Visiting the 2022 Great American Outdoor Show

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As I have for the past few years, I spent this past Saturday wandering around the NRA Great American Outdoor Show with friends. The show was cancelled in 2021 (fuck COVID), but was back this year with no mask mandates and a good crowd for opening day despite a winter storm affecting travel.

If you’ve read any commentary on the 2022 SHOT show, you’ve probably heard that more than a few large exhibitors pulled out or didn’t show. While probably to a lesser degree at this show, there were still some empty booths and display areas, and at least one major manufacturer that was listed on the exhibitor list was nowhere to be found. More on this later.

We drove down the afternoon before and stayed at the same hotel that we’ve stayed at in years past. After this stay, we will be finding a new hotel. Caveat emptor, do not stay at the Ramada Inn at 300 N. Mountain Road in Harrisburg, PA. The establishment has declined significantly in the last couple of years. Our room had obviously not been thoroughly cleaned, there were roaches in the bathroom, and the shower was lukewarm at best. While I am familiar with the purported health benefits of cold showers, it’s not necessarily a practice I want to habituate. I’ve stayed in worse accommodations without complaint, but it’s not going to work for my wife if she continues to attend with me. I did voice these complaints to the front desk, but the best they could suggest was going to the website so that the owners would see it. Based on some other online reviews I read, apparently the front desk staff is not empowered to do much of anything. At any rate, it was just one night and at least the bed was comfortable.

As usual, we got to the Farm Show Complex early enough to park in the main lot and not worry with having to catch a shuttle bus from a remote lot. We typically purchase advance tickets, but are rethinking this practice. The purchase tickets line seems to often be shorter. The advance ticket line moves faster, but is a hell of a lot longer.

Once inside, the first notable difference was more open room than normal and the absence of the huge multistory yellow Champion safe that typically captures one’s immediate attention. Obviously, exhibitors were not investing as much in this year’s show. As we began to walk the aisles of the Shooting Sports Hall, I was on the prowl for a few things.

One of my main goals was to get hands on with Boyd’s new Spike Camp and Agility stocks. I need a new stock for the Savage Axis that I recently won in a raffle, and I wanted to see which would be the best fit for my needs. Accordingly, I took advantage of the show special discount and chose the Spike Camp in Forest Camo laminate with fleur-de-lis skip line texture. I was expecting the no-frills “essentials only” stock to be too long of a length of pull, but shouldering it felt great. The price was attractive and certainly more economical than the Agility stock with adjustable LOP, and will be a big upgrade to the otherwise bone stock Savage Axis.

I had really wanted to get a chance to see the new Marlin lever action now that Ruger has started production. Unfortunately, although they were listed on the exhibitor list and map, Ruger wasn’t there.

My friend bought a sling from Slogan Outdoors. The sling is made of a rubber like material, which by all accounts, lasts decades. An interesting feature of the sling is the loop that can be pulled over the head to sling the rifle across two shoulders for stability. I am partial to the Magpul RLS on my hunting guns, but I’ll certainly keep Slogan Outdoors in mind for the future.

One innovative thing I saw was the shotguns at the European American Armory booth. Michael Bane has mentioned the good quality of the Turkish guns being imported these days, and I have to give them credit. The first time I saw a red dot sight directly mounted to a shotgun receiver that had been cut and machined was on Steve Fisher’s IG feed courtesy of Patrick’s Gun Shop in LA. The second time was in the EAA booth. EAA has several models with a Picatinny rail machined directly into the top of the receiver. I wasn’t able to see a naked rail, as they all had red dots mounted to them. I didn’t catch the brand of red dot sight, but the rep did specifically say that it was a Picatinny rail. Obviously, direct mount will result in a lower height over bore, but I still thought it was a neat concept.

There was some ammunition available at the show, but not like before. The sheer number of AR pattern rifles and accessories is mind boggling compared to just a few years ago. I think I may have also found my kids’ first rifles. I’m sure I’ve looked at them before, but the Savage Rascal .22 is just spiffy. I was also able to actually look at and dry fire a gun using a DryFireMag. The owner of the company told me that he expects the P365 model to be available around June of this year. The only other thing I specifically took note of was the large number of vendors selling chassis systems for pistols. Not sure what’s going on there and I’m pretty sure that I couldn’t buy one where I live anyway.

In the Archery Hall, I specifically stopped to talk to the rep at the Tethrd booth. I first learned of them from an article in RECOIL’s CARNIVORE magazine a few years ago. The show was the first time I’d ever been able to handle the gear. For those not familiar, Tethrd is an innovator in saddle hunting. The idea of walking into the woods wearing the saddle and carrying minimal equipment to climb a tree is very appealing to me, at least compared to hiking in with a two piece climber stand that clanks and rattles, and is nearly as long as I am tall when strapped to my back. The investment in such a system is not inexpensive, but is something I may yet find worthwhile.

Another friend that came to the show with us bought a mini vertical crossbow from Hickory Creek. I didn’t get a close look at it, but I wish I had. I’m not sure whether it’s more novelty or innovation, but time will tell.

Also in the Archery Hall, I took the opportunity to pick up another can of JD’s Salsa in Seconds. I picked some up a couple of years ago, and needed to restock. If you enjoy Taco Tuesday in your home like we do, then you need to check this stuff out. You can add a scoop to a can of diced tomatoes of your choosing and blend it together to make salsa. I’ve also used it when I didn’t have taco seasoning available to mix with the meat. There’s a couple of other recipes on the can, and a guacamole recipe on the website that my wife is looking forward to trying.

We also spent some time in the Hunting Outfitter Hall, looking at potential bear and predator hunts in Maine. In 2020, prior to COVID, we had booked a boar hunt in TN. As the states were shutting down travel due to the initial outbreak right around the time we were scheduled to go, we cancelled. The outfitter wasn’t happy, but was gracious enough to honor our deposits. This May, we’ll be doing a boar hunt in the Cumberland Plateau. I suspect I’ll use my Ruger Redhawk, but I’ll take the Marlin DARK too. Of course, I’ll report back here after the fact.

The only other things we bought at the show were some crab cakes from Stone Silo Foods, some summer sausage and cheese from WILD Meats, and a 30’ dog lead that I plan to use in training my GSD puppy. I could have easily spent more, but it’s best to walk into the show either just planning to look or with a budget.

This trip also marked my first use of my new Hill People Gear Tarahumara pack. It is indeed a trim little pack. I carried two bottles of water for me and my wife, and I tucked our outerwear into it once we got inside the warm building. The sleeve pocket on the back was perfect for stuffing brochures into. It was a little tough to stuff any more than my fleece and two hats into it, but I’m sure I could have used the cinch straps outside the pack to hold the jacket if needed. I’m looking forward to using it on upcoming hunts.

As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of the show, the complex is huge. In just five hours there, I logged nearly 10,000 steps and over 3 1/2 miles. Bring your comfortable shoes!

The show is running through February 13th this year, so there’s still plenty of time to visit if it’s within driving distance for you. I know the NRA has left a bad taste for many recently, but to my mind, the show still represents a lot of what I love about America. As I was commenting to a family member after the trip, flyover country is obviously done with COVID, and thousands of people attend the show every year with no metal detectors or bag searches needed for a safe environment. There may indeed be crazy people out there, but they wouldn’t last long at the show if they tried any shenanigans.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more content!

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