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.

The Concealed Carry Holster Fashion Show

A couple of weeks ago, after a long day in the PHLster workshop, I hurriedly packed a bag and made some final travel arrangements.  I went to sleep that night with the kind of anticipation that children have on the night before Christmas.  But it wasn’t visions of saccharine sprites dancing in my head.  I dreamt of skillfully concealed pistols and empowered women exercising their rights.  (Ok, I might have also dreamt of fighting off a malicious invasion of angry cyborg cats, but that’s for another article).

Recycled brass centerpieces at the CC Fashion Show

The 1st Annual Women’s Concealed Carry Holster Fashion Show was held at the Churchtown Firehouse Banquet Hall in rural Hudson, New York (or thereabouts. My navigation couldn’t accurately locate the spot within 5 miles) on July 21st.  By all accounts, the sold-out event, put on by Trish Cutler with help from Kitty Richards, Gracie McKee and Annette Evans, was an overwhelming success, and an example that is sure to be emulated across the country.  A packed room of women, and quite a few men, listened to speakers give talks on a wide range of gun and self-defense related topics, browsed merchants’ tables, and watched women of various shapes, sizes and ages demonstrate some of the most popular holsters on the market today.

A packed house in upstate New York.

The fashion show itself started with a demonstration on proper drawing and re-holstering techniques including from-the-hip, cross draw and sitting.  Gracie McKee gave excellent commentary and stressed the importance of becoming proficient with these techniques.

Annette Evans demonstrates proper draw and stance.

Then the fun part started.  The models, including Gabby Franco of Top Shot fame, sashayed up the improvised runway and onto a small stage to an eclectic mix of gun-themed music including NAS’s “Got Yourself at Gun” (which cause an embarrassing out-burst of laughter on my part).   Most did a quick twirl before revealing where the holster holding a replica gun was concealed.  Meanwhile Gracie provided info on the make and model of each holster.

Master of Ceremonies, Gracie McKee

The enthusiasm and camaraderie in the audience was palpable, and as each new model came out a flurry of whispers erupted around me, excitedly trying to guess where the gun was.  It was an exercise in futility though, since the guns were all so well-hidden that I don’t think anyone was able to identify them through the models’ clothing.  Some of my favorites were the shoulder holster– a Galco I believe, one of Looper Brand’s newer offerings, the Marilyn and the various holster purses (since I have a special interest in lady gun bags).

A model displaying a concealed carry purse.

Seeing how these holsters look and operate on a real woman, in real life was tremendously helpful to me, and I’m sure, many of the other women at the show, as well.  I saw many taking notes on their napkins and conferring with each other about the pros and cons of the various offerings.

For me, while I found the event to be very informative and interesting, it was equally gratifying getting to meet and talk with so many other gun advocates in the community.  The ladies behind popular gun blogs Packing Pretty, Armed Candy , new kid on the block, Walther and Me and the lovely [armedinstilettos] whose t-shirt you might recognize from my video, were all in attendance, as well as two other alumni of The History Channel’s Top Shot.  Among other things, we all bonded over the discomfort of having to leave our guns at home. (Note to the state of New York: your gun laws are bogus).

Lady gun bloggers unite.

As we saw earlier in the summer with the much-Tweeted-about Girls Gun Getaway, any gathering of pro-gun females both boosts morale among lady shooters, and garners good publicity for the gun world.  On a personal level also, it’s tremendously energizing to meet others who are working passionately towards the same goal of empowering women to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

The lovely Gabby of Armed Candy.

I had a number of enlightening and thought-provoking conversations during the brief time I spent in Hudson that I know will stick with me, and inform both my writing and my shooting.  I can’t wait to share some of these new insights that are percolating in my over-caffeinated brain with you guys.  I sincerely hope that events like this catch on across the country, in the wake of the success in New York.  There is already talk of this becoming an annual event in Hudson, and I am delighted at the possibility.  I can’t wait to see more holster options and hopefully, to meet more of you guys at next year’s Concealed Carry Fashion Show.

For  more info on the show, check out Gracie’s post on Packing Pretty and Gabby’s slide show of the holsters that were featured.