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Pre-show Media Shoot Out


Well-known member
Mar 12, 2001
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Usually, my SHOT Show visits involve a lot of walking around a convention center, looking at all the new guns, hefting them and bringing them to bear... but never firing a shot. This year, due to a little extra flexibility in my schedule, I had time to make it a day early... and to participate in two range sessions, one sponsored by Browning/Winchester and one put on by Smith and Wesson.

At the Browning/Winchester shoot, held at a range just outside Orlando, the host companies laid out a sampling of their new weapons and ammo. Media representatives (like Jesse and me) were then able to cruise the firing line, pick up any gun, load it up and let fly to our hearts' content. As the host said before turning us loose, "nobody goes home until all the ammo is gone!"

The range setups consisted of a 100 yard range for rifles and slug guns, as well as a couple of the big-bore S&W revolvers to try out the new reduced-recoil .500S&W and .460Ruger ammunition. For shotgunners, there was a five-stand setup and another clay shooting stand.

Finally, there was a handgun range where we had the opportunity to try out some of the new offerings from Springfield Armory, as well as some of the new handgun ammunition.

Jesse and I spent some time at all three, beginning with the rifles.

Some of you know that I've been drooling over the new .325 WSM round. I haven't yet had a chance to shoot it, so when I saw the Browning A-bolt in that caliber sitting on an unoccupied bench, I swooped.

This rifle made my morning. Sending a 220gr Accubond bullet downrange at a good bit over 3000fps, I was able create a three shot group with two holes touching and the third a bit above the first two. Recoil, something I was a bit concerned about with a round that runs as fast as a 300 Win Mag and hits as hard as a .338 Mag, wasn't much of an issue. In fact, my Savage 30-06 is worse. The rifle was equipped with a Hi-Viz aftermarket recoil pad, and that made a bit of difference.

On the next bench over was a Browning BLR in the same caliber. I own a BLR in .243 and it's one of my favorite guns. I couldn't wait to see how the .325 handled.

Jesse and I both shot this rifle, and we agreed that the recoil was definitely more significant than the A-bolt, but it was still manageable. Unfortunately, the scope was way off so I wasn't able to shoot a representative group.

We shot a bunch of other rifles and a couple of slug guns. Rifles included A-bolts in several calibers (.204 Ruger, .243WSSM, and .270 WSM). In shotguns we used a Browning Gold shooting the new reduced recoil slugs. With the exception of the .270WSM, nothing was extremely notable. The .270 shooing some of the new Accubond ammo printed my first three shot group with two holes overlapping and the third touching the first two.

Near the end of the bench I spotted a sleek looking semi-auto.

If you were wondering what might happen with Winchester rifles, here's at least a partial answer... the Winchester SXR.

I fired several rounds through this rifle, chambered in 30-06, and it was as pleasant to shoot as it is to look at. I'm not a big fan of semi-auto hunting rifles, but I can see where afficianados would enjoy shooting this thing. The scope was a bit off, but once I figured out the point of impact I was able to get groups in the 1.5" range at 100 yards.

Finally, at the very end of the bench, Springfield Armory had a selection of their military-styled rifles to shoot. Jesse immediately took an interest in the new SoCom II.

Jesse sat down at the bench and emptied a couple of magazines. This particular rifle was equipped with a holographic sight that had been bumped around a bit too much. As a result, accuracy wasn't that great, but the rifle sure did pump out the rounds. I decided I needed to try it too.


Once we'd exhausted our interest in shooting the rifles, we decided to go have a look at the scatterguns.

On the five-stand course, the majority of weapons available to shoot were variations of the Browning Gold Semi-Auto or the Browning Citori O/U. (Sorry those who wanted to hear about the Cynergy. They didn't have one.) As mentioned before I don't care much for semi-autos so I opted to shoot the Citori 12ga.

I've shot the Citori plenty of times before, and although the one I was shooting was a very pretty gun, there was nothing especially notable here. It was just fun!

I moved to the next stand, where I had the opportunity to shoot the Citori 28 and 20 ga.

The 28ga, once I got used to its light weight, was a dream to shoot. The 20 ga was fun too. Then the representative at the stand switched me over to the new low-recoil, quiet shotshells. These loads run out at about 950fps, but I was able to break clays with them handily. The really cool thing though, was that the report of the gun was little more than a gentle pop.

Neither Jesse nor I are big handgunners. Nevertheless, we were under orders to shoot all the ammo, so we walked over to the handgun range. It was close to lunch time, so this area was clearing out when we arrived. We took the opportunity to blast away with Springfield Armory's newest .45acp compacts.

After a great barbecue lunch served up with all the fixins, it was time to jump in the car and head over to the Smith and Wesson Media Shoot-out.

Once we'd signed in, the first attraction was waiting at a 25 yard range... the S&W 500 Magnum. In this case, it was a custom job from the Performance Shop, sporting a 7.5" rifle barrel. I'd describe the whole arrangement, as it was pretty ingenious, but it would take half a day to write. This is not the S&W 500 most people will see coming out of the box, though.

Bottom line, though, I had yet to fire one of these monsters and it was now time.

I shoot some pretty hot loads in my Ruger .44 Mag. They're hot enough that they start to hurt after a couple of dozen shots. But I have to say, that thing is NOTHING compared to the .500.
(Jesse missed most of the shot. Here I'm just about to recover from the recoil.)

I'm a serious proponent of the "use enough gun" school of thought. But I have to say, in the case of the .500mag, this is TOO MUCH gun. It was cool, and in certain applications (like fighting off a tyranosaurus rex or maybe a crazed grizzly), I can see where some folks would like it. But even on my first shot, the report, recoil, and muzzle blast made it impossible to see where my shots were landing. By the time I fired the fourth round (I left the fifth chamber empty) I was already flinching. In my notepad for the day I scribbled, "Not a gun for the timid."

After the .500, I passed up the crowds at the pistol range (where they were shooting several new models of S&W handguns) and walked to the skeet range.

At the skeet range, I found them shooting three brand new offerings from S&W: the Elite Gold (a SxS 20 ga), the Elite Silver (an O/U 12ga), and a 12ga semi-auto. I'll try to get pictures of these from the show floor later this week, as Jesse was dealing with some business and I had no photographer on the firing line.

I found the Silver (O/U) a bit heavy, especially after swinging the Browning Citori earlier. Once I adjusted, I was able to break clays reasonably well, but it was nothing to write home about. After the Silver, I moved to the semi-auto. This shotgun simply did not agree with me (see my earlier notes about semi-autos), and it felt awkward. It was all I could do to break one clay out of five with it.

But I saved the best for last. I'm crazy about SxS shotguns, and the Elite Gold was one of those things you just dream about shooting. It fit like it was made for me, and swung like part of my body. When the clays went airborne, the gun thought for me, swung through and broke everything that came out of the thrower.

The only thing I didn't love about this gun was the single trigger. I'm used to double-triggers on my SxS, so making a second shot required a little extra thought with the Elite Gold's single trigger configuration. But it's a minor "flaw", and in light of the feel and performance of the gun, one I could quite happily live with.

Unfortunately for those of us on a budget, the Elite Gold is coming off the line with an MSRP of $2350. That's not insane, for those who know doubles, but it's not going to put them in the hands of bird hunters on a budget either.

Anyway, the SHOT Show properly begins tomorrow. We'll be hitting the floor first thing, so check back for updates as the weekend rolls on. More pictures and info will be forthcoming!



Well-known member
Dec 4, 2002
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Great report Speckmisser! Looks like you guys had fun, I'll be landing in Orlando tonight and will see you then.

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