Wednesday, January 27, 2016

2016 SHOT Show afterthoughts

Once again, a post about SHOT Show.

Expectations for this year's SHOT Show started out low. There were plenty of press-releases, but not enough to generate interests. Once on the floor, it got better. It is hard to expect revolutionary development from last 10 years or so, but there were some interesting products to cover.

1. Evolutionary, not revolutionary
There were some very fascinating developments from about 2004 to 2014, mainly by  various start-ups tackling some issues that 'mainstream' manufacturers were not able to fulfill. This was also helped by more efficient and affordable manufacturing methods.

With the industry in somewhat of downshift, many companies are playing safe. There are some who excel in development like SilencerCo, while many more play safe and just tweak existing models a little.

This doesn't mean there is no progress. Taking smaller steps can lead to improvements in future, but after seeing stellar advancements in last 10 years makes it look pale in comparison.

2. (More) shift towards civilian market
It is no secret that a lot of companies were hoping to take a share of military/police market. In the last few years military budgets were cut, and some police did not fully recover from the Great Recession. That meant civilian market was the place to be. Competition, CCW were two topics that dominated last few years, and unfavorable political climate helped with increase in firearm sales.

A lot of products in this years SHOT Show seemed to be geared towards the civilian market, or at least neutral. Companies known mostly for military gear were comparatively quieter compared to a few years back. Some companies that make simulation equipment for training were absent or reduced their footprint this year. These are part of industry that doesn't translate well to civilian market and they were not seen.

3. ARs in various non-traditional calibers
ARs always had some caliber other than .223(5.56x45mm) such as 6.8 SPC, 6.5 Grendel, 9mm, but this year confirmed that the market is definitely expanding their offerings.

First there were several manufacturers coming up with 9mm ARs as well as pistol calibers. Palmetto State Armory has a few, and QuarterCirlce 10 made their debut, as well as LWRC showing off SMG in .45. There were some other manufacturers not covered, but it's now apparent that the market is looking to expand this niche market, or maybe there is a growing segment of this market.

Second, 7.62x39mm was generally considered as the caliber of AK-47, but now there are several companies offering that in AR. Just 10-12 years ago, an AR in such caliber was a unicorn, but last year CMMG came up with a product that really caught people's eye, as well as Palmetto State Armory coming up with one.

It is now hard to argue against notion that AR platform is really widespread. It is becoming the basis for which innovations are tested upon. Saturation of ARs has directed manufacturers to adapt and make something to stand out. It will be interesting how this situation goes.