Gung-ho for guns
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  1. #1

    Cool Gung-ho for guns

    Issue Date: March 08, 2004

    Gung-ho for guns
    SHOT Show packs ’em in with weapons of mass appeal

    By Phillip Thompson
    Times staff writer

    LAS VEGAS — If you cover it in camouflage, they will come.
    God knows there are enough people here. About 5 million conventioneers a year come to Sin City to sell something. Shoes. Home furnishings. The World Floor Covering Association expo expected to draw 41,000 people.

    Don’t try to understand. This is Las Vegas. Just keep your head down and keep walking.

    Through the door. Past the gorgeous women in tight black dresses beseeching you to sign a gun-law petition. Past the little old lady checking IDs.

    Into the sweat-and-Cosmoline air, where some are hoping to close a deal, and everyone loves guns. There are guns everywhere, big and small, and bullets, too — bullets that could knock a rhino back to the Neolithic Age. It’s all here: a forest of large-caliber handguns, a glittering sea of combat knives that would make Rambo weep with shame, long-limbed models with coy smiles.

    It’s Day One of the SHOT Show — The Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show and Conference, Feb. 12-15 — the largest trade show of its kind in the world. More than 18,000 people are expected — 3,000 more than showed up for a big porn expo.

    And SHOT Show is selective. Your average Joe can’t just walk in; the SHOT show is for “members of the trade” only, and, unless you have media credentials or you’re a “military professional” or “law-enforcement professional,” you better be able to produce a valid Federal Firearms License number. This place is Testosterone Central, and I’m buying a ticket on the A Train.

    Ladies, if you want your man to understand your need to shop, bring him here. This is the one place where men want to shop.

    Camo and cowboys

    Over there is RealTree and its competitor Mossy Oak, makers of the finest camouflage since chameleon skin. No fancy pixel patterns or desert BDUs here. Just camouflage that makes you disappear like the alien in “Predator” whenever you get anywhere near foliage.

    Don’t try to understand why deer hunters can buy better camouflage than Navy SEALs. It boggles the mind.

    Or why you can stroll over to EOTech and buy the coolest optical sight since the Terminator’s .45, while the Army still issues iron sights for throwdowns in Fallujah. EOTech’s $250 red-dot reticle sight could make Ray Charles an expert on the range.

    Over in the firearms section, Remington has a display that looks like an entire hotel floor, but with guns. A central hallway leads you past closed doors. And behind those doors, slick-haired corporate commandos in power suits and Rolexes hunch over spreadsheets and ledgers, making one deal after another.

    Not everybody has the luxury suite. Some don’t have any crib.

    Chris Lara is wearing out the soles of his shoes and his cell phone, working the floor to find buyers for his hot new gadget, the Pocket Pro (no, it’s not what you’re thinking), a tiny but powerful clip-on, hands-free light that soon will be available in Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores worldwide.

    Another cool piece of gear that doesn’t come in your basic issue.

    “It’s the Iraq guys that are buying the thing,” says Lara, a fireplug in a black turtleneck. “I’ve got sergeants major back from Iraq who are trying to get it. Ted Nugent even bought some.”

    That’s right, the Motor City Madman, noted killer of large wild animals, stopped in on Lara at the show and snatched up several of the blue- and green-light versions (it also comes with white and red lights) for his gonzo hunting trips.

    Also in firearms, you’ll find practically anything that launches a bullet: revolvers, automatic pistols, sniper rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and cowboy six-shooters.

    There are even cowboys.

    Cimarron Arms circled its wagons around gunslinger Joey Dillon, fully decked out as a cowpoke, who put on a stunning display of gun twirling and wisecracking. I felt like grabbing a tin cup just to show him I can twirl, too. I’m your huckleberry.

    But I’m distracted by the buzz coming from the lower 40 of this spread: metal on metal, the rip of Velcro, the clink of bullets.

    The Sirens call, and I obey, stumbling past boot displays and deer rifles to the Military/Law Enforcement Section.

    This is the inner sanctum.

    Is this heaven?

    It’s the Promised Land for operators, spooks, cops and “freelance combat specialists.”

    CheyTac’s really, really long-range bolt-action sniper rifle, the Intervention Model 200, crouches on a pedestal. This .408-caliber beast — it weighs 27 pounds — can knock a gnat off a mosquito’s back at 2,500 yards — that’s more than a mile away, if you’re not good at math.

    Army sniper Jason Gallahair — a “military professional” — is checking out the rifle and the semi-automatic version next to it, and likes what he sees. Snipers’ experiences in Afghanistan “showed a need for a semi,” he says. “You don’t want to get caught in a gunfight with a bolt gun. It’s not good.”

    The bullets the rifles fire, also made by CheyTac, are works of art, tooled so cleanly that you almost hate to use them.

    But for the “one shot, one huge hole” crowd, nothing touches the Leitner-Wise .499 rifle. It looks like an M4 but hits like a Mack truck. This thing doesn’t just sweep the streets, it repaves them. The video of a Coast Guard shooter blowing the outboard motor clean off a boat with two shots mesmerizes.

    “We can stop a truck,” says Paul Leitner-Wise, company president. He means it.

    Most grunts I know don’t have a weight problem — at least not body weight — but many do have a problem with the weight they carry. Marines in Iraq carried more weight on their backs than I am allowed to check at an airline ticket counter — at least without being charged extra.

    But the whiz kids at Natec, tucked away in a small booth off the beaten path, are showing off what could be a true revolution in weapons-think. Instead of brass, their bullets are cased in what looks like plastic but is a durable polymer material that’s a lot lighter than brass. Sure, the pastel colors are unwarlike — how can you light up a truckload of bad guys with pink bullets? — but are you going to care when you’re putting rounds downrange? No way. Happiness is outgoing fire.

    The Natec suits are telling everybody who’ll listen that they can cut the weight of small-arms ammo by up to 20 percent and the cost by about the same amount.

    Lighter, cheaper ammo? Think about that on your next 20-mile hump.

    Another point to ponder: Why do war fighters shell out thousands of dollars on combat knives, even though they’re issued a bayonet?

    Case in point: Marines sometimes are issued a Ka-Bar, a blade more reliable than your own mother and nearly as effective at ending arguments. No matter. The company couldn’t keep up with demand when The Latest War started.

    Back in December ’02, “all hell broke loose with orders for our tactical knives,” said Dick Hillegas, president of Ka-Bar Knives. “It happened so quickly; they wanted them so suddenly that we were pretty much sold out in February. By March, we were able to get new-production stock.”

    Odds and ends

    Las Vegas is no stranger to strangeness, and the SHOT Show is no different.

    I mean, why Lou Ferrigno is wandering the aisles is a mystery. Ted Nugent, sure, but does The Hulk really need any of this hardware? And, he’s already green.

    Across the room, a hunter from Georgia decided to back up his hunting claims by videotaping his trips, so he invented the “Hunt Cam,” a remote lens that shows the hunt from the hunter’s perspective — just like the squad of Colonial Marines who went on that fatal bug hunt in “Aliens.”


  2. #2
    Stick the lens on the brim of a hat, run the wire to a videocam in a backpack or fanny pack and you’re Francis Ford Coppola.

    Sure, it’s basically a hunter’s toy (and story verifier), but think of the Jessica Lynch rescue, as viewed through the eyes of her rescuers.

    The jerky boys are here, too. No, not the Jerky Boys, but the fellows from Jack Link’s Jerky. Their prepackaged, precooked ground beef comes in a vacuum-sealed pouch that can be carried easily and prepared quickly.

    Don’t even try to figure out why you’re eating government-approved, shelf-stable, foil-wrapped gunk while some good ol’ boy in Mississippi is kicking back next to the fire with a tasty supper.

    And way back in the corner, past the .45-caliber pistols, the all-terrain vehicles, the girls in bikinis and the tents, is a company selling what looks like long johns. But like everything in Vegas, nothing is what it seems.

    Every ground-pounder knows ticks, chiggers, sand fleas and other no-see-ums can make life miserable in the field. That’s why there’s Rynoskin — a breathable material that looks like a combination of your wife’s pantyhose and a full-body condom, but works as a second skin to ward off creepy crawlers. It comes with gloves and even a hood that makes you look a little bit like a bank robber.

    William Harris, president of the company, shoves a hunk of the material in my hand. Sure enough, it’s light and I can feel air move through it.

    “People in Iraq are ordering it from the field,” he says. “They say nothing works on the sand fleas.”

    If it works as well as Harris says it does, it sure beats smearing your bod in bug juice every day.

    Evening beckons now, outside the tinted glass, out where the neon and backlighting tempt the gullible. The gun boys are packing up, slapping each other on the back, promising to buy the first round. They’re ready to hit the strip, ready to spend the money they’ve made today or drown their sorrows.

    They’ll be back tomorrow.

    Phillip Thompson, Lifelines editor, walked more miles at the SHOT Show than during his entire career in the Marine Corps. E-mail him at



  3. #3

    Cool 8 things you’ll love about the XM8

    Issue Date: March 08, 2004

    1 killer weapon
    8 things you’ll love about the XM8

    By John G. Roos
    Special to the Times

    LAS VEGAS — About a year from now, the M8 — the U.S. Army’s likely new 5.56mm assault weapon — should begin showing up in armories.
    That’s not official — the weapon is still the experimental XM8; there’s testing yet to be done, contracts to be signed. But if any casino in this gambling mecca would take my bet that this is the American soldier’s (and, perhaps, the Marine’s) next rifle, I’d put some serious cash on the line.

    I was among the first shooting enthusiasts anywhere to put the XM8 to the test. That’s thanks to good fortune — and my job as an editor at Army Times Publishing Co. and organizer of the annual “Shoot-out at Blackwater” weapons-testing event in North Carolina.

    I really like this weapon — and soldiers do, too — but it looks as though it’ll be years before it makes its way to Marines.

    The XM8 already underwent arctic testing with the Army in February and is now in the hands of troops in Alaska. Jungle testing in the tropics (probably in Panama) is slated for June. The weapon will be put through a final workout in the desert — probably Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona — immediately after that.

    The Infantry Center, at Fort Benning, Ga., is in the early stages of an eight-week assessment of the XM8 to see how the first prototypes of the weapon meet the small-arms needs of the Army.

    In addition to soldiers, the weapons have been put into the hands of a 10-man Marine team. But the Marines are just looking, according to the latest word from officials at Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va.

    Last week, the Marines from Quantico arrived at Benning to spend the week observing the Army trials.

    The Air Force and Coast Guard also are expected to evaluate the weapon later.

    The Marine observers — armorers, weapons maintainers and trigger pullers among them — are assigned to the Weapons Training Battalion at Quantico.

    When Marine Corps Times first heard the Marines had landed at Benning, it looked as though XM8s might soon be making their way to the Corps. But that’s not so, Systems Command officials said.

    “I would say the thing that we are most interested in is the ‘tailorability’ of the entire system. ... That’s probably … what I’m the most interested in,” said Lt. Col. Brent Smith, director of infantry weapons programs at Systems Command.

    “If you look at our system right now, we’ve got a lot of different weapons made by a lot of different individuals, and they’re all great weapons, don’t get me wrong, but the idea of having a single ‘tailorable’ platform looks like — in the long run — it may save money and be more effective,” he said.

    But, “since we’re buying M16A4s out through 2008, the M16A4 will be the service rifle for a good long time to come.” he explained.

    So far, all testing of the XM8 has been open to the press. But the senior leadership at Benning decided to deny access to reporters to ensure an unbiased assessment environment, free from outside distractions, said Rich McDowell, a Benning spokesman.

    The Army remains mum about how tests are going, but program officials with manufacturer Heckler & Koch Defense Inc., prime contractor for the weapon, are confident the XM8s will measure up to the challenges of the environmental testing.

    They’re so confident that they invited hundreds of journalists writing for defense, firearms and related publications to put three XM8 variants to the test during the annual SHOT Show here.

    On Feb. 11, about 120 firearms specialists gathered at the Las Vegas Police Department firing range to try out the new weapons.

    I was privileged to be the first journalist to fire the baseline carbine model of the XM8. I don’t say that lightly. Two colleagues and I tried to find things that weren’t quite right with the weapon’s design and functioning, but failed on both accounts.

    Here are eight cool things shooters will like about the XM8:

    1. It’s light. The baseline carbine model currently weighs in at 6.25 pounds (the objective weight is 5.7 pounds), including an integrated sight with infrared laser and illuminator, red-dot reflex sight and integrated mount. By comparison, an M4 carbine with rail attachment, backup sights, M68 Close Combat Optic and standard laser/illuminator systems tips the scales at 8.85 pounds.

    2. It comes with a cutting-edge sighting system. The XM8’s battery-powered sight houses a red-dot close-combat optic that incorporates an infrared laser aimer and illuminator. The shooter controls the sight’s functions through a wireless switch that can be mounted anywhere on the weapon. The sight combines all the capabilities of the separate close-combat optic, AN/PEQ-2 laser and AN/PAQ-4 designator systems normally mounted on the M4.

    3. It’s easy to zero. The sight has a backup etched reticle and comes factory-zeroed. It retains its zero position through a positive-locking mounting setup.

    4. It has no rails. Designers fashioned integral, flush-mounting, metal-lined attachment points on the XM8’s handguard and receiver. Standard 1913 adapters can be mounted on the attachment points so operators can continue to use lights, lasers and other items already in the inventory.

    5. It needs little maintenance. The XM8 can fire more than 15,000 rounds without need for lubrication or cleaning, even under the most extreme operating conditions, H&K officials say.

    6. It’s easy to clean. Unlike the M16/M4 series, the XM8’s gas system doesn’t blow gases and their carbon-fouling elements into the receiver during firing. Instead, about 90 percent of the gases created during firing are vented through a gas port under the front of the barrel; the other 10 percent are used to cycle the weapon. This new design reduces average cleaning time to four minutes, compared with the 14-minute average cleaning time for an M4.

    7. It’s tough. Between shooters, H&K officials alternated sticking the carbine in a drum of water and burying it in sand. Despite that treatment and the thousands of rounds put through the weapons at the range, there wasn’t a single misfire or stoppage. The weapon’s cold hammer-forged barrel has a service life of 20,000 rounds and has blow-out vents to direct energy and gases from a catastrophic chamber failure forward and away from the shooter.

    8. It’s ambidextrous. Lefties will find a southpaw-friendly, centrally located charging handle that doubles as a forward assist slide, an ambidextrous magazine release, bolt catch, safety/selector lever and release lever for the multiposition, collapsible butt stock. All shooters will be able to keep their firing hand on the pistol grip while loading, unloading or charging the weapon.


  4. #4
    Putting it to the test

    Despite the XM8 carbine’s light weight, it feels like the substantial weapon it is. That’s important. Shooters won’t be afraid to use it to its full potential, including using the double magazine as a firing support when shooting from the prone position.

    The tested weapons have a cyclic rate of fire of 750 rounds per minute — about average for assault weapons. More important, they have a sustained fire rate of 85 rpm for 210 rounds, compared with 50 rpm for 210 rounds for an M4.

    Although the tested weapons had only a semiauto/full auto selector switch, company literature indicates a two- or three-round burst selector is available as an option for the XM8.

    At 33.3 inches with the stock extended, the carbine’s overall length is the same as that of a 14.5-inch barreled M4. It felt shorter than that, though, the first time I raised it to my shoulder. My eye was closer to the rear of the sight than I like when shooting, but the weapon’s relatively mild recoil precluded forehead souvenirs. The eye/sight standoff distance will be a bit greater, of course, for shooters wearing ballistic vests and other combat gear.

    Trigger pull was sure and responsive. Popping off two- or three-round bursts was no problem and could be done with minimal (though perceptible) barrel climb. The weapon’s ramped cheek rest to get a comfortable “cheek weld” on the stock, and allows the shooter to fire with his head up, rather than from a less natural position necessitated by other types of rear sights.

    The all-in-one optic eliminates the need to attach various accessories to a rail or upper receiver. The illuminated red-dot reticle delivers quick target acquisition with both eyes open. More important, the optic retains its zero even after being removed from and reinstalled on the weapon.

    The 30-round polymer magazines clip together at two half-moon connecting points. It will be interesting to see how well these stand up under hard use. Then again, metal magazines aren’t Marine-proof.

    XM8 program officials plan to field a new bayonet/wire-cutter combo, manufactured by Camillus, with the carbine variant.

    Possible improvements

    About the only improvement my colleagues and I could suggest would involve integrating some type of ammo-level indicator — either a numeric device or a graduated bar — into the optical sight so the shooter would know precisely how many rounds are left in the magazine. The translucent magazine now makes it possible to do this with a glance, but that requires the shooter to look away from the enemy’s direction.

    The Army is considering adding some type of lifetime monitoring system to each weapon, so data such as the number of rounds fired during a particular time frame or over the entire life of a weapon could be retrieved by waving an electronic reader over the weapon. The system might also include the ability to inventory the weapons with an electronic reader.

    The bottom line: The XM8 looks like a new assault weapon that will be arriving soon at Army arms rooms. But Marines will have to wait.

    From what I’ve seen, you won’t be disappointed if the XM8 does find a home in the Corps.

    John G. Roos, a retired Army infantryman and officer, is the editor of Armed Forces Journal. He organizes an annual weapons “Shoot-out at Blackwater,” featuring the latest weapons, ammunition and related products for the military. Staff writers Matthew Cox and Christian Lowe contributed to this report.



  5. #5
    Yada, Yada, Yada. So what is new about Marines having to make due with supposedly outdated weapons. Like it has ever been any other way. I suppose that they will want to add a coffee maker to the new fangled weeepon. Or maybe a capuccino (sp?) port or something. Oh yeah, an ammo gauge?WTF. Always knew when we were out of ammo, either the clip came flying out or the bolt locked to the rear. Plus we were schooled to be able to effectively hit what we aimed at, one round at a time.

    I suppose that change is enevible but please why can't they stick by the attage "IF IT A'INT BROKE, DON'T MESS WITH IT." Of course it could all be attributed to me being a plain old mud Marine who has perhaps overmedicated himself again or I just don't like change.

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