The 2018 Great American Outdoor Show

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the NRA Great American Outdoor Show held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex. As I’ve written about here on the blog in past years, the show is a sprawling collection of multiple exhibit halls and arenas. Covering firearms, archery, hunting, fishing, boating, and outdoor living and recreation, the show is a cornucopia of everything of interest to the modern American sportsman.

As usual, I’ll discuss the highlights of the show for me, with the caveat that there is no way to see everything in the span of the six or so hours we spent wandering around the show. By way of example, this year we didn’t even go into the archery hall.

We usually enter the complex through the main hall, which is also the firearms exhibit. This year there seemed to be fewer exhibitors, or perhaps they just set up less. At any rate, I did make a few stops.

Again this year, I handled an H&K P30SK LEM V2 and walked away impressed with the ergonomics and trigger. If I buy another gun this year, it will probably be this one. Although I’ve never shot one, there is very little that I find to dislike.

I also got to briefly look at the brand new Sig P365. I obviously haven’t shot one, but I was a bit nonplussed. I think it’s probably a fine gun, and I am impressed with the capacity of the gun given its size, but I just don’t really see a need for one in my life right now. I appreciate many of its design features and its niche, I just don’t need one. Perhaps shooting one would change my opinion significantly, but I’m not rushing out to buy one.

I also checked out a few guns at the S&W display. Perhaps I’ve been spending too much time at pistol-forum lately, but I’m very tempted to get an Airweight J-Frame to add to my collection. While I would probably initially buy one in .38, I thought the 351 C was particularly neat. It’s a 7 shot .22 Magnum revolver that caught my eye and felt good in the hand. Apparently, Paul Howe likes it too!

I was also able to finally shoulder an 870 featuring the MagPul furniture, and it cemented my decision to purchase a set for my pending 870P SBS. MagPul continues to impress me with their innovation and solid product lineup.

My hunting buddy was looking at left handed bolt guns and stopped to talk with a custom builder that also offers private long range shooting instruction. We may very well take a ride out to Mt. Penn, PA this year to train with Premier Accuracy prior to hunting season, as neither of us is particularly comfortable much past 100 yards.

I also stopped by Maven to look at binoculars. Having heard nothing but good things about their optics from Kyle Defoor, I wanted to see what they offered. Whenever I do replace my old Steiner Military Marine binoculars, it will probably be with a set from Maven.

Speaking of binoculars, I did make one purchase at the show this year. I bought a simple Ultra-Light Bino Harness from Rick Young Outdoors that uses shock cord to form the harness and has an attachment for my rangefinder.


Other items that caught my eye were the new Colt Night Cobra and the Inland Manufacturing reproductions of iconic guns such as the Ithaca M37 Trench Gun and the M1 Carbine. I’m more of a S&W fan, and I have no need for historical reproductions, but they’re definitely cool!

As this blog is firearms centric, there are a lot of things I see at the show that I don’t necessarily write a lot about here. I have, for instance, discovered the tonneau cover that I want for my truck at the show, as well as other outdoor camping or backpacking accessories. Invariably, I leave with a stack of brochures to remind me of things that I want to investigate at a later time. And we also booked our annual hunting trip at the show with the same outfitter we used last year. There’s a lot there to see and do, wherever your interests may lie.

I think the show is also an interesting snapshot of gun culture in America, or at least gun culture in flyover country. Approximately 200,000 people are expected to attend the show this year. Concealed carry is permitted at the show and I did not see any bags being searched. Yet, there is no blood flowing in the halls and nobody gets shot. There is of course heightened law enforcement presence, but that is to be expected with any large public event. In amidst all the gun propaganda and displays, there are areas dedicated to gun safety for kids teaching the Eddie Eagle program and seminars for adults that would like to expand their education in a variety of disciplines. All in all, while I realize that we are a minority, I am encouraged to see that the culture I identify with is still alive and well. I am also encouraged that there are countless kids being brought to the show. Perhaps they will see some aspect of outdoor life that will appeal to them as they mature.

So, if you are within easy driving distance of the show, I think it’s a worthy day trip, or even perhaps an ideal overnight getaway for the family. As always, thanks for reading, and we welcome comments and questions. Follow us on Facebook, and please feel free to share any articles that you’ve enjoyed.

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