2012 NRA Annual Meeting St. Louis

Not being willing to ask for media credentials this year (though apparently this blog does qualify me for them) I missed out on meeting quite a few interesting people and participating in some fun events, but that is the nature of things. I had lots to look at this year, but being ill cut down on my visiting time (don’t worry I wasn’t contagious).

Anyway I hit the show with plans to look at specific things and talk to specific vendors. My specific goals were to check out ultra compact 9mms and .308 semi autos. Due to impending changes in the type of work I do I’m likely to be spending more time in suits so I’m looking for a ‘tuxedo gun’ also I’ve been considering replacing my bolt action .308 with a semi-auto that could serve in both the precision rifle and battle rifle role. I also wanted to stop by both Blade Tech and Magpul to thank them for the great gear I’ve been using and abusing over the years.

The first booth I stopped at was Trans World Arms where I checked out the new Israeli weapon, the TAVOR. As with all Israeli military developments I found it an impressive design. The only drawback is you either shoot it right or left handed, you can’t switch if the situation warrants it. Maybe a future version will offer the forward ejection of the FN FS2000; in the meantime I’ll stick with the AR family for all of my 5.56 needs. After visiting for a few minutes at the TWA booth I made my way to Laserlyte where they had their training targets set up in a 3 position gallery. I’ve been considering one for dry fire practice and the opportunity to try one out was too much to pass off. Once I figured out the sights were slightly off to the left I was able to use Kentucky windage with successful results. Based on my experience I put one of these on my wish list it’s a device well worth considering. I also believe they were using a version of the SIRT training pistol from Next Level Training and if so these are worth considering regardless of what pistol you actually carry.

I eventually made my way to the Blade-Tech booth and chatted with the very friendly individuals working there and they showed me what I took to be a fairly new addition to their product line. Blade tech had taken their Eclipse Pancake holster and made it a convertible IWB/OWB model with a tuckable option as well with the addition of a conversion kit. This also made its way onto my wish list. After Blade-Tech I stopped at Crimson Trace to check on their light guards for the 1911. The release date is apparently in May, with S&W and Kimber being guaranteed fits. They are still testing for Colt 1911s. These are as nice and convenient as I thought they would be. Along with the laser grip you can take a 1911 to the next level as a defensive sidearm. As soon as they announce for Colt I’ll definitely be trying to pick one or more up.

While at the Ruger booth checking out the LCP The_Missus spotted the 10/22 Target in stainless steel. Needless to say it was love at first sight and now she is thinking of getting back into rimfire silhouette and benchrest competition. From there I spent some time examining several companies’ optics both for my AR and a heavier precision rifle. The ones I liked the most will remain secret until I have a chance to wring them out on the range. My next stop was the Remington booth where I got to check out several of their rifles including their New .338 Lapua precision rifle. Final judgment on this gun was do want, someday.

Magpul had a great display manned by friendly folks and I got to spend more than a little time talking to one of their representatives about new products old products and current products. I’ll probably be putting one of their STR stocks on my M4gery fairly soon. The cheek weld is VERY comfortable. While I’m not very interested in shotguns anymore I did check out their new furniture for the 870. While the stock looks a bit goofy it handles like a dream and the adjustable LOP makes it an upgrade I’d recommend to anyone looking for more out of their 870. The forend offers several options as well and should not be forgotten.

Now onto the compact 9mms and .308 Battle Rifles, first the .308s; I tried out samples from PTR, Springfield Armory, DSA, Kel-Tec, DPMS and POF. Out of all of them there was only one that rated a ‘do not recommend’ and that was the Kel-Tec RFB. The actions were gritty, the magazine release best described as vestigial and the ergonomics of the controls left a lot to be desired. While all the other weapons handled well and I was left with no complaints about their ergonomics, in the end I decided to stick with what I know and stay with an Armalite pattern gun. If POF offers an 18” model that would be my preferred choice. Otherwise I will likely roll my own using MA-TEN receivers.

As a side note I did check out a KSG as well. This was nicer than the RFB in many respects and might be well balanced if fully loaded, but shotguns are no longer my thing so it lands in the curiosity pile for me.

After fondling samples from Kel-Tec, Ruger, Sig, Kimber and S&W, the ultra compact 9mm battle was won by the new kid on the block; The S&W shield. I noticed a distinct click as I took up slack on the trigger using a target trigger pull, but when I switched to a combat trigger pull the click was unnoticeable. The safety wasn’t as nice as a 1911s but anyone versed in the 1911’s manual of arms should have no problem manipulating it. If I get a ultra-compact 9mm it will be a S&W Shield and be sure to include the +1 magazine extension. For the record The_Missus liked two handguns she saw out of the whole show the Kimber Sapphire II and the S&W Shield. Whether or not I pick one up is another matter entirely, been doing some thinking and that is a dangerous thing for me to do.

All in all it was a productive time at the exhibit. I didn’t get to meet up with some of the folks I wanted to, but I got to see some things that would be difficult to get a chance to otherwise. If the NRA comes back I plan to return and maybe even do so with media credentials. If a show comes to your area I recommend going. There were a lot of nice people present and in spite of the crowded floor everyone was polite and friendly even if you’d just bumped into them or stepped on their foot.

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