The Best of the 2014 NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits


The sign welcoming visitors to the NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits that was held in Indianapolis this past weekend.
The sign welcoming visitors to the NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits that was held in Indianapolis this past weekend.

I love the National Rifle Association’s Annual Meeting & Exhibits (NRAAM), which took place this past weekend in Indianapolis. You would think a gathering of more than 75,000 people couldn’t be a more polite undertaking than a Miss Manners Impersonator convention, but it is. You can’t go 10 feet without hearing one or more of the following: Please. Thank you. Sir. Ma’am. Pardon me! Have a nice day!

If the folks who rant and rave about how evil the NRA is would actually come to an NRA event, I believe they would be surprised. I was chatting it up with a bellman at my hotel one morning, and he observed “I don’t see why people get so upset about the NRA. These have been some of the nicest people ever to come for a big convention.”

Aside from the people, the best part of NRAAM is getting to see all the products on display. Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting finds from the show.

ARES SCR (Sport Configurable Rifle)

I had an opportunity to shoot the ARES SCR at the American Suppressor Association media event the day before the NRA convention started. For a minute, let’s set aside the discussion of whether a company should even have to make a rifle like this because of silly legislation. As one of the guests on this week’s Armed American Radio Show so aptly stated, “It’s an AR rifle that doesn’t look like an AR rifle.”

The ARES SCR Sport Configurable Rifle
The ARES SCR (Sport Configurable Rifle). In this photo, the Aimpoint Micro H1 has a high mount. When mounted without the riser, it lines up perfectly with the stock.

Here’s what it is, aside from a great example of creative ingenuity. Imagine a standard AR/MSR upper receiver, handguard, and barrel, but with a “classic” rifle stock—you know, just like the stock on your favorite hunting rifle or shotgun. Being that the “bang-bang” parts are all Modern Sporting Rifle, it takes almost all of the standard replacement parts and accessories: magazines, lights, lasers, vertical foregrips, bipods, and so on. Remember, it’s an AR that just doesn’t look like one.

The short bolt carrier that makes the ARES SCR work.
The short bolt carrier that makes the ARES SCR work.

Here’s why it exists: thanks to its lack of “evil” features like a pistol grip and collapsible stock, it’s legal in all 50 states, even with the latest in silly and unproductive laws passed as of the date of this article.

The first question people ask is “how does it work?” There is no standard buffer tube as with a standard AR platform rifle, so the bolt carrier is short with a curved pigtail that extends down to a recoil spring in the standard rifle stock. The operating principle is the same.

Shooting the ARES SCR is like shooting any standard rifle—you’ll want to mount your optic as low to the bore as possible. Since the stock curves down instead of straight back, a standard-height AR optic will be too high for a proper cheek weld on the stock. When mounted without its riser, the Aimpoint Micro H1 (seen attached to the SCR in the image above) sat at a perfect height.

Initially, ARES will offer this as a complete package with the lower upper mated together. If the upper you want to use is standard mil-spec size, then an ARES short bolt carrier will work and you’re good to go. Just throw that new upper on the lower just like you would with a normal AR. No word on pricing yet for the initial model.

Weaver Tactical 6-30x56mm scope

I fell in love with a beast of an optic—the new Weaver Tactical 6-30x56mm. With 30x magnification, it will be a lot of fun for rifles that can reach way out there. It might pair well with the DoubleTap Ammo 7mm Remington Ultra Mag mentioned later in this article.

Weaver Tactical-1
The new Weaver Tactical 6-30x56mm scope.

It’s got a 34mm tube and an illuminated reticle that offers five intensity levels of red and green. It uses a mil dot reticle with .1 mil elevation and windage adjustments. As it’s a long range scope, the best feature might be the SmartZero reset turrets. Remove the cap, set the zero stop, and rotate away, even more than once. When you need to, dial them back to a positive zero point without having to count how many rotations you turned. This model’s MSRP will be $2,099.

I’m probably going to do a dedicated feature on this optic down the road, but I can’t decide on the ideal rifle. Maybe a .22-250? Or perhaps the Weatherby .257 Magnum? Of course, a nice .308 is always a good choice. What say you?

Federal Premium Trophy Copper Muzzleloading Bullet

Federal has applied some high-tech know how to an age-old problem for muzzleloaders. Muzzleloader barrels get icky and cruddy the more you shoot them, and performance will start to degrade after just a couple of shots. If you make a projectile a little bit on the small side, it’s easy to stuff down a dirty bore, but accuracy suffers—the projectile may not fully engage the rifling. The other problem is that velocity can suffer because you don’t get a good gas seal along the length of the barrel.

Federal Trophy MZ-1
An oversized version of Federal Premium’s new copper muzzleloader bullet.

Federal’s approach with its new copper bullet solves a number of problems. The projectile has a hard fiberglass disc at the bottom that helps scour the bore as you seat the bullet. Wrapped around the base of the bullet is a nylon cup. When you torch off the powder charge, the disc pushes up against the nylon cup and expands it into an hourglass shape. This thicker band then fully engages the rifling of the barrel and creates a great gas seal in the bore.

The net result of all this tech magic is a bullet that flies flatter, farther, and retains a little bit more velocity. Federal says it’s a true 200-yard muzzleloader projectile.

DoubleTap ammunition

It’s always fun talking to the Godfather of Bang. That would be Mike McNett, founder of DoubleTap Ammunition. It’s fun because when you start talking ballistics with Mike, his eyes light up, his hair stands on end, and sparks begin to fly out of his ears. He’s passionate about ammunition!

Doubletap 7mm-1
DoubleTap’s new 7mm Remington Ultra Mag load.

Hot off the press (see what I did there?) is the 175-grain Accubond 7mm Remington Ultra Mag round shown here. With sectional density off the charts and a ballistic coefficient comparable to the .338 Lapua, it’s got great penetration at longer ranges. Leave it to Mike to dream up something new for every industry event.

The Appleseed Project

Do you want to be a certified rifleman? Then check out the Appleseed Project. Over a weekend, Appleseed instructors will help you and your family become expert rifle shooters. Even more importantly, you’ll learn about American history and the Second Amendment.

The Appleseed Project had a large booth, staffed with about 20 energetic volunteers.
The Appleseed Project had a large booth, staffed with about 20 energetic volunteers.

Appleseed events are run continuously throughout the country, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one in your area. They’re very affordable, too—the Appleseed Project is fueled almost entirely by volunteer power.

I’d like to thank all of the Appleseed volunteers to staff the very busy booth at the NRA Annual Meeting, helping to spread the good word!

BLACKHAWK! Serpa New Models

BLACKHAWK! displayed brand-new Serpa models for the Smith & Wesson Shield. The neat part is the new Snap Lock belt attachment.

Blackhawk serpa-1
BLACKHAWK!’s new Serpa holsters for the S&W Shield.

As you can see by the photo here, the belt loops have adjustable clips. Just pop the snap open and slide the guide to the desired belt width. Fitting the loops to the belt you’re wearing provides a much more stable support. No word on pricing yet.

Crimson Trace New Laser Bling

The Crimson Trace team has quite a bit of new gear in both red and green laser configurations. The new Master Series Cocobolo Diamond pattern grips are gorgeous and will class up any 1911. The MSRP is $399.

Crimson Trace Master Series-1
Crimson Trace’s new Master Series Cocobolo Diamond pattern 1911 grips.

Also new are green Lasergrips for the Ruger LCR family. With a positive on/off switch and a two-hour battery life, it’s a great upgrade for your snubbie. No word on pricing yet.

On the short-term horizon are upgraded models for Glock Gen 3 pistols with rear activation laser switches. The new models feature positive on/off switches, which are handy for saving battery life when practicing in daylight conditions. Depending on your model, MSRP ranges from $249 to $329.

A six-pack of the NRA's Target Bottles/
A six-pack of the NRA’s Target Bottles/

Why not bring a six-pack to the range?

The NRA Target Bottles stopped me in my tracks—mainly because it’s one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” ideas. The target bottles, sold in cardboard six-packs complete with carry handle, are made of lightweight plastic. They are intended to be a reactive target that moves, bounces or swings when hit. We all know that targets that react are much more fun for novice and experienced shooters alike. What makes the NRA Target Bottles different is that you can use them at an indoor range as well as outdoors. Because of their ultra light weight, you can hang them from target clips at indoor shooting ranges using the optional target hanger mount. It’s a simply brilliant product that will make indoor range shooting a lot more fun. You can pick up a six-pack complete with nine feet of hanging rope at the NRA Store for $39.95.

And these just scratch the surface. If you’ve never been to an NRA Annual Meeting, put it on your bucket list. Next year at this time, it will be in the great city of Nashville, Tennessee.

Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.

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