Like the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot, the NRA’s Annual Meetings stand as a pilgrimage every gun owner should make at least once in their lives. Think of it as a SHOT Show of sorts for the everyman (and woman). It’s big. It’s fun. You meet all sorts of people and see lots more. And almost everyone is courteous to a fault in what becomes the safest place in America for an entire weekend.
I had a great time at Indianapolis for NRA 2019.
Like 81,000 NRA members, I prowled the convention floor checking things out there. I saw countless new products and plenty of older ones. History came alive in some of the collector association booths, too. Museum-quality old guns, many with a lot of pedigree behind them in fact.
And Rock Island Auction had a genuine Gatling gun, projected to sell for six-figures.
Not only that, but plenty of celebrities, political types and positive role models roamed the floors as well.
With my press credentials, I snuck in an hour before the floor opened to the general membership Saturday morning. That allowed me to make great time cruising through maybe a fifth of the floor space in under an hour.
Fifteen acres of guns and gear. That’s 653,400 square feet. More than a grown man can cover in a single day and give it the time it deserves, even without the crowd there. Add in ten or twenty thousand people at any given time and things slow down considerably.
Among the first surprises for me…tucked into a corner of the floor, I found a vendor selling Trump 2020 gear with a constant line of ready buyers.
And speaking of President Donald Trump, not far from the Trump 2020 booth, a company would custom-make magazines for your AR-15.
MAGAzines. Certainly worth a chuckle.
The NRA Convention had plenty of gear that would cause those with Trump Derangement Syndrome to melt down at every turn.
Obviously, the AR-15 reigns as America’s favorite rifle and booth after booth there sold either ARs, accessories for ARs or parts for ARs. Many of said booths were staffed by men with beards. Beards are very popular with the tactical crowd.
Towards the end of my Saturday pre-show sprint, I ran into a guy casually-dressed guy, sloppily concealing his gun and spare magazines and wearing one of those Secret Service-style earpieces. Initially I didn’t think too much about him until I saw another guy in a suit, with an ill-fitting jacket thanks to all the stuff on his waist and a matching radio earpiece. Somehow I knew his pocket dump would dwarf mine.
“Hmm, someone important is here,” I thought to myself. So I followed them and not twenty yards later, I ran into this guy and introduced myself just as they were about to start the National Anthem.
A half-hour later, I ran into them again before it got too crowded.
In talking with a couple of police officers in the press room as I waited to start the day, I found out Donald Jr. spent a day or two hunting near Crawfordsville, Indiana earlier in the week. The cops mused back and forth on the surprisingly small Secret Service protective detail traveling with him.
I chuckled and said Junior probably carries and, not only that, he probably shoots pretty well himself. In the interests of security I’ll leave the rest of the details out as well, even though all of the above have probably been publicly discussed before.
Meanwhile, among the exhibitors, just about everyone you can think of in the gun world had a booth. Of course, all the big companies like GLOCK, SIG, Beretta and others had massive, elaborate set-ups with scores of guns for people to handle along with neat displays.
Sadly, sloppy muzzle control seemed the norm for most and more than once I smiled and nodded a thank you to people who consciously avoided muzzling me.
Along with all the big companies, hundreds of smaller vendors showed off their products, too, hoping to get noticed to become the next Smith & Wesson or Springfield Armory. A handful of booth babes drew small lines for signed promo pictures and/or posters. I had a lot more respect for companies that had war heroes signing photos.
The biggest lines I saw, though, waited to see Chuck Norris at the GLOCK booth. Like the late great Gunny, Norris seemed to genuinely enjoy spending time with his fans.
Frankly, I was kind of surprised by Norris. I expected a larger-than-life guy. Instead, I saw a guy that was probably about 5′ 8″ and weighed about 160 pounds or so. He looks to be in pretty good shape for a 79-year-old guy.
Norris, even with his reputation as a seriously tough guy had armed protection, which surprised me. “Chuck Norris needs bodyguards?” I thought to myself. My wife said much the same when I mentioned it to her. Not just one or two, either. It looked to me that Norris had more “executive protection specialists” than the President’s son. And Norris’ guards looked a lot less friendly, I might add.
I took advantage of some of the breakout sessions to learn some valuable information from some of the best trainers in America. When you go to the NRA convention, make sure you save some time for the training sessions. It gives you a chance to sit and rest your tired legs from all the walking while learning from some great instructors.
And then there’s all the people. I ran into one of my groomsmen (both times) as he walked out of a bathroom. I bumped into my best man (both times) and plenty of other good friends as well. People from all across Illinois and beyond.
That’s the great thing about the NRA Convention…you’re bound to run into someone – or a lot of someones – you know there.
Next year, the NRA’s Annual Meetings will take place in Nashville again. If you live anywhere in the Midwest, I encourage you to make plans to attend. Not only is Nashville a great (and very gun-friendly) venue, but the Country Music Hall of Fame is right across the street and the main touristy parts of Nashville are only a block or three away. It makes for a great place to enjoy the local scenery for lunch and then go back to browsing guns and gear.