SHOT Show: Space Camp for Gun Nerds

Every January, the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) puts on a huge trade show open only to individuals in or affiliated with the gun industry (and only those over the age of 16, thank God).  It’s called SHOT Show and I’m currently working my way through my first one. New to this particular brand of firearm frivolity, I have spent the first couple of days thoroughly gob smacked.

First, Vegas—whiskey tango foxtrot?  The only adjective I can seem to summon about this town is stupid.  Or maybe retarded.  And I don’t necessarily mean it in a negative sense.  For example, yesterday I saw a light fixture that was designed to look like a three-dimensional spinning representation of a Russian hammer and sickle, made entirely of tiny crystals so it cast rainbows all over the walls of the restaurant it hung in.  My first thought was, “That is stupid cool!” There is no good reason for that totally retarded light to exist in the universe, but now that it does, I can admit that it is pretty rad.  And that doesn’t even begin to address the stupid icing on the retarded cake.  But that’s a whole other thing.

Anyway, here are a few observations on SHOT Show, thus far:

It’s actually a lot like space camp for gun kids, except the jocks were invited too and everyone mostly gets along.

Much like that Soviet lamp I mentioned before, there are great number of guns that basically serve no purpose other than being superfluously cool and SHOT Show displays pretty much every last one of them.

Casinos are extremely disorienting.  Gun shows are extremely disorienting.  Being lost in a gun show in a casino (not that it’s happened to me like every freaking time I try to go somewhere) is like a terrifying dream that you half don’t want to wake up from.

There’s a surprisingly high representation of young, clever, educated enthusiasts participating in the gun world in a productive, responsible way, including a growing number of women.  Having never been to SHOT Show before, I sense that it wasn’t always like it is now.  The internet community has posted a strong showing and seems to be taken seriously here in a way that is very encouraging.  And you thought YouTube was just for cute cat videos.

There’s a surprisingly low representation of scantily-clad women showcasing the merchandise, so to speak.  Not sure why they left the show hos behind this year, but I suspect it has something to do with the growing female market and an effort to cater to these new customers.

Despite the fact that trying to take in everything a show this big has to offer is totally exhausting and overwhelming, it’s absolutely impossible to walk past a display of custom AR-15s and short-barreled rifles and not touch them all.  It’s like not petting a box of newborn puppies.  It would make baby Jesus sad if you didn’t.

If you can imagine a kind of fun that entails getting repeatedly slapped in the face with magical rainbow unicorn tails from the time you wake up each morning until you fall exhaustedly into bed each night, that’s what SHOT Show feels like.  It hurts so good.

And now a photo that sums up the “work” I’ve been doing all week:

Just like petting puppies.
Just like petting puppies.

Girl, I got some things I wanna say to you..

Someone asked me the other day how long I’ve been into guns.  I was surprised when the words “two years” came out of my mouth.  It feels like just yesterday I was all, “Uh-uh.  No guns! Not up in here!”.  But then, you know, the times are a’changing.  Now my sweet Smith and Wesson Shield rests a mere sleepy arm’s length away from me every night and trips to the gun range are like candy for a greedy child.  I certainly don’t consider myself an expert (and truth be told, I have some qualms with that word, in the first place) but there are definitely a few things I’ve learned along the way that would have been helpful earlier in my journey.  So, I put together a little list of  things I wish I could go back and tell myself about shooting and the gun world. 

1.  You’re better at this than you think you are.  Stick with it.  Try not to get discouraged.

2.  Focus on the fun.  Gun safety is serious, but shooting guns is just plain, dumb fun.  Don’t get overwhelmed by all that tactical operator, extreme carbine, pistol manipulation,  super ninja, gun nut stuff.  You’re not going to be La Femme Nikita right off the bat.  (But seriously, some of that gun nut stuff is pretty rad and you should check it out on YouTube.  You’ll like it).

3.  Even though you don’t see many people in the gun world like you, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for you or that you aren’t providing a valuable perspective.

4. When your real-life friends and family give you horrified looks after you tell them you own guns, just smile sweetly and be patient.  You know you’re not crazy, they know you’re not crazy.  It will all work itself out.

5. When the cranky, old fart at the gun range tells you not to put your finger over the barrel of the gun while you’re shooting, smile sweetly and tell him to eat a bag of dicks.

6. You’re going to run into outdated thinking, bad attitudes, preconceived ideas, ignorance and outright disrespect just because you don’t fit into the “traditional gun owner” mold.  Eff that.  You’re not in it for those people anyway.  There is a community of supportive, encouraging people who are thrilled to count you among their ranks, and will  welcome you with open arms.  Be friends with them.

7.  Don’t rush into buying a gun for concealed carry.  Once you make up your mind that you’re going to carry, it’s easy to get impatient, but there are a lot of considerations and a lot of guns to choose from.  Don’t settle for something you don’t really like or isn’t comfortable to shoot.  Take your time or you’ll end up kissing a lot of frogs.

8.  You CAN carry concealed in (cute) women’s clothes! Do not despair! You don’t have to dress like a lady cop or a homeless person, and you don’t have to buy some Mickey Mouse, pink, sparkly gear just because that’s the ladies’ model.  Just put a little time and effort into it (You already like to shop.  How much of a hardship is this really going to be?) and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can hide under your t-shirt. (wink)

9.  Prepare to be underestimated.  Then prepare to not give a single shit.

10.  Listen to what everyone has to say about guns, but don’t believe anything as gospel.  The gun world is a rapidly evolving place filled with countless would-be experts, especially on the internet.  Many ideas that are espoused as facts are really opinions.  There’s also a lot of good information out there.  Do your own research.  Ask a lot of questions. Try things for yourself.

11. You will mostly learn by making mistakes, but that’s ok because it will still be plain, dumb fun.  Don’t let failures, mistakes or missteps spoil the pure joy of shooting.

What would you tell your former newbie self about shooting and guns?

Welcome to the Gun Show and my debut on GunSafety Pro

It looks like my September sabbatical has finally drawn to a close.  I’ve done things, gone places, talked to people, shot weapons and snuggled my cat (a lot).  Now I’ve amassed lots of fodder for posts.  First up is my take on gun shows.  I’ve attended quite a few as a customer and recently had the opportunity to participate in a couple of shows as a vendor.  It was an enlightening experience, to say the least.  You can read all about it here at Gun Safety Pro where I hope to be a contributing writer from now on.  Please share your thoughts on gun shows in the comments here or over at GSP.

In a similar vein, my friend Gabby of Armed Candy fame, posted this article a few days ago and it rang sadly true for me. No matter how much progress we make, it seems there are always these boneheads pissing on everyone’s parade.   Oh well.  I guess if we didn’t have guys like this, who would we all make fun of?

Shameless Self-Promotion and the Thunderdome

Some of you may have noticed that I can’t stop talking about Gun Nuts Media and the article that I have up on their site right now.  It’s true.  I literally Can. Not. Stop. Talking about it.  That’s because I’m currently engaged in an epic fight-to-the-death in the Gun Nuts Thunderdome with three other wildly talented writers to become the newest addition to their staff.  The winner will be determined by total number of page views, comments and social media shares on his or her post.  I’ve been training like Rocky all week and now, the gloves are coming off.

Previously, in the second stage of the contest (when there were still ten of us in these literary Hunger Games), we had to make a short video answering five questions laid out by El Presidente, Caleb Giddings.  The questions were as follows:

1) What is your favorite gun and why?

2) Why should I hire you?

3) Which is better: getting lots of attention for mediocre content with lots of flash, or getting very little attention for great content?  Why?

4) If you could change one thing about the current editorial style/publishing on Gun Nuts, what would it be?

5)Who would win in a fight, a T-Rex or a Sasquatch with an AK-47?

And here’s how I answered…

Obviously, I mean business.  Doesn’t that flag in the background just scream deposed dictator?

So, if you haven’t already, please go check out the article here and leave me a comment.    When I win, I will thank you all individually in my nationally televised acceptance speech (along with  my mom, my grandma, my deity, my cats and my make-up artist).  Thanks in advance for your participation.  Also, if you’d like to weigh in on any of the above interview questions, I’d love to hear your answers.  **Attention all Sasquatch experts: this one’s for you**

Bag Lady

If I was a rapper, I would say that today I am “ballin outta control”.  Sadly, I am not a rapper so I’ll just say that I’m having an awesome day.

For the past few months, I have been working on constructing small bags for concealed carry with varying levels of success.  In the last 24 hours however, I’ve completed two that I think are pretty good examples of what I am going for.

My goals in this project are to make a bag that is versatile (that is, can be carried in multiple kinds of outfits, all year round and is compatible with various models of pistols and/or holsters), stylish and comfortable.  Too much?  I figured it was best to set the bar high and see what I could achieve, rather than compromise right out of the gate.  My ideal bag meets all of the criteria above and that’s what I wanted, so that’s what I aimed for (Yeah, I’m making shooting puns.  I can’t help myself).  Overall, it has been pretty slow going.  I haven’t been able to find a sewing pattern that is close enough to what I want to actually be useful, so I’ve been making it all up as a go, which is alternately thrilling and exasperating.  My motivation for the project is constant though, since I hate having to leave my gun at home.  More so now that we are in the hot summer months and I can’t wear the PHLster skeleton holster that I love.  (Why, you ask?  One word: chafing).

The two models of bags I am working on now are based on a kind of fanny pack platform.  They utilize a belt or a strap to fasten around the user’s waist, and then a pouch that conceals the holstered gun within.  The result: you look like you’re wearing a stylish accessory and no one suspects you are packing the heat.  Win/win.

Here are a few photos to give you an idea of how they turned out:

You can see that in the smaller, rectangular bag, the user would have to supply their own sturdy gun belt.  I like this design, however it is limited to outfits that can be worn with a belt.  I’ve found this to be difficult in a skirt or a dress.  The other option is a little more versatile since it has a built-in strap that can function as a belt or a shoulder strap.  I very much like to carry bags in a cross-body configuration, so I designed this one to be able to be easily convertible between a belt bag and a cross-body bag.  The external pocket on the back opens on two sides, allowing easy access to your firearm.  I am currently using a piece of paracord that is sewn into the bag to hold my holster in place.

I am planning on doing a follow-up post, so I can show you how they look while in use and discuss the pros and cons of the designs.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions for improvements.

Also, special thanks to Philly Art Girl for the totally awesome Luger belt buckle FTW.

Wait, there’s a gun range in Manhattan??

Rachel Maddow at the gun range.

Thanks to GunMart Blog, I stumbled across this little bit of awesomesauce this morning.  It seems guns really are taking over the world, just not in the way fearful gun-control advocates think.   Firearms transcend race, gender, sexual orientation, and yes, even politics.  Seriously, if even the folks from Air America were taking field trips to the gun range in Manhattan, I feel a lot better about the future of 2nd Amendment rights in this country.  At least we can all agree that going to the gun range is a helluva lot better than yoga.

A Whole New World

You may have noticed that the site looks a little different.  There are some new categories at the top of the page that aren’t directly related to guns.  When I started RebeccaGuns, I didn’t have any intentions of turning it into a “lifestyle” blog.  I was primarily interested in documenting my experiences with firearms and the gun community.

However, as time has passed, I’ve noticed the effect that shooting has had on my attitude and approach to all kinds of things.  I think this is a phenomenon that deserves closer inspection.  So, I’m opening the blog up a little bit to include some other things that I like to do, and things that shooting has inspired and enabled me to do.  I’m hoping that the result is two fold– motivating me to do more awesome things to blog about and inspiring you guys to do all the cool things you want to do.

Expect photos, videos, guest posts by other awesome ladies,  delicious recipes (involving booze and bacon, most likely) and DIY projects.

Also, I know you all have the song from Aladdin stuck in your head now and I’m not sorry for that at all.

Some Greatest Hits; So Far.

I was going through the photo library on my computer recently, and realized that I now have about 18 months worth of photos that have never been used.  One of the best things about owning guns is how photogenic they are.  Sexy things–you really can’t help but ogle them.  So, I put together a little excerpt from my visual diary from the past two years.  Hope you guys enjoy them and trust, there will be more to come..

Unintended Consequences and Community

Starting a business is a crazy, wild ride.  It’s the kind of thing that you imagine will be a certain way, but once you’re in it, you realize everything is sort of the same, except now you are the asshole boss you’ve been trying to escape your whole life.  You are face to face with all of your hang-ups and worries and weaknesses and insecurities all day, every day.  There is no one to blame when things go poorly.  When you take a day off, you feel like a lazy jerk and when you work furiously into the the wee hours of the morning, you feel like you’ve barely scratched the surface.  You are Sisysphus, pushing that rock up that hill everyday.

Conversely, it’s awesome to be able to stay in your pajamas all day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those weakness and insecurities lately, and the benefits and draw-backs of this path I’ve chosen.  Up until now I’ve been writing about my experience in the gun world and what has brought me to this point.  I’d like to briefly tell you about some of the unintended consequences of getting involved with guns, like starting a business out of my house, and how they’ve shaped my life.

As is frequently the case in the course of growing up and sorting out all of one’s baggage, I was angry when I was younger.  I was angry for a long time about a lot of things that I perceived as unfair, unjust and out of my control, thus making me the tragic victim of my own life.  This caused me to be guarded around people.  Being guarded kept most people away, which I wanted, but it also made me lonely.  Loneliness made me sad and more guarded, which in turn, made me feel more like the tragic victim of my own life.  You see how this is going, right?

And then time passes and things go on.  And I begin to see that this strategy of guardedness isn’t working out for me.  I have this weird dead spot inside of me, and I’m not sure what to do about it.  I’m not really the kind of person who craves the company of others, but I do desire connection, and at this point, I have no idea how to make connections.  Luckily, I know one person in the world who really understands me and it’s my husband.  Unfortunately, we share a lot of the same hang-ups, including the guardedness.  So, we identify the problem and set to puzzling out some solutions.  We quickly realize that there are two concepts that keep coming up when we discuss what we’re looking for.  Those concepts are self-sufficiency and community.  We both want to be able to do/make/build/repair/learn more things.  We want to live in a way where we aren’t forced to depend on others for all of our needs.  At the same time, we want to use these skills to benefit the people around us and strengthen our relationships.

So, we are feeling very smart.  We’ve come up with a kick-ass solution to our problem.  Except we have no idea how we are going to accomplish these things.  And where are we going to find these people who will be our community?  I’m not trying to live in some commune or join a weird-ass cult.  I tell that to Jon.  He seems a little disheartened, as he’s apparently always cherished the idea of infiltrating a weird-ass cult and tearing it apart from the inside out. He has no shortage of ambition, my husband. He quickly rallies however, and we move on.

Soon after we reject the idea of building our own farm as too rash and ill-considered (we can barely grow herbs in the backyard), Jon creates a YouTube channel as a way to gather and share information about the new Kydex holsters he’s been making.  At the same time, we join our local gun club and start visiting about once a week. At first, it’s a little awkward.  We feel like outsiders and we’re not sure how to talk to people. But we approach these activities as enthusiasts.  Both of us are relatively new to guns and holster making and we just want to learn as much as we can.  Jon makes frequent videos, and shares everything he learns in the hopes that someone else watching might benefit from his experience.  People begin writing to him to tell him how much they like his channel and to share their experiences.  Other patrons at the range stop us to ask where we learned to shoot and if we’d like to try out their guns.  The owner of the range offers Jon a job.  More people find the YouTube channel, and instead of asking Jon for advice on how to make their own holsters, they offer to pay him to make one for them.  They are an incredibly supportive group, full of suggestions and encouragement.  Jon answers every question that is emailed to him and makes videos about each step of his process–nothing is secret or proprietary.  The YouTubers respond by sending gifts.  First it is a couple of white marking pencils for laying out the holsters.  Then it’s a wooden blank for making molds.  A few days later someone shows up at our house with a hand-made book press, clamps and a reaming tool.  He refuses to accept any compensation, insisting that Jon’s YouTube videos were payment enough.

We are astounded.  It seems that, somehow, in the place that seemed the least likely to us, we finally found our community.  And we found it while pursuing an activity that makes us more self-sufficient.  Through the process of learning something new, and being open and enthusiastic, we have suddenly met many of our life’s goals and made a whole new group of very loyal, generous friends.  And it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.  It seems that the trick for us, is to stay in that initial head-space of  curiosity and enthusiasm for the project, and not get too overwhelmed or scared of our own success.  There are a lot of pitfalls, and it’s definitely a tall mountain to climb, but I can honestly say, I’ve never been more excited.