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Caveat Emptor – The Gun Show

I went to my first gun show in a couple of years today. The reason its been a couple of years is that the last one I went to left a lot to be desired as well. The gun show is definitely a bastion of the American gun culture. Unfortunately, it seems as if it has begun to reflect The larger American culture a bit too much. Lots of cheap guns, cheap gear, worn out surplus, cheap jewelry, the obligatory jerkey stand, a couple of crowd drawing Class III guns and lots of knock off products. I think the unifying theme is “cheap.” Aside from the low quality offerings there were plenty of counterfeits available as well. I saw loads of look-alike optics and lasers that were marked as the real thing, at less-than-possible prices. Naturally, there were also products obviously manufactured for, and marked as airsoft, being sold alongside the real thing just hoping to draw a huckster in looking to save a buck. I know a lot of airsoft enthusiasts get their necks all out of joint when I talk about it but it is the elephant in the room. So long as someone builds a realistic facsimile of a desirable item, someone else is going to try and pass it off as the real thing. Diamonds, Gold, Airplane Parts or Gun Accessories, no one wants to buy a fake.

I’d love to be able to show pics of what I am talking about, but thanks the main stream media shooting undercover videos of attempts to circumvent laws not a gun show in America will let you take photos. Understood.

For the average user, many of these low cost/quality products will be just fine. A trip to the range once a year to show off that pimped out black rifle won’t test the limits of many knockoffs. But, if you are an armed professional, don’t compromise. Make sure you are purchasing quality no matter where you are shopping. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to work.

Unfortunately, it seems the gun show has become nothing more than a variant of a weekend flea market.

We’d love to hear your gun show stories. And, let’s not forget the comments you hear at a gun show. Some of them are priceless. Why don’t you share them in the comments section?

28 Responses to “Caveat Emptor – The Gun Show”

  1. TM says:

    The last show I was at the local “militia” had a booth. They were all fat and nasty, wearing broke ACU’s, with five o’clock shadows, and looking for more volunteers. Then there were a few rednecks who were selling Nazi memorabilia a few booths down. Sorry, but that’s not my cup of tea.

  2. Brian burner says:

    RK gunshows in GA seem to have a few decent dealers. Aside from the crap you mentioned, last one I went there had one guy with a few G3s in great condition, along with a guy who makes his own beautiful custom knives. Eastman gun shows seem to be exactly as you mention though, and I will never again go to one.

  3. Chase says:

    The Eastman show in Savannah, GA a few weeks back was exactly as you describe. I only went to stock up on Georgia Arms subsonic .40 ammo. There was some XM193 for $300 per 1000 round box but I didn’t have the money. But it was mainly crap and the Nazi memorabilia guy was indeed there with flags, daggers, Lugers and P38s.
    I went to the Wannemacher show once in Tulsa in the mid-90s (2100 tables) and THAT was a gun show! The one at the Knob Creek Shoot I attended was good too.

  4. Joe says:

    Pretty much agree with the article and everything posted above. I just go to people watch and see if I can grab one thing I “need” for cheap. This year it was a Glock field knife, $25 knife and I was done.

  5. Duke says:

    When Billy Joe comes to the table you are assisting at (selling legit stuff: Glock, Magpul, Colt, LMT, etc.), looks at the Gemtech Suppressors for sale (ATF booth 4 tables down) and says, really loud; “HellFIRE, I can make these out of washers, pipe, and a hose spicket!”… …”Sir, would you please loudly discuss felonies at another table, please?”

  6. Deepy says:

    Easier said than done. Everybody is looking for best deal for their money. Almost no vendor is making side-by-side comparison of their products against competition, logically.

  7. Brent says:

    Went to a couple shows in the central TX area myself today:
    -Nazi stuff_check
    -Knock off optics and accessories_check
    -Old guys swapping BS military stories_check
    -Airsoft junk everywhere_check
    -cheap blades everywhere_check
    -crowded aisles_check

    Both shows, about 50 miles apart, absolutely mirrored each other. I am fixed for the next few years until my curiosity gets the better of me again.

  8. Martin says:

    It depends on what you are looking for. If military grade gear is the goal they are a bad choice, but if are looking for a good price on a Remington 870 they are perfect.

  9. John Denny says:

    Tha last shows I really liked were in Nashville, back in my Army days. Now it just seems like none of the sellers really understand that there is an internet now. They all charge too much for things I can get on-line. There is always some jackass trying to tell me their prices are lower than wholesale, blah blah blah. I really don’t think most sellers understand how savy the gun nuts are now-a-days. They usually don’t have enough business sense to understand that if you sell for less, you sell more, which equates to going home with money, instead of inventory, which is what I see most of them do.

    Nothing grinds me more than a seller trying to blow smoke up my ass. My most recent example of that was the guy selling the SIG 556 with green furniture. It was supposed that they got a great deal, and the green was extremely rare, blah blah, but they still wanted $400 more that what I knew they could be had for from GunBroker.

    I really feel the internet and the flea show atmosphere will be the death of the gunshow. They used to be fun, but now, I could care less if I miss one.

  10. Stefan S says:

    Sounds like the Fayetteville Gun and Knife shows. Crap equipment. Cheap knives, not enough ammo. Chicom optics. And a bunch of Neo- Confederate rejects who forgot who won!

  11. Matthew K. says:

    I have issues with being muzzle-swept 100+ times in an an outing, plus watching the average knucklehead picking guns up off the table, their fingers go straight to the triggers… unnerving.

  12. Matt says:

    Same thing at the gun shows in Knoville. With the latest one including a smart guy who blew off his own fingers with a Kimber. Special Ed apparently thought that the “no loaded firearms” signs didn’t apply to him. Best part is that it was a vendor showing off his personal arm. Dropped the mag, forgot that there was one in the chamber and pulled the trigger… all this about 10 yards away from me. Enough for me thanks bye.

  13. ScottP says:

    The only thing I will even look for at a gunshow is something unusual vintage or curio and relic. M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, matching number K98k, etc., or volume pricing on ammo. Everything else is garbage and candied nuts.

    Since the birth of the Internet, you can mail-order good stuff from reputable vendors and shop prices pretty well.

    I still go to gun shows as a sociology study. For a five dollar entrance fee, it’s cheaper than the zoo, and I can get panzer marches on CD for a few bucks more.

  14. Carlo says:

    You’ve must have went to the VB Gun Show. I had a table or two at the Norfolk one where we had SORD, TD, Liquid, Trijicon, KAC, Leupold, Eotech, Harris Bipod, etc for sale =)

  15. CJ says:

    Re: the airsoft comment, like any sport you’ve got the geardo wannabe dickheads, and you’ve got decent players. Decent players usually also splash out for real kit, because:
    1. Real kit fits better, unless you’re 5’7″ and weigh under 120lbs
    2. Real kit lasts longer. I went through 3 sets of combat trousers before I splashed out for Crye ones; those have lasted me 4 years of playing 1-2 times per month. Same for pouches, tactical nylon, etc etc etc – I always buy real just because the cheap stuff rarely lasts. Nothing like false economy to make you waste money.
    3. Real kit works better. Even playing airsoft, cheap chinese knock-off optics fog up or don’t work. And whilst safety is less of an issue with Airsoft, it is still an issue – nothing quite like watching some schmuck with cheap chinese copy goggles taking a bb and shatter. Yeah, you should have paid $10 more for the real ballistic-tested goggles, bud.
    4. Real kit looks better. As it’s a game, cosmetics matter, and the real kit just looks better.

    Since it’s a GAME that I enjoy PLAYING, I will take it all with a sense of humor, especially if someone who does for real what I PRETEND to do wants to make fun of me. My wife already teases the hell out of me for playing with guns with my friends in the woods, I’m sure I can take it if someone on the internet teases me about my hobby. 🙂

    Re: gun shows – I like not being shot, not being muzzle-swept, and I can get my gear for my sport cheaper online anyways. And I like not being associated with sub-humans who tend to go to these things.

  16. Vic says:

    Yeah, they are pretty disappointing. It’s a shame too, because when I was a kid gunshows were really great. Now days it’s morons, thugs, and wannabes. It’s almost like a the home shopping network and ebay screwed and gave birth to the uber let down that is todays gunshow. High prices, broke shit, and too many actual dealers. It’s sad when my last score was an LBT pouch $5 below retail. I think that a lot of the problem rests in the fact that soooo many of the tables are actual dealers of some sort and there are less and less private sales tables. Just a hunch. I tell you, if someone could organize a show that hit 12 major cities across the US and only allowed legit dealers and encouraged private sellers and LEO/MIL attendance… man I see some serious success. Until then if your out west the Small Arms Review Show in Phoenix, AZ is generally GTG.

  17. Bandit says:

    I hate gun shows. The uninformed “Guns r kewl” crowd, completely ignorant, creepy-ass patrons, and vendors that prey on them.

    Example: At the last show I went to I was standing there with my girlfriend and her nephew while I was trying to bug a new Sig and had to endure the sight of the vendor next to me selling an Olympic Arms tricked out with UTG gear and Leapers optics for $1,300 while the buyer talked about how “effin SWEET that laser and ‘quick-clip’ on his new ‘machine gun’ were”. Then I was informed that some creeper in the crowd appearently groped both my girlfriend and her nephew while walking past us.

    Never. Again.

  18. SSD says:

    This time out, my favorite line, besides the chick who wanted to know what type of jacket I was wearing, was “One day…I’m gonna get one of them 308 AR-15s.”

  19. Neal says:

    I live in the former republic of Dixie, or so most gunshow goers claim. Not a lot of Nazi stuff but a whole lotta derps and wannabes. Like Billy Joe who pulls out a homemade suppressor (black electrical tape wrapped for extra tacti-cool points) at the Title II dealer and says “You wanna trade? It ain’t registered or nuthin’!”Or the thugs that think an SKS that took a dip in the Tapco catalog and came out soaking wet is the best thing sincle sliced bread. Or the Monster cap-wearing pants-sagging whiteboi D-bags who drag their mildly attractive girlfriends with them to show their “intimate” (lolololol) knowledge of firearms and related miscellanea.
    I’ll admit I’m a gun nerd and alpha-geek in general, but Grandpa wasn’t issued a SAA in Korea, and a 7.62×39 AK won’t chamber 7.62×51 safely, and for the last damn time, no “Tier 1” operators use the same $19.99 SKS chest rig you do. Anyone who believes any of these things makes me doubt the culture that I’ve grown into over the past 10+ years.

  20. Haji says:

    All in all, though, I’d rather keep the spacktards at the gunshows so I can actually help the customers that ask reasonable and intelligent questions and want to know where to get training.

  21. Jasper says:

    I’m really turned off by gun shows now. Sweeping, lack of trigger discipline, and low quality keep me away.

  22. Jorge says:

    I find the description of the gun shows (in different states) are surprisingly similar to the condition of San Francisco Bay Area’s gun shows – you know, the Liberal Capital of America. I was hopping “the free states” will have better shows… guess not… 😛

    Smelly old surplus gears, nazi memorabilia, old west jewelry, you name it… The so-called gun shows are more like swap meet…

    The crowd are usually a mix of beginners civis, and wannabe gangasters. I regret and feel dirty each time I go to those.

    So glad I haven’t been to one for at least 3-4 yrs.

  23. James Olsen says:

    Seriously, I am an Airsofter and the people at those shows just scare me…Guess what, other people do this for a living, we do it for a hobby, walking around acting all godlike because you play a game isn’t cool, it just makes you a loser.

    I am sure I will get flack from some of my fellow Airsofters for that comment but its true, I am a gear nerd, don’t deny it, but I pay for good quality, and to help the folks making the real deal stay in business and cater to the real soldiers out there.