The Sporting Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show is where most firearms and outdoor manufacturing companies introduce their newest products and technology. While the SHOT Show had an original focus on hunting and other outdoor sports, in the past several years, there is an ever-increasing law enforcement section.
The 2008 SHOT Show featured many companies offering new, innovative products as well companies offering new versions of older, proven workhorse designs. These longstanding companies continue to offer products that have long been recognized for the quality service that they provide and the protection that they offer. Companies such as Colt, Bianchi, Point Blank, Spyderco and many others continue to offer law enforcement proven designs that have worked for decades and have been so ensconced within the law enforcement arena that they are legends.
All in all, some new products will flourish and provide years of hard service, others will fail in their infancy—some for good reason. The SHOT Show is a good gauge of the variety of products being brought to the market for law enforcement and the trends that companies see as the needs of law enforcement across the world as a whole. The next SHOT Show is set for Orlando, FL in January 2009. Information on the show including dates, times and admission requirements can be found on the Web site.
While there were literally hundreds of companies with new lines or improvements to their older products, there were a few that stuck out as having items that would be especially applicable to law enforcement officers and agencies. Here is a glimpse.
Immediately before the February SHOT Show, Bushmaster and MagPul Industries reached an agreement where Bushmaster would buy the rights to MagPul’s 5.56mm Masada rifle and produce the design under the moniker Advanced Combat Rifle. This polymer-bodied rifle is one of the most advanced designs on the market—taking design features from some of the best rifles in the world and adding new innovations. The rifle is modular and capable of being set up exactly to fit the end user requirements no matter whether that is for a general purpose rifle or a close-quarters battle weapon.
The original MagPul Masada design was much heralded in the firearms press and with knowledgeable trainers and insiders as being an excellent design that holds great promise. By selling the rights to Bushmaster, who has long been known to have a significant manufacturing and distribution capability, the Advanced Combat Rifle (ACR) will reach the market place in sufficient numbers and in a time frame that it will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the law enforcement market.
This Salt Lake City-based firearms company has a history of producing Derringer-style firearms and other low-cost pistols that are meant to provide for inexpensive self-defense options for many people. Recently however, Cobra Firearms has begun to realize that many officers who are new to the profession or who are raising a young family need off-duty and back-up weapons that offer reliable protection at an affordable price.
Of particular interest is the Cobra Patriot series of pistols. The low-cost yet well-made pistol is available in 380 auto, 9mm and .45 ACP. It is the .45 ACP version that will likely interest most officers, as it is a very flat, concealable striker-fired pistol that features a polymer frame and stainless steel slide.
The Patriot 45 is only 4.74 inches high and 6 inches long overall, but it features a 3.3-inch barrel in just 20 ounces. The pistol uses the same magazine as the ubiquitous M1911 pistol, thus making it the ideal back-up for officers who use that platform as a duty weapon. Several new improvements are being considered for the Patriot 45 including a new style front sight, which may feature a night sight insert.
FN Herstal has been a major source of military weapons for many countries for more than 100 years. The company currently manufactures over 70% of all weapons used by the U.S. military, including both belt-fed machine guns (the M240 and M249) and rifles (the M16A2). FNH USA weapons range from the space-age-appearing P90 5.7x28mm personal defense weapon to the new SCAR-L and SCAR-H rifles.
New for 2008 is the law enforcement introduction of the SCAR-L and SCAR-H rifles. These rifles were originally developed for the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The SCAR, which is an acronym for Special Combat Automatic Rifle, has been developed in two versions, which are denoted as “L” and “H.” The SCAR-L is a 5.56 NATO (.223 Rem) rifle, while the SCAR-H is a 7.62 NATO (.308 Win) rifle. Each rifle features a quick-change barrel with options running 10 inches, 14 inches and 18 inches for the SCAR-L and 13 inches, 16 inches and 20 inches for the SCAR-H.
The SCAR-H holds great promise for agencies that work in rural patrol settings or that have mission profiles in areas where the defeating of intermediate barriers would be paramount. However, it is the SCAR-L that will ultimately see the most law enforcement use. This rifle, which uses standard NATO STANAG magazines (M16 pattern), features a stock that is adjustable not only for length but also that is capable of folding.
Officers who are familiar with the M16 series of weapons will immediately feel at home with the ambidextrous controls of the SCAR. FNH recognized that the design of that weapons system was very ergonomic, and while improvements in terms of reliability and durability of the overall weapon have been made, the “feel” remains the same—an important point for transition training.
In addition to the SCAR rifles, FN also introduced the FHP-45 handgun. This .45 ACP caliber weapon was developed as a result of the U.S. military’s search for a new issue handgun. The FNP-45 features a traditional DA/SA method of operation and is available in either a de-cocker or manual safety format. With a capacity of 14 rounds of .45 ACP and backstraps that are interchangeable for size or preference, the FNP-45 is set to lead the way for FN to enter into the law enforcement pistol market in a major way.
This small company has proven itself to be innovative and responsive. Mesa Tactical offers a variety of component parts that will turn the “old” technology of the 12-gauge slide action shotgun into a state-of-the-art firearm. Mesa Tactical produces a series of replacement stocks for several of the most common law enforcement shotguns including the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500/590.
These stocks, including the newly introduced LEO model, created specifically at the request of law enforcement, offer the adjustability of a sliding stock coupled with the controllability of a pistol grip. The stocks are a direct replacement for the factory units and are able to be user installed very quickly. The units are of the best quality and allow for the use of the Enidine recoil reduction system. This system dampens the felt recoil produced by the 12-gauge cartridge and will allow for greater control of the weapon by all officers.
In addition to both stocks and the recoil reduction systems, Mesa Tactical offers a variety of accessory components that will turn the simple shotgun into a high-tech firearm. With accessories such as no-gunsmith mounts for optics, spare ammunition carriers and mounts for tactical lighting and slings, the products offered by this company will help assure that the shotgun will remain in the first line law enforcement inventory for a long time to come.
Microtech Small Arms Research
Microtech is not a name that most would place with firearms. In fact, it is a company with high-tech manufacturing capability at the very core. Many would recognize the Steyr AUG bull-pup rifle as a firearm that was well ahead of its time when introduced. It offered a variety of features not then found on many weapons. The weapon found favor with several law enforcement and military organizations around the world because it allowed a relatively small weapon to offer the same barrel length and ballistic capabilities as a much longer, more awkward weapon. While it did see widespread service in Europe, it was always a relatively minor player in the U.S. market and eventually, due to several factors, was no longer offered for sale in the United States.
As time has progressed, the genius of the AUG and it capabilities became even more appreciated. As rifles are once again becoming commonplace in the hands of officers, the time is now right for the reintroduction of the design.
Since it was originally conceived, however, the manufacturing has changed as has an understanding of what was right and wrong with the original design. As such, Microtech has set about to bring a superior version to the market.
Available currently in 5.56mm, the MSAR is now being offered to qualified law enforcement officers and agencies. The bull-pup has a 16.5-inch barrel and comes with either a 9-inch Picatinny rail or integral 1.5X optic. On the horizon, with deliveries set for early summer, is the pistol caliber version of the weapon, which will feature the ability to convert to all standard law enforcement calibers including the 9mm, .40 S&W, 10mm and .45 ACP. This version will use readily available Glock magazines in a variety of barrel lengths.
Safariland needs no introduction to law enforcement officers as the company holds a significant market share in terms of uniform and tactical duty holsters. It is a well deserved reputation, and the company officials do not take their place in the industry lightly. Continuing with the development of the excellent Automatic Locking System (ALS) line of holsters, Safariland has introduced a tactical version of the series that has deleted the rotating hood of the previous versions. This version is still very secure and balances speed of use with required security in a most responsible manner.
Safariland has also introduced a new line of load-bearing gear that will allow attachment of accessories to a standard MOLLE platform including a magazine holder for use with M16 magazines. The unit, which is the model 774, is secure and can be affixed to tactical vests and plate carriers with ease using the supplied molle attachment. In addition to using the 774 with the molle adaptor, the unit will also mount to the 6004-9, which is an improved leg shroud system that will allow for the carriage of a wide range of accessories, including magazine holders and less-lethal holsters.
Recognizing that many officers need a forward-mounting option for tactical lights or other accessories on their rifles, Safariland has introduced the RK-M4. This rail mount is a lightweight, inexpensive option to affix these accessories for officers who either do not want or need a much more expensive fore-end system or who, by policy, can not alter the weapon in that manner.
Officers undoubtedly recognize the name and quality that is SIG SAUER. New for 2008 is the P250 polymer framed pistol. What makes this pistol unique and in direct line with the needs of many is that it features interchangeable frames, slides and magazines. This is first in the industry in that the pistol is built around a removable metal framework that contains all of the operating parts in the lower receiver. The hammer, trigger and all internal parts are kept within this framework.
It is this frame that is the serial numbered part of the weapon, and containing everything in one unit allows for the P250 to have the capability to be issued with multiple frames. Envision having one pistol that is capable of being a full-size, compact or sub-compact pistol all by changing only simple component parts. The change over is easy enough for a nominally trained user to accomplish.
Departments that are now required by court decisions to provide reasonable weapon accommodations in terms of size and manipulation for officers not of a “standard” size, the P250 will allow for the same weapons system to be issued throughout the agency with the only difference being which frame the officer uses at any given time. This is a huge plus for training and accessory acquisition.
In addition to being at the forefront of providing law enforcement handguns, SIG SAUER has made a commitment to bring to U.S. law enforcement agencies a line of the highest quality patrol rifles. Featured at the SHOT Show was the Sig 556 SWAT. This rifle features a 16-inch barrel with the excellent MagPul CTR collapsible butt-stock. Using standard NATO pattern 5.56mm magazines, the same as the M16, the weapon features Picatinny rails on the upper receiver for mounting of optics as well as a “quad-rail” Picatinny-style fore-end for mounting of lights, lasers and similar accessories. SIG SAUER is now about to introduce its own tactical lights and optics for use with these weapons as well as many others on the market.
Smith & Wesson
Smith & Wesson re-committed to the law enforcement arena several years ago in a major way, and at this year’s SHOT Show, it continued to reinforce that commitment. Introduced at the show was the new mid-sized M&P45. The standard-size M&P45 has really taken off and been adopted by numerous law enforcement agencies in the past year. However, it is large for some officers and may be difficult to conceal. S&W realized that this could be a problem and chose to bring out the mid-sized version of the weapon, which has a 4-inch barrel as opposed to the full sized version’s 4.5 inches.
Still of a size that will find it residing in many uniform duty holsters, the new weapon has an overall length of 7.55 inches and a weight of 27.7 ounces. While the reduction in size and weight does not seem much on paper, in reality it makes a huge difference while giving up only one round of capacity to the fully sized weapon. This one “is just right.” The mid-sized M&P45 is sure to become a huge hit among officers with small hands, detectives and those choosing weapon for off-duty carry.
In addition to the outstanding versions of the M&P semi-automatic pistols, S&W continues to improve the M&P15 series of 5.56mm rifles, offering several models to fit any need. Now that S&W has firmly re-established the Military and Police line-up with these products, the company has returned to its foundation, revolvers. The M&P340 and 340CT represent what is perhaps the pinnacle of law enforcement back-up guns.
Both of these Centennial-style weapons come standard with XS Sights with a tritium night sight and integral U-notch. The 340CT comes equipped from the factory with a set of the much-heralded Crimson Trace laser grips. Much like the mid-sized M&P45, both weapons seem to fit in the hand perfectly and, just as important, they carry in a comfortable and inconspicuous manner. They weigh just 13.3 ounces.
In addition to the 340s, Smith is offering the M&PR8. Had this revolver been available in the mid-1980s, before the mass law enforcement adoption of the semi-automatic pistol, it would have ruled as the law enforcement handgun. Holding eight rounds of potent .357 Magnum, this 36.3-ounce handgun proves that the revolver is still relevant in modern day law enforcement.
Some unique features of the R8 bring it even further forward in time as the space afforded by a revolver and the solid frame allow for the pistol to support an upper and lower Picatinny rail. This allows for the pistol to readily mount a red-dot-style optic on top while at the same time a tactical light or laser forward under the barrel. It was developed as part of a request by a major municipal police agency for tactical officers using ballistic shields. The M&PR8 and the M&P340 revolvers represent the absolute apex of the development of law enforcement revolver technology.
As one of the leaders in law enforcement tactical lighting, many officers and agencies look to SureFire as an innovator. This year is no exception. SureFire is set to once again turn the tactical lighting market on its ear with several new LED-based introductions. Now being delivered to the market in quantity, the 110-lumen X300 tactical light is leading the industry in terms of an exceedingly rugged and bright light in a very small package.
Aimed straight at the law enforcement market, the E1B Back-up has been designed to serve detectives and off-duty officers as a small and unobtrusive primary light while serving as the back-up illumination source to a uniformed officer. The E1B is an 80-lumen, LED-based light that runs off of one 3-volt 123A-style lithium battery. The light has a switch with two settings: one delivering 80 lumens for 1.3 hours of continuous light, and the other is 5 lumens for 37 hours. The Back-up is sized so that it is unobtrusive and fits either bezel down or bezel up in a pocket or on a belt, out of the way until needed.
Also introduced at SHOT are two lights sure to find a home with officers serious about safety who are willing to purchase top-of-the-line tools to provide an edge. The UA2 Optimus is somewhat of a departure for SureFire. It features variable output; a built-in “fuel gauge;” and, as a first for SureFire, a tactical strobe setting. The UA2 runs from 2 lumens all the way up to 200 lumens. At 2 lumens, the light will run for more than 100 hours. The light weighs only 6.5 ounces and is just 6.5 inches in length.
The UA2 represents a high degree of technology, and it is not the only new light of this type that SureFire introduced at SHOT. The UB2 Invictus is only slightly larger (6.9 inches) and slightly heavier (8.0 ounces) than the UA2, but it produces double the lumens. Like the UA2, the UB2 is also variable in intensity and will run from 2 lumens all the way up to an eye-searing 400 lumens—all from two 123A lithium batteries.
Long known as “the night sight company,” Trijicon has been a leading supplier of law enforcement sights for many years. It has also become a leading supplier of tactical optical sights to the U.S. military.
At the 2008 SHOT Show, the company introduced the model RX30, a new larger version of its older reflex sighting system. This new sight uses a bigger sight tube with improved light gathering capabilities. Powered by tritium, the sight does not require batteries and will provide a reliable sight picture under all lighting conditions.
This unit is being offered at a very competitive price, which will make it attractive to officers and agencies alike.
Also new at Trijicon is the Red Dot. This extremely small optic is extremely lightweight and is capable of being mounted and used on either a pistol or long rifle. Also, it has a long run time off of one lithium battery. The Red Dot is capable of being “dual mounted” with a magnified optic, such as the excellent ACOG, so the officer will have both a long-range and close-quarters sighting system.
While there is a wide range of products now being introduced to the market, it is impossible to sort through all of them in one article. Many other items are just as worthy of consideration, such as a revolutionary fabric that is coming to market from a company called Westex. It will offer much improved flame and flash resistance. This fabric, which can be made to look like anything from a standard patrol uniform, tactical jumpsuit or even a pair of blue jeans, has been in use in the electrical field for many years and has a proven track record. Taking the fabric and partnering with companies that have law enforcement and military connections will benefit all involved.
Scott Oldham is a supervisory sergeant with the Bloomington, IN Police Department where he is assigned to the Operations Division as patrol supervisor, as well as being one of the team leaders for the department’s Tactical Unit. He and his partner, Sergeant Mick Williams, provide contract instruction on a wide range of subjects, including tactical and patrol-based skills. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.