By Marlon Knapp
My compadres who work with me at the Chisholm Trail Antique Gun Association check-in table have asked me to compile a short tutorial on gun show etiquette. We understand you’re excited about going to the gun show and we are excited to see you. Those of us who work gun shows (not necessarily sellers) have unique opportunities to interact with people, including some who might not normally visit a traditional gun shop, those who are regular patrons, and those who are brand new to the shooting sports. No matter their experience level, though, people sometimes make mistakes, which, when firearms are involved, are deadly serious.
Preparation for the show
If you’re going to celebrate the Second Amendment and be surrounded by like-minded people and guns and gear you might not be willing or able to purchase, please do a few things beforehand.
Plan to arrive as early as possible. Being early allows you the luxury of taking your time and enjoying yourself safely. Know the ticket price. Also, plan to take enough money for whatever you plan for the day.
Even if you aren’t planning to purchase any goodies at the show, take enough money for entry, food and drinks. Remember, the price of drinks and food at any event will be significantly higher than at your local convenience store.
Find out what the show you’re attending allows. Is it OK to take photographs there? Can you bring in outside food or drinks? This is especially important if you have health issues.
Does the show permit concealed or open carry? Either way, always remember the four universal rules of safe gun handling:
1. All firearms are loaded
2. Do not allow the muzzle to cover (point at) anything you aren’t willing to destroy
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you are ready to fire
4. Know your target and what is beyond it
Here are a few things to know about the rules at the Chisholm Trail gun show
Concealed firearms: yes
If you are planning to purchase something for your daily carry gun that will require you to unholster it, please bring it unloaded and not concealed on your person. Drawing a firearm from concealment can cause unwanted attention from the vendors or possibly law enforcement officers in attendance.
Concealed firearms are just that – concealed. Don’t pull yours out at the check-in table. If you do, we will remove the magazine, zip tie the firearm and keep any loose ammunition. No, you will not get the ammunition back; having thousands of people come through the doors each day, we don’t have the resources to catalogue your particular loose ammo to return it to you.
Open carry firearms: yes
They must be unloaded, though. And again, we will confiscate any ammunition found in the firearm. We will zip tie your openly carried firearm to render it safe. These are our rules and they aren’t up for debate or negotiation. Even event staff and vendors who open carry are required to follow this rule.
Firearms to sell, trade, find accessories for, or get values/repair estimates: yes
Make sure the firearm(s) are completely unloaded. Use a chamber flag or have the action open, please.
Loose ammunition or loaded magazines: no*
Only ammunition brought in the original box or aftermarket plastic cartridge box is allowed.
* We allow loaded magazines in properly concealed firearms and loaded spare magazines (also concealed). Expect visible firearms and ammunition to be confiscated.
How to approach the check-in table with a firearm: action open, magazine unloaded and removed (when possible)
Finally, please keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction! Do not muzzle other attendees or gun show staff! This is a major source of aggravation and incredibly dangerous. You will always say “but I know it’s unloaded.” Fine and dandy, but we on the business end of the muzzle do not know that until we actually check the firearm and render it safe. See rule number one, above.
At least once every day (sometimes more) during the show, someone at the check-in table will get a loaded firearm handed to them. This past show was no exception. As a patron passed his firearm over to me for inspection, he muzzled me directly in the chest with his finger on the trigger. When I removed the magazine, it was unloaded. When I opened the chamber a live 9mm round popped out onto the table. Had he been startled, and had a little too much pressure on that trigger, I might not be writing this. No, you don’t get that round back, it now belongs to me. The loss of a single round is a rather small price to pay for violating the first rule of safe gun handling.
Marlon is owner of Knapp Weaponry in Wichita, Kansas. He discovered the shooting sports and firearms at the ripe old age of four, thanks in part to his Uncle Rich, a Nebraska State Highway Patrolman, and Nebraska Game Warden. Marlon is former military, and current NRA and Kansas certified firearms instructor.