By Jeff W. Zimba
The 20th Annual Soldier of Fortune Convention & Consumer / Trade Exposition was held September 22-26, 1999. As many times before, this particular event was hosted in Las Vegas, but in a different location than usual. Regular attendees who have become accustomed to visiting the show at the Sands Expo Center were in for a surprise this year. Unlike years past this event was held at the Cashman Center, which is located on North Las Vegas Blvd., a short drive North from Freemont Street. The location may have changed this year, but the convention remained better than ever.
To those who have not had the pleasure of attending the convention, it is divided into many different aspects taking place over a five-day period. There is a great gun show, many seminars, shooting matches, manufacturers demonstrations, a banquet, an auction and the world famous SOF Firepower Demo. If there was ever chance of running out of things to do in Las Vegas (not even remotely likely), the SOF Convention will assure you have plenty to do.
The Gun Show
This gun show is a gathering of the Who’s Who of the Gun World. You will have the opportunity here to meet many of the people you read about in the trade publications. Those who have a booth at this show may be manufacturers, distributors, designers, or authors. A few of the display categories covered are ammunition, firearms, knives, military equipment, police equipment, preparedness, security and training. Chances are pretty good that if you are looking for something related to the above you will find it here. A few of the more notable folks who were in attendance at the 1999 show included; Johns Guns, Lancer Militaria, Lomont Precision Bullets, Bushmaster Firearms, Barrett Firearms, H&K, Benchmade, Gemtech, and many others (SAR was there of course!). This gathering is a great place to talk with many of the people who build the products we use every day.
There is a wealth of knowledge and information to be tapped at this portion of the convention. Topics range from the mild to the wild and many of the speakers are people who have been there and done that. The seminars are usually divided among the entire convention with none overlapping allowing the conventioneer to sit in on as many topics as desired. A few of the 1999 topics included; Anti-Poaching In South Africa, Building The Low Cost Shoot House, The Future Of Gun Rights, Marine Snipers In Vietnam, Urban Traps And Trapping, and many more. Some of the speakers in charge of the seminars were; Jim Fotis, Col. Jeff Cooper, Peter G. Kokalis, and Ragnar Benson. The seminars were split up between the Cashman Center and the Palace Station Hotel.
“Other Participatory Events”
The convention provides a “hands-on” opportunity for those interested in learning new arts and sharpening their skills in many areas. These sometimes require an amount of physical conditioning and may not necessarily be for the beginner. The topics, skills and arts have covered many disciplines in years past, and a few those available for 1999 were; Combat Martial Arts and Weapon Retention, Hand to Hand Combat, Street Knife Basics, and even Underwater Escape Techniques using an underwater crash simulator brought all the way from Alaska by Learn to Return Training Systems.
This year the manufacturers demo was broken up into 3 days. New for the 1999 convention, a group of manufacturers brought out their new products at the Desert Sportsman’s Range for a little hands on T&E. If you were a conventioneer or competitor, you were welcome to do your own hands-on live fire evaluation at no cost. The ammunition was provided by Hornady Ammunition for this event. Manufacturers in attendance at the Demo included; John’s Guns, GSI Steyr, L.A.R. Manufacturing, SIG Arms, Robar Co., Armalite Inc, Olympic Arms, Vector Arms and others.
The Firepower Demo
This is one of the most popular events of the convention. It is both educational and entertaining and is certainly one of the authors favorite parts. Peter Kokalis is the annual Emcee and the demo is put on with a lot of hard work and preparation by the Arizona Emma Gees. Upon reporting to the range this year I was met by Peter almost immediately. He gave me a little input on the articles I have done in the past on this event and brought me out on the firing line. “Look at this” he said pointing to a beautiful Polish BAR. “This is what your readers want to see.” He took me up the line, pointed out a few more nice guns and got ready to start the noise.
The event started with an introduction of each firearm, a little history about the caliber, origin, conflicts it may have been involved in and we are treated to a short burst to hear the cyclic rate as compared to others. We are introduced to each shooter at the same time. After this brief introduction, the line is opened up and the thunder of machine gun fire combined with pyrotechnics can be heard for miles around. The firepower demo portion of the convention usually runs an hour to an hour and a half and judging by the faces of the crowd, it is enjoyed by all.
The 2000 Convention
This year, Soldier of Fortune is celebrating their 25th Anniversary so you know this will be a convention you won’t want to miss. It is happening again at the Cashman Center in Las Vegas, October 11-15. To inquire about the convention you can reach SOF at (303)449-3750 ext. 300.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V4N1 (October 2000)