The Firearms Industry Needs More Innovation pt.2

Last week I was pretty hard on the gun industry, and I stand by what I said. But that isn’t necessarily my entire position on the subject. While the majority of the gun industry is stagnant and boring, there are some pockets of innovation if you are willing to look.

Shotguns

Shotguns are actually a good area of innovation. Both main varieties of shotgun, pump and semi-auto, have a nice variety of options on the market currently. I think this is mostly due to shotguns no longer being the preferred long gun option for police in the US, but I have no way of saying for sure. They were also never the primary issued weapons by our military, so that anti-innovative force isn’t present here. Or maybe its just something about scatterguns that we just don’t see in other areas of firearms development.

The Beretta A400 is a particularly nice gun

Semi-autos have two (that I know of) different concepts for cycling the gun, not just ways to execute the same concept. The first type is gas-operated, just like any decent semi-auto rifle that isn’t a PCC. There are a multitude of gas-driven semi-auto shotguns from the likes of Remington, Savage, Benelli, CZ, and a host of others. The great thing about them is that each one has a completely different way of going about using the expanding gases to cycle the gun. And they are all patent protected, meaning that they are all pretty unique when compared to everything else on this list so far. This also means that replacement parts are extremely specific and likely expensive, but since most semi-auto shotguns are sporting guns owned by dudes who make way above minimum wage, this isn’t as big a downside as it would be for you & I.

The second concept to cycling a semi-auto shotgun is inertia-driven. This uses the recoil forces of the spent round to cycle the gun, not the gas. In a way, inertia-driven semi-autos are similar to most pistols since the Browning tilt-barrel delayed blowback style of action (~99% of all semi-auto pistols sold these days) is a recoil-driven system.

The new M&P 12 from Smith & Wesson

Pump guns actually have an impressive amount of variety currently on the market. Yes, most are Remington 870s or Mossberg 500s, but Keltec and even Smith & Wesson have bullpup pump (aka bullpump) shotguns for sale. Keltec has a few options of bullpumps, with a 7+7+1 capacity dual-mag-tube version, a 7+1 single-mag-tube version, and a ridiculous 12+12+1 capacity super long ban-state compliant version. Smith & Wesson this week released their M&P12 dual-mag-tube bullpump, which firmly cemented this style of shotgun as a fixture in the market.

If I had my way, this is what all pump guns would look like.

And finally, box-mag fed shotguns. Shotguns have been tube-mag fed since the late 1800s. They have successfully resisted the changeover to box-magazines until very recently. The Russians developed a box-mag shotgun a few decades ago that has the same outside appearance as an AK, known as the Saiga. The Saiga didn’t single-handedly change the shotgun industry, but it did open the door. What I think has convinced the big name manufacturers to look into box-mags for shotguns is the commercial success of the Turkish-made shotguns. There are a myriad of reasons for this that I don’t have time to get into, much less fully understand, but there are lots of companies selling the same re-branded 12-gauge pump and semi-auto shoguns in gun shops nation-wide and for very cheap. The Turks are also willing to take a creative leap and have produced a lot of box-mag fed shotguns, both pump & semi-auto. Since they are affordable, they sell well. The thing is that these guns don’t seem to have terrible problems. They’re not amazing, but for the price they have a decent value. Anyway, no matter the reason, Mossberg (and Remington before they went bankrupt) has developed and is offering commercially box-mag fed pump shotguns. I think that the high-volume shooting that a semi-auto encourages is most benefited by a quickly changed box magazine, but the Mossberg 590M and 590M Shockwave are the only domestic box-mag fed shotguns available at the moment.

Pistols

I was a little hard on pistols last week. Even though most pistols sold in the US are Glock copies or direct spin-offs, that doesn’t entirely mean that there is no thought being put into them. The P365 from Sig is a great example. The engineers who developed the P365 found a way to jam a dozen rounds into a gun size that usually held 6 or 8 rounds. That’s not something to be overlooked! Another good example of rehashing an old idea into a new use is the S&W Shield EZ pistols. They are mechanically very similar to 1911 pistols, with their backstrap safeties and (optional) thumb safeties and single-action hammers, but the spring rates and component sizing were chosen with the intent of easing manipulation. What you end up with is a pretty small .380 or 9mm single-stack gun with a very easy to manipulate slide and very easy to load magazine. Whoever designed that gun deserves a raise. There’s also the Lago Alien pistol, the Chiappa Rhino, the Keltec CP33, P50, and PMR 30. There are a lot of interesting and mold-breaking designs coming out at a regular pace, even if they don’t sell well.

Optics

Optics innovation has gone absolutely bananas in the last decade. The explosion of 3-Gun competition drove the development of LPVOs, which have now become fixtures in law enforcement and are now the military’s infantry issued optic. The following rise of PRS and NRL shooting has similarly driven lots of innovation in the high magnification market, which was helped greatly by the then-new high multiplication range from LPVOs for 3-Gun.

And we cannot forget the most impactful change in optics in the last decade, the rise of the miniature red dot sight. The RMR was originally never meant to go on a handgun slide, but once that cat came out of the bag there was no going back. Now every new handgun model that comes out is optics-ready. I don’t think we quite yet realize just how much different the handgun market has been forever altered.

My personal carry gun’s slide.

Conclusion

In contrast to what I may have implied last week, I do actually see a decent amount of innovation and design progress in the gun industry. My big complaint is that it is usually on the fringes and not widely adopted by the general gun buying public. There are lots of things out there that are novel and interesting and not complete failures. I just want people to be more open minded and willing to step outside the established norms and see if the stuff out there is actually useful or not.

I have one more aspect to this topic that I will share next week. I could put it here, but content generation is a grind and I need all the help I can get. Until then, stay open minded and I’ll see you next Friday.

-S_S

3 thoughts on “The Firearms Industry Needs More Innovation pt.2

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