SHOT Show 2014: Guns, Gear, and Gadgets

The 2014 SHOT Show wrapped up last week. On display were more than 1,600 exhibitors covering over 630,000 feet of floor space. Final numbers put attendance at 67,000 people! It was an extravaganza of all the latest and greatest in shooting, hunting, and outdoor gear. Here’s a selection of some of my favorite things from the show floor.

Beretta A400 XcelBeretta A400I’m a pump action kind of guy. I love the sound a pump makes when it racks a shell. It’s a visceral reminder, like clicking off a safety, that things are about to get loud. I also love my pump action because it’s how I learned to shoot shotguns and it’s what I’m comfortable with. With the Beretta A400 there is no learning curve. I shouldered it and was killing clays with precision. The A400 is an effortless gun that’s feather light and easy shooting. I thought 28 gauge would be difficult as I am only accustomed to 12, but this gun practically shoots itself. It’s ideal for the dove hunter who wants something that will snap to aim quickly and deliver rapid shots. I hung around the shotgun area and observed as others used the A400 to see if it would fail. One of my chief gripes about auto loaders is that they can be jam prone. I watched the Beretta go through box after box of ammunition without a hiccup. This is exactly what I need to put the hurt on some Eurasians.

Winchester AA TrAAcker

Winchester AA Shot TrAAckerHere’s another brilliant shotgun load from Winchester. This time it’s not about the powder or the arrangement of the shot column. It’s all about the wadding. It’s often extremely difficult to tell where your pellets are going when shooting up into the sky. Fear no more for now Winchester brings you a simple method to track your shots in real time. You can pick from either blaze orange or black depending on the background you shoot against. For sky shots the blaze orange is almost incandescent. Against trees the black really stands out. In addition to its bright coloring, the AA TrAAcker has a unique “shot cup within a shot cup” design. At the base of the column is a smaller shot cup built into the wadding. This adds a little weight and keeps the wadding flying true. I shot several rounds of this during media day and I can attest that it’s as easy to spot as the clay you’re shooting at. This is a great way to quickly improve your shotgunning skills.

5.11 XPRT 2.0 Tactical

5.11 Tactical XPRT 2.0My healthcare career began in EMS. I was often walking through the broken glass and twisted metal of car accidents or the needle strewn hallway of a junkie squatter house. Between all the blood, barf, and sharp things I wanted the best footwear on the market. All my coworkers told me 5.11 was the ultimate option. 5.11 delivers rugged protection and comfort regardless of the environment. The XPRT 2.0 Tactical builds on this tradition of excellence. These boots have a strengthened toe cap, neoprene ankle collar, and a shank that runs the full length of the foot. They look heavy but are in fact incredibly light. The XPRT 2.0 comes in three stylish colors that will fit any uniform; Fire, EMS, or mossy oak!

Savage Arms Rascal

Savage Arms RascalYouth are the future. Next to women, they are the fastest growing sector in the shooting sports industry. In order to keep our conservation heritage alive we need to cultivate the next generation of hunters. Savage offers a great solution to this task with the Rascal rifle. It’s a light weight bolt action rifle that teaches kids the essentials of safety and marksmanship. The dimensions of the rifle are designed with a youngster in mind. It’s got great balance, an easy sight picture, and an adjustable trigger. You can tension it up or down depending on their finger strength. Anything you can do to get your kid feeling safe and in control while handling a fire arm is great. The Rascal makes that happen.



This one came to me, like most great things, out of left field. I had mapped out my SHOT Show route with Delta Forces like precision days before I got to the show. There was a specific set of vendors and products I just had to see. Being a SHOT Show noob I had no idea how big it was actually going to be. After a while my route disintegrated and I wandered along like a paramecium in pond water, bumping into whatever random thing I floated past. During my ambulations a guy jumped out of nowhere and asked me what kind of phone I had. I told him and he handed me a small, clear baggie. He said it would fit my phone and be waterproof down to 200 feet. In addition to being waterproof you could still manipulate the touch screen, take pictures, and even make phone calls. This is no zip lock baggie. It’s a hermetically sealable, 6 mil plastic that won’t tear or deform. This is now an essential component of my fishing and kayaking gear. I plan on getting several more for other electronics and valuables. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it. The LOKSAK definitely fits that bill.

Trauma Pak Pro

Adventure Medical Trauma Pak ProAs my readers know, I can’t get enough of Adventure Medical and SOL products. The Trauma Pak Pro is no exception. It’s a handy case you can slip on your belt or throw in your pack and know that you can handle any major hemorrhagic emergency. It has the Quickclot impregnated gauze and SWAT-T tourniquet in a nylon pouch for secure storage. It’s great for the range, hunt camp, day hike or anywhere you don’t want to be bleeding to death. Just another great product from a company that never fails to impress. I wish I had magic gauze that stopped bleeding when I was a medic. All we had was boring old regular gauze.

Kodiak Express MK VI

Kodiak Express MK VIHark back to the golden era of Samuel Baker and Chinese Gordon. Hunting tigers in the sunderbans or lions on the Serengeti was not for the faint of heart. Pedersoli takes you back with the Kodiak Express MK VI. A side by side, double barrel, muzzle loading rifle in .50, .54, and .58 calibers. It has all the excellent fit and finish you would expect from a Pedersoli. My favorite feature is the ghost ring sight. It allows for quick target acquisition but won’t skimp on accuracy. For a truly sporting experience leave the modern high power at home and take this into the field. Our great great grandfathers used to hunt lions and hippos with guns like these. Could you? Bring along some tonic water and a pith helmet just in case.

All in all a truly amazing experience. I saw guns I didn’t know I needed, gear I didn’t know I wanted, and met 67,000 other sporting aficionados. There were people from around the world from all walks of life. Good ol boy mossy oak dudes chatting with skinny jeans euro mullet guys about the latest single stack xd. A one of kind event that shows the passion and creativity of the shooting, hunting, and outdoor trades. As these massive amounts of great new stuff starts hitting the shelves this year you won’t be disappointed.

-Richard Hammack


Cartouche Part Deux

Paper CartridgeWith the ammo shortage I’ve been shooting a lot of black powder lately. Nothing like an $80 asking price for a brick of .22 to make you reach for the old smoke pole. I promised an evaluation of the paper cartridges and below are the results.

To begin with, it’s dirty. Like real dirty. I was using my 1851 Navy Colt and the cylinder required way more cleaning than under normal conditions. Every 12 rounds or so I would find several large pieces of unburned paper in the chambers. Below is a picture of 20gr cartridges with the wadding rolled in at five yards. You can see the partially combusted grime peppering the target. There’s even some wadding smooches for effect.

Black Powder Paper CartridgeBelow is the same distance but using 15gr cartridges. I got better groupings and had less garbage coming out of the barrel with the lighter load.

Black Powder Paper CartridgeThe best part was the speed. What once took me 5-10 minutes now only takes moments. Simply tearing the end of the cartridge and pouring the powder into the chambers made loading a snap. I loaded some without wadding and actually got decent results. I twisted the paper around the ball and then poured in the powder and the zig zag acted as a simple wad.

I did not have any failure to fire or smoldering burns. I even loaded some cartridges without tearing them first and still got them to fire each time. The paper is definitely thin enough for the caps to burn through.

I can’t wait to get these out into the field. When I do I promise I’ll return with results.

-Richard Hammack

Les dernières cartouches

Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe_de_Neuville_-_Les_dernières_cartouches_(1873)Behold, Les dernières cartouches, a glimpse at the battle of Bazeilles. Alphonde de Neuville painted this majestic work in 1873. The battle had been fought only a few years before and had changed the world. It was this vision that blazed vividly in my mind while out on an excursion.

I was seeing this painting in the curling smoke of my Pietta made .44 Navy Colt from Cabela’s. I was squirrel hunting in the foothills of Colorado and slinging lead into trees like Doc Holiday on a bend. My hammer clicked and I began to reload. Doing that with a gun designed in 1851 isn’t easy. It’s what got me thinking about the painting and the battle that went with it.

The battle Alphonde painted was fought in Bazeilles France, a little town just a few kilometers from the modern border with Belgium. On September 1, 1870, a division of French Troupes de Marine ambushed an attacking Bavarian army. The battle was a defensive reargard to slow the Northern German juggernaut. Napolean III and his army were encircled in Sedan and Bazeilles was on its flank. Beginning before dawn, a battle took place that saw the town change hands four times. At the end of the day over 5,000 Bavarians and 3,000 Frenchman lay dead. The Marines fought to the last bullet, in the last house, on the way to Sedan. Ultimately the battle was a loss for the French and Sedan fell. Napolean III was captured and the French Second Republic ended. Paris fell the following January. While the embers of Paris still burned, the triumphant German Confederation met at Versailles. Several German duchies and municipalities merged with Prussia to create the modern German state. Alphonde’s painting shows the inside of the last house in Bazeilles. A weary soldier from the colonies stares into the afternoon longlight. His comrade fires his Chassepot at the Bavarians in the street. A bearded veteran is kneeling in the middle ground, reaching into the last box of bullets. If the French could massacre 5,000 of Bavaria’s finest with bullets made of paper, maybe I could shoot a squirrel or two.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPaper cartridges have been in use since the firearm became portable. They are simple to make and save time down the road. This method is designed for my revolver. It probably won’t work for long gun cartridges.

I use only the finest quality French cigarette papers. Zig-zag 1 1/4 inch are the easiest to work with. The ‘light’ zig-zags are too fragile and tear when rolling. To begin, set your powder measure to how many grains you want to throw. Consult your guns’ manual to see how much powder to use. Once you have your powder measure set it’s time to begin rolling. Simply set a wad and ball on top of the powder measure and wrap the paper around it.


Twist the paper around the top and hold the ball in place. Wrap the paper around the powder measure and moisten it. Don’t lick it. After a few rolls you’ll have lead and gunpowder all over your fingers. You don’t want to be licking that. Once the paper is wet, turn the whole setup upside down and let the powder fill the paper tube.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith a little practice, you can begin to crank them out. It becomes meditative. Once I’ve compiled enough for some serious range time I’ll post a follow up with results.

-Richard Hammack

A Gentleman Owns More Than One Suit

Go google “best gun for survival” and as of today you get 30,600,000 returns. The argument goes something like this…

GunGuy1:”The best gun in the entire world is x”

GunGuy2: makes valid point about gun x that it may not be the best but is still a good gun:

GunGuy1:”WHat ar you Hitlers! you must be retard or SOmething!!!1!!11!!”

This conversation goes back and forth for way to long.

I do not believe in the best of anything. Can you imagine the best screwdriver? A gun is a tool. It is a very specific tool with millions of permutations. There is no such gun that is perfect for everything. Let’s look at different guns and see what they have to offer.

Hunting Rifle:

When you really want to reach out and touch something, this is what you want. In a prolonged disaster situation, food becomes a priority. A .30-06 or 7mm bolt action with a scope will bring home dinner. Lighter calibers like the .30-30 offer similar game getting capabilities but with less recoil. A lever action .30-30 would offer the advantage of quick shooting in a defensive situation. Hitting game at 300 yards and hitting people at 300 yards are two different stories. Defending a house in an urban setting would be an area the hunting rifle may fall short. A situation that requires you to shelter in place and defend your home from multiple aggressors would require faster shooting and lighter loads. An advantage of hunting rifles is the popularity of the cartridge. In a prolonged disaster situation ammunition stocks may run low. The popularity of these cartridges in North America would increase your odds of coming across more should your own supplies dwindle.

Assault Rifle:

Everybody loves machine guns. It’s a fact. Britain conquered the world  using single shot muzzle loading muskets. I remember watching Zulu Dawn and thinking, “If the redcoats had some AK’s that would have been way easier.” This exposition will only cover two rifles: the AK and the AR. Please don’t get sad that I don’t cover your favorite assault rifle. This is to discuss two very popular rifles in America right now. The AK-47 is the most used assault rifle on the planet. It has fought in conflicts of every imaginable terrain, climate, and scale and repeatedly proved its worth. It’s so simple you can train an illiterate goat-herder from Central Asia to use it in 5 minutes. The 7.62 x 39 is heavy enough to drop attackers quickly and can even drop medium sized game within distance. I live in a suburban environment and envision a shelter in place scenario. When the food where I live runs out, I don’t need to be shooting anything beyond 100 yards. I’ll be dealing with looters or foragers. I want a nice, reliable, fast gun that will keep my home protected. A drawback to the AK vs the AR is the range. Sure, you can make it into a Druganov clone to increase the accuracy but the load is too light to take anything bigger than mule deer. The AR (and its descendents) is an exceptional rifle that offers the rapid fire needed in a close quarter urban environment. The low muzzle velocity and high energy create startling wound profiles on game and hostiles alike. The AR has been fielded in multiple environments and come up shy on just one facet, reliability. AR’s are built with extremely tight tolerances. These tolerances allow the AR to put rounds on target well past 700 yards. This also proves to be its downfall when operating in dirty, grimy conditions. Jamming in the middle of a gunfight sounds like no fun. If you found an AR and an AK in a mud puddle filled with sand you have two options. Pick up the AR, field strip it, clean every nook and cranny and hope it works. Or you could pick up the AK, urinate in the action, cycle it a few times and be ready to party. A definite advantage of the AR over the AK is its modularity. I’ve heard it called Barbie for boys. Every imaginable pistol grip, stock, magazine, scope, and doo dad can be mounted on the AR to fit the owners needs. An AR also has the advantage of using the 5.56 NATO round. This could be an advantage if the disaster takes the shape of some blue bonnets coming over our hills.


It takes big game. It takes small game. It takes birds. It takes aggressors without even aiming. The shotgun is definitely a tool I want to have if the SHTF. The same gun can be used for multiple purposes depending on the ammunition. Light loads for the daily small game and birds it would take to maintain calories, slugs for the occasional big game. I would argue pump over auto for simplicity sake. I can fix my Remington 870 Express but my brother’s Benelli is like a rubix cube. Even if you get stuck with a basement full of cheap target loads you can make cut shells. The shotgun may be great for all sorts of situations but its range may leave something to be desired. Anything beyond 100 yards will merely be irritated by the noise of the gun and remain injury free.

Black Powder:

Hear me out. My Model 1851 Confederate Navy .44 is deadly. I take squirrel and rabbit with it easily. I can use up black powder on small game before dipping into any “real” ammo. It’s a cheap and easy way to prolong the home magazine. What about caps? Those will run out before the powder surely?. To that I say Ha! Flintlock! And I also say don’t call me Shirley. Our forefathers defeated the largest army in the world using flintlocks. The Zulu’s may have smashed the British at Islandlwana but we started the tradition of whipping her majesty’s soldiers way before they did.


100% necessary. A large caliber handgun such as the .44 magnum or a Desert Eagle .50 will easily take large animals within range. A handgun is also essential when it comes to self-defense. The abundance of handgun ammunition will ensure supplies last if the SHTF. Handguns do not have anything near the power or range of the other guns listed here. A handgun is certainly something you want to have in the toolkit if things get ugly. I would again argue revolver over automatic for simplicity. The revolver certainly falls short in the capacity department when compared to semi-autos.

So what are we going to do? There are several things at play here but for me a chief concern is price. My Scottish blood turns to ice when I look at the prices of guns and ammunition. The reason I’m such an AK fanboy has two reasons, durability and price. I may be planning for the apocalypse but I still have bills to pay right now. An AK-47 in America should cost $400 with two magazines and a cleaning kit, new in cosmoline. An AR will be double that. For a rifle you can get a .30-06 bolt action for $200 (minus scope). How about a Nagant? You can equip your whole family with the same rifle Simo Häyhä used for $600! A shotgun will run anywhere from $80 for a single shot .410 up into the $300’s for a good pump action. What about the price of ammo? Shotgun shells can be accumulated in larger amounts for a lower price than rifle ammo. Consider the cost saving of having your weapons be of a uniform caliber. Think pistol caliber rifles combined with handguns of the same caliber. A .40 carbine with a .40 on your hip will provide several methods to eat food and deter people with ill intent. Black powder is crazy cheap. You can melt down anything metal for bullets and shoot for eons. If you want to get creative you can even make black powder from scavenged resources.

So what then is the best gun to have if things got really, really, bad?If you haven’t seen the light yet let me help you. If you got through the first paragraph and said ‘tldr’ here’s a picture instead of words.

a tool for every purpose

-Richard Hammack