The Column, No. 36:
NRA Convention 2008: Louisville
This year’s National Rifle Association Convention was held in Louisville, Kentucky. My eighty years young father, an NRA member for most all of his life, had never attended the annual NRA event before, so this year he did. A bit more than a “commute” from northern Illinois, it was still not a bad drive. It was uneventful, except for reminding us that Indiana is a long, somewhat boring place when viewed from Interstate 65.
The NRA Convention was busy and well attended. A subjective view of it was that it was more crowded and energetic than Milwaukee in 2006, yet reportedly not as perky as St. Louis last year. The cost of gasoline that we all love to grouse about and the proximity of major population centers may have a bit to do with it, if that is indeed the case. What I enjoy about the NRA show is that it is a consumer show and highlights the manufacturers in our industry that both support the NRA and take the time to listen to those who are actually using their products, a very good thing.
As you can imagine, many names familiar to Guns and Shooting Online readers exhibited at the Convention: Barnes Bullets, Brownell's, Western Powders, Hornady, Savage Arms, Browning-Winchester, Midway USA, Remington, Knight Rifles, Thompson-Center/Smith & Wesson, and Henry Repeating Arms among them. Thursday was overshadowed by the NRA political forum, including speeches by Governor Mike Huckabee, Governor Mitt Romney, Senator John McCain and other familiar faces. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, not surprisingly, were conspicuous by their absence.
Governor Huckabee showed that even intelligent people can say stupid things from time-to-time. In any case, the forum was crowded and it was clear from Senator McCain’s reception and remarks that he has a grasp of the Second Amendment from a national perspective and deserves the support of those who vote their sport. I was impressed with John McCain, to say the least.
It cannot be easy to organize large events; there were a few awkward moments that made that clear. After Senator McCain’s address, the Senator and his wife walked in the crowd for a little meet and greet with well-wishers. While this was going on, Wayne LaPierre came back on stage and asked everyone to watch a video. After a long day of buttock punishing in the forum and the obvious grand finale that was John McCain, most folks headed for the exits as soon as Mr. LaPierre began to ramble. It was a shame.
We could not help but notice the line of hundreds and hundreds of people that immediately formed outside the hall and remained for what seemed like the rest of the day. It became clear that no firearms were permitted in Freedom Hall; absurdly, neither were penknives or nail-clippers. The long line was comprised of what seemed to be a goodly portion of the NRA convention trying to get their personal effects back. The folks I chatted with all took it in good cheer, but it was such an obvious mishandling of the event that a couple of "drive by media" television crews were asking permission to get back in to interview those in line about how they were enjoying their “NRA freedoms.” However, I don’t think they were allowed in.
I spent some time at the Ithaca booth, looking over the current crop of Ithaca Model 37s currently just now coming out of the factory. It seems to me that Model 37’s were never made as well as they are right now. The vent ribs, for example, slide on risers that are a machined part of the barrel, not silver soldered as is customary, or glued. I really hope that all those who claim to want quality take a close look at the new Ithaca’s. Naturally, precision machining and quality come at a price. Pump guns today, with just a few exceptions, are relegated to the stamped steel and plastic, Cheap Charlie scrap heap. Ithaca stands out as a rare exception, with machined engraving (not rolled), crisp triggers, Briley chokes and beautifully machined barrels. In the works is a Model 37 that has never been offered before, a 28 gauge that is going to please many people.
On the subject of shotguns, we stopped by the Remington booth. As it happens, Dad was interested in the disaster that has been the Remington 105 CTi autoloader, but had never seen one. Well, according to Linda Powell at Remington, the 105 CTi project is not dead in the water after all. The 105 CTi has been shipping, but in very limited quantities to assure that the non-function of some of the early production is no longer a “feature.” Design changes have been made and we can expect a rollout (perhaps a re-release) of the newly revitalized 105 CTi this fall. Hopefully, it will be worth the wait.
I’ve been waiting to test the new Hornady FPB muzzleloading bullet and was told that it was finally at hand. As soon as I arrived home, I discovered that Hornady FPB 350 grain bullets had arrived. They are .50 caliber and if they do what they are claimed to do they might become the most popular muzzleloading bullet ever. Test results will be published on Guns & Shooting Online in the near future.
Savage Arms had one of the busier booths, to be sure. Due to a few last-minute changes, I am still waiting for a new Model 25 .223 test rifle to appear; it should be here shortly. We spent some time visiting with Savage President Al Kasper, who was enthusiastic as usual. Apparently, the Savage Arms acquisition of Bow-Tech archery of Eugene, Oregon, has been a perfect fit. Just like Savage, you have a group of folks that are truly passionate and dedicated about what they do. Some nine years ago, Bow-Tech did not exist. Today, they are an industry leader.
The Louisville convention was anticipated to attract 60,000 to 70,000 enthusiasts and moves on to Phoenix for 2009, Charlotte in 2010, Pittsburgh in 2011 and back to St. Louis in 2012. If you have never attended an NRA Convention, you should. My Dad was certainly glad he went for the first time, as I suspect any NRA member would be. They are a lot of fun, with many good people who appreciate the Second Amendment, hunting, shooting and the great outdoors. We will see you there.
Copyright 2008 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.