It’s all Spaniels and Tweed, Barbour and Purdey, Flat Caps and Fieldsports isn’t it? Well… Yes, but actually no.
Whilst there is an ever present amount of side-by-side shotguns and landed gentry at shooting events within the UK, there is also a rapidly increasing amount of what I would call the more “tactical” side of shooting being showcased in more recent years.
I decided to visit The British Shooting Show (BSS) about 2 months ago, partly because my colleague is a shooting enthusiast as well, but also because attending a trade show is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m too poor for Shotshow and there’s already far too many airsofters attending and covering IWA, I figured my best hope to actually talk to people in the industry was at the British Shooting Show.
From Practical Shooting to showcasing military hardware, there’s a growing interest in the side of shooting that evokes Demolition Ranch more than Downton Abbey. Whilst I didn’t see everything there was to see at the show, I saw enough of what a wanted to justify a 3 hour drive in each direction.
The primary reason I didn’t see absolutely everything was time management, it’s tough enough to cover a whole show in one day let alone get to speak with everyone you want to. I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time with some people as I’d have liked to, it’s not easy cutting a conversation short when you genuinely want to ask another 20 questions but not only was I thinking about my time, but its only fair to the guys who were actually there working that I didn’t hold them up for too long.
I understand that as a mere blog writer, any time spent with me might be time better spent with “proper” customers. But all things considered, I had some genuinely great chats with retailers, manufacturers and distributors and all the guys I spoke to were genuinely welcoming.
Vortex Optics UK had a stand near the centre of the show, reinforced by the staff at Country Sport Wholesale. Vortex Optic UK’s Rep, Chris (although incredibly busy) was kind enough to take me aside and run me through a few things that I had a specific interest in. Having reviewed a number of Vortex optics in the past, I was eager to see what 2020 would bring.
While we’re on the subject, congratulations to Vortex on winning the Great British Shooting Award for Best Optic Under £1000, for their Diamondback Tactical 6-24 x 50. Not only a fantastic achievement in the face of worthy competition, but also a point of pride for my friend @lifeasalock, who uses his regularly to great effect out to 1000yds at Bisley.
Also, one of the big talking points of the show was their new generation Razor HD III, a First Focal Plane Low Powered Variable Optic with a number of fantastic features.
I won’t embarrass myself or Vortex by going through it’s features without having all the facts to hand, but I will say that having a brief look through the scope that it’s clarity and reticule were fantastic. At around £2000 it might seem a rather extravagant purchase for your average airsofter, but it’s a hell of a scope for virtually any firearm you’d care to put it on.
I also eyed up a couple of their other sights such as the UH-1 Huey, a true holographic sight (much alike the EOTech range) with a distinctive block like appearance and a couple of binoculars I’d not seen before, one small pair I’ll be adding to my gear locker soon.
Leupold were also in attendance, sharing a stand with Viking Arms. I spoke at length with the Leupold representative about their new handheld thermal optic, the LTO-Tracker 2 HD.
With a selectable White/Black Hot, Green/Colour display alongside display brightness adjustment for low light use and manual gain to allow for certain conditions, this is a worthy alternative option to the Sector Optics T20 Thermal Imaging device we’re seeing in use at Milsim games.
Airsoft was relatively minor in its trade attendance figures but Bespoke Airsoft, iWholesales and Land Warrior Airsoft all had busy looking stands, although I’m sure it’s frustrating when a holder of an FAC comes to buy a plinker for his garden and you can’t sell them anything because of the backwards laws we have in this country.
That probably accounts for why LWA were also showcasing their Umarex 4.5mm Licensed Glock air pistols, I’ll admit I was tempted to grab one as the look and feel was pretty damn close to its real steel counterpart.
I also made my only purchase of the day from LWA, a Magpul cap which for some reason is the only flexfit cap I’ve tried that feels half comfortable.
There was also the small matter of the Airsoft Surgeon IPSC Championships taking place in one of the halls, something I’d been looking forward to seeing, but unfortunately as the competition was underway I didn’t get much time to chat to many of the competitors and there didn’t appear to be anyone free that I could talk to about the competition in general. Probably my biggest disappointment from the event was missing out on what was going on with this and I feel that an opportunity to educate others within the shooting world was potentially missed by the Airsoft community.
Next up, Thomas Jacks. A UK distributer for a fair amount of brands you guys will already be aware of, from L3 Industries/EOTech and Hazard 4 to Norotos and SiOnyx.
I was shown through the whole line up of their EOTech range, including the VUDU LPVO optics that have that incredible “Donut and dot” reticule at low power whilst using a first focal plane arrangement to then magnify into a more complex reticule for precision shooting. I didn’t catch his name, but the rep there was incredibly helpful and answered all of my annoying questions.
The next stop was to see Big Phil Campion, a former soldier serving with the SAS. A big guy with a personality to match. We talked for 10 minutes or so about his time in the forces and also about his current endeavours.
Phil was at the show with a rather immersive “Kill House” where even someone with a fair amount of CQB Airsoft experience would probably end up with a less than perfect score. An interesting way to show case the difficulties of clearing rooms and corridors.
The Edgar Brothers stand was another incredible highlight of the show for me personally, after speaking to one of the reps there about a few of the Barrett and Schmeisser rifles coming to the UK the subject went onto weaponry of a more unique nature.
He actually ended up bringing out a special bit of kit, so special in fact that permission was needed to take a photo of it. A little lightweight bolt action from a manufacturer that no one’s ever heard of but we all know one of its best selling products…
“Q” – Or, Live Q Or Die as they’ve coined the phrase. Q’s founder, Kevin Brittingham was also the founder of AAC and designer of the AAC Honey Badger. This relatively new venture has allowed him to once again look at abnormal solutions to complex problems.
The rifle I was shown was simply called “The Fix”, a somewhat simple name for a weapon that looks to address requirements that other bolt actions simply do not.
Using a proprietory trigger mechanism with a smooth two stage action and light release on the sear, this firearm also uses an interesting striker fired bolt which actually has more in common with a Glock than a traditional bolt action. Ultra light, compact and able to fire .308 Remington (7.62mm), 6.5mm Creedmoor or .300 Blackout with just a quick change of the barrel and magazine, The Fix is apparently being looked at to resolve a number of performance gaps within several military and law enforcement units worldwide.
I was then shown around to another section within the Edgar Brothers stand, this one devoted to Aimpoint red dot sights and featuring a VR hog hunt simulation where I was able to have a go at shooting some wild boar (missing mostly if I’m honest).
The VR package is available for a number of different end users, from hunting and practical target simulations to more complex scenarios for military and law enforcement with shoot/no shoot scenarios and the ability for the VR package to assess your position and create virtual obstacles to shoot around or take cover behind. All in all, a very impressive bit of kit.
It wasn’t until later that night a mutual friend reminded me of who the rep I’d spoken to actually was. It turned out that this helpful guy who showed me around the entire EB stand and products was actually no other than @valleydeepmountainhigh, an incredibly knowledgable guy I’ve been following for some time on IG.
So what else did I see at the show? All the big names were in attendance and made the show that little bit more interesting. I was helped and advised with questions from so many people it’s hard to keep track of it all, but a special thank you to all the guys mentioned above for being so helpful, but also thank you to the other companies I spent a little time with such as Schmidt & Bender, Accuracy International, Primary Arms, Scott Country International, Olight, Smith & Wesson, Umarex, Shield Sights, IPSC.
A final thank you to Steve Morgan and the guys hosting the show, FRL Media Group. Thank you for arranging a spectacular event and allowing me a press pass, I’ll certainly be back next year!