I'm recently returned from Las Vegas, that shining city of excess. I'm not much of a fan of the city -- all that glitter is paid with someone else's gold -- and gambling has never held any allure for me. There are some nice restaurants in town, but they're typically shrines to far-off TV-chefs who made their names elsewhere.
Vegas played host to SHOT Show, which, for those who are unfamiliar, stands for shooting, hunting, and outdoor trade. Nearly 60-thousand industry-only types descended on the Sands Convention Center this year and traipsed 700,000 square feet of guns, hunting gear, and everything associated with it.
It's truly a sight to behold -- bikini-clad booth babes hawking the latest in killing technology to gawking, mostly-middle-aged white men who can't believe their good fortune. The "trend" of the show this year -- as it's been for at least the last couple of years -- is the amazing popularity of military and law enforcement gear -- also known as "black guns" or "tactical" weapons. Why? It's probably a combination of things. They certainly look cool and menacing, but it's also a response to a Presidential administration that's considered hostile to the Second Amendment . Also, I guess, it's a reflection of a citizenry that has become used to seeing its countrymen carrying these weapons in far-flung regions of the world. (Side note: given all of this, don't you think SHOT's logo of a bird hunter with a boot-polishing, panting dog seems a bit, uh, quaint?)
For those not aware, there's a huge, self-flagellating debate raging in the shooting and sporting world on whether or not these tactical weapons have a place in hunting. I think if anyone even casually observed the SHOT Show floor, they'd realize that (right or wrong) the debate has pretty much been decided.
Part of the fun during the show is when a co-worker/fellow gun-nut and I walk the floors and kick the tires of new and coveted firearms. An even bigger part of the fun is finding someone in a booth that is willing to reciprocate a "friends and family" discount on a shiny new gun or piece of gear. So suffice it to say that over the next few months, I hope to fill my gun safe with a couple new pieces -- maybe even one of those black guns.
But undoubtedly my favorite part of the show is rekindling friendships with friends in the industry. The outdoor industry is a small fraternity, and I've made some incredible friends over the years. SHOT serves as "old home week" for many of us. It's a chance to shake hands, catch up, trade gossip, sling some bullshit, drink some whiskey, and plan hunting trips for the coming year.
These are friends that have helped you out, both professionally and personally, over many years. For me, they're comrades with whom I've shared deer blinds, covey rises, hunting camps, and all things associated with them, both good and bad. And here we all are, plunked down into Sin City, the antithesis of the Great Outdoors.
And you know what? It doesn't matter one damn bit. It's not the shiny toys I have after I get home from SHOT -- it's the friends I've collected over the years that matter most.