SHOT SHOW 2024 ROUNDUP
Author: Frank Woods
Here’s a quick look at some of the noteworthy things I saw between meetings during the week of SHOT 2024:
1.) Spiritus Systems: Low Vis Plate Carrier & Thing 4
The low vis plate carrier caught my eye because it’s one of the slickest among armored load bearing Covert second line gear I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a commercially available item, however I thought it was really well made and laid out.
The Thing 4 was a new piece of kit Spiritus had on display that will be commercially available. What caught my eye about it was how they expanded the side wing fields to 4 columns each, to increase the real estate and therefore the variety of pouches once could configure the rig with. This was appealing to me because one of my biggest pet peeves about the build-a-bear style micro rigs that need to be pieced together is that they’re usually short on pouch real estate and therefore modularity, which kind of shoehorns them into minimalist roles and configurations. Now, you have the option, but don’t have to use it if you don’t need to. That’s how it ought to be done.
2.) Eagle Industries: Return of the old school
Something that completely caught me off guard as I walked by was the fact that Eagle Industries is back in full force as a gear manufacturer. In the past during its time as an asset of the larger Vista Outdoor conglomerate that had a gigantic pavilion style booth in the main room (the “10K room”), Eagle Industries had maybe a little section showing off a few pieces of product that were kind of the same old among a limited product offering in recent years.
This year however, they had their own dedicated booth in the LE & Tactical side (the shmedium or “30K rooms”) decked out with a whole suite of kit, and a lot of new product we’ve never seen before. What immediately caught my eye and drew me in was the familiar architecture of a particular vest on one of the mannequins; a closer look confirmed that my eyes did not deceive me, this was in fact an RRV (Rhodesian Recon Vest) or more accurately, the RRV 2.0
For those of us old enough to remember 9/11 and therefore the beginning of the GWOT, it wasn’t but a few years later that upon becoming old enough to buy our own firearms, our interest in gear developed along with it. Everyone that was around back then can tell you: among few noteworthy gear manufacturers (compared to myriad options today), Eagle Industries was THE SHIT that all the cool guys were using. The RRV was a staple among load bearing kit back in the early days of MOLLE gear.
Though it was associated with Navy SEALs (and the Rangers, to a lesser extent) during the early to mid 00s, the RRV came to my attention when Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots concept art and trailers first debuted in 2005, and Solid (or Old) Snake wore it in that game; as I said in my MGS4 M4A1 article, that game today serves as a time capsule of what was considered the state of the art in small arms gear and equipment back then. It ultimately informed my acquisition of one, and I still use my RRV + back piece today in instances where I need to carry the same load my plate carrier can, minus the plates.
To that end, I immediately had three questions for the guys at the Eagle Industries booth regarding the RRV 2.0, which is pretty much an RRV made with modern manufacturing and materials:
1.) Will I be able to buy one of these?
2.) Will it come in Ranger Green?
3.) Will you develop a rear panel for it?
The answers were Yes, Yes, and Eventually. Another criticism of mine regarding the aforementioned build-a-bear minimalist style kit was that they all (Crye, Spiritus, Blue Force Gear, Velocity Systems) kinda sorta flirted with the RRV configuration, but never quite fully committed to the same form factor. The RRV 2.0 is a return to form in the classic sense, with all the modern gear design benefits like lighter, stronger, laser cut materials.
Needless to say, I am very much looking forward to getting my hands on an RRV 2.0 in Ranger Green to upgrade my personal kit to a more modern form factor.
3.) Cobalt Kinetics & Dark Storm Industries: 21st Century AR-15 FULLY AMBIDEXTROUS lower receivers.
I’ve got friends at both Cobalt and DSI; in the case of the former, Gabriel is a close friend I can confide in that I met from when he was at Rosco Barrels, and I know Michael Paez from when he was with SOLGW. When they first joined the Cobalt team, we got on the phone and they picked my brain some regarding product development. This was about two years ago; I said to them hey, if you’re going to go through the trouble of making your own receivers with a proprietary rail from billet, and you’re gonna charge a premium for those rifles, go all the way and make the lower receiver fully ambidextrous.
When I say fully ambidextrous, I mean that the bolt release AND bolt catch functions have controls on BOTH sides of the lower receiver (not JUST the bolt release), in conjunction with the safety and mag release (both of which are drop in parts that any lower can take already). Last year I highlighted nine different companies that were moving in this direction: it is the future.
Every new rifle designed nowadays has fully ambi controls, and it’s an easy thing to do to the AR platform; If you’re gonna go through the trouble of making a premium rifle in house, give the rifle everything you can to give it as many advantages as possible to the end user.
So this year, Gabriel told me to take a gander at the Cobalt rifles at the Aimpoint and EOtech booths. When I did, I was happy to discover that it was equipped with a fully ambidextrous bolt catch in the form factor I tend to prefer. It’s a one piece component, and it works like the HK, SilencerCo, or ADM styles of ambi controls in terms of ergonomics, all of which are more mature forms of the Teal Blue Bravo PDQ from back in the day.
I’m pleased to see my suggestion didn’t fall on deaf ears over at Cobalt. Though it was never in doubt, it’s now actually very easy to say Cobalt stands among the likes of KAC, LMT, Radian, etc, as it pertains to having a premium quality AR-15 that requires no architectural modifications out of the box that would necessitate armorer or gunsmith skills; just attach your enablers and get to zeroing.
Dark Storm also followed suit with the introduction of their new MFR (Modern Fighting Rifle) product line. Among a number of engineering upgrades that make the MFR a versatile option for a considerably valued and competitive price with the bigger brands on the market is also a fully ambidextrous bolt catch in the same style as the HK, SilencerCo, and Cobalt ambi bolt catches, albeit in a different geometry.
DSI is local to me, and I have been a customer of theirs for over ten years now. I have watched them grow from a small business to a respected force in the industry sphere. I have watched them move up the ranks from a medium booth in the 30K room, to a larger booth in the Caesar’s Forum side of the expo, to a large booth in the 10K room right next to Magpul and Surefire. I’m proud of them to say the least, not only for their continued success and development, but at their ability to innovate new products.
I had the opportunity to take an MFR lower for a spin while I was running diagnostics on the GPR-K, and to say I was impressed is putting it lightly. Suffice it to say, I would not hesitate to recommend the MFR to those curious, even as their first AR. My only nitpicks about it are that the barrel is 1/9 instead of 1/8 or 1/7, and you’re limited to a physical handguard wrap to get external heat shielding between your hand and the rail where your support hand could end up. Kudos to the little guy for taking a big step into the future.
4.) SOLGW, Daniel Defense, Palmetto State Armory: Stoner Cut Supremacy
Some of my friends are familiar with this ongoing skit I do where I pretend to talk like evangelical zealot and pontificate in favor of the Stoner Cut receiver pattern for large frame ARs the likes of which are chambered in 7.62×51 or 6.5 Creedmoor. The most noteworthy examples of this are the KAC SR-25, LMT 308 rifles, Geissele Joy/MRGG rifle, Maxim Defense MD11, and Armalite AR-10, among others. As I’m preaching I also shit all over the rounded or curved cut DPMS receiver pattern for its innate inferiority.
So when I see companies introduce a large frame AR with Stoner Cut receivers (as Eugene intended), or convert from DPMS cut to Stoner Cut, I celebrate that development. This year, the Supremacy welcomed two new entrants: SOLGW via architecture conversion, and Palmetto State Armory via their M110 clone-ish Sabre rifles. Daniel Defense has been here since the advent of the DD5V1 nearly a decade ago, but this year they had a sweet 12.5″ barreled SBR version of it that caught my eye since I’ve been playing with the idea of a 12.5″ barreled 7.62×51 blaster, not unlike the new Sage Dynamics collaboration SOLGW showed this year among other Stoner Cut receiver configurations.
Again, welcome to the Supremacy boys, cheers to your pedigree coming that much closer to the Creator’s vision and intent; the more of you that are out there, the less DPMS pattern receivers are being circulated. Hopefully in the near future it will only exist as a memory of what should never have been.
This message brought to you by the Stoner Cut Gang.
5.) Palmetto State Armory: The Massoud Rides Again!
Another thing I wasn’t even aware of that a friend brought to my attention is the .308 version of the JAKL that PSA had on display. This is worthy of note for two reasons:
I voted for the .308 JAKL, the JAKL Olcan, and the Sabre Enhanced M4
1.) PSA took an interesting approach to product development by letting the customer base have a say in which product they bring to market next by providing a poll to vote among all the prototypes they had on display at SHOT. This is unique in that we’ve never really seen companies do this on such a large scale before, and I wonder if other companies will follow suit in a time when people have become very vocal about the industry listening to their product requests (even though they don’t really understand how the machine works, but kudos to PSA for figuring out a way to placate that).
2.) As the 5.56 JAKL is to the ACR or Magpul Masada, the .308 JAKL is to the Magpul Massoud, the Masada’s battle rifle big brother chambered in 7.62×51 that never made it past prototype stage after the way Bushmaster tanked the ACR debut and the sales and support for it never manifested until the aftermarket picked up those reigns years later.
This is pretty cool for a bunch of us that watched the ACR & FN SCAR go head to head fighting it out for which rifle would be the modular champion that replaced the M4A1, since both had 5.56 and 7.62×51 versions to compare between. Although neither rifle platform ended up unseating the King that is the Stoner Rifle, a lot of us were clamoring to get both the Masada AND Massoud back in the day; both were developed by Magpul, and Magpul had thought of everything to include with them in terms of feature and function.
Although the ACR experienced something of a renaissance and a cult-like following, the Massoud was deprived of this as we were deprived of the Massoud. Although there are some obvious architectural differences between the .308 JAKL and the Massoud, this is the closest we’ve ever gotten to owning one. For that reason, I might just consider getting one as a range toy. I went over to play with it and I wasn’t unimpressed to say the least. It felt pretty solid, if a little hefty. But it is a battle rifle at the end of the day.
6.) Harrington & Richardson: Retro on tap
Harrington & Richardson has made something of a splash recently as the company that’s focused and dedicated to producing myriad retro style reproductions. If you remember the short lived Retro Series that Brownells abandoned (that was stupid), you pretty much get where H&R is going. Only difference is they’ve just expanded on the offerings and in some pretty cool ways.
Among the eye catchers at their booth this year were the JSOC pre-GWOT tube handguard upper equipped rifle, a Colt M16A2 LMG style HBAR rifle, and a DOE 9mm style PCC. But what caught my eye? The complete Blood Diamond carbine configuration. I actually asked H&R CEO Mike Wetteland if this was intentional, and he nodded in the affirmative.
That made me smile; my Blood Diamond carbine drew a lot of attention years ago when it was the first noteworthy and successful attempt to clone that rifle that was actually worth looking at before everyone else started doing them, but it was a pain in the ass to actually do and get all the pieces together. I’m happy that people won’t have to jump through hoops to do it, they can just buy one of the H&R guns (this one was in a pistol configuration), then all they gotta do is stamp it, stock it, and paint it. Good luck with the light mount and Aimpoint mount though, those two are still the hardest parts to source.
7.) 5.11: Dressed to the 9s
5.11 premiered a whole new clothing line that will put them on the same level as Crye, Arc’teryx, Beyond, and other bougie combat apparel designers. This isn’t merely the “We have it at home” version, this is legit: The materials selection, fabric cuts, and aesthetics are all there. A SWAT friend of mine enthusiastically told me to go check out the V.XI (5.11, get it?) like and I’m glad that I did. They didn’t have any pricing info though, so the jury’s still out on that.
8.) Javi!: More than meets the eye
Javier Mendez wanted to show me this fanny pack he made and when he showed me what it was designed for and how it worked, I was impressed. And I’m not a fanny pack guy. And you don’t have to be either. This thing’s really cool, but I can’t talk about why just yet. You’ll have to stay tuned. And if you’re one of the other people I saw him showing it to, do the homie a favor; shut the fuck up and don’t tell anybody because you wanna be “the guy in the know.”
That’s all I saw that I found compelling as far as products go. I did manage to see some old friends and smile a few times along the way. Not a bad week overall.
Stay in this L.A.N.E.