. For instance, one problem that
many, if not most, hunters face is the problem of shooting up/down hill or
down from a stand (some of which can be pretty high). That affects the
ballistics path of the bullet. The Leupold RX rangefinders have an
electronic inclinometer which determines the angle of the shot in the
vertical plane. You then tell the range finder what kind of cartridge
youíre shooting and it will give you the true ballistic range to your
target, not just a simplistic line of sight range. The range finder also
has a built in magnetic inductor compass, an electronic thermometer, and a
ton of different modes to range in all kinds of weather like fog, rain,
and snow. Additionally, there are many more features and reticle choices
than you can shake a stick at. This is undoubtedly the slickest, most
useful rangefinder on the market.
"Redding's new trimmer insures the case mouth
is cut square and even."
Hornady - If you ever used the Hornady
New Dimension reloading dies, you know that if you donít have things
really tightened down, the de-capping rod can slip when de-priming cases.
Adjusting the depth of the de-capping rod is also imprecise. This year,
that situation has changed with a newly redesigned de-capping rod called a
ďZip SpindleĒ. The dies now features shallow threads cut on the rod and
the locking collet which eliminates slippage and makes locking the rod in
place much easier - a good idea.
were thinking of purchasing a Hornady handheld priming tool, get the 06
model. Itís been seriously worked over making it much easier to work with.
For instance, the old model required the seater punch and spring to be
removed in order to change out the shell holders and primer trays. Not any
more. Other changes also make this a much better tool.
Caldwell - If you remember, I did a review of
Caldwellís benchrest styled rest a couple of months ago. I found it very
useful when testing loads with unlimited guns, and the price is certainly
reasonable for what you get. One thing about these types of rests however
is the fact that theyíre awkward to carry around because of their shape
and especially because of their weight. Caldwell now has a strong, hard
sided, plastic, molded case for its rests that Ďs perfect for carrying
them around. Itís called a ďrest nestĒ and makes things at lot easier.
Lyman - Theyíve improved their digital
automatic powder dispenser system by evidently adding more memory and
computing capacity. You can now store up to 100 of your favorite loads on
the system and recall them by cartridge, powder, and weight. You can now
also interface the powder dispenser with your PC and use its memory as
well. Additionally, it will create a reloading log on your computer.
Pretty cool. Additionally thereís a
couple of new digital portable reloading scales. The 1500 grain model even
has a flip up wind cover and a little pull out tray for the pan and other
"The new Hornady hand primer is a much
improved tool over the old model."
Alpen Optics - As you know I consider
Alpen to be the king of moderately priced sport optical products. The
amount of performance that you get far exceeds the amount of money that
you have to pay. This particularly applies to their 80mm, model 788
spotting scope. Well, the 788 just became an even better buy because it
now comes with a very cool aluminum carrying case as do their other 50 and
If youíre in need of a set of very versatile binoculars check out their
innovative ďTrail-TecĒ series. They feature an electronic compass,
thermometer, and clock. They also use BaK4 prisms (the best). Better yet,
prices run from only $60-$120 depending on the size of the objective lenses.
Alpen dips its toe into the premium end of the pool with its very impressive
ďRainierĒ binoculars. These are for those who want the very best. The extra
large, metal coated BaK4 prisms with phase corrected coatings, extra large
objectives, magnesium body, long eye relief, fast focus, and the means to lock
your eyepiece/diopter adjustments make these binocs able to stand toe to toe
with the super elite brands. Suggested retail is around $1200 but the street
price will be substantially less. I was able to look through the Raniers at
the Alpen factory and again at the Show, and I can assure you that the view is
you want to get into digiscoping for very little money, Alpen has an adapter
rig that you can hang on to just about any spotting scope. It doesnít even
have to be one of theirs. Just make sure your digital camera has a threaded
socket for a tripod. The adjustable arms of the adapter bring the camera lens
right up against the eyepiece of the scope. Works nice and the adapter is very
Freedom Arms - Our favorite revolver maker has a new cartridge for
2006 - the 500 Wyoming Express. Man is this thing hot! Think of it as a 50
caliber elk/moose whomper with a belted magnum case. The case is 1.37 inches
in length and is designed to accommodate bullets between 350 and 450 grains in
weight. Surprisingly, it operates at pressures under 50,000 psi, whereas the
454 is pushing 60,000 psi. Never the less this new cartridge is capable of
throwing 400 grains of lead at nearly 1600 fps. This cartridge is obviously
designed for handgun hunting, but donít write it off for silhouette. With 10
grains of Hodgdonís Titegroup, this FA will sling a 440 grain (think Leadheads
cast bullets) at 1097 fps (just subsonic). Recoil should be manageable for an
experienced silhouette shooter and the knockdown devastating.
This is one very neat package!!
"Getting into digiscoping is inexpensive with the
Alpen camera adapter."
Iosso Products - I, as well as many in the benchrest community have
been praising Iossoís bore cleaning paste in a tube for several years now as
well as their case cleaning solutions and bore brushes. This year they have a
very neat spray type sizing lube that cleans the cases at the same time. Just
spread your cases on a newspaper, or some use an old shoe box, spray on the
lube from the aerosol pump container, and run the case into the sizing
die. Pull out, and wipe the case with a damp rag afterwards. The case is not
only sized perfectly but also nice and clean. Itís totally nonflammable,
biodegradable, and thereís no smell. Very nice product. Good work Dick!
IMR - Their new Trail Boss powder looks
very promising for Field Pistol shooting. I would roughly estimate that it has
a burning rate of somewhere around Bullseye (very fast). However, the thing
that makes it unique is the fact that very little of it (weight-wise) can
occupy a large volume of space. Thus, it can often fill small capacity cases
to nearly the very top ensuring more even and consistent burning for better
accuracy and low recoil. Definitely worth checking out.
Nikon - Theyíve had a digiscoping
capability for their spotters for some time now, but the new P1 Pro system
adds a special Nikon Coolpix digital camera to the system. Thereís two things
that make this particular camera unique. One, itís optically optimized for
digiscoping to eliminate problems that sometimes occurs when strapping a
regular digital camera on a spotting scope. Two, itís WiFi capable. What this
means is that the image from the camera can be remotely downloaded into your
computer or into a printer (assuming that they are equipped with a WiFi card).
new case lube cleans your cases at the same time."
The camera also has 8 megs
of resolution and a 4X optical zoom. Couple this very capable camera to
Nikonís very classy 82mm Fieldscope with an ED objective lens, and you have a
dynamite combination. The 82 mm has even been upgraded this year with a little
finder scope attached to the main body. This helps to point the main scope so
you get on target fast. The new Nikon kit is undoubtedly the best and most
capable digiscoping combination on the market.
Rocky Boots - My favorite boot and shoe
maker. I donít wear anything but. Besides high quality, a huge selection, and
fair prices the thing that distinguishes Rocky products, is their constant
pushing of the envelope. And this is for a type of product that most people
tend to just take for granted. A boot is just a boot. Right? Not at Rocky.
Every year itís something startling different. Last year, it was their
Revolver hunting boots with the stainless steel lacing system. (Look for a
more complete report in a couple of months.) This year, itís boots made from
yak hide. Yak hide? Why yak hide? Well, if you remember from my article from a
few months ago on Georgia boots, I recounted how kangaroo hide was very strong
and also very light weight as a boot material. Itís also very expensive. Turns
out that yak hide is also a stronger and lighter than cow hide. But, not as
light and as strong as kangaroo, BUT itís much less expensive than kangaroo.
Consequently, you get most of the benefit of kangaroo hide but without the
got a new line of insect repellent clothing that uses all natural ingredients
for the repellent. Itís perfectly safe to wear and will keep the skeeters off
of you. Those of you living in the Midwest and South will appreciate that!
Having lived in both those areas, I can certainly appreciate that kind of
Streamlight - is undoubtedly one of the
premier companies producing portable light products for outdoor sports,
tactical, and emergency services use. One of the coolest products I saw at the
Show was the new Twin Task 3 C flash light that does it all. Itís equipped
with both a Xenon bulb for use when brilliant high intensity light is
required, and also with energy conserving LED's for when the light needs to be
on for long periods of time. Even better, it also has a laser pointer
capability thatís perfect for use with a silhouette spotting board to point
out your hits and misses. When used in the laser mode only, the beam has a
useable range of 100 meters. It only weighs a pound, and is a fairly compact 9
inches long, but it puts out light like one of those huge flashlights that
seems to be as long as a shovel.
"Nikon's digiscoping outfit includes a Wi-Fi
capable camera optimized for this application and their super bright
82 mm ED spotter."
products were only a tenth of the things that I saw, and what I saw was only a
small fraction of what there was to see. As the year proceeds I hope Iíll be
able to pass on additional information and reviews. Itís going to be a fun year.