Over the years, I’ve been to a number of gun shows so I have a rather educated opinion on what to expect for sale and who will be in attendance. Oddly enough, regardless of location throughout the nation, shows like this are almost always predictable and indicative of the times. As an example, in the economic boom times of the 90s and early 2000’s (and during the assault weapons ban), the shows I attended had collector guns being bought and sold, firearm and military related artwork was readily available, and cheap swords (imported from china, made of substandard steel…. but still look cool) were being sold for a premium price. Conversely, after a mass shooting like the horrific event at Sandy Hook Elementary, ammunition and carbines (AR platforms, AKs, etc) were in demand and had doubled in price from the previous month while the collectibles and wall hangers were largely ignored. Recently I attended a rather large show in Pennsylvania and had to take note of what I saw…some of my observations may surprise you.
There was a group of tables dedicated to collector firearms from wars past and military paraphernalia but those tables (mostly segregated in one small room) were getting little traffic. The main showroom (actually several rooms) was packed with vendors and patrons… and most were selling things on preppers wish lists.
I saw thousands of guns and many were being sold… everything from handguns to shotguns to carbines to bolt rifles were being legally transferred from the FFLs in attendance. Most of these guns had practical purposes but few were on collectors wish lists.
Ammunition was getting scarce on the last day…5.56, .308, 9mm, 40 cal, etc were being sold by the case load. Most were priced reasonably but the few bricks of .22 cal I saw brought a premium price… but at least it was available.
Several military surplus vendors were in attendance and most were doing a great deal of business. Ammo cans (especially 50 cal) were flying off the shelves. Sleep systems, molle pouches, ponchos, fatigues, packs, etc. were all being carried out of the show. There were several old military vehicles and several were for sale (including an old Willys Jeep and a Deuce and a half).
Several body armor companies were in attendance and seemed to be staying busy with customers. They sold everything from soft “police style” vests to plate carrier and plate inserts (both ceramic and steel).
It seemed that preparedness vendors were in every isle selling pocket survival kits, water filters, dehydrated food, etc.
I would speculate the people in attendance fell into several categories. The true gun enthusiasts represented about 25%… they generally left the show with little to no purchases, or maybe a garand with matching numbers. About 25% were people who went for entertainment purposes (or had nothing better to do on a Sunday)…they were often in family units and they mostly bought cheap Chinese crap (such as elaborate but useless swords), handled lots of guns and may have even bought one. The largest group of people I saw, about 50%, fell into the prepper category. Granted we don’t wear signs that designate us as preppers, but when someone is buying ammunition in bulk, “tactical” guns, dehydrated food, and/or MREs, its not difficult to pick them out. The vendors at the gun show seem to be catering to this group more and more in recent years. If you’re reading this, chances are youre part of that group… and have probably thought you’re part of a fringe group that needs to operate in secret. Based on my observations, prepping has become a lot more mainstream, socially acceptable, and more widespread than many of us think.