Best Innovations at SHOT Show 2020: Which Guns are “More Better?”

We all look forward to SHOT Show because that’s usually where the newest and coolest stuff makes its public debut. That’s always fun, but SHOT isn’t just about new stuff. Companies are always looking to upgrade their products to keep them relevant in an ever-changing market. In this video, four of GunMag Warehouse’s resident pipe hitters discuss their favorite improvements from SHOT Show 2020, with some familiar names making the cut.


David Reeder: Chicks Dig SCARs

Right off the bat, The Mag Life Blog Editor David Reeder hits us with the new FN SCAR 20S in 6.5 Creedmoor. The SCAR line needs no introduction, but the addition of a high-performance chambering is noteworthy. And the 20S also rolled out with a match-grade two-stage Geissele trigger, and a chrome-lined barrel. “Seemingly simplistic improvements,” David says, “but if you want to reach out and touch someone with 6.5, I think that’s a really good one.”

David Reeder loves the new SCAR 20S in 6.5 Creedmoor.
David Reeder loves the new SCAR 20S in 6.5 Creedmoor.

Daniel Shaw agrees, saying the SCAR is one of the most reliable platforms he’s ever seen. He doesn’t see a real need for a 5.56 SCAR, but the .308 SCAR “just flat out runs, where a lot of AR10s do not.” That’s a fair assessment, though Daniel qualifies it by saying that a lot depends on the “pickiness” of guns and ammunition. David notes that the higher caliber SCARs fill the need for precision shooting, to which Daniel adds that it’s a perfect designated marksman rifle, especially in the 6.5 Creedmoor. “The capabilities are pretty awesome.”

FN SCAR 20S Specs.
FN SCAR 20S Specs.

David slyly adds that the SCAR would “be good to go alongside your .338 Sig machine gun.” Travis Pike agrees, noting the good, matched capability. That is a pretty sweet pairing, though not so much for anyone on the wrong end of it.

Paul Carlson, the EZ, and the Caliber Debate

Paul Carlson chose the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ in 9mm for his favorite innovation. “Not quite as badass,” he allows, “but maybe more impactful in the industry.” No argument here, and I’m glad to see the EZ get some love. Not all of us are John Wick and the M&P EZ fills a real need. The .380 EZ “Reached a new level in shootable handguns.” When Paul says “shootable,” he isn’t just talking about pulling the trigger, but other aspects as well, like the loading assist ears on the magazine spring and the easy to rack slide for charging the gun and clearing malfunctions.

S&W M&P Shield EZ
The S&W M&P Shield EZ lives up to its name with several nice features.

Paul maintains that taking that ease of use to 9mm is “super important.” It brings the M&P EZ up to a full-on defensive caliber that anyone can shoot. Not being able to rack the slide of a semi-automatic pistol can be a technique thing, but it’s often because the shooter lacks grip strength. David agrees and offers the example of a relative with arthritic hands. She has a difficult time with the slide and the EZ can mitigate that. Sure, someone can rack it for them, but that may not always be an option. Paul and David are both glad to see Smith & Wesson developing the EZ line.

Caliber Again? Geez…

Regarding the age-old caliber debate, Paul talked to Federal, and their new defensive .380 ammo is starting to close the gap with 9mm. Perhaps technology will reach a point that .380 will be a more viable defensive caliber. David makes a good point that .380 performance is often dictated by the gun itself, with so many micro and short-barreled pistols being chambered in .380. He thinks people “sell the .380 way short.” Daniel and Paul agree, but Paul says, “We just have to make sure we don’t think the bullet’s gonna do things it’s not gonna do. We can get penetration, or we can get amazing expansion. In .380 right now we can’t get both.”

Daniel Shaw, who seems to have been kidnapped by the others, asserts — probably fairly — that “The average person has no idea what the 9mm is capable of, or what buckshot is capable of,” to which Paul helpfully responds, “Don’t put buckshot in your 9mm.” I’m glad he said that, because even those little .410 shells looked awfully big when I whipped them out to try in my Walther. Travis plays Captain Obvious by saying that 9mm is cheaper and Paul agrees that it is more plentiful, but if .380 guns flood the market, ammo will follow. Same debate, different day.

Daniel Shaw discussing the best innovations of SHOT Show 2020
No word on whether the Las Vegas police ever rescued Daniel Shaw.

Once again, David brings up pocket pistols, pointing out that at the range, most people can effectively engage a target with those guns, there’s not much difference between .380 and 9mm. The implication is that 9mm is only a real upgrade in larger framed handguns with longer ranges, a point with which it is hard to argue. Score one for Reeder.

Paul adds that we can get a .4” to .5” expansion for .380, with a .7” expansion for 9mm. A fairly significant difference. “Which is why, right now,” he says, “I’m thrilled about the 9mm EZ.” In a couple of years, engineering and terminal ballistics will improve and .380 may become more attractive. Daniel makes a good point that people may ask if the same engineering and technological improvements will just apply to the larger calibers, preserving the gap. This isn’t necessarily true, as the larger calibers have a lower ceiling, at which point the performance becomes too high for defensive use in terms of penetration. The most significant improvements will be seen by the lower calibers with their higher ceiling.

Paul contends that the .380 becomes more viable with those improvements because lighter recoil leads to faster, more accurate shooting, not to mention the higher mag capacity over, say, a .45 ACP. Ever the realist, Daniel points out that it’s not there yet, but David notes his belief that no one should try to take on more gun than they can handle with one hand. He again cites his relative with the arthritic hands who can “ring steel at 10, 15, 20 meters one-handed with a .380. She can’t do that with a 9mm.” Daniel does allow that his wife carries a Glock 42, and he carries it when he runs, so there is some agreement with David that .380 has a place.

Travis Pike and His Apparent Love for Integrally Suppressed Guns

In the Best Suppressors of SHOT Show 2020 video, Travis came back with an integrally suppressed PCC. Here, he finds the new and improved Kel Tec Sub 2000 CQB. I have to admit, it looks pretty slick. Chambered in 9mm, it didn’t really need a sixteen-inch barrel, so Kel Tec chopped it back and installed an integral suppressor. Since the suppressor is part of the gun, you only have to pay one $200.00 bribe to the Feds.

The Kel Tec Sub2000 CQB is a cool, affordable integrally suppressed rifle.
SHOT Show 2020, the Kel Tec Sub2000 CQB is a cool, affordable integrally suppressed rifle.

The folding mechanism is also new, allowing the addition of an optic that can stay mounted on the gun. It takes Glock mags or those from Kel Tec. At under a thousand bucks, plus the kickback to the ATF, it’s a relatively affordable integrally suppressed rifle.

Daniel Shaw and the Mags that Happen to be Available at Gun Mag Warehouse

Like many of us, Daniel’s a big fan of the Heckler & Koch VP9. He’s used one for years with great success and his “main squeeze” has at least 25,000 rounds through it. As good as it has been, the VP9 got a couple of upgrades in 2020. First, the cocking “ears” on the back of the slide are a little wider and had some texture added for a better grip. Personally, I dig those things and wish more guns had them.

The upgraded H&K VP9 has improved cocking ears and higher capacity flush mags.
The upgraded H&K VP9 has improved cocking ears and higher capacity flush mags.

Second, the rear sights are now closer to vertical than the old ones. The LE model has had forward-leaning rear sights for a while, but the civilian version has been ramped. He believes that defensive handguns should never have ramped rear sights because of “the amount of one-handed fighting we see out there with handguns in defensive and law enforcement use of force situations.” Anyone reduced to using one hand may have to rely on racking the slide using the rear sights as leverage on a belt, boot, table edge, or whatever. It’s absolutely a valid point, and good on H&K for making the upgrade. Combined with the cocking ears, the VP9 has a couple of options.

H&K VP9 Specs. SHOT Show 2020
H&K VP9 Specs.

The most impactful upgrade on the VP9, though, is the expanded capacity magazines. VP9s have always had a fifteen-round capacity in a flush mag, while competitors like the Glock 17 can carry seventeen rounds. H&K has altered the follower in the new mags, available at GunMag Warehouse, to allow for seventeen rounds in the same flush mag. Even better, these new mags will work in older VP9s as well. It may not sound like much, but, as Travis points out, using his superior math skills, those two rounds increase capacity by better than ten percent.

The new VP9 mags feature a new follower that allows an extra two rounds of capacity.
The new VP9 mags, seen at SHOT Show 2020, feature a new follower that allows an extra two rounds of capacity.

At David’s comment that the VP9 has always been a good gun, Paul tells us that it’s the only one of his guns with which he can consistently shoot .15 second splits. Can’t do that with his Glock or M&P. “Germans know what they’re doing,” notes Travis. It’s got a great trigger, says Daniel, as most people know. “It takes a lot of work to make a Glock trigger suck less, but the VP9 comes out of the box with a great trigger on it. There’s only a couple of other striker-fired guns that can be compared, in my opinion.” And according to the guy with 25,000 rounds through his VP9, the trigger only gets better.

So, there you have some of the upgrades that came out of SHOT Show 2020. What will we see in 2021? Stay tuned.

William "Bucky" Lawson is a self-described "typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast". He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, "here and there". A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar - preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.

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