By Jeffrey Folloder
The Future of Gun Shows
I am writing this column with about a month before the start of the Fall Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot. Twice a year, stretching back for decades, Knob Creek has put on the classic event with few exceptions. “God willing and the creek don’t rise” actually has meaning for this event. If that creek in front of the range gets out of hand, the event gets cancelled. It doesn’t happen often, though. Many regular exhibitors and attendees of the event have chatted at great length about how the Knob Creek classic has evolved. Recently, exhibitors received a letter from the management of the event.
The letter describes how the Knob Creek Shoot is changing from a 3-day event to a 2-day event, with night shoots on Friday and Saturday. The Sunday portion of the event appears to have been eliminated. Is this a good thing? Only time will tell. Certainly, many of the exhibitors have been griping for years that the Sunday sales had all but evaporated. Knob Creek is being responsive to that concern. The bigger question is: What is happening to shows, in general? Whether it is a “Class 3” event or a “regular” gun show things have certainly changed. Sales have slowed, excitement has waned. Even the offerings seem to have become “strained” in terms of “gun stuff.” Again, what has happened?
It used to be that if you wanted a shot at getting something great in terms of a machine gun or a suppressor, Knob Creek was the place to be. Not so much anymore. One long-time suppressor vendor at Knob Creek laments that there have been several shows where he has not sold a single suppressor. “So why do you keep coming?” “I like the people.” And those machine guns? Pretty much every single attendee at any show can whip out their smart phone and have access to dozens, if not hundreds, of venues offering a nearly limitless selection of offerings at competitive prices. The regular gun shows are suffering the same information overload. That great deal on a Glock or a Remington 700 is just a click away. Snarky t-shirts, beef jerky, bulk ammo and the missing part for Grandpa’s shotgun are just a few search clicks on Google away.
Yet the shows endure. Pretty much everyone who we see at the shows on a regular basis clearly states that they love the reunion of friends, the social aspects of the event. But we all want to make it better. Better for the attendees, better for the exhibitors, better for the promoters. All of us are wondering what the magic dust would look like to make things better. So maybe it’s time to ask the biggest constituency of gun shows, the attendees, what they are looking for? The NFATCA participates in many events, and having a good show is an important part of what we do. What can the exhibitors and the promoters do to make the experience better? Are there things that you would like to see and do? Demonstrations? Classes? What would make the show experience, especially an NFA-oriented show, better for you?
We would like to hear from you. Let us know what is on your mind. Have some thoughts about shows? Great! We would love to hear from you about what you think we should be working on, what legislative efforts are on your mind, the political climate or the world of NFA, in general. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit us online at www.nfatca.org or www.facebook.com/NFATCA. The NFATCA is approaching nearly 20 years of service to the NFA community. While things may be a little “slow” right now, we can assure you that we are still hard at work and have plenty of irons in the fire.
This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N10 (December 2018)