Monthly Archives: January 2012

Vuurwapen Blog Test and Evaluation (T&E) Request History & Opinion

Recent events and discussions in the firearm “blogosphere” have touched on why individuals start blogs, and whether some folks just want free stuff “for review.” This prompted me to look back through my sent email folder in order to find out how often I had initiated a request for firearms or accessories from manufacturers for the purposes of a review on Vuurwapen Blog.

This list does not include requests I made on behalf of other blogs that I have written for – that list would be not much longer, but is not germane to this discussion – nor does it include offers of T&E items by various companies, or requests for loans of firearms from friends not associated with manufacturers.

T&E Request History

- In early 2009 I requested SPR-type AR rifles or uppers from POF-USA and LaRue Tactical. I subsequently toured the POF-USA manufacturing facility and received two uppers from them for a T&E period that lasted for several months before I returned the uppers.
- After SHOT 2011 I contacted LaRue Tactical again with a request for a .308 PredatAR. Although this was discussed verbally at SHOT with LT, I figured I would include it on this list because it fell into a “request gray area.”

Neither request of LaRue was responded to; that’s perfectly fine, and it has not stopped me from recommending their products. As an aside, if anyone (industry or otherwise) is aware of a request I have made for products to be reviewed on this blog that I have not listed here, please let me know.

As I have become busier and busier with work and also have started to focus on finishing up the reviews that several companies have been patiently waiting on for quite some time (for this blog and others), I have realized that T&E of firearms or accessories is an incredibly time-consuming, and therefore expensive, process when done correctly.

It is unlikely that I will be requesting any items for review in the near future, especially considering the backlog of reviews that I need to complete. I have recently turned down T&E offers, mainly for this reason. I cannot in good conscience continue to receive “free stuff” when I still have reviews to complete from – wait for it – 2010 (an Elzetta flashlight).

Free Stuff = Positive Reviews?

On the subject of free stuff – there is a popular perception in the firearm community that receiving a firearm or accessory for free automatically guarantees a positive review. I do not believe this to be the case, though one could certainly insinuate that I am biased because I have received many free things for review (or for which the manufacturer specified that they did not want the item back).

The purchase price of an item is rarely higher than the value of the time required (fair market hourly rate for quality photography/video production/written work), as well as ammunition and ancillary costs, for a quality review. In most cases, it would make far more financial sense for the reviewer to simply purchase whatever item he or she is interested in, then enjoy the use of that item on their own dime and time. Of course, a free item is a nice offset for these costs, but it does not affect the outcome of my reviews, nor does it affect the outcome of many other bloggers’ reviews.

There are some reviewers who simply will not accept what appears to be a gift from a firearm manufacturer, and I understand their position. Perhaps their policies make this more clear than my lack of such a policy does, but personal honor and the pride that comes from delivering a straightforward and honest review to fellow firearm enthusiasts are far more important than the occasional (or even frequent) “gift” of firearms or accessories. If anything, the relationships formed between a reviewer and members of the industry as a result of fair and honest product reviews and feedback are far more valuable than the simple cost of the items reviewed.

Someone Call the Waaambulance, He’s Tired of Getting Free Stuff

I do not intend for this to be interpreted as a complaint regarding T&E or product reviews, just as a statement of fact regarding the realities of time and money. As your reviews improve, your “product” becomes more valuable. It stops being a side hobby and starts becoming a business, if you want it to. You start measuring each “free” review by how much money you could have made if you had put your skills to use for a company in the industry – some of which have already made you lucrative offers for your time that have the side benefit of not requiring you to sacrifice your moral convictions for a paycheck. There are, of course, slightly less moral offers – those you immediately deny.

I have been on the other side of the fence, listening to experienced (and honest/honorable) reviewers describe how much time they had spent on reviews, and how it had eventually grown to negatively affect the quality of their lives. I’m not exaggerating this in the slightest. That said, doing product reviews has not negatively affected the quality of my life – if anything, it’s been a stepping stone to improve the quality of my life. I am, though, heeding the advice of those reviewers, which in one case dates back several years.

In any piece of work I put out, by any medium – whether compensated or uncompensated – I will always strive to deliver an honest and grounded opinion or message. This is especially true for any content placed on my blog.

Praetor Defense/Blade-Tech 1911 Holster Received for Review

I’ve just received my second Praetor Defense holster (this one I’m paying for). This one is for a full-size 1911. Naturally, while traveling, I have more firearms than pairs of socks, so I’m able to compare it with the Praetor Defense holster for the Glock 19 that I previously reviewed. I love the Glock holster, but have mixed feelings about the 1911 one. We’ll see what I think after several months with the holster.

Praetor Defense Holsters

Everyone Else is Talking About GunsAmerica's Paul Helinski, So I Guess I Will Too

Apparently, I am late to this party. Just before SHOT Show, Paul Helinski, who appears to be the blogger for GunsAmerica, made some comments on a post regarding internet media at the official NSSF blog that didn’t sit too well with the firearm blogging community. You can read about it here, here, and here.

The takeaway is that Mr. Helinski sees himself as “real internet media,” and looks down on those who he feels are not. He even goes so far as to suggest that gun bloggers with small audiences should not be allowed in the press room or to Media Day at the Range duing SHOT Show. He also complained about having to wait in line behind people who were taking video at Media Day with their cell phones.

While I agree that the gaggle of people at Media Day wasn’t conducive to easily testing some of the firearms that were available, the manner in which Mr. Helinski chose to express his opinions was rather unprofessional. He also – either out of ignorance or a willful twisting of the facts – states that GunsAmerica’s compete.com rankings, showing over 1 million unique visitors per month, are an indication of how serious a media professional he is, and how seriously his blog should be taken. My blog, for comparison, has about 6,000 unique visitors per month.

There are several ironic factors regarding this issue that I will discuss in no particular order.

- First, people using cell phones to take video on Media Day.
A friend of mine’s boyfriend is a professional cinematographer; that is, he shoots major motion pictures with video cameras that price out in the five figure range and above. He was taking video of her shooting a pistol on Media Day with an iPhone 4S, and I don’t think it was because he didn’t love her enough to use a “real camera.” His qualifications and experience far exceed whoever GunsAmerica had running their expensive video camera. I’ll take experience over equipment any day.

- Second, segregating “real media” from “small-time bloggers.”
I don’t want to give the impression that this post is just sour grapes – that I’m jealous of the size of his blog, and I feel intimidated by it. This is for two reasons. Number one, as I told several people at SHOT, my blog is small, and I like it that way. Not many people read it, but the people that do are polite, educated, and professional. I’d like to keep it that way. Number two, my blog ranks higher in search engines than the GunsAmerica blog, and so does practically every other gun blog in existence.

OpenSiteExplorer says that the GunsAmerica blog Page Authority (on a scale of 0-100, how well search engines rank sites based on a lot of things, but mostly the quality of their content and how many people link to that site) is 31; VuurwapenBlog is 44. Guns and Ammo Magazine’s online site is 41.

Mr. Helinski would like us to look at the root domain – gunsamerica.com – and their Page Authority is 54. Impressive, no doubt, until you realize that Gunbroker’s is 61. GearScout, the official Military Times blog that I wrote for during SHOT, has a Page Authority of 72. I was unable to find a firearms-related blog that had a lower Page Authority than the Guns America blog.

- Third, their social media presence is weak. Their blog has no Facebook page. The official GunsAmerica Facebook page has 5,000 fans, ten times as many as my blog, but the GunsAmerica root domain has 200 times as many unique visitors per month as my blog. Not very impressive, from a ratio standpoint. Also, how far has not using cell phone cameras gotten them on YouTube? I have three times as many YouTube subscribers as the GunsAmerica blog, and I consider myself to be very small potatoes on YouTube.

- Fourth, his comments on bloggers who recently created blogs and “installed wordpress” just to get in to Media Day are especially ironic, given that his blog came into existence just three months before SHOT 2011, and he is using an off-the-shelf WordPress theme (I am too, but I won’t hold it against anyone else for doing so, with the exception of this example). Despite his claims of “15 years of hard work,” the GunsAmerica blog has only been in existence since October of 2010.

If we were to use Mr. Helinski’s own criteria for judging whether or not a blogger should be allowed in to Media Day or enter the press room, he certainly should not have been admitted to those events for SHOT 2011, and the result of that might be that he wouldn’t have been allowed to attend Media Day 2012 either.

There was a kernel of truth inside the rotten fruit of his statements, but the poor expression of his opinion has clouded the issue. In fact, he’s prevented a serious discussion of whether or not Media Day had too many attendees, choosing to focus attention on himself and his own “achievements” instead.

Mr. Helinski is right in suggesting that quality content will rise to the top regardless of adversity. Given the big name writers, corporate backing, and expensive equipment used to create GunsAmerica blog content – the dismal performance of his blog can only mean that the quality of his content is not strong enough to stand on its own merits.

Traveling with Firearms by Commercial Airline

Apologies for the poor video quality – I’m traveling with a laptop and a camera, no lighting equipment.

I travel a lot, and sometimes this travel is by commercial airline. In this video, I share some of the federal regulations, airline policies, and general tips regarding the proper way to bring firearms with you when you travel by commercial air carrier.

FAR 108.11

TSA Guidelines

NRA Link with Airline Policies

Inside the Rock River Arms Polymer Single Stack 1911

I took two photographs of the RRA polymer 1911′s guts at SHOT 2012. Here they are.

According to the spec sheet, the “polymer frame body” will allow “interchangeable colors.” The weight is listed as 2.04lbs.

Note the screw on the forward portion of the trigger guard where it meets the dust cover

 

Polymer dust cover, trigger guard, and grip/magazine well, but the rails and guts are composed of a steel chassis. Doesn't appear to have a Swartz type firing pin safety.

 

Rambling, Random SHOT Show 2012 Thoughts & Photographs

Phoenix, Arizona from 10,500 feet

As I slowly winged my way home from Las Vegas, I had plenty of time to contemplate both the beauty of the world and what I had seen and experienced over the previous week. As an experience, SHOT Show is incredible; as a platform for the launch of new products, it was not so great.

The XDS45 was snappy, but not outside the extreme limits of controllability

To be sure, there were some mildly interesting things, like the new Springfield XDS45, and a few really impressive things, like the T/C Dimension rifle. But the overbearing presence of zombie-themed targets, ammo, optics, firearms, and knives was incredibly annoying. Whether or not it increases sales, it cheapens the brand involved and brings too much of a fantasy, toy-like feel to a market centered on the production and sale of deadly weapons. Zombies are not real, but bad people are – when will we see “ammo designed to kill bad people” marketed as such?

The T/C Dimension rifle is really cool

Back on the subject of the T/C Dimension, I was really impressed with it. It is affordable, it is available, it appears to be cleverly as well as practically engineered, and it has features not seen on rifles anywhere near its price. I’m perfectly happy with my Remington 700, but I really like the concept of the Dimension, and will probably end up with one.

This HK rifle has an identity crisis. Is it an MR762A1? Or was a PSG1 left to wreak havoc upon unsuspecting MR762A1 rifles at the HK factory?

HK had a lot of 417s on display. The lighting at their booth wasn’t ideal, but I was able to work with it. I especially liked the “PSG417,” as I called it.

Here's a crappy photo of the MR762A1's dual ejectors

I spent some time talking to some guys with German accents who really knew firearms. They were very interesting to talk to.

Pick one. You can only have one, though

In an unsurprising move for a German company known for having everything in ordnung, even the stickers were well-organized.

Alles in ordnung. Except for that one on the left, up front...someone's getting fired

Seeing how various companies market products was really interesting. Practically any firearm company with a Turkish connection, such as SAR Arms and ATI, used scantily clad women to attract attendees. One AR company (I forget the name, had never heard of them before) used super-tactical looking dudes in ATACS camo to push their rifles on media day, but when another media person asked what made their rifles different, they launched into an explanation about how tight their magwell was and how tight the BCG to receiver fit was. That, and the fact that they left Condition 3 rifles lying around well behind the firing line – then tried to pass the buck about it – led me to walk away without sampling their products.

The good Sigs

Sig stuck all of their quality products on a wall that none of the Sig reps really wanted to talk about, mainly because none of them came in rainbow or diamond plate editions. That the Sig 553 was shown in pistol configuration is no coincidence.

"Not available for sale in the US." Right

I talked to Larry Vickers at the Daniel Defense booth. He’s lost weight, but gained some gray hair. I told him so. He seemed to have mixed feelings about my comments.

Stop looking at this picture. YOU ARE BREAKING THE LAW

On the subject of ignoring companies, Knight’s Armament prohibited taking pictures of their products at the show, and so did a few tactical vehicle manufacturers. That’s fine – their competitors weren’t as mentally challenged, and saw their new products receive much more media coverage. Chances are that if I can take a picture of an HK417, a Colt 901 or an FN Ballista, I’m not in violation of ITAR by taking pictures of an SR15, which is old news anyway, but quite attractive with a light grey and black color scheme, or what was probably supposed to be foliage, but which looked more like an attractive seafoam green that I would see on the walls of a bathroom in an upscale art gallery.

Vltor has a new stock for the SCAR. They had a lot of other new products too. I took photos of them in March of 2011

Colt is manufacturing the Bulldog crank operated, five barrel weapon. You can buy one for the bargain price of $50,000. That is actually a bargain price. Seriously. They have been made in small numbers by tiny shops in recent years, for over $70-80,000.

I took a lot of photos of the Colt Bulldog. It was so shiny that my AF wanted to focus on whatever was being reflected by the flat surfaces

Random thought: airsoft is big. Some of the guys who were representing airsoft websites and magazines had crews and equipment that rivaled all but the biggest firearm media organizations. Airsoft isn’t my thing, but the airsoft people I encountered seemed very nice. I hope they had a good time.

R. Lee Ermey got to meet me

Apparently, people who read my blog in the industry got the impression that I walk around in über-tactical attire. I don’t. I don’t like associating myself with that appearance and the impression that it gives. However, it was pointed out to me that I wore a huge, “overcompensating” watch and conspicuously carried a knife and flashlight. My only defense was that I wear these things for practical purposes. As an aside, my J frame/ankle holster combo was “made” (by a woman!) for the second time in the four years I’ve been carrying with that method.

FN FNS. Yawn. The FNX is a far better handgun

Media Day at the Range was a circus. It was better from a user standpoint than the AAC shoot, which closed down two hours early, but there were a ton of people there who basically just wanted to play with toys, making it harder for those who wanted to sample and write about new products. I lost track of how many times I was asked if I was familiar with AR-15s before being handed one – it would seem that some people made fools of themselves.

One of the more bizarre incidents at Media Day was when I was on the long rifle range and came upon some Bushmasters with MOE furniture and what I think were Swarovski 1-6 scopes. There was one really fat guy who was standing nearby – he was wearing a Freedom Group polo shirt. I asked him if I could shoot one of the rifles, to which he responded in the affirmative. Another guy handed me a fully loaded 30rd mag, which was an oddity on a day when you were otherwise lucky to shoot 5 rounds.

I looked at the ammo, which appeared to be 52gr HPs, then looked up to ask someone what ammo it was. Both guys were gone. I was left alone. I had no idea what I was supposed to be reporting on – the rifle? The scope? The ammo? The optic was perfectly zeroed, and I hit steel at 550 yards more often than not, which I was pretty happy with, considering the wind, projectile, and MOE handguards. When I missed, it was by a few inches. But I’m still at a loss as to what I was supposed to be evaluating.

I shot some .338 Lapua Magnum from a Barrett MRAD. Into a berm. Decadence and waste

Very few manufacturers bothered to ensure that their firearms were shooting to point of aim. Barrett and HK did a great job of this, while, for example, Armalite did not. Even Aimpoint only used laser bore sighters, though I was still on target at 75 yards with the Micro-equipped Ruger Mark III. Some companies apparently didn’t think members of the media would want to hit their targets, or, perhaps more accurately, thought they were incapable of doing so. The long rifle range didn’t seem to have many of these problems. I was on steel 100% at 950 yards with the Sako TRG in .300 Win Mag.

The M1A/M14 should not exist, but it is a fine looking rifle

I asked Browning if they were going to make the 1911-22 in something like 9mm or another self-defense type caliber. The rep smiled and said "We're thinking about it"

My last day at the show was incredibly hectic. I was running around trying to see the people and things I had missed over the previous four or five days. I saw about half of the people and things I wanted to see, but I also unexpectedly met some people that were really cool. Overall, it was a good trip.

I think the case costs more than the pistol. I'm not sure

One of my last (planned) stops was to see my friend Mauro at Technoframes. They make replica ammunition and super-high-end display and carry cases. Beautifully crafted stuff.

On my way out the door, I encountered a USMC EOD tech who had lost both legs and part of at least one hand in Afghanistan, and was at the show in part to display some unique tools that he had a hand in designing. If you are reading this, please contact me.

I wore good shoes and my feet felt great for the whole show, but this puts having sore legs in perspective.

After that discussion, I picked up my bags and paid $60 for a cab ride to the airport. I did this because time was of the essence (although my entire flight ended up being at night anyway – I spent too long at the show); in other times throughout the show, I literally went hungry because I refused to pay the exorbitant prices the hotel restaurants were charging for basic food that wasn’t very good to begin with. Luckily, I had brought energy bars: Snickers and Hershey’s.

They said, "We're in the Pilatus." And I started looking for a PC-12. But then I saw the PC-7...

At the airport on my way out of town, I ran into two guys who looked like they had just come from SHOT. We made small talk about the show and flying. When I found out that they were with Dillon Aero, I told them that I load with a 550B and love it, and when I needed some small parts a few years back, Dillon sent me what I needed right away, without any fuss. I didn’t have time to tell them that I thought Dillon provided a level of customer service that every company should aspire to before they flew away in their totally sweet Pilatus PC-7 that you might have seen in some of the Dillon publications. It’s cool to see that they actually use it, and that it’s not just a (turbo)prop for attractive models to stand next to.

The Stuff I Missed at SHOT Show

Because I was doing a lot of other things at the show, I missed out on seeing some of the new products at SHOT. I haven’t really been too excited about any of the stuff I didn’t see in person and am now only seeing electronically, but there are a few things worth mentioning.

The Kahr PM9 now has a manual safety (meh) and a lighter trigger with less travel (slightly less meh). Guns.com has a photo.

Benelli is making a nickel plated version of the M4 with a collapsible stock and a full length magazine tube. When I talked to Benelli in March about making stocks and M4 magazine tubes in the US so as to make the M4 more competitive on the market, they didn’t sound too excited. I’m puzzled about the nickel plating. Anodizing is quite adequate for corrosion resistance, and the barrels are chrome lined anyway. The Firearm Blog has beautiful photos.

Ruger is making a .22 pistol that no one but die-hard Ruger fans should care about. It’s not a conversion kit for the SR series, nor is it a reasonable, even scaled down, facsimile of the SR series pistols. Gunblog has some shooting video.

Charles Daly Defense has taken a cue from all the zombie crap at SHOT and risen from the dead. It has also brought forth more promises of the Tavor, as Rob at GearScout reports. I would rather have an AUG, because it is proven, and it exists. But if CDD actually brings the Tavor here, good for them, and good for us.

I saw the Remington VersaMax Tactical at SHOT, but snickered and walked away. Caleb at GunNuts seems to like it, though.

Magpul has furniture for 870s now. I am as puzzled by this (from a practical standpoint – however, they will certainly make much money doing this) as I am by the popularity of the Magpul MOE stock. It does practically nothing that the M4 or CAR stocks don’t do. The CTR is worth considering, but the MOE is a complete waste of money. As, I think, are the Magpul stocks for the 870. The forend, maybe it is worthwhile, but only if you want to mount a light. ITSTactical has video.

In more Magpul news, Gunmart says that Magpul are introducing a fixed AR stock. It is supposed to be “coming spring 2012.” This estimate is probably off by a decade. Lest you think I hate Magpul, I’ll probably buy one of these as long as it’s A1 length and not too heavy.

Another PTSD-Addled Evil War Veteran Murderer

This’ll be a short addendum to my previous article.

“Izzy” Ocampo was a Marine who deployed to Iraq in 2008. He did not see combat, according to his parents. He apparently killed four homeless people. He apparently did mortuary affairs type work, which is an unenviable job for sure, but his case still does not reflect anything upon the vast majority of combat vets.

Terminal Lance sums this up perfectly.

HK MR762/HK417, Sig 716, Armalite AR-10 High Speed Video Comparison

While at Media Day, I had the opportunity to shoot a number of .308s, including the new HK MR762 and Sig 716. The experiences were slightly different – the MR762 was off the bench with a very nice scope, and I had no problems with rapidly pinging a steel spinner at 85 or 90 yards. The Sig 716 was shot offhand, and I kept it on the steel during fairly rapid fire as well, although I shot it at a steel silhouette that was perhaps 15 or 20 yards away. I fired them back to back and can say that both had significant amounts of recoil that felt approximately equal.

I also had the opportunity to shoot some high speed video of several rifles in action. Specifically, I took high speed video of the MR762, Sig 716, and Armalite AR-10, among others. A direct recoil comparison of the three is very difficult because a different shooter was behind every rifle (Jeff at Gunblog for the Armalite, Steve from Airsoftology for the MR762, and a Sig rep for the 716), and because I do not have a large sample size to work with, the rate of fire calculations/estimations may not be representative of overall rifle performance. Another factor is ammo – although I am fairly certain that all three were using Federal’s AE308D 150gr load.

However, when I spoke to the designer of the 716 on the floor at SHOT and asked him what the cyclic rate of fire of his weapon was, I was told that it was between 650 and 700 rounds per minute. The observed speed of 645rpm would, then, seem to be fairly accurate.

Also on the topic of the 716, there is a noticeable amount of bolt bounce – that is, as the bolt carrier comes forward and impacts the barrel extension, it recoils slightly. This has the effect of unlocking the bolt to one degree or another, which will prevent the weapon from firing if the hammer falls again during this period of time.

The amount and duration of bolt bounce seen with the 716 would not prevent it from firing on full auto, in my experience. However, the designer of the 716 told me that the weapon was designed as a semi-auto rifle, and currently has a lighter buffer than the full-auto version, the final details of which have yet to be nailed down. As another point of interest, barrel details – steel and finish – have also yet to be finalized.

Armalite told me that they use high speed video to tune the performance of their rifles, but it took me a while to find an engineer-type to confirm what the rate of fire of their AR-10 platform rifle should be, which was between 650 and 750rpm, depending on ammo. Again, the observed rate of fire of 715rpm falls within this range. One (non-engineer) rep at Armalite was of the opinion that this only mattered on full auto, which is not exactly true.

The rate at which the bolt carrier assembly recoils rearward can have an effect on reliable extraction and ejection, even if extractor and ejector dimensions and springs are absolutely correct. The period of time during which the bolt is behind the stack of rounds in the magazine, neither traveling rearward or forward, has an effect on reliability in that the magazine may not have enough time to push the next round into place before the bolt comes forward again, resulting in a “bolt over base” malfunction that is most commonly seen on suppressed rifles, as they have much greater rates of fire. Also, high forward bolt carrier velocity can result in extreme bolt bounce, as noted previously, while low forward bolt carrier velocity could mean that there isn’t enough force to overcome strong magazine springs, dirt or debris in the action, etc.

As for HK, I was unable to confirm the expected cyclic rate. I was, however, told about some MR762 endurance testing that I will hopefully be able to report on at some point in the near future.

Due to a lack of control (shooter) and a small sample size, the video provided here is not intended to judge any of the weapons based on these factors, but should provide some insight as to how each weapon functions. It is also nice to know that the Armalite and Sig weapons were functioning at the rate their designers expect them to.

The Most Impressive Young Women of SHOT

While I took in the many sights and sounds of SHOT Show, I encountered engineers, designers, competition shooters, PR/media reps, sales reps, company executives, and so on. Among them were quite a few women, and among these women were a select few who were young, knowledgeable, and capable. After meeting a number of women like this, I decided to write an article about the cream of this crop – the women who stood on their own merits and did not have to ask anyone else at their company in order to answer my product questions, for example, or were otherwise thoroughly involved in the shooting world.

I kept this criteria pretty strict, and there were a few young women who were fairly knowledgeable about products – but not knowledeable enough to make this list. I also cannot say that I met every such woman at SHOT – perhaps they number in the dozens or even hundreds. I met a few more that would have been perfect for this article, but for whom I was unable to catch up with for an “interview” and photo shoot. What I can say is that the women you see here are successful, skilled, intelligent, and definitely going places in the firearm world.

Amy Sowash of the USA Shooting Team


Amy Sowash was the last such woman I encountered at the show, but is first on this list because she’s probably going to win a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics next year. I saw her at the Eley booth, where she was sitting in front of a poster of herself with her name and “Olympic Team USA” printed on it; not noticing this, I asked if she was a shooter. After she politely responded that she was, in fact, a shooter, and I removed my foot from my mouth, we talked about her past, present, and future in the shooting world.

She was born into a hunting family, first started shooting at age 3, and had a strong desire to become an Olympic athlete as she grew up. When she started college, she decided that she was going to focus on shooting, throwing herself into the sport wholeheartedly. It was a long and tough road, but since graduating, she has been living in Colorado Springs, where the USA Shooting Team is located. She travels quite a lot, and has competed in – and placed in – a number of international shooting competitions. Most recently, she took the silver medal at the 2011 World Cup in Sydney, Australia. She’s also a multiple-time National Champion in several shooting events.

I was relieved to find out that she shoots more than I do, because she’s definitely a more accomplished shooter than I, and it would be embarrassing to find out that all my practice wasn’t amounting to anything. She will sometimes fire 200 shots per day, and is at the range almost every day. Her sport involves slow fire competition, and she often spends five or six hours at the range in order to put those 200 shots through the bullseye.

Although she was obviously a very pleasant young lady, I wondered aloud how much friction and/or competition there was between members of the shooting team involved in the same disciplines. She responded with the simple answer that only one person from the team will shoot in her events at the 2012 Olympics. So, underneath that friendly demeanor and pleasant appearance, a fierce competitor lurks.

Lisa Looper of Looper Law Enforcement

I first met Mrs. Looper while waiting for our mutual friend Natalie of Girl’s Guide to Guns. As with Ms. Sowash, I asked, perhaps impolitely, if she was “someone” in the industry, to which Natalie immediately responded that Lisa had invented the Flashbang holster. I was impressed with the simplicity and ingenuity of this design, although I have no plans to ever utilize this device myself.

Lisa is the mother of three children and a remarkably intelligent (34 on the ACT, another factoid from Natalie) – as well as hard working – woman. This year, she’s expanded her holster line to include leather and kydex belt-mounted holsters. I commented that the kydex molding patterns used for her holsters had the appearance of a “Bladetech mindset.” She responded that she and her husband had taught BladeTech what they knew about leather – the Looper family has been in the leather business for over 70 years – while BladeTech taught them about kydex and kydex molding.

Through the introduction of the Flashbang holster, Lisa has not only given women a great carry alternative, but has done so in a way that has attracted a lot of (positive) attention to concealed carry, and, for lack of a better term, “exposed” concealed carry to women who may never have considered it before. As an example, her products have even been featured on Wired Magazine’s website.

Annie of Colt Competition Rifles

Arriving at the Colt booth for an appointment I subsequently missed, I found a young woman standing at a podium near several competition-oriented rifles. In what you may recognize to be a growing trend, I started out, shall we say, incorrectly, by asking a question that basically related to whether she was at the booth because she knew anything about the products there, or if she was there because she was attractive. Modesty prevented her from answering with the truth, which I eventually found out from a conversation with her and her boss.

The truth was that not only did she “know something” about the products, but she was a part of the Colt Competition Rifle Development Team. Unsure if my leg was being pulled, I asked technical questions about the rifles, every one of which she answered promptly and confidently.  Impressive, to say the least. As an aside, she also mentioned that she had had an idea for a holster similar to the Flashbang.

She started out in the industry as a shipping/receiving employee for Warne Scope Mounts, where her talents were recognized by Dave Wilcox, VP of Operations for Warne. After getting approval and a licensing agreement from Colt for the rifle, Mr. Wilcox tasked her with being part of the team which created a Colt competition rifle. She clearly did well at her job, because one of these rifles, in the hands of Clint Upchurch, has had no problems winning major matches.

As mentioned previously, this is not meant to be an all-inclusive list; these were the three women I was able to speak with and photograph who were most obviously very knowledgeable, skilled, or ingenuous. Maybe I’ll have a chance to expand the list next year.

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