SHOT Show 2022: Everything New is Old Again

One of the big announcements of this year’s SHOT show was a new Browning High Power. Yes, an all-singing, all-dancing new and slightly upgraded version of an 85 year old pistol, all for the bargain price of around $1400. As a special bonus they have kept the gun recognizable while somehow, in some indefinable way, stripping it of it’s elegance.

The new FN High Power. Thoughtful updates, more shots, substantially heavier than the original. WHY?

I feel like a Scrooge. All year we wait to see what’s coming down the road in the firearms world, and with each year that passes it feels like more and more of it is… *yawn* Just more of the same.

Great pistol, well set up and well priced. Packaging, features, value- yes indeed. Innovative? Nope, but does it really have to be?

The thing is firearms are a mature technology. Here’s an example: take a modern AR15 rifle, go back in time and hand it to a Vietnam-era soldier. He’ll recognize it, know exactly how it works and be able to use it immediately. Depending on the optic that’s mounted it might take a minute or two to figure out, but that’s it. Yes, a soldier from half a century ago would find our modern service rifle familiar and completely comprehensible. We’ve been trying to replace it since the 1960s and haven’t managed it yet. Why? Because we couldn’t come up with something enough better to make it worth bothering. We’ve fussed with the details and accessories, but the basic rifle is the same.

It now looks like we’re finally getting something new, but it won’t be because we’ve made a radical leap of firearms technology. It will be because more of our potential enemies will be wearing effective armor, and the current platform and caliber cannot reasonably be stretched to defeat it. Several novel and efficient weapons have been submitted, but the only ‘new’ thing the most extreme of them boasts is a new application of an old idea for a telescoped composite cartridge.

PSA’s 5.7 is nifty, and may be quite well-priced compared to others in this caliber. That’s pretty good.

Innovation is not dead by any means. The Laugo Alien is easily the most innovative handgun of the 21st century so far, but even that is mainly a cunning combination and arrangement of familiar features, and the principle of operation has been around for more than fifty years. It’s a very clever application of existing technologies used in new ways… and if you handed it to a soldier in WW1 suss it out in seconds.

This is probably very exciting to long-range precision shooters; the features of a custom target rifle in an off-the-shelf unit for about $3000.

With the base technology established the market is expanding to fill every niche, and options abound. Guns are getting better, but what we’re seeing are refinements, specialization and more affordable options. A lot of stuff coming out is cool and fills a niche that we might not have even known existed, but the underpinnings are familiar. That’s not really a bad thing; knives have been a mature technology for a couple thousand years or more, and we’ve manage to keep them entertaining. We’ll do the same with guns for as long as they remain useful, I’m sure.

It’s really not that people aren’t doing interesting things or bringing cool products to market. It’s that as new offerings get more and more specialized they are less and less likely to be applicable to my personal preferences, so it feels like there’s little of interest on offer. But the deeper I look the more I see. I just don’t care about a lot of it, but it’s there and someone obviously does.

There is an area where serious innovation can, has and will continue to occur: the user interface. Red Dot sights have become ubiquitous, and have developed into robust sights small enough to mount on a concealed-carry handgun. There’s an iPhone app that will do your ballistic calculations for you. There’s even a sniper scope that will automatically adjust for range and even pull the trigger for you. Then there’s this-

The Magpul -Maztech X4 system.

Magpul and Maztech have collaborated on a modular, integrated information and fire-control system for small arms. It features a shot counter, rangefinder, in-scope display etc., all networked and cooperating to make sure the shooter can know what they need to know to do their job and survive. It’s seriously sci-fi, and it’s coming to market.

While the big deals in firearms this year seem to be rehashes, updates and more than a few answers to questions no one was asking, there still some genuinely cool products and a few new niches being filled. I just have to dive a little deeper to notice them.

Affording them… yeah, that’s a whole ‘nuther question. *sigh*

Well, season’s greetings, and I hope SHOT-Show-Santa brings you everything on your list! Stay safe and take care.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 18 January 2022

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Quick Shot: Applegate’s .38

My own S&W .38 Safety Hammerless (4th Model) with a slightly shorter barrel than the Colonel’s and custom Desert Ironwood grips.

There’s a classic story that float’s around the gun world about Colonel Rex Applegate and a famous self-defense shooting in Mexico. In his own words:

“Just prior to one of my regular trips to the states around 1950, I had been in southern Mexico, near the Guatemalan border, in the area of Salina Cruz in the company of a Mexican Army officer. On this particular evening the officer and I encountered a very drunk, machete-wielding Indian who seemed bent upon decapitating us both. The officer carried his .45 Automatic in a US Army holster. While he was frantically trying to get it into action, I was successful in drawing my Safety Hammerless from the Myers holster, from under my sport shirt and dropped the machete wielding Indian after putting five slugs into his torso. He finally fell to the ground about five feet from me, just as I was getting ready to throw the empty gun at him. Due to the Mexican army connection, there were no repercussions.” – Col. Rex Applegate

Typically this is cited as an instance of failing to stop an attacker, usually in support of .45 caliber. But did you notice one tiny little detail that these folks fail to bring up? He actually did stop his assailant. Determined attackers sometimes soak up a dozen or more modern hollow-points (yes, sometimes .45 hollow-points) before dropping. Given that the Colonel was almost certainly using anemic factory RNL ammo that represents some impressive shooting!

Holster in the style of the ‘Myers Rig’ that Colonel Applegate refers to in the story.

The Colonel did, in fact, decide he wanted more power. Specifically he wanted a similar gun in .38 Special. American Handgunner just posted how this incident led to the creation of the S&W Centennial revolver, and you can read about that here. That’s actually a pretty big deal; given that the best-selling self-defense revolver today is a direct descendant of the Centennial.

Stay safe and take care.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 16 January 2022

It’s STILL not an AR9…

…but we’re going to call it that because I’m lazy. So a while back I found an 80% Hybrid Polymer kit pretty cheap and picked it up, less because I wanted one than that I was curious how difficult it was to complete one. I answered that question here.

For assorted reasons I decided to make it into a 9mm range-toy/PDW/home defense gun. I ordered a bunch of parts, put them together and it worked. It’s fun to shoot and I am not hopeless with it.

Pretty much how it’s been ever since.

For other reasons I have not been entirely happy with the adapted mag-well. It works fine the parts are good quality but I never liked the look. *Shrug* I didn’t dislike it enough to do anything about it. It worked fine, which was what really mattered.

Then the BATF launched another game of ‘No-it-isn’t-Yes-it-is’ about braces being stocks and making these guns illegal SBRs. I’m getting sick of this and was considering just filing for an SBR and calling it good, but that spooky receiver might be problematic. Then I had an issue at the range which I erroneously attributed to the magazine-well adapter. Chris at McCallen Defense had a purpose-built 9mm lower right there for $140, and no mag-well adapter meant no issues with one, so…

Aero Precision EPC-9 ‘Enhanced Pistol Caliber’ lower.

The lower in question was the Aero Precision Enhanced Pistol Caliber unit. I’ve had good luck with AP products, they come highly recommended and they’re local. I had to ask online what was enhanced, and there’s quite a bit, actually. My friend and gun demi-god Tim informed me, “Enhanced equals billet machined, integral trigger guard, set screw for takedown detent spring. We sell the 556 version, very nice.”

It certainly looks very nice. After dinner I took the gun and lower and headed out to the shop to swap things over. This was accomplished with no particular drama, and I was impressed with the construction and details of the lower.

Instead of a roll-pin the bolt hold-open uses an Allen screw. Nice. A little Blue Loctite and it will be there until I remove it.

In a reasonably short time everything was back together and functioning correctly. I really, really like the look; it makes a handsome gun. Tomorrow it’ll be back to the range for test firing, but I am confident it will work as it should.

So, to recap the build-

Aero Precision EPC lower and lower parts kit.

Foxtrot Mike Glock-Compatible 5″ M-Loc Upper with blast-can

SBa3 Brace

Timney Impact Single-Stage trigger and 45-degree ambidextrous safety

Magpul handgrip

Angstad 5.4 oz. 9mm buffer

ETS 31-shot clear composite magazines (which will be replaced by Glock magazines eventually…)

Bushnell TRS-25 red-dot optic

Monstrum quick-release riser

Generic pop-up iron sights that co-witness with the optic.

Here’s some pics of the finished build-

A nice compact package.
The flip-up back-up sights are generic Amazon fodder. They work and are relatively robust…
…and the front sight makes a pretty good thumb-stop.
The blast-can starts inside the handguard. I had to Loctite it to keep it from unscrewing.
The Bushnell TRS25. It’s not fancy and it lacks a lot of features of more modern optics, but it works, it’s tough and affordable.

So, there it is, struttin’ in its new suit and looking good. Tomorrow we’ll see how it works.

Stay safe and take care,

Michael Tinker Pearce, 15 January 2022

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