Well, there are big changes here on my end that prevented this stuff from going up before and during SHOT Show, but I don't want to let you folks hang out there. I am sure you have seen a lot of the announcements already, but this is not just about news, it is about analysis and hopefully I can provide some of that. This was meant to be a three-part series on AllOutdoor, but things prevented it from going up. More on that later. For now here is SHOT Show, Part I:
The annual trade show for the outdoor industry is coming up very soon. Held in Las Vegas, the Sporting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show, is a great chance to see what new gear is coming out in the next calendar year. Videos and articles stream out of Las Vegas at a staggering speed and I hope to find the best ones and provide some commentary and analysis so you can keep up. I done this for two years on my personal site and it is always fun. But before the deluge of information starts, here is my wishlist of things I'd like to see. Bear in mind, this is all speculation on my part.
Benchmade Comes Out Swinging
Last year's line up was paltry, with a bunch of odds and ends, like a sheath and dagger system and only two major releases: the Volli and the Bushcrafter knife. Both were greeted with yawns from enthusiasts. The Volli was billed as a slim knife and is based on the Barrage platform with a similar blade shape and overall size, but as new releases goes it was very safe and kinda boring. Dan from Blade Reviews noted as much in his review of the knife. The Bushcrafter was, again, a safe and staid release. I don't do bushcraft, but comparing the knife to a few of the better bushcraft knives, there are few things that stand out as odd about the blade. First, the choice of S30V steel is good for catching eyeballs and marketing, but most bushcraft knives are made of steel that sharpens easily in the field. S30V is not that steel. Similarly, most bushcraft knives use steel that prioritizes toughness over hardness, again something that S30V clearly does not do. So while the knife might tempt mainstream folks thinking it is a bushcraft knife, for the hardcore, the Bushcrafter probably didn't move the needle.
But we know that Benchmade CAN hit home runs. The Mini Grip is outstanding, one of the best, if not the best mid priced EDC on the market. The 940 is probably as universally acclaimed as you will find given the finnicky nature of knife knuts. They have a dozen or so very excellent, well-loved blades, but last year's offerings were blah. The year before they had more knives, but none of them seemed to ring true with knife fans. The 755 Pocket Rocket was not as warmly received as it could have been, being too fat for a knife that small. Its time Benchmade brought their A game. I'd love to see a new small knife, something around the size and weight of the much-beloved Aphid (which is selling for a lot on secondary markets) and a new, better flipper. The combination of the Axis lock "detent" and the size of the 300SN made it one of the laziest flippers on the market.
I am rooting for Benchmade. USA Made (by in large, a lot of their cobranded stuff is overseas made), great materials, and top shelf fit and finish make them one of my favorite brands.
New Collaborations for ZT
We know that ZT is going to have new collaborations. They always do. I'd love to see some really off-the-wall pairings. A ZT/TuffThumbz knife would sell like crazy to the enthusiast market. A Michael Burch/ZT knife would me amazing. There are just so many pairings that would work. ZT has proven with the ZT0600, ZT056X models, and the ZT0801 that they can do a very good job translating top shelf designer's knives into production blades without losing much in the way of high end feel.
They have been on such a roll recently, I am sensing that they are going to be bringing the thunder this year.
Kershaw Brings Some Upscale Variants
Thomas W was on my podcast, Gear Geeks Live (episode found here), and he dropped some news about variants. There is going to be a G10 variant of the fatty Cryo which will address two of my biggest problems with the knife--the weight and the grip. There will almost assuredly be more Leek and Blur variants. I'd love to see some variants of their mainstays with carbon fiber or other high end touches. These knives have great bones, yes, even the Cryo, and tricking them out would not only appease folks looking for a smidge more performance, it would also tickle the collector fancy. Plus, keeping the improvements on these modestly priced knives would mean they could still sell to the mainstream.
Surefire Makes Good on Promises and Releases a True EDC Light
Surefire has long been the vaporware company of the gear industry. A few years ago they showed off two lights that had touch controls--the Aegis and the Isis. Both looked like they were straight from the B/S/T section of CPF's custom subforum. But since then the lights have not been seen. The Lawman was the big addition to the Surefire line up in the last year and it is a truly great light, but Surefire needs to leverage its know how and skill to make a compact EDC light. The EB1 is not that light. It is sold and designed to be a tactical backup (yes I hate the word "tactical"). An update on the emitter on the Titan T1A would be perfect. A new light with the Surefire touch would be equally cool. Surefire should not turn away from the growing EDC market. They need to go in with guns and flashlights blaze. There is a lot of money to make there.
Spyderco has Something Up There Sleeve
We have seen most of Spyderco's line up as they do previews differently than everyone else, bringing stuff to a European show, IWA, or releasing it in a catalogue first. This year's offers range from silly (the Mike Draper/Spiderman folder) to the intriguing (the cast 440C fixed blade). There is a lot in there, but I was disappointed to see so few new knives with great steel. Hopefully Spyderco has a few things tucked up their sleeve. A production version of the Southard Downing would be well-received, at least by me.
Chris Reeve Announces a Flipper Version of the Sebenza
In an early draft of this article I had written "Christ Reeve" as a typo, but if he delivers a flipper Sebenza (I don't even know if CRK goes to SHOT Show, so this PURE speculation), he just might earn that title from knife knuts. It seems kinda odd that the guy that invented or popularized the Ti framelock, doesn't make a flipper version.
More Flashlight Manufacturers Embrace the new UIs
All of the Eagletacs and Fenixes and Olights of the world need to move on from the clicky and embrace the better, newer UIs. I'd love to see a D series light with a QTC pill inside.
Similarly the i-series from Olight would do well with the quantum material UI. Lots and lots of mid- to high-range lights would be much better with selector rings instead of one or two or god forbid three buttons. Simple is best and the new UIs allow makers to create simple better lights cheaply, especially in the case of QTC pills. Its coming. Whether it is this year or next, there will be a wave of production lights with these new UIs and my bet is that they will all use QTC pills because of cost and ease of manufacturing.
I love SHOT Show for the same reason that I look forward to E3. It gives me things to save money for. Let's hope the big names bring their A games. Saving to buy gear is almost as fun as buying and using it.