August 09, 2022
Over the last few years, the SHOT Show — the biggest trade show in the industry — seems to be losing influence and popularity despite all of the NSSF efforts to the contrary. In contrast, despite all of the NRA’s administrative missteps, the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits seems to be getting larger and more important every year. The last few NRA conventions I’ve attended have been as large as the first few SHOT Shows I went to 15 years ago. It used to be manufacturers debuted most if not all of their new products at SHOT Show. Now, it’s hard to find a manufacturer who isn’t announcing and/or displaying for the first time a new product at the NRA show.
Shows like the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits allow people to see and, more importantly, get hands on either brand-new products, or ones they’ve only seen in advertisements, in addition to talking to manufacturers. Plus hang out with like-minded Americans.
After not being able to fly for most of two years due to mask requirements (my unwavering policy on masks has been: NO, NEVER), my feelings toward the airlines are still very much in flux, so for this trip I decided the airlines could flux themselves, and I drove. Detroit to Houston is not a short trip, but I could do it while armed, and seeing America. My older son Harrison had never been to any such shows, and he flew down and met up with me for the long weekend.
Let’s take a look at a few things which caught my eye at the 2022 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Houston, Texas — and please note that there were 8.23 gazillion things on display at the show, which covered 14 acres. These are just a tiny few which interested me and about which I wanted to share...
1. Primary Arms 1-8X
Governments flexing fascist muscle for specious reasons shut down many of the shows for most of two years, as they did much of the economy, and the last NRA show was in 2019. This year’s NRA show, for me, started on Thursday at the invitation-only range event put on by Primary Arms Optics. This was a live-fire event where attendees could try out the latest and greatest offerings from over a dozen vendors including some you’ll have heard of (Century Arms, Surefire, HK, Ruger, Holosun, Springfield Armory, Steiner Optics, XS sights), and a number you likely haven’t (Odin Works, Grey Ghost Gear, Battle Arms Development, Cobalt Kinetics, etc.).
At the event, I was talking with Tim Harmsen of the Military Arms Channel on YouTube and commented that who would have thought the two most innovative optic brands on the US commercial market, for the past few years, would be Primary Arms and Holosun. Brief aside #1 — that’s one of the great things about shows like this, talking with people you haven’t seen in a year or three.
Both Primary Arms and Holosun are so-called budget brands, simply because of their price point. You get a lot for your money because the optics are generally manufactured in China where labor costs are lower, but don’t think that equates to lower quality. iPhones are made in China for the same reason, and as long as you have the right quality control, the products coming out of China can be amazing. And that’s the case with the optics from PA and Holosun, two separate companies that have worked together on a number of projects.
Both Primary Arms and Holosun have a number of new products which are just fabulous. I’ve already written up the Primary Arms MicroPrism in these pages, so let me cover their new PLx 1-8X FFP LPVO. What makes this scope stand out is that it is one of the shortest and lightest 1-8X scopes on the market while being quite affordable. It is 9.28-inches long and weighs 16.5 oz according to my scale, which means it is at least an inch shorter and several ounces lighter than any competing 1-8X scope. It has low-profile turrets and an extended throw lever to help you more quickly and easily change magnification. Eye relief is 3.2–3.7-inches depending on magnification. It has a 30mm tube and great Japanese ED lenses. The 1X is a true 1X. This scope features PA’s ACSS reticle, which has an illuminated horseshoe reticle combined with windage and elevation hashmarks. MSRP on this scope is $1,499.99.
2. Holosun SCS
Holosun has a number of optics that are worthy of attention. Their new AEMS appears to be a miniature EOTech HWS if you will and shows a lot of promise. Enclosed sights like this (EOTech, Aimpoint ACRO, Steiner MPS) survive inclement weather better — open optics with projected dots can sometimes be impaired if a raindrop gets on the emitter or the inside of the lens. I’m hoping to get one of those in to test in the future. But let’s focus on another of their new products which might be even more interest to Firearms News readers, the SCS.
Of all the “optics ready” pistols on the market, the Glock MOS is considered one of the worst simply because of the mounting plates by which various optics are attached to the slide. Reports of these plates getting warped or damaged are not uncommon. The Holosun SCS eliminates the MOS plates entirely and directly mounts to the slide. Not only that, but it sits low enough that you can use standard height factory sights through the window. And the sides of the optic body sport texturing designed to mimic the adjoining slide serrations.
The SCS offers a dot or circle/dot green reticle, an internal rechargeable battery with a solar panel backup, and a titanium housing for a 1.2-ounce total weight. MSRP is $435.28. I expect this to be a huge seller for them, considering how popular Glock pistols are on the market.
3. Grey Ghost Gear Throwback
I’ve been told I’m screwing up by putting stickers from gun and ammo companies on the back window of my pickup. Not “gray man” enough for some people, apparently — probably the same people who go around dressed in 5.11 clothing, carrying subcompact pistols, if they’re armed at all, while I’m in a Hawaiian shirt daily carrying a gun bigger than they likely own. And have been since the first Bush administration. Anyway … I’m always on the lookout for tactical gear that doesn’t scream TACTICAL, and Grey Ghost Gear’s Throwback caught my eye.
The Throwback is a small (850 cubic inches, 15" x 8" x 6"), lightweight EDC backpack with a very non-tactical, and I think attractive, look. The body of the pack is a waxed canvas material that is both old-school and very functional. This pack is available in three color schemes — OD green/tan, black/gray, and black/OD green. No MOLLE, MultiCam, or military-style webbing, while still being very functional for its size. MSRP is just $99.
4. Browning Hi-Power Clones
Who would have guessed? Browning Hi-Power clones are the new hotness. Springfield Armory got the lion’s share of the attention last year with their SA-35, but they’re not the only game in town. (Brief aside #2 — Springfield Armory had one of the biggest booths at the show. I enjoyed introducing my son to Rob Leatham. I told him, “Rob is like the Tiger Woods of pistol shooting. Minus all the car accidents.” Rob thought that was pretty accurate.)
But regarding the SA-35, in the words of CZ Custom’s Angus Hobdell, “I don’t understand why Springfield didn’t put a beavertail on there.” I understand perfectly. There are two reasons. One, many people want a more historically accurate gun, and while the SA-35 sports some improvements, it keeps the overall Browning aesthetic of the original. And two, if and when Springfield introduces another model with a beavertail and maybe other upgraded features, they sell even more guns. Capitalism, baby!
But if you can’t or won’t wait for that possibility, if you just need to have a proper beavertail on your Hi-Power RIGHT NOW, you’re in luck. European American Armory (EAA), is importing two Hi-Power clones made by Girsan in Turkey which have beavertails at the back of the frame. One of their MC P35 models has a standard dust cover and the other has a modern railed frame for the addition of a light. The models have bilateral safety levers that are an improvement over the original design, but not as good as the upgraded safety popularized by Cylinder & Slide (Cylinder-Slide.com) and a copy of which you’ll find on the Springfield. These pistols also sport very nice aggressively textured G10 grips and improved sights and they seem to be a good bargain, with MSRPs under $700.
If you’ve got a little more money to spend, CZ Custom isn’t just offering upgraded Hi-Power parts but custom work. They had on display a sample of their work, a customized Hi-Power clone with the work done on a Kareen. Kareens are made in Israel, and Hobdell told me that the steel and parts in them is often superior to that found in actual late-model Brownings. At $3,400, this fully tricked-out gun (including the welded-on beavertail, stippling, magazine well, improved sights, high cut frame, etc.) was not cheap, but it is a custom shop — you get what you pay for. They do work on Springfield and Turkish Hi-Powers as well.
And yes, I hear you guys shouting in the back about the custom 1911 company which for a few years had been offering very expensive custom Hi-Powers with beavertails. And I’m ignoring you, as the beavertails on those guns are improperly done and do not curve up the way they should.
5. Taurus Executive Series
The first day of the show, Taurus announced their “Executive Series” of revolvers, starting with their Model 856 Executive Grade. Think of this as a “factory custom” version of the popular 856, which is a six-shot .38 Special revolver and one of Taurus’ most successful models.
The 856 Executive Grade has a three-inch barrel, satin stainless-steel frame and cylinder, Altamont walnut checkered grips, and a bobbed hammer for DAO operation. It has a fixed rear sight and a serrated ramp front sight. The chambers in the cylinder are chamfered for easier loading and — perhaps most importantly — these revolvers are treated to trigger jobs at the factory. I had a chance to try a few triggers on the display guns at the show, and while I didn’t have a trigger gauge in my pocket to weigh them, I can say that the trigger pulls were smooth and lighter than usual. Suggested retail on this gun is just $689, which seems a bargain.
6. Colt King Cobra .22
Since we’re on revolvers, let’s talk about the newest one Colt had on display, a .22 LR version of their King Cobra. The King Cobra Target .22 LR has a ten-shot cylinder and, of course, is stainless steel. It has a fiber optic front sight, adjustable rear sight, and Hogue overmolded rubber finger groove grips. Available with both 4.5- and six-inch barrels, this is sure to be popular with the crowd who just can’t live without Colt’s snake-named revolvers. MSRP on both models is $999.
7. Galco’s “Cloud” Holsters
Galco Gun Leather is one of if not the largest U.S. holster manufacturers and has been in business long enough for James “Sonny” Crockett to have driven around Miami wearing his Bren Ten in one of their shoulder rigs — soon renamed the Miami Classic. They’ve got holsters of every type, and just covering their new releases every year would be an article in itself. But let’s briefly talk about their “Cloud” holsters.
Their Cloud holsters are variants currently available in their Quicktuk and Kingtuk IWB models. These are hybrid holsters, with polymer holster bodies and belt clips, but the backing is Galco’s “Comfort Cloth.” They describe this as an “adaptive performance mesh.” What it is is a soft layer between the gun/polymer pistol pocket and your body. The inner layer of the Comfort Cloth is a type of closed cell foam padding, and the exterior has a fine mesh. This provides padding, sure, and conforms to the curves of your body, but it also wicks the sweat away from your skin — something leather just doesn’t do.
These holsters are available for a number of pistols and revolvers, from full size to compact. The Quicktuk has an MSRP of $69, the Kingtuk $89.
8. Tactical Rx SOB
While so much shopping is online these days, there’s no substitute for getting your hands on a product to find out whether it is what you thought it would be. The NRA show is great for this, and not just for guns. I’ve written up ballistic/shooting glasses from Tactical Rx before in these pages. They have a whole line of their own frames, as well as putting prescription ballistic-rated lenses in well-known brand name frames.
I’ve specifically written up their Little John frames, which are designed for larger heads. I have a narrow head, but still like the way they look on me. My son Harrison is six foot four, with size 14 feet at the bottom and a big melon of a head at the top. The NRA show allowed him to try on various frame styles at the Tactical RX Booth. He really liked the Little John, whereas I got to try on Tactical Rx’s SOB frames for the first time. They are a more traditional wrap-around frame style available in a number of different colors and lenses, and I really like the way they look.
My favorite lens that they offer is the polarized brown lens with blue mirror finish. Brown or similar lenses (rose, etc.) are my favorite, whether you’re talking driving or shooting. They seem to make all colors warmer, and through what seems like witchcraft but is likely instead just science seem to make the edges of objects pop more. I especially like lenses like this while shooting out west as they make brown cardboard targets very visible against brown backgrounds, but I like them just as well for driving. Both the SOB and the Little John start at $99.
9. Ruger PC Carbine Backpacker
The NRA show isn’t just where manufacturers show off new products, it’s where the public gets to go hands-on. I’m in the industry, and still the market is so rich and diverse that sometimes I’ll go months or even longer between the announcement of a product and seeing it in person, even if it’s something I’m interested in. In this case I’m talking about the takedown packable version of the Ruger pistol caliber carbine.
Ruger’s PCC has been a huge success for them, and rightly so. It is inexpensive and reliable, and you have your choice of using Ruger SR/American Pistol or Glock-pattern magazines to feed it. It has a quick takedown barrel, and when I say quick, I mean lock the bolt back, grab the two halves of the gun, pull a lever with your finger, twist, and the two halves separate. The packable version is meant to store conveniently in a backpack or similar-sized case.
The barrel assembly attaches to the stealth gray stock made by Magpul, and the end result is a rectangle roughly twenty inches long which fits conveniently into most backpacks. The stock features a storage compartment for a magazine. This is not technically a new product for Ruger, but as the rep at the NRA show said, they’ve been out for a while, but they are only now just becoming available. I’ve been aware of them, but it wasn’t until I saw the rep demonstrating the stock’s storage abilities that I appreciated the utility of this model. I own the pistol version of this gun, which should tell you how I feel about the design, and while that is just as compact and transportable as this model some people may prefer an actual carbine. MSRP on the Ruger PC Backpacker model is $899.00.
10. Brownells BRN-180 in 7.62x39
When Brownells introduced their BRN-180 upper receiver assemblies, a slightly modernized and improved version of the AR-180, I didn’t think much of it, and didn’t think it would see much traction. I’m happy to admit I was wrong. Produced in cooperation with PWS and FM Products, this is a short-stroke piston design with an adjustable gas system that fits standard AR-15 lower receivers. They sell both pistol/SBR-length uppers as well as rifle-length assemblies, in .223 Wylde (.223 or 5.56), .300 Blackout, and now 7.62x39.
They’re offering the 7.62x39mm top end at the request of customers, following up their original .223/556 gun and the subsequent 300 BLK chambering. I talked to Brownells’ Ryan Repp about why these guns are so popular. I thought it might be simply because the design of the gun allows for a folding stock on the back of the receiver, unlike the AR-15. After all, Brownells’ tag line for these is “It’s Fun, It Folds, It Shoots.” And unlike ARs with the LAW Tactical folding stock adapter, you can shoot a BRN-180 all day with the stock/brace folded.
Repp believed the folding stock might be part of it but thought most of the popularity of the BRN-180 had to do with the growing popularity of the SIG MCX (which has increased even more as a result of the SIG Spear being part of the military’s next-gen rifle system). As Repp told me, “With the BRN-180 you get something similar to and just as reliable as the SIG MCX, for a lot less money.” Uppers start at $899.99.
11. Hornady .30 Super Carry
This is a simple, quick notice — Hornady announced that it would start offering ammunition in .30 Super Carry, specifically a 100-grain Critical Defense load featuring their FTX bullet.
Hornady announcing that it would start loading ammunition in Federal’s brand new .30 Super Carry cartridge isn’t just news about wider availability of ammo. It is a vote of confidence in the caliber itself. A manifestation of the belief that it will not be here today and gone tomorrow. Whether that faith ultimately pans out, we will see.
12. Steiner MPS
New from Steiner Optics is their Micro Pistol Sight. This is a closed sight similar in size/profile to the Aimpoint ACRO. It has all metal construction, and a total weight of just 2.05 ounces. The walls are thin enough that you don’t notice them while using the sight, which I got to do the month before the NRA Show at a media event where Beretta introduced the new APX A1.
The MPS uses the ACRO footprint for mounting and ships with an adapter plate to fit it to the Docter footprint. It has a 3.3 MOA dot, eight brightness settings (two NV), and an advertised 13,000 hours of battery life.
I like that this optic provides shooters one more option, and Steiner makes good stuff. I’m on record as thinking that optics on carry guns are generally a bad idea, as I believe their negatives outweigh their positives, but someday that won’t be the case. And optics this size, at least to me, look ridiculous perched on pistol slides. But … Steiner had one of these on display in a Reptilia Corp mount for an AR, and an optic this size is perfect for an AR pistol. MSRP on the MPS is $574.99.
In closing …
An article about the 2022 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the protests outside. Just prior to the show there was a school shooting, and failed politician Robert Francis “Beta” (so labeled by Time Magazine on Twitter) O’Rourke used the incident to get attention. He called for protests at the show. There are always some protesters, but this year on the first day of the show Beta convinced upwards of 2,000 NPCs to show up and scream at attendees. (Brief note #3 — if you don’t know what an NPC is, ask your kids. There’s really no better term to describe who and what these people are.)
You could tell who the protesters were, they were the only ones wearing masks. Well, that and screaming, waving signs, and doing whatever as possible to get the attention they were apparently denied at home. When these are your opponents, you know you’re on the right side. I took some photos, but I’ve decided not to include them. These people already get enough attention.
They were protesting at the NRA convention because, like it or not, to the increasingly communist left in this country the NRA is the public face of the pro-gun side of the fight. That’s why presidents, current and former, come to speak at their events. While the FPC, GOA, SAF and other pro-gun organizations fight the good fight, sometimes better and more effectively than the NRA, it is the NRA that catches the slings and arrows of the left. So, it’s in all our best interests to make the organization as strong as it can be at the inside, to win the fight against those who wish to take our freedom.