When it comes to industry trade shows, SHOT Show is as big as they come, and it’s easy to get lost in the sensory overload sprawling over 650,000 square-feet of real estate. Of course, as trade shows go and much to the chagrin of many, SHOT is not open to the public—rightly so, it’s purely industry business there. Fortunately, the NRA has become something of an expert in what ails folks hungry for hands-on access to all-things new across the industry by spearheading two of the industry’s top consumer shows, the annual Great American Outdoor Show (GAOS) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits; for 2020, the latter is scheduled for April 15 – 19, in Nashville, Tenn.
With the 2020 SHOT Show still in the rearview mirror, I’m now jumping into the throes of the world’s largest consumer shooting, hunting and outdoor event, the NRA Great American Outdoor Show, scheduled for February 1 – 9, at the PA Farm Show Complex, in Harrisburg, Penn. The show welcomes hundreds of thousands of outdoor enthusiasts from all walks of life yet united with one common passion—the outdoors. Considering I’ve just survived the largest industry professional tradeshow (SHOT) and now find myself knee-deep in the largest consumer show of its kind (NRA-GAOS), it seem fitting to pause for a moment and revisit 10 of the coolest outdoor products I found while wandering 2019’s NRA-show aisles—the Annual Meetings and GAOS alike. Even better, if you’re up for a trip into Harrisburg for the 2020 Great American Outdoor Show, some of these innovative offerings are sure to be waiting for you.
360Penguin Action Camera
As a professional videographer, running upwards of 6 – 8 cameras at a time, from my main camera to DSLR and a pack full of action cameras, I always kept my finger on our industry’s multimedia technology pulse—always watched for the next big thing. This time, to me, the big thing is Rize360’s 360 Penguin Action Camera. As big things go, however, this little treat is big on video and still-image performance but small enough to fit in your pocket.
Roughly the size of a cell phone, the 360Penguin Action Camera packs a heck of a jaw-dropping technological punch into its tiny body and, like a cell phone, features front and back facing lenses—therein lies the twist. Each lens boasts a 210-degree field of view. The camera’ processor then takes still photos or videos from both lenses and “stitches” them together to produce true, spherical, 360-degree imaging clear up to 5.7k HD resolution at 10 frames-per-second (fps) and 4k HD resolution at 30 fps. The 360Penguin also boasts 24mp still imaging and an omni-directional microphone.
The 360P easily connects to smartphones via a 360Rize app for live previewing, up to 4k-resolution live-streaming to social media and creating self-contained video files, stored on a micro-SD card. According to 360Rize, no computer is needed; however, you certainly can take files into traditional video editing platforms for integration with professional projects. The Penguin360 is mountable to virtually any tripod with 1/4"-20 TPI mount and has a rechargeable battery life of 90 minutes. 360Rize also reports fixed-focus stabilization and HDR enhancements are coming soon. 360rize.com
When it comes to home defense, the difference between your family’s safety and another tragic statistic can play out in seconds. Having a plan and optimizing access to whatever means may be required to stop a threat can certainly leverage survivability in your favor and small businesses like Freedom Frames have stepped up their innovation game to put protection at your fingertips without dropping clues.
Available in both landscape- and portrait-orientations in multiple sizes, Freedom Frames turns your favorite painting or family photo into an inconspicuous handgun-concealment system offering lightning-quick access. Freedom Frames produces exquisitely crafted, premium wood frames with a twist. With the frame mounted on a wall, simply slide the front of the frame up. Raising the frame exposes a tilting handgun rack, complete with elastic cord and a magnet base, designed to keep your firearm secure but accessible in a matter of seconds. freedomframes.com
Brenton .350 Legend
When Bartt Brenton joined the swelling ranks of AR builders, he understood all too well the importance of standing out in a vanilla black-gun crowd. Watching the AR segment of our industry ebb and flow on political tides, he also knew he wanted to produce something worth talking about, worth holding onto and passing down. So, in an industry teeming with tacticool semi-auto modern sporting rifles, Brenton did exactly as he set out to do—produced a tried-and-true, heirloom quality, AR-style hunting rifle, now available in two models. Today, Brenton offers his rifle systems in two models, the Ranger Carbon Hunter and the Stalker Carbon Hunter. Both rifles are available with 18- and 22-inch barrels.
Last year, I fell in love with Brenton USA rifles, and even reviewed a Ranger Carbon Hunter chambered in 6.5 Grendel. The experiences as it was, I was anxious to visit the Brenton USA booth and was definitely happy I did. The Ranger Carbon Hunter 350 Legend was waiting for me. The Ranger Carbon Hunter, chambered in 350 Legend, boasts Brenton’s signature MarbleKote camo finish (available in Harvest, Foliage, Midnight and Snow), carbon-fiber reinforced RealFeel handguard, Magpul MOE fixed stock, HunterSize controls, Brenton’s proprietary match-grade trigger adjustable from 3 to 6.5 lbs., and a free-floating, stainless steel, 18-inch, match-grade barrel with 1:16 twist and 9/16-24 threads for a brake or suppressor.
As a special note here related to the 350 Legend, I know of only two manufacturers dedicated to offering suppressors specific to the new cartridge, Phoenix Weaponry and GSL Technology, Inc. Sure, you likely can use larger-caliber suppressor but for optimum 350 Legend noise reduction all roads point to those two. Fortunately, their manufacturing processes are on point—suppressors across their entire lineup are solid choices. brentonusa.com
LWRCI SMG .45
LWRCI has built quite a reputation for producing top-shelf, piston-driven, AR-platform firearms. From long guns to AR pistols and SBRs, the company has walked confidently on the AR segment of our industry’s leading edge; in fact, LWRCI Six8 and R.E.P.R. MKII 7.62 piston-driven rifle systems are favorites among many demanding AR-platform shooters and hunters because of their reliable shooting performance whether running with a muzzle brake or suppressed. Of course, LWRCI’s AR-pistol platform SMG-45 promises the same ultra-reliable function and creature comforts you’ve come to expect from them.
With a weight of just 5.9 lbs. and length of 15.25 to 26 inches, LWRCI’s SMG-45 is compact, and easy to carry. The SMG-45 features an 8.5-inch cold-hammer-forged chromoly steel barrel with 1:16 twist and 6-groove rifling, SB Tactical Brace, LWRCI’s ALG Group and Ultra Combat Grip, ambi lower controls, paddle-style magazine release, Magpul MBUS Pro Sights and a proprietary short-recoil, delayed-blowback system. To get you on the range, the SMG-45 even includes two 25-round magazines. lwrci.com
Phone Skope Skoped Vision Gen 2
As I mentioned above with respect to 360Rize’s 360 Penguin Action Camera, still photography and video in our hunting and shooting world has picked up steam—to some degree, we have outdoor television and social media to thank for this popular trend. After all, who doesn’t like to capture memories on the range and in the field, and share them with others? While there are a number of accessories designed to make your phone the perfect through-optic camera, the one’s I’ve used have, at best, been frustrating to use. Worse, only a precious few systems tout they are designed for firearm-mounted use—Enter Phone Skope and their most recent product development, the Skoped Vision Gen 2 accessory.
The Skoped Vision Gen 2 system uses a case specifically designed for your smart phone, along with an eye-piece, phone-centering technology and a mirror system, to enable high-resolution photography and videography through your riflescope while shooting. This is a boon for industry photographer and videographer types like me, and for anyone desiring to capture multimedia content through a riflescope with as much high-definition resolution as their own smartphone and optic allows. I for one am looking forward to spending quality time with a Skoped Vision Gen 2 system and look forward to how such technology can enhance my own editorial content. phoneskope.com
Propper Summerweight Apparel
I’ve been a fan of Propper brand clothing for a while now and wear the branded clothing on the range more than any other. But, as much as I love Propper’s always-comfortable fit and durability, I’ve also hoped for a cooler lineup for my range work under our oppressive Texas summer sun, and the company finally delivered.
Propper’s Summerweight collection is comprised of tactical polos and button-up short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts, tactical cargo-style pants and shorts, and hats—ball cap and wide-brim boonie. Summerweight polo and tactical, button-up short-sleeve shirts also are available in women’s cut. The pants and shorts are constructed of breathable, moisture-wicking, ultra-lightweight, UPF-50, ripstop fabric and feature a mesh lining, a ribbon waist-button and 10 pockets, zippered and cargo, including a covert rear pocket.
The polo shirt is constructed of 2-way breathable, moisture-wicking, UPF-30 mesh and features lighter-weight back and underarm areas, comfort flat-lock seams, collar stays, pen pockets on the left shoulder, and loop at center-chest to hold sunglasses or a microphone. Summerweight polos also are pill- and snag-resistant for longer life.
Summerweight short- and long-sleeve button-up shirts boast lightweight, stretchable, UPF-50 fabric, mesh shoulder vent, a side-access chest pocket complete with hook-and-loop closure and two chest pockets with a pen pocket on the left side. propper.com
SME Bullseye Sniper Edition Target Camera
While we’re on the topic of cameras and their many benefits amid our hunting and shooting activities, Shooting Made Easy (SME) showed off the Bullseye Sniper Edition Target Camera. As a long range shooter with a mile-shot itch to scratch more often than I care to admit, the SME Target Camera, Sniper Edition, solves one of precision shooting’s toughest issues, identifying point-of-impact at extreme range.
For spotters and shooters alike, identifying impacts on targets at excessive distances can be frustrating, even virtually impossible, depending on conditions—reporting shots through heavy mirage, for example. Honestly, if I had a dollar for every time I wished someone could find a safe position down-range and call my shots, I would have deep pockets full of cash (Those who would raise an eyebrow at such a suggestion never worked the target butts on a military rifle range).
The SME Sniper Edition Target Camera is comprised of a 960P-resolution camera and transmitter system complete with a micro-adjustable lens and legs to angle the down-range camera upward towards a target face, and a stand-alone receiver. The Sniper Edition is designed to provide wireless camera imaging up to a mile away and includes Wi-Fi connectivity to your smartphone or tablet via the Bullseye Target Manager application for convenient monitoring. shootingmadeeasy.com
SportEAR Extreme Edge
After eight years of Marine Corps service, I was blessed with a gift that keeps on giving—tinnitus. I joke about my natural hearing protection (severe hearing loss) but it’s really not something to laugh about. Like we only get to run through life once, we only get one set of ears. To that end, I definitely protect what I have left, more recently with custom-fit ear-pro like SportEAR devices comparable to their current Edge 90 devices.
Just when I thought custom-fit hearing enhancement/suppression ear-pro couldn’t get any better than the SportEAR’s I currently use, I was introduced to the company’s Extreme Edge. The Extreme Edge capitalizes on hearing enhancement and suppression with improved, indeed premium, sound with a 4.0 Nano digital processor, an amplification range of 40 – 70db and noise reduction rating of 27db. Another huge benefit of the Extreme Edge is feedback/whistle cancellation—my current SportEAR devices do squeal sometimes if I remove them and don’t open the battery doors. I usually can’t hear this “whistle,” but it drives the people around me crazy!
SportEAR Extreme Edge’s custom-fit ear-pro also features four push-button memory settings, digital sound suppression, adjustable volume, premium background noise reduction and surround sound—the ability to determine the direction sounds are coming from may not be so important on the range but it’s absolutely critical on the hunt, especially for us bowhunters. sportear.com
Stratus Support Systems AR Combo with Gen 2 Holster
Not long ago, you either had a sling on your rifle or you didn’t, and as a consequence, learned lessons in fatigue the hard way. As a Marine, I learned quickly just how heavy a rifle can get when you can’t sling it onto your shoulder. Law-enforcement officers and hunters understand fatigue more than anyone should, too. And when it comes to LEOs, security personnel and yes, even hunters, while slings aren’t always the best option, fatigue is NEVER the right option—Stratus Support Systems, however, offers a perfect compromise—both sling- and fatigue-free firearm carry.
As a hog hunter with an affinity for post-sunset pursuits with AR-style modern sporting rifles and thermal imaging riflescopes, Stratus’ AR Combo with Gen 2 Holster was a welcome sight at last year’s NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits.
The AR Combo Stratus support system features an AR-platform rear receiver plate complete with an enlarged mounting post—installed on the buffer tube between the receiver and castle nut—and the Gen 2 holster, designed to mount on a tactical vest or belt and lock the receiver-plate post in place. A Stratus user would simply drop the receiver post down into the holster to secure the firearm in place. stratussupportsystems.com
WMD Gun SlingStock
Wynn Atterbury, president of WMD Guns, has turned heads before, more recently with his Beast and Big Beast AR-platform rifles. Like his receiver parts, most notably, his bolt carrier groups, WMD’s Beast and Big Beast rifles are finished, from back to front, with the company’s proprietary NiB-X nickel-born coating. My personal WMD Guns Big Beast 6.5 Creedmoor has his the dirt numerous times, is still scratch-free and has blessed me with ½-MOA groups at 1,000 yards multiple times.
What I wasn’t expecting from Wynn and the gang at WMD Guns, having used his rifles and critical receiver components, was a stock, moreover, one with an integrated sling. Admittedly, I had stopped by the WMD Guns booth simply to see some of the company's latest production rifles, learning about the SlingStock was a bonus. True to WMD’s focus on stand-out offerings, the SlingStock is aggressively designed yet comfortable to shoulder and lightweight, weighing in at just 19 ounces. The SlingStock fits standard-adjustment Mil-Spec buffer tubes, allowing for multi-position length-of-pull adjustability.
The integrated 1.25-inch Mil-W-408K Type III Class I webbed sling, with 800-pound breaking strength, measures 7 feet in length and can be extended from the stock for use as a single-point and two-point sling. Forward sling attachment to the handguard is easy with the included QD swivel-style sling mount; of course, a Picatinny rail clasp is included in SlingStock Elite model. When not in use, the sling can be quickly and easily be retracted back into the stock with the push of an ambi button; in fact all SlingStock controls are center-line for ambidextrous use. While the greatest benefit, and perhaps the purpose behind the design, may be for law enforcement, I can’t wait to get some quality time with this stock while nighttime hog hunting on expansive crop fields where long stalks are routine. wmdguns.com