At the end of a long and productive week at SHOT, it’s time to distill what we’ve learned. While it’s impossible to see everything there is, much less give each individual gun the attention it deserves, these are three things we noticed.
Suppressors are huge. Over the past several years, many new makers have sprung up, and now many of the mainline pistol companies offer guns that are can-ready from the factory (or, in the case of SIG, actually offer their own). These include high-end M1911 makers such as Ed Brown and Nighthawk Custom, all the way to Beretta, Kimber and Smith & Wesson. Perhaps best attributable to an increasing appreciation of the suppressor as a tool for quiet practice as opposed to equipment for an assassin and the effect of inflation in reducing the impact of the one-time $200 transfer tax, there are more suppressors and guns on which to put them than ever before.
If you’re not looking at this segment of the market—which includes not only suppressors but barrels, adaptors, sights, suppressor covers, cases, etc., you should be. The time has come for optics on pistols. Although there’s still a vigorous debate about their appropriateness on a defensive pistol (which we will not address here), from a market standpoint, the option is becoming far more common. We saw a stunning array of factory pistols available setup for mini-optics from Leupold, Trijicon, and other makers. In addition to the CORE pistols from Smith & Wesson, who led the industry on this one, to the Glock MOS, we also saw optic-ready pistols from Cabot Guns, Kahr, Kel-Tec and others, including Nighthawk Custom, who offers pistol with optics and high-mounted iron sights that co-witness through the optic, a feature critical for those who make a sober assessment of the likelihood of battery failure at inopportune times.
Nighthawk also offers that pistol in 9mm, falling in line with the trend of M1911 pistols in 9mm. As an aside, both optics and high-mounted co-witness sights also make the gun more usable with a suppressor, where the round profile of the can will often “blank out” ordinary iron sights, making sight picture problematic. Finally, don’t count the .380 out yet. While the micro-9mm’s are still popular, and represent something of a maturing of the beginner concealed carry market, the .380 still seems to be popular. More specifically, the M1911-based .380 trend started by SIG Sauer still continues to spread.
When SIG introduced the P238, their version of Colt’s then-discontinued Mustang, they started a wave that led to Colt re-introducing the diminutive .380, albeit now made to visibly higher standards than the original guns. In the meantime, Browning, as part of its Black Label line that is less sporting than defense-oriented, has introduced a powered-up version of their .22 LR M1911 in .380 ACP. A reduced-scale M1911 somewhere along the line of 7/8 or 85% the size of a Government Model and complete with working grip safety, the Browning rimfire is an excellent training tool for younger tools, and was something of a departure when it comes to little guns that often discard some of the classic M1911 features.
Other than Spanish maker Llama, there really haven’t been any other M1911’s that were made on a reduced scale. Adding a .380 to Browning’s down-sized line now makes the training pistol a valid option for concealed carry. Rock Island’s Baby Rock .380 is similarly-made: also a reduced scale M1911 in .380, it has a bit of a flare at the bottom of the frontstrap that helps it fits the hand very well. While larger than the Mustang and SIG P238, the size also makes it easier to handle, and gives it added capacity. As for SIG, they haven’t given up: the P238 line has expanded to include 9mm versions, as well as a .22 LR variant.
Stay with Shooting Sports Retailer, as we deliver after-show analysis of what we saw, and what it means for your business.