The Great American Outdoor Show: 2017 Edition

Yesterday, in what is rapidly becoming an annual tradition, I was again able to visit the Great American Outdoor Show held at the PA Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For a general overview of how and why to visit the show, please check out my blog post from last year. What I’m going to write about here is simply what caught my attention from the show. Please don’t misconstrue this as a comprehensive review of all the vendors at the show, because I didn’t see them all! This year was a little unusual for me in that I went in planning to purchase a few things that I knew should be available at the show, as well as other small items of interest. There were not really a lot of new or new to me guns to see this year, but I will discuss one in particular. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my observations and purchases from GAOS 2017!

  • One of my first stops was at Freedom Munitions. I picked up their version of a tactical pen, simply because it’s an inexpensive option and I didn’t have one. The pen is larger in diameter than I imagined it would be, and I don’t see myself getting it through any security checkpoints as an improvised weapon, but I’m sure I’ll find a place for it in my EDC load out. On my way out of the show, I took advantage of their special show pricing to stock up on .380 ammunition for an ongoing pocket pistol evaluation. The deal was just too good to pass up! I probably should have stocked up on 9mm as well, but it wasn’t a priority on my radar walking out of the show.
  • I was pleased to discover IC13 Arms as an exhibitor at the show and purchased one of their innovative long gun locks for an AR. This is the same lock as offered by Black Rain Ordnance. It locks an AR-15 (or AR-10, or Remington 870, or Mossberg 590) by inserting into the open ejection port and locking in place with a key lock. Once in place, on an AR, it is impossible to chamber a round or disassemble the carbine since the lock precludes the bolt moving forward. While not an all-inclusive security option, for my purposes in a home with a small child, it does solve one significant challenge when attempting to render a weapon inert yet quickly available if needed. IC13 also has unique locks for Glock and S&W pistols, as well as some locking storage options and mounts to offer a complete weapon security and storage package. One thing that I really like about the IC13 locks is that they all lock the weapon open and clear, making it physically impossible for the weapon to be fired, even if a magazine is inserted or loaded.
  • Speaking of carbines, I was able to briefly handle the new Colt Combat Unit Carbine. I can’t buy any new ARs where I live due to draconian restrictions, but it was neat to look at, especially since one of my favorite trainers had input into the carbine’s specifications and design. On the surface, it is a mid-length 16 inch AR-15 with everything you need and nothing that you don’t. The Centurion Arms rail is a nice feature, as is the standard MagPul furniture. And for those that get hung up on such things, it’s a Colt. I don’t know that it really offers anything that a similarly equipped rifle from BCM wouldn’t, but it seems to be a nice turn key package for anyone looking for a good-to-go carbine out of the box.
  • Continuing on the carbine theme, it seems that EVERYBODY has an AR variant available these days. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as competition is good for the market, but it does complicate the task for discerning buyers.
  • I took a few moments to speak with a representative from Freedom Armory Machine Works about their new Dragoon 5.56 and 7.62 titanium suppressors. Their QD model seems to have nice solid lock up and felt lightweight but robust. The suppressor can be easily disassembled for cleaning by the end user. This appears to be yet another good option in the increasingly crowded suppressor market.
  • I also went to the show looking for a holster for my new RM380, knowing that not many options exist. I almost left empty-handed in that regard, but stopped to take a second look at the options available from Shamrock Holsters. I decided to take a chance and purchased one of their pancake holsters. Rather than being custom molded for a particular gun, this holster is designed to be wet-molded to a variety of different guns. Several different sizes and models are available depending on your particular gun and preferred carry method. I was not previously aware of this company, and will report back in a future blog post about my experience with this holster.
  • Of course I stopped by MagPul, and was lucky enough to score one of the free caps that they were giving away on the first day. I love swag from gun companies, especially when it’s actually useful and functional!
  • I remain impressed by simply picking up the FNS-9. If I ever see a Compact version in a local store, I’ll probably buy it immediately. Good trigger, good sights, and the gun is FULLY ambidextrous. Only thing I don’t necessarily like is that the grip checkering is very aggressive. While I have no doubt it yields a firm grip, I suspect that it would tear up my hand in a high round count class.
  • Law Tactical was also an exhibitor at the show. Although I hadn’t really planned on buying one of their folding stock adaptors anytime soon, they had them available at a special show price so I went ahead and got one under the theory that I probably wasn’t going to find a better price or availability soon. I’m not sure which of my ARs the adaptor will be installed on, but I look forward to working with it and seeing how it holds up.
  • I was finally able to snag a VA Blade T-Raptor folding knife this show. Third time’s the charm! I first saw the Virginia Blade Raptor 2 years ago at the GAOS. At that time, it was a new design and wasn’t yet available for immediate sale. Last year, I saw the improved version with titanium scales, again not immediately available. This time around, I was able to buy one. At less than $70, I think the folder offers a great value as utility or hunting pocket knife. It features a center lock back design with a large one handed opening hole in the blade and a reversible pocket clip.
  • I also took the opportunity to handle a Marlin lever action with the XS Sight Systems receiver rail and ghost ring sights installed. I fully intend to equip my own 336Y with this system, as I find the stock sights lacking.
  • Finally, my friends and I were able to book a weeklong deer and hog hunting trip in SC for later this year. No doubt a good time will be had by all.

Let me briefly mention what I didn’t see… notably absent was CZ firearms. I had hoped to look at the new P10C, but I didn’t see one. If CZ was there anywhere, I missed them.

Ideally I would have liked to walk the Shooting Sports Hall once more, but we had a long drive home. I found everything I went for and more, and I will continue to visit the show in the coming years. The Great American Outdoor Show runs February 4-12 this year, so there’s still plenty of time for a visit. If you’re a sportsman or shooter, it’s worth your time to go!

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