Well, back home, with a nights sleep in my own bed, so I’m semi-coherent…
I will preface this with the fact that this is the 7th convention I have attended, starting with Pittsburgh in 2011.
The convention center was big enough, but parking was a PITA! There was a bit of a wait to get credentials, but once that was done, it was time to walk the floor. I like to start in the collector’s area first, and as always, the various organizations/individuals have some beautiful displays and truly classic arms. I’m not going to bore you with them, but I’ll put just one up…
1848 second model Colt Dragoon… There were 13 more, all from the Jim and Carrie Eplen collection! And according to Mr. Eplen’s son, these are the ‘nicer’ ones!!!
For all of the mantra of ‘striker fired, plastic, pick your caliber, pick your color, etc.’ there were an awful lot of folks with 1911s or upgrades for 1911s. And it seemed like most of the booths had at least one variant of an AR-15 in it. I never really saw anything in any booth that jumped out and grabbed me as the ‘next great thing’.
There were the usual oddities, three barreled shotguns, etc. The biggest change I’ve seen is the number of training devices. A couple of years ago there were one or two laser training devices, now there are at least ten. They can replace dry fire, which is boring as hell with various challenges, and you get to see where the shot hits, which helps to ‘finish’ the dry fire, as it were. One that intrigued me was by Laser Ammo Training Technologies, it was a little tripod device. It could be set as a timer, with various sized ‘holes’ for the laser to penetrate, simulating various ranges of shots.
There were a number of clothing suppliers, 5.11, Vertex, TruSpec and others, catering to hunters, CCW, and active outdoors. Prices were up a little, but not out of line with the previous years. Same for the folks with backpacks, carry packs, etc. The booths for holsters were packed all day, every day, with lots of sales from what I saw. The women’s off body carry selections seemed to be more ‘mainstream’, but I’ll leave those discussions to others.
Lots of optics, various sight makers, bullet/ammo suppliers, and ‘accessories’ (yes, the AR is TRULY Barbie for men, and now women).
Kubota and Yamaha had booths, hawking their ATV lines, small generators, and ‘power’ products for the field. There was also an outfitter’s area, along with a collector’s area prominently called out on the maps, allowing people to zero in on those if they so desired.
There was also a LOT less swag… I didn’t see any free t-shirts, really good pins (every manufacturer used to give those out routinely), and most of the ‘show discounts’ were 5-10%. where in the last few years, they have been considerably higher.
But a more noticeable change was the demographics over the last couple of years. Less older/retired veterans, although I did see a couple of WWII vets in wheelchairs. Sadly, many were saying “Joe” or “Charlie” just couldn’t make it this year, or he’d passed. There was definitely a more fit crowd, younger, and more focused on specific items. and a lot of them (both male and female) are veterans, unless I miss my guess, based on the times I heard the words duty, honor, and responsibility in various conversations.
The other thing I’ve noticed is an increase in female participation, no longer being drug along by hubby, but dragging them along, or by themselves, sometimes with baby in a stroller. And they know what they want, as noted by Lawdog! Also, more women are participating in or featured in the lectures, training discussions, etc. Julie Golob was featured in a stand up on Friday, and a number of others were working various booths. Nothing like the booth babes of old, these women KNOW what they are doing, they are the subject matter experts, and can outshoot most of us! 🙂
I also saw a larger percentage of ‘minorities’, if you will. Again, knowledgeable, many of them veterans, and continuing to shoot. Everyone was, as always, very polite, and accommodating, especially for those with kids, or handicaps. To me, this is a win! And a big one! Shooting is a big tent, and the NRA will never please everyone, because of the diversity in the shooting community, but to see the mix at the convention makes me think folks are becoming more proactive.
As always, I like to talk to the LEOs and service people who support the show, and everyone I spoke with were very complimentary of the crowds. They cleaned up after themselves, there were no incidents, and most of the LEOs were happy since the local perps were ‘on vacation’ while we were in town. And a couple of the LEOs were thankful for the thanks and good wishes they had gotten on the floor and while outside on patrol.
There were protesters and counter protesters, but they were kept well away from the Convention Center itself. I talked to one mid-60ish lady and her daughter who had gone over there. She is a retired school superintendent, who lives out in the country, west of Fort Worth. Her comments were words to the effect that the protesters don’t have a grip on reality. They don’t live in the country, where it’s a 30 minute trip to Walmart, and the closest LEO can be a half hour away. She and her daughter were both carrying, and she smiled when she said, “They would probably have had a hissy fit if they knew.”
She also said the protesters were outnumbered by the LEOs and outnumbered 2:1 by the counter protesters. And the media was taking ‘close’ shots to ensure the frame was full of protesters, not showing the open area all around them. My take is that she was ‘not’ impressed by them.
I talked to a younger couple, probably early 30s, who were wanting to start precision rifle shooting. They were focused, had done their research, and were narrowing down their choices after actually holding, looking at various rifles, glass, and ammunition. And they had a budget, and were sticking to it!
Another young couple were standing outside and I asked them what they had thought, and the young lady said, “It was sensory overload! I’d never realized there were so many choices!” Her hubby nodded, “I came to look at two things, and I’m going away thinking about thirty options, and how we can incorporate them, and get the training we want.”
The NRA Instructor update was good, and there was a new signed MOU that came out yesterday evening, so things are moving in a good direction!
Lastly, while not official, the ‘guess’ on attendance is 87,000, which would be a new record. And based on the crowds, I can believe it. It was rainy Friday, and a workday, and the aisles were crowded at 1000 in the morning!
And it looks like Ollie North is going to be the next NRA President…