We just returned from the 2015 National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers trade show in the dirty delightful and rank refreshing city of New Orleans. This is the event where gun and gear manufacturers show and pitch their very newest product lines to buyers from wholesale companies. I like to think of NASGW as a preview to the annual SHOT Show held every January.
We scoured the floors and hidden cabinets in every booth to find some of the newest guns and gear. Here’s a look at some of what’s coming soon to a gun store near you.
The folks at XS Sights, makers of the Big Dot sight, have figured out that they’re exceptionally skilled at precision machining. As a result, their new business strategy is to seek out gaps in the market where they can solve problems with products that require precise manufacturing techniques to build. They are not in any way, shape or form drifting away from the gun sight business, they’re just growing and expanding into new areas.
Available for pre-order now at Brownells is the new AR upper receiver armorer’s block. This is a universal vise block that allows you to work on most AR-pattern rifles including AR-15, AR-10, SR25, and DMPS GII. Here’s the cool thing. Most blocks are custom to one receiver type and don’t allow use while an optic is mounted on the upper receiver. This one uses takedown pin connections to avoid the optics problem. It’s made in the USA from aluminum and priced at $75 from Brownells.
You may know Eagle Imports as the US distributor for Bersa pistols. For 2016, they’ve got some new Bersa models but have also resurrected the Spanish Llama brand that disappeared from the scene back in 2005. There’s a new full-size Government 1911 that is now a true mil-spec model 70 series. The show stopper was the Llama Micro Max 380. It’s a scaled down 1911 with 7+1 capacity. It’s small and portable, yet offers all the features of a “big” 1911 including ambidextrous safeties. Suggested retail is $465, but you should be able to find them for about $400, give or take.
Most Bersa guns we’ve seen are compact .380 ACP and 9mm carry guns. New for 2016 is a full-size competition gun, the Thunder 9 Pro XT. This 17+1 round double-action / single-action gun features a frame-mounted safety, fiber optic front sight, adjustable rear sight, skeletonized hammer and more. The Bersa team has been shooting it for about a year, not it’s available to the public. You should be able to get one within a week or two of reading this.
On the traditional Bersa front, there’s a new Thunder Combat Plus, which is a double-stack model holding 15+1 rounds of .380 ACP. It’s still compact like the original Thunder models and also brings a couple of carry tweaks like lower slide and rounded muzzle for easier re-holstering.
Meprolight R4E Handgun Sights
The R4E is designed for fast sight acquisition without the need to sacrifice precision. A large front tritium dot sits on top of a vertical bar on the front sight. For the rear, the notch is surrounded by tritium bars at the three, six and nine o’clock positions. These lines guide your eye to the notch where the large front dot jumps into view.
If you look at the rear sight notch, you’ll notice that it’s not a simple “U” cut. The lower part of the cut goes out towards the edges with triangular-shaped cutouts. The idea is that your eye can see more of the target while you’re aligning the sights. The cutouts are small, but when positioned that close to your eye, they make an amazing difference in the field of view.
For precision sight alignment, you can use the vertical bar on the rear sight and the vertical bar under the front dot to get a perfect lateral hold. See the pictures here and it will make sense.
The sights are available in different combinations of green and orange tritium so you can mix and match colors of the front and rear insert to taste. One more thing – the rear sight has a reverse bevel so you can use that to rack the slide one-handed on a belt or edged surface.
The Nuge is back in the ammo business. You might recall seeing a line of Uncle Ted’s ammunition for sale some years back. At that time, he partnered with a new ammo company for production, but the venture didn’t survive. Now, The Nuge has partnered with the Godfather of Boom, Mike McNett of Doubletap ammunition to it right. New lines for personal defense and hunting, appropriately named American Defender and American Hunter, aim to provide high-performance ammo for both applications. You’ll initially see 13 basic rifle and handgun calibers and more will be added as the line grows. One example of the type of boom! ammo we’re talking about is the .44 Magnum load. It’s an 180-grain Sierra bullet cooking along at 1,700 feet per second. It’s specifically designed for whitetail hunting, but obviously can be used for other purposes. You can find more details at www.tednugent-ammo.com.
Crimson Trace has lots of new light and laser gear for 2016 and we go to see it all at NASGW.
First up is the new Laserguard Pro for three different carry handguns. Like the earlier Lightguard Pro, the new Laserguard Pro model contains both light and laser with four modes of operation: Laser and light, laser only, light only, and laser with a strobe light. Unlike the larger rail-mounted predecessor, the new models integrate with grip activated switches. There are three models for the Glock 42/43, Springfield Armory XD-S, and the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. The Laserguard Pro adds a 150-lumen light to these compact guns. Small and light, there’s no longer an excuse not to equip carry guns with light and laser. MSRP is $279.
To make it easier to find compatible holsters for laser-equipped carry guns, Crimson Trace is now just giving them away. The Carry 9 Holster Promotion offers a free, custom designed Blade-Tech holster for no additional charge. The Blade-Tech holsters are reversible inside-the-waistband models that are custom designed for the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, Springfield Armory XD-S, and Glock 43. These injection-molded holsters are sized to fit either red or green laser versions of the LG-443 (Glock 43), LG-469 (XD-S), and LG-489 (Shield).
Last but not least are a new line of Master Series Lasergrips for 1911. Aluminum models are available in black and silver while a new G-10 design mimics a classic Ivory look.
Ruger Knives from CRKT
Here’s a confession. The NASGW convention hall is fairly small, so over a couple of days you’ll pass by each booth several times. I passed by one that was signed “Ruger Knives” several times because, quite frankly, knives with someone else’s name stuck on them didn’t float my boat. Yeah, I know, that’s probably a rush to judgment. I finally did swing by for a talk and was glad I did.
The new line of Ruger knives is made by CRKT, which is cool. The really nifty thing is that all of the new knives are designed by top-notch blade designers. I played with a dozen or so models and variants and walked away suitably impressed. There are some fixed-blade hunting and survival knives in the mix, but the folders really got my attention. All that I tried had brilliant and smooth one-handed opening features.
For example, the Follow-Through model designed my Matthew Lerch features a blade clipper lever that, combined with a light flip of the wrist, swings open and locks the blade. You can get this one in standard (3.75” blade) or compact (3.25” blade) models. You’ll also note that the glass-reinforced handles are deliberately styled after traditional 1911 diamond-pattern grips. Cool.
If you want to hijack the old Crocodile Dundee line, “Now THAT’s a knife…” check out the Go-N-Heavy by Bill Harley. Technically, it’s a folder. A folding machete that is. The picture here doesn’t begin to do this five-inch blade justice. I’m convinced I could split logs with it after a Red Bull or two.
Check out the other new models. There are a lot more in the pipeline, so stay tuned.
LWRCI DI AR-15
Here’s one I am dying to shoot. LWRC generally makes high-end piston rifles. We looked at the REPR here a while back. It’s a beautifully constructed rifle and the only thing I could have asked for is a bit more on the accuracy side. Making a piston AR-type rifle insanely accurate is tough, if not impossible, so I’m anxious to see how the direct impingement model shoots.
The bolt and carrier have been redesigned with a new “keyless” gas key if that even makes sense. Like other LWRCI rifles, this one has a cold hammer forged spiral fluted barrel, not only for cool looks but faster cooling. Controls are fully ambidextrous and there are some grip and hand guard goodies from Ergo. Hopefully, we can get one of these in the review queue here soon.
There’s a lot more coming that we can’t talk about just yet, but I think we can safely provide some hints. Over the next 60 days, stay tuned here for cool news from Springfield Armory, Lasermax, XS Sights, and Sig Sauer, just to name a few.