The 2018 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • The nature of the show
  • A chance to test a gun
  • Airgun Range
  • Crosman DPMS
  • What’s new?
  • Kahles scope
  • Sig
  • The big deal
  • Things you never see
  • John Garand’s Garand
  • Worth it?

The 147th NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits was held in Dallas, Texas, on May 3-6, with the exhibit hall open May 4-6. For the bulk of Americans, the exhibit hall is the show, because it’s the thing they come to see. They are not aware of the numerous symposiums that are being conducted in meeting room throughout the convention center, and only because of the media coverage are they aware that both the president and vice president were there, speaking in person.

I did not attend the meeting at which the president spoke. To do so would have meant being locked in an auditorium for several hours, and I wanted to spend my time in the exhibit hall, instead. Besides, his speech was broadcast live inside the exhibit hall, so I did get to listen to what he said.

I did see the president’s son, Don Junior, who attends these shows regularly. I was sitting in the AirForce booth when his Secret Service detail arrived at the Swarovski booth across the aisle. With their suits, earbuds and thousand-yard stares they aren’t hard to spot! They stood in the aisles but I didn’t see him until he left that booth with his detail.

This show must have been a pleasure for the president, because the crowd was packed with some of his staunchest supporters. Outside the convention center a truck was driving around Dallas with a protest billboard that was mostly written in Russian. Hollywood was supposed to protest the event, but if they did I never saw evidence of it. In all the protests were ineffectual. As one woman observed while watching thousands of people stream into the show, “And they try to tell us we are in the minority! Ha!”

The nature of the show

The NRA show has been called a mini SHOT Show for the public. It must look huge to those who see it for the first time, yet it is manageable. You can see the entire display floor in one day, where, over the past 20 years, I have never seen the entire SHOT Show floor.

The other unique aspect of the show is that vendors can sell to the public if they choose. Many booths have show specials with significant discounts, and they can make arrangements to ship the guns to a dealer with an FFL.

A chance to test a gun

Because this show was in Texas, many people were locals. I was in the AirForce booth when a gentlemen mentioned he wanted to shoot a big bore Texan before making the decision to buy one. I invited him to this year’s Texas Airgun Show, that will be held on Saturday, June 23. AirForce has their big bores on the range for the public to shoot for free all day. In fact, many manufacturers have their guns on the ranges at the Texas show, so it’s worth a trip, if you are serious about wanting to test-fire these airguns.

Later on the same day I saw a man shooting a TX200 Hunter Carbine on the Pyramyd Air airgun range. He didn’t know what it was; he just knew it was good.

Pyramyd Air range
The Pyramyd Air airgun range was open to the public and free to everyone.

TX200 Hunter Carbine
This gentleman shot a TX200 Hunter Carbine without knowing what it was. He just knew it was great!

I asked him if he knew what he was shooting and he said no. All he knew was the rifle was way more accurate than he was!

Airgun Range

I helped the NRA get the airgun range started, back in the ’90s. In those days it was pretty bare — just paper targets and some donated rifles. Today things have turned around. The range looks like a giant shooting gallery!

airgun range
The airgun range was set up like a shooting gallery!

The gallery had many moving targets. The entire range also had music, so it wasn’t the usual boring place filled with ultra-quiet airguns. What I didn’t notice at first was the electric train that was continuously running, pulling orange flags around a small city at the top of the galley. A plexiglass shield protected the train itself and thew town behind it. The train never stopped running, so those flags kept moving back and forth across the top of the whole gallery.

airgun range detail
At the top of the range, an electric train pulled orange flags continuously around a large town (arrows).

The range had a squad of safety officers, each dedicated to one shooter at a time. So, safety was the most important thing in the hall!

airgun range line
This view looks at two-thirds of the airgun firing line. Each yellow vest is a range safety officer who can coach one shooter.

Crosman DPMS

Also on the range was the new Crosman DPMS. Although not released for sale just yet, Crosman provided several for the airgun range. Pyramyd Air supplied the Air Venturi Dust Devil BBs that functioned in the gun perfectly for the entire show! This is another product that hasn’t quite reached the market, but the public got to shoot them for free all three days. I think the real story here is they were shooting them at the steel Cowboy Action Diamond Gong Airgun Target for three days and not one particle ever came back at the line! Tens of thousands of shots are a better test than I could ever conduct!

airgun range DPMS
The Crosman DPMS was busy all three show days!

What’s new?

For me a lot of what was listed as new were things I saw in January at the SHOT Show. This was the first time the public was seeing them, so they was still very new, but if something applied to a airgun, I probably already saw it. I looked for the exceptions — the things I missed seeing at SHOT and the few new things that weren’t there.

Kahles scope

Remember me mentioning seeing Donald Trump’s son? He was in the Swarovski booth, and that made me curious. Swarovski is a name known in glass circles around the world. I have never visited their booth before because I know there are darned few airgunners who are willing to pay over $3,000 for a scope! But at this show, there was something to see.

The Kahles 10 to 50X56 scope parallax adjusts down to 9 meters (10 yards). What other reason could there be for that than for an airgun? This scope is not that large nor it is heavy, but the optics are water-clear. The parallax adjustment knob is on top rather than on the side or at the objective.

Kahles scope
The Kahles 10-50X56 scope looks like a perfect extreme benchrest optic.

Kahles scope parallax
The parallax knob is on top.

All I have to do is scrape together $3,150 and it can be mine!

Sig

Another optic that was debuted at this show was in the Sig booth. It’s more than a scope — it’s an optical system they call the Ballistic Data Exchange system, or BDX for short. What it is is a scope and rangefinder that talk to each other and to a smart phone! Range to the target and the scope’s zero adjusts automatically, based on the ballistic data you have input from your phone. I tried it and saw that a bright pip of light went up and down the elevation reticle. based on the range!

The big deal

And the big deal here is the price. The whole setup retails for under $600. You supply the smart phone — Sig gives you everything else! If that ain’t news, I don’t know what is! I have no idea of how it will work for an airgun, or even if it will, but I bet it will be fun finding out!

Sig BDX scope
Pyramyd Air’s Tyler Patner checks out the new Sig BDX scope.

But the news from Sig doesn’t end there! See that handgun above Tyler in the photo? That is the new Sig 365 — an 11-shot 9mm pistol that’s the size of a .380. The firearm handgun is already being produced, but the news I wish to tell you is there will be a BB gun to accompany it! This airgun is so new that the only one in the world was positioned in a glass case in the Sig booth. They expect to release it later in the year. One reader who was at the show said to me that he could not recognize it from the Asian airsoft guns he’s seen. That’s because it is unique!

Sig 365 BB pistol
Sorry for the reflections, but this pistol was behind glass and they were not about to open the case. This BB pistol that’s the size of an average hand is identical to Sig’s new 365 9mm pistol that is sweeping the company.

This is a blowback BB pistol that is a dead ringer for Sig’s new 365 pistol and you won’t find it anywhere but from Sig. I mentioned it in the 2018 SHOT Show report, but this is the first time I have actually seen it. I was so impressed by the firearm that I decided to get one to go along with the BB pistol when it comes out! How’s that for a reversal?

Things you never see

I was loitering in the Sun Optics booth when a lady came up with a double locked case. She opened it and I saw a gold-plated Colt-licensed (Walther made) .22 caliber M1911A1 pistol engraved to honor President Trump for draining the swamp. Only 45 pistols were made and this was serial number 1, for the president.

Trump gun
This 1911A1 was made to honor President Trump.

Even the grips were carved on both sides by hand! And
Heroes and Patriots, LLC, of Fort Collins, CO, is selling them for $1,800!

John Garand’s Garand

I’m going to close with a look at something rather special. I’ve seen this rifle in a book, but at this show I saw it in person — the actual M1 rifle the government presented to John C. Garand! It will be coming up for auction at Rock Island Auction, and if I had an extra million dollars lying around I might rent it for the rest of my life.

Garand
This rifle was presented by the Secretary of the Army to John C. Garand.

Garand plate
Something you’ll probably never see again.

Worth it?

Was it worth braving the traffic, the crowds and the overpriced food just to see this show? You betcha! The NRA show isn’t just about new guns. It’s primarily about people and this year was the best one I’ve attended.

38 thoughts on “The 2018 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits

  1. Down Under, “thousand yard stare” means unfocused eyes, rather than the intensely focused eyes of the Secret Service. I would use, “predatory stares” myself.


    • I saw a group of these Secret Service guys when I was participating (long story) in a graduation ceremony at UC Berkeley back in the 90s. Madeline Albright was the speaker and she and the president of the University system came out of a tunnel surrounded by these guys. They were unbelievable! They had sunglasses on and all looked like they could cut you in half if they took those glasses off just by looking at you. And we couldn’t even see their eyes. Clearly, they were not to be messed with. Scary guys, I think deliberately! Oh, and Albright looked like the nicest grandma you had ever seen. You just wanted to go up and give her a hug, but, of course, you would not get within about 20 yards *alive*!



        • Interestingly, there was a group of them in just ordinary sports coats and ties (not the all black power suits) who prepared us for the whole thing, talking to each one of us. They all didn’t have this fearsome appearance. I had no doubt that even these more “personable” folks could do what needed to be done if called upon. Just this limited contact really raised my respect for them.
          Michael in Georgia


  2. B.B.,

    Any possibility of wheedling the Kahles scope from the Swarovski people for a proper test? Who else would be a better public figure to assess/test the capabilities of their scope for air rifle use? Then again it would be embarrassing if their $$$$$ scope can’t handle the recoil of an air rifle.

    Siraniko

    PS Introduction section last paragraph first sentence: “This show must have been a pleasure for thepPresident (the President), because the crowd was packed with some of his staunchest supporters.”


  3. B.B.,

    Thank you for that fine, fine report! Glad to see the Dust Devils did so well. Like you said, what could be a better test? The air gun range was awesome! One coach per shooter is impressive. The new scopes are awesome. Hopefully we can see that new SIG BDX tested somewhere in the air gun world. Too much to comment on in the short time I have in the AM. Thanks for taking the time and effort to go and report.

    Good Day to you and to all,….. Chris





      • Tom, RR may refer to the pads Amazon sells. They were originally called “Kindle Fire” but they have dropped “Kindle” from designation. These are much more capable than the Kindle e-readers.

        I have have had (and gifted) several of these. I have a Fire HD8 now, it has a variant of Android OS, and will run most any Android app. The 2016 version of the HD8 has a pretty good processor and display, and there are incremental upgrades in later versions.

        Look for screaming deals on refurbs or old stock. While they are not as nice as an iPad, they are very good at the price point. Amazon wants everyone to have one.
        https://www.cnet.com/products/amazon-fire-hd-8-2017/review/


  4. Great report, sir! Reports of massive protests by some of the media were refuted by you and another Dallas friend who was there.

    I always enjoy your writing style; you could find something interesting to say about a knitting convention.

    Kudos to Pyramyd for a spectacular airgun promotion. How many people had their eyes opened about quality airguns? Seems to me that every time you show someone who likes guns your airgun, there is a “wow” reaction, as they often know very little, except the very common story of the BB gun they had decades ago.


  5. The Kahles looks to be a very nice scope – except for the price 🙂

    I thought that the top placement of the parallax adjustment to be a little odd until I realized that it would be very convenient for both left and right handed people.

    I prefer front AO adjustment on my scopes. Being right handed, I hold my rifle in my left hand and find side parallax adjustment to be a little awkward for me unless I have an adjustment wheel mounted.

    Top parallax adjustment would be a real nice feature – it is in the exactly right location to be able to adjust with the trigger hand. Wonder if Hawke and UTG would consider it.

    Thanks for the report B.B.!

    Hank


  6. B.B>,

    I looked at looked at the 1911 with engraved grips and it took me a while to “place” the familiar face on the grips. Then, it hit me. Dan Lauria! The beleaguered dad on “The Wonder Years”! It’s Dan Lauria! Look!

    Michael


  7. BB

    Nice report.
    The Kahles top mounted parallax adjustment with a wheel mounted would give a different look but may be handy for lefties. Then again you just know that some media activist would say machine guns were for sale at the NRA show. (Lewis)

    Decksniper


  8. In the picture of the TX200 Carbine the shooter is rested on a recycled rubber product I have seen for sale everywhere on the ‘Net. Do any of you have experience with those? Are they a good product? Obviously they limit one’s room to apply an artillery hold, although if one could get a stable platform by flipping it so that the flat side is up, then it would suffice.

    Michael


  9. Well, I missed a great opportunity. I should have gone to the show but instead worked on my Shoebox compressor.
    I am in love with the shooting gallery. I want to buy the whole thing! I probably have enough stuff to build a pretty nice one myself anyway. I never remember seeing a carnival shooting gallery as a kid but they fascinate me now. Someone brought an old shooting gallery to Little Rock years ago and was selling it. That is one of the things I kick myself for not buying. And, there was a Quackenbush Bell Target at the first Texas Airgun Show.
    David Enoch


  10. BB,

    went to a local range last night to shoot the P365. They didn’t have one and said due to popularity they (1) wouldn’t let me if they had one and (2) they can’t keep them in stock. But I know of a pawn shop nearby that has a new one! Unfortunately, no range there. That Sig scope system sounds very interesting and is reasonably priced. Think you can get Mr. Schultz at Sig to send you one for review when they go into production?

    Fred formerly of the DPRoNJ now in GA



  11. Too bad Air Venturi didn’t show their bb and pellet lineup.Sig appears to have listened to shooters and moved up by a quantum leap from their initial poorly thought out and designed airguns


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