Fall 2015 Big 3 East Media Event
By: Bill Alexander
November 9, 2015
October 7-9, 2015, saw Alexander Arms® attending the 13th Big 3 Media Event in DeLand, Florida. For those not familiar with the event, Big 3 stands for Tactical Guns, Tactical Gear, and Tactical Training. It is a unique forum for both manufacturers and press to get together and allows for both formal and informal discussion of everything from existing products and techniques to prototypes and development. This sets the Big 3 aside from all other events. The unique blend of classroom presentations and hands-on work on the ranges is invaluable for both industry and press.
Being one of the event original participants, we made the usual road trip down to Daytona Beach, Florida. Big 3 is organized and hosted by Dillard Johnson at his extensive and still-growing facility just outside of DeLand, Florida. Each year we attend we are greeted by new additions to the facility and this year was not the exception. A new rifle range had been constructed in the weeks before the event and the long range now had a two-level platform tower.
Big 3 has morphed a little over the years, but the layout is much the same. Companies and a diverse range of writers from both traditional, printed publications and now the Internet-based blogs and forums attend by invitation. The aim is to foster interaction between both sides and hopefully bring new and exciting products to the consumer.
As one of the original attendees, we are well versed in the event and probably a little more comfortable with the format than many. Hence, rather than bring standard and proven production items, we chose instead to show late-stage prototypes of our newest Ulfberht .338 Lapua Magnum rifles. We opted to bring both the SR2 and SR3 prototype development rigs. Both are fully functional units and share a common chassis with the SR1. In the SR2, the barrel is 22 inches in length and the unit is designed to function suppressed. The SR3 reverts to a 27-inch barrel. Both rigs use a ventless, 12-position gas system with a redesigned piston and reworked recoil springs. While the units shown still have all-steel gas systems and aluminum handguards, these are the test mules. Production SR2 and SR3 rifles will be sold with titanium gas systems and carbon fiber handguards and top rails.
One of the best things about the Big 3 is the diversity of people who attend. For me, the highlight is always the long discussions with our friend, Alex Sergeive. Alex is actually a Russian, if the name did not give that away. He currently designs for Hi-Lux Optics. The rather excellent CMR4 scopes are his creations. He is also a very accomplished weapon designer, so the opportunity to have him critique a rifle is not to be missed, especially if the gun in question has a Russian heritage.
I can pleasantly report that both the SR2 and SR3 units met with Alex's approval, so I was quite pleased to show both during my time in front of the writers in the classroom.
I had good conversations with Manticore Arms and will be looking to use their adaptive Transformer Rail handguard system as an offering on some of our rifles. Shoot Steel showed a target with a stand manufactured of the same armor plate they use for the plate itself. Lastly, I met with the new representative for AAC whose suppressor we are using on the SR2 rifle.
At the range, we ran both SR2 and SR3 units out to the maximum 650 yards the targets allowed. While little more than a chip shot for a .338 Lapua rifle, it was fun to make hits on the reactive steel, especially with the SR2 silenced unit. The black abrasive coral sand that makes up the ranges was able to work its way into the rifles during the day and highlight any problems that such an environment might cause. Interestingly, we saw hard extraction from this sand that was not present in either New Mexico or Wyoming. There is an increased speed in the mechanism in both SR2 and SR3 rifles which does help with both accuracy and reliability, but we will be upgrading the extractor before the units reach production status.
To be able to do this sort of work while, at the same time, being able to discuss the results and demonstrate a product is unique to the Big 3. CJ (Dillard Johnson) makes the event run seamlessly, from timing the classroom presentations to ensuring the ranges are running well with plenty of targets. Excellent catering is laid on for all who attend and the shooting sessions are informal, so there is plenty of time to discuss the products with fellow engineers as well as writers. It is a good opportunity to try out some of the guns from fellow companies. I was pleased to see the upswing in 6.5 Grendel as a caliber offering and even more pleased to see a number of the Molot 6.5 AK rifles.