This weekend I had the opportunity to ride with friends to go and see the Great American Outdoor Show held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA. The show runs February 6th-14th this year, and is worth a visit if you’re at all interested in guns, knives, archery, hunting, or fishing. While I do hunt and fish, I am at heart a “gun nut” and enjoy the opportunity to get hands on with some things that I don’t normally see collected all in one place. The Shooting Sports Hall is probably the second largest exhibit hall there, with top honors for size going to the Hunting Outfitter Hall.
First, I want to offer some logistical tips if you’re planning a visit, then I will highlight some of the things that I saw and found interesting at this year’s show.
Get there early! By arriving approximately 45 minutes to an hour before the doors open, you can secure parking directly outside the farm show complex. Otherwise, you will have to park offsite and be bused in and out. Wear comfortable shoes! I kept my iPhone in my pocket, and according to the health app, I walked 12,668 steps over the course of 5.2 miles while exploring the show!
The complex is huge with multiple exhibit halls and thousands of vendors. You can purchase advance tickets online to print at home, and this can speed your entry into the venue. Admission is $13 for one day, and free if you join or renew NRA membership. This year, I noticed that the show had a free smartphone app available for download, and while initially skeptical, I found the app very useful, especially when trying to locate individual vendors in such a large venue. In addition to maps, the app features a show schedule and social media connectivity options.
In my opinion, one of the best things about visiting the show is that the PA Farm Show Complex allows concealed carry if you have a permit! (See this FAQ) Getting my PA non-resident permit was one of the easiest and least expensive permitting processes that I’ve gone through recently, so I was all set! Travel through anti-gun jurisdictions was a concern, but I’ve written about that before. If you haven’t read that post, it can be found here.
Now I’ll highlight some of my observations from the Shooting Sports Hall. Others have referred to this show as “SHOT Show Lite” and I am inclined to agree. In no particular order, here are the things that caught my attention.
- Freedom Munitions had a large booth and was selling ammunition at the show. I purchase most of my training ammunition from them, so I was glad to have a chance to stop in and chat. I purchased two boxes of their new “American Steel” ammunition to try out. Apparently, the steel cartridges are brass plated and the ammunition is offered as an affordable option for range ammunition that is domestically produced. I don’t anticipate any problems with it, but I also don’t really see myself switching away from brass cased ammunition, simply because I like to offset my ammunition costs by collecting my brass to send in under the Freedom Munitions brass credit program. Also, I learned that Freedom Munitions will be introducing a 77 gr. MK262 clone into their SUPERMATCH line of ammunition in the near future, as well as a line of premium defensive ammunition. I have had an overwhelmingly positive experience buying from Freedom Munitions thus far and will continue to use their products in the future.
- I had a brief opportunity to look at and through the new Trijicon MRO red dot that was mounted on a carbine at one of the booths. (Sorry, don’t remember which one…) While I am going to withhold formal judgment for now, overall, I like it. The glass was clear with a crisp dot and a viewing area that seemed larger than that of my Aimpoint Micro T1. The top mounted brightness control makes sense when you realize that it was designed to be ambidextrous. Time will tell if it proves to be durable, but I would certainly consider the MRO for my next red dot optic purchase.
- I also finally got to handle a pistol equipped with the ALG 6-Second Mount and a Trijicon RMR. While I think the truth about this red dot mount is found somewhere in the middle between company marketing and internet pundit opinion, I understand the mount in terms of the context under which it was developed. My main problem with the mount is its large size and the lack of backup iron sights. This is in direct comparison to my own pistol that features an RMR milled directly into the slide and equipped with backup iron sights. While I don’t see myself buying a “Han Solo blaster,” I was glad to be able to finally handle one. I only saw one or two other red dot equipped pistols, specifically the FNX Tactical. S&W probably had some C.O.R.E. models on display, but I didn’t stop in to see. Glock was notably absent, so I didn’t get to look at an MOS pistol, although I’m not terribly impressed with that execution of the concept anyway.
- The Magpul booth was a fun visit, and I think there may be a Tejas Gun Belt in my future!
- Regarding new-to-me pistols, I was able to handle the Walther PPQ M2, the Canik TP9, the Remington RM380, and the FNS-9. I was impressed with the feel, trigger, and reset of the Walther PPQ M2 and the FNS-9, not so much with the Canik TP9 or RM380. Admittedly, these are only initial impressions based only on brief handling and dry fire.
- Another personal highlight for me was finally handling an HK pistol equipped with the LEM trigger. I have read a lot about this trigger system over the years and didn’t really know what to expect, but overall, I really liked it in dry fire! Specifically, I handled an HK P30SK with the LEM trigger installed.
- As far as rifles are concerned, the AR pattern rifle dominated, and it seems that long modular handguards are du jour now. I looked at the Geissele Super Modular Rail MK4 and was suitably impressed. Obviously, there were AK and other variants to look at as well, not to mention a ton of bolt action hunting rifles and premium optics outside of my price range.
There was much, much more there, but these are the things that caught my attention enough to make note of. If the show is within driving distance for you and you have opportunity in the coming week, I think a visit is well worth it! If you do visit the show, let us know your personal highlights in the comments below!