March 2012

Cool New Guns at SHOT 2012

Our team of writers canvassed the massive Las Vegas show to find the hottest ideas coming down the pike this year.

At the 2012 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Gun Tests staffers ran across dozens of new products that we’re working to include in future tests. There were too many to mention here, but we’ve selected a handful that really tripped our trigger, and might trip yours, too. You can visit our sister site www.GunReports.com to see videos of some of these guns at the range and in the company display booths. — Todd Woodard

Some of the most intriguing developments overall came at old-line manufacturer O.F. Mossberg’s booth. Mossberg’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing Tom Taylor showed us the new Flex shotgun concept and a new gussied-up levergun, the 464 SPX.

The patent-pending 464 SPX Lever-Actions in 22 LR and 30-30 Win. come with 6-postion adjustable stocks, tri-rail forends with rail covers, adjustable fiber optic sights, and optional flash suppressor and muzzle brake on the 30-30 Win. and 22 LR versions, respectively. It’s jarring to shoulder the 6-position adjustable synthetic stock on a lever gun and feel the Picatinny tri-rail forend. But it felt like a superb zombie gun with an 18-inch barrel with rifle sights and a removable, ported muzzle brake version. The receiver features dovetail-style mounts for ease of adding optics. With a full-length mag tube, total capacity is 14.

The Flex System Shotguns are tool-less modular shotguns and accessories that easily convert Mossberg 500 or 590 pump-action shotguns from diverse configurations ranging from tactical platform to foul-weather hunting tools to compact home defense guns.

The patent-pending TLS (Tool-less Locking System) is a series of three connectors that allow stocks, forends and recoil pads to be switched for a variety of shooting applications or easily “custom fit” your Mossberg, regardless of the shooter’s stature. Eleven 500/590 FLEX 12-gauge shotgun base models and 16 FLEX accessory components will be offered initially. Even better, the FLEX Hunting shotguns feature Mossberg’s patent-pending LPA (Lightning Pump Action) Adjustable Trigger System that is user-adjustable from 3 to 8 pounds. See Ralph Winingham’s turkey-shotgun story elsewhere in this issue for a fuller description of the trigger.

The Caracal F is a modern semi-automatic pistol in 9mmx19. It supports an 18-round magazine and boasts a short trigger pull, extremely-low-profile slide and bore axis, and Caracal Quick Acquisition Sight System. Product Coordinator Kevin Winkle was so taken by the Caracals that he bid on and won two of the pistols at a media event. Contributing Editor Roger Eckstine, who shot the Caracal extensively, praised the gun as having a very good trigger, low felt recoil, and a good grip. He also liked the Quick Acquisition Sight System. The F model comes with an 18-round magazine and should retail below $500. Caracal International is a small-arms manufacturer launched in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in 2007. They enter the U.S. market through a subsidiary, Caracal USA, based in Trussville, Alabama. For more information, visit www.caracal-usa.com.

Merkel claims the new linear-bolt-action RX Helix is the fastest-operating centerfire bolt action in the world. The RX Helix is a straight-pull rifle with seven locking lugs in a hard-anodized-aluminum action housing. The RX Helix’s in-line bolt handle movement is transmitted to the bolt head at a ratio of one-to-two using a transmission gearing system. Merkel says this means the linear-bolt-action system cycles exceptionally fast.The RX Helix features a manual cocking lever on the tang and a direct trigger system. The rifle is a takedown design and can be dismantled without tools for cleaning or transportation. The rifle’s universal action length covers cartridges from .222 Rem. to .300 Win. Mag., and changing calibers takes less than a minute with the appropriate barrel, bolt and magazine. Weaver rails are integrated into the action, and fast-acquisition iron sights with three-dot rear and one-dot front fiber-optic inserts are standard. MSRP for the standard black rifle with Grade 2 wood is $3795.

Where the Mossberg SPX is a radical update of the lever gun, the new Winchester Model 94 Trails End Takedown ($1460) is a classic version of the genre that’s even handier than a fixed-length carbine. Chambered for 30/30 Win. and .450 Marlin, it easily disassembles into two parts for storage or transport. It features a walnut stock and forearm with satin finish with a straight grip. The 20-inch barrel and the receiver are blue steel. Overall lengths are 38 inches. The 450 Marlin version features a thick Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad and barrel porting to help reduce muzzle jump.

Advanced Armament Corp.’s recently introduced 300 AAC Blackout round provides a .30-caliber cartridge that can be employed as a silenced subsonic round or as a higher-velocity supersonic round, using 220- or 125-grain bullets. Now AAC is chambering the BKT round in a compact bolt-action rifle threaded for suppressors. The AAC Micro shoots the 7.62x35mm BKT from a factory-threaded barrel with a 1:8 twist rate. On top, there’s a receiver-mounted Picatinny rail for optics. Other features include an externally adjustable X-Mark Pro trigger and an adjustable cheek riser on the stock. (www.Advanced-Armament.com)

Browning’s venerable Citori 725 has been made over with a new lower-profile receiver, but it maintains the same full-width hinge pin and tapered locking-bolt design. It also incorporates the new FireLite mechanical trigger that provides reduced take up, shorter overtravel, and a crisper break. We have a story by Ralph Winingham in house that compares the Browning 725 and the old Browning XS, so more details on this model are forthcoming.

Gun Tests’ Contributing Editor Roger Eckstine found Springfield’s brand-new XDS 45 ACP at the Media Range Day. The micro-sized XDS was secret, and no one knew that the gun, smaller than a Glock 36, existed until media members showed up and saw the 4-inch-tall .45. Roger learned from world-class shooter Rob Leatham how easy it was to shoot this tiny gun with control and accuracy. With the iPhone 4S camera rolling, Roger knocked down steel plates with the tiny XDS, which you can see on a video at www.GunReports.com.

The gun has a slide less than an inch wide. With a 5-round mag inserted, the gun weighed 30 ounces. With a barrel length of 3.3 inches, it’s half an inch shorter than the Glock 36. In Gun Tests evaluations, the Glock 36 hasn’t done so well because it’s hard to shoot, but Roger said the XDS is smooth and controllable.

Springfield representatives couldn’t quote a price for the .45, which if it does well in future testing, might truly be suitable for carry in a pocket holster, in place of a .380. As noted, the stainless-steel magazines have 5-round capacities, and the 3.3-inch barrel is Melonite coated and fully ramped. The trigger-pull range is said to be from 5.5 to 7.7 pounds. OAL is 6.3 inches and the height is a scant 4.4 inches.

The CZ 455 rimfire bolt-action line is consolidates all the receivers of the Model 452 line onto one uniform platform while adding the ability to change barrels, rimfire calibers, and stocks. All 455 models feature an action machined from bar stock, an adjustable trigger, a detachable magazine feed, cold-hammer forged barrels, and a standard 11mm optic-mounting dovetails.

Four new models enter the 455 model line this year, our favorite being the CZ 455 Varmint with SS Evolution Sky Blue/Gray laminated stock. While the bolt is on the right-hand side, the SS Evolution stock is designed to be fully ambidextrous, including cheek piece, teardrop pistol grip, and palm swell. The $522 base rifle is available in 22 LR, but also accepts all accessory barrels in all rimfire calibers.

One of the nice accessories we saw was Century International Arms’ new Romanian-made recoil-reducing buttstock. Designed to reduce felt recoil by up to 50 percent, it will be available on the Century Arms WASR rifle. The Recoilless Buttstock will be available separately for existing rifles.

Remington is thinking outside the box with its new Model 700 SPS Tactical Blackhawk ($850, in 223 Rem. and 308 Win.), mating a Model 700 bolt action to a 20-inch heavy-contour barrel. The Blackhawk recoil-reducing stock has a built-in recoil reduction system and six adjustable positions that allow a length of pull from 11.25 to 15.25 inches. The buttstock includes a full pistol grip with rubberized inserts. The rifle is drilled and tapped for optics.

The 338 Lapua MAG TRR is part of the Weatherby Threat Response line and goes for a hefty $2900. It features the same barrel, Accubrake, and bedding block as the Accumark, but comes with an ergonomic full-pistol grip and a stock adjustable for length of pull, cast, and comb height. An adjustable trigger comes set at 3 pounds.-GT