So, gunslinger, you finally got your pass to SHOT. You have arrived. You are now the envy of all your friends — headed as you are to Vegas for a week of guns, gear, 24-hour casinos, and cheap buffets. You book a room at a grossly inflated price, and scope out some good chow on the internet. Who knew seafood was so popular and available in the middle of a landlocked desert? Sushi too! Awesome.
You head out shopping before the trip. Your wife buys new outfits for special occasions, why shouldn’t you? Besides, you’ll need to look the part, and those $800 tac-pants will last a lifetime as long as you don’t do anything tactical in them. You also might need a new hat. Or maybe two, and with lots of Velcro for morale patches. And you’re definitely going to need a new man purse — I mean, “tactical urban utility and light assault rig,” for all the critical swag you’re going to haul out of there. It’s like trick-or-treating for adults, and you’re going to need extra luggage to get it all home.
You arrive the night before the show begins. VEGAS BABY! For a man-at-arms like you this is really the ultimate fantasy getaway. To make it any better you’d have to ride to the Sands Expo in a convertible Cadillac with longhorns on the front, Larry Vickers riding shotgun, and a resurrected Col. Jeff Cooper in the back seat autographing people’s 1911s. As you leave your hotel en route to a delicious steak dinner, you stop and ask the reception lady to put you down for a 4 a.m. wakeup call. You’ll just be out a little while. A nice dinner, a beer or two, and then off to bed.
What is that noise? Oh please make it stop. Why do I feel like I’ve eaten sand? Why is my head pounding? That noise! Make it…CRAP! My wake-up call! Out of the rack! Where’s the coffee maker? Why is there a hole in my new $800 tac-pants? Oh well, at least there’s not a tiger in the bathroom. Three cups of coffee and a large-greasy-breakfast-with-extra-bacon later, you’re on your way across the hotel lobby, down the stairs, and through the causeway to be the first attendee in line to enter the exhibit hall on this fine morn…Oh! Or maybe the 20,000th in line? That’ll have to do. Either way, this is going to be awesome. You pick up a program and check out the map, download the app, and calculate how much time you can spend with each exhibitor. It turns out your high school algebra teacher was right: you are using it. And if you move from booth to booth in an orderly, proficient, and military manner, and spend no more than 45 seconds with each vendor, you will see it all! This is a super-feasible plan, especially since you can just use the bathroom once you get back to the hotel.
Your head begins to clear as opening time nears. Finally, the sweltering sea of humanity begins to surge through the door. Showtime! You slip in through the mass of people like a ninja. The chatter begins immediately. You are overwhelmed with the smell of freedom: machined aluminum, annealed brass, and four hundred new miracle lubricants, all designed by former DEVGRU guys, that will finally make your M4 as reliable as an AK. You run into three marketing guys festooned with cameras, phones, charts and maps, and having six different conversations simultaneously. You dive for your first killer bit of swag: an awesome hat that an attractive young lady has just set out at the booth of one of the prestigious black rifle companies. But a 6-year-old kid beats you to it by a nanosecond. He smiles. The booth lady smiles. And you try to smile, as you grab one of everything else that wasn’t nailed down. You don’t really know what you have, but your now bulging tactical urban utility and light assault rig indicates you have a lot of it.
After 4 hours of booth-browsing on the first floor, you realize your ambition to hold it all day was misplaced, and you make for the head. Approaching the urinal, you are both disappointed and a little disgusted by how many “marksmen” gone before you were unable to hit their targets. Now you feel better, but still dehydrated. You pull out a couple bucks for a Coke. What? $5.00?! Are you serious?
You briefly leave the exhibit hall to try and catch a celebrity appearance, and you run into those marketing guys again. Do they EVER stop talking or shooting video? Nice guys though. As you edge toward your hero’s table, you run into about a quarter of the current SHOT Show attendees, who apparently had the same idea. You hold your phone up as high as you can and snap a fragmentary picture of the man who most decent USAF satellite photo analysts with over 20 years of experience would probably confirm is the guy you’re dying to meet.
It’s mid-afternoon on day one, and you’re already tired. Your plan to surgically strike every booth at the show has not survived first contact with the enemy. You resort to random wandering for a bit. You’ve got two more days, after all. Your man purse…rather, your tactical urban utility and light assault rig, is getting heavy. It’s so noisy on the floor you almost have to yell at everyone you talk to, and half of everybody is coughing and hacking away. Good thing you’re healthy and fit, and have been drinking Coke! You’re also getting hungry. You check your credit card balance. What did you spend on dinner last night? And what’s the deal with this apparent $500 cash withdrawal?
Better hit the cheap buffet. You plow through the line and then you see it: sushi. Is there any better way to capitalize on a buffet? You pile on the rolls like a fat kid invading a chocolate factory. Awesome. Back to the floor for a while. You think you see Travis Haley, but then the crowd obscures him. There’s always tomorrow. Time for some rest.
You wake up the next morning feeling a little off, but you head to the show anyway to resume your conquest. There are those weird marketing guys again. You notice the stubble and the black circles under their eyes. And the skinny one looks kind of wobbly. Then the smell hits you. Do these guys ever bathe? Your stomach revolts. You sprint for the head, where the next 20 minutes are a hazy, murderous blur. But here is where the built-in knee pads really redeem the $800 tac-pants purchase, and now that you’ve put the tac-pants to real-world use, there’s basically no difference between you and a special operator. You crawl back to your room, remembering the sushi. How far did that fish travel to market, and how long was it sitting out? You manage to ring the front desk about a 9 a.m. wake-up call. Tomorrow you’ll pace yourself.
You wake up feeling a little better and you go to make coffee. You take a sip and try to swallow that life-giving tar-bean nectar. It feels like razorblades. You look in the mirror. Your eyes are red, and your nose is running. You remember the hand sanitizer, and gargle it. This is SHOT Show.