Gun Show
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
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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.

Gun Show
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

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.

The Prices

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.

gun tax money change
Dan Z. for TTAG

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.

The Crap

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.

Pinty Pro 1x30mm Red Dot Sight With Laser
Travis Pike for TTAG

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.

Photo by Woody for TTAG

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.

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  1. I haven’t been to a gun show since 2002: the prices are ridiculous, the vendors mostly sell crap, and there’s always that one guy you get stuck behind who believes bathing and deodorant are plots by the Rothschilds… and for this I’m supposed to pay $20 for a ticket and walk a half mile to my car.

    • Only been to a few. One I went to had a huge Nazi booth. It was framed as “military history,” but the idiot running it was selling swastika throw pillows. “History.” Sure. Would much rather see herbal soaps than that trash. I was stunned the organizers even gave that guy the time of day.

    • I asked my friend one time if you are supposed to shit your pants before you go to the gun show, or at the gun show. He said both. Some people really need some help in life.

      • even a liberal city like Pittsburgh still has a big, heavily-advertised gun show…but the ones in Ohio are better…things a bit looser…less hassle…

  2. Orlando gun shows are still in two big buildings…but you are right…things have changed.
    The Orlando shows are sponsored by Shoot Straight gun shops…so they have a big presence.
    Look at Flea Markets…not like they used to be either. Many vendors are mini store fronts.
    You can usually find better deals online and have them shipped to your local dealer than at the gun shows.
    Still…hard to find so much gun/hunting/outdoor related stuff in person.
    Just research what’s a good deal and not. Much easier now that pretty much everyone has a smartphone.
    Plus, you might meet some interesting people. In person.
    Some would be happy to put gun shows out of business, of course.

    • From the article:

      “When the most-seen brand of anything for sale is OLight, then you know you’ve reached the bottom of the trash heap.”

      Hey, Travis, I resemble that remark. Nearly all my EDC, household, and WMLs are Olight now, save my original 30-yr-old Surefire handheld. When modern pricing for Streamlights and Surefires when bonkers, I stopped considering them. Besides, the magnetic cable charging system Olight uses is fantastic, and *should* have been thought of by the other guys.

      TEHO. Streamlights are good. Surefires are good. If they weren’t so expensive, I’d probably own them. But I have a plethora of lights in a variety of applications, and that adds up to $$$.

  3. I missed out on gun shows being worthwhile, If they ever truly were.
    The last one I went to was 2008 and I it was a complete shit show of assholes and insane prices. At least fairs have food and livestock among the booths of crap-selling degenerates.

    I’m sure all the surplus drying up is a big part of the gun shows death. That they existed at all was thanks to crates and crates of military surplus that had to be sold some somebody.

    Which has me wondering why after a generation at war in the desert are we not seeing a revival in military surplus. Where are the shops selling cheap tiger stripe and woodland camo like they were in the 80’s?

    • A lot of what used to be dumped onto the open US market by gov liquidation auctions is now being redirected towards allies and partner forces. Remember that sudden collapse in European surplus inventory from 2017 to now? A lot of it was quietly handed over to the Ukrainians.

      Some things are hard to get or expensive ’cause everyone realized they’re good compared to today’s issued gear, like ALICE packs.

      • “que miner… “

        I think you mean ‘cue’.

        And yes, it was Donald Trump who agreed to let the Afghan army keep their weapons, including armored vehicles and aircraft.
        That was all part of the deal Donald Trump negotiated with the Taliban terrorists.

        You know, terrorists. The bad actors that America never negotiates with… Unless you’re Donald Trump

        • sure, their weapons. keep ’em.
          spongebrainpoopypants let them keep ~our~ weapons.
          subtle distinction, that.

        • Thanks for the correction Miner, I hate it when I make grammar errors. Even if I meant que Miner I should have stated something like Miner is in the queue.
          Here’s one for you. Irregardless Biden is directly responsible for the deaths of 13 of America’s Finest.

        • “And yes, it was Donald Trump who agreed to let the Afghan army keep their weapons, including armored vehicles and aircraft.
          That was all part of the deal Donald Trump negotiated with the Taliban terrorists.”

          Conflating the Afghan Army with the Taliban is the mistake in your argument, although you might not be that far from correct. So I may have to agree this time Miner. However President Trump was new to the game and believe me we would be so much better off if he were in charge now.

        • have to wonder if Trump would have botched the evacuation as badly as Biden did…that sent a bad message that encouraged aggressors

        • Once again, MinorLiar, you LIE, blatantly. Why?? Is it impossible for you to tell the truth???

          Fact the first: It has been US and DoD policy since WAY before Afghanistan that arms provided to the official forces of another nation we are supporting are . . . given to them. Trump neither invented that, nor did ANYTHING we did in Afghanistan change that long-standing policy . . . at least until Senile Joe decided to do the bugout boogie and left BILLIONS of dollars worth of OUR weapons laying on the ground for the Taliban to pick up.

          Yes, there is a distinction between loaning weapons (usually heavier or more sophisticated weapons systems) to an “ally” for the purpose/duration of a conflict, ang GIVING them the weapons, but the bulk of the weapons the US supplied to Afghanistan were issue weapons for grunts, i.e., they were GIVEN TO THEM, per US doctrines and practice for DECADES.

          That of course does NOT address the fact that the HUGE majority of the weapons left behind in Afghanistan were OUR WEAPONS, that were SUPPOSED to be returned to CONUS. OOPS, I guess you just ‘overlooked’ that little detail, dincha, MinorLIAR?????

          Why are you a lying liar?????? The world would be a better place if you consumed excrement and expired.

        • That’s why Biden released Viktor Bout. He’ll help the Taliban convert all the stuff they don’t want to cash, likely U.S. dollars. Then Biden can crow that he fixed that too. Win all around, the man’s a certifiable genius. Well, certifiable any how…

        • who knew the Afghans would collapse so quickly?…even the South Vietnamese held out for awhile….20 year effort wasted…time for a generation to grow up under “democracy”….didn’t seem to impress them very much….

    • That’s because the Taliban can’t get an export license to sell in the US. There are racks and racks of lightly used M16s and M4s for sale in gun shops in Afghanistan. Too soon to get leftovers from the Ukraine war.

      • Oh, and I forgot…all the good stuff is post ’86 select-fire so we can’t have it anyway.

    • I haven’t been to any Sydney based gun shows in more than a decade. Rusty rubbish collection just a bit more rusty and a higher priced the next time.

      The real turn off was finding out about the secret Friday night trading between the dealers and their buddies. This is when the really good stuff is traded. The stuff is too good for us mere civilians.

      And more booths being used by non gun vendors.

      No special deals on offer. Our Permit to Acquire system makes it impossible to buy any guns without advanced arrangements with the dealer.

      So, do your research. Know the prices. You might find a bargain but probably not these days.

      • Biggest disappointment on my part was when everything milsurp suddenly transformed into collectors category.

        Dude, I ain’t paying $900 for your largely scrap metal torch cut Sterling Mk.6.

    • “I missed out on gun shows being worthwhile, If they ever truly were.”

      They were always the same, this is just more of the usual “BACK IN MY DAY” stuff. I remember going to shows with my dad in the 70s and it was pretty much the same mix of good stuff to crap that you see now.

      Having said that, *prices* probably really are worse now. Show wares should (IMO) be priced for the *local* market but with the advent of internet auction sites everybody seems to want to price things at the much-higher *national* price.

  4. *buzz of stun guns intensifies*

    I found a couple of deals on milsurps in 2021 by aggressively haggling, for the most part it’s vendors (many of them boomers who don’t acually care about preserving history and passing it on to younger generations) who live in a fantasy world where the annually increasing prices they charge are somehow competitive. The eagle-eyed among us will scout out a deal, but you gotta get there within the first two hours of opening day, and even then a lot of the truly screaming good offers have already been claimed during dealer setup.

    • Parts, tools, and reloading supplies are about all I go to look for…….and pickles they do have some amazing pickles.

    • always found the best deals around mid-morning of the second day…just before they have to start to think about packing-up all that stuff….

  5. Last gun show I went to was about 25 tables. 15 or more were not firearms related. The ones with guns were junk from someones attic, or an estate. Prices were too high. I will no longer visit any gun show, save the NRA annual meetings.

    • where are you? Florida still has some pretty good shows…just very busy usually
      Still has same problems as the author listed, but they are going strong…hundreds of tables in multiple buildings in Orlando every few months.
      Just research before buying. Or go to the show to see/feel before buying elsewhere.
      Like going to a car showroom/lot…sometimes fun to look even if you are not buying

    • that OGCA show at the vet in Columbus was legendary…the ones at the Cleveland airport were pretty good too…took the better part of a day to walk thru those….

  6. I think they also want to target the others walking around with the potential clients…not everyone is into guns/knives that attend.
    Maybe it is also an attempt to sell more tables/spots to make more money, of course.
    I think it would be awesome if they had some sort of display where people could register what they had for sale and a contact number or table number…especially for guns…
    But hey…half the fun is meandering to see what’s there…or not…

  7. “I mourn the loss of gun shows I knew as a kid.”

    It may yet have a resurgence, as the ramifications of the ‘Bruin’ ruling become prevalent over time.

    I’ll wager the decline really started when the internet became popular.

    Folks can now price out what ammo and guns should really cost…

    • The internet (plus demonization of guns shows by some politicos) is the reason.

      The monster shows (like Wananmacher) that are events in themselves will probably stick around, but the days of your local gun show being a place to score a deal or the go-to place to find a replacement part are long gone, with sites like Gunbroker, Numrich, Brownells, Optics Planet, and even Amazon (for gear, not guns) taking their place. No need to pay an entry and parking fee and have to make a long hike to hopefully find that Garand sling or bayonet you’re looking for when you can just shop for it online.

      But yeah, I too miss the old days (pre-1986) where guns shows were cheap entertainment, featuring legitimate, quality milsurp guns and ammo for cheap (pristine K-31’s for less than $100 were dime a dozen), and some tables having rather “interesting” stuff (e.g., $50 for what was essentially an 80% DIAS . . . you were told you needed to send in a Form 1 and get the tax stamp BEFORE serializing it and filing it down to the provided specs. (No, I didn’t buy one . . . given that legal, pre-’86 DIAS’s currently sell for >$15,000, I sure wish I had.))

  8. I haven’t gone to the area’s gun shows since Zero’s Sabre rattling. it is not surprised that prices at the shows went stupid during his time as chief dictator. the only thing great about shows are looking for those odd ball items.

  9. The biggest problem with gun shows is that they have been taken over by retailers. When it was private individuals and collectors they were interesting. Haven’t been to a show in decades, but I usually know someone who is. I tell them, you know what I like. Call me if you see anything interesting. My PX has rang once.

  10. i’d rather kick junk at a bikey swap meet than just about anything. but fleabay whittled down the number of guys dragging a lifetime of riding crap to unload.
    maywood has a great gunshow twice a year. sort of a club that opens to the public. anything might appear there and free beer. yup. lots of high quality vintage air rifles and old .22’s.
    the cada show at du page fairgrounds hasn’t been held since ’21 but it is a history lesson in antiques and collectibles. strictly window shopping for me unless i see that woodsman.
    the ol’ timers share knowledge freely.

  11. Have a friend, we have this joke. “You wanna go to the gun show this weekend?” “Sure. I’m out of fudge and beef jerky and my dream catcher broke. Again…”

  12. like many here I have not been to a show in ages and for all of the mentioned reasons. I too miss the days of $69 garbage rods and $100 AKs.

    now I can search for what I want online, order it to be delivered to my favorite gun shop, and go fishing.

  13. Hold on a second. Whats wrong with Olight? My EDC flashlight is an Olight and it has outlived every other EDC light Ive ever owned including Streamlight and Fenix, the latter of which died under warranty and they expected me to ship the thing to France to get it replaced.

    • was gifted a small keychain one. screw lens out for usable lobeam, out a bit further for acceptable hibeam, out further still to expose the charging port. pretty groovy design. ol’ lady glommed onto it… only quality survives that usage.

    • There’s nothing wrong with Olight. I’ve carried one every day for the past…five years and going? Maybe more. Don’t worry, some people get their panties in a bunch and ONLY buy name brands (SureFire, Streamlight, etc.). OLIGHT has become a big name now. And with good reason.

  14. I talked with a guy that I used to work with after he bought a demo m&p 2.0 longslide (older version with chamber indicator that precludes milling for an optic)… he paid nearly msrp of a new one with optics ready and f.o. sights, plus the seller nicked him for a $50 transfer fee. Must have had a table from PT Barnum Gunshop

  15. I used to love gun shows. The first six or eight guns I ever bought were from gun shows but they just aren’t the same anymore. I think there are a lot of reasons – milsurp drying up, buying sprees of the last 10 to 20 years and subsequent price hikes, the trend toward jerky and candle sellers, etc. – but I think the main reason is the internet. Back in the day, you could go to a show and find something that only you knew what it was and get a good deal on it. One of my favorite examples is my $80 Hi-Standard. I was at a show quite a few years ago and there was a guy selling a random collection of, mostly, lower end handguns. One oddball in the bunch was a Hi-Standard Duramatic with $100 written on the tag. I was looking at it and the normal, “You interested, I could make you a deal” type convo started and, during said conversation it became clear that the seller knew little if anything about Hi-Standard and thought it was some cheapo junk. I got him to knock off 20 bucks and as I was walking away I heard him tell a guy with him that he unloaded that “crappy .22 with the plastic grip.”

    That guy no longer exists. Before he goes to the show he hits gunbroker and discovers that what he thinks is cheap junk is worth several times what he assumed.

    • I managed to get a Norinco 1897 for $180 off one of those guys. He probably found out it was Chinese and just assumed that meant it was poor quality. I wasn’t about to correct him.

  16. collecting guns has become overly expensive. No longer can you(in most states), buy in bulk, take the best examples for yourself and then sell off the rest to cover expenses(the requirements that an FFL get involved makes these bargain guns much more expensive). This is how collectors work, be it dishes, farm equipment, coins, stamps or guns.
    If you buy a few crates of Mosins and then try to sell off those that are not to your collectable standard, you will run into the ATF claiming that you are selling for profit. Yes, that is true, but your profit is in your collection, anything you sell is to cover collection expenses. You are not feeding your family, here, this is all done on the side(people that do this usually have a steady job that keeps the family going).
    It seems that the IRS and other government agencies do not want people doing this, whether it is model trains, records, whistles, ham radio gear, whatever.
    Collectors have always been interested in the higher value stuff, having and swapping car/motorcycle parts, making artwork from old TVs and washing machines, refinishing(or not) old furniture and the like is a labor of love. Any profit made here is through hard work and/or paying teens and young adults to do the labor(this is call “neighborhood exchange”. The IRS is not losing tax money because the profits are so spread out. I certainly hope and pray that we(as a country) can get back to the business of serving the residents and not just try to make everyone the same by charging the middle class the bulk of tax revenues they receive.

    • seems like you’re much more likely to encounter junk at a hamfest than a gun show….but sometimes you can find stuff that is fun if not exactly legal at big ones like the hamvention in Dayton….

  17. Meh…I went to 2 gun shows after I bought my 1st guns. Waste of time & got bad ammo in Crown Point,IN. No way to get my $ back. Went to local Kankakee,Ill shows in the 60’s with my dad. Old timey & smoke filled affairs. But you could buy & sell with no government BS!

    • gun shows in the 80’s are where you went to get your AR-15…then your parts kit and auto-sear and finally your instruction book on how to do the conversion…tons of that stuff got sold…probably a lot of them out there…even today…still remember the guy who approached me in the stairwell trying to sell me some grenades…those were the days!….

  18. I only go to gun shows, anymore, out of boredom or looking for a piece part I can’t find anywhere else. The internet has transformed everyone into an “expert” on firearms. People have come to believe that their gun is worth far more than it really is. This is the same for “flea markets”. People have watched far too many episodes of American Pickers.

  19. Why are people complaining so much??? The establishment is giving you “The Folsom Street Fair”. Where you can have sex in public, along with several hundred thousand other attendees. You can use drugs in public. You can urinate and defecate in public and not be arrested. And the establishment is giving you “family-friendly” drag queen shows.

    Your libertine, Libertarian, s0ci@list liber@l fantasies are being made real. Why are so many people complaining still???

    I would say that less than half of the gun shows I’ve attended lately, have actually been worth my time. They use to be a great place to look at new gun industry technology. But Not So Much Anymore.

    I think internet videos are replacing the gun shows.

  20. my above two went there so let’s see: my comment is awaiting moderation. don’t post too frequently?

  21. Similar things happened to electronics / computer swap meets, ham radio festivals, etc. As far as I can tell, all coincided with the rise of internet access. It’s become easier – in time spent, and price – to find the rare and unusual stuff online rather than in-person at shows.

    I’ve noticed, for what it’s worth, a marked difference between “large” and “small” gun shows. The small town we used to live in, has a twice-a-year gun show at the local Elks lodge. Some out of town dealers regularly come; but even as of a year ago when we moved away, at least half the tables are locals’. You still have a lot of people whose asking price includes their good memories as well as the hardware, and I suspect many are there just because the spouse said to. And you see some unusual stuff. (Still regretting not getting a Para Ord Warthog last time I was there…) It’s a very different, and much better, feel than the “big” shows.

    • The internet changed the market for obscure stuff. With Ebay in particular someone can market an unusual old tire pump to a wide audience. In years prior the people who would want that goofy pump would be left to wander swap meets at car shows. And then the market got a lot more efficient. You could now find one of those pumps but so could everybody else who wanted one and the price reflected that.

      As far as gun shows in general, I had a conversation with an old timer a few years back who fondly recalled when gun shows were private parties exhibiting their personal collections and he bemoaned how they evolved into commercial sales events.

  22. In Arkansas, over the last 10-15 years, gun shows have gone from collectors and private dealers to almost all FFL sales, all at prices well over what you can even get at the LGS. It is a sad thing to see. We even have ATF agents set up a table at the last couple shows. Funny enough, when someone tried to steal a table gun and run, they just sat back and watched.

  23. I just don’t see the point in gun shows outside of having something to do. What I want can generally be found in other ways. Now if UPS and FedEx can’t get their act together then that might change because I’m on pins and needs with every little thing I order.

  24. Consequence, I never thought about the timing of the internet. I only rented a table once. Me and two buddies pooled a bunch of gun “junk” and Mike and I took it to the Tallahassee show. This was at the beginning of the end of the good gun shows. Everything we had was accessories, except for two rifles. Cash only. No paperwork. No sales tax. It was like a feeding frenzy. We closed shop before the end of the first day. I don’t remember what Mike pockted, but I had $8000 +/- to split with Randy. We had nice junk. I remember a 91 retractable stock, a Leupold target scope, etc. When the girls got home from shopping they said they thought we would be gone all day. We were drinking beers and watching a ball game. “Finished early” was all we said. When my wife came back into the den she asked where all that money on the dresser come from. I said that told her I was taking some junk to the show. Now the best part. She said, “I don’t make that kind of money when I have a garage sale”. I said, “You gotta sell a lot of five dollar lamps. Remember that that the next time you complain about what I spend money on.” The temperature in the room dropped ten degrees. It was worth it.

  25. sounds like the complex should have put out a notice that maintenance was going to be showing up on people’s balconies unannounced. Tragic for old dude.

  26. I quit going to gunm shows because the stuff was overpriced and I caught an elf bee eye snooping around my bicycle and writing down serial numbers.

  27. Gun shows died when people started buying out ammo from stores and marking it up 5-10x at the gun shows. They stopped being a place where you could find something funky, get a deal, or find an obscure part or holster. The last one I went to was because the FFL doing my NFA transfer closed their storefront, so I had to pick up there. The dross booths have always been there, but there seemed to be fewer neo-Nazis selling WWII German memorabilia and copies of the Turner Diaries.

    • I often ended up buying historical books on firearms such as Skennerton’s Lee-Enfield story and a book on the Owen SMG among others.

      As for Turner Diaries, a neo-Nazi w@nk fest. I’ll pass on that one. I only know about it because of a documentary about police taking down a group who were doing an unusual pattern of robberies and killings. They were reenacting the book.

  28. I keep hearing the gun show is dead, then I go and find factory ammo cheaper than some stores. I find deals on mags and parts. I find deals on GUNS! Yes, you have to patient and know your stuff on quality and prices, and yes, I may walk out empty handed, but I usually see cool stuff and learn something. If nothing else I’m entertained by the guy buying a box of 9mm FMJ for $30 when one aisle away the same box is $15. I seriously laughed out loud when I saw a Jimenez 9mm for $500! A couple regular vendors at my area shows carry tons of milsurp parts. 03A3, M1, 1911, AK, SKS, whatever… but the parts are in your hand, paid for, then in your pocket or bag. No shipping and handling, no waiting, and you know what you’re getting! I find it’s still worth going around St.Louis.

    • I wish that were true in my neck of the woods. I used to go all the time just for the parts guys but, unless you want AR parts, they seem to be almost extinct. 10 or 12 years ago, I got a semi-inleted Savage 110 stock (that someone had started to fit but given up on) in pretty spiffy walnut for $10. Now, I’d be lucky to find a Savage sticker for $10.

      (BTW, my previously black-plastic-clad 110 in 270 now wears a fine looking walnut stock. Total cost? $420 for the rifle, plus $10, plus several hours of making sawdust and rubbing in linseed oil and around $350 for the scope. I guess we should add in about $40 for the sling as well. Plus, I have a spare black plastic 110 stock laying around somewhere. Decent deal for a nice piece of pronghorn medicine in my opinion)

    • do a quick walk-through…then go back and get what you want, just before they start loading it up…

  29. The hard line socialists on the Nashville City council killed “Bill Goodman’s Gun and Knife Show” by passing an arbitrary regulation that rezoned the fairgrounds to include every activity but gun sales. It was a big story here as the gun show had been in that location for 50 years. The chairperson for Bernie Sanders’ Campaign is on the council and she’s considered one of the more moderate members. They also just enacted the use of license plate readers for downtown, but trust them, it’s not for the police to access or something…

  30. First gun show my dad took me and my brother to was in the late 80’s, two buildings, in the 90’s it went down to one building and has been that way since!!!

    In my area a few years ago they started putting out notices, only gun related products were allowed to be sold at gun shows, the only exemption was for knives.. Since my area is big on hunting..

    Reason, to many non gun related items were being put on display at a “GUN SHOW”!!!

    Bought my NHM-91 at same gunshow for $200 and AK mags for $5.00 a piece.. Vendor was late to the gunshow and luckily first one in line at his table, back in the 90’s!!!

    Price he had on NHM-91 was $350 and the mags were $25.00!!!

    There was a local gun store who had their mags at $5.00 and funny they had a booth there but no Ak mags, which I told the vendor about!!

  31. Still have regular gun shows in Davenport, Mt Pleasant, Burlington, and Cedar Rapids Iowa within driving distance of home. As well as several other cities in Iowa and Missouri. I’ve bought a few firearms at reasonable prices over the years. Some were even less than retail. I don’t see them going away in the Midwest any time soon. With the exception of Illinoistan.

  32. California is busily attempting to ban all gun shows on state property, along with counties that have sought in the past to ban them on county properties. I’ve only been to one way up here in the boonies, and I was unimpressed. There were no tables with hundreds of new gun on them, only a few milsurps floating around, and literally no ammo. To add to that, you cannot buy and walk, you have to arrange with the seller (if he is not an FFL) to submit the gun to a dealer to run the BGC and hold it for the California 10 day waiting period. If a third part FFL was used, the typical transfer fee (on top of the state DROS fee) was $75, while in-store purchases are only a $25 fee.

    In later years, during the Obama Drought, old farts would line up at WalMart before dawn on the days the ammo truck came, and buy up all available rounds to resell at gun shows for a 100% markup. There was no point in going to shows under those circumstances, and I haven’t been to one in years.

  33. I still like going to gun shows. It’s not a bad way to spend and afternoon and you never know what you might find. I rarely find deals, but occasionally there will be a few out there worth it. Most milsurps are not a deal. I did find a nice M1917 revolver, but it was not a deal or overpriced. I wanted another one so I snagged it. I sued to frequent the gun show at Dulles the past few years. I was also driving through Dallas and decided to stop in the the gun show there back in 2021. It wasn’t that great and was significantly smaller than the Dulles gun show I was used to. What is annoying is seeing the same vendors, with the same overpriced crap, show after show. How can you keep paying money for a table and not sell anything for years?

    • Check my earlier posts. It is the secret trades between the dealers when the tables are being set up the night before the show opens to the public.

  34. You nailed it! Last one I went to was right after Covid. Prior to that it was roughly 2016. Overpriced Guns, cheap ammo and TONS of Chinese crap. What wrangled me the most was all the unrelated “trinkets” for sale. Nearly asked for my money back…so disappointed. Probably my last….
    Of course, with online buying, getting quality new stuff is easy. Finding those rare older guns, well, that’s a bit more difficult now.
    Great article!

  35. The last gunshow I attended was over 20 years ago I came away with a pair of Swift Storm King binoculars for a little over a $100.00 I’ve found good deals in pawnshops on my MILSURPs 03A3, SMLEmk3, MosinM38,

  36. I always liked those shows where the “good stuff” was under the table…if you saw the vendors look both ways before reaching for it you knew you were in the right place!

  37. So many great gun show memories from the 80’s. The whole family would go to Dayton Hara Arena and it was great. It got my young daughters comfortable around guns, and we got occasional bargains. Stainless mini-14 for $300. Smith 586 for $250. Ruger MK2 for $150. 1917 Enfield for $100. Spanish Mauser for the same. Cobray M-11 for $125. All the ammo I could shoot, cheap.
    Then the rip off artists got involved. There are still bargains, but they get bought up by the other vendors before the doors even open. Us common schmos have little chance anymore.
    Like the author said, nowadays its cheaper at your local gun store.

  38. Todays gun shows have become magnets for the uninformed, the layperson, the curious, and Law enforcement looking for sellers crimes that have not yet taken place.

    Some shows offer discounted CCW classes, of which my wife and I took advantage of over 20 years ago. And I scored a 1000 rnd case of 7.62 NATO for cheap the same day.
    In the past I have found the same sellers at different shows in my state, as they travel between them. But I stopped going for all the same reasons others have stated. I guess the show promoters and sellers are still making a buck, although the shows are less frequent than they used to be.

  39. Like the author, I, too, started going to gunshow as a mere lad (back in 1957). The changes were slow but fateful. The “original” concept was for collectors, shooters and enthusiasts to have a place to gather and show off their stuff, meet and do some trading. I remember when the first “junk dealer” set up shop. He was obese and had a bugle that he blew when he sold something (jewelry, fake tomahawks, etc.). He was loud and obnoxious and was the vanguard of legions to follow. I recall when the “display’s” were largely informational and the collector behind the table was knowledgeable and could answer obscure questions about model changes or variants. As the author indicates, the “vendor’s” of today are largely ignorant about what they are selling and have a tendench to be gasbags. They have a habit of assuming that they know more than I do when, in fact, I’ve been at this a very long time (pushing 80) and have forgotten more than they will ever know. I smile and move on. It is sad, but is the darker side of capitalism. Perhaps something else will come along to take its’ place. I recall that all of the newspapers suddenly started refusing to allow classified ads for firearms. How this happened at a national level is amazing. Now Craigslist and Offerup have inherited the same policy. It’s for our own good, don’t you know.

  40. Nowadays it costs to attend a Gun Show and if your bank account isn’t fat well it hurts to window shop. Besides there are 24/7 Gun Shows on the net with bargains to be found. Some really good deals are to be had especially AR-308 stuff which I predict will become costly like the M1A…you snooze you lose.

    On the other hand…All the replies over a Gun Show and almost dead silence when it comes to defining Gun Control by its history of rot…maybe a sign why the militaria guy at Gun Shows sells swastika pillows.

  41. I agree with everything you said. It’s sad what gun shows have become. Even here in the Great State of Texas where there are more guns than people, the great gun shows are gone. What you have left is a few booths selling cheap, pink and purple holster and such. It’s really sad.
    I like that …..Get off my lawn.😂🇺🇲🇨🇱

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