I’ve had a number of people ask about what happened at the NRA board meeting while I was out and about across Pennsylvania this week. Sadly, a greater number of people had no idea a board meeting had even taken place. In future weeks you will start seeing a lot more communications coming from NRA that centralize on programs and the need to get on the Second Amendment canoe, a concept I’ve written and another State Association has republished. Here’s the link to the essay.

A major part of moving forward involves communications with members. This does not involve questionnaires or mailings referring to the Wine of the Month, no matter how good that wine might be. All of us need to have a voice. Recently I attended my 11th (yes, eleventh) 2024 Friends of NRA dinner in Berks County and was accompanied by NRA First Vice President Bill Bachenburg. We sat at different tables and listened to members discuss their specific needs. Bill sat with some NRA Certified Instructors while I sat with some hunters. Some great ideas were brought forward, and a couple of them are going to be explored further as they make perfectly good sense to pursue. Oh, and by the way, the Field Representative later told me that the net proceeds from the event doubled over the previous year!

So who are these guys and how does that affect us? This is a common question. In previous times NRA has had a cavalcade of interesting presidents. History has a tendency to repeat itself, and alas, perhaps that’s happened again.

As found in the book, “To Keep and Bear Freedom – 150 Years of the National Rifle Association”, in 1899, General George Wingate, one of the two founders, convened a board meeting announcing he was stepping aside. In 1903, a journalist named A.C. Gould played a critical role in pointing out disconnects in the organization. General Bird Spencer, the new NRA President along with a clean slate of new officers, moved to make important changes. As the book’s author states, “Under new management, the NRA got busy.” One of the largest accomplishments by that new board was the advancement of rifle shooting among the citizens of the country. This good idea was challenged by then-President Theodore Roosevelt by suggesting Spencer and Secretary of War Elihu Root put together an alliance. The outcome was legislation through the War Department authorizing funds to be spent on ranges, rifles, ammunition, and subsidized transportation to annual matches. Next was the War Department’s General Order No. 61 – “every facility should be offered citizens outside the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and organized militia to become proficient in rifle shooting, and that this purpose can be best accomplished by means of rifle clubs.” This was the proverbial kick-in-the-pants that began NRA’s growth.

With this historical pretext in mind, let’s look at the background of NRA’s new slate of officers.

Our new President is Congressman Bob Barr. Bob is an attorney, having worked for a three-lettered federal agency and then working as a U.S. Attorney appointed by Ronald Reagan. He represented Georgia in Congress from ’95-’03. He has a deep understanding of international arms regulations and has many connections in Washington. Recently he was quoted as saying, “I have been a fighter my whole life and I commit to boldly fight for our Second Amendment rights on behalf of the millions of NRA members. We need to grow our ranks, especially in this election year, and I pledge to focus my attention on doing just that.”

Our new First Vice President is fellow Keystoner life member Bill Bachenberg. Bill founded DBSi, a systems storage company based in Allentown that was acquired by a larger cybersecurity firm in 2012. He purchased Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays in 2000 and also founded Camp Freedom, a nonprofit organization on more than 2,300 acres that brings together veterans for hunts in Lackawanna County. Bill’s business background will be crucial for expanding NRA. He has already voiced a goal called “10 by 30” – 10 million NRA members by the year 2030. It’s an achievable goal and we’re going to help him work on that.

Our new Second Vice President is fellow Keystoner Mark Vaughan. Mark’s 30-year career in the food industry began with his ownership and operation of Vaughan Foods based in Moore, Oklahoma. Under his leadership, the firm grew to a multi-million-dollar operation with customers in 40 states and in Canada, employed over 500 people, and was publicly traded. In 2010, Mark became a reserve deputy Sheriff for Oklahoma County, currently serves on the tactical team, and is involved in law enforcement firearms instruction. In 2019, he became an NRA-certified Law Enforcement instructor in addition to serving on NRA’s Law Enforcement Assistance Committee. Mark is also the President of the NRA-affiliated Oklahoma Rifle Association.

Our new Executive Vice President is Doug Hamlin. Dougrecently served as Executive Director of NRA Publications. Prior to joining NRA in 2014, Mr. Hamlin had a long career in the publishing industry. For 14 years he served in numerous sales, marketing, and management positions at the Petersen Publishing Company. He also was vice president and group publisher of Motor Trend magazine and served as the publisher of Guns & Ammo magazine. Mr. Hamlin served six years on active duty as a regular Marine Officer, including serving overseas with the Third Marine Division. He also has been active in Veteran charitable causes. “I am truly humbled to be elected by the NRA Board of Directors as the next Executive Vice President & CEO of the NRA. Our Association is at a decisive moment in our history, and the future of America and constitutional freedoms depends on the success of the NRA. I look forward to working with NRA staff to execute NRA’s gold standard programs and promote political and public policies that are in the best interest of our members and all gun owners.”

A newly created position for VP of Compliance was approved by the membership. That role was filled by Bob Mensinger. He holds a law degree, has had an extensive career as a compliance and business integrity officer, and spent almost 25 years working as a Special Agent/Criminal Investigator for the Small Business Administration, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and Treasury Department. I’ve gotten to interact with Bob since he was initially hired at NRA and found him and his family walking the show floor at both the Great American Outdoor Show and the Annual Meeting. He’s a great addition to the leadership team.

So Keystoners, remember your history. A new slate of officers made some big moves at the start of the 20th century, and we hope to see some terrific things coming from NRA in the coming months.

Notice a common thread of Keystone membership?

Smith & Wesson announced a new revolver, the Performance Center 327 WR with Jerry Miculek’s signature. With a similar design like the TRR8 .357 Magnum model, this is an N-frame type. Equipped with the same titanium cylinder as the Model 929 revolver, the 327 shoots up to eight rounds of 9mm per load. It requires moon clips, or metal shell holders used to both grip all eight rounds and for speedier reloads. The cylinder is honed, so it’s a requirement to use moon clips in order to set the primers closer to the firing pin or rounds will not fire – ask me, I learned this with my 929 revolver. Unlike the 929, the 327 WR has a spurless hammer, so it is fired in double action mode only. While the use of this gun is for competition such as ICORE (a revolver-only action pistol competition), a spur allowing single action mode would help those who enjoy stationary target shooting. Anyways, the spurless hammer reduces mass and permits for smoother shooting. Your President was permitted to dry fire a 327 WR and found it smooth, but the trigger pull was heavier than I would have preferred. I’d bet a replacement Wolff spring would solve that!

On top of the gun’s sight rail is a Vortex CompDot. This is an 8 MOA red-dot type that allows the gun to shoot what you see through the lens. 8 MOA is fairly big, but the targets being used for ICORE competition are not distant nor are shot placements precise. It’s a nice pairing. Remember though, it’s not meant to be a carry gun.

What makes the 327 WR special are two things. First, Jerry Miculek, a world-renowned speed and accuracy shooter, set a record with this setup shooting six metal plates at 7 yards in 1.88 seconds. This bested his NRA certificate (above) showing the same effort in 2.01 seconds. That’s a heck of a demonstration of a gun’s capability and what happens when a person commits themselves to practicing their shooting skills. Now for the hard part – only 1,880 of these will be made, and the MSRP is $3,499.

By the way, once again please tell your shooting buddies to make sure they are registered to vote in the General Election in November. As we found out in the last U.S. Senate race, every vote matters. If 150,000 gun owners voted for someone other than the now-junior Senator from our state, the election outcome would have been quite different.

Todd Ellis – President