Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

That OTHER big convention--

I didn't get a chance to write up my views on the OTHER major convention I dropped in on in the last month--the National Rifle Association annual meeting held in Milwaukee May 19-21. I have been a member on and off, and I particularly wanted to walk around their "dealers' room" and see what was new--for game research if nothing else. Sunday morning was THE time to go. Another friend had let me know that it was very crowded on Friday, but not so on Sunday. The passages in the display hall were nicely open so I could amble along and gawk at my own pace and see everything. For those of you who have been to a GenCon in Milwaukee, they use the same third-floor hall that takes up the full floor of the Midwest Express Center. In some ways, the ambiance was rather GenCon like, although booths for the large gun makers tended to be larger and more "businesslike" than a typical GenCon large dealer (however, there was nothing quite like the TSR Castle). One was rather struck by just how many major gun manufactures there ARE. My clooction of brochures includes: SG, Colt, Savage, Winchester, Bushmaster, Thompson Center, Charter Arms, Hi Point, Marlin, Benelli, Glock, Ruger, Remington, Springfield Armory, Beretta, Heckler & Koch, Weatherby, EAA, North American Arms, Para Ordinance, and Smith & Wesson. I restricted myself mostly to picking up brochures from major companies and still staggered away with a pile of literature six inches thick and seeming to weigh twenty
pounds. If there is a secret anti-gun conspiracy out there, it manifests in making plastic brochure bags with finger-strangling handles, aimed at crippling the gun hands of the entire membership--.

Observations: everyone I encountered was very polite and courteous, and there was a dearth of rude slogan bumper stickers or t-shirts such as we often see at local gun shows, either for sale or on the attendees. There were very few women. No attendees that I noticed, and a comparative few among the vendor's staffs. At least these all seemed to be definite employees and not "spokesmodels" or "booth babes" hired for the occasion.* Gray hair is very prevalent among the members, such that anti-gun forces may have hopes of outliving the NRA as a formidable lobby in a generation or so. For all that the NRA promotes itself as a
hunter's organization, it seemed that the major emphasis of guns on display ran toward assault-rifle look-alikes and high-capacity/caliber handguns, which implies that "personal protection" is expected to be a major marketing issue to the members, at least in the vendors' view (although in fairness, a lot of the big companies like Remington, Winchester, Savage, Marlin and Weatherby are best known for "sporting" arms--hunting rifles and shotguns--assault-type rifles seem more common because there are lots of accessories you can buy, and those dealers of course have the rifles or mock-ups on hand in order to display their night-sights or whatever).

Of course there were booths for safaris and hunting lodges and excursions, but these seemed to be ghettoized to the edges of the hall while guns and gun accessories (ammunition, optics, custom stocks and grips, knives) held pride of place.

*One of the more ludicous lawsuits of recent times was brought by an anti-gun group attempting to allege that gun makers lured young people into buying guns by "glamorising" gun use, much as cigarette makers did with cigarettes. It was apparent these people had never picked up a gun magazine or catalog. The typical gun ad has a picture of the gun--period--surmounting three columns of specifications in small type. No beach or cocktail parties in sight. If a human being appears in the ad at all, it is usually a craggy old curmugeon in a cowboy hat like Elmer Keith or Jeff Cooper, who, frankly, make Joe Camel seem reasonably suave and debonaire.
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