Notable Entrants From NRA Annual Meetings

By Massad Ayoob

Mossberg .410 Shockwave

Following early-year events like ATA, SHOT and numerous distributor/buying group shows, manufacturers are presented with a prime opportunity to launch a second wave of products — those appearing at the NRA Annual Meetings (NRAAM). Historically, new products introduced in the second quarter reflect ongoing trends in the current market. This year’s record-setting NRAAM, held May 4–6 in Dallas at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center, was no exception.

History was made when, for the first time, both the president and the vice president of the United States addressed the assembled members on the same day. (Of course the anti-gunners took their opportunity to spin the gun-free Leadership Forum as proof the NRA didn’t trust its own members — though a walk through the show floor revealed this couldn’t have been further from the truth.)

In general, NRAAM has fewer new introductions than SHOT — with most new products there leaning toward “more evolutionary than revolutionary.” Some new firearms trends were in evidence (chassis rifles, for example, and rifles chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor) but something else was in play that might be called an “old trend.” After the election of a pro-gun president, many observers (including those here at SI) predicted gun-buyers’ tastes would start to turn toward classic models and “fun guns” more than during the previous administration. This appeared to be the case the year after the election, and as we’ll see momentarily, the movement is still manifesting itself in new variations this year.

Hot Handguns

Colt specializes in the 1911 design, and this year’s new models were subtle variations of old. The one catching our attention was the brand new Combat Unit variation of their CCO, a Commander .45 barrel/slide assembly atop a lightweight Officer-size short butt frame. G10 grips gave a good hold, and the pistol comes with a flared magazine well to enable speed reloading, and a magazine just long enough to deliver a full eight-plus-one round capacity.

Ruger’s most attention-getting new handgun is the Match Champion variation of the GP100, chambered for 10mm Auto with moon clips. Cashing in on the 10mm Auto pistol’s resurgence in popularity, it gives the same ballistics to the shooter who prefers a revolver. Generally, the 10mm Auto cartridge appeals mostly to serious aficionados, who tend to reload. Remind those particular customers rounds too lightly-loaded to cycle their 10mm’s recoil spring, or loaded too long overall or with too blunt a nose to feed in their “semi,” will shoot just fine from a revolver in the same caliber.

Smith & Wesson is riding high on the Shield EZ .380, designed for ease of slide manipulation and controllable recoil, and the M&P 2.0 pistols in true intermediate size, both just introduced a few months before NRAAM. What attendees saw new from S&W was a pair of classic .357 revolvers. The Model 19 .357 Combat Magnum in traditional blue with 4.2-inch barrel looks great, and S&W Performance Center’s version has a 3-inch barrel with integral recoil compensator. Round-butt 3-inch barrel K-Frame revolvers have become grail guns for modern carry and home defense among today’s revolver enthusiasts, and S&W is answering the demand.

Beretta had two new models getting a lot of attention. The striker-fired, polymer-frame APX pistol is now available in a compact size. The service size version has made a lot of friends, and the APX Compact appeared to be doing the same at the Beretta booth. They have also introduced a Langdon signature model Beretta, named after world champion shooter and master Beretta ’smith Ernest Langdon. Shooters were several deep around this display, marveling at the “smooth as buttah” action of these traditional double-action Model 92s.

At CZ, the most groundbreaking news centered on the introduction of a 5-inch barreled version of the CZ 75 series. CZ Custom is making them in several variations, and the brand is increasingly a cult favorite among pistol-packers and USPSA competitors alike.

SIG announced (but did not display) a manual thumb safety version of their P365 pistol, which may be the single hottest new handgun of 2018 since its January introduction.

Home-Defense Shotguns

Bucking the trend of home-defense carbines outpacing shotguns for protection are the “non-NFA firearms” typified by the Mossberg Shockwave (soon joined by Remington’s Tac-14). Remington took the innovative lead with a box magazine pump gun, the 870 DM (Detachable Magazine), and Mossberg duly followed with their version (590M). For NRAAM, Mossberg debuted a .410 Shockwave.

There are a couple points of interest here. First, the .410 may be an excellent “starter gun” for those interested in this concept, because customers fear the recoil of the stockless 12-gauge Shockwave and Tac-14. Both are already available in the milder 20-gauge, but the .410 will of course have even softer recoil. Second, with the detachable magazine models, consider households where one spouse wants a gun in the house and the other doesn’t. They may reach the compromise of an unloaded firearm, perhaps stored separately from ammunition. In a life-threatening emergency, speed of getting a loaded gun in hand is obviously critical, and the 870 DM or equivalent Mossberg fit this niche perfectly.

At the Remington display at NRAAM, a match was set up where the shooter had to pick up an 870 DM on the start signal, chamber a dummy round from the magazine, dry-fire and eject, insert a fresh mag, chamber it and dry fire and eject again, then put the gun down in a barrel and slap a button to stop the time. Each day the fastest shooter won an 870 DM. The day I tried it, the winning time was said to be four seconds.

Colt Combat Unit CCO

Old Is New?

MSRs, of course, continue to abound, but there are other options. Ruger’s pistol-caliber carbine that debuted earlier this year has made a lot of friends. At Inland Mfg., we were told the new .30 M-1 carbines are selling well, and are available in a broad array from traditional WWII-style to folding-stock Paratrooper carbine, a pistol version, and modernized versions with Pic rails and whatnot. As noted earlier, “traditional” is indeed experiencing a comeback!

Mark Your Calendars

The 148th NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits will take place in Indianapolis, April 26–28, 2019.

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