By Massad Ayoob
Some manufacturers hold their new product introductions until the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits because they figure an intro there will be more of a “big fish in a small pond” that won’t get lost amidst the many other debuts at the “Big One” among firearms industry shows, the SHOT Show. Some do it because their new product simply “wasn’t ready for prime time” in January.
This year will go down in history as an interesting one for the firearms industry, because eight years of the Obama administration and the threat of a second Clinton presidency is now a distant memory. The great, collective sigh of relief when Donald Trump, running on a pro-gun platform, won the election resulted in a predictable drop-off of what many called “panic buying.”
Purchasing interest in what had previously been the hottest product, modern sporting rifles, did indeed seem moribund at the 2017 NRAAM. However, interest seemed up in personal defense handguns.
At NRAAM, GLOCK debuted its “Summer Special” variations for the G17
and G19 — with forward slide grasping grooves, steel sights and an
extended slide stop lever.
Integrally Suppressed Firearms
Yes, the threat of a national ban on MSR-style rifles and similar firearms seemed gone — thus cooling end-user imperatives to buy more. However, a general perception of a pro-gun Congress has raised interest in a couple of new directions. Those include suppressed firearms and, more than anything else, concealed carry handguns.
If the Hearing Protection Act (HPA) passes, expect sales of suppressors and suppressor-equipped firearms to soar. Ironically, at this point the suppressor manufacturers have been hurt more than helped by the pending legislation. The reason? The recent spate of states approving suppressors for sale and for hunting caused the market to absolutely soar, but the prospect of HPA passing put a damper on the market.
In the meantime, though, optimistic manufacturers are going big into dedicated guns with built-in sound suppressors. Justin Moon, Kahr Arms president and CEO, showed me their new clone of the Ruger 10/22 with a super-easy-to-clean, built-in suppressor: the Magnum Research MLR with TTS-22 suppressed barrel. Ruger received a lot of interest in similar rifle/pistol combos, some already introduced at the SHOT Show in January. The Ruger Silent-SR 10/22 Takedown Integrally Suppressed Barrel (ISB) was unveiled at the Annual Meeting. The Silent-SR ISB is also compatible with the 10/22 Takedown Lite and 22 Charger Takedown pistol.Innovative Arms is offering an integrally suppressed S&W M&P15 .22 rifle that’s getting rave reviews. And SilencerCo’s Maxim 9, built around an integral suppressor, shown at the SHOT Show in Vegas was announced as available for dealers to buy and sell at NRAAM.
But there’s one area dramatically larger than suppressors, and that is …
Springfield Armory XD-E
Concealed Carry Handguns
President Donald Trump promised to support and sign the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 (H.R.38, S.446), the bill for national concealed carry reciprocity now going through the legislative machine on Capitol Hill. If passed, this bill will have a considerable impact on the concealed carry segment. CCW enthusiasts were treated to several new options to choose from at this year’s NRAAM.
Honor Defense introduced the Honor Guard pistol back at the 2016 SHOT Show. At NRAAM, Honor Defense expanded the line with a longer-barreled version still very concealable, but a bit more “shootable.” This gun is catching on. Kahr has expanded its hugely successful economy line of slimline 9mms with their GEN2 SW9 pistols, available in 3-inch (pocket size) and 4-inch (more belt holster size) configurations.
Another standout: Springfield Armory’s new XD-E, a “retro” traditional double-action auto (only an inch thick) in a single-stack 9mm format. Why a “retro” design in a marketplace where striker-fired pistols seem to dominate? One reason is the burgeoning popularity of appendix inside the waistband carry (AIWB). There have been cases where something like the drawstring of a warm-up jacket got caught in the triggerguard of a striker-fired pistol and caused it to discharge upon holstering. This has awakened concealed carry folks to the benefit of a pistol with an exposed hammer: If the shooter’s thumb is holding the hammer down on a double-action pistol (or back on a cocked-and-locked single action) it can prevent the gun from firing and avert such tragedies.
This has also reinvigorated the popularity of pistols such as the SIG traditional double actions, and those from Beretta, which at NRAAM showcased the superbly smooth Ernest Langdon signature models of the classic Model 92 and the polymer-framed Px4. Of course, Beretta’s newsmaker was its long-awaited striker-fired service pistol, the APX, whose grasping grooves all the way down the slide show some interesting potential for manipulation under stress.
As has been noted before in this space, revolvers are making a comeback, too. There was much interest in the Colt Cobra snub-nose .38, and in 3-inch barrel medium frame revolvers in calibers from .38 Special to .44 Magnum. Smith & Wesson saw a lot of potential buyers gathered around their 2.75-inch reintroduced Model 66 .357 and a Model 629 .44 Magnum in similar configuration. Ruger’s 3-inch GP100 .357 Magnum has sold very well for some years now, and they’re getting a lot of interest in the new, similarly-configured five-shot .44 Special version — which I’d expect to appear in .44 Magnum in due course.
While most of the guns discussed here were available at the SHOT Show, if not earlier, the interest they gathered at NRAAM shows a significant wavelet of increasing consumer interest.
Remington’s Big Green Rewards
Remington has reintroduced its Big Green Rewards program, which runs through Sept. 1, 2017. Sales associates who sell five RP9, RM380 or R51 handguns will receive one free handgun per qualifying model line, meaning they’re eligible to win up to three handguns — (1) RP9, (1) RM380 and (1) R51. Interested retail sales associates can register and submit sales through the Big Green Rewards website or download the mobile app (Big Green Rewards) through the Apple App Store or the Google Play store.