NRA Annual Meeting (May 17th, 2009)

Saturday night consisted of reviewing some of my notes from the day and getting ready for Sunday.

On Sunday, I decided to be a bit adventuresome and take the metro light rail train into downtown Phoenix, so as to avoid the high parking fees. After getting horribly lost (which included driving through a shady looking trailer park whilst looking for parking — they need better signs) for a short period, Louis and I arrived at the train station, parked, and were off to the convention center.

Once there, we met up with a few other bloggers at the NRA Press Office and went out to lunch. Going off memory, we had Sebastian and Bitter, Eric, Mike, Bradford, and a couple other folks who I seem to have forgotten (sorry guys!).

From left to right, we have Sebastian, Bitter, Eric, Mike, and myself.

After experiencing the silliness of Arizona gun laws relating to carrying in establishments that serve alcohol, we had a tasty lunch, and most of us (Jason was going back to the airport) headed back to the show.

I really wanted to ask the Ruger reps some questions about the SR-556, but they were quite busy when I first checked, so Louis and I perused the exhibit floor and managed to get our hands on some things that we didn’t get to see the previous day, including the FN SCAR:

The SCAR had some different ergonomics than the AR platform (which I’m used to), but still seemed to be reasonably lefty friendly. One notable feature was the folding stock — a simple button-press released the stock, which folded around to the right. It snapped into a notch on the brass deflector and so could be secured in the folded position. The stock didn’t end up blocking the ejection port when folded, and since no operating parts were in the stock the gun could be fired while folded. Very cool.

One booth was run by a few skilled craftsmen who made very tiny, functional pistols. The gentleman (whose name I can’t recall) from the Pennsylvania Firearm Owner’s Association who was walking around with us mentioned that on Saturday the booth had a tiny, fully working 1911 that fired itty-bitty cartridges, but that exhibitor was not present today. That would have been really interesting to see.

Finally, I saw a break at the Ruger booth and struck. Fortunately, my questions were not terribly time-consuming, and I got most of them answered in just a few minutes.

Moving on, we found some very cool rifles at the Bushmaster booth — I’m very familiar with the solid, triangular front sight post on AR-pattern rifles, and I’ve seen and used various flip-up iron sights, but I’ve never seen the two combined into a flip-up, triangular front sight post:

This sight was remarkably rigid when extended and was quite compact when folded. The only problem I could see was that there wasn’t any sort of detent that would keep the sight folded — if one were to bump or brush the front sight against something, it’s possible that the sight could flip back up. There wasn’t a detent to lower the sight, but it required force applied in a specific manner, so I don’t think it’d be likely to fold down on its own. This particular front sight post also included a bayonet lug, though they have models without the lug if one wishes.

One can buy such a front sight assembly from the manufacturer here.

The .410 Shotshell/.45 Colt Taurus Judge revolver is an impressive beast, yet still fit comfortably in my hand. I’d really like to give this revolver a spin at the range sometime.

The Glock booth was near the Taurus booth, so we handled a few of the 4th Generation pistols and spoke with some of the reps.

Louis and I then went and lusted over the shinies at the CZ booth, where I was happy to learn that I could order a left-handed CZ-452 American direct from CZ, have their custom shop replace the ordinary barrel with the 16″ pre-threaded barrel found on this model, and have it sent directly to my FFL for pickup. Basically, I’d have a lefty, 16″, pre-threaded 452. Since I love shooting my .22s suppressed and have ammo that’s just barely subsonic out of a 16″ barrel, this is excellent news indeed. They gave me a card and asked me to call in the next week or so to work out a price.

We then headed over to the Leupold booth, where we got to play with their scopes. Compared to the other optics available at the show, the Leupold ones were far and away the brighter and clearer. Louis is an astronomer, and so has developed a great eye for optical aberrations and flaws…and found none in the Leupold optics, while detecting a few minor things (mostly chromatic aberration) in scopes from other brands like Nikon.

While their scopes are made in the US, I was a bit dismayed to discover their laser rangefinders are made in China. Even so, the different models were extremely consistent when ranging to the same object (the far wall of the exhibit hall), and were within one yard of each other. Several of the models took into account the elevation angle, showing both the actual range and the range that one should set one’s sights at when shooting at that angle. Very neat.

A few of the Leupold scopes also had illuminated reticles, and several of those went to eleven1.

After Leupold, we briefly stopped by the Dillon booth and ogled their progressive presses. Alas, while we were doing so, 5:00pm rolled around, and an announcement was made that the annual meeting was over, and would people please make their way to the exits.

In conclusion, while I didn’t get to see any of the various meetings and presentations made by the NRA (with the exception of the one on Jeff Cooper, who was a truly amazing man), I did get to meet with several of the vendor reps, get some information about new products they were offering, handle many of their products, met with a bunch of gunbloggers, and generally had a great time.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make next year’s annual meeting and Blog Bash, but I’ll definitely make an effort to do so.

  1. From This is Spinal Tap. []

Liquor Licenses

For all the progessive gun laws that Arizona has1, it has a major flaw: at present, it is prohibited for a person to carry a firearm (even if they have a permit to carry concealed) into any establishment that is licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption, even if the person does not drink and even if the sale of alcoholic beverages is temporarily suspended.

While I enjoy a good drink and finely-crafted guns, I strongly believe that drinking and the carriage of firearms should not be done at the same time. Much like drinking and driving, doing so is irresponsible.

That said, I see no reason why I (or any other law-abiding person) should have to disarm simply becuase I wish to enter an establishment that serves alcohol. As the law stands now, I’m prohibited from carrying when I go to Chili’s, even if I’m just there for a burger and soda with friends. If I’m walking around armed, as is my custom, I am forbidden from entering establishments like Chipotle for a burrito simply because they offer bottled beer.

This issue was a concern for the Phoenix Convention Center, as the center has a liquor license. Fortunately, they were able to successfully petition the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control for a temporary suspension of the liquor license in most areas of the event, thus allowing private citizens to legally carry guns around the event.

Certain functions at the event, such as the member banquet, served alcohol. In these places, the NRA maintained a gun-check station and allowed people to securely stow their arms prior to entering the restricted area. However, members who wished to eat at several of the nearby restaraunts were unable to do so, as many of them served alcohol. This was an issue for myself and a few other gunbloggers when we went out for lunch on Saturday and Sunday.

I’ve written to my state officials to encourage them to change the law so that people can legally carry in restaraunts so long as they don’t drink. I urge you to do the same.

  1. Most notably the fact that open carry is legal in most places without any permit being necessary. []

4th Generation Glocks

Update: It appears as though I was incorrect about these pistols being the “4th Generation” of Glock pistols. Rather, they appear to be a somewhat modified third generation — the “Rough Texture Frame Pistol”. From what I hear, the actual 4th Gen pistols will have adjustable backstraps and a less-aggressive grip pattern than the really rough textured RTF ones shown below. My apologies for any confusion.

The crowds were slightly less at the Glock booth today, so I was able to get my hands on one of the 4th Generation “fish gill” Glock pistols and a few minutes of time from some of the Glock employees.

According to the reps, all the internals are the same. Existing replacement and aftermarket parts will fit 4th Generation pistols.

New Slide Serrations

When asked why Glock changed the rear serrations from the previous straight lines to the new, curved design, one employee answered unofficially, “it’s high-speed, low drag”1

Another employee mentioned that the previous serrations went all the way from the top of the slide to the bottom, and so the steel at the bottom of of each serration was thinner. He had personally seen two previous Glock pistols, each used by extremely heavy users (100,000+ rounds out of each), suffer failures at the base of the serrations where the slide bent outwards. The “fish gill” serrations stop a millimeter or two above the base of the slide, leaving the base of the slide thicker and thus stronger. This is obvious in the below photograph that shows both the old and new serrations:

Textured Grips

The 4th Generation pistols also sport a new texture on the grip:

This texture consists of numerous tiny polygonal2 nubs on the backstrap, sides, and finger grooves of the pistol, rather than the larger, blockier nubs found on the backstrap and finger grooves of previous generations of Glock pistols.

While previous generations had textured panels on the grips, the new texture is considerably more “aggressive”3 than the previous texture. I’m inclined to agree, but feel that the new texture is extremely uncomfortable — the grips feel extremely abrasive, and I find the gun uncomfortable to hold with a firm grip. I’m also concerned with the gun gripping clothing, making concealment more difficult. Abrasion of clothing is another concern voiced by some readers.

A member of Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association (I’m terrible with names, so I apologize for forgetting!) was walking around with Louis and I, and mentioned to the employee his concern about the possibility of the new texture irritating the skin on one’s waist when carrying the gun in an IWB holster.

It’s possible to make things “grippy” without making them feel like sandpaper: Hogue aftermarket grips are extremely comfortable and grippy without being hard on one’s hands. I doubt Glock would be able to integrate both the ordinary plastic used in their frames with Hogue-type rubber panels in a single molded piece, but I feel that’d be a better option than the new texture.

According to one of the reps, the texture becomes less “aggressive” over time, while still retaining its gripping ability.

Glock had small survey cards where they asked people’s opinion of the new serrations and texture. I indicated that I preferred the previous textures as they were more comfortable, and the previous serrations (though I wouldn’t mind if they stopped the serrations above the base of the slide, so as to strengthen it) due to their more utilitarian appearance, ease of gripping, and ease of cleaning.

Magazines

I inquired about the notch on the front of magazines shipped with current, non-4th-Generation Glock pistols. My understanding that the notch was designed to allow for an ambidextrous magazine release was confirmed, though the pistols equipped with such a release4  are not terribly popular in the US for a few reasons, most notably because many holsters fit the pistols in such a way that they depress the ambidextrous mag release.

This issue results in the magazine being released when the pistol is reholstered. According to the reps, this is a problem with the holster makers, not with Glock — the design of the pistols is such that it is not possible for Glock to include an ambidextrous magazine release that doesn’t get pushed by most current holsters. In order for them to do so, the holster manufacturers would need to slightly redesign their holsters.

Additionally, one of the new models has a standard 1913 Picatinny rail, but this fits poorly with existing holsters due to the width of the rail. The models with the proprietary “Glock Rail” do not suffer this problem as the rail is smaller, but such models are still uncommon due to the mag-dumping-when-holstered issue.

None of the models on display at the booth were the “SF” models equipped with the ambidextrous magazine release, though they were selling various items like hats, shirts, and R. Lee Ermey5 action figures. The Gunny himself was present for a few days for handshakes, autographs, and pictures, though the line to see him was quite long. In overhearing his conversations with people, he seems like a decent guy; Mr. Ermey, if you happen to be reading this post and are in the Tucson area, please allow me to treat you to a drink.

  1. In short, it’s new and shiny. People like new and shiny things. []
  2. According to the employee. []
  3. Quoting one of the reps. []
  4. The G20, 21, 29, and 30 “SF” models. []
  5. Who, among his numerous other achievements and positions, is a Glock spokesman. []

Ruger SR-556 Questions & Answers

After looking at the new Ruger SR-556 on Saturday, I went back to the booth today to ask a few questions I had and ask a few asked by readers. Unless specifically quoted, all questions and answers are paraphrased from notes.

1. The MSRP is $1995. Why so much? ARs are commonly available in the $800-$1,200 range.

Other piston-driven ARs are considerably more expensive, often starting at more than $2,500. An MSRP of less than $2,000 for a piston-driven AR from a reputable manufacturer is quite a bit more affordable than other similar guns.

The SR-556 was made to compete with HK 416s and Sig 556s, not common gas-driven ARs.

2. Do you intend to offer the SR-556 in other calibers, specifically .204 Ruger and 6.8 SPC?

Ruger is a publicly-traded company, which limits what we can disclose at this time.

3. Is the SR-556 upper and lower receivers compatible with other upper/lower receivers.

Our upper receiver will fit on mil-spec lowers, and mil-spec uppers will fit on our lower receiver. The SR-556 takes standard STANAG/M16 magazines.

4. Does Ruger intend to sell just the upper receivers to those who already have mil-spec lowers and want a piston-driven upper?

Not at the moment. Again, we’re a publicly-traded company and so cannot disclose certain things.

5. One reader mentioned that he shoots blackpowder .223 loads from his current AR. I have no idea why he does this, but he wanted to know if it was possible to do the same with the SR-556.

[hearty laugh] Honestly, I’ve never heard of anyone doing such a thing, and so cannot say if it’s possible or not.

6. Is the SR-556 compatible with registered Drop-In Auto Sears?

Not from the factory, no.

(At this point I asked him if I could look inside the lower, though he asked that we not take pictures of it. It had the standard cut-out at the rear of the lower where a DIAS would normally go, but without measuring equipment I was unable to tell if it was the proper size or not. Some machining may be required, but it doesn’t look like Ruger went out of their way to make DIAS installation difficult. Basically it looks like any ordinary lower one would buy from other manufacturers.)

7. Any plans for a longer-barreled target version?

No comment.

8. Any plans for a ban-compliant version that could be sold in California, Massachusetts, etc.?

This is something that Ruger could theoretically do, but I have no further comment on the topic at this time.

At this point, other people were clamoring for his attention and I felt like I had occupied enough of his time, so I thanked him and wished him a good day.1

  1. I feel guilty for wasting people’s time. Does this make me a bad journalist? []

Questions

After perusing the exhibit hall yesterday, I’ll be heading back to ask the exhibitors some questions. All the non-exhibit-hall stuff seems to be well covered by others (and I hate sitting in little meeting rooms), so I figured I’d focus on the exhibit hall itself.

Is there anything in particular that my gentle readers wish for me to ask the exhibitors? Technical questions about Ruger’s SR-556? Should I let them know that the copyright notice on the bottom of their page incorrectly spells “Sturm” as “Strum”? Ask the HK folks if they might bring civilian-legal semi-auto (but still NFA-restricted) SBR versions of popular guns like the MP51 or G36?

You name it (within in reasonable bounds of polite conversation, of course) and I’ll ask it and post the response here. I’ll be checking my email and comments throughout the day.

For reference, a list of vendors and exhibitors is available here.

  1. I know I’d love to get my hands on a semi-auto MP5K, or possibly a two-tax semi-auto, SBR, suppressed MP5SD. []

NRA Annual Meeting

Quick summary (more to come later, I’m just relaxing at The Girl(tm)’s house):

  • Met a few other gunbloggers.
  • Perused the exhibits.
  • Have sore feet from walking all bloody day.
  • Trying to convince The Girl(tm) that we should put a Barrett M82A1 on the wedding registry is surprisingly difficult. She wants stuff like dishes, bedsheets, and so on. Who knew? Maybe an AR-50? I’ll keep trying.
  • I’ve got a bunch of pictures from the day that I need to sort through. For the time being, enjoy this one:

NRA Annual Meeting

I’m going to be attending the NRA Annual Meeting and Second Amendment Blog Bash, though I’ll be unable to attend on Friday due to exams. I’ll be up on Saturday morning with Louis,  a friend and fellow blogger, as well as my fiancée Sarah.

If anyone wants to meet up, please feel free to contact me by email and I’ll be glad to provide my cell number so we can link up at the meeting.

Interesting note: according to the NRA, lawful carriage of firearms is allowed at the entire event and exhibit hall, with the exception of events where alcohol is served (such as the banquets). Since I don’t intend to attend such banquets, I’ll be carrying.

Other interesting note: The NRA has been running ads on various electronic billboards (I didn’t see any physical boards, just the electronic ones) around the Phoenix metro area. I find it fantastic that they’re running billboards for the general public, and that there’s not some media or public backlash (at least I haven’t heard or seen any).

Hope to see everyone there!

NRA Annual Meeting/2A Blog Bash

It looks like the NRA Annual Meeting is starting for us mere mortals on Friday the 15th of May. Alas, I won’t be able to make it on Friday, as it’s the last day of finals. I’m not sure if I have any exams then, but it’s likely knowing my luck.

I should be there on Saturday and Sunday, though.

I’ve gotten some registration material from the NRA, but just want to confirm: is the annual meeting free for existing members (I’m a Life Member), or need one pay some sort of cover charge to get into the exhibit halls? I figure one needs to pay extra for the banquets and whatnot, but I’d hope the exhibit halls would be free for members. Can anyone confirm or deny this?