(photo by Jeremy Alford)
For many years, I’ve looked forward to the annual SHOT Show with the same enthusiasm as a kid anticipates a visit from Santa Claus. As a self-confessed gear junkie, I manage to keep my buying habits in check, but I always look forward to walking the aisles to see what’s new. But, this year, that wasn’t meant to be.
The SHOT Show might be described as the world’s largest gun bazaar where manufacturers promote their product lines and play to an anxious group of industry buyers and professionals. New products are typically introduced at this time with great fanfare. In recent years, the show has attracted over 50,000 attendees and over 2,000 exhibitors. Unfortunately, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 SHOT Show was cancelled.
But, rest easy – there are still some new products which will be of interest to the law enforcement professional. What follows are a few different things which caught my eye and may very well suit your needs. Let’s take a look.
To say the least, the past year has been a roller coaster for the firearms industry. The COVID-19 pandemic, large-scale social unrest and the influx of over eight million first-time gun buyers has created an unprecedented demand for firearms and ammunition. Add to that the January 2021 National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figures which number over two million. Despite a serious ramp-up of production, the major manufacturers cannot keep pace with consumer demand and this has had an adverse impact on law enforcement agencies as well. With production lines maxed out, it should hardly surprise you that the introduction of new firearms is somewhat limited. But, there are still a few products which offer some serious curb appeal.
Polymer frame, striker-fired pistols now dominate the law enforcement scene. FN America, LLC wasn’t among the first to offer such a pistol, but their FN 509® is right up there at the head of the class. This year, they are offering the FN 509 LS Edge™ in 9mm which represents the ultimate refinement in this family of pistols. The LS Edge is a long slide, optics ready pistol with a number of other desirable features. Most notable is the flat faced trigger. When combined with a redesigned striker, it delivers a four to five pound break and a short reset. Other frills include an ambidextrous slide catch, interchangeable backstraps, a flared magwell, and a graphite PVD finish.
Miniature red dot optics are all the rage these days and they are now becoming commonplace on small hideout pistols carried by plainclothes operators and off duty officers. GLOCK® recognized this trend and they are now offering MOS versions of their popular 43X and 48 9mm pistols. These variants feature a factory cutout for the mounting of a micro dot, as well as the GLOCK Slim Mounting Rail to affix accessories such as an illuminator or laser aimer.
Heckler & Koch® struck gold with the introduction of the striker-fired VP9 9mm pistol a few years back and it has gone on to be their best-selling pistol of all time. New this year is a long slide variant called the VP9L OR and the limited edition VP9SK-B subcompact.
The HK® VP9L OR would be well suited for either competition or tactical applications. It features a long slide with a five inch barrel complete with an O-ring lockup to enhance accuracy. I have encountered the O-ring feature on other high-end HK pistols and it does indeed deliver as promised. This pistol features an optics cut and plates are available from HK to mount most of the popular red dot systems. The VP9L OR ships with a pair of 20 round magazines.
For off duty carry, I remain a proponent of a smaller version of one’s service pistol. Grip angle, trigger press and vital controls are the same as the pistol you are most familiar with and this goes a long way toward better performance. The VP9SK-B is a premium grade subcompact featuring an excellent trigger with qualities similar to a single-action, as well as interchangeable backstraps and grip panels. Many HK pistols are equipped with a push down lever magazine release and this has been a deal breaker for many potential consumers. However, the VP9SK-B is outfitted with the more familiar push-button release which will broaden its appeal. The VP9SK-B ships with a ten round magazine and a 13 round magazine with an extended floor plate.
KelTec has recently introduced a most unique firearm. The new KelTec P50™ is chambered for the 5.7 X 28mm cartridge and boasts a 50 round magazine first seen on the FN P90®. I recognize that the new P50 falls under the legal definition of a handgun, but it is not something we will be encountering in a duty holster anytime soon. With an overall length of just 15 inches, this semiauto firearm would be ideal for working in confined spaces when a conventional shoulder weapon wouldn’t make the cut. Picatinny-style rails and QD mounts make for easy attachment of lights and optics. The 5.7mm cartridge has some unique capabilities and, with some loads, it can defeat Level IIIA body armor.
The Smith & Wesson® M&P® pistol is yet another popular handgun which has morphed into several different variants. New for 2021 is the M&P 9 M2.0™ Compact with the slide cut for optics. I’m pretty fond of compact-size pistols for everyday carry as they strike an ideal balance between shooting capabilities and concealment. The longer sight radius and grip length of a compact ensures that you don’t lose much of anything over a full-size service pistol and that slight reduction in size makes it easier to hide. Co-witness white dot sights are standard on this pistol.
Springfield Armory® continues to move the ball forward and new offerings include a 10mm variant of the 1911 Ronin™ and the XD-S MOD.2® OSP™. The Ronin is rendered from steel and features a forged frame and slide. The powerful 10mm may not be the best choice across the board, but it does fill a useful niche. A tactical rack rear sight, fiber-optic front and attractive two-tone finish are standard. If you fancy a full-size pistol which hits hard, this new Ronin variant is worth a hard look.
Springfield also offers a number of different pistols well suited for concealed carry. Miniature red dot optics are becoming very popular for discreet carry and Springfield Armory has recently introduced the XD-S MOD.2 OSP to meet this demand. The XD-S MOD.2 OSP is a single stack pistol with a cutout slide for the mounting of one of the new generation optics. Can a red dot boost performance in a small hideout pistol? You bet! The OSP variant can be had with either a removable slide plate or with a Crimson Trace® red dot optic as an option. A seven round flush fitting magazine and a slightly extended nine shot magazine complete the package.
BLACKHAWK® has expanded its line of duty holsters and now offers the L2D and L3D which will accommodate a pistol with a weapon mounted light and a red dot optic. Designed for duty use, these rugged retention designs are built to take hard knocks. The outer shell which is crafted from polymer and a sound dampening hydrophobic liner combine to defeat harsh elements the holster may be exposed to. BLACKHAWK has incorporated the Master Grip Principle into the design of the L2D and L3D in order for the user to quickly draw the pistol under challenging circumstances.
Galco® is yet another firm which turns out quality concealment rigs at a reasonable price. As the red revolution marches on, Galco has added a number of holsters to its line which will accommodate a concealed pistol so equipped. The BlakGuard is a neutral cant rig which is very fast into action. For ultra-discreet carry, check out the Ankle Guard. The Corvus can be worn either inside or outside the waistband, depending on needs. Rounding out the Galco mix is the Paragon, an inside the waistband holster which can be worn in the classic behind the hip position or in the forward appendix style.
A generation ago, the only optical devices commonly used by cops were telescopic scopes used by SWAT officers on their precision rifles. That has all changed and optics are widely used on patrol rifles and it’s not at all unusual to see them on service and concealed carry pistols. Even this old dinosaur has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century and has come to the conclusion that you either embrace this technology or get left behind. This year, a number of new products have been introduced which can get you on target even faster.
Holosun’s new multi-reticle HS507C X2 is certainly innovative. One of the challenges many users find with red dot optics on a pistol is quickly acquiring a sight picture. Holosun has solved that riddle by collaborating with Primary Arms and incorporating their ACSS® Vulcan™ reticle into the new HS507C X2. A large circle quickly catches your attention and guides the eye to the aiming chevron centered in the screen. I have used a similar setup on one of my rifles and I have no doubt this will help get your pistol on target faster. The HS507C X2 also utilizes Holosun’s “Shake Awake™” technology which activates the optic as it is drawn from the holster.
This year, Leupold introduced the DeltaPoint Micro™, a fully enclosed, low-profile MRDS which fits into the pistol’s dovetail. For smaller pistols used for concealed carry, this is indeed a game changer. The DeltaPoint Micro is the same height as the factory iron sights and features a three MOA dot. Initial offerings will be for GLOCK and Smith & Wesson pistols and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see the line expand and cover other popular brands.
A harsh reality is that bad things happen in the dark, but the Nightforce Digillum™ illuminated reticle will get you on target – even in poor light. The new Nightforce ATACR™ 4-20×50 F1 represents their apex of mid-power tactical scopes and features a number of highly desirable features, including the ZeroStop™ turret, a power throw lever, ED lenses, and a 20x maximum magnification.
As this is written, demand for ammunition exceeds the industry’s output, despite the fact that production is at an all-time high. Vista Outdoor, which owns the Federal, Speer® and Remington® brands, states that they have over a billion dollar backlog and expects it will be some time before they are able to catch up. The ammo shortage has indeed impacted law enforcement and I personally know of agencies which had to curtail, or suspend, critical training as a result. In spite of it, there are a few new products of interest, but it’s likely to be a few months before they are actually available.
Federal has introduced the Punch 10mm JHP in their Personal Defense® line. A few short years ago, the 10mm was on life support, but it has recently enjoyed an upswing in popularity. This new load utilizes a 200-grain jacketed hollow point driven to 1100 fps which is far more powerful than the FBI spec load of the past or anything in .40 S&W. From a full-size service pistol, I found full power 10mm loads to be far more manageable than my old .357 Magnum revolver.
Many law enforcement officers rely on a small handgun for off duty or backup carry. Very often, these downsized pocket blasters are chambered for either the .38 Special or .380 ACP. Selection of a good load makes all the difference in the world relative to performance and Federal’s latest offerings represent a giant step forward. In .38 Special +P, we can look forward to 130-grain Hydra-Shok® Deep which features an improved center post. For the .380 ACP, Federal has launched another Hydra-Shok variant with a 99-grain bullet. In testing, both loads penetrated to 12 inches and beyond when fired into ballistic gelatin.
Winchester’s new USA Ready Defense line will include offerings in 9mm +P, .40 S&W and .45 ACP complete with the innovative Hex-Vent™ bullet. The Hex-Vent is a rigid insert which protects the hollow cavity from obstruction while channeling material flow for positive bullet expansion. The bullet is designed to meet the 12 inch penetration threshold and retain about 95% of its original weight. Bullet weights are 124 grains in 9 mm, 170 grains for .40 S&W and 200 grains in .45 ACP.
Over the years, a number of cartridges have been promoted as being a replacement for the 5.56 x 45mm chambered in the AR-15 family of rifles used by both the military and law enforcement. Some of the better known contenders have included the 6.8mm Remington SPC, 6.5mm Grendel and the .300 BLK. All have something to offer, but, for any number of reasons, they fell short. Last year, Hornady introduced the 6mm ARC (Advanced Rifle Cartridge) which, to date, has played to very positive reviews. In fact, rifles so chambered are already in use by at least one special ops unit within the Department of Defense.
The quality which sets the 6mm ARC apart from everything else is it can be easily adapted to the AR platform and delivers at ranges well beyond the capabilities of the 5.56mm. Hornady claims “it can do much of what the larger cartridges can and everything the smaller cartridges can’t.” This success is achieved by using bullets with extremely high ballistic coefficients which are very flat shooting and retain energy at extended distance. Best of all, this high level of performance can be had in a lightweight platform.
A number of manufacturers have already jumped on the bandwagon and are offering rifles chambered for the 6mm ARC. In addition to the autoloading designs, the 6mm ARC is also available in short-action bolt guns. This cartridge may not be the proverbial free lunch, but it comes close.
In the months to come, production and demand will eventually get back on an even keel and new products will find their way to the market. When they do, you can read about them right here.
Captain Mike Boyle served with the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Law Enforcement, and has been an active firearms instructor for more than 30 years. He has been an assistant police academy director and remains active as an academy rangemaster and instructor. Mike has served on the Board of Directors of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI) since 1996. He is the architect and coordinator of IALEFI’s Master Instructor Development Program.