Best Rifles (Sort of) from SHOT Show 2020

I want to be up front here. This article is about the favorite rifles at SHOT Show 2020 from the intrepid guys from Gun Mag Warehouse, who braved the perils of Sin City to bring us the good news of the latest and greatest from the gun the industry. The thing is, only one of them picked an actual rifle. The others went with PCC or PDW types. Still cool, but not technically rifles. To be fair, they did separate segments on the best ARs and best AKs, so they didn’t just ignore the long guns entirely. Either way, we think you’ll enjoy what they found, so read on.

Paul Carlson: A Niche Chambering Going Mainstream?

First up is Paul Carlson, who surprised his compatriots by going with the Diamondback DBX 5.7×28 pistol. “The 5.7 is kind of a fun cartridge with a lot of history to it,” he says. He’s right, it is fun. What’s not to like about a fast, flat round with low recoil? Especially coming from a place like FN? But that’s been the problem over the life of the cartridge: FN has held such a tight rein on it, there hasn’t been much done other than what they have seen fit to allow.

Diamondback DBX
Does the Diamondback DBX 5.7×28 Pistol herald the rise of the 5.7 cartridge?

That’s started to change over the last couple of years, with Federal starting to produce the cartridge and CMMG introducing a couple of products chambered in 5.7×28. The big break, so far, was Ruger’s entry into the market with the Ruger 57 semiautomatic pistol. With Ruger in the game, 5.7 is less of a niche chambering. Travis Pike points out that Ruger will be the most affordable of the new products, at least for now. David Reeder notes that the prices of other 5.7 products have started to fall since Ruger jumped in.

Paul is a fan. “It’s an easy cartridge to shoot. It’s flat and it’s fast, but also what’s cool about it is you can get a lot of capacity in a small package.” That fits well with the Diamondback. It’s super thin, only about an inch wide, and, being a pistol, has a short length. The barrel is only 8.1 inches long. The handling bears repeating, as Paul says “It’s just super easy to shoot. Super fun to shoot.”

The only downside Paul noted was the lack of a bolt catch. The reciprocating charging handle holds open on the last shot by catching on the magazine follower, but that means you have to strip out the empty mag because the bolt is pressing on it. Travis compared it to the mechanism on a Yugo AK. There doesn’t seem to be a way to rotate the bolt to hold it open like on an MP5. Paul goes on to say that it’s not a deal-breaker for him because he would use it as a plinker and fun gun. He doesn’t see himself choosing the 5.7 as a defensive round even with the new Speer defensive ammo, preferring a 9mm carbine for that role.

Diamondback DBX at Shot Show 2020
Diamondback DBX 5.7×28 Pistol Specs.

Travis suggests that the Diamondback, or any 5.7 gun, might appeal to folks who can’t shoot 9mm guns comfortably. Paul believes that isn’t an issue with a PCC, but he thinks the Ruger 57 could fit that description. David brings up the all too true fact that anyone choosing a 5.7 over a 9mm would have to be willing to pay more for their ammo. It will probably always cost more than 9mm ammo, thanks in no small part to FN’s proprietary control over the cartridge.

Paul tells us how several companies have been working together to make the 5.7 more accessible. CMMG released their 5.7 pistol, which quickly became their best-selling item. That prompted them to release a 5.7 conversion kit and convinced Federal to start making the ammo. When the Ruger 57 hit the market, Federal saw its appeal and got their hands on one to engineer their cartridges to make certain they ran in the new Ruger. It’s good to see stuff like that, as Paul notes. Who knows, maybe a 5.7×28 gun is in all our futures.

David Reeder and “God’s Own Battle Rifle”

David refers to the divine nature of his choice after Daniel Shaw recognized it as shooting “the Lord’s rifle cartridge.” He is, of course, referring to the .308 Winchester fired from the Springfield Armory M1A Tanker rifle.

Now, technically, God’s Own Battle Rifle is the M1 Garand, which was chambered in the Almighty 30.06 Springfield Ammunition. But, in case you didn’t know, the Springfield M1A series is the civilian version of the M14 battle rifle, which is the firstborn son of the Garand. The M14 is chambered in 7.62 NATO, which equates to .308 Winchester (most of the time), meaning that the M1A is chambered in .308. Got all that? Either way, it’s generally acknowledged that the M1, M14, and M1A all live in the same house.

David Reeder shooting the M1A Tanker at SHOT Show 2020 Industry Day at the Range.
David fires The Lord’s Rifle Cartridge from God’s Own Battle Rifle.

“It’s wood and steel,” David says, which says a lot. It’s solid. He does allow that if he was going to a fight, he probably wouldn’t choose the M1A, mainly because of his familiarity with the AR-15 manual of arms, which is a fair point. Not that you couldn’t take it, though. And “if you’re out of ammo you could beat somebody to death with it and it’ll still function when you’re done.” But he enjoys the way it shoots. The Tanker model is shorter than the standard M1A, similar in length to the M1A SOCOM. Basically, it’s the SOCOM with wood furniture. Travis tells us that it’s based on the experimental T34 rifle, which was intended for World War II tankers and even had an M1 Carbine stock.

David has been a big fan of the rifle since his days of running OPFOR exercises with M14s “appropriated” from his unit’s honor guard detail. He says they were “loud as hell in that mountain environment,” but he got to where really liked the rifle and decided he wanted to own one someday. “There’s other stuff out there that’s brand spanking new,” he says, “but if you like wood and steel, if you like a little tradition and some heritage…”

Springfield M1A Tanker Specs.
Springfield M1A Tanker Specs.

Paul says the short-barreled SOCOM is a “fire breather,” and Daniel says that standing behind the M1A Tanker when it fired rattled his teeth. But everyone agrees that they love the M1A and, by extension, the whole family. Of course, if it’s good enough for the Man upstairs…

Daniel Shaw Likes the All-American Pistol Cartridge

And so, we’re back to the not really rifles part. But this one is pretty sweet, nonetheless. As you’ve probably figured out, the LWRC SMG is chambered in .45 ACP and is classified as a pistol. Daniel says they have been working on it for a while, but this was his first time shooting it. It uses H&K UMP mags, so very reliable there and they are already available. The gun has AR controls, and it feels good. “A nice tight little package.” I had to repress a snicker at that one, but he clarifies by saying that it’s a smooth shooter with the .45.

LWRC SMG 45 Pistol at SHOT Show 2020
Daniel fires “A nice tight little package.

The small size reminds him of visiting Sig at a previous show, where he was told that a particular gun was a certain size “because it needed to fit in the glove box of a certain BMW series for a certain organization on a certain mission.” Now, reread that with a German accent to get the full impact. David says that quote should have background music. Or maybe it came from Q in a James Bond film. Whatever. Daniel appreciated that the guys from LWRC didn’t tell him anything like that.

LWRC SMG 45 pistol
LWRC SMG Specs. It may even fit in “The glove box of a certain BMW.

David likes the gun too. He says that if he hadn’t chosen the M1A Tanker, the LWRC SMG would have been his choice, so it obviously made a strong impression. But then we would have had no rifles at all for the “Best Rifles” video. Daniel says it’s not for everyone because of the price, and he sees it more for law enforcement.

Travis Pike and the “Most Average” Gun

No doubt, Travis’ choice is probably the most mainstream, but that doesn’t make it boring. The Springfield Armory Saint Edge PDW is chambered in 5.56, it wears a Maxim Defense PDW Brace and has a 5.5-inch barrel with a Lanier compensator. Travis likes the Lanier comp. Shooting 5.56 with a barrel that short is not comfortable, but the comp did great, and he didn’t notice any blast or concussion. The Edge PDW is “really short, really compact, really easy shooting.”

Springfield Saint Edge PDW at SHOT SHow 2020
Travis says the Springfield Saint Edge PDW is a lot of gun for the money.

The Edge isn’t the first PDW, but Travis believes that the Saint line gives you a lot of gun for the money. They are “feature-filled, iron sights, well built, and usually a little bit below” competitors’ prices. Not the most affordable ARs, “but for what you get, I think you get a hell of a lot of gun. He finishes by saying the Saint line has different tiers and the Edge is at the top. He’s “gonna use it to have a lot of fun.”

Springfield Saint Edge PDW Specs.
Springfield Saint Edge PDW Specs.

So, there it is. The best “rifles” of SHOT Show 2020. If you want to hear Reeder’s impression of Canadians, you’ll just have to watch the video, eh. For a more extensive list of rifles from SHOT 2020, check out the boys discussing their favorite AR-15s and AKs.

David Reeder doing a Canadian impression.
Take Off, Eh?
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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