As I type this we are a couple of days from the end of the year and the beginning of a new one. 2011 wasn’t exactly a year that will be known for a lot of new items and I really believe 2012 will be even less. With our economy in the dumpster, I expect gun companies will refurbish existing guns and come out with new versions of old favorites. Those that do come out with totally new products will really be sticking their necks out. I think we will see some new guns but they will be the lower priced, more economical models like the Savage Axis and the Mossberg model 100 along with the Savage Stevens model 200. Each of these 3 guns have done very well over the past 12 to 20 months and their success proves that Americans will still buy new guns, as long as the price fits into their budget. Spendable income is going to be less in 2012 so the high dollar guns may falter and we may even see a few of them dropped due to lack of sales.
The SHOT SHOW is the 3rd week in January in Las Vegas. Colleen, Kase and I may hit the show one day but will wait until the first day to see if it is worth the time and effort. It is always a huge show with literally thousands of booths, as much as 8000 of them in past years. Everything from guns, ammo, reloading gear, hunting dog supplies, fishing gear, hunting clothes and the list goes on and on. The last few years have had hundreds of new guns shown to the dealers from all over the world. The problem is probably 50 to 60% of those new guns never actually get produced. So it is more like a sporting goods concept show. They show a new gun and if the dealers there order a bunch of them, then they produce the guns, which means months and months of waiting for them to arrive at your dealers. If they don’t get a lot of interest in the guns, they quietly drop it and pretend it never happened. Kase and I saw a neat polymer 1911 with clear polymer frame a few years back. It was the highlight of this gun company’s booth. We checked the next year about it and the sales people in the booth tried to tell us it was another company that showed that gun, not them. We had pictures of the gun in their booth, so it was obviously not the hit they expected it to be and they quietly shoved it under the rug and denied that it ever existed.I expect things to go much the same this year too.
Ammunition may well be a top seller this coming year, if the companies can keep their prices affordable. Some companies, like Hornady, are willing to stick their necks out. Look at the Zombie Max ammo from Hornady. We can’t keep it on the shelves. It is priced very good and has an appeal to those that want something different, plus if you have a bad batch of zombies in your neighborhood, it could come in handy. Hornady also has several new cartridges coming out in 2012. Like the 17 Hornet. Those folks at Hornady sure do love their 17 calibers. The 17 Hornet has been a wildcat cartridge for many years. We chambered the 17 Hornet and 17 Bee in our Coyote Classic years ago. It truthfully wasn’t a good seller so it was dropped, but it is still neat to see a big company like Hornady do something that nobody else would even touch. As far as ballistics go the 17 Hornet puts a 20 grain bullet out at 3600 fps so it should be popular to a lot of varmint shooters.
It is amazing how cartridges come and go and then come back years later. The 22 Hornet is one of those calibers. Popular as the 22 Hornet, then slowed down, until the 22 K-Hornet came out, then popular again. The K-Hornet being an improved version of the cartridge. Now in this last few years the 22 Hornet has surged again. Our Banshees, the 240 Banshee and 255 Banshee are doing very well. These are pretty much just the 22 K-Hornet necked up to .243 and .257. I talked to Dave Manson, of Manson Reamers today. We are getting quite a few orders for the two Banshee cartridges in Europe. One of the big double rifle makers has asked us for permission to build the 240 Banshee and 255 Banshee in their custom rifles as they have had considerable interest in it. With the very strict gun laws in Europe the Banshees with their low noise, shorter range and a smaller caliber should do very well there. I told Dave to go ahead and sell the company the reamers.
Speaking of considerable interest in our cartridges, our 256 Falcon has gone crazy. We have built and shipped almost 30 new barrels in the 256 falcon. Actually we still have several of that number to ship out, but we have taken that many orders, plus 3 more today. And we don’t even have dies for it yet. Sean Harper, who does all our ballistic and pressure testing says the Falcon is doing even better than I had figured it would. I wanted a long range (250 to 300 yard) cartridge for antelope and deer and it looks like we have it. There are a multitude of 25 caliber bullets that will be fine in the new 256 Falcon. From very light to 120 grains or so. When I designed it, I wanted a very fast, flat shooting cartridge but one that was efficient. There are plenty of flat shooting cartridges out there that use up 80 to 125 grains of powder, but that is not what I wanted. I wanted one that used 30 to 35 grains of powder for a 100 to 110 grain bullet and would hump out there at 2700 fps or so.  Right now we have beat the 250 Savage and 257 Roberts +P in equal length barrels and have equaled the 110 grain load in the 25-06 in equal length barrels, and Sean has really just started. Even if we just equal those cartridges in a handgun length barrel I will be happy. So, so far so good. We are having to do some afro engineering to get the cartridges loaded but it is all worth it when we hit those expected speeds and accuracy and do it efficiently.
Speaking of testing new cartridges, Sean has been field testing the new 277 GNR, which is the 405 case necked to .277 and says it is a screamer. Great velocities and accuracy to boot. Sean plans to use it in the next few days on Texas hogs, so we shall see. Still no dies for it yet but they should be here within a couple of weeks.
In the opening segment above I mentioned that I felt several gun companies would revamp their existing guns into more economical versions during this coming year. One model comes to mind that has already come out. It is the Smith & Wesson Sport Rifle. It is an AR-15 type rifle but without all the gimmicks that run up the price tag. I have seen them priced just a hair over $600 and that is a great price for a top name brand rifle. Much like the Savage Axis that I have mentioned, the Smith & Wesson gives you great value for your dollar. I expect this rifle to do great things in the coming year.
Thompson Center was bought out by Smith & Wesson almost 2 years ago and has moved into their new plant on the Smith & Wesson grounds. They are having some growing pains in the way of parts availability as many parts are simply just not available. Hopefully that will pass and things get back to normal. Right now several companies are having parts shortages that are effecting many of us. I have many hundreds of parts on back order right now from Thompson Center and Ruger and hopefully this will clear up in the next month or so. I have probably 30 to 35 orders that are running 4 to 6 weeks longer than advertised due to this parts shortage.
Speaking of Thompson Center, we received our first shipment of their new “revised” Encore today. Some very subtle changes in it. The serial numbers started all over. My test frame is serial number 0017. The frame pin that holds the barrel in place is extremely tight, which is good and bad. Good in that it should ensure long frame life and better accuracy but bad in that some guys will just take a bigger hammer to it to change barrels. And speaking of taking a bigger hammer, we got a new Thompson Center Black Powder rifle in yesterday. This is the one on the Encore frame.  I started to yank the barrel off to try out a new rifle barrel in our 277 GNR. But I noticed that the frame pin was considerably smaller than the standard Encore frame pin. When I spotted that I figured maybe I should take a look at the owners manual. Sure enough in big letters it said right there on the front of the manual “Non Interchangeable Barrel”. I wonder at the reasoning behind this as interchangeable barrel systems are what made Thompson Center famous. When TC gets back from their Christmas/New Year break I will see if I can find out.
A large Law Enforcement group has sent letters of support to our congressmen and senators supporting traditional ammunition, meaning the normal lead core ammo. The National Fraternal Order of Police has come out against the Toxic Substance Control Act. I was really glad to see this as all this Green this and Green that have absolutely no basis of credibility. No condors have died from eating lead, no pandas have been shot in the ass with a lead bullet. No Spotted Owls have died from choking on a lead bullet, and so on. It is all just another law to weaken us and keep us broke buying all this special Green ammunition. I refuse to carry the lead free ammo in my gun shop and I will never shoot a certain brand of lead free bullets as that company is the main ammunition company that helped promote the no lead bullets and stabbed all shooters and hunters in the back. Nuff said.
I mentioned above about some companies adapting their existing guns to sell quicker by lowering the prices. Well, not to be outdone, Taurus has lowered the price on their blue TCP 380 pistol. We are selling them at just a buck or two over $200. That special price is for a gun with no gimmicks, only one magazine and only in blue. But for something to drop in your pocket, you really don’t need all the fancy accessories. We sell them as quick as we can get them in. At less than $210 you get a proven design and a great little gun with a lifetime warranty. Can’t beat that.
The Chiappa company that makes the ugly little 38 revolver called the Rhino with the underslung barrel that fires out of the lower chamber of the cylinder, at 6 o’clock rather than at 12 o’clock also has a new lever gun in 45-70 called the 1886 Kodiak Trapper. It is based on the Winchester 1886 design and comes with an 18˝” barrel. It is nickel plated which I don’t care for but should be a good seller nevertheless. One thing I absolutely do not care for is that Chiappa Firearms puts a small chip in the gun that can be tracked by the government. They say it is for tracking stolen guns. They can keep their chip. If I had one of the Chiappa Firearms the first thing I would do, if possible, would be to yank that gizmo out and feed it to the pigs. 
I pulled one of my 44 magnum Smith & Wesson model 29s out of the safe recently and decided to give it a new outlook on life. It had quite a bit of bluing wear and a few honest scratches from years of hunting. So it is now high polished sitting on my engraving bench waiting on some fancying up and a nice Black Chromex finish. It deserves a new look.
Our next HHC (Handgun Hunter’s Challenge) is slated for March 8-11, at the Wilderness Hunting Lodge in Monterey Tennessee. I wanted to get past Christmas before I started pushing it but there you go. I already have 7 or 8 people signed up and room for about 40 more. The HHC has always a great hunt. More of a gathering of friends than just a hunt. I always look forward to seeing old friends again that I only get to see once or twice a year at best. The prices are great and the companionship is even better. I will get a list of animals for the next Gun Notes but in the meantime go to my forum at and I will post more info on there. If you think you might want to join us, by all means do so. Call Sherry Wilson, the owner’s wife and put down your $250 deposit and join us. I guarantee you you won’t regret it. More on this later.
Our hunting seasons are over for the year for the most part, but don’t let that keep you from enjoying shooting. And take a youngster with you. They are our future.
Til next month, God bless.