SHOT Show 2019 – Part 3

Editors note:

This year, Packs and Beyond was conducting a few activities behind the scenes at SHOT Show.

Due to consulting opportunities we had several team members attending SHOT Show. For some of the team, it was their first time attending SHOT.

Here, Chris shares a neophytes first view of SHOT Show.

I hope you all enjoy Chris’s first report for us.

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I was a 58-year-old virgin, having never been to the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas.  In January all that changed!

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It’s certainly quite an experience.  The sheer size and variety of the show is astounding, but after four long days of walking, touching and drooling, I had barely scratched the surface.

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I must confess that after 32 years in the Australian Army, including many years as a member of the Army and/or ADF shooting teams, my main interest was on kinetic hardware.  I had competed a couple of times in international shooting competitions in the US, so understood the deep connection that many of their citizens have with firearms.  I have wandered wide-eyed around many US gun stores and seen extensive private collections, but the SHOT Show is in a completely different league.

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There are so many manufacturers with funky variants of the trusty AR-15 that it’s hard to believe they can all survive, let alone thrive.  But it was a couple of other things that piqued my interest; things that you don’t see every day, even in US gun stores.

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In part of my past life I served as the Squadron Quartermaster for C Squadron 5 Aviation Regiment in Townsville, during the last few years of operation for the Vietnam-era Iroquois gunship.  When live fire range activities were happening it was all hands on deck, so I was trained as a Line Safety Officer, ensuring that the loading of the 2.75 inch rocket pods, M134 miniguns and twin M60 door guns was conducted safely.  While the aircraft and everything on them was old, there’s nothing quite like an Iroquois gunship!

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I wasn’t aircrew, but this was back in the days when ground support personnel could get a ride on live-fire battle runs, sitting between and slightly behind the pilots gave a birdseyeview of the rockets punching forward of the aircraft and hearing the chainsaw-like whirring of the miniguns on either side of me in stereo.  On a few occasions I even got a crack on the door guns because there was a shortage of loadmasters for the old aircraft, which were regarded as much less glamorous than the new Blackhawks.  But let me tell you, hanging out the side of an Iroquois gunship hosing down targets with twin M60s has got to be the most fun you can have with your pants on!

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Anyway, I digress…  The point of all this is to explain my excitement when I happened across the stand of a little company called Empty Shell, who had several variants of their XM556 5.56mm microgun on display(www.emptyshell.us/xm556-microgun).

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Enthusiasts will know that a 5.56mm minigun/microgun is not actually a new idea.  In the mid 1960s General Electric downscaled the M134 from 7.62 to 5.56mm, calling it the XM214, but it had weight (about 16kg), size and reliability issues which meant that it was never widely accepted.  It was regarded as too small for Airforce or Navy use and too bulkyfor the Army.

But Empty Shell seem to have overcome many of these problems with some technical wizardry, redesigning the bolt mechanism and other components to reduce weight (less than 9kg) and increasing reliability.

The XM556 can fire at a mind-bending 12,000 rounds per minute, but is typically operated at either 3 or 6,000 rpm.  Even at those lower rates you wouldn‘t want to be paying for your ammo!

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These improvements could mean that the XM556 will find a range of modern battlefield uses in vehicle or small boat mounted applications, but it also comes in an uber funky short-barrelled hand-held version that would not look out of place in the hands of The Terminator.

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Strapped to the right targeting system the XM556 could be very effective in countering incoming missiles, rockets, artillery or mortars.  Mounted in a vehicle’s protected weapon station it could be an excellent area suppression weapon, countering ambushes or providing support for dismounted troops. Special forces will definitely appreciate the large volume of fire that can be laid down quickly when things turn noisy.

Whilst the smaller calibre obviously limits the effective range to about 600 metres or so, it also means that a lot more ammo can be carried for the same weight, which will suit many applications.

Sadly I didn’t get to have a squirt of the XM556 but there are some very cool videos online of lucky people who have.

Anyway, that will do for part one.  In my next blog I’ll cover a couple of other cool or funky cannons that caught my eye at SHOT Show 2019.


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