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?