Thursday, September 30, 2010

Modern Day Marine 2010

I always miss out on the SHOT show, and have never been to one, but pretty much every year I get to go to the Marine Corps premier trade show - the Modern Day Marine Convention. You will not find a stitch of Mossy Oak at this venue; everything here is O.D. Green, Coyote Brown, Dark Earth, and highly dangerous. Whereas SHOT is geared towards hunters, sportsman, self defense, and some military and law enforcement applications, the MDM conv. is all about the latest and greatest stuff for killing people, or keeping a Marine alive long enough so that he or she can accomplish that end. I am not interested in killing people, but being a Marine with the warrior ethos that comes with that title, I am absolutely smitten by these purpose built tools made from machined steel and aluminum. They are all beautiful and I want to hold them. Also, if you think about it, any firearm designed to rapidly smite multiple hajis into a virgin filled afterlife at distance would work awesome at smoking a dog town or family of chucks. It's all Win here, baby!

This is the sort of thing that you find at MDM. I have no idea what it's called, but I love it none the less:

If oiled walnut and leather slings get you hot under the collar, then a good three quarters of the stuff here won't interest you. I get feint just talking to the Raytheon reps while they gleefully point out every inner working of a Javelin missile, if that tells you anything. "You guys are soooo coooool! Quick, sign my boobs!"

Well, maybe not that excited.

All pictures here are clickable, btw. The one item I meant to bring and forgot was a camera, so my Samsung Galaxy S camera sufficed.

When you first walk in, Whammo, there it is, FN SCARS all up in yo' face, love it. Here are the SCAR 16s and 17s in all their Flat Dark Earth beauty:

These rifles are all well worn from countless trade shows. Also, they're extremely light for their size. Of all of the 5.56 and 7.62 rifles on the floor here, the SCARs are by far the lightest.

Here is FNs HAMR/IAR (Infantry Automatic Rifle), a rifle that everybody and their brother is trying to build to meet a Marine Corps requirement:

Nice rifle, but count me in the 'not a big fan of non-belt fed automatic rifles' crowd. An automatic rifleman should have a weapon with linked ammo in rolls of at least 100 rounds, not some magazine fed abomination with a heavy barrel spec'd to requirements written to reach around the overly complicated acquisition process. Bitter, am I.

This beasty is the coolest rifle that I have ever seen. I must own one.

My heart skipped lots of beats when I picked up the FN SSR (Sniper Support Rifle). It weighs 2.4 metric tons, but I forgive it. I lovingly fondled every inch of it's ample, anodized Dark Earth receiver, and breathlessly noted how well it brought out the color in that parkerized suppressor. And what better scope to crown it's rail with than a Schmidt und Bender! I could give a damn how much it costs; I will own one. I'm sure the two feet of suppressor added to the weight, but either way, a .308 semi auto rifle with a match barrel will be heavy. What's cool about this rifle though is that the trigger can be set to be either single or two-stage. Neat-oh!

The venue was very crowded, so I didn't get to talk to everyone that I wanted to. I did want to talk to a FN rep about SOCOM dropping the SCAR 16, so I bypassed the FN gurus who were hawking the 16s and instead went over and asked the rep standing by the latest M240. He gave me a half smile and a "I saw what you did there" look, but still seemed prepared for that question. His response was that for what he has been told, SOCOM favors the SCAR 17, and is not dropping the 16 as much as they are buying less of them, and a corresponding number more of the 17s. Good parry sir!

I arrived at the MDM with good company, and I didn't want to drag my fellow coworker to every booth, so I fixated only on the gun and optic booths. Besides, you could easily spend a full day here and only see half of the vendors, so it's best to narrow your approach.

Smith and Wesson has started coating their M&P15Ts in all the fashionable colors, as this Desert Tan model shows:

Do note the Magpul stock, grip, trigger guard, and rail covers.

Up next, I stopped by the Metal Storm booth and checked out the MAUL (don't know what it stands for), a very lightweight folding stock shotgun:

It fires from 5 shot tubes, and can use different forms of ammo.

Here's a video showing the distinct lack of recoil. This thing is very small and light, and fires five shots basically semi auto and recoil free. It feels substantial and not cheaply made, but is just over a pound and a half in weight. To reload or change ammo types, twist the barrel out and slide in a new tube of rounds, and then replace. The process is way faster than jamming individual hulled shotgun shells into a magazine tube. Slick!

I stopped at the Remington booth when I saw the MSR rifle in all its aluminum glory, and my knees started knocking:

I didn't get to pick it up as the table was swarmed, but the barrels look heavy, and I'm sure that makes the rifle a beast, too. I do like how the stock folds against the receiver, locking the bolt handle down. I bet that's a handy feature when jumping out of a plane with that thing strapped to your pack. I did pick up the ACR, and it's very heavy as well. Nicely made, mind you, but heavier than a SCAR. I guess the Marines don't care for lighter loads these days, but bigger arms. I really dig that little suppressor.

Also, you may recall that Remington is back in the 1911 buisiness with their R1, but I got to handle their all steel tactical version that sports a bolt on 1913 rail, lanyard loop, and no-see-um coating. The 90 degree slide cuts are terribly aggressive in an awesome sort of way, to the point where if you ran the gun dry knocking down commies, you could easily abrade them to death with the slide. Of course they may stop attacking you at the mere sight of the awesomeness, and will probably switch sides so they can be issued one! I don't know what they're calling it, as it's not on their website and I didn't get to ask, but if you look in the ACR picture above you will see a stainless model with a suppressor. Here's the goods:

If you are not active duty, or not in uniform, some of the vendors won't give you the time of day. A lot of the people at this show are loosely affiliated with industry, and are just trying to bilk pens, posters, and beer coosies from the tables. Since I still have short hair, and clean cut, and rock more T.A.D. than Chris Costa, most of the guys at the tables will talk to me, especially since I'm a gear dork and follow industry trends, and also because I lead with a well planned question that shows that I'm not a schmoe.

This tactic worked well for me at Trijicon's booth, as I asked the fellers' there if the big-ass TA648-50 ACOG sitting on top of a Mah-Duece was the same type issued to the Brits with their sweet LMT LM308MWSE. They gave me an astonished look, and without a word we then did the secret handshake that only CIA special warfare operatahs and gun dorks know. I was in! They then showed me the RMR which would be great on an AR. What I like about Trijicon optics is the general lack of batteries, but a nice lit reticle. Trijicon uses tritium, fiber optic, and who knows what other kinds of sorcery to make their reticles glow oh-so-beautifully. Their BDC reticles are to die for.

At the Leupold booth were stacks of rubber rifles fitted with their latest wares, which included the Deltapoint that I wanted to see very badly, but didn't, and the CQBSS which at 1-8 variable power is the holy grail of tactical scopes.

It features a Horus or Horus-like reticle, making me a big fan, and like a $4,000 dollar price tag, which makes me sad. What I thought was great about this scope was that the exposed tactical turrets have a squeeze ring on the top which you have to compress in order to turn the turret. This lets you have exposed turrets without worrying that your gear will twist you off your zero, but lets you quickly make adjustments. It's really very clever. Leupold also sports one of the best warranties in the business, with customer service to match, probably because they have been making scopes for so long, when Alexander the Great went through sniper school, he was issued a VX II. No lie.

At the Colt booth, I got a picture of their version of the IAR, which again the concept is an abomination:

They also have a new AR rifle with a folding - yes, you read that right - folding stock that also has a buffer tube. Nothing clever with springs running through the receiver.

What will they think of next?

Probably the star of my day was the Larue OBR 5.56 (Optimized Battle Rifle). I pestered the Larue rep for some answers, like how to get that free float tube, which he promptly pointed out was bolted to the upper receiver, and not the barrel nut like all the other rifle makers. So I then naturally asked how much a Larue upper was with the FFT, and he told me that I had to buy the whole rifle. That smarted a bit as I already have an upper and lower for a build, and he told me to sell it and buy a Larue OBR! I will have to do just that.

The rail on the Larue OBR is a work of art. It has everything you need and absolutely nothing you don't. Most FFTs for AR rifles are bristling with 1913 rails, and if you don't know what that means, picture the front stock of your Marlin carbine as being two 2X4's covered with rusted staples. Thick, rough, and uncomfortable, AR rail systems get covered with plastic rail covers that make them like stupid huge. The Larue rail is very svelte, and feels awesome in the hand. You can bolt on exactly as much rail as needed wherever your heart desires so that you can still bolt on that IR lazer that you will never use. The guy behind the table says that he designed and machined the rail and upper, and I can tell he is proud of his work. He should be, as that rifle is excellent. I want one.

He also gave me a Dillo, which Larue usually gives out when you order something from them, but know that if you already have one, mine is more awesomer than yours because it has Modern Day Marine 2010 emblazoned on it! Read it and weep!

Magpul was there giving out free magazines, posters, and cool catalogs. Talking about their next generation of BUIS sights, I accidentally ended the rep's conversation with a rather large and irritated Marine who looked like he wanted to stab me in the face with a folding chair. Sorry about that, hoss! The sights will be on the shelf in a month or so, and are a bit lower in profile than the current generation.

Stopping by the Beretta Defence booth, I got to handle the ARX160. Super light weight with flip up sights and a folding, retractable stock. I wish I could shoot it, as I don't know anything about it. She shore is purdy, pawwwwww:

Also, this rifle is what brought me to a screaching halt. It's the Sako TRG 22 folding stock with Integrated Tactical Rail System, with the TRG 44 in .338 LPM behind it wearing a gorgeous Steiner riflescope which I can't find any information on.

I believe the TRG 22's barrel to be 18", with a 20" option offered. It's very heavy. I refrained from dry firing it, as I don't know how the reps would like me dropping the hammer on a $4,500 rifle. While I was holding the 22, a JROTC cadet weighing in at about 75 lbs snatched up the suppressed 42 and tried to shoulder it. "Whoa is this thing heavy!" he said before just about dropping it. Eat your wheaties, laddie.

LWRC International had a table there, and I struck up a conversation with the rep there over the M6A2 Tricon.

That superbly spiral fluted barrel gives some ridgidity (is that a word?) to the barrel that helps keep accuracy when the barrel gets good and hot, like when your blasting away at the hordes of skinnies trying to overtake your LP/OP and you need to take a last second eyeball shot to save your wounded agent friend. Also, they have some unique rail covers that are not like other covers, so your rails don't feel like you glued luan across them. Good stuff.

The last bit I have for you is a couple of picks from the Knight's Armament table. I wanted to handle the SR25EMC with suppressor, but instead got to handle the PDW, which is frickin' amazing.

The full sized skeleton stock folds flat as can be against the little receiver, which looks just like an AR/M16 receiver, but smaller. This thing just might be the next best thing in concealed carry; no banger is gonna out gun you when you draw this! Reach for the sky, scumbag!

I wanted to know though about the SR25EMC barrel, and if its chrome-lined, dimple-fluted sub-MOA deliciousness was gonna be available to the grass eating public for three gun competition, hunting, or Blackhawk Down reanactment, but the rep gave me the "Knight's doesn't sell to non-operators" vibe, and said that they only offer the rifle as built, for about $5,700. Too bad.

I don't have any pictures, but I stopped by both the Mystery Ranch booth to look at their Crew Cab pack which I will be buying in sweet Multi-Cam goodness very soon, and Vortex optics to check out their gear. The Mystery Ranch folks were great, and sold me on their product. I've been looking at packs for awhile now, and had the Crew Cab on my list, but after they let me molest the pack for a few minutes I got hooked. As for Vortex, the vendor that I talked to was excellent, and may have sold me on one of their 1-4 variables, like the PST.

My only gripe with optics these days, from all manufacturers, especially the short variables, is everybody is on this First Focal Plane craze, wherein you're scope sux if it's not FFP. I have a FFP scope, and it's great for ranging stuff at long distance, I just don't see the point if you're not going to be shooting at 1,000+ yards. Who's going to want to range a 600ish yard tango on 1 power? It doesn't make sense. So anyways, everything just HAS to be FFP, so what you end up with is a 1-4x25 scope with this teensy weensy reticle that you can't see until you zoom in, so to compensate for it on 1 power they make a gigantic ring in the reticle for you to be able to CQB with all your airsoft buddies. Just stick with SFP unless you make your living shooting bad guys at 1,500 yards or more. Leave the OMFGCIADELTA!!!!11@ FFP stuff for the snipers.

I had a great time at the convention. If I had my way, I could have easily wandered about for the whole day, or even two. There are lots of force protection vendors, as well as body armor, holsters, knives, explosives, armored vehicles, UAVs, you name it. The UAE even had some of their Special Forces Soldiers there to hang out with and drink tea. At least I think it was tea. Maybe I should have stopped there.

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