The NRA’s annual meeting was held in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 14-16. I flew up on Friday, attended on Friday and Saturday, and returned home on Sunday. My primary purpose was to meet with the Board of Directors of the Armed Citizen’s Legal Defense Network, since I have joined the board of that group this year. ACLDN had a booth at NRAAM 2024, and we held a board meeting Saturday night. For those unfamiliar with NRAAM, it’s the mid year event that is basically “SHOT show for non industry people”.
The SHOT show is the big industry event held each January, where companies announce new products, and all the big sporting goods chains decide what products they are going to carry each year. Attendance is limited to people that work for product makers, FFLs, trainers, and of course the gun press (print writers, bloggers, youTubers, brand ambassadors and social media “influencers”). The NRAAM features most of the same vendors, along with multiple days of classroom training sessions, meetings of various NRA committees, and the annual update from the NRA Training Department to any certified instructors, coaches and Training Counselors that attend.
Friday I was able to spend most of the day hanging out with old friends from Austin who were also at the show. In addition to all the gun industry vendors, there were cool exhibits, like the car from John Wick 2, and one of the Adam-12 cars. There were also great historical displays of old guns and war memorabilia from collector’s groups.
While you can’t buy guns at the event, lots of other items were available for purchase at discounted rates. I picked up a Clip-N-Shoot (a gadget that attaches to any phone or tablet that works with their app to record shot times and hits), and a battery powered stand alone laser target for classroom use from iDryFire.com, and a Glock 48 Dry Fire Magazine from DryFireMag.com, who have greatly expanded the number of models they support with their products.
I also purchased a new heavy duty brass “zamboni” to help with brass recovery at the A-Zone since the two we have are well worn.
I ran into Steel Challenge shooter Jim O’Young. In the 1990’s Penny and I made many trips to Piru, California to shoot the Steel Challenge World Speed Shooting Championships. Jim was one of the regulars from that area that we met during those trips. He’s currently working with a company that is making an Oculus-based shooting simulator.
I also ran into Claude Werner, the Tactical Professor. He’s posted his own writeup about day 1 of the NRA Show. He also gave me a copy of his edited version of “Shooting To Live” – the famous Fairbairn book – trimmed down to just the shooting program. When I got home I actually fired the shooting program and took video, which will be the topic of a later blog post.
Simulators and gear using SIRT guns and other laser trainers were everywhere at this year’s show. The capability of these systems continues to improve as the cost goes down.
Friday night my friends and I had a nice dinner at the rotating rooftop restaurant atop the Hyatt Regency, next door to the convention center. Here’s a short video of the Indy skyline:
Saturday began with attending a talk from Active Self Protection’s John Correia: “Lessons Learned from 45,000 Gunfights”. I first heard this presentation when the number was 10,000, at a Rangemaster Instructor Reunion event, and it was good to hear the updated version.
During his talk John pointed me out to the crowd and referenced my analysis showing that less than 1% of gunowners attend training beyond their state minimum.
Other highlights from his talk: Most of the fights occur in the 5-7 yard range (initially), with some fights ending with combatants separated by as much as 20 yards. 95-98% of the attackers were male. 80% or more of the incidents ended with zero shots fired, and incidents tended to last no longer than 7 seconds, if shots were exchanged.
“You can’t miss fast enough to win, but you can hit slow enough to lose”.
After lunch, I attended the NRA Training Department’s briefing for instructors, coaches and Training Counselors (I am all 3 of those things). Due to fiscal mismanagement, questionable, potentially criminal business dealings and other leadership failures (Jeff Knox’ website is a great resource for the details), the NRA has had to make major cutbacks of all staff. The Training & Education Department is down to 4 employees, servicing the needs and efforts of more than 100,000 certified instructors. The NRA still plays an important role in firearm training, particularly in states where NRA courses are used for the state mandated minimum for carry permit certification. Traditional youth shooting programs, through 4H and Boy Scouts, are still a big part of the NRA Training & Education division mission.
Much of this year’s presentation was instruction on working with shooters with various physical weaknesses. This graph shows average grip strength vs. age. 25 kg = 55 pounds. 45 kg = 100 pounds. Over the past decade, our measurements of student grip strength have shown that 60 or more pounds of grip strength are a significant benefit to shooting a 9mm pistol; 100 or more pounds (which is fairly rare, 80 lbs is more typical for male students) makes a big difference in recoil control. What this graph reminds us is that grip strength will decay with age, with significant losses after age 65-70.
Vision also deteriorates with age.
Reflective tape, along with additional ambient light (particularly at indoor ranges) can help those with weak vision shoot better.
I spent time looking at all the product lines of every handgun maker that was at NRAAM. I spend a lot of time dealing with gun fit issues working with students every week. The more I study the issue, the more I believe that as many as 50% of shooters purchase guns with frames too big for a proper fit to their hand.
What gun makers make is often driven by what people buy. The problem with that is that most gun buyers don’t understand gun fit, don’t train and don’t dry fire. So many of them choose what I call the “3 finger frame” – the model with a frame too short to get all their fingers around. This style of frame is always sold with the “pinky shelf” magazine, which provides the surface for the pinky to grasp.
This all seems like a reasonable idea, until the owner wants to dry fire the gun. Then they have to choose between dryfiring using a 3 fingered grip, using a Rogers Tap-Rack-Training aid (which are typically not sold in gun stores), or having to remove the magazine to rack the slide, and re-insert the magazine to dry fire with a 4 fingered grip. Very few of our students dry fire, no matter how many times we tell them it’s the single most important thing they should do to improve as shooters. Those with 3 finger frames have an even greater impediment to dry firing, but luckily for gun vendors that sell 3 finger frame guns, none of their customers dry fire (or get very good at shooting), so ignorance is bliss.
Double bonus: gun vendors never talk to gateway instructors that teach regular people (aka “their customers”). They just talk to gun stores that sell guns (who never have to deal with teaching people to shoot the guns they sell them), LEO agencies (who typically don’t care about gun fit issues or anything related to duty or carry guns for people with small hands and short fingers), and youTube “influencers” (who don’t teach beginners). When I explained the 3 finger frame dry fire problem to , in one case, the product manager for a newly introduced 3-finger-frame gun that otherwise looked like a good product, he admitted he had never given that issue any consideration at all.
There are a small number of skinny carry gun models that do have a 4-finger frame: the Glock 48 and SIG 365XL/Macro have been our most recommended models, but I wanted to find some other options. I found a few: the CZ P10C, Beretta APXA1, and the Taurus G3X. Taurus is going to send me a G3X to test and evaluate, and I’ll be writing more about that after I get it.
Saturday night, after the show, I attended the ACLDN board meeting, hanging out with legends Dennis Tueller, John & Vicki Farnam, Marty and Gila Hayes, and others on the board. In addition to board business, many of the world’s problems were solved, and poems by Kipling were recited.
The 2024 NRAAM will be in Dallas, dates TBA. It should be a “must visit” for any Texas gunowner. Admission is free, and you can attend for 1, 2 or 3 days – however much time you have to take it all in.