I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2016 NRA Great American Outdoor Show, which ran from February 6 through February 14 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Produced and organized by the National Rifle Association, the show featured more than 1,100 exhibits, including outfitters, archery, hunting and shooting. Boats, trucks and taxidermy exhibits, as well as booths for many of the major firearm manufacturers, were spread out over a whopping 650,000-square-foot exhibit space in Harrisburg’s Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex.
NRA Tactical Handgunner Backpack: Available in black and coyote, this backpack-style range bag is specially designed with compartments for everything from hearing protection and shooting glasses down to a stapler and thumb tacks. There are magazine compartments, an ammo cup, and even room for your binoculars. The lower compartment features a rigid, slide-out housing that will secure four handguns.
The bag itself is waterproof to help protect your equipment. Thick, comfortable padded straps make carrying it very comfortable, even when full. The sides of the bag are reinforced to ensure that it stands on its own. Measuring 17 inches wide, 22 inches high, and 9 inches deep, this bag should hold everything you need for your day at the range. MSRP: $119.
Mission by Mathews, Craze II Compound Bow: Mathews, Inc., had a demo area where trained instructors could introduce newbies like me to the sport of archery, as well as assist experienced archers who were looking at upgrading to the latest and greatest new technology. I have zero experience with a compound bow, but I figured since I was at the show, I might as well give it a try. Because of my lack of experience, Mathews gave me an entry-level Mission Craze II to demo. This full-featured adjustable bow is a great choice for people like me, who want to get into the sport with a decent bow, but don’t want to go overboard with a big investment.
Although entry-level, the Mission Craze II has many of the same features as higher-end bows from Mathews. Highly adjustable, it can reach draw lengths from 19 to 30 inches, and goes from 13 to 70 pounds of draw weight without needing a bow press. It features an ergonomic grip and comes in several colors. Best of all, it’s manufactured in America and comes with a lifetime warrantee. MSRP: Starting at $319.
Walther PPS M2: Introduced last month at SHOT Show, the new Walther PPS M2 is a 9mm concealed-carry option. The ergonomics on this pistol were great. It’s a fairly slim gun at 1 inch wide, and felt very comfortable in my hand. The magazine release button was reachable by my thumb, which can sometimes be an issue for me. This seems like a great option for us ladies looking to conceal. I was told Walther will be coming out with a model in .40 later this spring.
My Case Builder: While this company does not make gun cases, it does manufacture custom foam inserts to go in either your own gun case or one of the many stock cases it carries from various manufacturers. Simply find your case on the My Case Builder website, specify your firearm, decide how many magazines and/or accessories you would like it to fit, and the online software designs the foam insert that’s perfect for you. You can choose from 10 stock case manufacturers, or simply order foam for the case you already own, customizing an ATA-approved case to hold exactly what you need when you travel. Prices vary due to size and specifications; I found the company’s show prices to be very affordable.
Blackhawk TecGrip Holster: Blackhawk introduced this innovative inside-the-waistband holster in January—it uses friction to keep the holster in place. The material is soft and comfortable against the skin. The firearm is protected by a thin, high-density closed-cell foam layer. The outside has microscopic gripping fingers that hold securely enough that a clip is not necessary. I drew a Bluegun several times at the show, and the holster never moved. With an MSRP of about $25, the TecGrip is a very affordable carry option that I will be finding out more about soon! I really liked that the clipless IWB holster gave you the option to carry in many locations on the body.
Tactical Walls: Almost hiding things in plain sight, furniture that conceals firearms is becoming quite popular. What looks like a clock, an end table or even a vase may be hiding some firepower instead. There were several brands at the show; I spent a bit of time talking to some of the representatives at the Tactical Walls display. I was particularly excited about a prototype wall safe concealed behind a mirror. Having an actual safe in place is a more secure way of storing firearms if you have small children, or if your concealing furniture is somewhere where a guest may unknowingly uncover your firearm.
While at this show, I reconnected with old friends and made a few new ones. With something for everyone and so many products to put my hands on, this show benefitted me enormously. Furthermore, the various representatives from companies gave me undivided attention as they instructed me on the products, and I look forward to future conversations and to reviewing some of the gear and firearms.
For anyone planning on attending next year, I’d highly recommend taking at least 2 days to cover the show. I had my schedule mapped out fairly well, but with so many exhibits providing distractions, my 2-day stay went by too fast, and I probably only covered about 60 percent of what I wanted to see. I’m excited to see how the show grows for 2017.