Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Matthews Carbine Company 80% Lower Jig Review Featuring ASA 95% Lower


Matthews Carbine Company 80% Lower Jig Review Featuring ASA 95% Lower

Without question the 80% Lower AR15 receiver market has exploded this year and why wouldn't it with our own government and officials threatening to take away our second amendment rights.  On the other hand, many people are really digging the challenge of making their own firearm. Whatever your reason Matthews Carbine Company has an 80% Lower Jig to make completing your home brew AR15 80% lower receiver without any specialized equipment other than a $70 Bench top drill press.
Thankfully making your own firearm is legal assuming you do sell it or are not a felon. 80% AR15 lowers have made this process pretty simple. 80% lowers are simply partially finished AR15 lower receivers which have pre-finished almost to the point where the ATF considers it a register-able firearm instead of a raw material. 
The cool thing is that 80% lowers can be shipped right to your doorstep without going through an FFL because they are still in a raw material state… of course you still need to complete the un-milled areas to make it work.

Matthews Carbine Company is delivering custom billet 80% lowers for that custom cool touch on your home brew AR15.  I picked up two Matthews Lowers and the Jig I am reviewing here. 

ABOUT MATTHEWS CARBINE COMPANY
Those with longer memories and actively involved on forums may remember Matthews Carbine has some delivery challenges with a group buy/pre-purchase offer a while back. I was one of them.  The founder Keith Matthews indicated he wanted to get that out in the open, versus pretending it didn't happen. Payments were provided and deliver was significantly delayed… for a while. 


The challenge was that the OEM manufacturer who was making the 80% lowers suddenly took on business from a major manufacturer and bumped his smaller job order which meant he was left with orders and no way to immediately fill them and then once he did receive his lowers, there were also delays with magwell broaching and anodizing. 
As you can imagine it all happened at the height of the AR15 shortage.  That same situation happened to everyone in the industry at one point or another however it appears Matthews has taken the right steps to assure that never happens again.

Keith Matthews decided to bring all the machining in house to both assure quality and delivery.  The result is the new and improved Matthews Carbine Company. I know a fairly large number of people including myself who have purchased lower from Matthews recently and have experience fast shipment, so I am happy to report they are far past that initial delivery problem.
The thing that drew me to Matthews was the custom element; custom colors, logo-ing, and they can even laser engrave your own logo in the receiver as I did with my Orange lower.  Those may be pretty but you have to have a way mill out that trigger pocket to actually use the lower and that is where the Drill Jig comes in.
FIT, FEEL, FINISH, FEATURES, & FUNCTION
The big problem with making your own firearm is the big “S” Skill required to make the register-able part of the firearm.  Manufacturers have made it easier by offering jigs which can guide your mill or in this case a drill to remove the required material from the lower. The Milling Jig guides deliver a near perfect factory looking AR depending on your mill and skill. 

The Drilling Jigs allow your to drill out enough of the material that it can be finished with hand fitting and a Dremel tool to smooth out the drill cuts. For the everyday average home user the Drill Jig is the way to go versus springing for a $1000 Little Machine Shop Mill that I will be featuring to finish the two Matthews lowers. 

Drill Jigs only really require two things, an inexpensive tabletop drill press ($70 from Northern Industrial Tool) and a Dremel tool.  In this case the Dremel tool will set you back more than the drill press.
Matthews sells their Drill Jig as universal so instead of a Matthews lower, I used a 95% American Spirit Arms lower for the test. It fit perfectly in the solid billet heavy duty jig and I was ready to roll.  Of note, I recommend going for the heaviest Jig you can find, because there can be a lot of torquing force that occurring during the drill process or that is exerted by a vise. Sturdy is better.
Matthews’ Carbine Company Drill Jig is made of thick billet aluminum that started life as a .75” thick piece of aluminum. It features all steel receiver and guide screws and a series of steel drill plates to assure long term use.  The selector switch hole and trigger pin drill holes are on one side of the jig.
The general idea of the jig is to bolt your 80% lower into the jig, drill the selector switch and trigger pin holes and then start the trigger pocket drilling starting with the small hole drill plate.
Each steel trigger pocket drill plate is keyed to the rearmost position and has a bevel which is placed down and to the rear of the receiver. The jig is set up to also mill 80% 308 receivers as well in a forward position; however just assure that on AR15s lowers that you have the drill plates in the rearmost position. 

The only exception to this rule is when removing the last little bits of material from the trigger pocket which you can shift the large hole drill plates forward, but just note that if you drill the forward most holes in this position you will drill into your bolt catch pocket. 
Take you time measuring and understanding what you are removing with each plate and the results are very impressive. The last plate is with the Medium holes which drill out the trigger slot.  
You could I am sure just use a hand drill however it would definitely take a toll on the jig itself but also would not deliver the precision or depth stop that a drill press would. Assuring you have the proper drill depth is pretty key otherwise you could drill through the bottom of the receiver.
In this case everything went perfectly finishing up my American Spirit Arms 95% lower. After all the drilling a couple hours of work with the Dremel to fit the trigger and I had a very nice looking lower receiver. 

Although a drill press is a requirement, this is as low tech as it gets for finishing an AR15 lower receiver. Start to finish this Drill and then Dremel method produced a finished working lower in about 10 hours.
Chronology of Finishing 
The basic steps are as follows for the Matthews Carbine Company jig (your jig may vary). Mount the receiver in the jig and assure all surfaces are level and square and the bolts are all tight. 
Drill the two trigger group pins and the safety selector holes with the jig guide and then use the top guides to drill ⅛” holes, remove plate #1 and install plate #2 with larger drill bit hole in rearmost setting and drill, remove and install plate #3 in rearmost setting and drill, repeat last two steps with plates #2 and #3 in the forward most setting and drill, and then remove and mount the trigger hole guide. All the drilling should be done to the correct dept. 
I used a spare stripped receiver as a template. After the major material removal is complete, now begins the Dremeling with a cutter or sanding bit. This is the stage you will wish you had a mill. It can take many hours to complete this stage. 
Once you have a receiver that the trigger group will fit into, check that the magwell does not need to be loosened up for the mag to drop free, that a standard upper fit and locks in properly (before you mount the take down pins, and install a lower parts kit to assure everything is functional. If it all works you are done.
FINAL THOUGHTS
Like almost every AR15 80% Lower Finish Jig, the MCC jig comes without instructions.  I mentioned this to Keith and he indicated that was on the way.  
With a lot of patience, a lot of measuring, some fitting and definitely some time, I am ecstatic to say I have created my first firearm. This is a great Jig Drill and Dremel option for someone who is not going to sink $1000 is a table top mill and produces results which deliver perfect functionality.
SPECS
Matthews Carbine Company AR15 Lower Drill Jig
Works with all AR15 Milspec Standard design Lowers and MCC Billet Lowers
$135
SOURCES
Matthews Carbine Company - http://shop.mccfirearms.com/
American Spirit Arms 95% Lower - http://www.americanspiritarms.com/

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bugging Out for Your Furry Buddy with Ruffwear

Bugging Out for Your Furry Buddy with Ruffwear


Often we focus on the cool tools and accessories when it comes to bugging out. We usually forget about what our pets need to survive an extended separation from home. Unfortunately, we assume because our domesticated pets are animals, that they could easily switch back into wild survival mode. Every recent natural disaster around the world has proven that this is certainly not the case. Domesticated animals have a hard time foraging for quality food long-term and end up usually dying from infection or intestinal parasites.


If you are at all humane, the last thing you will do is just cut Rover loose and wish him the best when a crisis arises. With a little planning, your pet could join you during evacuation, or could be easily reunited even if separated. Here are several keys to ensuring you and your pet survive even the worst of crises.

DOG PACKS
Your dog needs many things to survive, but why should you have to carry all that stuff. As a general rule, dogs can carry 15%-25% of their weight in a well fitting quality pack with training.  Obviously you want to work them up to that weight.  We are quite active with our two Dobermans and have run through about three packs… most are junk, fall apart, chafe the dog, or are insecure.  If you are going to be doing any serious hiking, you owe it to yourself and your dog to consider the top of the line Ruffwear line of dog packs. This are premium quality performance packs that are equivalent to the best human packs are the market. I chose a Ruffwear Approach and Palisades pack from my XXL male and XL female.




The Approach is a great premium quality pack for day hikes and overnights which allows for all the basics from food and reserve water to medications, a couple toys, and basic first aid to be stuffed into the pack.


The Palisades is an expanded sized waterproof expedition level pack for dogs. Its fuller featured with three pouches per side extra attachment points and includes two 1L water bladders and all waterproof zippers. The Ruffwear Approach pack has an integrated and attached chassis, however the Palisades has a base chassis with removable packs which I found very handy.  The Palisades delivers the ultimate pack fit and weight management for a dog while still maintaining 100% of their mobility.  Due to that tiny little waist and giant chest, Dobermans are among the hardest dogs to fit packs to, however after providing the dimensions to Ruffwear, their customer service provided me with the the sizes for the perfect fit.  


Another feature of these packs is that they provide a secondary leash attachment point and handle. The handle is so handy I have considered having permanent handles glued onto both dogs.



I am not a “let’s cloth our dogs” kind of guy however in this case it makes a lot of sense for the dog to carry his own burden of gear and the packs also make the “wonder twins of destruction” far less menacing looking which allows me to take them places without people recoiling in fear.  If you travel, hike or plan on bugging out with your furry buddy, this is one of the best investments you can make.


ALWAYS TAKE YOUR PETS WITH YOU
This is a situational based decision, however generally if don’t leave under your own control rescue will not take pets as we saw in New Orleans. Those who left prior to the storm were able to get family and pets to safety, however those that waited were left no other choice than to leave their pets behind.


SERVICE ANIMAL ID
According to the ADA - Americans Disabilities Act, no one can ask what your disability is or deny you service based on your disability. A rapidly increasing service dog segment is Therapy Dogs. Therapy Dogs do not grant access like Service Dogs, however most people do not know that. This creates a grey area where a person with a dog with an attached service dog ID and/or coat may supersede hotel or other lodging or transportation regulations.


The challenge is that airport security requires doctor prescribed proof of a service animal requirement, however to my knowledge no other transportation does. In the past I have traveled with my previous dog at some of the top hotels in the country without so much as a question or deposit however I know that there are some that claim they have needed a Service Animal ID. In some states it is illegal to masquerade a pet as a service animal to gain building, lodging or transportation access, so you should check first.  A $30 service animal ID may be the one thing standing between you and shelter when a crisis hits.

IDENTIFICATION
ID for your pet goes beyond just having your pet microchipped and a collar with Rover’s name on it.  Tips for pet recovery are to have a custom pet tag made (Petco has a machine that does this) which says the name of the pet, the owner(s) names and phone numbers and preferably the city and state you live in. A lost recovered pet with this info attached to the collar can usually be home the same day as it is lost. Without it, you dog is just an orphan until someone can make a determination who this dog belongs to.  In disaster situations, pet chip scanners are usually in short supply.  Great ideas are hi-viz reflective colored colors to present them from being hit at night. My father used to spray paint and X on his yellow lab with safety orange paint during hunting season… but I am sure you can come up with a better solution.

IMMUNIZATIONS & TRAINING
It is critical that you keep your pet up to date with all immunizations including rabies and Bordatella which are typically required for any pet who ends up in a shelter situation. If your pet does not have clear proof of these immunizations, they may be isolated or put in an pen/area with other pets which may have these issues.


Get copies of all current vaccinations now and maintain multiple copies.  If there is ever an issue you will be glad you had them. Also keep copies of certificates of completion for all training classes your dog has completed. It is one thing to say a kid provoked a mean doberman an it nipped them, on the other hand its quite another to show proof of six good citizenship dog classes the pet has completed which would indicate it really was the kids fault. 

In some jurisdictions, fines will be issued to recovered pets which are recovered that are not current on shots, and in most cases animals without identifiable rabies are automatically quarantined. Make sure you have documentation of your pets vaccinations to avoid you fully littled loved one from being taken, quarantined, or even put down.


SHOTS & MEDICATION
Unfortunately you cannot stockpile immunizations as they have a very short shelf life of a few days, however you can have a couple extra heartworm and flea and tick treatments on hand. Bug out situations can be hard on humans and pets which can include allergies and stress and new food induced colitis (pet diarrhea). Some pet allergy meds and Metronidazole for colitis is highly recommended to have on hand to assure your pet is still in tip top positions.


CONTROL OF YOUR PET
A couple leashes and collars are a must, however other items are critical as well. A small single bed sized blanket or large beach towel is key to handling a wounded or over excited pet without getting bit yourself and makes a perfect dual purpose bedding and handy if they need bathed. Consider also that your pet may be crammed into tight confines with odd people and other pets in a rescue situation. Even a calm friendly pet may act irrationally and bite or nip someone - just enough to get you or your pet kicked off a rescue vehicle. Generally animals showing aggression are either left by rescuers or are occasionally put down immediately to avoid potential safety issues (usually with far too little thought).


Leashes are key however assure you have both a long leash like a Flexi-Leash and a short standard sturdy leash. The Flexi-Leashes are great for allowing your dog to exercise, however I can attest first hand that they are not the strongest when your pet decides to go nuts.


The smarter thing to do is keep a pre-fitted muzzle and calming aids. I suggest a soft muzzle as it looks a lot less threatening that the cage style. The muzzle will calm the pet, provide you with significant more control and also prevent any unforeseen issues which would otherwise get your or your pet kicked off a rescue vehicle.


Calming aids are all dependant on your pet. Generally it is a good idea to pick up a perscription of sedatives for your pet in case they are required, especially if your pet is a neurotic mess. I highly recommend against giving a pet sedatives in a situation where they need to function in a walking and responding situation as these generally just knock a pet out.  The better alternative is to use some of the natural options such as Dr Foster Ultra-Calm bites, a blanket over the head, or a favorite toy that always settles them down.


If you have the ability to transport your pet(s) in a cage in a vehicle, do so to guarantee the safety and control of your pet. Many vets believe most physical trauma to pet during accidents could be prevented if people transported their pet in cages. Generally it is a good idea to place a pet identification pouch with copies of the pet’s ID and vaccinations on the outside of the cage. Print live animal on the top of the cage.


PET FIRST AID & HEALTH
All the basics still apply of gauze and tape, however skip the Bandaids and go with a roll of athletic tape and a lot of gauze, peroxide, saline solution, and neosporin. Hydrocortisone spray and antiseptic Betagen spray are critical in my book to have if you have a pet as 99.9% of scrapes, rashes, and lacerations can be treated with just these two topical sprays. Other more odd items are also handy such as a bulb syringe for ear, anal, and wound irrigation, quick release tourniquet, hemostat and tweezers to pull out hair, burrs, or splinters and good for needle sutures, and blunt tip surgical scissors to cut out hair, bandages, or others items caught in the pet’s hair. I also keep a couple standard 1cc syringes and needles to drain fluids from infections or administer treatments or immunizations. 


FOOD & WATER
If you expect your pet to suddenly go wild and drink from lakes and eat wild game, also expect to take care of a sick pet. Outside farm cats are obviously better at this than dogs, however most will be riddled with parasites and disease in no time because their systems are not used to those food and water sources. Ruff Dawg has a great 100% USA made rubber water and food dish that can be smashed folded and crushed into a dog pack.  I highly recommend it. A set of simple water bladders and ziplock bags of food can be placed on each side of the pack for equal weight distribution.


EXPOSE YOUR PET TO ODD SITUATIONS
If the only time your pet has been out of the house is to use the bathroom and an occasional vet visit, then you will likely have a really tough time in a bug-out survival situation with your pet. Expose your dog now to lots of people, kids, other pets, situations, and experiences. If your family suddenly has to bail into the truck to survive the end of the world, the experience will not be so weird for the pet.

DON’T FORGET THE TOYS
Keeping your dog entertained is essential to relieving stress for both your dog and you. A chewing toy and exercising toy are two must have items in a pack.  Sure dogs seem to find a random stick a wonderful universal toy, however consider a 100% US made Ruff Dawg AstroBone or “Stick” as light and simple options to keep you dog happy and the carpet clean. With two Dobermans in the house, we go through a lot of toys and the Ruff Dawg line has been outstanding. I highly recommend their “Peanut” toy to stuff food into for a fun incentivized game.

FINAL THOUGHTS Unless you have a street smart, free living, outdoor dog that depends soley on you for an occasional pat on the head, Bo Bo the wonder dog needs you to give them a helping hand when its time to bug out.  Just like us humans your dog needs a great pack to bug out with.  With a little planning your dog can have the right food, water, security, medication, ID, and even a little fun after all they deserve it.


SOURCES

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Roger Streamlight Rail Light Review

Roger Streamlight Rail Light Review

I believe in the use of tactical lights, however I have been challenged with their actual use.  Most of us who are already carrying around a pistol, extra mag, tactical flashlight, mace, and folding knife plus daily items start to feel more like Batman. 

A lot of people now are mounting lights to their firearms, however the problem is that is not always appropriate from a lighting, defensive, or ergonomic perspective. Also, most tactical weapon lights are not especially flat to carry in a pocket or ergonomic in the hand.

Weapon mounted tactical lights are also generally misused. Most people use the light like it was just a flashlight all the while forgetting that it is attached to a loaded gun which is dialed in to shoot pretty much where you are pointing the light. Tactical lights should be used only for final target identification and not general purpose lighting otherwise you end up pointing a gun at you something you do not want to distroy. Pointing a gun at someone without cause in some states is a felony; all be it, a very grey area of law.


Tactical lighting is a necessity whether it be in hand or weapon attached.  Bill Roger took a different approach and developed the Roger’s Rail Light which is simple, small, light and inexpensive option to tactical lighting for the CCW owner.

ABOUT ROGERS - BILL ROGERS
Bill Rogers is the the chief instructor at the Rogers Shooting School, is a former FBI Agent, police instructor, successful inventor, is well known in the shooting industry as an inventor and product engineer. He has been a world ranked IPSC shooter, a state trap champion, and has over 40 years of shooting competition experience. Bill has invented many of the holsters and equipment used by police and military worldwide, invented the target system and the method of instruction used at his Roger’s Shooting school, and of course invented the Super-Stoc and this Rail Light based on his vast experience and feedback from friends in the military, law enforcement, and competition community. I also learned of an awesome single point sling and gun cleaning Bore Squeeg-E system which DPMS now is also licensing for their kit, but those will be a different reviews.

FIT, FINISH, FEEL, FEATURES, & FUNCTIONS
Bill took the approach that we did not need a billion lumens of light in the same inconvenient sized case, but instead use the advancements in lighting technologies to provide a smaller and easier to carry light option which could still quickly attach/detach from a firearm.  The result was a snap-on and snap-off Rogers Rail Light designed for the industry standard 1913 Picatinny rails we find on all AR15s and almost every mid-large framed semi-automatic pistol on the market.

It should be rather obvious that Rogers is using the LED AAA powered Streamlight Microstream which mounts into the Rogers Rail Light chassis. The light is included as a kit which has a street price of around $35 which anyone can afford. In talking with Bill, making an affordable lighting option was one of his design goals. According to Bill, “We don’t need to illuminate the moon in a tactical situation, we just need to clearly illuminate what is 25-yards in front of us at night and the Microstream does a great job at that very affordably.” The Microstream features an unbreakable polycarbonate lens, machines aluminum body, is water resistant rated IPX4, and best of all it uses inexpensive and readily available AAA batteries. I of course recommend opting for the lithium versions for longer runtime and higher reliability. Although the 28-lumen rating of the light may seem low, the Microstream puts nearly 100% of that light into a very tight beam, so ultimately you end up with a light which seems far brighter than the lumens would indicate.

The mount is high strength polymer which is designed clip on a firearm by sliding it on the rail. Detaching only requires the light side to be rolled downward and it quickly detaches. Simple and easy with no screws, levers or gadgets to deal with.  Depending on the tactical or defensive situation, the Rogers Rail Light could be used in hand or clipped on quickly.

The Rogers Rail light is ambidextrous and does allow the light positioning on the left or right. Generally the light will be placed on the support hand side so that the support hand thumb or index finger can operation the momentary and on/off switch as needed. All that is required for the switch is to loosen the light retention screws flip the light and move the rail lock to the other side.  The light can also be move forward or backward to position the light conveniently for activation. The Streamlight’s button is designed to require fingertip push to click it on/off, however smashing the button with thumb or finger lightly allows momentary operation of the light; very well thought out for a simply button.

The other really cool feature I like is how easy the Roger Rail light can be carried in the pocket.  The Micrstream includes a pocket clip which allows the entire Rail Light to be clipped into the pocket for quick access. Once in hand the light can be used for general lighting operations or quickly slipped onto the firearm.


FINAL THOUGHTS
There are a lot of things about the Rogers Rail Light that really like. It delivers enough light without being bulky, has a pocket clip for easy access, it works well on both handguns and I even tested it on my AR15 and of course the $35 Street Price is beyond affordable in the land of $200 tactical lights.  

There is a note in the p that the Streamlight Microstream never designed as a dedicated weaponlight, however I had no issues with the light on my Walther PPX, PPS, or Glocks or even my AR15s. Technically the Microstream features polycarbonate lens and LED which are both impact proof so I do not foresee any issues as long as it is not used as a dedicated weaponlight you plan on beating up. 


Everyone should carry a tactical light. They are indispensable in day-to-day life and critically important in final identification of someone you have to shoot in defense. At this price everyone should own one. The Roger Rail Light is the perfect solution to the CCW owner who wants a simple and inexpensive working multi-light option and at under $40 there is nothing else like it on the market.

SPECS
Fits on any Picatinny/1913 rail
Ambidextrous design
Houses the Streamlight
Microstream® and Protac 2AAA®
Positions the tail on/off switch
right at shooters forward thumb
Easy snap on and off installation
Extremely light weight
Made of a heavy duty polymer
External rib design for added
strength and grip
Multipurpose Light
Supporti hand's thumb activated
Momentary and Click on  Off
Can be carried in pocket easily
Made in USA
1.75oz
Street Price $35

SOURCES

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Shot Show

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Shot Show
Ahh another year of dragging myself through SHOT show.  Everyone who is not in the industry always thinks that it would be a blast to attend, however if you are a dealer, distributor, manufacturer, or media it becomes a brutal job.  You start the day at 8AM trek through hundreds of booths and finish at 6PM all while being mentally on the top of your game for meeting, after meeting, after meeting. Then you rinse and repeat for four days. At night you collapse nursing your now throbbing feet that have been subjected to miles of aisles, eat whatever at that burger place downstairs because last year it was really good, close and fast just so you can have a drink and a cigar before hitting the bed early to do it all again.  It is not the party everything thinks and if you treat it like one, the next four days will be brutal.
The uninitiated think that you just get to wander through and talk to everyone you want, but instead most of the time you just missed the "right" person, they are already booked, or end up waiting for the four people in front of you to finish yakking about nothing relevant to the vendor or product.  Blah blah blah.  When you do finally have the chance to talk to the "right" person you are generally interrupted about five times.  That goes on for four days until you want to stab someone in the face with a spoon.
The OEM manufacturers are all trying to sell to the manufacturers, the manufacturers are trying to sell to the dealers all while appeasing the all important needs of the media and sponsored shooters who drive the product demand. In the mix are one off product sales on the floor and all the advertising guys running around selling banner ads, publication ad space, radio, and TV spots. In short it is one heck of a goat rodeo. I would hate to be a manufacturer attempting to actually sell something.
Oooh Glock Pencils
You have the brands that have been in the business since you granddad first started shooting, the brands that are proving themselves as long term manufacturers, and then you have the startups who could either be the next big thing or someone's broken dream of a business. You also have the vast array of overseas manufacturers that stole last years hot design and now offer them for 80% less at 10% the quality of the original.
The "big tent"/main 2nd floor is typically reserved for those that either have been exhibiting forever or are market giants. Getting space on the main floor is kinda like getting Packers tickets were someone has to die for you to get a space. One of the long-term exhibitors a floor down will get a chance to move up if someone drops out of the premium space... its always shifting around.  The saddlebag side halls hung off the main floors are generally the manufacturers that are either not particularly interested in a huge booth or are attempting to move into the big leagues. Floor layout planning for the show must be a freaking nightmare.
And the there is the booth numbering issue. The map will say this is the booth number, however they are not necessarily set up in order, or the vendor was moved at the last minute, or the vendor just didn't show up, or the map is wrong.  Oh yeah that is a blast to figure out that the booth was moved to the other end of the convention center and one floor up when you have meetings stacked up and you are already late because of the last booth that you couldn't find.

As a real life senior level marketing expert for a large fortune 100 company, I can definitively say that the sporting industry has about as much marketing sophistication as your average barber shop. Typically there are no pre-release PR events for the media to stage up new product releases under nondisclosure agreements like you find in any other industry, no customer loyalty programs, email marketing is generally considered cutting edge, and if I bring up “data analytics based marketing and product forecasting” it can actually induce an aneurysm in almost all heads of marketing. 

Ask what their plans are for Social Commerce and service based media and you will have them staring at you like you are speaking Klingon.  Inquire  what their average RFM of their customer base is and they start giving you the finger. Its an immature marketing market generally run on a last man standing in the company approach or by a PR company who used to be a marketing person for the sporting industry at some point. At least the PR folks can piece together decent media buy strategies with pretty ads.
Two years ago someone in the media made a big stink that the tiny little bloggers should be tossed out to make room and time for the bigger media outlets.  I will admit that I have had the same thought as the metaphorical  Timmy Tactical was elbowing me out of the way to do a full length deep product review as thirty other people are attempting to look at the newly introduced product. I believe we should give the little guy a chance after all, only a couple years ago I was that guy. Some print publications would argue even I don't belong there even though MajorPandemic.com has a 200K monthly readrship, and of course the TV guys would say the print guys don't belong and are obsolete.  It may be annoying the guy shooting video with an iphone wants to hold up everyone, but hey they may become the next Outdoor Channel. Variety is the spice of life.
I enjoy a nicely sculpted body as much as the next person, however I don’t think it belongs at a trade show. If you want that go pay for it like everyone else does and let me get on with my business.  To me vendors with a Tits and Ass display says “hey I wanted to get your attention because our products are total crap and there is no other way we can get you in the booth without these Booth Babes… and I know zip about marketing.” Ok, OK if it is your marketing figurehead signing posters... well that's a grey area in my book. What is worse are the total neanderthals literally running people over to get to the next “even hotter” booth babe, grunting, ogling, and yes even handling the scantily clad female masquerading as a feeble attempt at gorilla marketing. You want my attention? Stop using them like perfume girls whose experience with guns ends with the brochures she is handing out.
You have ritechus kick ass female shooters like Julie Golob and Jessie Duff who should be be admired for one thing… their ability to kick all our asses in a gunfight.  I will bet they were really impressed with you portraying females as nothing more than icing on guns. Noting that there were more females attending this year than ever who are buyers, PR, and manufacturers, what do you think their impression of your booth and products are? The gun market will be grown and saved by the huge growing female shooter segment, however the market has a long way to mature before it feels truly welcome to the female shooter and the old swat on the ass “woman get me a beer” mentality is NOT where we need to be. The general rule is that if you would not want your mamma seeing marketing methods, then maybe you should choose a different tactic.
For those that are new to trade shows, I beg of you please do not be a Swag Hunter.  I never really understood this mentality of traveling across country, abusing your body for a week to walk 15 miles of trade show booths just to accumulate 50lb of free virtually worthless trade show swag.  My most loathed creature of Shot is the Swag Hunter. Generally this beast is dressed all in camo or tactical gear usually in a size which makes you ask “good lord I didn’t even know they made fatigues that large… was that special order from a tent company?” This may be a generalization, however the worst of them are almost always eating, attempting to get a date with the booth babes, and riding around bumping into everyone’s ankles with a HuvaRound and interrupting business conversations with “got any free stuff” or “what-cha-givn-away?”  Really a $1000 for a weeks worth of travel and you wet your self in ecstasy because you get a $2 USB drive with a logo on it? Don’t be that guy/gal.
Shot Show “ride-alongs” are a term most use for attendees that have no real purpose for being there. Generally they “ride-along” by knowing a vendor who can register them under their business. It is easy to spot these people as they are not exhausted, unbelievably happen to be at the show, and usually smell like they have been drinking most of the day. Just a note that everyone who actually works the show wishes we could be a Ride-Along attendee.
Source -Julie Golob - I was there when she did this.
There is also the weird stuff that occurs only at Shot Show. The Best Beards of Shot Show, walking by seeing the world famous Julie Golob mounted on a custom motorcycle threatening to take it for a ride, running into James Yaeger, the ATF booth doing Shot show promo videos, the sticker on the vandalized ATF booth that says “come and get them”, a tricked out slammed Swat van, watching most of the media at media day muzzle sweep spectators at least once with a hot gun, the super awesome new overseas manufacturer that you literally get every gun they hand you to jam at media day, and trade show hot dogs… which are not bad, extremely satisfying, but I am really unsure what they are made of.
This year thankfully did not have the big depressing feeling that everyone is coming for our guns, but some from states who had enacted moronic laws were visibly kicking their feet in disgust. There was the typical pronouncements by literally every company that they are twice as tactical, cool, and featured as they were last year to signify they are somehow leapfrogged their competition again. There had to be well over 100 manufacturers of Rmington 700 action billet receivers all claiming to be somehow better than the other 99 I just walked by. There were things I did not get like all the optics guys now offering 34MM tubes on their top tier optics and a 14lb titanium receiver’ed and graphite barreled AR15… both left me asking “why?”  There were also a huge number of manufacturers with virtually nothing new this year simply because they are still behind from last year.
Barring any horrible events that cause people to think emotionally irrational about guns and ammo, I actually think that we will see a glut of ammo and guns this year. There were a HUGE number of new AR15 and other firearm manufacturers that hit the market in the last 24 months and most are just starting to hit their production stride. I would not be surprised if by mid-year we saw the prices fall below the buying frenzy levels due to a huge glut of AR15s being pushed into the market. I also saw a lot of new faces in ammo manufacturing as well which will also drive ammo prices down.  Personally I think this is a custom and custom accessory year for shooters. I believe 2014 will be the year that everyone decide to spice up and customize all the guns they bought in the last two years. Optics, rails, and furniture will be huge, but people will also be be spending all the other parts of their kits like packs, shoes, shirts, and holsters.
MajorPandemic.com is locked and loaded for another year of articles and videos, “Green Green”, lets hit the range and see what all this new stuff can do. See you all again next year at SHOT.