My Trip to the NRA Annual Meeting 2017

It was deliciously ironic to enjoy the NRA Show right next door to the home of the Counterfeit News Network.

Having been an NRA member for most of the last two decades, and living within driving distance of this year’s meeting, I figured it was high time I go check it out. Now, for the record, I don’t agree with the NRA 100% on every stance and issue. But I’ve been on staff at various churches for 10 years and highly involved with several others for 20 years before that and I never agreed 100% with any of them, either. Still, there is arguably no other organization has as much clout when it comes to defending the Second Amendment. So, we take the bad with the good and try to be a positive example.

Anyway, I was there less for the meetings and a lot more for the “15 acres of guns and gear.” I enjoy a good gun show as much as the next gun guy, and this promised to all that and more. Turns out, it was a lot of fun. I’ve been to plenty of huge industry trade shows, and while I’ve enjoyed them, this was more fun than any of them.

Recently Michael Bain said on his podcast that the gun community is just that, a community. And in his opinion, it’s a better community. I tend to agree. Every single person I interacted with (with the one exception of the grumpy dude at the H&K booth) was a delight to talk with.

My favorite interactions were with the smaller companies. I got to share about 30 minutes with Jay Lesser, President of Sharps Rifle Co. learning all about their balanced bolt carrier and the .25-45 Sharps cartridge. I really want to build one of those now. I talked with a ballistician at Nosler about their new cartridges and rifles, and learned a ton. Nosler was also giving out really nice bench mats. Grabbed one of those. My next gun might well be a bolt-action rifle and I’m seriously considering a Nosler. Great rifles in the low teens. Or maybe a Winchester XPR. It’s not the same as a Nosler, but man, for $500, it has a great trigger and felt really solid. I had a great talk with an older guy from Winchester who appreciated my grandfather’s 1930 Model 12. I talked triggers at TriggerTech for 30 minutes and learned how they virtually eliminated friction and creep. And man, are those triggers nice. Mine should be here next week!

Being a sucker for fine 1911s, I stopped at pretty much every booth that had one on display. I’m a few years out from being in the market for a fully custom 1911, but decided to start building the list of companies to talk to. I had a very enjoyable conversation with the guys at Carolina Arms about their fabulous hand-crafted 1911s. Those may have been the finest ones I saw on the floor, with the possible exception of the Cabots. But I can’t afford those.

Another interesting 1911 came from Ultimate Arms. They build their frames out of ZK60A magnesium which apparently is 35% lighter than aluminum and stronger to boot. The guns felt almost impossibly light, yet they claim they hold up far better than aluminum frames. I have no reason to doubt it. The workmanship was first-rate on those.

As an old guy who started shooting with my dad back when he hunted with an Ithaca 37 in 16 gauge, I was saddened when Ithaca shut down some years back. Thankfully someone with money felt the same way and bought up the assets and trademarks and moved the company to Upper Sandusky, OH. Which is kind of weird, but I’m glad to see them back. Again, I had very enjoyable conversations about the new Model 37s, and got some hands on time with the 1911s that I didn’t know they made. They’re nice! They are also getting into bolt guns, and the one on display was quite lovely.

Republic Forge has been on my radar as well as a possible source for my custom 1911 and they were also good folks to talk with. Both Republic Forge and Carolina Arms had a, “Whatever you want, we’ll build it” attitude, which I appreciated. If I can afford it, I may take one from each.

I was on the lookout for new sights for my IDPA gun, so I got to get hands—or eyes—on with sights from XS Sights, TruGlo, HiVis, Trijicon and at least one or two others. After looking at so many sights, I decided what I really wanted was a white front dot and a blacked out rear. I think I’m going to order a set of TruGlow Tritium Pros. In daylight, you don’t really see the Tritium back dots, and the white focus ring they put on the front sight was easy to pick up. But we’ll see. Currently, I have electrical tape on the rear sight to black out the dots (I like that), and I swapped the red fiber for green. That felt good at IDPA last week, so I may rock that for a while.

There were so many more cool things I saw, I’m not sure I could recount them all. I decided on the stock I want for my AR rifle build (Luth AR MBA-1), found a company that makes fine wood furniture for AR builds (so yeah, that’s going to be another build at some point…) and bought a new holster for competition from Comp-Tac. Show specials for the win!

More than just seeing all the cool guns an accessories, I was reminded why I feel at home around gun people. It was a diverse crowd, with lots of families wandering the show floor—especially on Saturday. Everyone was polite and courteous, and the energy was positive and upbeat. I’ve heard there were about 83,000 people in attendance, and while I don’t know how many of us were armed, I suspect it was over half. And there wasn’t a single incident. The predicted horror of shootouts in the streets over parking spaces just never seems to happen. After I got home, I ran into my neighbor who is a Nashville Metro cop. He said when the NRA show was here in Nashville two years ago, they had exactly one incident out of 80,000 people. Basically, a guy was “being an asshole” and the only reason he was arrested was because he was carrying without a permit. Last year in Louisville, crime plummeted in that city the weekend the show was in town.

Moms Demand Action, the astroturf movement funded by Uncle Mikey Bloomberg, showed up for a huge protest. Of course, they were a mile away and if you count the eight homeless guys they gave shirts to, they almost hit 100 people. But pretty much no one cared.

I didn’t go to see Trump speak, but it was cool he was there. I came away with some thoughts about freedom, owning guns and the constant assault on liberty in this country, which will probably show up in a future post.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend there. Next year, the annual meeting is in Dallas, so I’m unlikely to go. But in 2019, it’s in Indianapolis and in 2020 Nashville. You can bet I’ll be there in Nashville, and most likely in Indy.

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