At a half million square feet, the show floor of the NRA 145th Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Louisville, Ky., is not for the agoraphobic or soft-footed, especially when several tens of thousands of our best friends show up simultaneously. Hunting and shooting gear from top manufacturers the world over is cheek by jowl with unique firearms collections of astonishing variety, and that’s just the beginning. In truth, you simply can’t see it all, even with three days to roam. We took one for the team, though, and looked high and low to bring you a few specks of gold, as it were, from the show floor.
This is a punishing stop, but we steel ourselves for it whenever we can: We want one of these something awful. It is perhaps the ultimate in takedown rifles, and owner/president/design chief David Ives’ Vanquish and Valkyrie are quick-change artists extraordinaire: From a backpack or small case, either can be assembled in under a minute, and without tools. The monolithic receiver and barrel indexing return to zero through repeated assembly and disassembly, and put .308 Winchester, .243 Winchester, .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, .300 WSM and.338 Federal at your disposal with only a barrel swap (16- or 20-inch lengths available in heavy fluted profiles, and threaded). The Valkyrie adds another head-turning feature to Vanquish versatility—truly ambidextrous functionality in a bolt action (the rifle is provided with both left- and right-hand bolts).
A pro’s tool by any standard, and we’ve got one headed in for review. Standby?
A1F readers will know we are big fans of the modern sporting rifle—otherwise known as the AR—but a stop at DSA always reminds us that there are other great designs out there, too. One of our favorites is the FAL—the Fusil Automatique Léger of FN fame—a short-stroke, piston-operated rifle adopted by more than 90 nations in its heyday, and that remains a smooth-shooting, accurate and rugged joy of rare proportions.
President Dave Selvaggio was cordial as always when we met him at the booth, and gave us a look-see at the huge number of variants now available—we think we counted 17, not including finish variations—ranging from an 11-inch barrel para shorty all the way up to 21-inch standard ST58, the absolute classic. But the best thing about DSA is that they never stand still; we’ll be bringing you (ample) evidence of this in the coming months.
The availability of truly excellent triggers held the modern sporting rifle back for a loooooong time in our view, though perhaps it’s clearer to say their lack of availability was the issue.
We’d submit that a stop at Tac-Con renders this a major “Oh … never mind.” We’ve used the company’s 241 drop-in trigger cartridge in a bunch of Stoner pattern rifles in multiple calibers, and “sublime” is the word that most readily comes to mind. The 241 (literally two for one, as you’ll see) is a three-position AR system that gives a superbly decisive, assisted reset mode with a 4.5-pound press in the standard “fire” position (vertical), and a precision, two-stage 3.5-pound press when you push it all the way over to what would be “full” on a select-fire rifle.
The company’s other AR trigger is even more intriguing in some respects. The 3MR uses the third position for a rapid actuation mode that takes some practice to master, but you’ll know when you get it right. For certain forms of competition and duty, it can be a game-changer or life-saver.
Both triggers come with a miniaturized copy of the ATF certification of them as non-NFA items. Get good with one of these, and you’ll see why it’s a good idea to keep the cert handy with the rifle the trigger lives in!
The hands-down winner of our “Damn, that’s clever!” award goes to MantisX. This Oswego, Ill., company has a training aid/system that has it all, in our view—live- or dry-fire modes; works on your existing handgun (as long as it has an accessory rail); specifically IDs mechanical problems with your technique; and tracks performance over time.
The broad strokes are simple: You attach the MantisX module to your handgun and download the matching app to your smartphone or tablet. You open the app and sync to the MantisX module, press the “start” button and go to work.
Over the course of a string—remember, live- or dry-fire—the app and module work together to analyze the movement of your pistol just as you break your shot. These movements are visually plotted and scored by the app so you can see your variations, and it follows up with recommendations about mechanical improvements to your technique. It’s a thing of beauty, at least at first blush.
We’ve got one to test, and we’ll have a detailed report shortly. At only $149, it’s looking like a no-miss proposition. Bwahahahahahaha.
We didn’t quite get ambushed by Stephen Hailey, but near enough: There were just too many slick things to pass by in the Hailey Ordnance booth. Hailey’s Oklahoma City company has been offering billet and forged AR receivers and rifles as well as suppressors for a spell, but what really caught our eye was an integrated, tunable suppression system for the Ruger 10/22.
Our photo tells the tale: This is not a trivial technology or piece of machining, but the results are straightforward and mighty useful. Begun with a Lothar Walther barrel blank, the HOC AeGIS puts suppression and gas modulation in a shrouded, integrated barrel design that doesn’t look materially different from a standard “bull” barrel on any other 10/22. What makes the Hailey system so nifty is the ability to tune the propellant gases to get the best performance out of virtually any .22LR ammo you want to use in your rifle, and essentially without tools.
If there’s a better way to keep a suppressed .22 in action with the ebbs and flows of rimfire ammo availability—at least the way it’s been the last few years—we haven’t seen it yet.
President Justin Harvel was not an easy guy to get to at Black Rain: Like the rest of his team, he was pressed into steady service in a booth pretty much shoulder-to-shoulder every time we happened by.
Still, he gave us a gracious look at a gorgeous rifle—an NRA-marqued, mil-spec 16-inch carbine. We figure no explanation is really required as to why this was high on our list of must-sees. It’s a limited-edition rifle from the BRO “Value” series, and is about as feature-laden as you could hope for: A salt-bath nitride bolt carrier group is the heart of the rifle, and promises to be not only smooth functioning but long, long wearing. A 12-inch super slim, M-Lok handguard follows the trend toward lighter, faster-swinging MSRs, and is supplemented by other Magpul jewels at grip and stock.
A sling and soft case come standard, and the whole package is backed by Black Rain’s lifetime warranty. As a shooter or collectible, it’s another winner (in a very long line) from Black Rain Ordnance.