I'm rather uncharacteristically late with my holiday shopping this year, but we still have a few days left in Hanukkah, some shopping days left before Christmas, and some families who celebrate on a non-traditional schedule anyhow (one of mine is exchanging gifts on New Year's!). For those of you who are as behind as I am, I offer a few stocking stuffers for a beautiful shooter in your life - perhaps you. I'm going to focus on small craftswomen and craftsmen, since I like to support them as much as possible. Also, these are all products I'm personally familiar with in some way, so if I've left something out, it's only because I haven't gotten my paws on it yet to try it out for myself.
Anybody who's seen me on the range in the last year knows that I'm a big fan of Brilliant Backstraps - a colorful and glitzy add-on to any standard semi-automatic Smith & Wesson M&P Pistol (unfortunately, not the .22lr version or the Shield), as well as for the Sig Sauer P226 and P229. I'm one of the early testers of the product and in the spirit of full disclosure, got my first backstrap for free, but have since purchased others to outfit more of my collection. The best part of using Brilliant Backstraps, in my eyes, is that you can change them out easily and they don't impact the function of the gun. I talked to Tracy, the woman behind the glitter clouds, this morning and she tells me that you have until the end of the week to get your orders in for any standard backstrap if you want it by Christmas.
Unfortunately, this post is too late to make the Christmas ordering deadline for PHLster, a small Kydex holster shop in - surprise - Philadelphia, but gift certificates are available. And if you really can't wait, the same people behind PHLster have also released a series of DIY Kydex holster videos on YouTube as PhillyEDC. While their website selection is limited, they, like many shops, can work with you for custom pieces. It's always worth asking the question if you find a company you like because you might get surprised by what they can turn out for you if you are patient...an especially exciting option given the many colors of Kydex now available. I was in PHLster's shop when they crafted the competition rig for my 1911 and can attest to their quality work (they're also my holster sponsor, so there's that, but I truly do like the gear they've done for me).
If leather is more to your taste, there are many similar small shops out there. I had some input on JesseGunLeather's line of brightly colored and patterned women's holsters, and love the not-basic-black looks of their products. It's too late to order in time for Christmas from many of them but even getting in an order can be a gift when wait times are measured in the 6-8 month time frame for makers like Milt Sparks, who made one of my favorite holsters, the Versa Max 2.
Since many of us have too much "stuff" cluttering our range bags, another option is to give the gift of training. Whatever level your giftee is at, there's training available for him or her - from a basic NRA skills class to a private or small group lesson from someone like me or another local training group to stretching out more advanced skills, it's out there. For women especially, it can be a treat if you can find women's-only classes. I'm incredibly excited to be teaching at Breaking Barriers, A Girl & A Gun Shooting League's 2013 conference. Spots are still open, and a membership in the club or a check for conference fees might be just the treat for a woman shooter in your life. I'm also very pleased to announce that I'll be hosting the amazing Kathy Jackson of Cornered Cat for a women's defensive pistol class at my home range in Southeastern Pennsylvania, in April 2013. A bit of a plug, yes, but training of any form is still a great gift...and one that can be very forgiving of being a procrastinating shopper.
Having pretty gear doesn't conflict with being a good shooter, and getting top-notch training is part of what makes for more fun on the range. I've only listed a few things above, but anyone who's received a MidwayBrownellsCabellas catalog knows there's a lot of choices out there. What will you give to the beautiful shooter in your life? That's you! What do you want for the holidays?