Random Thoughts from the NRA show
A friend and I drove up to Charlotte yesterday for a visit to the NRA show. These are just some random musings about some of the stuff I saw there, some of which may actually be interesting to people.
Ruger LCR - This was the first chance I've had to handle an LCR, and I have to say I was fairly impressed. Trigger pull was very smooth and probably a bit lighter than a stock Smith and Wesson revolver. Ruger was showing a new .357 magnum version of the gun. They also had some nice boot grips that were hard plastic on either side, with soft rubber front and back for recoil absorption.
SIG 556 Classic - This is the first chance I've had to play with the "Classic" version of the SIG 556. The front handguard feels surprisingly bulky. The rifle had one of the SIG mini red dot sights on it. Interestingly, it was equipped with a killflash screen, which is not available on the equivalent Aimpoint micro.
Bushmaster ACR - Like the SIG 556, the ACR seemed surprisingly bulky. It also seemed rather poorly made for a $2500 rifle. Some of this may have to do with the extensive use of plastic in the design, which lends a less substantial feel than aluminum or steel. It may also be because the display rifle seems to have seen a fair bit of handling (I wouldn't be surprised if it had also been on display at SHOT).
S&W Bodyguard 38 Revolver - I was not impressed. The trigger pull seems rather bumpy compared to traditional S&W revolvers. The cylinder catch is in an odd, difficult to reach position. I'm not a big fan of lasers, but if you're going to have one, it should come on as you grab the gun, like the Crimson Trace models. The Bodyguard's built in laser has to be turned on using a separate button that's as awkwardly placed as the cylinder release. I would much rather have a Ruger LCR or an old fashioned j-frame than the Bodyguard
S&W Bodyguard 380 pistol - The auto actually has a better trigger pull than the revolver . The integrated laser requires a separate button to activate, though it is much more ergonomically placed. The pistol also sports a manual thumb safety, which seems completely unnecessary given the long double action trigger pull. Not much to distinguish it from the other .380 keychain guns currently flooding the market.
Arsenal - I've already got a SGL-20 and a SLR-107F, so I didn't spend much time playing with the Arsenal AKs. However, one of the things that struck me during my brief handling of them was the solidity and quality of manufacture. They feel as good or better than the SIG 556, Bushmaster ACR, and FN SCAR. Whatever you're getting for $2000-3000 that you'd pay for one of those rifles, better manufacturing quality than a good AK (or AR for that matter) isn't part of it.
SCAR - The SCAR seemed considerably more impressive than the Bushmaster or SIG. It felt like it had better quality and less bulk (largely because it's slimmer). I'm not ready to lay down $3000 for one though.
KRISS Super V - KRISS TDI didn't have a booth at the show, but there were a couple of their Vector SMGs on display. EOTech was using one to show off one of their sights, and a suppressor manufacturer had one with a can on it. I recently bought a KRISS magazine for use as a happy stick for my Glock 21, and I've been getting more and more intrigued by the design.
Steyr AUG - The next generation assault rifle of the last generation. I've heard how lousy the AUG's trigger is, but I was still surprised by just how crappy it was.
FN FS2000 - Big, bulky, and oddly balanced, but has a far better trigger than the AUG.
FN PS90 - Weighted heavily towards the rear, even with a 16 inch barrel.
Benelli MR1 - Formerly known as the Beretta Rx4. Very odd looking. The separation between the handgrip and magazine is rather large, making it impossible to drop the magazine one-handed.
Benelli Vinci - This is another odd looking one, but much more interesting than the MR1. It breaks down into three pieces in seconds. Now they just need to come out with an 18" barrel and extended magazine tube for it.
EAA Witness - If I wanted to buy a CZ, I'll buy one from the Czech Republic, not an Italian knockoff. EAA did have a really nice looking double rifle in .45-70 on display though.
Firestorm .38 Special - I ran across this in the Bersa booth. It seems to be a faithful reproduction of the Colt Detective's special, right down to the press backwards to release cylinder catch and the cylinder that rotates clockwise. Would make a nice BUG.
TTI StraightJacket - This was one of the more interesting things I saw at the show. They basically take a rifle barrel, encase it in a 1" diameter pipe, and fill the space between barrel and the sleeve with some sort of proprietary material. This evidently changes the harmonics and keeps the barrel from whipping around, but weighs far less than a bull barrel would. Relatively cheap too. They showed a couple of bolt actions and some ARs that have received the modification. They make some pretty impressive accuracy claims for this stuff, it will be interesting to see if they're borne out when it comes to market.
MGI Hydra - This has evidently been around a while, but I hadn't heard of it. It's a modular lower that allows you to switch out different magwells (they have wells for Glock, grease gun, and AK mags, in addition to 5.56). They've also got a quick change barrel mount for ARs. Interesting, but it seems a bit Rube Goldbergish.
Vz. 58 - I had a chance to handle a Vz. 58 for a bit. Very nice gun, too bad they're not more common here in the U.S.
Optical Sights on Rifles - Quite a few of the tactical rifles I had a chance to handle had low magnification optical sights on them. On my own fighting rifles, I use zero magnification sights pretty much exclusively. This was a good reminder of why. Almost every time I put a gun with a magnified sight to my shoulder, I had to hunt around for the proper eye box. Of course, a lot of practice shouldering a given weapon/sight combination would reduce this, but magnified sights still leave a lot less leeway than zero magnification red dots do.
In a lot of ways, the NRA show is like a BIG gun show. However, there is at least one important difference. At a gun show, the folks selling stuff often don't know a whole lot about what they're selling (indeed, if you're looking for something in particular, you probably know more about it than the guy trying to sell it to you). Here, the folks you're talking to will at least be sales reps with a fairly good knowledge of what they're selling. In many cases, they're the inventor or designer of a particular piece of gear.
The NRA show is quite an experience. If it's in your neighborhood, I'd highly recommend making the trip.