Welcome to the Gun Show
Gun show--aging dinosaur or stalwart standby? In the age of Internet marvels, what is the role of the traditional gun show? And is it still a relevant format for vendors and consumers?
When I attended my first gun show I was immediately struck by the pervasive flea market/swap-meet/StarWars cantina vibe. A more colorful room of fascinating characters peddling their musty treasures and polymer wares, you will never find. If you are in need of some obscure military paraphernalia, a new bolt action for your Mosin Nagant, cheap AR parts or a pocket knife that plays the Star Spangled Banner when you deploy the blade, you my friend, are always going to get lucky at the gun show. In the same way some folks love going to the TJ Maxx and sleuthing out a bargain, there is a certain thrill in finding the item you want and negotiating a good deal. Additionally, you are able to handle the merchandise before laying down any cash. A certain amount of comparison-shopping and haggling can work in your favor, as well. However, you are confined to the vendors and products that are present and your ability to shop around, especially for high-quality or rare items is limited.
Not to be under-estimated is the value of the face-to-face interactions fostered by the gun show. For us basement-dwelling, pale-faced, computer nerds, some good old-fashioned socializing can be pretty priceless. (After a long day of internetting, I have a tendency to imagine humorous hashtags that I could insert into conversations with perfect strangers, which is usually an indication that I need to get out more). Meeting vendors and patrons alike, in real life, is just as important as browsing the merchandise, since the community is one of most vital and central aspects of gun ownership.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting a lot of supportive folks on the tubes that not only encourage my pursuits, but also put food in my mouth (via PHLster) and ideas in my brain. And while there are some trolls and Negative Nancies on the Internet, there exists an all-together different breed that inhabits gun shows. These guys are the O.G.s (Original Gunnies, that is) and while they might have a lot of knowledge and experience, they’re are not always hip to the changes that are rapidly reshaping the gun world. As a woman, I am frequently singled out, bombarded with bizarre advice, dismissed as incompetent, awarded numerous awkward complements and subjected to a barrage of curious stares. This seems particularly strange since more and more women are joining the ranks of American gun owners. Unfortunately, the gun show grandpas don’t seem to have gotten the memo. Case in point—while working a recent gun show with PHLster holsters, an enthusiastic man approached me and advised me to wear more brightly colored clothing to the next show. Why? Well in order to “highlight my assets” of course. Thanks, dude. I’ll be sure to do that. An interaction like that probably would have left a bad taste in my mouth for several days when I first got into guns, but I’ve learned to not let other people’s preconceptions get to me. I know why I go to gun shows and it’s certainly not to draw attention to myself or advertise “my assets” (unless of course, by “asset” you mean my “Smith and Wesson Shield 9mm”, which, by the way, I would be more than happy to show off to guys like that).
While I am thrilled that events exist where like-minded people can gather and buy, sell, trade and discuss firearms, I dream of a different kind of gun show. I would love to see craftsmen and trades-people get together and display hand-made, homegrown goods in an environment that welcomes all types of folks while minimizing bias and ego. Who knows? I might even wear some brightly colored clothing to such an event.