As those who stop by the OpticsPlanet Facebook page regularly know, last Friday, April 13th, a lucky few of us from GearExpert by OpticsPlanet were able to head down to St. Louis to check out all the awesome new firearms, optics and more on display at the NRA Annual Meeting! It was an sensational show, and the wide variety of items on display was staggering. Watch the video above, which was shot from the floor on Friday, and I’ll give a rundown of some of the highlights for me this year, as well as an NRA Meeting Photo Gallery at the bottom of this page.
Airsoft Shooting Range with Bushnell Banner Scopes!
The first event we hit upon arriving at the NRA meeting was the shooting range. I was hoping to try out some larger caliber guns, but they only had Airsoft Rifles this year, with targets that looked a lot like the Gamo Air Rifles Rocker Pellet Trap. Five of us from GearExpert took shots, and our resident sniper, Kiril (a legit former sniper), won the friendly competition, though I wouldn’t call the competition entirely fair, as he hit five targets at one point with three shots. Unless there’s some trick I don’t know about, I’d say his targets were falling a bit easier than mine.
A variety of Airsoft rifles were on display. Some had iron sights, while others were equipped with fixed power riflescopes. The rifle I used had a Bushnell Banner Scope, and it was super easy to hit the targets with that bad boy attached. This shooting range wasn’t exactly the ideal situation to test the capabilities of a scope, as it was very bright (I can’t attest to how well the Banner would perform as the sun sets) and the targets were only about 20 yards away. Even with iron sights it was no sweat hitting the targets at that range. Regardless, it was great fun and a perfect appetizer to the main course of the convention floor.
Swarovski Binoculars make a big Impression with Compact Sizes
One of the first booths I stopped at was Swarovski‘s, and I spoke with Jason, who is one of their reps (as well as a really nice guy) and he gave me a ton of great info on the three different lines of binoculars that were displayed as well as a bit of info on evaluating binoculars. First up, Jason told me about the Swarovski CL Binocular line. These binos have a superb ergonomic feel, and they’re lightweight so you won’t mind carrying them or glassing for hours on end. The next step up is the Swarovski SLC Binocular, which takes the lightweight and ergonomic design of the CLs and adds a new focusing wheel and provides brighter, clearer images because of a proprietary lens coating that lets in more light than you’ll find with most other binoculars.
The top of the line model was last, and it really knocked my socks off. The Swarovski EL Binocular is truly special. Clear, bright, ergonomic. You name it. But what I really like about the ELs is the edge to edge sharpness. What that means is that unlike a majority of binoculars, you can see EVERYTHING through the lenses with perfect sharpness. Other binoculars are only sharp in the center of the lens, and the further away from the center you get the blurrier the image becomes. The Swarovski ELs avoid this by employing flatter lenses that are ground and polished to perfection. Imagine the care that goes into crafting the beauty of a Swarovski crystal. All that goes into Swarovski binoculars as well.
Jason also explained the various uses for each binocular, as some are better for lower light conditions than others, and some are more powerful for longer range hunting or birding. I was aware going into the NRA Meeting that the size of the objective lens (the lens away from your face) is important for image brightness. The larger the objective lens, the brighter the image. At least that’s what I always thought. Jason explained that the magnification also makes a big difference in how bright your image is. Higher magnification means less light reaches your eye, which is why high power binoculars or telescopes have such large objective lenses. So a 10×42 binocular will be brighter than a 12×42, so long as everything else is the same. You might want the higher power, but keep in mind you’ll need a much larger binocular for early morning or late afternoon shooting. The extra size and weight can be a hassle to haul during a long day of hunting. If you’re in a tree stand or hunting blind it would be fine to use a powerful binocular on a tripod, but if you’re slogging through the mud to find that elusive deer you’ll want a far more compact and portable option. Fortunately, Swarovski has great options, big and small, for your success.
Zombies Invade the NRA!
There were quite a few different zombie-themed products and booths at the NRA Annual Meeting. Each of them reminded me of Charlton Heston’s famous line from the 2000 NRA Convention, where he said, “From my Cold, Dead Hands.” Clearly, there are those involved in the shooting world who are worried Mr. Heston might still use his gun even after his hands are cold, as some pretty heavy-duty firepower and high tech optics were on display that were specifically geared toward taking down an undead ghoul.
I checked out EOTech‘s booth. Much like at SHOT Show in January, they showed off the new EOTech Zombie Stopper. A modified version of the EOTech XPS-2 Holographic Weapon Sight, the Zombie Stopper has a unique biohazard reticle pattern that will really help you target the weak spot of all zombies: the brain. To go along with your zombie sight, EOTech also displayed their new G33 Magnifier. Again, this debuted at SHOT Show, but the NRA Annual Meeting was my first opportunity to go hands on with the magnifier, and I was really impressed. I briefly mention this in the video above, but what I liked most about the G33 is the sturdiness of the joint. It’s very simple to use, but I had worried the G33 would flop back and forth because of the shock of recoil. I found it needs a very firm push to flip up and down, so there is little chance it’ll fall over when in use. Not having to think about a lever or button while still getting the fantastic performance of the G23 Magnifier is a great upgrade, and one I’m sure many of you will prefer when you get your own.
Another cool set of zombie products I got my hands on were courtesy of DS Arms, who manufacture the parts many of your firearms, from M16s to FALs. In the picture above you can see Kiril and I with a couple of their tricked out rifles. Mine had a gas-powered arrow launcher, Trijicon ACOG Fiber Optic Scope and a collapsible stock, and Kiril’s has an EOTech Holographic Weapon Sight and a custom muzzle with four spikes for when you run out of ammo but still have zombies attempting to eat your brains. I never want the business end of an AR-15 pointed at me, but I especially don’t want to see it in my direction when there are spikes on the end.
Trijicon Sheds a bit of Light on Rifle and Bow Hunting!
I love Trijicon. Their ACOG scope is a phenomenal piece of equipment that gives you the kind of super fast target acquisition usually reserved for red dot sights, but with a little bit of magnification for greater accuracy. The Bindon Aiming Concept Trijicon uses is just outstanding. Most Trijicon ACOGs use either fiber optics or Tritium to light up the reticle, which is actually perfect for most situations, but some hunters prefer an actual battery in their scope. It’s understandable. I like batteries too, and having an old fashioned, simple brightness control knob just takes the ACOG to a whole other level. Check out the photo above of our product specialist Chase taking a look through this new scope. It uses a single AA battery (easy to carry some spares!) and looks great on that rifle.
One other Trijicon Sight I really liked wasn’t for a rifle, but rather a bow. The Trijicon Accupin Bow Sight features a green ring with a green triangle dot in the center for easy aiming. Oddly, they didn’t let me fire off any arrows Robin Hood-style in the middle of the convention hall, but I did take a look through the fiber optic-powered sight and was impressed. Bright? Check. The hall was very bright, so there needed to be an extremely bright glow from the fiber optics to draw my eye, and I wasn’t disappointed. I can honestly say I felt capable of splitting an arrow from 50 yards with this sight (probably not possible).
2012 NRA Annual Meeting Photo Gallery
Check out the NRA Meeting Photos below and see some more great shots from the convention floor. From massive Smith and Wesson Revolvers and Zeiss Spotting Scopes to beautiful antique rifles up for auction, you can get a taste a few more flavors from the show.