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Great American Outdoor Show is in Harrisburg, and it is Fantastic

The Great American Outdoor Show, which used to be called the Eastern Outdoor Show until the former promoter turned anti-gun and tried to block vendors from showcasing their modern sporting rifles, is on and happening in Harrisburg through Sunday.

I have been volunteering a bit for the PA Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs, not nearly as much as I have in the past, but still contributing and selling raffle tickets to friendly people who visit the booth.

Last year the Federation raffled off a Bushmaster AR-15, and this year we are just doing cash.  Right now the pot is a few thousand dollars, and by the time the raffle is drawn it’ll be much more.  Some of the proceeds go to support the Federation, so it’s a good cause.

I stopped in to visit the Unified Sportsmen booth the other day, but the person I sought was not there and the volunteers were just leaving, but I am looking forward to hearing their perspective on sportsmen’s issues.

The River’s Edge canoe and kayak sales by Neill and Evelyn Andritz  sold me on a Hobie kayak.  But let me tell you, these kayaks today are not your Nanuk of the North kayaks of old.  My friends, these things might as well be on the space shuttle for when our guys find water on Mars, because they are nothing like the sloppy, floppy, tipsy, floating death traps we used to squeeze ourselves into.  Today’s Hobie kayak is a blended hybrid, using the best qualities of canoes, surf boards, and kayaks to bring small-craft fishing into the 22nd century.  The Mirage Pro Angler 14 and the Mirage Outback were the two I had to choose between in the end, but being a “Big Guy” means that the 600-pound capacity of the Mirage Pro Angler is a must-have.

And beyond the fat-guy-and-all-his-gear capacity, the technical bells and whistles are amazing.  Stand-up stabilizing bars, leg-driven flipper drives that look and power like an orca tail, bait coolers, adjustable seats that would be at home in a Maserati, sleek rudder controls you can use with your elbow, hand, or foot, storage lockers running the full length for stashing kit so big you can harpoon the shark of your dreams, rod holders everywhere, holes for masts, and so on.

And all this above is about just one vendor with two small self-powered boats I liked in the Farm Show complex that is loaded to the gills with gear, knives, guns, outfitters from around the world, specialty clothing and footwear, trophy services, archery gear so sophisticated I feel like I am Stone Age when I handle it, RVs, ATVs, camping gear, bug-out survival gear, and so on and on for much more.

The Great American Outdoor Show is worth visiting if for no other reason than to say you went and witnessed one of the wonders of the world.  It is the biggest show of its kind in the world, and even if our new governor, Tom Wolf, isn’t interested in attending (incredibly that is true), you definitely should.

Some observations on knives sold at the Great American Outdoor Show

Knife production is reaching an apex, it appears. Never before in one place have I seen so many higher quality production knives as I have seen at the Great American Outdoor Show. Many booths selling hundreds and hundreds of better quality folding knives, with some custom and semi-custom knife sellers sprinkled around.

Oddly, you can’t find a sharpening stone in the entire Farm Show complex to save your blade’s life. No one is selling sharpening stones. Blades out the wazoo, yes. Ways to keep them functioning, no. Whether it is a sign of the throw-away society meeting Pleistocene Man, or too much optimism about modern steels’ edge retention capability, it is an odd sign indeed.

Once the purview of expensive custom knives, Damascus blades are now ubiquitous, although most are probably made in Pakistan and India, so their quality cannot be real high, and you’ve got no idea of their cadmium, arsenic, or lead content, either, although I am willing to bet these blades are positively toxic to human health. They do look nice, though.

[Damascus steel is a mix of different types of metals that when folded over and over and then hammered out reveal an appealing variety of patterns. Because metal types used in Damascus steel vary widely, quality varies widely. I use only Alabama Damascus in my knives]

Clearly, there is a bleeding over from the custom knife market into the high production market, where quality used to suffer badly. Knife buying Americans evidently have improved tastes and higher expectations for their over-the-counter knives. That’s a good thing. But do they have to be made in those rainbow colors? They hurt my eyes. Camo handles are humorous – drop your knife, never find your knife, lose your knife. Maybe those rainbow colored handles work, after all.

One other observation is the high number of bug-out bags being made. Man, Americans seem ready for the apocalypse. After seeing so many of these grab-and-run packs, I now realize that I need one, too. No, my oh-so-1970s Kelty backpacks do not seem up to snuff, even though they have served me well on rugged wilderness trips for many years. Nope, camo is de rigeur here, too.

Come on by the PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs booth and buy a raffle ticket for our Bushmaster AR-15 M4. Just ten bucks gets you a lot closer to having your bug-out bag fully equipped with a state-of-the-art rifle.

Good show! JRJ Knives sells out at Great American Outdoor Show

Want the sign of a good show?  Watch the vendors sell out of their items only a couple of days in.

JRJ knives of New Buffalo is my go-to source for top of the line custom knives. John uses ATS-34 steel and stock removal (with a little welding and hammering now and then) to make any knife you want or need. He and I have several knife projects under way, mostly using Alabama Damascus steel and hippo tooth, and although the wait can be longer than you’d like, the results are always better than you could have imagined. JRJ makes high quality knives.

Well, last Sunday I stopped in at the JRJ Knives booth at the Great American Outdoor Show, and John was nowhere to be seen. He was back at the shop, his wife Jodi said, because they had sold out of nearly all their knives.  That is, they had sold more knives in the first 24 hours of the show than they expected to sell during the entire week.

Today I was shopping around for old fashioned whet stones.  You know, the old fine-grained novaculite Arkansas sharpening stones that were once a staple in every American kitchen.  You’d expect to find lots of them for sale at the Great American Outdoors Show, especially given how many knife vendors there are.  Nary a one, oddly.  Either modern newfangled steels have become self-sharpening, or even rugged outdoorsmen no longer sharpen their own knives.  Something odd is afoot. One knife vendor said that he had sold out of all of his premium knives, and had to order more; he hoped they would arrive by tomorrow.

But back to the main point here: All this selling out of items in a day or two is a good show.  So far, it is a big success.  If you haven’t yet visited, you should.  It has a whole new look, feel, and energy.  And yes, there are AR15s on display everywhere.

Goin’ to the big show

The NRA may not do a great job of thanking, recognizing, or appreciating its members’ grass roots work that shut down the Eastern Outdoors Sports Show and turned it into the Great American Outdoor Show, but the show is on, nonetheless. I’ll be there all week, off and on, and I hope to see you there.

NRA? All the way!

The National Rifle Association has agreed to run the former Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, now to be called the Great American Outdoor Show.

Dauphin County commissioner Jeff Haste led the effort to find a suitable vendor for the huge PA Farm Show complex. The ESOS has been worth anywhere from $45 million to $88 million annually to the local economy, and losing it was a huge impact on the region.

The fact that yours truly played the key role in blowing the whistle is both happy and sad. I’ve been blamed for ruining the show and praised for calling attention to the former promoter, Reed Exhibitions, and getting them knocked out. Alex Cameron, Jr., was the vendor who tipped me off.

My friend and custom knife maker/supplier is John Johnson, and he took a financial beating because the show wasn’t held. Now he has confidence that the 2014 show will be better than several of the prior ones put together, and he can plan accordingly.

The NRA has invited all five million of its members to visit the 2014 show, so you know it’s going to be crowded, fun, and full of exciting gear and trips. And you can be sure that modern sporting rifles will be present and accounted for, in force….

Thank you to Commissioner Haste, the Corbett Administration, and the NRA for getting the show re-established. And thank you to all of the patriotic Americans who decided to take a hit to stop the British – based Reed Exhibitions this past February.

See you all next February at the Great American Outdoor Show!

UPDATE: As if you haven’t already read this elsewhere, the US Senate voted down the unconstitutional ‘background check’ federal database gun confiscation bill proposed shamefully by senators Manchin (WV) and Toomey (PA). Let’s get these two buffoons out of office post-haste. You cannot be a US senator, attack the US Constitution this way, and then be taken seriously by those of us in favor of maximum freedom for citizens.