Scenes from a Gun Show


This past weekend, I had the opportunity to ingest a super-sized slice of Americana.

I rented a table at a local gun show for the weekend to sell some of my books. Obviously my primary goal was to break my back for a weekend to provide for the family. Hanging out at a gun show for two straight days was purely an unplanned fringe benefit, and I’m sticking by that story.

You hear a lot on the news about gun shows, and how delightfully evil they are. Criminals buying guns, thermite grenades, and TOW missiles with not a single background check to be seen for miles. While I’ve attended dozens, OK, hundreds, I’ve never invested the time to do some good old-fashioned crowd watching.

Being a lousy journalist, but somewhat good at stalking, I decided to make some notes throughout the weekend on my observations. This is quality science folks, because I was an Economics major in college. Real numbers economics, not home economics, so I can count reliably to nearly three digits.

Here’s what I saw.

Is it legal to sell shooting books without a background check?
Is it legal to sell shooting books without a background check?


Percentage of people wearing hats. As one might expect, about 75 percent of all hats were ball cap types, but a surprisingly low percentage were camo or emblazoned with things like “don’t tread on me” or “molon labe.” Most were logoed with the wearer’s favorite sports team. I looked hard, but did not see any hats promoting Poysippi, Wisconsin’s Legion of Broom curling team. Rounding out the hat community were a good number of floppy jungle hats, Panama Jacks, and bandanna head wraps.


Percentage of attendees who were children.


Percentage of attendees that the Brady Campaign refers to as children when they recite crime statistics. This demographic actually represents people aged 17 to 25.


Percentage of women attending the show. Yes, I did numerous aisle counts and averaged the results. I was that bored. Guys, if you saw me looking at your wife or girlfriend, it was all in the name of science. Really.


Percentage of women working in booths at the show.


Number of (obviously) pregnant women.

Fortunately, these were the only guns pointed at me this weekend.
Fortunately, these were the only guns pointed at me this weekend.


Number of men who appeared to be pregnant.


Number of pounds of Accurate 1680 reloading powder available at the show. I even cheated and made the booth tour before the general public came in Saturday morning. If you’re wondering why Accurate 1680 is so important to me, it does a fine job with subsonic 300 Blackout cartridges. The slower burn creates more available gas volume, which helps cycle an AR action more reliably when using these pussycat loads.


Number of times I heard someone demonstrate a Taser. You know what I’m talking about, right? When the hucksters hawking these devices set them off to attract buyers to their booth? Schkzzzzzzzzzt! The .72 Taser noise resulted from a passerby punching the salesman in the throat mid-demo.


Ratio by which University of South Carolina fans outnumbered Clemson fans. Come on Tigers, where were you?


T-shirts spotted that read “Kill bad guys like a champ today!” OK, so that one might be a little insensitive, but I have to admit it made me laugh out loud.


Number of overpriced used guns.

Not a single one of these rifles came equipped with a grenade launcher.
Not a single one of these rifles came equipped with a grenade launcher.


Number of times someone under the age of 21 called me “sir.” I instinctively looked for my dad every time this happened.


Number of times someone over the age of 21 called me “sir.” I told these folks I was not as old as I looked.


Number of shooting rampages that occurred during the show.


Number of “molon labe” shirts and/or tattoos.


Number of gang tattoos spotted.


Number of machine guns with grenade launchers sold under the table. Nah, just kidding, that would be a ridiculous assertion—something a hysterical anti-gun activist might say. I only counted 342 illegal machine gun sales, and barely half of those came with grenade launchers.

Remember folks, friends don't let friends buy cheap holsters!
Remember folks, friends don’t let friends buy cheap holsters!


Number of sets of blueprints for the Stars Wars Millennium Falcon spaceship. What appeared to be very detailed plans were printed on the front and back of a guy’s t-shirt. As an unrelated side note, the male wearer was accompanied by a male friend and no dates or other women were spotted within 25 feet of the wearer.


Number of crappy holsters for sale. I admit to being a holster snob. I wrote a whole book about gun holsters (The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters) so I’m passionate about the topic. It saddens me to see so many people buying junk holsters at gun shows because I just know they’re going to end up as scrap. When folks try to use them on a regular basis, they’ll get frustrated. Or worse, they might suffer the consequences of a dropped gun or negligent discharge. Remember folks, friends don’t let friends by junk holsters. That’s like fueling your new Ferrari with unstrained fat from Jack in the Box deep fryers.

Infinity plus 3

Size of the male ego. If had a nickel for every time a lady picked up one of my books, especially The Insanely Practical Guide to Reloading, and said to her male companion, “Hey honey, check this out, haven’t you been wanting to learn how to reload?” Almost without fail, when a lady suggested it, the man gave the “I already know everything I need to know” head shake. Many of the guys who did buy books went so far as to say something like “Well, we can all learn something new, right? I probably won’t learn anything new from this book, at least it’s not that much money,” as if they have to apologize for not having mastered the collective knowledge of the universe. Ah, men. We’re an obstinate and prideful bunch aren’t we?

Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.

Read More