New Guns, New Gear and Sundance Head Singing at Happy Hour -- SHOT Show 2019
Updated: Feb 24
Enjoy a little picking and singing by Sundance Head, country music artist and 2016 winner of The Voice, performing a couple songs from his new album "Stained Glass and Neon" in the Case Knives booth at SHOT Show.
Then, scroll down for more show coverage, including my favorite new rifle, Mossberg's new pistol, some top quality optics, boots, hearing muffs and more Sundance!
Jan. 21-29, 2019 Where? Vegas, Baby!
I've been to about 20 consecutive SHOT Shows and most have been somewhat intense efforts to cover in three or four days the waterfront in the way of new sporting rifles and shotguns and new gear for a variety of publications. The amount of accredited media at SHOT has boomed over the years with many people streaming "content," posting live from the various show levels and, generally, loading up social media, YouTube and people's email boxes with stuff that caught their fancy. It was windy out there on the Range Day (Jan. 21) that preceded the main show, but the shooting bays still saw steady business until the middle of the afternoon (see video). The show ran Jan. 22-25 at the Sands Expo Center, showcasing products used for recreational and competitive shooting, hunting, outdoor recreation, and law enforcement and security purposes. Nearly 60,000 people attended and there was a number of exhibitors, more than 2,400.
This year was a different approach for me since it was the first I've actually worked in a booth for part of the show. I spent a little more than half my time in the Howard Leight by Honeywell booth, helping visitors see the latest in new electronic ear protection muffs and shooting glasses. Hearing protection is a big deal to me because I lost a lot of my hearing back before people became wiser to the importance of protection and the insidious nature of how hearing loss occurs.
I learned a couple new things: 1) Vermilion is actually a better shade of lens than amber to promote contrast when shooting clays. But, guys tend to shy away from them because they look pink; 2) the amount of people wearing Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs at Range Day was incredible, especially since Peltor was the official sponsor. People simply brought
their own. I informally polled people about what they liked about them. The low profile fit and great battery-saving cutoff feature were common replies, except for one burly dude who told me in a most-animated way, "Man, I can Bluetooth it with my phone and rock out to Zeppelin while I'm sending rounds downrange." I wish I had him on video - ah, hindsight.
The Impact Sport muffs are now available in three different Multicam patterns. We also had top multigun/3-Gun competitor Travis Gibson in the booth sharing his tips and techniques
So, with several thousand new things to check out during the free time, I winnowed it down to a few to look at in more detail here.
First, my favorite of the new hunting rifles is the Bergara Highlander, a U.S.-made rifle in the company's Premier Series line. This $1,850 gem is going to be a big hit with hunters, whether they're hunting species from deer to plains game on African safaris. Bergara debuted the Highlander at the Safari Club International gathering in Reno, Nevada, two weeks before SHOT and company reps confided that they took orders for more than 30 new rifles right off that show's floor.
Bergara set this rifle up at a long-distance lane at SHOT's Range Day. Target distance was some 800-900 meters, as I recall. Due to the incredible winds, we had to hold our aim considerably left of the steel plate target. It as amazing how many times the plate lit up with hits from 6.5 rounds under such extreme conditions.
The Highlander is one of the new rifles in the Premier Series. Bergara says it's an extension of the Custom Series, but with standardized features that enable easier production and assembly. Still, the components are premium. The 416 stainless steel barrels get Bergara's proprietary honing process at the barrel-making facility in Bergara, Spain. Once the barrels come to the United States, they're given a Cerakote Sniper Gray finish. The muzzle is threaded 5/8-24” with a thread protector. Barrel lengths include 20, 22 and 24 inches.
The rifle's action is also proprietary. As nicely explained on Bergara's web site: This action is designed as a two-lug system that features a separate floating bolt head to ensure contact with the lug abutments in the action. It also features a cone-shaped bolt nose for smooth feeding of the cartridge, and a spring-loaded sliding plate extractor located in the front of the lower locking lug. The one-piece bolt body is stainless steel with a pad at the rear to accept the threaded-in bolt handle. The bolt shroud and bolt stop are fully Nitrided for extreme durability, as well as its self-lubricating properties. The bolt handle is finished in Cerakote for the utmost protection. All I can add to that is the action is super smooth, not super stiff or, at the opposite end, super sloppy.
The two-position safety is part of the trigger assembly. The trigger is a TriggerTech® model with Frictionless Release Technology™. This integration allows the bolt handle not to lock in the closed position, letting you unload the rifle while it's on safety. Nice!
Here are more reasons why hunters will like it. It weighs between 7.2 and 7.7 pounds -- very manageable, even for the mountains. The magazine has a hinged floorplate and can hold four standard cartridges or three magnums. The Grayboe fiberglass stock is very comfortable and Bergara gives it a nice-looking custom camo pattern. Available calibers include: 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .270 Win., 7mm-08, .280 AI, .308 Win., .30-06, 7mm Mag., .300 Win. Mag., and 300 PRC. All are top, big game hunting calibers.
Bergara also is getting traction from another new Premier Series rifle, the Ridgeback, which has a detachable 5-round magazine. See more about both guns at Bergara USA.
Mossberg MC1sc Subcompact Pistol
Mossberg is well known for its array of durable, affordable shotguns and an impressive lineup of similarly functional and affordable files. The Patriot Revere rifle is one of the nicest looking guns you'll ever find for the cost. But now, for the first time in 100 years, Mossberg is back in the handgun business, debuting the MC1sc Subcompact 9mm Pistol. Mossberg's first firearm was a diminutive .22 handgun designed for trappers.
This new pistol carries a base MSRP of $425, but is already listed on some outdoors retail sites in the $369 range. With an overall length of 6.25 inches, it's well-sized for concealed carry, but has enough substance with the grip palm swell and textured panels that it still affords a quality grasp in either a man's or woman's hands. The slide was smooth and easy to operate, the 5-pound trigger relatively crisp and it barely weighs one pound unloaded. The frame is a polymer with matte black finish. The 416 Stainless Steel slide and 3.4-inch barrel are also finished in matte black.
Particularly impressive was the ease of takedown for cleaning. Mossberg has designed the gun so that the handler doesn't need to pull the trigger while disassembling. The gun comes apart in a matter of seconds and reassembles just as easily. Beyond the standard model, optional versions include a cross-bolt safety version, models with either TRUGLO Tritium Pro Night Sights or Viridian E-Series red laser and a Centennial Limited Edition model with 24k gold accents, Titanium Nitride-finished barrel and special serial number. Price points steadily increase to about $625 for the Limited Edition.
I asked Mossberg Media Relations Director Linda Powell if this was the first in a new array of handguns in various sizes and calibers. Without committing, she explained that initial reception of the new pistol has been good and that sales success might drive new products down the road, which would be enticing to handgunners and personal protection fans looking for calibers with more oomph. I predict this gun, if it holds up as predicted, could mark an interesting foray into the realm of longstanding handgun brands such as Glock, Kahr, Sig and others. See more at Mossberg's web site.
GPO USA Scopes and Binoculars
This new Virginia-based company just concluded its second year of business. They're so new that you wouldn't find them on the main show floor at SHOT; instead they had a small table in a new products hallway. Their story is interesting and their products are attracting consumers.
The company is owned and operated by Michael Jensen, a longtime operator in the outdoor industry with brands that included Zeiss, Swarovski, Kahles, Remington and Marlin. He has partnered with GPO, GbmH, a German-based company owned and operated by Richard Schmidt, formerly CEO of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, GmbH. They're working to design and produce quality optics for the North American hunting and outdoors customer. What they're basically saying is you can get Zeiss and similar quality at lower price points. And, they offer an unconditional, transferable, no proof of purchase needed, lifetime warranty. Granted, at just two years old, that's not a long track record but, still a warranty that applies even if you run over the scope with your ATV - not bad. Their products with electronic features, such as illuminated reticles, carry a two-year warranty on the electronic components.
I checked out a couple scopes and binoculars right there in the expansive hallway. Particularly impressive were the offerings in the Passion HD binocular line, which has MSRPs from $979-$1,299. The hallways are long and the lighting soft. I took 100-plus-yard looks at people and objects at the farthest margins and was astounded how crisp the images appeared. Subjects "downrange" simply "popped" with contrast and clarity. They reminded me a bit of the Zeiss Conquest HD5 glasses (two-year warranty) I brought to Africa a couple years ago.
Here's how GPO says it makes these lenses so bright and crisp:"GPObright is a proprietary coating process that maximizes light transmission through each surface of an optical element. As light hits an optical surface, normal uncoated high-performance glass can reflect up to 5 percent of that light, redirecting this light so it does not transmit through the optical system. However, when these high-performance lenses are vacuum-coated with GPObright lens coatings, up to 99.7 percent of the available light passes through each optical surface. Furthermore, when every surface of the entire optical system is properly coated, total light transmission can reach up to more than 92 percent, making the optical image of a GPO binocular or riflescope 'bright,' even in the lowest light conditions."
Another technical feature is GPO's Double HD lens, created when multiple extra-low dispersion lenses are chemically laminated to make a single, multilayer high-performance optical lens. They explain that laminating multiple lenses minimizes light reflection on the surface of multiple lenses, creating enhanced resolution and color contrast images, and minimizes chromatic aberrations. This process is routine with quality photographic lens manufacturers, but has now transitioned into premium sporting optics. For my money, HD is the way to go with these products.
I also looked through a couple rifle scopes, including some Passion 3x12 and 3.5x18 models with illuminated reticle. The lighted amber center to the reticle really does force your focus and concentration - no wandering off target. Like the binocs, the scopes had exceptional clarity and contrast. They had 30mm main tubes and big, light-gathering 56mm objective lenses. The illuminated reticle models have MSRPs of $899 and $999. They're available now. A non-illuminated model of the Passion 3-12x56 goes for $599.
Pairing one of these scopes atop a Bergara Highlander for a big game hunt would be a dream review piece for me. Put me in coach!
See more about GPO, USA here.
Lowa INNOX PRO GTX
Comfort in a hunting or hiking boot (they're often interchangeable) is something you really learn to appreciate. That's why I've come to really appreciate Lowa boots. They are among the few boots that seem to always slip easily on and off, don't break down in key support areas and, importantly, for me, have arches in the footbed where I need them.
I checked out this new lightweight, uninsulated, all-synthetic boot at SHOT. A pair weighs just 1.6 pounds. It has a tactical look, but is basically a hiking boot designed for milder climates, I think it could be good upland game footwear as long as you're not in terrain requiring crossing water more than a few inches deep. They have bi-injected midsole for shock absorption and cushioning and a "PU MONOWRAP®" frame with a full-length stabilizing shank that helps with lateral stability. They have closed lace hooks, toe and heel caps and are Gore-Tex lined. The MSRP is $235. I'm looking forward to trying them, possibly on some spring turkey hunts in warmer climates, if they ship soon enough. They're so new, they're not yet listed on the web site.
Pelican Air 1745 Long Case
My Pelican Air travel case that is perfectly sized to be an airline carry-on has become one of my favorite cases for traveling with all my needed photo gear and even a small notebook computer. It is nearly indispensable. Now, Pelican adds a bigger case for people needing to haul larger equipment. The beauty of these cases is you don't sacrifice content for case. The honeycomb design of most of the polymer components makes them strong, but also light, up to 40 percent lighter than many other cases, according to Pelican.
The 1745 Pelican Air Case as a 44-inch-by-16.77-inch-by-8-inch interior offering more than 5,900 square inches of space, making it the deepest Pelican long case. It can handle anything large professional camera and video gear, to surveying equipment and firearms. The latches are impressive. This case is the first Pelican Air case to have Press and Pull latches that lock automatically, but open with a light touch. The case also has an automatic purge valve, quiet rolling stainless-steel bearing wheels and a watertight O-ring gasket. It passes the same performance tests (impact, drop, submersion, high and low temperature) as other Pelican case lines. MSRP starts at $323.95. You can buy it with Pelican’s Pick N’ Pluck Foam or with a model with no foam.
Mac Daddy Caddy
This new product appealed to my sense of gadgetry and desire for ease and comfort when getting around field situations such as dove shoots, goose blinds or similar excursions. Instead of carrying your stuff in a bucket, load it up and roll it out on the Hunter's Edge Mac Daddy Caddy's 10-inch all-terrain air tires. It has an accessory box, ammo pouch, water bottle holders, an 18-can softside cooler and more. The 360-degree swivel seat has a cushion with an ample 3-inches of foam and the back rest has a 2-inch foam pad, all wrapped in 600-denier water resistant fabric.
The unit weighs 33 pounds and can support 300 pounds of weight. At $229.99, it's a little pricey, but if you do this style of hunting routinely, it could be worth a look.
Special Musical Guest - Sundance Head!
Another one by Sundance at the Case Knives' booth
Finally, one of the coolest things about SHOT Show is that it attracts a throng of interesting people walking around the exhibit halls, or meeting/greeting/performing at any of the hundreds of booths. This year, besides introducing their nice, new Case Kickstart Trapperlock knife, the company also brought in Sundance Head, winner of "The Voice" in 2016, to perform at the booth's late afternoon happy hour. Yes, beer and wine, and music if you're lucky, is a regular feature in many booths at the end of each SHOT Show day.
Head was a member of Blake Shelton's team on this incredibly popular show. After The Voice, he toured with Shelton and also performed a couple hundred other dates around the country. He also worked to extricate himself from a deal with a recording label that was mainly interested in hip-hop. Head's brand of "soul country"lent itself to a label better understanding the music and the artist. He signed on as the first artist with legendary songwriter Dean Dillon's new Wildcatter Records label. His first full-length album was just released Jan. 25, 2019 and it's titled, "Stained Glass and Neon." It has a couple songs Head wrote himself, some with Dillon, and others by a bevy of accomplished songwriters. It's good. Fans will believe it was worth the wait. Check out the video for a music video of "Leave Her Wild."
Head grew up hunting and fishing near his home of Porter, Texas, not far from Houston. We're talking about trying to work a spring turkey hunt into the schedule - stand by for news on that one. Also check out our audio interview below where he talks about growing up in East Texas, his love of the outdoors, his new album and where he's heading with his music. When he left the SHOT Show for home, he was planning a camping trip with his youngest son, one where they'd spend some time outdoors and, hopefully, lay the boom on some feral hogs causing problems on his property.
Below is an audio interview with Sundance Head about what he's been up to since winning The Voice, his new album, as well as his love for the outdoors and what he hopes is on his horizon. Yeah, he let me try out his custom-made Taylor guitar. Great guy and we wish him utmost success.