Weekend at the gun show

So another gun show weekend draws to an end…

Honestly, I love working the gun shows.  I’m a people person.  I like to meet people, talk about guns, and sell guns.  Compared to a lot of other dealers, we actually have a pretty good time at the shows, and manage to sell quite a bit of stuff.  But FBMG does it a little bit different than most dealers.

A standard gun show set up does it like this.  The dealer sits (literally) on one side of the table, bonus points if he is old, surly, and generally bitter.  The table is kind of like the blasted terrain between the razor wire of a Great War battlefield, a kind of no-man’s land populated with old hunting rifles and badly sporterized mil-surps.  The shoppers are on the other side of the table.  They get to guess if they are allowed to actually touch the guns, and if they choose wrong, the surly dealer gets to snap at them.  If the dealer is really motivated, he may occasionally get out of his chair, and if the planets are aligned correctly, he may actually answer a question.

Between the tables of the Surly Old Guys, are a bunch of tables featuring beanie babies, Klingon daggers, and black velvet paintings of Indian wolf princesses.  (And on that note, how come everybody’s spirit animal is always a wolf or a bear?  You never see any manatee princesses).  I won’t make fun of the beef jerky tables, because beef jerky is what makes America great. 

Then there are the good dealer’s tables.  These are usually local stores, and they tend to at least be professional, with a decent selection.  I won’t bag on them, because I’ve got way too many friends that work at those tables, and though I’m a big dude, if enough of them dog pile me at the next show at one time, I’m pretty sure they could take me out back and beat me like a rented mule. 

Now when FBMG started having a presence at the Salt Lake show, we decided we wanted to do it different.  We set our tables up more like a trade show booth.  Rather than the no-man’s land in the middle, we open ours up.  Customers get to walk inside.  We put grid wall up along the wall and hang guns off it, just like the display wall in a store.  We encourage people to touch our stuff.   It’s a gun, not a friggin’ Faberge Egg.

We decided that we wanted to put the show back in gun show, so we brought in our Prism laser simulator.  Most of the space we rent is used up by a large tent.  Inside, the tent is dark enough that we can use a projector to light up a wall, and then we let people play on the simulator all day long, for free.  Which is cool, because the closest people usually come to something like the Prism is the Discovery Channel.  They’re armed with a real gun, but with a laser diode blocking the barrel.  One of my people will run the machine, and jump around between various games, plate racks, IPSC style stages, and even cowboy quick draw.  Every so often, the operator will crank it over to the serious end of things, and let people run through the actual training scenarios, just like they’re in a CCW class, or a student at the police academy.  This is always a huge draw. 

I always overstaff my booth.  FBMG doesn’t have employees.  We have Minions. (Yes, I know, I may be taking this evil overlord thing a touch too far sometimes)  Everybody that helps out at my booth is a gun fanatic, and is an expert at something.  If I don’t know the answer to a question, I’ve probably got somebody that does.  And if we don’t know the answer, we won’t make up something in order to just sell you what is in stock.

See, I don’t go to the show to make a bunch of money. (won’t lie though, it is really nice when we do)  I would rather treat somebody nice, even if that means they buy something from another vendor that day, and have them become a long term customer.  For us, the gun show is really about meeting people, and letting them know that we exist.

Gun shows are interesting places, a vast cross section of humanity, with the neatest people you’ll ever meet, and also the weirdest.  On one hand, you can spend thirty minutes helping out some nice young couple pick out their very first home defense gun, and next you’re talking to a really twitchy guy who starts telling you about how he was in MACV-SOG, where he learned you could make an AK full-auto with a match stick, before he was recruited by the “company” to serve as a mercenary in Rhodesia, where he taught the Mujahideen to shoot down Hinds with stinger missiles.  Usually that guy doesn’t stick around long once he learns that most of the guys that work here are former or current military, and they use posers as piñatas. 

The down side of setting up an epic, trade-show style booth, is that it means a LOT of work to take it down and get it back to the store, that, combined with two straight days of standing on concrete really takes it out of you.  My business partner had no voice after 20 hours of running people through the simulator.  Shows are fun, but they are work. 

The running joke is that I shouldn’t be allowed to take down the booth.  I’ve got a bit of a reputation as a clutz, and it is tradition that I injure myself somehow.  Today I smashed my hand carrying out gridwall.  (or as Nightcrawler renamed it today, Deth-Wall).  Time before last, I tripped and fell, which wouldn’t be a big deal, unless you happen to be carrying a DhSK.  (which for those of you who don’t know, is a REALLY BIG machine gun).  Don’t worry though, I managed to protect the DhSK from any harm by shielding it from the ground with my internal organs.

Thanks to the Minions.  Guys, if you’re reading this, (if the boss asks if you read his blog, just humor him, and say yes, because it is good for his self-esteem) thanks, we couldn’t do it without you.  You rock. 

    

5 Responses

  1. Tables that are understaffed really bug me, though truth be told they probably save me money. I remember walking up to a series of tables at a show about a year ago, fondling a Taurus Thunderbolt in .45 Colt for a bit and then walking off. Seemed nobody was going to pay me any attention, so I tried finding it at another vendor.

    Failed.

    Returned to original table and probably sat there for 10 minutes until somebody came to me. That’s a really bad thing to do when you’ve got a guy sitting there thinking, “I don’t need this gun. I have no use for it, but I want it. Why am I dropping $500 on a toy? I should just let it be. Still, I’d like to know if they’ve got any in .357, maybe they do, maybe I’m really lucky. I don’t have a 30-30 yet, and Al over there was really friendly when I walked passed his booth. He’s got plenty for sale too. Why am I still standing here? Cripes, I’ve been standing in front of this CAS gun for 8 minutes now. It’s not like I’m some idiot gawking at an AK for 30 seconds. Will somebody just sell me this thing?”

    All I ask at a gun show is you have somebody handy that can answer a couple questions on the weapon I’m looking at, which on average is 25% of the time, verify the price, drop the 4473 into my hand and put me in the queue to check out. That’s it.

    Sounds like you’re doing the right thing.

  2. So much of the time some of the gun shows look more like a yard sale than a gun show. I can understand knives and camping equipment, but there seems to be more old knick-knacks than there used to be.

  3. Minions? Dang! Can I be one of your minions?

    Sounds like a good way to do a gun show.

  4. Larry, if you need help at the next show, let me know. I can at least run a computer or tell people what a gun is.

  5. It sucks beyond belief that some minions are well within view of all of the fun, but tragically are standing behind some of the aforementioned tables.

    That alone wouldn’t be so bad, but instead of talking about things I know and/or care about, I get asked the same questions:

    1) Which calibuh Hi-Point has mo’ knockdown powuh, dawg?
    2) You don’t have to do the background check at a gun show, right? Isn’t that the whole point of a gun show?
    3) Yo, how many clips does dis Hi-Point come wit? Y’all got some mo’?
    4) Since when do you have to do a background check for a shotgun? I never had to do a background check for a shotgun before…
    5) [looking at NIB S&W AirLite, marked $600] Would you take $250 for this?
    6) [overheard conversation] You don’t want that pussy 9mm. Get this .38 Special.
    7) When is Hi-Point going to make a 10-mil?

    Larry, that’s what I immediately recognized about the FMBG “area” — it’s just like a SHOT show booth. Maybe it’s Feng Shui…

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