By Will Grant
On the heels of a nationwide debate over gun control, this year’s SHOT Show was a highly anticipated event that received extraordinary media attention. But what may come as a disappointment to headline-seekers, there was little talk of impending gun bans and magazine-capacity restrictions. To most industry manufacturers and distributors, President Obama’s gun-control measures will be just another bump in the road. Companies like Glock and Bushmaster have weathered previous such storms and didn’t expect the latest to be all that different.
At SHOT Show, which bears little similarity to local gun shows, many of the exhibitors cater to government contracts. While defense budget cuts will likely infringe on their federally generated profits, the public rhetoric over school shootings and ‘black guns’ poses little threat to their bottom line.
Like every other SHOT Show (2013 was the show’s 35th year), the focus was gear. Equipment, apparel, accessories, firearms. After all, why would we bog down in the political when we could revel in the material?
One of the coolest new items we saw was the NEMO Arms Omen .300 Win Mag, which debuted in November last year. As the first .300 Win Mag offered on an AR platform, it’s no surprise that the rifle has been well received among operators. And that the NEMO booth at SHOT was continuously crowded.
“Everything from proof of concept to what you see here was done in conjunction with tier-one operators at Fort Bragg and Benning,” says Clint Walker, vice president and director of marketing for NEMO. “We wanted to give the guys what they wanted and something they could use.”
As far as what the guys wanted, they wanted to be able to engage multiple targets out to 1,500 meters. The AR platform offered that capability without the shooter having to “get out of the rifle,” or take his eye away from the optics. And for what they could use, it meant designing a rifle that used current, readily available ammunition. The military version of the Omen is built to handle the standard 220-grain .300 Win Mag cartridge.
The rifle took about 13 months to design and produce, and includes several well-thought-out features. Like a recoil-reduction system built into the bolt carrier group and a rail length dictated by the length of the most common optics, including FLIR attachment, among military snipers, which was a Schmidt and Bender scope.
The military version of the Omen has a 22-inch barrel, a Geissele two-stage trigger, a 14-round magazine, a nickel-boron-plated BCG, and a match-grade barrel turned to fit the profile. The not-dissimilar civilian version will retail for $5,700.
“We’re gun guys,” Walker says. “We’re a boutique gun company. We set this rifle up ODA style with a very small core team to make an excellent, accurate rifle. This is our first long-range project.”
Another small manufacturer of high-grade firearms that caught our attention was Heirloom Precision. Heirloom, based in Tempe, Arizona, specializes in custom 1911s and has been building guns for the last nine years. One look at their pistols will convey the quality and time spent on their products.
Heirloom had three 1911s on display at SHOT—two models in .45 ACP and one in 9 mm. The guns retail for between $5,000 and $7,000. Each one bespeaks a minute attention to detail—from the gold-line front sight to 40 LPI checkering (on some models) to an oversized magazine well to make the gun as easy to use as possible.
Heirloom is three men—Burton, Steve Bailey, and Ted Yost —building some of the finest guns they can produce. American Handgunner magazine called the company’s work “Old world craftsmanship.” Patrick Sweeny of Gun Digest commended the Heirloom guns as pieces “that will be appreciated by even the most discerning (and traditional) 1911-ista.”
Of the guns on display, one was finished in hard chrome, one had been Parkerized and then blued for a super-durable finish, and the third coated with a DLC finish by IonBond, which registers a hardness rating of 70+ on the Rockwell “C” scale. The DLC finish is, more or less, the black equivalent of the hard chrome finish.
While uncompromised function is, of course, the driving factor behind Heirloom’s guns, they’re very much understated in their beauty. They’re not the latest in tacti-cool, and they’re not designed for killing zombies. They’re clean, neat and traditional.
“When I think of Colt pistols, the words ‘simply elegant’ come to mind,” Bailey says. “It’s a gun that been around for just over 100 years, and I think you should enhance the look without going over the top. Like the hand checkering: it’s tedious but the result speaks for itself. It’s like a hotrod that when you look at it, you say, ‘that is a really nice job.’”
Quality is everything. And when it comes from a small company, we like it even more. To that, White River Knife and Tool is our kind of maker.
Based in Coopersville, Michigan, John Cammenga and his sons make a variety knives that haven proven time and again their reliability and effectiveness.
Though White River is a fairly young company—making knives for about two years—they’re dedicated to providing high-quality knives designed through field-tested techniques. Cammenga and his family have been making precision military gear for decades. They’ve been using knives for hunting and fishing their entire lives and now live on the White River in the Manistee National Forest, where thye regularly use and test the knives they design and make.
Though most of their blades are traditional bushcraft-type knives, they do offer the unconventional, tactical Knucklehead knife, which serves well as a concealed-carry knife. They also make an outstanding set of filet knives that were first shown at SHOT.
The new filet knives, which are equally at home in the kitchen and on the dock, are available in standard and custom versions and with an offset blade and traditional blade. The standard versions will start at $80, the custom versions at $200. As gifts, these filet knives are unbeatable.
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