Every year, we in the shooting and hunting industry celebrate the great outdoors by voluntarily locking ourselves into the windowless Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas for four days of the finest in fluorescent lighting and recycled air. This, the 35th anniversary of SHOT, was the biggest ever. It filled every nook and cranny of the 630,000 square feet of exhibit space and attracted a record 62,371 attendees. What did we do?
We walked. We perused 12 ½ miles of firearms, firearm accessories, ammo, camo, optics, knives, clothing, footwear, blinds, treestands, game calls, taxidermy, crossbows – you get the idea. We looked at stuff until our faces had the stunned, quizzical expressions of dead perch. We wandered until we had no idea where we were. I used the compass on my smartphone to try to find an exit from one of the larger halls because I was dehydrated and beginning to giggle too much. Products ranged from training guns that shot marshmallows to belt-fed .50 cal heavy machine guns capable of 1100 rounds per minute. I thought I was okay until I wandered by Arsenal Arms, Booth 11225, and saw that they had welded two 1911 A-1 .45 ACPs together. That’s right, one gun, two barrels, two magazines, and your choice of two triggers or two triggers that had been welded together into one trigger. The thing weighed 4 lbs. empty and could hold 16 rounds. Firing two 230-grain bullets at once, it could, according to Arsenal, stop a bull in its tracks. I’m guessing the inside-the-waistband holster for this pistol hasn’t hit the streets yet. But trust me. It will soon.
If you’ve ever wondered what a parallel universe might be like, Las Vegas would be the place to start. I hadn’t been there in six years, but as I walked off the plane and passed the slot machines, I’m pretty sure I saw the same woman who had been playing when I left. Or maybe it was her daughter.
I checked into the Venetian, where the lady at the desk informed me that my room was less than half a mile away and gave me a map of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. After about 45 minutes, I found myself in Venice, Italy. Muscled gondoliers in traditional garb sang as they rowed tourists along canals. There were bricks beneath my feet and a blue sky overhead. The lighting was weirdly perfect. You felt like you were outside. Except there were little duct-things in the sky by which you knew it stopped after four stories. The whole scenario was stunningly authentic, right down to the Banana Republic store, a taco place, and Breathe, the oxygen bar where people were fighting rear-guard actions against the night before.
I finally found my room. By this time, I was so confused that within five minutes I had somehow locked my keycard inside and was on the outside pounding on my own door as if I might let myself in. I called security from a house phone. The guy who came was very polite and asked if I could describe my luggage before he unlocked the door. He believed that it was my room, he just needed to make sure. I thought for a moment. “No,” I said.
He let me in anyway.
The minibar/fridge in your hotel room only looks like a refrigerator. It’s actually an IED implanted by the hotel. At your slightest touch it will explode in charges added instantly and automatically to your bill. Each item sits atop its own pressure-sensitive plate. “For Your Convenience, “ reads a plaque on the refrigerator door, “ Refreshments Removed Will Be Automatically Charged To Your Suite Immediately After Removal.” In short, you touch it, you buy it. Those little miniatures of booze? $9 each. Peanut M&Ms? Same price. A split of champagne? $39. My room came with a computer printer. I was afraid to go anywhere near the thing. You probably didn’t need to actually use it to incur a charge, just get close enough to set off the motion detector and it was bound to cost you something.
I fled my room at the first opportunity and went into one of SHOT’s larger halls. I’d accidentally come a day before the show started. It was freezing cold and people were driving trucks back and forth. “Get the hell outta my way, dude!” roared a guy driving what looked to be a small mobile crane. I did.