Notes from the 2007 SHOT Show

When entering a sea of over 1800 exhibitors, it isn't possible to do justice to all the events and all the products in a brief article. I won't even try: what I will try to do is to offer a thumbnail view of what was hot, and what was not in my view. Naturally, some things that deserve more detailed coverage will get it in the respective product categories.

2007 will go down in history as the year that Savage Arms joined the "Hall of Fame" of great American gun crafters. The folks from Westfield have been busy: they've made the barrel nut invisible on their Classic series rifles, they've moved the bolt release from the top of the action to a nicely engineered area inside the trigger guard, they've made their great shooting rimfire bolt action into a gorgeous "Classic" as well, and they've taken the world's greatest muzzleloader and turned into a stunner with the addition of their laminated thumbhole stock. According to a smiling Savage V-P, Brian Herrick, the jeweled bolt and re-engineered action is something we can expect to proliferate across their line.

Their new camo Predator Hunter rifles are balanced and weighted just right for a long day varmint hunting, and they've done what many have said just couldn't be done: offering their Accu-Trigger in a user-adjustable 6 oz. to 1.5 pound version in their Precision Target Rifle line. Their Law Enforcement series comes in your choice of HS Precision, Folding Choate, or McMillan stocked versions as you prefer. The 2007 Savage catalog is a work of art, blossoming to some 65 pages, and even that doesn't hold it all. Joining their successful Milano line of lively O/U shotguns later in the year is the Stevens "Gold Wing" line of value-priced O/U shotguns that appear to be the best looking, best finished smoothbores at anything remotely in their price class. Savage master engineer Carl Hildebrandt quickly pointed up to me that the Gold Wings on display had arrived only days before the show, and production models would see deeper, crisper checkering. All of this positions Savage Arms as America's most innovative, most distinguished gunmaker. After seeing all of this, I felt like asking Ron Coburn to autograph a catalog for me. Next time, I think I will.

Out at the range for media day, I really enjoyed shooting Beretta's new Urika 2 gas-operated shotguns. As much as I've enjoyed my days afield with Beretta A303 and A390 guns, the new Urika 2's felt like something really special-you'll really find it hard to miss with one of these, and you can expect a full review in short order. Beretta's new "X-tra Grain" finish looks spectacular, and feels even better. Between the American-made 3901 and the new Urika 2, Beretta is going to make a lot of wingshooters very happy-- including me.

Remington's long-awaited 105 semi-auto still has some teething problems with an admitted inability to cycle light loads, a less than intuitive speed load, and a spot of ugliness that won't wash off. Nice trigger, though, and I found it to be extremely soft shooting. A Remington that does not disappoint in my view, though, is their Model 798 centerfire-- a great looking Mauser that is the best rifle Remington currently offers on many levels. I'd like to mention Linda Powell from Remington, one of the industry's very finest, and I believe I just have. Linda invariably does a superb job presenting her company and herself, and I enjoyed chatting with her again.

Winchester has several impressive pieces, not least of which is the new "Select 101," the soul of the new FN Belgium action with the looks, feel, and swing of the old 101. Several other Winchester Select models were impressive, along with some very cleverly finished Super-X2's and Super X3's.

Browning gathered a lot of attention with their new take-down BLR rifles, their sub-gauge Cynergy models, and several "Shot Show Special Models," including a BPS 16 gauge that I thought would make a fabulous addition to their main line. It was great to visit with Cindy and Paul from Browning.

Smith & Wesson has their 'new' Turkish import line of shotguns on display. Though S & W touted "craftsmanship" and "heirloom" until I was ready to hurl, my impression is that they were tremendously over-priced, making Browning and Beretta offerings look like screaming bargains by comparison. They quite likely are.

Thompson/Center presented their new "Icon" bolt actions, as well as their Triumph muzzleloader. The Icon is a beautifully stocked rifle, a bit heavy for a short action, and has a safety array (with an 'independent bolt lock') that was clumsily done, along with a cocking indicator that is senseless as far as I'm concerned. Equally puzzling was the new ".30 TC" cartridge that touts "30-06 performance in a short action," something the .308 did over fifty years ago. The .30 TC cartridge strikes me as a waste of time and brass, serving no purpose and filling no niche. Apparently a very well made gun, the "Icon" strikes me as a bit homely, heavy, and unrefined compared against many of the stunning Browning A-Bolt Medallion models, for example.

I shot T/C's new muzzleloader, the Triumph, at range day and was generally quite impressed by it. It is a nice step up from the Omega, the fingers only breech plug makes good sense, the enlarged trigger guard is a welcome addition, and the triggers were outstanding. Ken French, affiliated with T/C, is one of those fellows that always seems to know a lot more than he was letting on-and, Ken was smiling.

Lyman's imported inline muzzleloader, the Mustang, was on display, offered in one lone configuration. The little Lyman rep tried to explain to me that although its stock finish looked like plastic, felt like plastic, and would have melted like plastic-it "absolutely was not plastic!" Perhaps it was a space-age polymer plastic substitute of some sort? In any case, it was a crude hinged action on an immensely forgettable gun-- the Moosetang.

Knight Rifles surprised me with the slickest single shot muzzleloader (and rifle) I've ever seen from Knight: the Knight KP-1. The Knight KP-1 obsoletes the T/C Encore as well as most every Knight Rifle ever made. It attacks and defeats all the Encore shortcomings: trigger, recoil, and aesthetics in one fell swoop, is superbly designed and built, and is easily the best, most impressive muzzleloader (and single shot rifle) introduced in 2007--perhaps the very best in years. This is a single shot break action exposed hammer "utility gun" platform that gets Knight Rifles into the centerfire and rimfire business as well, and in a big way. Wait till you see and shoot one-- this is the Knight that we have been waiting for, for a very long time: I don't think you'll find this to be an exaggeration at all. It is a "wow."

I enjoyed visiting with George Trulock of Trulock chokes, my friend Carlo Fiocchi of Fiocchi who promises to keep up with the ever increasing demand for his ammo this year, Coni Brooks of Barnes Bullets who promised the same, the "Black Mag3 Team" at Mag-Kor, the gang at Accurate / Western Powders, Dick Quisenberry from Alliant / ATK (one of the very best we have), and the rest of the crew in the impressive Federal Premium / RCBS / CCI-Speer / Alliant / ATK area.

In optics, Leupold apologized to Germany and launched a long list of new models, Swarovski touted their six power zoom range scopes, Kahles introduced a full line of precision optics directed at the American market, and Sightron launched their biggest and most promising line of rifle scopes and optics yet: the "SII Big Sky" line.

It was fun to touch base with old friends and new ones alike: great to see David Tubb, Mic McPherson, Jeff and Boge Quinn, Louise and Jim Shockey, Tom Bowen, Larry Weishuhn, Clair Rees, Wayne LaPierre, and yes-Irlene Mandrell really is cute. It looks to be an exciting year in the shooting sports world.

On that note, there are a lot of things we can all do to make shooting a better place-like supporting the 4-H Shooting Sports Foundation (see ), make sure a friend joins the NRA, stay in touch with your state and local elected officials, and be sure to vote your sport. See you in Las Vegas in 2008!

Copyright 2007 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.


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