Wilsonville, Where the Good Guys Have Lasers and Fast Cars


"If you want a glimpse of the future just look behind you." Thus begins Fast and Furious 7.

When I looked back, I saw myself on the track at Portland International Raceway, in the driver seat of a big block '66 Ford as the lights on the "Christmas tree" bounced from red to yellow to green. I saw myself on the same track a few years later, in the passenger seat of a twin turbo Porsche going from 150-mph down to 90 as the driver mashed the brakes and spun-out in the grass.

I looked way back to the Reagan Administration and high school Electronics where we learned about lasers. Later, in the printed circuit board industry, I worked on applications that employed lasers, but I never enjoyed lasers so much as when I put them on guns.

Twenty-one years ago, Lew Danielson, in a workshop under a bridge in downtown Portland, put a laser on a Glock Model 17. A few years later, when Danielson's company, Crimson Trace, launched a grip-mounted laser for the Glock 19, I mounted one on my personal carry gun.

Today Crimson Trace builds lasers in a plant in Wilsonville, Ore., a product made in America, for Americans. Danielson's first laser is still supported by the company, but now CTC boasts close to 200 products in their lineup. The core principle remains the same - a gun-mounted laser, activated by instinct - a thin red line. Their products are used by more police, military and concealed carry citizens than any other laser.

If there's a bit of dust in the air the beam is visible to the naked eye. The bullet's impact is predicted by an intense red or green dot on the target.

Nate Hoke, director of customer service, said, "We help bad guys make informed decisions."

I toured the Crimson Trace facility with several writers and photographers from around the country. Mike Faw and Kent Thomas welcomed our group in a conference room.

The occasion was the premier of the movie Fast and Furious 7. Crimson Trace, Thomas explained, often works with Hollywood to provide lasers for guns used in movies and TV, but the contracts require that Crimson Trace lasers are only for good guys.
Crimson Trace facility.jpg
On the factory floor we met Scott Vandecevering who walked us to a work bench where we would each assemble a Rail Master Pro CMR 205, rail-mount laser/light combo.

Under the watchful eye of CTC's top trainer, we employed precision torque screwdrivers to put the units together, assembled the mounting hardware and sighted them with tiny Allen wrenches.

Lest you worry you might buy a Rail Master assembled by an outdoor writer, we took our own lasers home. Steve Gaspar, a gun writer from Ridgefield, Wash., wanted mine and I wanted his, so we exchanged lasers for own our personal modern sporting rifles.
Crimson Trace's two-lane range.jpg
Crimson Trace has a two-lane range inside a converted container. For our shooting pleasure, they made ready a 38-Special revolver, a 380-caliber Glock, a 9mm Smith & Wesson M&P and a Glock 34. One thing you can count on about gun writers is they will shoot up all the ammo when someone else is paying for it, especially when the lights are out.

After the empty brass was piled around our ankles, we drove a block and a half to the new World of Speed Museum. Remember big block V8s, pony cars and T-bucket Fords, funny cars and long straight-aways? Just look behind you.

The first car you see is a Shelby F350, all original, with only 3,200 miles on the odometer. You might have seen a car like this in your rear view mirror once and then you saw its taillights.

The World of Speed is as much about the future as it is about the past. This summer they'll offer workshops to school kids in the arts of fabrication, high-octane fuel and burned rubber. They fired a big block Hemi for us and let us breathe that good old exhaust.

When you go to the World of Speed, don't miss the simulators.

To get into the NASCAR vehicle, you sit on the door frame, grab a bar on the roof and slide inside through the window. There was a lope to the motor, real or imagined, and, for a moment, I suspended my disbelief and put the pedal down. I was at Daytona, in Johnny Benson Jr's 1998 Ford Taurus, headed out of the pits, out onto the straightaway, toward the first banked turn. They call it an immersive experience and it was. I would have stayed in that seat for two hours if there hadn't been a line behind me.
Shelby F350.jpg
The other car was a 1995 Lola-Mercedes Benz T9500 Indy Car that ran at P.I.R. on the same track we "mowed lawn" in that Porsche. It was a bit hard to fit my shoulders in the cockpit, but soon I was on the track and then off it, in the virtual grass. I don't have a future in Indy cars.

In the evening, we worked our way through crowded backstreets to a private showing of Fast and Furious 7.

This is not a movie review, but they used up more rounds than half a dozen gun writers could shoot in an hour and destroyed more cars than we did on the NASCAR and Indy tracks. And good guys, with guns and lasers, in American-made muscle cars saved the free world one more time.

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