July 26, 2023
Affiliate Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. We earn from qualifying purchases.
The NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits (referred to everyone as the NRA Convention) is arguably the second-largest “trade show” for gun people in the U.S. every year, and in the past decade has significantly increased in size and importance. It used to be that almost all new product introductions were done in conjunction with the SHOT (Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade) Show in January, but now nearly as many products are introduced at NRAAM as SHOT. While the NRA as an organization has made more than their share of missteps in the last few years, the show is a great place not just to see cool new stuff but to hang around like-minded folks—i.e. people who love America and aren’t nuts. There were 14 acres of exhibits at the show floor, and even if you spent all three days at the show looking around you might miss something. Here are a dozen interesting things I spotted at the show, as well as a bit of a travelogue.
Unlike SHOT Show, which seems to be stuck in anti-gun Vegas in perpetuity, the NRA Convention moves around, seemingly alternating every year between a northern and southern location to let people all over the country have a chance to visit without having to travel too far. In 2023, it was back in Indianapolis at the convention center, right in downtown. In 2022, it was in Houston, and in 2024 it will be in Dallas. The NRA show is held in states that are friendly to your gun rights, and you won’t find any “no guns allowed” signs at the show—unless you go to see some of the speeches, where you have to disarm to get in the auditorium door. No thanks. I’ve got too much self-respect.
FYI: my daily carry at this year’s show (and the previous few months) was a USPSA Limited Edition SIG P226R with Trijicon HD sights in a Safariland 5198 OWB holster. It was loaded with an 18-round Mec-Gar magazine in the gun and a spare 15-round SIG magazine (also made by Mec-Gar) on my off-side in a Blade Tech mag carrier, as always tastefully concealed with the finest (or maybe just loudest) Hawaiian shirts. Ammo of choice was Black Hills’ 115-grain TAC-XP+P. Knife was a Civivi Badlands Vagabond Damascus. Flashlight was the Surefire Stiletto. Shoes were Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22—and if you’re wondering why I’m mentioning my shoes, you’ve never been to one of these shows, which can be brutal on your feet. Wear soft, comfortable shoes.
2022’s show in Houston, the first one post-scamdemic, was a bit thinly attended, and there were a lot of protesters screaming at us, because just a few days earlier in Uvalde there was a school shooting (and of course in the minds of leftists, law-abiding gun owners were to blame—not the shooter, and not the local cops standing in the hallways outside the classrooms for 45 minutes, listening to the screams of the children, calmly using hand sanitizer instead of doing something. Anything.) Anyway…
2023’s show in Indianapolis seemed just as heavily attended as the 2019 NRA show in Indy. While Indy is no Vegas, in some ways that’s a good thing. There’s plenty to do in Indianapolis on a weekend. Friday night, I went out to eat at Indianapolis’ famous St. Elmo’s steak house, sitting between Bill Wilson and Ken Hackathorn. I learned the posted speed limit on Bill’s driveway is 160 MPH, and for very good reason.
St. Elmo’s was good, but not as spectacular as I was led to believe, but then maybe my standards are unrealistically high, being married to a gourmet cook and having a private chef to a billionaire in the family (I don’t know how I’m not 400 lbs.). That said, for lunch a local drug dealer (seriously, he works for Big Pharma) took me to Shapiro’s Delicatessen, which is a 10-minute walk from the convention center. This crowded 115-year-old Jewish deli gave me huge New York vibes, and the sandwiches were excellent. The lady behind the counter even yelled at me like we were in Brooklyn (I tried to grab the wrong sandwich), which was hilarious. Fuhgeddaboutit.
Across the street from the convention center is the JW Marriott hotel, with a Starbucks in the lobby. On Saturday I strode across and ordered a Venti Misto with body positive cream. Don’t say heavy cream, it’s fatphobic. If you think I didn’t actually do that, you don’t know me. And as I had a press badge around my neck, the Starbucks employees assumed I was serious.
Ruger ReadyDot Optic
Hoo, boy. Let’s start with Ruger’s first optic, because this one is sure to be…what’s a nice word? How about “polarizing.” Definitely interesting…. I talked to a contact at Ruger who told me that they’d been looking for an optic to offer with the Max-9 pistol, but that apparently the slide action of this subcompact was so brutal that during testing they couldn’t get a battery-powered optic to survive more than 3,000 rounds. So, they developed the ReadyDot, which has no batteries, or electronics; the dot is illuminated by fiber optics.
So far, so good. I like the fiber-optic powered Trijicon RMR and TR24 scope, and as long as you’re not using a really bright flashlight (which tends to wash out the reticle) fiber optic solves a lot of the problems that battery-powered sights have. Even indoors under fluorescent lights the dot is as bright as you’d need or want. The reticle for the ReadyDot is a 15 MOA red dot. A lot of people think that is ridiculously big. Too big. It is as wide as the front sight. However, while you can buy this optic separately (it uses a Shield RMSc footprint) it is meant for the Max-9, a subcompact. A 15 MOA dot, at 25 yards, is only 3.75-inches wide. At 50 yards, it’s only 7.5-inches wide. The size of that dot is basically the size of the groups the Max-9 can produce at those distances. It’s not too big for a compact pistol meant to be used at defensive distances, and anyone who thinks it is hasn’t thought things through.
The housing of the ReadyDot is polymer, as is the lens, to keep it light and inexpensive. If you buy it separately, it’s $99.95. If you buy a Max-9 with the optic mounted, the optic only adds $30 to the price of the gun. However… There are no windage or elevation adjustments in this optic. Which would be fine, if you could be guaranteed that the bullets would hit inside the dot at your zeroing distance of choice, but you can’t. Not only do not all pistols shoot to the same point of aim, different ammo can provide vastly different points of impact. I think Ruger is on to something, going with fiber optic illumination, but lack of adjustments, to zero this optic to your preferred gun/ammo combination, severely limits its utility.
Kimber hit the show floor running with two new firearm introductions, a revolver and a pistol. First up is the Kimber KDS9C. This is a compact 9mm 1911 fed by a double-stack 15-round magazine, with an aluminum frame. It is available in black or silver, with a stainless-steel slide. It sports a 4.09-inch barrel with an aggressive target crown. This is a 1911-style pistol with a single-action-only operating system. It has a 1911-style thumb safety, but no grip safety. Weight with an empty magazine in place is 28 ounces. It uses proprietary magazines that are made by Mec-Gar, and two are provided with each pistol.
Can I be the first to say that this is a dumb name, even though I understand how they named it? KDS9C=Kimber Double Stack 9mm Compact. But here is a typical conversation: “Oh, I love that new Kimber pistol!” “What’s it called?” “Um, the K…something.” The front sight is a Hi-Viz fiber optic, the rear sight is adjustable, and the pistol is optics ready, with a removable plate. The grips are G10 with a crosshatch pattern you’ll also see on the front and back of the frame. This pistol seems designed to specifically compete with the Wilson Combat EDC X9. While the Kimber guns look great, and feel good in the hand, the barrel/slide/frame fit of the KDS9Cs on display on the show were not nearly as tight as what you’ll find on the Wilson Combat guns. Then again, the Kimber at $1,499 is less than half the price of the Wilson. Provided the Kimbers are reliable….
On the wheel gun side, the new pistol is the Kimber K6XS. Kimber’s K6S has been a huge success, but light it isn’t. The K6S is all stainless, and built to handle .357 Magnums. It weighs 23 ounces. The new K6XS has a two-inch stainless-steel barrel, but sports an aluminum frame, and weighs just 15.9 ounces. It is “only” rated for .38 Special +P ammunition, not magnums. The K6XS uses the same excellent DAO trigger system found in the K6S. It sports Hogue cobblestone rubber grips. Most people might think the big news is the lighter weight of the XS, but in truth the K6XS will be lighter on your wallet as well—it has an MSRP of $679, compared to the $985 of the base model K6S.
Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol
Beretta’s newest tactical shotgun is the A300 Ultima Patrol, and I plan to write it up in detail in these pages in the future. The A300 Ultima Patrol looks almost identical to the Beretta 1301 Tactical, but at $1,099 is priced significantly lower than the 1301 Tactical, which has recently shot up in price, now starting at $1,720. Why the difference? First, the 1301 is made in Italy, the A300 Ultima Patrol is made at Beretta’s new facility in Gallatin, Tennessee. Also, internally they are different. The A300 has a standard bolt, whereas the 1301 has a chromed, rotating bolt head. Beretta’s A300 uses a gas operating system, but it is different than the gas system in their top-of-the-line 1301.
The A300 Ultima Patrol is a 7+1 capacity 12-gauge with a 19.1-inch barrel. Beretta says it weighs 7.1 pounds, but my sample tips the scale at 6 pounds, 13 ounces. Both Beretta shotguns have very similar controls, and I consider them the best on the market when it comes to tactical shotguns—big bolt handle, big bolt release, and a safety right there under the tip of your thumb. As they have shorter-than-average receivers, overall, they feel very short, and are quick to handle and swing between targets. You have a ghost ring rear sight and a fiber optic front, as well as a section of rail on the receiver for mounting optics. It ships with a mounting strip for the receiver, if you want to use Velco sidesaddles (like the very popular EssTac). The A300 Ultima Patrol is available in all black or with a gray receiver, for $1,099. There is also a limited edition gray tiger stripe model that looks amazing, for $1,199. Look for my in-depth review later this year.
Colt CBX TacHunter
I was at a Colt media event at Gunsite in December, which I wrote up for the Firearms News website, and it was there I discussed their new tactical bolt action rifle, the CBX. At that event they also showed us a prototype of a hunting rifle they had planned, which they’ve now announced—the CBX TacHunter. Initially available in .308 Winchester, with a 5+1 capacity, this rifle has a 60-degree bolt throw, free-floating nitrided barrel with a threaded muzzle, and a flat-bottomed gray stock with spacers to adjust length of pull. The receiver smartly uses Remington 700 specs for rings/mounts. These should be hitting dealers’ shelves about the time you’re reading this and will have a roughly $1,000 price tag. The rifle itself isn’t that special, but Colt jumping into the bolt action rifle arena is something I find very interesting.
Announced new for the NRA Show is the FN Reflex, a new subcompact 9mm meant for the concealed carry crowd. But first—I trashed Kimber slightly for the name of their new pistol, and feel FN has made another misstep here. In the modern gun world, “reflex” is associated with reflex sights. When I heard about a product called the “FN Reflex”, I assumed it was an optic. Just sayin’. That said, FN’s marketing for this pistol is spot on—carry a gun, carry a gun every day, train with it, so that if the threat comes, you responding to it is just a “reflex”. To quote Jeff Cooper, “An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it.” To quote Clint Smith, “Some people just need to be shot.”
Anyway, the FN Reflex is a subcompact striker-fired 9mm with a polymer frame. FN calls it a “micro compact”, as apparently “subcompact” isn’t sexy enough anymore. Mark my words, in a few years some manufacturer will market their new small carry gun as a “nano” something or other—unless Beretta still has the trademark on that after the ergonomic disaster that was the Beretta Nano. Anyway (again)… The FN Reflex has a 3.3-inch barrel, is one inch thick, and each pistol comes with two magazines, one 11-rounder and one extended 15-rounder. The 11-rounder has an extended finger hook baseplate to allow most people to get all their fingers on the gun, although the pistol does ship with a flush basepad for this magazine for maximum concealability. It has forward cocking serrations, and the texturing on the grip seems nicely aggressive for a pistol that likely will have sharp recoil, due to its size and weight.
You can get this pistol in black or FDE, with just iron sights or in FN’s optic ready MRD configuration. The sights are steel, and the front sight has a tritium insert surrounded by an orange circle. Expect an in-depth review of this pistol in these pages later this year. The official specs for the trigger pull are 4.5-5.5 lbs. FN is claiming this pistol has a best-in-class trigger. No FN pistol I’ve ever tested has come close to living up to that claim, but then again “best” means whatever you say it does. I have the best taste in Hawaiian shirts of anyone in the history of the world. See? The standard iron sight model is $599, and the optics ready MRD model is $659.
Stoeger STR-9 Micro Compact
Stoeger has seen a lot of success with their STR-9 pistols, simply because they seem to have good ergonomics, excellent reliability, and are priced very affordably. Newly announced is the Stoeger STR-9 Micro Compact. This is a polymer-framed striker-fired pistol that is available either with plain iron sights or an optics-ready model. The adjustable rear sight has a plain black blade, and the front sight has a white dot. It has flush 10- and extended 13-round magazines, forward cocking serrations, and it felt very good in my hand when I was handling it at the show. The STR has proven itself to be a reliable design, so provided the Micro Compact is just as reliable, I expect it to be a good seller, considering prices of the STR-9MC start at $399.
Four Peaks CSV-9
One of the random discoveries at the NRA show was the Four Peaks CSV-9, being imported by Four Peaks. This is a funky TEC-9-looking 9mm fed by Glock magazines made in the Czech Republic. The CSV-9 is a striker-fired, direct blowback pistol with a 4.75-inch and is fed by Glock Gen-4-pattern magazines. The charging handle can be switched from one side of the pistol to the other. Overall, it is 13.8-inches long and 6.8-inches tall and weighs 4.63 pounds. There is a full-length rail along the top for mounting optics, although it does come with iron sights. There is a rail at the rear of the receiver as well for mounting a stock/brace. There are rails on the sides of the handguard/barrel shroud for mounting lights, etc. I like this pistol simply because it looks so retro. It definitely looks like something a bad guy from Miami Vice should be spraying wildly before Sonny Crockett downs him with a doubletap from his Bren Ten.
Federal Action Shotgun Shells
On display at the show was a new 12-gauge load from Federal Ammunition, their Action Shotgun. This is available in 12-gauge only, with a 1 1/8-ounce load of #7 ½ shot travelling at 1,235 fps. So, what’s different about this? These shells are specifically intended for use in box-magazine-fed shotguns (competition or otherwise). Those magazines often have very strong springs, and the shells can flex and deform. As a result, the bases of these shells are brass-plated steel. In addition, at the front of the shell you’ll see a roll crimp, with a flat plastic disc to hold the shot in place. This load initially will only be sold in 200-round cases, and you’ll spot the silhouette of a Pepper Popper on the box.
Editor's Note: Check Out Digital Editor Jack Oller's Article on the Action Shotgun Here
SnapSafe Vault Door
SnapSafe is part of the Hornady family of companies, and one product they brought out recently that really caught my attention is their vault door. The NRAAM was the first time I was able to check one out in person. I’ve met a number of people who don’t simply have gun safes, they have gun rooms. The doors to those rooms have displayed varying levels of toughness. The SnapSafe Vault Door is designed to be a drop-in replacement for a standard door, increasing the level of security for any room. The Vault Door is made of 12-gauge steel and has nine one-inch live-locking bolts. It has a digital lock with a mechanical key backup—which means it’s EMP-proof. If you were thinking of a DIY panic room, this might be a valid option—and yes, there’s a handle on the inside. They have them in 32- and 36-inch wide models, with doors that swing in or out. On display was a 36-inch model that swings in, so its hinges are hidden. It has their Square-Lok organizing system on the inside of the door. You’ve got your choice of dark gray or off-white, with an MSRP of $2,369.
Hi-Point .30 Super Carry Carbine
The jury is still out whether Federal’s .30 Super Carry cartridge is going to see any success, or whether it is going to fade into the background. Personally, what I think they need to make it a success is a Glock 45 chambered in this caliber, where a flush magazine would hold 20 or more rounds—that would make an impression. However, of one thing there can be no doubt—Hi-Point has produced the first carbine chambered in .30 Super Carry. As the .30 Super Carry has roughly the recoil impulse of the 9mm, it would be somewhat simple—just use a different barrel, and tweak the magazine. Hi-Point’s straight blowback carbines are known for three things—1. Being ugly. 2. Being inexpensive. 3. Being completely and utterly reliable.
What I was curious about was how well the .30 SC would perform out of a longer barrel. It works at high pressures, uses a small rifle primer, and some of the offerings are stuffed with different powder to provide the proper performance out of short barrels—which means velocity out of longer barrels might be…interesting. As I was talking to Charles Brown and Dave Kiwacka at the Hi-Point booth, I mentioned my curiosity, and voila! They whipped out a data sheet, as they had chronographed most of the available loads out of the carbine’s 16.5-inch barrel. Most of the .30 Super Carry loads with 100- and 115-grain bullets would do 1,200-1,300 fps out of the carbine’s barrel, but a few loads were far faster than that. The 100-grain Federal HST did 1,520 fps out of the carbine’s barrel. The 75-grain Lehigh Defense Copper Extreme did 1,866 fps. Personally, I think pistol caliber carbines are the best choice for home defense for just about everyone, and the Hi-Point 3095 Carbine gives them one more reliable option.
Krebs Custom M23
Full disclosure—I know Mark Krebs. Mark Krebs is a friend of mine. I’ve toured his shop. I’ve hung out at his house. I’ve insulted him in front of his long-suffering wife, as he’s flirted with mine. We clear? Good. I first met Mark because of Krebs Custom AKs. He was one of if not the first Americans to start doing custom work to AKs, and some of the parts he’s designed have become the standard. At the show he was showing off his new rifle, the M23, which should be in production by the time you’re reading this.
The M23 is a 7.62x39 AK, with a number of interesting features. The precision top rail is hinged and railed, so you can mount optics to it. The lightweight handguard extends to the gas block and has M-LOK slots on the sides and a full-length rail on the top. The display sample wore iron sights, showing that the rifle provides nearly 18-inches of sight radius. The rifle has an adjustable gas block. But the most interesting thing about the M23 was the rail on the back. The rail on the back of the receiver, for mounting a stock, comes up much farther than usual. As Krebs told me, “With the stock mounted at the highest point, the stock line is three-quarters of an inch below the bore line.” And he showed me live fire video of one of his employees shooting the gun. There was darn near zero muzzle rise. Krebs told me of the rifle, “I’ve worked a long time on it, and I’m really happy with how it came out.”
I was worried the stock/rail position might make it hard to flip up the top cover to clean the rifle, but no. Krebs did it right in front of me, using a pen (as your finger won’t be quite narrow enough to do the job). As for price, I don’t know, as he was still working that out. His stuff ain’t cheap. Somewhere north of $2,000, I know that. But generally, in the firearms world, you get what you pay for.
You’ll see accompanying this article photos of many neat things I just didn’t have the space to write about. With—no joke—14 acres of guns and gear, even walking the show floor for days I’m sure I missed things. I surely missed having the winning tickets in all of the Daniel Defense drawings where they were giving away rifles. Sigh. Anyway…. I recommend going to the NRAAM, if one is near you and the timing works. Not necessarily to support the NRA, but to see cool stuff and to hang out with like-minded people. For more information about the next NRA Show, please visit the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting website at NRAAM.org.
About the Author
James Tarr is a longtime contributor to Firearms News and other firearms publications. A former police officer he is a USPSA Production Division Grand Master. He is also the author of several books, including CARNIVORE, which was featured on The O’Reilly Factor. His current best-selling novel, Dogsoldiers, is available now through Amazon.
If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.