While everyone is entitled to their own tastes, ours make it impossible to pass by Christensen Arms. We’ve dawdled before over their modern sporting rifles and 1911/Browning pattern pistols, but this year the new BA Tactical bolt action brought us to a complete halt. A hand-laid fiberglass- and carbon fiber-reinforced stock is the handsome beginning, and a long list of fine features follow. The “biggies” are probably an AI-compliant box magazine; integral 20 MOA tapered 1913 Mil-Standard rail on the action; spiral fluted bolt; and a carbon fiber-wrapped, match grade, button-rifled barrel. Smaller details complete the package, like stock adjustments for cheek height and length of pull, a three-way adjustable trigger and five available calibers (.223 up to .338 Lapua). Best of all, what looks and performs like a 12-pound precision rifle tips the scale at as little as 7.1 pounds. Add an optic worthy of a Christensen, and you’ll still have a rifle carried easily—and often—to the range.
Ruger’s .22/45 has been a popular trainer and plinker for a couple of decades, and deservedly so. The main reason is right there in the designation—the “…45” part—that is, it faithfully reproduces the highly desirable grip angle of John Browning’s 1911-pattern pistols. To this, it adds (even more) vintage Ruger Mark I, II and III top-end components: Tubular barrel/action, ignition, etc. We elbowed our way to the front of a display at the Davidson’s booth to find a very special edition of the pistol—a red, white and blue, NRA-marqued beauty complete with a lightened barrel sleeve, optics rail and custom grips. It gave us a major itch to hunt up a Steel Challenge match right then and there: This little jewel ought to swing like crazy.
Runaway winner of our “Most People in the Smallest Booth” award was F-1 Firearms, though it’s easy to see why. The company was showing off several über-cool “skeletonized” (for lack of a better term) ARs, though it didn’t take long to figure out these rifles have a lot more going for them than watch-it-cycle weight reductions. Going lighter still is accomplished by using their five-groove, button-rifled barrels with titanium bonded to the 416 stainless. Finally, there’s no guessing about whether they work: Friends of America’s 1st Freedom and pro 3-gunners Ryan (Team Stoeger) and Dianna (Team Benelli Captain) Muller told us so. That’s more than good enough for us.
Yet another impressive thing to come out of Leander, Texas, and the gang at LaRue Tactical was their venture into the suppressor market. Called the Tranquilo, it was designed from the ground up to eliminate back pressure into the shooters face and action. The complex machining on the end cap does some high-tech magic and creates a bit of a vacuum, reducing back pressure. Now you won't need to squirt RTV on your charge handle to keep gunk and gas out of your face. Another huge plus is the low cost of the new Tranquilo. It is very affordable for a first-rate centerfire suppressor, with both the .223 and .308 versions coming in under $700.
One of the more colorful items we were able to find at the SureFire booth was the Freedom Alliance 25th Anniversary commemorative flashlight. The Freedom Alliance was founded by LtCol. Oliver North to support U.S. service members and their families. This flashlight is anodized red, white and blue and features LtCol. North’s signature. Part of the sales of this flashlight go directly to his foundation and our troops. Huge props to SureFire and the Freedom Alliance for making this happen.
Out front at the Trijicon booth we found the Miniature Rifle Optic (MRO), and we’d have to call it typical Trijicon fare—typically superb, that is. We’d caution about another meaning of “typical,” however, because “ordinary” it certainly is not. While it adds a little bulk over “miniature” class competitors (a roughly 1-ounce increase in weight, but a 25-percent larger objective lens diameter), the benefit of that big window up front jumps right out: The MRO has virtually no “tube effect.” Hunting for the dot (2 MOA) just didn’t happen for us. Get your head remotely close to the right position, and get to work. We also buy Trijicon’s assertion that difficult head or body positions will be more easily overcome. A natural for shotguns or rifles/carbines, the waterproof 7075-housed works include compatibility with night vision (2 settings), recessed but tool-less windage and elevation adjustments, and a top-mounted (and therefore ambi) brightness control. As we said, superb.
2016—the year Magpul entered the clothing market. The standout item for us was the company’s new pants. They exhibit lots and lots of well-thought-out changes in comparison to some other brands. Of note were the larger front pocket openings, which are a bit more angled. Those of us out there who prefer pocket carry over belt carry will now be able to reach inside a bit more easily to draw a small-size auto like a S&W Shield or Glock 42/43. Another change is the cargo pockets—they are not just added on almost like an afterthought, but sewn into the pant leg itself. That’s good stuff. Magpul’s clothing line also includes leather belts designed to hold up to the weight of a holster and not look like a typical nylon web belt. These clothing items and more will be available soon directly from Magpul. We’re sure the company will again knock it out of the park—like they always have.
We also found more good stuff from the creative minds at Zev, who are continuing the evolution of Glock pistols. The slide-mounted optic craze is really taking off now that the scopes are rugged enough to withstand thousands and thousands of rounds. Only a few years ago that was not the case, but now competitive and CCW shooters alike are embracing the change. Zev has also done some incredible things with slide serrations that don't just look cool, but are also highly functional. The fulcrum trigger kits are fully adjustable and are simple to install yourself. We’re incredibly happy with a competition Glock wearing one of the company’s trigger kits. The common remark at the range when others shoot it is, “You sure this is a Glock?”