As I have all 3 years at SHOT I attended the FirstSpear range day on the Monday, which was excellent as usual. It’s small but the guns available to shoot are always top notch, as are the gear manufacturers displaying at the venue. This year I also travelled all the way from the location (that wasn’t too far from the California state line) through Vegas and up to Nellis Air Force base to the North-East of town to check out the ATAC Global range day. It is a larger affair it must be said, however only active military, LE, emergency responders and certain other people who are integral in the firearms industry can attend.
Although not within the confines of the base itself, the ranges used by ATAC are part of the land that is owned by the USAF station, so sadly no pictures or video were allowed without a media badge and I don’t think I would’ve had the credentials for that, so I paid about $25 for a normal ticket and used my MOD 90 in conjunction when showing up in my Uber. I’d only been made aware of the fact this range day was even in existence when speaking to somebody back in 2016 when first attending SHOT, though I have to apologise to them if they’re reading as I can’t recall who it was now.
Without any imagery I’ll do my best to give some brief description of what I was able to shoot, as there were quite a few interesting weapons and systems on show.
First off Aimpoint AB had a stand and you were given 3 mags of 10 frangible rounds to go through the stand, first shooting a LaRue Tactical AR-15 with the latest CompM5 dot, then using a magnifier, but then things got REALLY interesting with the Aimpoint ‘Concealed Engagement Unit’ which is something I posted about during DSEI.
The shooter holds their rifle perpendicular to the body, with the stock on the outside of the firing hand elbow, even though one would naturally expect to press the butt pad against the inside of the bicep. Holding the weapon around waist or chest height you then look down through the CEU and will see a smaller version of a regular sight picture, looking through the accompanying red dot sight. Firing at steel targets at 20-50m was quite honestly the strangest shooting experience I’ve ever had and somewhat scary in a way because the FOV through the optic is rather narrow. I didn’t have a wall to shoot around, so I had to really keep my wits about me in terms of not losing the steel targets through the sight and then potentially rotating too far in searching for them, only to end up pointing a ready firearm somewhere I shouldn’t. I took my time however and with the very light recoil of the AR hitting the targets was far easier than expected.
Next up was the B&T stand and this was my first time shooting anything they make. Starting with the USW – Universal Service Weapon:
The USW is certainly one of the best ideas in the realm of firearms for police I’ve seen in a while. It’s pretty much a Sphinx Pistol, which itself now comes under the KRISS USA banner. The USW however has a very different frame, with a hollow area at the rear to both mount the unique Aimpoint NANO in a fixed manner and also fully encapsulate the moving slide such that the shooter cannot get whacked in the nose.
The stock is thin and not super rigid with a small contact area for the shoulder, though it weighs almost nothing being plastic and does an impressively good job for how slim it is. The overall package is probably less than 2″ longer than a normal service or duty sized pistol, only very slightly bulkier and heavier but the the effectiveness at range is superb. I could easily hit targets presented (slightly smaller than the average torso) out to around 50-60m with reasonable speed even though the area for the support hand to grip is minimal since there’s no foregrip. With the stock folded you’ve got a gun that holsters pretty normally and shoots just like a normal handgun, except the red dot doesn’t cycle and sight picture is easily maintained. By flipping out the stock I’d say you instantly gain the equivalent of years of training and many thousands of rounds in shooting practice by simply adding that point of contact and taking almost all muzzle rise out of the weapon.
Following the USW was a few rounds out of the APC:
Being a compact 9mm carbine there’s not a lot I can really say. You pick it up and certainly feel the construction quality, the recoil is of course barely there even with the plastic lower. It’s a straight blowback, however it fires from the closed bolt, which is certainly the better choice these days. Austrian national SWAT use the APC as their primary weapon in sub-gun form according to B&T’s site. Far as I know this is one of B&Ts more recent designs and it certainly feels more practical compared to the tiny little MP9.
Next up Leupold Optics were showing off their Mark 5 scope on an Accuracy International Ltd .338 AXMC rifle.
At a guess the target was a circle around 14″ + or -, range of around 500-600m given the heat haze visible. This was my first time ever behind a bolt-action rifle with a magnified optic shooting at any distance at all (previously only rented similar rifles indoors at BF Vegas), also essentially my first time shooting .338LM, but I connected a couple of times at least with 5 rounds so frankly I was happy. There were long queues at every shooting station as you might imagine, so it wasn’t a case of taking a minute/as long as necessary to line up each and every shot.
Then Overwatch Precision let me put a few rounds through one of their modified Glocks and this was my cherry time shooting a mounted Trijicon Electro Optics RMR.
It’s certainly harder than the USW or ALG 6-Second but it’s also easier and just nicer all around vs irons, that much is certain.
Next station was a cool combination of an American Built Arms Company556 bolt action rifle with an Oakwood Controls computer system.
Far as I could tell the target was just normal wood/paper, but via some sort of magical setup of microphones at the base of the target, the laptop screen next to the gun was showing exactly where the holes were being made, as if I’d walked down there myself to check. Very, very cool and probably a tool that enthusiast long-range shooters will be getting in to more and more in the coming years.
Following this I came across the Lewis Machine & Tool Company (LMT)stand and they had simply too many rifles to choose from:
I saw a magazine that said .224 Valkyrie and since that’s the new hotness that was my choice. I was handed a fairly long barreled AR-15, around 22″ and unfortunately they hadn’t got it quite zero’d, so I had no idea where the rounds were going in relation to the reticule, just had to fire and see how the recoil felt. Couldn’t deny there was a little bit more of a snap than normal 556, but .224 is touted as the short action version of 6.5 Creedmoor and that cartridge has gained enormous traction over .308 in the long range precision shooting community. The Valkyrie cartridge also has a vaguely similar appearance to .338LM with a fat, stubby case and seemingly disproportionately narrow bullet, so there’s a distinctly stout charge behind that .22 calibre and the long bullet to increase contact surface with the barrel.
Barrett had their ‘240 Lightweight’ out and given how much time I spend elbow deep in GPMGs I had to take the time to wait in line and fire that.
Despite the somewhat skeletal look, the recoil seemed slightly less than the FN MAG variants I’m used to. The stock actually adjusts, there’s a handguard for firing when not prone which is far better than holding the folded bi-pod and somehow no rivets on the receiver, which I can tell you is the biggest critical failing point on old MAGs.
Lastly (before someone sadly blew a whistle and shut everything down) I found the GLOCK 19x, which feels like a fairly mild shooting Glock, but is still a Glock. There was another really cool target system at this stage with pop up paper targets presenting at roughly 5, 7 and 10m. At the end of the string of fire one of the guys at the stand had a display on his tablets showing exactly when and where you’d place your shots. The time was tight with only maybe 2-3 seconds per exposure but again being a total novice pistol shooter I managed to get 1 or 2 centre/inner ring hits on each one in decent timings.
Annoyingly I was right next to the H&K stands when the cease-fire whistle went at dead on half 4 and those guys had the 417A2, MG4 and MG5 and a whole bunch of other really sweet guns out. Alas.