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Shot Show2010 Media Day at the range

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For every lover of the outdoors and aficionado of the shooting sports world, there is one event that is the high point for the year. Every year Americans and visitors from all over the world are treated to four days of handling, gawking over, and falling in love with one of the largest selection of sporting and shooting items ever assembled in one location. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) holds its convention and exhibits, internationally known as the SHOT Show, early in the month of January. This event has for several years rotated between Orlando, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada.

This year, the event was held in the magic city of Las Vegas. Along with the main show there is a somewhat lesser known event that takes place the day prior to the opening of the SHOT Show. This event is titled Media Day At the Range. Attendance at this event is by invitation only, and is only open to members of the press, and especially to shooting writers and members of the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA).

This day is probably the best opportunity for writers to have hands-on experience and function tests of most of the new firearms and ammunition being offered to the shooters in the coming year. The event is so large that it was necessary to locate it at three different shooting ranges located around the Las Vegas area. All most everyone who is a leader in the manufacture of firearms and ammunition is represented on the shooting range this day, and is there for the sole purpose of showing off their products. No show room sales men are there to sell their products, the writers and media people would tear them apart in short order. The factory sends their first line of technical staff to answer questions, and to be there when their firearms and ammunition are put to real field tests by a group of demanding and unmerciful critics. Over 42 manufactures attended and participated in the event, and over 460 members of the media were there in an effort to overwhelm the factory boys with questions and suggestions.

Winchester Firearms and Ammunition, along with Smith and Wesson, had their invitational event at two separate gun clubs on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Bass Pro Shop and POMA put the larger event together. This grand event was held at the Boulder City Gun Club, located a few miles outside of the City of Boulder and about 40 miles south of Las Vegas. The club range was closed for the day to the general public, in order to facilitate the needs of exhibitors who supported this event by their attendance. The club facilities are large enough to offer 15 or more separate shooting bays for the exhibitors, who all wanted this chance to have their products handled and fired by members of the press.

Shooting sites ranged from 15 yards for general familiarization at police combat ranges, up to 800 yards for long-range shootings and sniper training, plus a large number of shotgun positions. All this was necessary to accommodate the attending writers looking forward to a day of shooting the latest in firearms, and trying out some of the new ammunition being offered by the manufactures. As a writer, you cannot afford to purchase every new shotgun that is being offered on the market, and current governmental transfer policies make it difficult, if not impossible, to even get your hands on the new models for testing and hands-on evaluation. Therefore, this is a great opportunity for most writers to see and handle the new firearms that are available, and collect first hand information which we can pass on to our readers. Again, not only is this a great day for the industry to show off its products in the field, but also, what shooter in his right mind, considering today’s costs, would turn down the opportunity to test fire all these guns with the manufacturers supplying the ammunition?

This year the exhibitors and members of the press not only had the challenge of facing each other, but also had to put up with some pretty uncomfortable weather conditions. . The weather for the day’s event was what I considered to be "typical hunting weather" . It started out cold and wet and then was upgraded to cold, wet, and windy. This seems to be the conditions I always encounter when I go out into the field. Nevada is an area, which you usually equate with clear skies and hot sun, so this was as the locals expressed it, "Unusual Weather". However, the weather did not hold back the spirit of the day, and this writer used the opportunity to see and fire as many of the firearms as were available, and believe me there was a lot of shooting going on!

Those writers interested in the field of law enforcement were treated to displays of vehicles, pyrotechnic devises, and the latest of semiautomatic and full auto rifles, pistols, and shotguns. These demo bays were separated from the regular areas by quite some distance, but could be easily located by the clouds of smoke flowing from the bay sites during the demonstrations. Luckily for me, none of the smoke they were generating was in any way lethal. I have a very low tolerance, along with a very high respect, for the various forms of tear gas. This respect is keep alive by memories of my time in the military.

I had the opportunity to try out the new Barrett rifles in the "California sanitized" calibers of .416 Barrett and .338 Lapua calibers. Both the guns and the ammunition were a joy to handle and interact with. I was lucky that day, firing the .416 Barrett at 500 yards, and was fortunate in being given five resounding hits on the club’s steel silhouette with five rounds expended. About this time, I noticed that the wind and rain was starting to pick up, so I gave up my position on the range line while I was still able to act the part of a hero. This Barrett rifle is the same platform as their .50 caliber sniper rifle, and when matched with the smaller .416 caliber round, was a real pleasure to shoot. Based on a shortened .50 caliber BMG case, this cartridge in its own right is no wimp, and is right up there with the old .50 BMG in performance. The US military has proved its merits on many sniper missions.

Another interesting feature with this gun and ammunition combination was that you could recover from your shot in time to personally spot the bullet hit on the 500 yard steel target. Next, I shot the Barrett in the .338 Lapua caliber using the Hornady Custom 250-grain BTHP bullet. The gun is a downsized bolt-action model of the popular .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifle, and in this configuration is a real pleasure to shoot. For this piece the range was extended to 800 yards. My first shot was a couple of inches off to the left of the steel plate. Even with the .338 Lapua round and a 250-grain highly efficient bullet, the wind is a factor that must be taken into account, especially when reaching out to almost half a mile. After moving the cross hair over to the right edge of the steel plate, I was able to put the next five shots right onto the target. You can easily get very badly hooked on this type of shooting using this level of equipment.

Steve Johnson, one of the really great guys on the staff at Hornady, was on hand at this event to answer the numerous questions on the mind of the writers, and to insure that everyone had a chance to try the new additions to the Hornady line of ammunition. My real love is double rifles, but Steve suggested that I try the 6.5 Creedmoor with the 129-grain SST bullet to see what I could do out to 400 yards. I have to admit that the pleasant recoil, and flat shooting qualities of this addition to the Hornady line, was a pleasant and educating experience. This cartridge and loading will really appeal to the target shooter as well as the trophy hunter. Steve also gave me the opportunity to try out the new 150-grain GMX loading in .300 Winchester Magnum. This is a new non-lead bullet, legal in California and other non-lead hunting areas. This load had no problems spinning the 300 yard steel plates time after time, until it seemed that this was its undisputed territory. A great load and with their new bullet would be a real winner on that big elk across the valley. Next on his program was to have me try their .30-06 loading with the 150-grain SST Interlock bullet. This was another real winner that was able to reach way out there with almost monotonous consistency. Steve has loaded me up with ideas and projects for the rest of the year, and there is a lot of field-testing yet to be done. I cannot wait to work out the shooting details on some of this new stuff, and head back to Africa to try it out on some of the local game.

Federal Cartridge Company brought out some of their new Premium ammunition in the 77-grain Sierra MatchKing BTHP loading in .223 caliber. This bullet in the factory loading really puts the .223 into an entirely new world of usage. I can hardly wait for the spring crop of ground squirrels to make their appearance here in California. These little critters present a difficult target, and test how far this bullet can reach out and touch something. Federal quality, matched with the history of Sierra’s match winning performance, should make this combination a real nightmare for the local varmints.

Winchester had their new Ballistic Silvertip lead-free ammunition on site for testing with the 35-grain Ballistic Silvertip bullet. Since a lot of my varmint shooting and testing is done in California, the availability of factory non-lead ammunition is a major factor for the varmint shooters in our area. This ammunition will be a MUST HAVE for the 2010 ground squirrel and prairie dog season that is coming up in a couple of months.

The boys at Winchester also had a good supply of their new .270 WSM ammunition in the 130-grain Ballistic Silvertip loading in their easily recognized black boxes. I am a real fan of the old .270 Winchester, but this new cartridge and loading leaves nothing to the old .270 and fits into the current ‘short throw’ actions. If you want a new fast handling, flat shooting, low recoiling rifle, and are a fan of the late Jack O’Connor, you would not be ashamed to find yourself in the field with this modern day firehouse.

My time on the shotgun range was spent trying out the new Winchester Steel Shot loads in 28 and 410 gauge. I love large bore rifle, especially if they have two barrels mounted side by side, but in shotguns I lean toward the sub-bores for most of my shooting. This is especially true for pass shooting on dove and fast raising bobwhite quail. There may be limited interest in these lighter gauges compared to the popular 12 and 20 gauges, but when you see how the clay birds react, you develop a deep appreciation for the light recoil and easy handling of these two gauges. The politically motivated attitude towards the use of lead in hunting today means that we will be seeing more non-lead shooting loads being made available in the near future. I really welcome these loadings in the lighter gauges.

The day really went too fast to see and try everything that was available. The rain and wind somewhat slowed down the number of opportunities for test shooting. I wore my Australian Outback coat and hat. I was a little worried that I would standout like a stranger in the Nevada landscape, but as the rain picked up it was amazing how many of us "Outback cowboys" could be seen lined up in the shooting bays. Everyone admitted it was a great event, and educational for all us in the industry who were brave enough to put up with the weather.

Alan Bunn is a hunting publication veteran with a of Bachelor Arts in Journalism from the University of Georgia. He hunts Africa regularly and is an avid hunter with rifle, pistol, shotgun, and bow.

It is impossible to report on all the products and events that I was privileged to encounter in this one day. This is especially true since I wanted this report to get out as soon after the closing of the SHOT Show as possible. Therefore, for those of you who are interested, here is a listing of some of the main exhibitors at the range that day. Looking up some of these people on their websites would be most rewarding.

• Nikon Monarch Gold UCC 1.5-6x42mm riflescope •
• New Fiocchi Ammunition •
• Trijicon® AccupointT™ 1-4x24 Riflescope •
• Darton Pro 3500S •
• Universal Gun Case •
• New Trijicon® RMR •
• Steiner Safari Pro •
• Thermacell Mosquito Repellent •
• Vellini Sling •
• Safari Gaiters •
• Hornady 300 and 308 gets 2008 Academy of Excellence Award •
• Svarovski Z3 Rifle Scope •
• Svarovski Z6 •
• Dry-Cell On-Board Cargo Pocket Organizer •
• Mini Pocket Organiser •
• Mamba Extreme Sling •
• Master Blaster •
• Knife Tool Utility Belt •
• IWA Report •
• Shot Show2010  Media Day at the range •
• Chacma Safaris •
• Danie van Graan •

•  •

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