When you’re tasked with scouring 650,000 square feet of SHOT Show floor space for just a small sampling of handguns, determining which to write about can be a daunting task. What do readers want to know about? What will resonate with consumers in the coming year? Do you highlight the same handguns every other writer picks or include a few winners from the shadows sure to whet the appetites of your customers?
Truth be told, being a gun writer is sometimes a blessing and a curse. So many handguns are worthy of ink, but word counts dictate that including all of them is never an option. Our choice then? To share our thoughts with readers on what we feel will truly resonate with buyers over the coming year. In this case, here’s a mix of amazing new offerings and those less highlighted for demanding customers looking for top-shelf performance … or a little adventure. In that spirit, take a look at this handful of exceptional handguns sure to capture the hearts, minds and hard-earned dollars of your customers.
Avidity Arms PD10
As one of the few privileged to fire Avidity Arms’ first PD10 prototype (and loving every second of it) I spent all of 2016 dreaming of its launch, but it never came. Instead, I ran into Rob Pincus at Industry Day at the Range and had my year-long itch scratched by the opportunity for trigger time with his latest prototype, a polymer-framed PD10. Why is this important? For a couple of reasons. First, it means nobody has missed the boat on an amazing handgun. Second, the handgun is still in the works and on its way. Finally, I was able to shoot what was originally planned as a production-type PD10. From its inception, Pincus was always careful to point out that production PD10s would be polymer, quite a different build than the prototype I fired a year ago.
So, is the juice worth the squeeze, as they say? Absolutely. Designed from the ground up by Pincus, an iconic Personal Defense Network expert, author and Combat Focus Shooting founder, the striker-fired Avidity Arms PD10 is poised to rule the 9mm concealed-carry roost. This was my take on the PD10 last year and my position has not changed even with a polymer frame. In fact, the new prototype performed even better than I remembered from a steel build. While the overall PD10 design was free of any snagging points, the single-stack 10-round 1911 magazine and ultra-slim grip fit my large palm and stubby fingers perfectly. It is sure to do the same for shooters with generally small hands.
Shooting the newer version of the PD10 was a dream. I experienced zero misfeeds through slow fire, double-tapping and even rapid fire. All components felt tight and well balanced, from slide operation, magazine insertion and extraction and a light, crisp trigger with short reset. Is it a thing of beauty? It depends on who you ask. If you’re looking for bling, no. If you’re looking for fit, form and function rich with specifically personal defense and concealed carry attention in every detail, it’s a well-balanced masterpiece that won’t break your customer’s bank.
While Pincus promised the PD10 will be available in 2016, he was careful to pledge to a deadline. His best estimate in Vegas was early summer. Like last year, the PD10 was my favorite 2017 SHOT Show handgun and for what is important for me and countless consumers, a must have. If your customers are looking for a handgun worth its weight — and wait — the PD10 is more than worthy of room in your inventory.
Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0
I won’t lie, being a gun writer has its privileges. Spending some quality trigger time with the Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 9mm on range day was proof. As a big fan of the M&P9, I was a bit skeptical about any decidedly different shooting experience between the M&P9 and the M2.0. However, any skepticism quickly left the shooting line as I emptied my first magazine. In the words of my 14-year-old, “This thing is legit!”
The striker-fired M2.0 was light yet incredibly well balanced and the stippled grip felt as though it was designed from a mold of my hand. For comfort and fit, it sits at the top with the Avidity Arms PD10. In fact, for a double-stack holding 17+1, the M2.0 is the most comfortable I have ever handled. While weight and balance are important, especially as such attributes relate to recoil, barrel lift and getting back on target, so is a light, crisp trigger, and the new M2.0 trigger with tactile reset did not disappoint. Other notable improvements include an extended stainless steel chassis for reduced flex, reversible magazine release and multiple sets of palm swells for even better fit. Additional points of interest include a stainless steel slide and 4¼-inch barrel, both with a durable Armornite finish, and a picatinny accessory rail.
Had the M2.0 included one or two attributes present on the Avidity Arms PD10, like a snag-free design perfectly suited for concealed carry, it might have stolen the spotlight. For customers looking for a truly remarkable and affordable handgun whether open carry, concealed carry, competitive shooting or Saturday plinking, you would be remised not to have the M2.0 readily available.
SIG Sauer P320
I wrote about the ultra-innovative, modular SIG Sauer P320 last year for Shooting Sports Retailer and at that time labeled it the Lego gun because of its ability to morph from full size to compact and to various calibers (9mm, .357 Sig and .40 S&W) with a SIG Sauer X-Change Kit. The P320 even adjusts for a perfect fit with small, medium and large modular backstraps. At the 2017 SHOT Show, the P320’s created quite the buzz again, this time as the Army’s pick for a 10-year, $580 million dollar contract, replacing the battle-proven Beretta M9A1. The Army’s contract reportedly includes full-size and compact modular P320s as well as standard and extended magazines.
While the masses were sure Glock would land the contract (and Beretta was hopeful), the modular capability of the P320 clearly one Army officials over and is a solid fit for the Army’s evolving needs.
Still, while the Army has selected the P320 for its ranks, it’s quite an amazing piece of handgun innovation perfect for customers looking for a handgun with more options than any other currently on the market. Almost as important, selling the SIG P320 and touting its ability to morph via a simple, tool-less three-point takedown system, without compromising SIG’s performance and quality, makes accessorizing easy. Customers choosing a P320 are certain to consider X-Change Kits to truly experience the P320 modular benefits.
Coonan .357 Magnum Classic
Sure, a 1911 may not be the best choice for a concealed carry gun but I’m a Marine so the 1911 will always have a special place in my heart. And, as 1911s go, I have always been intrigued by less than .45-Caliber options. While my sub-.45 1911 experiences have included trigger time with 9mm and .380s, I was truly enamored with Coonan’s .357 Magnum Classic Stainless 1911 and had the chance to shoot it this past year. Browsing the booth spaces during Industry Day at the Range and running into Coonan had me giddy, like a kid in a candy store. New? No. Worth talking about? Absolutely.
Shooting the Coonan .357 Magnum 1911 was quite an experience — perhaps my best yet. I was pleasantly surprised by Coonan’s light, crisp, pivoting trigger and the accuracy I achieved out to 25 yards. In fact, if I were to carry a 1911, the Coonan .357 Magnum Classic might be an easy choice. The Coonan also boasts a 5-inch linkless barrel and external extractor. Customers demanding a premium 1911 experience are sure to continue to give the Coonan .357 Magnum Classic 1911 serious consideration.
CVA Accura V2
Where else can you find a muzzleloader pistol in a SHOT Show handgun roundup? That’s what sets Shooting Sports Retailer magazine apart. Obviously less traditional but well worth the ink and certain to turn the heads of your customers while even extending their hunting season (especially those consumers looking for a challenge), the muzzle-loaded CVA Accura V2 .50-Caliber Pistol offers the same pinnacle of performance and quality muzzleloader enthusiasts have come to expect from Accura V2 rifles.
While the Accura V2 Pistol is new to CVA’s lineup it was unveiled long before SHOT. I had the good fortune of learning about the Accura V2 Pistol this past summer when CVA ambassador and Travelin’ Hunter TV Show host, Tony Smotherman, brought one to the Professional Outdoor Media Association Conference in Kalispell, Montana. Not only have I known Tony for years, he introduced me to my first muzzleloading experience many years ago at another POMA conference and has been a great resource for all things black powder ever since. To say I was excited to shoot the Accura V2 Pistol was an understatement.
While I cannot recall the bullet weight I fired, the experience was exciting without being too aggressive or over-the-top. Loading the pistol was fast and easy, perfect for anyone with limited muzzleloading experience. Like shooting a muzzle-loaded rifle, the pistol was a different experience. Recoil wasn’t unmanageable at all and the cloud of smoke the pistol issued added to the excitement. The trigger was crisp and accuracy was exceptional. While customers are not inclined to choose an Accura V2 Pistol for personal defense, they are certain to be drawn to the muzzleloading’s historic context, the fun and adventure muzzleloading provides, and the unique challenge hunting with a muzzle-loaded pistol presents.
This article originally appeared in the Shooting Sports Retailer April 2017 issue.