Richard Atkins prowls through the IWA Outdoor Classics fair and pounces on the most exciting new clay shooting products
In March each year for the past 46 years an ever-growing gathering of companies from around the world has been meeting at the Nuremberg Messe in Germany for the IWA Outdoor Classics International trade fair.
Exhibitor numbers were up from 1,562 in 2018, indicating that the outdoor sporting sector is in good health. This year brought over 1,600 companies from 60 countries who exhibited their wares targeted directly at the hunting, shooting and outdoor market – that’s not including the exhibitors at the recently added Enforce Tac section, which caters to the military, police and security sectors.
I attended my first IWA in 1984 and I can only be impressed by the way it has grown since. A major plus point of the show is its clear focus on its purpose and the market it serves.
While all exhibitions and fairs seek growth, some do so by extending their remit beyond the key areas visitors primarily come for. Some UK fairs have fallen foul of this in attempts to maintain a viable size, but it can be a backward step when there are too many exhibitors that could be seen more cheaply elsewhere.
IWA has managed to grow by attracting manufacturers of relevant products without filling extra halls with peripheral goods of marginal relevance; you can walk through any of its halls and find them filled with stands that will attract your attention.
My remit this visit was to scout out products relevant to clay shooting – and there was plenty to see. Not everyone had a totally new product of course, but there are always new guns, cartridges and hearing protectors, and much else besides. With new companies forming around the world the trends were interesting to see.
No-one can have failed to notice the growing number of new guns coming from Turkish makers. The selection of brands and model types increases each year, and that’s reflected at IWA.
As you move through the halls, it’s obvious that some of the leading Turkish brands have come of age. I recall seeing ATA make their appearance a few years ago, and soon afterwards they took a few modest stands at leading Game Fairs in the UK. Here, at IWA 2019, ATA had one of the most impressive stands going.
It covered a huge floor space and was displaying a vast range of hunting, target shooting and practical guns, in all configurations. There were even seating areas and lovely ladies who offered drinks and snacks; ATA has definitely joined the major league with their stand, which made the type of impression once only expected from the likes of Beretta and Browning.
Khan Arms, another Turkish manufacturer, were launching a new gun: the model DLX. This was specifically designed for Double Trap and features a detachable trigger unit like you’d find on a Beretta, Zoli or Perazzi competition gun. There is no doubt that Turkish gun makers mean business.
IWA had too many good things on show for me to mention them all, but I hope those items that make the cut will give a flavour of what I saw.
It is hard to pick out any one star feature, but certainly among those that grabbed my attention was the ‘Gun of the Year’ by Krieghoff. Commemorating the life and death of Abraham Lincoln, this K80 was superbly engraved to capture that story; it was also, of course, exquisitely finished with superb wood and the metalwork just oozing the quality that clearly states ‘hand finished’.
Browning always has an impressive display dominating a massive amount of floor. While Browning guns took centre stage, the other brand names within the group had their own display areas too; Miroku and Winchester guns were well represented.
But the three guns that will appeal most to clay shooters were all Browning models. The B525 Laminate, which has a grey laminate wood stock, attracted much attention. These were already making their way to UK shops before IWA opened.
Although they may not be to everyone’s taste, I have to admit to rather liking the laminate look. It is different without being too gaudy and is highly practical. Laminate wood is inherently strong and water resistant; it will not swell or warp if it gets wet.
Better still, it is not in short supply, as walnut is gradually becoming, so we shall see more laminate stocks in future for sure.
The Maxus range of semi-autos now has a new model, the Sporting Carbon Graphite, which has a carbon effect finish to the barrel as well as the synthetic stock.
Browning has been developing its range of B525 Pro clay guns and it revealed the new Pro Master at IWA. This has all the adjustable features of the XS Pro we reviewed recently, and also features an adjustable top rib. This can help enormously to adjust the gun’s point of impact, rather more than an adjustable comb alone can achieve.
This represents what must be the pinnacle of adjustability and therefore suited to a cross discipline approach; I look forward to getting some hands-on experience with the Pro Master!
Elsewhere there was a not-quite-new kid on the block: the name is one we will recognise, most recently for semi-autos. Breda is part of the same stable as Marocchi, hence there is cross-fertilisation of ideas.
The new Breda Zenith O/U has some extra features to make it adaptable. It is another new clay model, to be offered in Sporting and Trap versions, which we hope to handle before too long.
Fabarm (now part of Caesar Guerini) had some new versions of their affordable Elos models in Trap configuration. These looked the part and, with proofing to 1,630 bar (higher than standard CIP Proof), they assure top strength for a long, reliable service life.
Benelli were another manufacturer with a monster stand, which looked very impressive. Two key models were being promoted: the new Benelli Diamond semi-auto, with very smart looks, and the latest Benelli 828U Sport O/U with steel receiver and unique sliding breech plate design. Both guns drew considerable attention from trade buyers.
Beretta had some new options on their upmarket SL3 O/U model, including a broad selection of metal finishes, ranging from elaborate engraved scenes to completely plain and mirror finished guns that were just as striking in their own way.
A display that attracted a lot of attention showed the three key types of barrel bore profiles now used in Beretta’s clay target guns, using actual cut-away barrels. The forcing cones of each were highlighted in blue to explain and clearly depict what is meant by Steelium, Steelium Plus and Steelium Pro.
Perazzi, as per usual, had a smart and impressive display. In pride of place was the Perazzi High Tech 2020. This gun has been developed for the forthcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020.
The slogan on display was very simple: “With 54 medals, Perazzi shooters won the most Olympic medals in the history of shooting.” Yes it’s true, more than Beretta. Their ‘wall of winners’ reinforced the message… Who says rivalry is dead?
Zoli introduced a new take on the ‘weight between the hands’ principle. Their latest XL Evo model has an unusual feature: interchangeable side bolsters that slip into the receiver. These come in various thicknesses and can add weight to achieve the weight, feel and handling required without disturbing the gun’s balance.
More than just guns
There were plenty of other things to interest clay shooters at the show, ranging from Castellani shooting wear to Peltor 3M electronic ear plugs. The latter company were also introducing a more affordable version of there leading LEP 200 electronic models. These have already proved popular and should be available in the UK soon.
Castellani announced that their wide range of clothing and eye protection will soon be available through a dedicated UK store.
Well known clay target maker Corsivia concentrated on their range of eco-friendly resin-based clays, while Eley Hawk had their new VIP Steel cartridges with water-soluble, starch-based ‘plastic’ wads on show.
Maxam stable mates Rio also launched an eco-aware wad range made from a similar material. Other cartridge makers, including Armusa, Trust, Maxam, and RC had new cartridges for a variety of purposes.
IWA 2019 was a great event and very encouraging for the confidence it displays in our sport. We spotted some stars there too; our own Peter Wilson was seen on the Hull Cartridge stand and Mr Negrini (of Negrini gun cases, but also a former Olympic shooter) was on the Marocchi stand.
That’s all we have room for this time but, no doubt, some more things we saw will appear in the gun shops throughout the year ahead.