Going Digital In The Firearms Market

A new category has been growing quickly in the market and it made its presence felt during this year's NRA show in Indianapolis. High-tech offerings — from firearms accessories and gear to online services for just about any shooter’s needs — were numerous and popular with the attendees.
Going Digital In The Firearms Market

Everyone knows that guy who not only doesn’t own a smartphone, but he’s proud of that fact and will happily tell you how he only wants a phone that makes phone calls without all those other bells and whistles. Everyone knows someone who wonders why everyone else thinks they need so many gizmos and gadgets to get through their daily life when no one had even dreamed of such things a few short years ago.

While maybe not Luddites smashing up machinery that they believe is stealing jobs from honest workers trying to earn an honest wage, these late adopters are in no hurry to join the technological revolution that has put portable computers more powerful than those in the Space Shuttle into the pockets of America’s teenagers.

The exhibit floor of the 2014 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits here was packed with the usual booths and displays filled with the latest and greatest guns and accessories in the firearms market. But a new category has been growing quickly in the market and it made its presence felt. High-tech offerings, from firearms accessories and gear to online services just about any shooter’s needs, were numerous and popular with the attendees.

Perhaps most demonstrative of this merging of today’s technology and the shooting industry is the iScope (www.iscope.com). This device is an adapter that allows a shooter to attach his smartphone directly to the eyepiece of their standard riflescope. The phone’s camera is used to display the scope’s output on the phone’s large screen. Rather than squinting one-eyed into the optic’s eyepiece, the shooter gets a larger look at the target and can easily shoot with both eyes open. Additionally, with an iScope, the phone can be used to record video for later review or sharing on social media.

The iScope fits the majority of scopes on the market today, using four felt-tipped screws for an easy but secure attachment that won’t mar the scope’s finish. Models are available for a variety of smartphones, including Apple iPhones and Samsung’s lineup. Backplates for other models can be fitted to the iScope when a new phone is purchased or when new models such as the iPhone 6 arrive in the hands of consumers. It’s available in black and in woodland camouflage.

A new variant of the iScope, the iSpotter, is designed for use with spotting scopes, telescopes and binoculars. It can be used to easily record video or take pictures on the smartphone. With retail prices of $120 for the iScope and $80 for the iSpotter, these devices are attractive options for gun shops looking to take advantage of the fact that nearly every one of their customers is carrying a smartphone all day, every day.

MyCaseBuilder (www.mycasebuilder.com) is a brilliant way to design custom foam inserts for cases. MyCaseBuilder allows the user to design a custom foam insert for nearly any case, submit the design and receive a finished product in about a week. Shooters can use MyCaseBuilder in conjunction with a custom foam insert design or foam for a case that the user already owns can be designed and ordered. Many of the most common cases are listed in the site’s database for an easy match, but if an unlisted case is owned, MyCaseBuilder.com helps guild users through the measurement process to ensure a perfect fit. Foam with custom dimensions for other applications can also be created. The pricing is based on foam size, not on the number of cuts, so users can get any layout they desire for the same price regardless of the complexity of their design.

MyCaseBuilder.com includes many standard foam layouts to be used as starting points and close to 200 shapes of guns and other objects in its shape database. In addition to guns, cutout shapes for bow and crossbows, cameras and lenses, computer hardware, knives, computers, tools, and many other objects are available to be dragged and dropped into the design. Taking a simple handgun layout, for example, a user can quickly and easily drop in cut-outs for additional magazines, ear and eye protection, or anything else that fits. Or, if desired, the designer can start from scratch and add shapes one by one.

If a particular item isn’t available in the online shape database, the user has the option to use MyCaseBuilder’s new Photo Trace feature. Photo Trace allows the user to take a photograph of their unlisted object, import the photo into the software, scale it to appropriate size, and drop it into the foam design. This feature can be especially valuable for gun owners with attached accessories. Cases with custom foam for guns mounting optics, lasers and lights, vertical grips, and more can be easily designed and ordered for the perfect case.

In addition to the high-tech customization that the service offers to gun owners and others, MyCaseBuilder also has a Retailer Program that offers up to 20% on qualified referrals. This essentially allows gun shops to offer custom foam inserts without having to do the work or carry any inventory. This service deploys easily and could be an attractive value-added service for sellers of guns and cases. Since MyCaseBuilder isn’t limited to gun cases, of course, a shooter or a shooter’s friends and family could have many other uses for the service. Helping customers build the perfect case, whether for guns, cameras, or other hardware, could potentially attract new business and increase customer retention.

The miniaturization of electronics is what has made powerful smartphones possible, but there are many additional applications where tiny electronics can take something normal and turn it into a device that almost seems like it came out of a science fiction movie. One such example on display here was the Wild Ear hearing boosters (www.wildear.com), custom fit in-ear hearing protection that also offers hearing enhancement. Wild Ear essentially takes electronic hearing protection, combines it with hearing aid technology and crams it all into a tiny custom-fit package that delivers great performance and all-day comfort.

The end user utilizes a home kit to create a silicone impression that is sent to Wild Ear where it is scanned with 3D modelling software and built to perfection with a 3D printer in about 10 days. The result is a perfect fitting insert that not only feels great but will provide the best protection possible. They’re color coded for left and right ear.

The Wild Ear Sound Guard microprocessor compresses damaging sound levels in as little as three miliseconds. It activates every time it detects sound levels above 90 decibels and makes a gunshot sound like a cap gun. The battery lasts for up to 500 hours.

Three Wild Ear models are now available. The Master Series has four sound enhancement programs to choose from and adjustable volume up to five times normal. The Master Series also has a venting system to help eliminate any “plugged ear” sensation that the user might experience.

The Shooter Series is designed specifically for shotgunners who need quality hearing protection but want the competitive advantage of being able to hear the bird launch without bulky ear-muff style protection. The Shooter Series has two digital hearing enhancement programs available and the same adjustable of the Master Series.

The Bowhunter Series doesn’t include the Sound Guard noise protection since bowhunters don’t require it, but two digital hearing enhancement programs are available and the Bowhunter Series features the same venting system as the Master Series for even more comfort. As in the other Wild Ear models, volume is adjustable up to five times normal level.

Other technological services on display in Indianapolis included ManageURiD (www.manageurid.com/nra), an identity protection service that employs proprietary technology to help citizens review and control the amount of personal information available on the internet. Three levels help users manage their online privacy. Detection shows users just how much of their information is available on the internet. Removal helps users wipe their personal information from sources that sell it. Finally, Protection monitors the web for the inevitable reappearance of previously-removed data and scrubs it out again. Gun owners, among others, are rightfully concerned about eroding personal privacy in today’s connected society, and services such as ManageURiD can help keep things under control.

Protecting personal information on the World Wide Web is one thing — protecting a person across the wide world is another. Global Rescue (www.globalrescue.com) was showing its various worldwide assistance plans here. Hunters in remote locales, adventurers exploring the globe, and vacationers in exotic but sketchy destinations can find themselves in serious trouble with little or no warning. Whether the problem is medical or security related, Global Rescue is on standby to provide advice and guidance, send aid and facilitate travel and care, or, if the situation demands, perform a field rescue or security extraction. Various plans for individuals or families — ranging from seven days to year-round — provide coverage and peace of mind when the risks are real and the stakes are high.

High tech has become ubiquitous in our daily lives, and it’s not surprising that many of the same types of gear and services are being made available to gun owners. Ballistics calculator apps for a smartphone, electronic thermal vision, advanced GPS and other gear that not long ago would have seemed at home in the movies is here today. Though the stars of the show will always be the guns and accessories, this year’s NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits in Indianapolis showed just how wide ranging the tech revolution in the firearms market is and how quickly it’s picking up digital steam.


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