The verdict is in: The 145th NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits last week was just about as successful as could reasonably be imagined. The National Rifle Association did a lot of important work for a year likely to prove pivotal in Second Amendment history, particularly given the outspoken antipathy of likely Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to the notion of an individual right to keep and bear arms.
Louisville rolled out the red carpet, and make no mistake: Blending small-town charm and big-city savvy, the “Gateway to the South” certainly put its best foot forward. If you didn’t feel welcome, it was your own fault—rarely have we found ourselves so struck by the nice folks we seemed to find everywhere.
The exhibit floor was the main stomping ground of “First Gear,” and 700-plus vendors in half a million square feet made us feel a little like Jonah—ate up and spat out. Still, more than a handful of the best gear grabbed our attention, and may grab yours, too.
We concede we’re major suckers for good light gear, so SureFire was an early, natural stop. As usual, the booth was a cornucopia: If your light needs—weapon, scene, hand, wrist, helmet, search—are somewhere between discreet and a solar proxy, SureFire is a good bet.
Our favorite this visit was a “mighty mini,” if you will: the XC1-A handgun light. For such a small device, it’s got an almost encyclopedic list of features that ought to put it high on any list. The “mini” part is first. We admire the power of the bigger lights (and use them ourselves), but there are situations where they are too much of a good thing in terms of weight and bulk. The XC1-A makes short work of this objection. Powered by a single AAA battery, it adds disproportionately to nearly any application—less in terms of weight (only 1.6 ounces total), and more in terms of light (200 lumen LED with a 1.5-hour run time). Matching this up with a truly concealable pistol ought to be a cakewalk, and the evenly distributed (no “hot-spot”) beam is a crucial factor in target—or non-target—identification.
We note with particular approval that “new” didn’t cost the XC1-A one of the best “old” SureFire features—ambidextrous switches that offers both constant or momentary “on.”
Several of the “anniversary guns” were on display at the Glock booth, and it never crossed our minds not to stop for a peek. These 30 pistols are the result of collaboration between Glock and five master engravers, and each symbolizes a year of Glock presence in the U.S. marketplace.
The G17s in the series are unique, and honor or commemorate a Glock “community” of one sort or another. Serial number 30USA06, for instance, is the Saint Paul, Minn., Police Department pistol, and acknowledges the department’s very early adoption and continuing use of Glocks by their 600-plus member force. Other dedicated pistols will go to organizations like USPSA, Shoot Like a Girl, and—our favorite—SOC-F, with a variety of eventual destinations. Some will be prizes, others auctioned in support of their respective organizations.
Founder Gaston Glock says it better than we can: “When I brought the Glock 17 to America in 1986, I could not have imagined or predicted the success that Glock enjoys today. GLOCKs are now the weapon of choice for over 65 percent of law enforcement agencies across the United States, and they’re used in more than 50 elite military units worldwide. Our pistols are the choice of millions for personal or home protection and target shooting … We cannot thank you enough for your trust and your support.”
Of course, it helps that they are mighty fine pistols, too.
John Bailey always makes us welcome at EOTech, and we rarely miss a chance to stop. This visit was to get a peak at the Vudu 3.5-18x Precision Rifle scope. It’s the big brother of the 1-6x that’s working its way through our review process (patience—we promise this shortly), and like the 1-6x, we’re impressed.
The first focal plane line of Vudu scopes are packed with features that easily make our “favorites” list—crystal clarity AR-coated (HD) glass, aircraft-grade tubes and some of the best reticles start the list, while surgically precise adjustments at every turn, so to speak, complete it. The magnification ring especially will have competitors scratching their heads and saying, “Now why didn’t we think of that?” It seems like a small thing, we know, but put on a pair of gloves and change the magnification setting, and you’ll have your own “Aha!” moment. Another thing that impresses us is the price point: For the features and optical quality, we posit grins from customers and chagrin from that aforementioned competition.
This makes our “First Gear” reprise because it’s so important, not just because a particular manufacturer lit us up. Mainly, we think it deserves comment because the marketplace is really doing the job it’s meant to do—blending technological advances with well-understood needs, and creating viable solutions. This is in obvious counterpoint to hysteria and imagined functionality driving public policy: Can you say, for instance, “smart gun”?
We gave you a look a while back at a superb Hornady example of which we remain extremely fond: It’s fast, has multiple access modes, permits up to five users, and yet is not easy to defeat by the demographic that gives us the most worry—kids.
Another solution we saw in Louisville comes from ArmsReach. It takes a different technological tack, but a very good one—a true biometric access system. Available in steel or tough polycarbonate, the ArmsReach pistol safe actually stores and reads up to 10 users and 20 fingerprints, so that you can add or tune access (including denial) with great precision. With keyed and coded entry methods as well, and battery-plus-AC power, it’s another alternative that puts your ready defensive firearms out of reach for unauthorized use—or abuse. Another clever feature is an access attempt log called the Tattle-Tale. The short version: It keeps track of the last 15 entry attempts. That’s useful in all kinds of ways, we think. This is a full-featured product from nice folks in Fort Smith, Ark., and we hope to have one soon for testing and reporting.