No Fun Anymore

Last Saturday I went to an Evil Loophole Gun Show (ELGS), and I’m of the opinion that it may be the last I ever go to (with maybe a couple of exceptions, which I’ll talk about later).  Here’s why I’m so pissed off.

Gun shows used to be a place where you could find interesting stuff:  new guns, old guns, holsters, spare mags, ammo cans, replacement springs and so on, all things gunny.

The one I went to (Premier, in Lewisville TX) was none of those things.

If I’d wanted to buy a tricked-out AR-15, or all the doodads that would enable me to do same to a stock AR-15, I would have been in the right place.  Ye gods, there were literally hundreds of offerings on display.

Ditto if I’d wanted to buy a Glock or some other plastic striker-fired thing in 9mm:  hundreds upon hundreds of the damn things all over the place, along with all the accoutrements thereof, such as high-cap mags or flashlights.  Forget revolvers (I was idly looking for a S&W Model 65);  there may have been a few dozen revolvers on sale, in total, but if you were to exclude the .44 Mag and .22 revolvers, there was nothing to look at.  I saw one — one — stainless steel Model 60 in .375 Mag which did spark my interest for a moment, until I saw the $865 sticker.

I did not see a single AK-47, SKS or M1 Carbine at the show.  I mean, not one.  I saw one rifle I might have bought, except that the guy (a friend, by the way) wanted $10,000 for his Beretta BM62 — which may well be a reasonable price for a 1950s-era Garand which shoots 7.62mm NATO cartridges from a detachable magazine, but just not for my wallet.

Which brings me to the issue of price.

I’m not one of these guys who thinks that Colt 1911s should still cost $300, or that you should be able to get a .30-30 lever rifle for $150.  I understand how inflation works.  However, I also have a good idea for what guns should  cost — especially second-hand guns, which are, or should be a place where one can find a decent bargain;  except that with only a few exceptions, those  prices are only a few dollars shy of a NIB gun of the exact same model.

What father or grandfather can afford to spend $650 on a Henry .22 lever rifle as a present for a grandchild?  Even worse, a couple of plain-Jane Ruger 10/22 rifles were going for well over $200.  Seriously?

I also needed a couple of small ammo cans for my recent 9mm stock-up purchases.  Nobody was selling them.  I ended up getting a “clearance” deal at… Bass Pro, for about $11 apiece.  Yes, I ended up there after giving up on the ELGS.

Here’s what I did get at the gun show:  a couple boxes of the SIG 9mm 124gr defense loads which I need to compare to their heavier cousins, and two boxes of .45-70 Govt from a reloader — and the latter only because I was looking for some Buffalo Bore-type hot loads.  Not one ammo dealer was selling anything from Buffalo Bore — hell, only one was selling new .45-70 Govt at all, and at a price… never mind.

No guns.  I was not even marginally  tempted by any of the guns on sale — and (as any fule know) when it comes to guns, I have the lowest sales resistance of any man in the Western world.

Not last Saturday, and probably not at any time in the near future* either.

*The Fort Worth gun show is coming up in two weeks’ time, and I may go to that because the Ft. Worth shows generally have a decent selection of interesting guns, but if I do, it’ll be only as part of a trip to the Stockyards and a rodeo in the evening.  If that show is of the same ilk as Lewisville, I’m outta there — I mean, away from all gun shows in the foreseeable future.


  1. 2 years ago I figured gun shows have shot their load. Went to one and there was absolutely nothing to buy. The only thing that caught my eye, and only briefly, was a table set up by a wealthy guy with a dozen mint condition Colt Pythons in the $3k-$5k range. srsly

    The rest of the show looked like a bunch of people clearing out their garages, old, dirty, rusty, over priced junk. Disappointing.

    In the 2nd show that year, at the very first table a nitwit picked up a pistol and started swinging it around while looking for his friend. He swung it right past me. I’m not a fan of getting shot, especially from unloaded guns, so I left. I won’t be back. And I was out the $7 entry fee, which always grated me anyway. Pay a fee to buy stuff.

    Is it me, or does there seem to be more and more asswipes appearing out of nowhere all the time?

  2. I think this goes back to the BATFE trying to kill the kitchen table FFL. back in the 80s and 90s I would see lots of single table displays at a gun show, usually a guy trying to upgrade his personal collection by selling and buying a few pieces at the show. That was the most interesting part of the show.

    Today it seems to be store front business’s using the gun show as an auxiliary showroom. And it’s all tacticool BS stuff. I stopped going about 8 years back.

  3. I don’t do gun shows unless I’m looking to kill a couple of hours wandering around while the wife is off on another mission. The OKC fair grounds used to do a gun show and craft show on the same weekend. A great idea. The big show in Tulsa is probably the only old school show left and even that it being taken over by mall ninjas in air soft plate carriers and meth heads with prison tats. Like you I don’t see a lot of old wheel guns or even early generation real steel automatics. I think that the old timers are holding on to them because they are high quality firearms, or are running scared because of the political situation. They see the revolver as the least threatened species out there and lots of those very old guns that have been in families for multiple generations don’t have a paperwork trail.

    The classic old metal ammo cans that we used to see by the car load lots for a couple of bucks are pretty much gone. I think that we bought them all up. I can’t see paying big money for the “new” cans so I’ve gone to the plastic boxes. The brand name ones are okay and a local farm supply chain puts them on sale for five or six bucks a couple of times a year. Even the knock offs from Harbor Freight aren’t too bad if you can find them for three or four dollars. For ammunition that just sits on the shelf or carrying cleaning gear or fired brass the plastic cans are just fine. At last count I probably have 50 – and two dozen metal cans scattered around the house and garage.

  4. I’ve seen a similar trend at ham radio flea markets. Fewer people are bothering when you can sell an item for almost the same price as a NIB item over flea-bay without the travel/table fee/hotel or having to haggle with someone that actually knows what it’s worth.

    I used to hit gun shows to get accessories and supplies at better prices than local gun stores (if they even stocked what I was looking for) without the delay and risks of mail-order. A lot of that stuff is now available at local stores and is almost all available on the internet.

    I’ve also found fewer sellers at the shows that are willing to just shoot the breeze. Used to be you could learn a lot of history talking to the Mil-surp dealers. Now days it seems most just know the monetary appreciation on older guns and are simply “investors” without much interest in the background of what they are selling.

    I still go once in a while, usually to spend the afternoon walking and talking with friends and family. But not as much fun as “the old days”, especially when funding does not allow for taking advantage of the occasional deal.

  5. Buying a used gun is like buying a used car today. All the classics are gone, or some guy who thinks he’s Danny Koker “fixes” up an older car and thinks it’s worth five figures for a rusted frame beater….

  6. Yup. As the song goes, “….those we the days”.

    A buddy and I had our table(s) at the gun show in Chico, CA for 20 years running starting in the mid ’80’s. We both had our FFL’s. It was a small show, about 200 tables IIRC. It was at the fairgrounds, and they also had an antique show in the next building over at the same time, so it drew a pretty good crowd. It was small and local and as much a social event as a gun show. The real advantage was setting up on Friday afternoon and evening. We got to wheel and deal before the public got there Saturday morning. Good times. As noted, not the same anymore. Now my wife and I live in Texas.

    I have been to the gun show at the Will Rogers center in Fort Worth a few times in the past year. Yeah, a lot of over priced tacticool stuff. However, there were a few table with racks of used long guns made from wood and steel like God intended. I was tempted by a 1940’s made Model 94 in 30-30 that was fairly priced, however I just did not have enough coin of the realm at the time.

    The high point of the day was the purchase of this book—

    Mr. Burgin himself was there. It was truly an honor to meet him and get an autographed copy of his book.

  7. I had a nice, long comment typed up, and then it disappeared. Damn it! Here goes again.

    Revolvers, mmm. Especially older S&Ws. There is nothing like running an old Smith, particularly if it has its firing pin on the hammer. Pure shooting pleasure. You might want to keep an eye on Gunbroker for a Model 65.

    Take it from a former Python owner: they are overrated. Beautiful though they are, the trigger stacks, something I won’t tolerate. I sold mine after 27 years for 4x what I paid for it a few years back with zero regrets.

    Modern iterations of gun shows commit the worst sin of all–they’re boring. It’s all ammo, camo, plastic, tactic(al). They seem to have become the equivalent of traveling on the interstate.

  8. I used to go to the Market Hall trade shows in Dallas from time to time, last time about six years ago. I agree, lots of new stuff priced higher than the deals from Midway, Palmetto and the other big internet sources that can be great buys with free shipping from time to time.

    I had the same experience looking for bargains on nice old wood and metal leftovers from various wars. Jackson Armory in Dallas would be where I could find decent prices from time to time, bought most of my guns from them when I lived in Dallas. I always left the gun shows wondering who buys the over priced interesting stuff or do the guys at those tables just pay their fee and set up just to get out of the house for a weekend.

    The best deal I was ever offered was at a Dallas gun show 15 years ago when I saw a beautiful .416 Rigby, I don’t remember who made it but I think Winchester and it had wonderful wood, looked fresh and clean. I was admiring the rifle and the man who had the table said it was priced at $1,200 but he could come down a few hundred if I was interested. I had saved up some cash that I had in my pocket and almost offered him $1,000 but then I started thinking about actually shooting the damn thing, cost of ammunition and recoil and I said thanks but no thanks and started to walk away, I loved the gun but it was too much gun for me. He then offered to sell it to me for $800 and I realized that he was needing to move that gun on, that was a hard to to pass up but I walked away and never regretted passing the great deal up. I found a nice 30-06 Winchester model 70 Featherweight with excellent wood that fits my needs and over the years it took a few deer and it is too much gun for our Texas deer anyway.

  9. Gun shows really started going downhill in 1986 and they’ve hit rock bottom now.

    Yeah, nothing like paying $6.00 for the privilege of walking by some dealer’s over-priced display of nothing special.

    Here’s what happened: Prior to 1986, FFLs were generally only allowed to ‘do business’ at the location specified on their license. Which meant that for the most part, if you saw someone selling guns at a gun show, they were selling their own, privately owned firearms and were generally willing to deal.

    Starting in 1986 the BATF allowed dealers to sell at multiple locations. It took a while, but by the late 90’s – early 2000’s, gun shows had been almost 100% taken over by dealers. So now, going to a gun show was no different from going to your LGS (Local Gun Store) except that there were more of them.

    Now in THEORY you might think that having so many gun stores “competing” with each other would tend to drive down prices, right?

    Wrong. For a few reasons.

    First of all, in the “auld days” the guy selling at the gun show knew that he had to sell by Sunday afternoon or he was stuck hauling his guns home to wait for the next gun show a month or so later. So he had an incentive to deal and to accept a lower offer than he’d otherwise want.

    By contrast, the LGS dealer who sets up a table knows that he can put his guns back in the display case on Monday morning, so he really has very little incentive to dicker on price.

    Second, the dealer is a business man. He has a business to run which means he has to make a profit – as opposed to the Joe Blow who just wants to sell this old gun so he can buy a fishing rod or take the kids to Disney world. So, once again, his prices will be high and he will be unlikely to negotiate (and given the overhead it costs to run a business I can’t even fault him for this. I don’t know what the “markup” on guns is but my guess is that it’s not much. So even if the dealer wanted to “cut you a deal” he’d be cutting his own throat in the process.)

    For that matter, when you see a “dealer” at a table at a gun show, you are likely not even talking to the guy who has the power to make “Deals”, you are talking to an employee who is getting paid $15.00 an hour whether he sells a gun or not. So his only incentive to sell is that it means fewer guns to load into the van and transport back to the dealer at the end of the day on Sunday.

    Then there’s the internet and Big Box factor. The LGS dealer can’t compete with the likes of Wal Mart and Bass Pro or Cabelas on price, even if he wanted to. He also can’t compete with Gunbroker.

    Honestly, as much as I’m “done” with gun shows (pretty sure I haven’t been to one since maybe 2009) it surprises me even more that gun dealers waste their time there. I can only assume that they are making enough $$ at the gun shows to make it worth their while but I can certainly think of ways I’d rather spend a weekend.

    EDIT: I should add that the other thing that happened in 1986 was that we were allowed to buy ammo by mail order. That kills another reason for going to a gun show, because it used to be that buying bulk ammo cheap was something you could do at a gun show. Nowadays I can stay in my pajamas and order as much ammo as I need and it’s not my back that gets sore carting it around.

  10. Gun shows have been declining for about a decade now. Go to a 500 table show, and it’s AR/AK/1911/Glock…and damned near nothing else. The dealers are all selling the same thing, and if you live in a high-paperwork state, you’re usually better off going to the LGS. Once in a great while you’ll see something worth buying, but not very often.

    There’s one show I do make a point of attending, but it’s the Baltimore Antique Arms Show. THAT one is worth it.

  11. ITdavel covered some of it for the OKC area. Throw in two groups playing “Let’s have a show every two weeks! It’ll have the same people with the same crap every time, but who cares!” Which means little shows not worth going to.

    Last time I looked for some 30-cal size ammo cans, the best price for the plastic ones was a Harbor Freight, especially if you’re on their mailing list and get the discount coupons.

  12. My brother is a leather worker, makes standard pattern holsters for sale and custom holsters on order. He teaches leather tooling and also makes artwork and small tack for equestrians. He gets a table or booth at a several local shows in eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and Wyoming, and also attends arts and craft shows. It’s rare that he even makes enough sales to pay the entrance fees at any of the shows, but it does bring him the occasional custom order. I hear after almost every show, he’s thinking about not going again. Then he’s back at next months show…

  13. I have been looking at an S&W 19 for a couple of months now in the Gun Library of a local sports shop. Pretty good shape, 1989 manufacture, 6 inch barrel, only defect I can see is a scratch ring around the cylinder. They still want $900 for it and won’t bend. I can walk over to the new stuff and buy a brand new 686 for $100 less. Damn shame.

  14. Pretty much the trend for shows here in PA, the guns are made from overpriced unobtainium and the accessories are overpriced, recycled Chinesium. I go to the local one when my friend Dennis Todd and his wife are set up because they usually have a cool machine gun or two to look at, they sell modern rifle and pistol accessories that actually are high quality and priced well, and we usually all do dinner afterward so it’s a social event also. Reloading supplies are cheaper at the local gun shop, but I might grab some pyro stuff from the one guy to avoid hazmat charges on shipping. Last trip I think I bought the last few boxes of 26.5mm flares I’ll ever see around here (they were even priced well) and several ammo cans. The one dealer sets up a huge tent outside full of decent surplus items and I usually end up with a few cans, random bits, and small tools from him. I used to grab ammo but those dealers have gone insane, being able to get ammo dropped on my porch significantly cheaper than schlepping it several hundred yards to my vehicle is a bad business model for them.

  15. Lots of folks summed it up well with Gun shows becoming more and more of a bust.

    The one large show near me sets upa few times a year to sell tacticool stuff as well as bulk meat jerky (now with 40% meat flavor) and other trinkets. The one redeeming value the local show has is the couple of book dealers that attend. If you want a copy of Boston’s Gun Bible, EFAD series etc and want to pay cash there’s a seller there for you. THere’s a very nice lady that sells rare and first edition books by Skelton, O’Connor and Keith among others. Her books come with a hefty price tag sometimes. The local show charges $5 to park plus admission so it’s about $14 or so to walk in the door. $28 if my wife comes. I go every few years and I should just stop going. THe ammunition guy has eastern block ammo for prices that Walmart charges for WWB, Remington and Federal.

    $28 pays for a lot of shipping. Books from amazon and the second hand sites, holsters etc can be bought over the internet.


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