On the ground during the first day of the 2018 NRA Annual Meetings in Dallas, TX, Shooting Illustrated staff had the opportunity to handle a range of rifles, pistols and shotguns, along with tens of thousands of NRA members. Among those dozens of firearms were new examples of America's most popular rifle: the AR-15. Here are five stand-out models we saw at the show:
1. 2A Arms .22 LR AR-15 ($1,399)
At an immediate glance, the .22 LR AR-15 from 2A Arms doesn't stand out as a particularly head-turning rifle. However, when the casual observer digs into the details of this unique platform, the special design and the attention to detail paid in its construction becomes immediately clear. This rimfire rifle is one of the lightest, if not the lightest, AR-style gun on the market, weighing in at a scant 3.6 pounds.
For that, users get a full-length 16-inch threaded barrel with a long handguard, Mission First Tactical Minimalist stock, Magpul MOE pistol grip and a unique dedicated .22 LR bolt carrier that is designed for maximum lightness. In fact, every part of the rifle is designed to save some amount of weight, with little scallops cut from the top of the Picatinny rail running along the top of the gun. Minimalism is key in this platform, and it shows in one of the nimblest ARs ever made.
2. Brownells BRN-16A1 with LMT M203 37 mm Launcher ($2,898.99)
Brownells made waves in early 2018 with the launch of the company's special line of retro AR-15 and AR-style .308 rifles, reaching back to the early years of the platform's design. This provides fans of America's most popular rifle with a chance to have new-production examples of several unique models that, in their original form, are virtually unattainable to the average gun owner.
One of the newest introductions made available by Brownells is a specially-made LMT M203 37 mm launcher, made by the same company that produced the original 40 mm grenade launchers for the U.S. military starting in 1969. Now, consumers can have their very own non-NFA version of the launcher, designed to shoot flares.
3. CMMG Banshee ($1,449.95)
The CMMG Banshee lineup of guns are some of the shortest overall AR-style rifles in their category. These NFA-regulated micro rifles are available in .22 LR, 9 mm, .45 ACP and .300 BLK and built with barrel lengths ranging from 5.5 inches in several pistol calibers to 8 inches in the compact .300 BLK.
The pistol-caliber Banshee models make use of the company's unique Radial Delayed blowback system that eliminates the need for excess buffer weight and reduces the overall weight of the gun. This design also makes the guns much more shootable, and the company's unique RipStock buttstock and receiver extension makes the gun easy to handle.
4. LWRCI Valkyrie ($TBD)
One of the latest additions to the LWRCI IC-DI rifle lineup is the LWRCI Valkyrie. Designed to take full advantage of the all-new .224 Valkyrie cartridge from Federal Premium, this design incorporates all of the features learned from the company's extensive experience with the 6.8 SPC cartridge, upon which the .224 Valkyrie case is based.
Before this new rifle design hits the market, though, engineers at LWRCI are working to finalize barrel construction in order to provide the most accurate platform possible across a range of bullet weights. This ensures that users have a platform built to squeeze every ounce of capability out of this all-new high-performance, long-range rifle round.
5. Savage Arms MSR-15 Long Range ($1,849)
Savage Arms continues to expand its Modern Savage Rifle lineup beyond the original four models offered at the end of 2016. The company's latest model features a fine-tuned barrel that measures 22 inches long and is designed to help users take full advantage of the capabilities of the .224 Valkyrie.
The inherent accuracy found in the barrel is paired with a number of upgraded options, including an adjustable gas block, an all-new M-LOK-compatible handguard, a custom-length gas system and a two-stage trigger. The rifle, like the company's earlier MSR-10 Long Range, is equipped with a side-mounted charging handle to ease operation from the firing position.