Recently, Harris Publications had the opportunity to visit and experience the first Concealed Carry Expo hosted by Gander Mountain and the Gander Mountain Academy. The Expo was an opportunity for self-defense-minded Americans to meet with various vendors and manufacturers like Remington, Beretta, Glock, Uncle Mike’s, Heckler & Koch, BlackHawk, Winchester, CZ-USA, Browning, Mossberg, Rossi, Benelli and Sig Sauer. Some very special guests were also available for customers to talk to, like noted shooter and instructor Rob Pincus, firearms training author Michael Martin and Armed American Radio host Mark Walters.
Shoot It Today
Visitors were able, and in fact encouraged, to try out a variety of pistols at the indoor range just steps away from the show tables. There was no “buy now, shoot later” guesswork, but as I heard several times from the vendors during the expo, “You can shoot it today if you want to.” Then the customer was handed a pistol, some ammo, eye and ear protection, and plenty of time on the live range. Several couples were present for the expressed purpose of finding a comfortable pistol that could be easily carried while still being accurate and comfortable to shoot.
One such couple, Lisa and Scott, tried out a Sig Sauer P238 on the range after Lisa decided she didn’t like the trigger pull on her current pistol. Lisa said, “I just found that I like the Sig Sauer P238! It is very easy to use, as I am petite, and with some semi-automatics, it’s very hard for me to manipulate the slide, or the trigger pull is too long. I wouldn’t have known that the Sig was perfect for me if I couldn’t have tried it out here!”
Gander Mountain Lives Outdoors
Gander Mountain runs the largest network of outdoor retail stores specializing in hunting, fishing, camping, outdoor recreation gear, and performance apparel and footwear. Gander Mountain also has an extensive online presence as well as a unique new and used online firearms business. Gander Mountain has about 120 stores that cover roughly half of the United States, which is more retail locations than Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops combined. The company not only offers a wide array of performance apparel and footwear, but additionally marine gear for fresh and saltwater anglers, and a huge array of firearms for hunting, sport and personal protection. All of these product categories are available in all of their distinctive stores, which feature a wilderness motif with high-joist ceilings, brick and stone accents and log-wrapped columns.
Gander Mountain strives to be every American’s outdoor store (their slogan is “We Live Outdoors”). They equip families with everything from sleeping bags, food, canoes and tents, and have one of the best displays of very reasonably priced firearms and ammunition available. But now six of their stores have state-of-the-art professional firearms training facilities—their Gander Mountain Academies.
Gander Mountain Academy
Located in six stores in five states (Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, Florida and Wisconsin), the Gander Mountain Academy (GMA) is designed to instruct shooters with classroom, virtual and actual firearms training. Using GMA’s virtual ranges as well as their 180- and 300-degree fully immersive training simulators, shooters can practice and be mentored by some of the best instructors in the country before sending their first rounds downrange. A student can learn the best stance, grip and aiming techniques without the fatigue, noise and expense of using live ammo. The virtual ranges use actual handguns that have been modified with lasers and fully recoil. No negative training is introduced—even magazine changes are identical to the real thing!
The virtual ranges are a huge hit for groups, birthday parties, company-teambuilding sessions and even bachelorette parties, but are routinely filled with students who take the $99 CCW classes. GMA’s CCW classes include virtual range time, the required live-range qualification by host state, as well as the excellent course book Basic Handgun & Concealed Carry Fundamentals ($27 value). Other GMA courses include Dynamic Defensive Handgun, Handgun Fundamentals (multiple levels), Hunter Safety, and Self-Defense Pepper Spray. Additionally, they host ladies’ nights and Trial Tuesdays, when significant range and simulator discounts are available.
Talking with GMA Director Chris Juelich, he noted, “These expos are better than going to a gun shop or even gun shows, because you can ‘test drive’ a wide variety of firearms before you pick out the one best for you. Unless you have friends with a lot of firearms with a nearby range, that is something you can’t normally do. When a shooter does decide on a particular pistol, we can close the deal with our huge selection of very competitively priced, in-stock firearms, ammunition and accessories and then teach them how best to use it all by our instructors at the Gander Mountain Academy!”