What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “Gun Show?” I think your reaction is very culturally dependent on where you grew up, the circles you run in, and the kinds of things you take an interest to.
I attended my first gun show while in college. My roommate, a fellow Air Force ROTC cadet, insisted that we go and check one out. I honestly can’t tell you what my thoughts were during the run-up to it, whether I was nervous or excited, or whether I even had a good time.
What I can tell you is that we became regular attendees of the Suncoast Gun Show in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida while we were still in school. I never actually bought anything, but I was always interested to see what was there. Sadly, that particular show is no longer held since the city kicked the promoters out and won’t let them use the venue anymore.
I attended the local show a few times while stationed in Montana, but it wasn’t nearly as large. Looking back, only a small portion of the floor was even dedicated to firearms, with the rest going to outdoor gear, vintage militaria, and survival rations.
Well, this past weekend I hit up the Nation’s Gun Show in Chantilly, VA just to check it out. If nothing else, I could put my hands on a few items that I’ve been unable to see or feel in person. I also took a few notes on what seemed to be popular.
So let’s get to it.
The Nation’s Gun Show
This particular show takes place in the Dulles Expo Center. It houses 1300 tables with about 1.5 miles of walkways to work through. It’s the largest show I’ve been to, even large than the one in Ft. Lauderdale from years back.
Gun shows are always an interesting thing because everyone wants something different out of them. I used to think that gun shows were all about finding a good deal, but I think those days are long past.
When it comes to new firearms, most dealers seem like they are priced high. The truth is that they are pricing themselves just ahead of what it costs to buy online, pay shipping, then pay a transfer fee.
For example, I finally put my hands on a CZ 75D PCR, and I loved how it felt in the hand. The dealer wanted $620, which seems high compared to what I could pay online. But when you tack on shipping and a $35 transfer fee at my local FFL, the costs even out. So the out-the-door price is about the same.
You’ll always find the old guys and their vintage rifles. They usually want exorbitant prices for beat-up M1 rifles, Springfields, Enfields, and Mausers.
Beyond the guns, there were miles of nylon gear, both new and used military issue equipment. I saw lots of leather works for holsters and belts.
There were a lot of blades. Knives and swords were everywhere. I’m not sure how practical they all were, but the tables seemed popular.
Most people at the show seemed to be milling about looking for a deal. My main task was to see if I could handle a few firearms that have been on my radar for a while, but could never handle in person because nobody had them in stock.
Along the way, I saw a few more interesting things and took notes about what the average showgoer seemed interested in. Sometimes this gives you a hint at what’s coming down the pipeline in the market.
White River Knives
The first booth that caught my attention was North River Outfitters, who had quite a selection of bushcraft gear displayed. Among the knives were the excellent Benchmade Bushcrafter 162 and another company I’d not heard of before: White River Knives.
The blade that most interested me was the Ursus 45, which seemed like an exceptional field knife. The blade was razor-sharp, and the spine had a very crisp 90-degree angle for striking fire steel.
I was impressed enough with the lineup that I booked marked both the blades and the outfitter for the future. I’m happy to support local businesses when they carry quality gear.
My affinity for CZ pistols continues unabated. While my P07 is currently off at Cajun Gun Works in Louisiana, I’ve been thinking about what else I’d like to have in the safe.
The one that’s been sitting highest on my list is the CZ 75D PCR. It’s an all-metal alloy-framed pistol based on the classic CZ75 series.
PCR stands for Police Czech Republic and is actually an evolution of the P01, which represented CZ’s first entry into modern manufacturing methods for government contracts. CZ designed the PCR explicitly for concealed carry and general police use.
It’s effectively the same pistol without the railed dust cover, so it returns back to the classic lines of the 75 series.
This was my first chance to put hands on one, and I nearly fell in love. I so wanted to walk out of the show carrying one, but my wallet restrained me.
Something else unexpected was another pistol in the CZ lineup, though. The CZ SP01 series represents CZ efforts to bring the improved manufacturing methods back to the legacy 75 pistols. I’ve been interested, but not considering purchasing one because it fills the same niche as my Beretta 92A1.
But the one that surprised me was the SP01 Phantom, which is the SP01 Tactical with a polymer frame. It maintains the legendary ergonomics of the legacy 75 series, but shaves 19 ounces of weight off of the pistol.
If I was in the market for a full sized duty pistol, I would be having a hard time choosing between the Phantom or the P09.
Commander-Sized 1911s and King Cobra Revolvers
I’ve never been a huge 1911 guy. Back when I first got into guns, it was the very first pistol I bought because that’s what the internet told me to do. It’s still an elegant pistol, though, but clearly dated.
Despite that, I handled a few options from Colt that I thought felt very nice in the hand. The more compact commander-sized models seem ideal for concealed carry. The only thing I would have liked was for it to also have a rail on it.
While at that booth, I also handled all three variants of the Colt King Cobra revolver. I actually got a chance to shoot the King Cobra a few weeks ago while on a range trip with Justin from Revolver Guy. I really enjoyed the experience, and it made me seriously consider adding a revolver to the safe to gain proficiency with the platform.
KRG Bravo Rifle Chassis
While I was working on plans for my precision rifle, Project Gungnir, I caught up on all of the changes to stocks and chassis over the last several years.
Kinetic Research Group, KRG, is known for their precision rifle chassis systems. They are priced out of the market for most casual users, but they put out their Bravo Chassis a while back as a more budget-friendly option. You can get them set up for Remington 700s, Howa 1500s, and Tikka T3X rifles.
Howa partnered with them for selling Howa 1500 rifles already equipped with the Bravo Chassis as a turn-key competitor to the Ruger Precision Rifle.
The particular rifle I handled at the show was a Howa 1500 with a 24″ barrel chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. The Bravo Chassis felt great on the hands and shoulder.
Were I to start over again, I would be very interested in pursuing this path from the get-go rather than the fiberglass stock direction that I started on. I really appreciate the modularity of it, and KRG makes some nice looking accessories for the system.
I can easily see a second project rifle using the Bravo.
Pistol Chassis Systems
I handled a few CZ Scorpion EVOs while at the show, and I thought they were interesting, but there were another trend that caught my eye: everyone seemed interested in pistol chassis systems.
I think the rise of pistol braces as substitutes for SBR paperwork has given new life to the Pistol Caliber Carbine concept.
My personal preference would be a purpose-built solution like the Scorpion, but the pistol chassis is at least interesting.
If you haven’t seen this, yet, imagine a chassis system that you mount your handgun into. It then provides a more stable platform for optics and handling, much like a dedicated PCC.
IMI came out with their Kidon system, which allows for mounting many pistols out there on the market.
It seemed like the booths selling these things were mobbed.
Blowback Laser Trainer System
The last booth that I. found interesting was the Blowback Laser Trainer. the system has two parts: a CO2-powered laser pistol and a laser-sensitive target.
Usage is pretty simple. You place the target wherever you want and then use the pistol to shoot at it. The pistol has a CO2 cartridge in it that causes a blowback effect similar to a pistol cycling. This provides you with a sense of recoil. The laser hits the target, and the system provides you a score.
The pistol feels like something in. between a Glock 19 and a Sig P320.
The overall system is expensive, and I don’t think it’s going to replace my Mantis-X anytime soon. But I can definitely see a lot of benefit to something like this when you want to work on some fundamentals. The big tradeoff to me is that the pistol isn’t the one I’m actually going to use, so the trigger, grip, and other important elements are all different.
There was, of course, a lot more to see at the show. But inexpensive Chinese optics, no-name fancy AR uppers, and gas station knives aren’t really my thing.
One of the biggest things I wanted to check out was if anyone had a Savage Model 11 Scout, but alas it was not to be. The scout rifle concept interests me a lot, and it might be something I pursue in the future.
To be honest, modern bolt guns didn’t really have a presence at all save for one booth loaded up with Ruger American rifles.
In any case, it was nice to get back to a show and smell the cosmoline in the air.