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Vignettes from the 2019 USCCA Concealed Carry Expo

This past weekend I got to attend the USCCA Concealed Carry Expo. I had a great time! I got to talk to lots of vendor reps, handle things, attend lectures, and even test fire some guns!

Lectures

I attended talks from John Correia (Active Self Protection), Chris Cerino (Cerino Consulting and Training Group), and John Lovell (Warrior Poet Society). These talks were all 90 minutes or so and were pretty densely packed with information. I went away happy with all of the talks and wanting to spend more time with the speakers. So I’d call this a success. Plenty of takeaways, possibly for future articles here. Also, Lovell looks eerily like my brother from another mother.

Product Floor: What Stood Out

Shadow Arms MR918
This is sort of a factory customized Glock. It’s got a lot of popular tweaks to the Glock design already applied. I expect this to be successful, as Kimber used the same business model to establish their bona fides back when the 1911 market consisted of GI-style Colts and GI-style Springfields. This one had a good texture, grip reduction, trigger tweaks, and a milled slide. The milled slide had all the serrations people like up front, plus an RMR cut. What stands out there is that the RMR cut is low enough that standard height sights will cowitness with an installed RMR, which is pretty cool. The grip felt much shorter than a usual Glock grip, but more blocky because it still has to fit around the Glock magazine. I’ve never had a problem with trigger reach on a Glock, but it’s not an uncommon issue, and this might be worth a look for you if you have small hands. Unfortunately there were no MR918s to test at the Demo Range. More on that in a bit.

Ameriglo FBI Contract Sights
The Ameriglo booth had a ton of dummy “slides” mounted on plates so you could play around and compare sight pictures. This meant I got to take a look at the FBI contract sights, which was pretty cool. These are three-dot tritium sights with a high-visibility front sight and a U-notch rear, with nothing around the rear tritium vials. I rather like them. If you’re looking for some excellent iron sights, these deserve a look. And really, more places should have demo plates like these.

Crimson Trace LS-250 LaserSaddle
At the Mossberg booth, they had a shotgun set up with the Lasersaddle. It’s a saddle-looking laser sight that goes over the receiver of a 500/590 series shotgun. This gives you a laser that’s really close to the bore and some super convenient switchology. I like laser sights and I like aiming my shotguns. This is a neat product.

Ruger Super GP100
This is new, and I know Fishbreath is always looking at speedy revolvers. Anyway, I thought the grips were very comfortable, and the trigger was nice and smooth. Unfortunately, S&W didn’t have a booth for me to compare things to, so I can only say that it was the nicest revolver trigger by far in the Ruger booth. Sights looked really precise and excellent. I’m kinda lukewarm on the styling, but if the cuts on the barrel shroud get the balance right (and I couldn’t really swing a tethered booth model around much to check this) then they’re worth it.

SIG Tango6 1-6×24 Scope
I love low power variables. SIG’s offering got picked by SOCOM and the US Army. Taking a look at this guy, I thought they did a really good job on the reticle. It was actually pretty useful on 1x, 3x, and 6x. The show model had the horseshoe-dot reticle with BDC in it. Comparing with others in the 1-6x space, it’s still kind of a pig of a scope, and it did not have the forgiving eyebox that I’ve come to love on my Vortex Razor Gen 2-E. I can’t comment on glass clarity without something known for comparison.

Cabot Guns: Everything
Cabot makes some absolutely beautiful custom 1911s. If you’re in the market, you should go talk to them. Be prepared to drop real coin. They also have a more affordable offshoot called Alchemy Custom Weaponry, which makes some slick 1911s that look good, are a whole lot less custom, and cost a lot less.

Stumping the Sales Reps: Asking the Unanswerable

To Mossberg: “Are you aware of any plans to put the new detachable box magazines on the 930 or another semi-automatic shotgun design?”
Rep: “I’m aware of no such plans, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re not working on it. Just that I don’t have a product to tell you about.”

To SIG: “Do you have a release date for the Romeo3Max or Romeo3XL red dots?”
Rep: “I do not. Sorry. I wish we (SIG) were better at timely release dates after new product announcements.”

The Demo Range

At the expo, there was a Range-In-A-Trailer, which was a pretty nice pistol range inside a large trailer. Sound proofing, ventilation, and cooling were pretty good for an indoor range. Definitely up there with some of the nicer indoor ranges I’ve been to. Attendees could fire any of a number of ready demo pistols for free. You only got five shots, but that’s a decent way to give something a try, especially a hard to find or weird something. Here’s my report on what I got to shoot.

Walther Q5 SF
I really, really like this thing. It’s got that great Walther trigger, plus a relatively heavy steel frame to soak up recoil. It was an absolute joy to shoot. I’m sold on it, and I’m not surprised Walther is having trouble keeping these in stock.

Walther Q5 (And comparison!)
I also wanted to give this a try, since this is a decent test of the steel frame in the SF. No, it’s not perfect, it’s an indoor range, and I can’t run these through a match or get great timed drills. For what it’s worth, the triggers seemed extremely similar and easy to run, but the steel frame model seemed a lot easier to control. If you asked me which I’d want, I’d go for the SF model.

Walther PPK/S (.380 ACP)
It’s not technically James Bond’s gun (he shoots the 7.65mm PPK), but what the heck, right? It’s iconic, even if it’s no longer the best small gun choice for a master spy. The PPK/S has a longer grip, so this one actually sort of fit my hand. The controls are still weird, the sights are still tiny, and it’s kind of jumpy. Fun to shoot a few rounds through, but there was another small gun that really, really stood out.

SIG P365
This little gun has been a great seller for SIG. It also seems to have had some early troubles, but those appear to be worked out now. It’s a very small gun, narrow like a single stack, but having ten rounds in the staggered-column magazine. For a small gun, it shot remarkably well. Still not quite as nice as a service size polymer gun, but definitely nicer than you would expect given how small it is. This was probably the biggest surprise. I expected to love the Q5 SF, but the P365 being shootable and fun was a shock. Congratulations on being an exception to the “I hate small guns” rule, P365.

FN 509 Tactical
FN has had a devil of a time breaking into the pistol market in any serious way. The FN 509 has a reduced grip circumference compared to their previous FNS, and it has nice texture that goes all the way up the side of the grip. You know, where I actually want to grab the gun. The 509 handled pretty well in the demo. The tactical model also comes with a number of optional extras installed, including suppressor-height sights, an optic cutout, and a threaded barrel. The trigger was good but nothing to write home about.

SIG P320 X-Carry
Another solid gun with some desirable improvements built in from the factory. Alas, I didn’t have a regular P320 Carry to take to the Demo Trailer, so I can’t do a mini-comparison for you. I do prefer the “feel” of the X-Carry grip over the regular grip, and I much prefer the flat trigger that they’ve put in it.

Of the above pistols, I’m sold on the Walther Q5 SF and the SIG P365.

Best-in-Show, SHOT 2019

Here, you’ll find our selections for most interesting things from SHOT 2019.

Parvusimperator’s Picks

Best Optic: Aimpoint Acro P-1

I like more options for my pistol optics, and Aimpoint has a great red dot sight track record. Seeing as there have been several revisions to the current sights targeted at the market, this late entry might still make a strong showing.

Best Pistol We’ve Been Wanting For Years: Glock 48

Seems a no-brainer to put ten rounds in something that’s Glock 19 sized, but thinner. For those who prefer carrying a slimmer pistol, are happy with (or legally restricted to) ten rounds, and want something to just work. Fortunately, Glock has finally delivered. I hope they put the time into getting this to work without issues.

Best Knife: Ka-Bar TDI Flipper Folder

Previous knives from the Ka-Bar/TDI partnership have been fixed blade. They’re generally well thought out and come in at a reasonable price. This one is also well thought out, also at a good price point. And it folds.

Best In Show: Walther Q5 Match SF

This had a soft launch before SHOT, but was there and was a star of range day. For more on this pistol, look at my write-up. This is also the product on this list that’s most likely to be purchased by me. I’m happy to see the best striker-fired handgun trigger get a cool steel frame for competition.

Fishbreath’s Picks

Best Glock In Disguise: Faxon Firearms FX-19

Building a polymer-framed striker-fired pistol is basically trivial nowadays. Start with a box of Glock parts and some calipers, and soon after, voila. Faxon Firearms gets bonus points for very aggressive styling and being known less as a gunmaker and more as a barrel manufacturer.

Best Video Game-Inspired Accessory: Radetec Glock Slide Shot Counter

Already known for round counters in smart grips, Radetec has gone further and made a smart slide which indicates whether there is a round in the chamber, how many are left in the magazine, and whether a magazine is inserted at all. Straight from the pages of your favorite dystopian fiction or the in-universe UI of your favorite sci-fi game.

Best Kel-Tec Vaporware: CP-33

Alternate heading: Most Innovative Magazine Design. The CP-33’s magazine is a double-double-stack design, which holds 33 rounds of .22LR out of the box, or 50 with an extended magazine. If only I could get one with a giggle switch.

Best MP5 Clone: Palmetto State Armory

It’s a true, roller-delayed MP5 clone, with nice Magpul furniture and a price tag HK would scoff at: $1100. I won’t be buying one, but it’s nice to see someone in America making a reasonably priced replica gun. I wonder if I could get them to do a Mauser C96 clone…

Best In Show: Franklin Armory’s Providence

A magazine-fed, manually-operated rifle where all you have to do is pull the trigger. By using a long pull and presumably a lot of leverage, the Providence trigger cycles the bolt and fires the next round all in one motion. A delightfully clever poke in the eye to jurisdictions with bad firearms law.

Extra: Hudson in Trouble

Original (Jan 24, 1249)

From SHOT Show:

This is the space reserved for the Hudson booth. It’s curiously empty.

If we dig, we can see why:
https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/7754152/cambridge-valley-machining-inc-v-hudson-mfg-llc/

Hudson’s parts supplier alleges that they have not been paid. Hudson alleges that the parts were not to spec. It’s ugly, and the court filing goes back to September. I suspect that the parts supplier is too small to take the hit, and Hudson lacks the cash flow/line of credit to simply get parts elsewhere.

Regrettably, setting up a manufacturing business in the United States is very hard.

Update (Jan 24, 1308) (Fishbreath)

As it turns out, the first $15/quarter of PACER access is free, so I went ahead and registered, installed the RECAP extension to upload anything I view to the Free Law Project, and scored Hudson’s counterclaim. Here you go.

Journalism-ing.

EAPS: The US Army’s New 50mm Cannon?

Over at AUSA 2018, General Dynamics showed off their Griffin III demonstrator vehicle, which was armed with, among other things, a new 50mm cannon. At first, I thought this was simply someone actually executing on the old 50mm Supershot idea, but this is only half true.

What’s carried over from the Supershot program is the basic cartridge shape1, i.e. that of a 35x228mm cartridge ‘necked out’ into a straight-walled case. The gun, which is basically a Bushmaster III with a new barrel and slightly revised feed system, is still externally driven. Nothing super new there. What is new is the goal.

50mm Supershot was designed to have a way to get a more powerful APFSDS round out of the 35mm cannon. A quick barrel change, add new rounds, and you could smash up a tougher Soviet IFV, since 50mm Supershot got you about as much propellant as a 40mm Bofors round, but in a smaller package. Of course, the Soviet Union is no more, and now they have much smaller armored forces. What they do have are precision guided munitions, UAVs, and the traditional giant artillery park.

The new Extended Area Protection System (EAPS–yeah, it’s a stupid name) worked to adapt modern technology and the capacious 50mm round to attack the problem of C-RAM (Counter Rockets, Artillery, and Mortars) as well as countering larger UAVs. What they’ve settled on is a Course Corrected Projectile, fired out of the 50mm gun, equipped with command guidance and a fragmentation warhead.

EAPS and its guided projectiles have passed some basic proof-of-concept testing. It remains to be seen how well the system will shake out. I kinda like the idea, and it’s a better reason than most to increase the autocannon caliber. I’m skeptical that it will work all that well in practice, but it’s at least a new idea.

As for the gun, we can extrapolate a little from the Bushmaster III. Still no word on the capacity of a mounted one yet.


  1. Though the devil lurks in the details. I have no idea if the old rounds would also fit in the chamber for the new gun. 

Errata: URG-I updates

Earlier this year I wrote a post on the URG-I upgrade kit for USASOC’s M4s. This is a pretty simple set of drop-in parts to improve the functionality of the M4 by using a low-profile gas block, barrel with a midlength gas system, improved flash hider that can also mount a suppressor, and a new, longer, free-float handguard with mlok slots instead of picatinny rails.

When I first wrote the article, I compared it to a “stock” M4 upper. To do so I had to make some guesses as to the weights of the new parts. I have since been able to find the correct weights, and the article has been updated with those.

If you just want the correct weights without re-reading the article, they are as follows:
Geissele Mk 16 13″ handguard, 14.7 oz.
Surefire SF4P flash hider, 4.48 oz.
Daniel Defense 14.5″ CHF Midlength, Gov’t profile barrel, 24 oz.

US Army Mortar Improvement Request

The US army has finally decided to improve it’s mobile mortars. They have announced their goals to develop a turreted mortar system for their vehicles, with a completion target of 2021. Let’s break down what they’re looking at:

  • Caliber: 120mm
  • A manned or unmanned turret
  • Autoloading system must accomplish loading rounds from ready rack into the breach.
  • Ideally all ammunition handling would be automated
  • Vehicle should be able to stop moving and fire within one minute of getting a fire mission
  • Project will investigate being able to shoot on the move
  • Maximum rate of fire (sustainable for one minute): 16 rounds/minute required, 24 rounds/minute ideal
  • Sustained rate of fire: 6 rounds/minute required, 12 rounds/minute ideal
  • System should have a direct-fire capability
  • System should be compatible with all existing 120mm mortar ammunition
  • Maximum range should be at least 5 miles
  • Minimum range should be 220 yards (direct fire)

Patria’s NEMO system comes close to meeting the above requirements, but would need some work to meet the short-term maximum rate of fire requirements. AMOS should be able to do the rate of fire goals given its twin barrels. My one worry is that the perfect would be the enemy of the good enough. Big Army should just pick an off the shelf system (probably the reasonably priced NEMO) and start slapping them on Strykers and AMPVs and call it a day. Have a couple beers and some wings in Alexandria. Any such turreted system is going to be a significant improvement in survivability for the mortar crews, and should also provide improvements in effectiveness. Don’t overcomplicate this.

Super Multihit Body Armor from RMA Defense

Those of you who have a good memory for the history of body armor will recall the issues that the now-defunct Pinnacle Armor ran into with its Dragon Skin product. Dragon Skin body armor was supposed to be a revolution in personal protection. The concept was to replace the monolithic plate of regular body armor plates with an array of overlapping ceramic discs. Having multiple discs would prevent the propagation of cracks across the whole plate. In 2006, the US military found Dragon Skin to be unsatisfactory as a replacement for the hard plates used in the Interceptor body armor system. Pinnacle claimed the tests were biased, and sued. The lawsuit found in favor of the US Government. The arguments continued, especially on various internet forums, but Pinnacle Armor eventually went out of business in 2010.

The goal of trying to gain resistance to more hits by stopping the propagation of cracks lingered, and I’ve recently found someone else who is tackling the basic concept.

Enter RMA Defense’s Model 1189 Level IV plate.

RMA Defense is claiming, and has the all-important third-party tests to back up, that their plate will stop 5-7 rounds of .30-06 M2AP. This is pretty impressive when you consider that all that’s required for a Level IV rating is to stop one round of M2AP. “Multi-hit” generally means three rounds of M2AP. Having a third party lab verify that you stopped six rounds is awesome.

We can get some notion of how the armor works from their patent. The key bit is a series of tiles, joined with structural adhesive. Think of a set of bathroom tiles, only made of silicon carbide. Then, cracks from a hit on one of the tiles will only propagate as far as the joints, leaving most of the rest of the array intact. This ceramic array is mounted over a plate of UHMWPE and wrapped in a fancy aramid. It’s pretty cool.

Price per plate is pretty reasonable for ceramics at $299 a piece. Weight of 6.9 lbs is on the heavy side for ceramics, and is similar to that of the similarly-sized, high-end steel TAC3S plate. Also, the 1189s are single-curve plates, and that’s pretty old school. Triple curve is the current standard, and will fit you a lot better. That said, it’s still an innovative product. Personally, we’d wait for the future generation model.

Rak 120mm Self Propelled Mortar

Poland’s Rak 120mm self propelled mortar is the sort of turreted system that Russia has had for years but never really caught on in the west. It’s built on the Rosomak chassis, which is a Polish-made variant of Patria’s 8×8 AMV.

Rak self propelled mortar

In the turret is a 120mm breach-loading mortar. It has an automatic loading system with a capacity for 20 ready rounds. 26 additional rounds are stowed in the hull. The autoloader and mortar has a rate of fire of 6-8 rounds per minute. The mortar has the expected computerized fire control system that is integrated with the GPS/INS navigation system. This fire control system also allows for direct fire with a laser rangefinder and a day/night sight. A coaxial 7.62mm UKM-2000D machine gun is also provided.

Chief among the advantages of a turreted mortar carrier is the ability to provide protection for the crew. The Rak has STANAG Level 1 armor protection all-around, which means it’s rated to resist 7.62mm M80 rounds and 5.56mm M855 and M193 rounds fired from a distance of 30 meters. It’s also proof against fragments from a 155mm artillery shell detonated at 100 meters. That’s pretty good, but I’d prefer a bit more protection. More specifically, I’d be concerned about DPICM-type submunitions hitting the roof, and I don’t expect the Rak to be protected from these.

The Rak has a crew of three, which is notably less than the simpler mortar carriers. That’s good for life-cycle costs. Overall, I like the Rak a lot.

The Pizza MRE

Let’s kick off a series on army food by discussing some awesome news. Take a look:

eating pizza mre

At first glance, this picture is nothing special. A couple American soldiers enjoying a pizza. We Americans love our pizza. But look closer.

That is MRE pizza. Pizza in a ration, which means they’ve figured out how to make something solidly shelf stable without making it out of every chemical in Dow’s catalog.

To understand the significance of this, let’s take a step back. Like most military rations, MREs used to be absolute crap. But then the First Persian Gulf War happened. As you might be aware, there’s literally nothing in northern Saudi Arabia that is edible. Unless you like sand. So everything had to be shipped in, including food. Which meant dining options were MREs, MREs, or MREs. For everybody. Even the Generals. So instead of just a bunch of grunts complaining that food sucked, a bunch of generals with a constellation’s worth of stars on their shoulders were complaining that the food sucked. And that got some changes to happen, and the improvement program has continued ever since.

As part of the continuous improvement program for MREs, the guys at the US Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts conduct a poll of soldiers every so often. This poll asks soldiers to rate every ration in the current set of menus, and asks them what they’d like. Meals that consistently score poorly are pulled and reworked, and Natick tries to fulfill the requests. The most consistent request for many years has been a pizza MRE.

The problem was shelf stability. MREs need to last in a storage depot for a while. The usual benchmark is 3 years, and you might imagine this is difficult with a pizza. But they’ve finally figured it out, and soldier food is about to get better.