Full disclosure; due to work commitments I wasn't able to visit anywhere near the number of exhibitors I wanted to last week, so there may well have been a hidden gem lurking unseen. That said, 2012 seemed like an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary year in the firearms industry, with no real standout designs from major manufacturers. Most of the innovation seemed to be at the margins, with smaller companies and accessory makers taking point.
An example of this would be the Caracal pistol. This gun has been bobbing around at the periphery for a few years now, but now looks set to make its debut in the U.S. market, with a solid distribution and marketing plan behind it. All this is good news for us shooters as no matter how good the product, if it isn't supported with spares, consumables and the aftermarket, it will disappear after making a brief splash in the gun rags. I hope this pistol sticks around for a long time, as it's pretty damned good.
The Caracal is made in the United Arab Emirates and is designed by one of the engineers who brought us the Glock and Steyr handguns. It should come as no surprise then that it's pretty strongly influenced by both designs, being polymer framed and striker fired with an 18 round capacity in 9mm. The important differences are in its ergonomics and trigger, as the bore axis is the lowest I've ever seen on a locked breech pistol and the factory trigger is set at 2.8lbs with a clean break and a short tactile reset. It is, by far the best factory trigger I've ever shot in a polymer gun and knocks the reigning champion, the Springfield XDm 5.25, off its pedestal.
I managed to put a half dozen or so mags through the full-size gun at Media Day at SHOT and was impressed by the lack of muzzle flip and natural pointability. If the production examples are the same as the ones provided to the press, then it will deserve your attention. Caracal have a pretty decent IPSC crew in Europe and are actively courting some very big name shooters in the US at the moment in order to build a USPSA Production division team - if they sign the guy I hope they will, then expect some fireworks this year.
I'm looking to get a test gun in house to put through the wringer and give a better idea of its capabilities - watch this space.