Odds and Ends from SHOT Show 2018

Some last thoughts from this year’s big gun and shooting trade show

bergara, premier series approach, rifle
The Bergara Premier Series Approach: practically a custom rifle.From bergarausa.com

The SHOT Show is so crowded that it's become very difficult to navigate. However, ventilation is much improved. After several fart-cloud hospitalizations by attendees in recent years, they now have fresh air coming in. Also notable, as part of a heavy police presence, was a disproportionate number of bomb-sniffing dogs. Everywhere you turned, you saw nasty bits being licked and ecstatic scratching. Sometimes the dogs did this, too. Random badge checks were de rigueur; if you passed, you were required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and let go with a warning to be more careful next time. If you didn't pass, you were Taken Away for Questioning.

To my great pleasure, I was able to congratulate Craig Boddington on his Weatherby Award. He’s the first person in this profession to win it since Warren Page got one in 1958. Craig started down the trail that led to it in the early 1970s, and the amount of time, planning, and effort that went into his accomplishment is beyond my calculation.

He learned that he had won via a cell phone call in Kansas. I asked him what his very first thought was. His answer: “Now I can hunt jackrabbits if I want to.”

God bless.

Scopes, despite their increasing power, are growing smaller in some cases. Nightforce has a new 1X-8X ATACR that is about the length of a good cigar, and Leupold was showing the Mark 6 3X-18X, which is not much bigger. The latter, by the way, has a 35mm tube, which probably means that scopes will grow fatter, and we may well see the end of the 1-inch scope tube ere long. Reticles grow more and more complex, and remind me of so many walls covered in hieroglyphics. Who the hell can interpret these things in the heat of battle?

And on the subject of scopes, I had an interesting conversation with a young man who does the accuracy testing for a maker of rifles that are renowned for their accuracy. He takes a dozen new guns to the range at a time, mounts scopes on them, and has at it. He said that most of the scopes haven’t held up under what amounts to daily use.

“We used ******* and ******* and *******, and they all broke.”

The one scope that did not break? The Nightforce. The fact is that most scopes get very little use. Their owners fire a few shots before hunting season and fewer shots, or no shots, during, so there isn’t much stress. But thousands of rounds a year sort out the wheat from the chaff. And if you groan and whine over the price of a Nightforce, keep that in mind.

Rifles, having gotten lighter and lighter since 1985 when Melvin Forbes founded Ultra Light Arms, are now getting heavier again. But Melvin builds hunting rifles that people carry, and sometimes for long distances. Most of the new rifles at SHOT don’t fit that definition. If their owners carry them, it’s to the nearest treestand. Moreover, when the buyer of a new rifle mounts a scope on his acquisition, the scope is likely to weigh a ton, so why go to the trouble of making a lightweight?

Hornady has a new 6.5mm cartridge called the 6.5mm PRC, or Precision Rifle Cartridge. A rifle exhibitor let me shoot a prototype gun chambered for this new round and told me in a state of near-swoon that it was the greatest thing since fried eggs, or the 30mm chain gun, or the bomb-sniffing dog. However, it seems to be an exact duplicate of the 6.5/284—a 140-grain bullet at 2,900 fps. The case is dimensionally different, but ballistics is ballistics. Perhaps I’m missing something here. I’m old, and don’t grasp technological subtleties the way I should.

And: Due to Information Overload and a severe attack of abulia, I did not pay enough attention to a standout. This is the Premier Series Approach, by Bergara. It's a straight-up hunting rifle, and it's about as close to a custom gun as you can get without the $5,000 price tag. The price is, in fact, $1,960, but the rifle goes through so many extra steps of manufacture and has so many features crammed into it that you're best served reading about it on the Bergara website.

It’s guaranteed to shoot a minute of angle. Considering my experience with half a dozen Bergaras, including two through which I’ve put a combined 2,000 rounds, if this gun will not shoot .250 MoA for you (assuming you can hold that tight) I will carry it around the woods for you. If I were looking for a rifle that would make my friends weep bitter tears of envy, this would be the one.