The West Concourse of Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center measures 1.1 million square feet. As the OCCC’s factoid sheet points out, the exhibit hall is so big you could lay the Sears Tower on its side, put it in the West Concourse, and have room to spare. Cram that huge space with hunting and shooting gear, decorate it with a few booth babes, and you’ve got the 2009 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show.
The big sellers at SHOT this year were black guns and tactical gear. But the industry thinks hunters have money to spend, too—I saw plenty of innovation intended to appeal to us. Of the thousands of items on display, here are eight that made an impression on me in one way or another, from least tempting to most:
Benelli Performance Shop SuperSport $2,700; benelliusa.com The new Performance Shop SuperSport consists of the already dead reliable SuperSport autoloader tricked out with all kinds of Briley Manufacturing goodies: oversize bolt handle, bolt closer, magazine cap weight, backbored barrel, extended chokes, lengthened forcing cone, and tuned trigger.
The Takeaway: Benelli wins the Chutzpah Award for introducing an auto with no engraving, a synthetic stock, and a mind-boggling price tag during a global economic meltdown. It’s the ultimate Argentina dove shooter, but for what it costs you can buy a nice over/under, or a ton of canned goods.
Flambeau Shady Lady $60; www.flambeauoutdoors.com Raised feather details are covered with electrostatically applied flocking to give this hard, full-body hen decoy a lifelike sheen.
The Takeaway: I find the comeback of full-bodies depressing. They’re too bulky for mobile hunters; they’re intended for the increasing number of pop-up blind potatoes who sit inside a dark nylon cube drinking coffee and looking out the window at a little slice of the outdoors. Still, the Shady Lady is gorgeous. The decline of turkey hunting never looked so good.
Wildside Siding $3 per square foot; wildsidecamo.com For those who still have money to spend, ostentation is out. “Stealth wealth” is in. How better to hide that extravagant second home than to cover it in Mossy Oak Obsession? For the rest of us, WildSide siding is perfect for shooting houses, sheds, cabins, and duck shacks.
The Takeaway: No one needs camo siding, but will people buy it anyway? Oh, yes.
Winchester Model 101 $1,659 and up; winchesterguns.com Winchester’s 101 is not your father’s Japanese 101, but a Belgian-made o/u formerly known as the Supreme, the Select, the Select 101, and now, the 101. I shot one of the first Supremes eight years ago, when it was a well-engineered, low-profile o/u in a very ugly package. Winchester has fiddled constantly with these guns to make them look and feel right, and now they’ve got it.
The Takeaway: An underrated gun gets a deserved makeover, at a price that’s a good value.