HP’s Elite Eight: Top New Products of 2014 from SHOT Media Day

The SHOT Show Industry (Media) Day at the Range is a very busy place; it’s full of hundreds and hundreds of new products begging for attention. So before I write anything else, I want to say that there is a good chance I missed some fantastic products throughout my interviews and demos. That said, I walked the layout up and down multiple times, and these are the products that I believe will matter the most to all of you handgunners in 2014. There are too many good products to fit into any list, but I had to limit it somewhere, so here goes:

(Numbered, but in no particular order…)

1. Glock 41 and 42

They’re number one for the simple fact that you guys and girls have heard enough buzz already, and I want to set the record straight. Yes, Glock does number sequentially, and yes, I was incorrect about the prospect of an unmentioned Glock 40 showing up at the range on the morning of media day. Maybe Glock thought a Glock 40 would make for caliber confusion, but that’s beside the point. And now for the truth: in all honesty, if I had nothing more than the spec sheet and the press release, I wouldn’t have even included the Glock 42 in this article. Shooting it changed my mind.

The Glock 42 is a single-stack .380 Auto, weighing in at 12.35 ounces without the magazine, and 14.36 ounces fully-loaded (which would vary slightly depending on the ammo). It is just under an inch in width, and about six inches in length overall. A lot of people have complained that for a “tiny” gun, it’s too big. That wasn’t really a problem for me. Although I do wish it was made in a 9mm variant (still have my fingers crossed on a 9mm single-stack G40), I think the extra sight radius and slightly longer grip is a big plus for more accurate shooting under duress. That said, it is about the size of an XDS in .45 with the same number of rounds in the magazine, which represents a lot less stopping power in a similar size. But not everyone can shoot a subcompact .45 well, so there is a counterpoint. Compared to the XDS 9mm, I think the Glock allows for a better grip, but there is still a ballistic advantage to the Springfield at the expense of a little more “snap.” The positives are the same Glock reliability, operating system, and trigger pull most Glock fans have come to expect. For less experienced shooters who are already proficient with the Glock system, that could be a huge factor. But what really changed my mind about the G42 was the recoil; there wasn’t any. Obviously, any .380 is going to recoil less than a subcompact in a larger caliber, so I won’t go into that. But even compared to an all-metal .380 like the Sig P232, I noticed significantly less snap at the muzzle than I’m used to in the caliber. For a light carry gun that stayed on target when I was literally pulling the trigger as fast as I could go, I might actually look for a Glock 42 down the road.

The author shooting a G41 for the first time at SHOT Industry Day at the Range 2014.

The Glock 41 is a G34-width slide mated to a Gen4 G21 frame and chambered in .45 ACP. Surprisingly, even without a lightening cut on top of the slide like the G34 and G35, it weighs an ounce and a half less than the standard Gen4 G21. Despite the fact that my real love in .45 Auto is the 1911, the G41 shot well, and is balanced better when loaded than some of their other large-caliber offerings. It might be a great entry into .45-only divisions in competitive handgun disciplines like IDPA, especially for shooters already well-accustomed to Glock who were waiting on a “competition-tactical” model like the Glock 34 with a longer sight radius.

2. Winchester Win1911 Ammunition

We posted about the prospect of this ammo being released back in November 2013 after seeing Winchester’s press release. The goals Winchester set out left big shoes to fill. That said, the relatively small number of rounds I fired of this stuff put a very big smile on my face. Through a stock Ruger 1911, I had zero failures of any kind, and very respectable accuracy. The OAL also appeared to be consistent (didn’t have any calipers with me, but they looked dead-on). The nickel-plated projectile is very “Silvertip-esque,” and the flat point FMJ profile allows crushing penetration for hunting applications in a pinch. Very special thanks to an awesome person at Winchester for getting us some of this to put through some more T&E in the weeks to come, so keep your eyes peeled for a more in-depth review in the near future!

3. 9mm Springfield Range Officer

This one shouldn’t come as a surprise for all of you who have already been drooling over these for weeks. I have no need for another 9mm 1911, but I can tell you that I’ll probably get this one anyway. For starters, I fired about a half box of 9mm through it myself, and I watched other shooters put at least 300 rounds through it immediately after I finished. Zero malfunctions, zero hiccups, and the accuracy is better than I expected, even in a 5″ gun. At the end of the day I went back and shot it again…as dirty as I’ve ever seen a gun get in one day. I still didn’t have any malfunctions. Other things of note: this gun uses a one-piece stainless steel match barrel, the extractor was well-blended to the rear of the slide, the grip safety was fit better than I’ve seen on any factory Springfield, and the trigger broke cleanly at what I’d guess was hovering slightly below 5 pounds. I know this was a show gun, but I’ve been assured it was nothing special, so I can’t wait to see if that’s true. If it is, the 9mm RO will be a STEAL for the MSRP. The one complaint I have is that the rear “corner” of the thumb safety could have stood to be dehorned a bit more, but that’s a very personal preference of mine because of how high my grip is (it’s also easily remedied). This isn’t a custom 1911, but it would be a very good base gun for a custom build, and the features it has make it a very good value.

4. Sphinx Handguns (All of them…)

For those of you who don’t know what in the world I’m talking about, this is the Kriss solution for handgun shooters. And it’s got more potential than just about anything I shot all day. First, it’s Swiss, so it literally can’t be bad. Second, the components are all machined from billet (obviously excluding the polymer options on some offerings). Third, these guns have the best double action trigger I’ve felt on any factory gun since I can remember; I promise, I’m not exaggerating in the least.

Although several models, such as the stainless-framed standard model above, have not made it to market just yet, this is a brand to watch in 2014. It has a very low bore axis, utilizes a modular frame design to allow it to be tailored to the preference of the shooter, and includes three choices of interchangeable grips with palm swells that allow for more palm contact from the support hand, regardless of the shooter’s hand size. Aluminum-framed models are also available in “Sand” and “Krypton Green,” both of which are neutral colors and go well with existing FDE and ODG accessories from other manufacturers. Smooth recoiling, well-built, lots of options. What’s not to love?!

5. Oakley Prizm Lenses for Radar (Range), M Frame Glasses

This one really surprised me. For whatever reason, I didn’t expect something this awesome from Oakley. That’s in no way meant to shortchange them; I wear Oakley glasses almost every day, and the lenses are great. I just didn’t know they could come up with shooting lenses this much better than what they already offer. What I found out today is I should have done more research, which will be taking place on a daily basis from now until I publish the full product review later this year, thanks to an awesome product team at Oakley. Abbreviated version: PERFECT rose tint to the lenses for high-contrast (bright or low-light) purposes without over-filtering or leaving you squinting behind them, great frame design in the Radar, and (for me) noticeably faster follow up shots due to a better ability to reacquire the front sight under recoil. These lenses are also available to fit M frames, which allows the many shooters already using those to upgrade to these lenses. Bottom line, these are a fantastic product. They are slated to be on OakleySI.com beginning today for all of the LE/Military shooters out there reading, and they will be available to civilian shooters later on this year (possibly also at Gander Mtn. retail stores).

6. Ruger GP100 Match Champion

For all of you revolver fans, this is the coolest one that was at the range today. It’s the rock-solid action of the Ruger GP with a dovetailed (real) Novak’s rear sight and bright fiber-optic front. It also includes nice laser-stippled wood grips, a tapered cylinder for easier holstering, and a very smooth “match” trigger job achieved by some polishing and burnishing of the contact surfaces in the trigger mechanism. As a result, the double-action trigger pull of the Match Champion is very smooth, and possibly a touch lighter as well. All told, if anyone is looking to get into shooting wheelguns, this one would be a great place to start.

7. Federal Premium Trophy Bonded 10mm Ammunition

As far as all of you full-power 10mm fans are concerned, Federal just brought sexy back. As if to acknowledge the inadequacy of the weak 10mm loads that typically come from “big” manufacturers, Federal’s reps made sure to emphasize that this stuff isn’t watered down. It pushes a 180 grain (well-revered) Trophy Bonded Jacketed Soft Point projectile at approximately 1275 fps. This should be a great hunting load (especially for all of you hog hunters), and I included it here because this is the type of performance I like, and I like the fact that it’s coming from a major manufacturer.

8. Winchester Win3Gun Ammunition

Winchester is actually coming out with a lot of new lines this year, and they all look promising. I’m glad to see this from them, because their Ranger and PDX1 lines are fantastic, but I’ve never been too impressed with the range ammo offerings outside of the Super-X line (not a huge Winchester white box fan). This year, we’ve got Win1911 and Win3Gun. The Win3Gun loads are downloaded slightly, and the reduced power factor makes for a very reasonable match load from a major manufacturer in most common competition calibers (.45 ACP, .40 S&W, 9mm, 5.56mm, and 12 gauge loads in both buckshot and 7½ shot). Additionally, the pistol-caliber loads use lead-free primers and heel-encapsulated bullets, which makes for a very clean-firing round. Designed for high-volume practice, I am very interested in the Win3Gun lineup. Can’t wait to try some more of this.

This was my first SHOT Industry Day at the Range, and it was a blast. There were a lot of great products, and I enjoyed looking at all of them. But if I had to choose eight, these would be the ones. I’m sure I’ll add 20 or 30 more things to my list on the SHOT Show floor in just a few hours. But until then, here are the HP Elite Eight. HP

-Colt Driver

*Originally Posted 1/14/2014

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