February 03, 2014
SHOT Show 2014 … Look Backward in Angst
By David E. Petzal
“Never look backward. Something may be gaining on you.”—Satchel Paige
The 2014 SHOT Show pulsed and throbbed like a giant (Insert the obscene metaphor of your choice in this space), both in the number of attendees and the amount of business that was done. Some booths, such as Nightforce, were so busy that I couldn’t get near them, and others, such as the one honoring the late Mikhail Kalashnikov, and guarded by jackbooted blonde booth babes who were tall enough to play power forward in the NBA, I was afraid to go near.
But all in all it was a great show, meaning that I didn’t catch leprosy*, bubonic plague, St. Anthony’s Fire, or the pox, and that I was able to sense a number of trends in the world of guns.
First, if the lever action isn’t dead, it’s moribund. The only lever-action action I saw was Winchester’s re-issue of the Model 1873, and Marlin’s lever guns have certainly not been helped by the Freedom Group’s wretched mishandling of Marlin’s move from Connecticut to North Carolina. The reason for the demise of the lever is the increasing demand for accuracy and long-range capability, and no matter how much you cobble on them, lever guns can’t compete. They’ll always be around, but will be seen as relics.
Second, if there was any doubt about the popular acceptance of the MSR as a valid sporting gun, there ain’t no more. They were everywhere, and not just in Cop World. Of the main line gun makers Winchester doesn’t have one, and I don’t believe Weatherby does, but I think that pretty soon they’ll have to. Politicians may detest them, but the younger generation of shooters has clutched ARs to their bosoms.
Third, military/tactical seems to have integrated seamlessly with sport shooting. If you stood in one spot on the main floor and turned in a circle (which I, and a great many other people did, the booth numbering system having been planned by the same people who dreamed up the Obamacare website) you would never be out of eyeshot of something that was pure hunting and something that was pure military/police. It did not used to be this way, and I am serenely undisturbed by the development. Probably it means that the two fields are poaching on each other’s technology helter-skelter to their mutual benefit.
Number four. We are now firmly in the era of $3,000 bolt-action sporting rifles (and some of the ARs are close to that bracket as well). They’re not common but they’re by no means scarce. They can be fully homologated (That’s a word borrowed from auto racing, intended to show you how sophisticated I am.) like the Weatherby Accu-Mark series, or frameworks for customized rifles like the Bergara, but they are a significant part of the scene.
There is an increasing number of shooters who appreciate fine machinery and are willing to pay for it, and shooting is increasingly a money sport. If you’re looking for an edge for what may be a very expensive and once-in-a-lifetime hunt, or you want to shoot in competition, you’ll find a way to get the money.
As one of the F-class shooters who spent last summer beating my brains out said, “If you want to compete seriously you’re going to spend $3,000 on a rifle. No way around it.” And none of those F-class shooters were rich or even well to do. But they were serious.
Stay tuned. And when you hear Hillary Clinton say that she’s not even thinking about running in 2016, try not to wet yourself laughing.
*Bacterium leprae, or Hansen’s bacilli, incubate very slowly, so I may indeed have caught it but I won’t know for several years, or until something falls off.