The 3 best guns at SHOT Show range day

The 3 best guns at SHOT Show range day

I’m back at the SHOT Show again, looking for things to write home about. Most of the range was pretty “ho hum”, combined with some extreme weather that made shooting at distance quite challenging. This time, my three picks for show stoppers will probably leave everyone scratching their head. However, hear me out. I had to dig deeper and talk to the experts to arrive at these selections.

Armscor VR80

The Armscor VR80 is a 12-gauge, semiautomatic, magazine-fed shotgun that can handle 3-inch shells. It features a contoured barrel and comes shipped with 5-round magazines. Nine and 19-round magazines are also available. Its operation is similar to an AR-15. It is so similar that an AR-15 user could easily pick one up and operate it with an extremely small learning curve.

I tested the Armscor VR60 recently, running cases of shells through it, which proved its superior reliability. The Armscor VR80 differs in that all of the operating controls are ambidextrous. Amazingly, the charging handle is also quickly reversible. I learned how to do it in less than a minute.

The VR80 has a 20-inch barrel and weighs 8.27 pounds empty. I would love to see one configured with something like the LAW Tactical folding stock adapter that would make it easier to stow in the patrol car.

There's one other thing you need to know about Armscor. I have been testing firearms for many years. When I test a firearm, I use Armscor ammunition because it is a reliable standard. So are their firearms.

Mossberg MC1

I got to test O.F. Mossberg & Sons' MC1 semi-automatic 9mm subcompact handgun. Here is some trivia for you: Mossberg's first product was actually a 4-shot handgun. Early Mossberg production included several different handguns. I'm telling you this because their original experience was with handguns, not shotguns, which everyone assumes.

The MC1 is one of the most full-featured subcompact handguns that just hit the market. I know it looks like every other subcompact, but the subtle engineering that we look for in such a product is all in this gun. That is, it is the complete package.

First, the magazines. The MC1 uses 6+1 or 7+1 magazines. The former fits flush into the well, the latter has a little finger rest. This is pretty typical, except for the fact that these magazines are clear. One can easily check the status.

Second, the field strip, which Mossberg calls STS (Safe Takedown System), is quite unique. I was introduced to this when my friend Linda Powell of Mossberg was demonstrating the takedown to some people on the range. This feature appeared to be lost on these guys, but I picked it up right away. One must remove the rear slide cover and the firing pin assembly in order to complete the takedown. The assembly comes out in one piece, so it is very simple. I think these guys thought this was tedious.

I was thinking to myself, "Whoever designed this is brilliant." Field strip of this firearm requires that the user see the firing pin on a regular basis. This is one of the best ways to ensure complete reliability of a firearm over time. It also doesn't require pulling the trigger in order to disassemble this gun.

The trigger guard is a huge loop, large enough to accept a good pair of tactical gloves. We were all wearing those on the range because the weather wasn't cooperating. The slide has front and rear serrations, and an external extractor. The site dovetails were milled to accept sights that were already on the market, in case anyone wanted to add aftermarket products. The tritium sites on the one that I shot were just fine.

The guy on the range had a stack of magazines already loaded just sitting there. It was my lucky day, since there wasn't anyone else standing around waiting to shoot. I pumped several magazines home until more people arrived to get their turn. For a gun that is designed for pocket carry, it most certainly has a good trigger. The one I shot had a flat-faced trigger with a protruding trigger safety. It was slick feeling, and the package handled 9mm recoil like I was shooting a 32 Auto.

Mossberg has reentered the handgun industry, and it is certainly a big splash. Good job, engineers.

Sig Sauer P365 BB Gun

The last gun on this list is not a firearm. In fact, it's a BB gun. Anyone that knows me knows that I like air-powered and CO2 guns. I've always been a believer in using some aspect of the sub caliber trainer in order to improve basic skills. However, BB guns and pellet guns have lots of limitations. Most of them have to be used in a manner that won't create a "training scar" when practicing for using the real thing.

The Sig Sauer P365 BB gun uses the same exact manual of arms as the "real" P365. It looks exactly the same. It weighs almost exactly the same. It fits exactly the same holsters, and shares almost exactly the same dimensions as the 9mm P365.

I thought these features were pretty nice to have, but it got better when Sig Sauer’s Stephanie Kee walked me through the rest of the P365 BB gun. It has the exact same manual of arms. Not similar, exact. The magazines have the same exact feel as real magazines. The dimensions are exactly the same. How on earth they did this, I do not know.

The slide cycles when the P365 BB gun is fired. It locks back when the magazine is empty. The CO2 cartridge is in the magazine. So is the valve system. This means that the magazine system operates exactly like the “real” magazine.

Imagine having a sub caliber trainer that operates exactly like the "real thing". This is a serious, well engineered, very cool training tool. I predict that every P365 owner in this country, and every firearm school that uses the P365 is going to want this one. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait: it isn't available until November.