This weekend I did something I often do and almost always regret. I went to a gun show. Specifically the Tallahassee Gun and Knife show. This show has shrunk considerably over the last few years and went from two bustling buildings to one meager showing. As I walked and looked at the prices of ammo and guns, I couldn’t help but feel a bit melancholy.
I loved gun shows when I was a kid. My dad would bring us all the time to browse and peruse. I remember “Sure as Shooting” Heather with her shotgun in the commercials letting us know when the next gun show was scheduled. Hell, I met my Marine recruiter at a gun show. I remember surplus guns and buying my first Mosin Nagant and my first CZ 52 at rock-bottom prices. Gosh, the surplus 7.62×25 Tokarevs were basically free.
In the last few decades, gun shows have changed or morphed, and I’ve entered an abusive relationship with them. I remember them getting really bad after 2012 or so. That was a huge year for gun sales and panic buying. It took years to recover, and in many ways they never really did. What’s wrong with gun shows these days? Well, I’m glad you asked.
All the Non-Gun Stuff
Gun shows are often gun and knife shows, so not all non-gun stuff is equal. Knives are fine, and so are tree stands, magazines, and other gun-adjacent things like targets, camouflage, and old military equipment. I’ll even accept the jerky guy.
What’s silly to me is the gun show promoters that will take money from anyone selling anything. People selling Scentsy, Herbalife, leggings, and whatever other multi-level pyramid scheme crap is hot these days. Why waste the booth space? I paid ten bucks to look at guns, not sniff candles.
At a gun show I went to recently, I was looking for an LCP 2 Literack .22LR. It looks like a fun gun, and they tend to be cheap. I wandered from booth to booth and found various LCP 2s selling for MSRP or above. Not for me.
Gun shows aren’t the place to find deals any more. They’re the place to target potential new gun owners and have them purchase firearms and ammo at well above market prices. The vendors price their wares accordingly.
Just for fun, I whipped out my phone and went to the website of one of the vendors. Their prices were at least 20% cheaper online and in their shop than hey were at the gun show. they shrugged.
Ammo is hilariously overpriced, and even common calibers like 5.56 were selling for a buck a round. Nope.
To be clear, sell your wares for whatever you want. Value is derived by the market, and I believe in capitalism. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss finding an occasional good deal at a gun show.
Do you want to buy a quality optic or light? Don’t go to a gun show. There you’ll likely find nothing but piles of Chinesium. When the most-seen brand of anything for sale is OLight, then you know you’ve reached the bottom of the trash heap.
It’s just tons of poorly made soft goods, nylon holsters, crap-tier optics, and of course, steel armor. I’m sorry, but your floppy one-size nylon holster isn’t the first one ever “designed to be worn with any attire.”
(Almost) Nothing Cool
If you look at the demographics of a gun show, it’s an interesting cross-section. There are gun nerds like me and tons of regular everyday people. People who likely don’t go into any brick-and-mortar gun store other than Bass Pro or Academy.
That’s led to most gun shows being filled with wall-to-wall GLOCKs, SIGs and AR-15s. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of those guns, of course, but as you pass your eighth table of polymer frame striker-fired guns, you tend to get bored.
I understand why that is. Those are popular products that sell. They’re in high demand. You’d be a bad businessman not to bust out the black guns.
When I was a kid, it was just gun nerds at the gun show…or it seemed that way. The shows were often chock full of unique and cool firearms. The MILSURP scene was still affordable back then, and the tables were full of old guns from American brands like Colt, Winchester, and Remington.
There seemed to be tons of firearm diversity on those tables. That’s mostly gone now. The occasional MILSURP you’ll see these days is, at best, a $1,200 SKS or a $3,000 M1 Garand.
An Odd Lack of Knowledge
I’m not talking about the customers. Customers don’t have to be experts. In fact, I don’t think the vendors have to be experts, but they should be somewhat knowledgeable.
A Girsan Hi-Power is cool, but it’s not an FN/Browning Hi-Power and it’s not worth the $1,200 you’re asking. When the price tag is clearly listing the manufacturer as something other than what it says on the slide, you are either an idiot or a scam artist.
That’s not all. It seems like plenty of these gun show vendors don’t know a whole lot about what they are selling. People make fun of the typical Fudds, but at least they understand the difference between a .38 Super and .38 Special. Also, I don’t think S&W ever made a .32 ACP version of the Safety Hammerless.
Price tags and descriptors are wrong way too often, and it’s a trend I’ve noticed increasing.
The End of the Gun Show
I mourn the loss of gun shows I knew as a kid. They’re gone and won’t be coming back. The firearm marketplace seems to have changed, and maybe it’s for the better. There are more people who own more guns today and that’s a good thing.
That doesn’t mean I don’t miss the gun shows of my youth. I’m not quite an old man, but I’m starting to feel like one. Get off of my lawn.