In a wretched economic year, the pants-wetters, doomsayers, and purveyors of pessimism would be confounded by the life and vitality in the shooting industry. This year in Las Vegas, an estimated 60,000 people (all in the gun biz), many of whom look like Larry the Cable Guy, crowded into a maze of under-ventilated halls to ogle, grope and buy. Guns. What did you think I was talking about?

The most densely crowded venues were dedicated to the wonderful worlds of the paramilitary and law enforcement. Apparently there is an insatiable need for the equipment used in shooting, clubbing, and gassing people. There are suits of full body armor the like of which has not been seen since the Battle of Agincourt. There are all-black deathmobiles, equipped with lethal gear of all sorts. I’m told that Cop World constitutes fully one-third of the SHOT Show. How shooting and suppressing the citizenry ties into Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade is more than I can comprehend, but there it is.

There is also a very notable shortage of Booth Babes. In past years, you could hardly turn a corner without seeing some inadequately clothed young mammal who would cause you to stop dead in your tracks and give thanks to the forces of evolution. Damned if I know what happened to them.

And there are some very good new guns, and not only that, affordable new guns. There is the Ruger American Rifle, and a radical new rifle from Thompson Center, and a second-generation Weatherby Vanguard, and a semi-custom version of the New Ultra Light Arms guns (for less than half their price), a great lady’s rifle from Savage and on and on. You will be reading all about them in the posts and photo galleries to come.

Zeiss is coming out with new scopes and binoculars, plus what I believe is a unique no-questions-asked repair policy. Leupold has a powerful new Gold Ring Spotting Scope, and if you have not heard of an optics company called Meopta, trust me, you’re going to.

As life as we know it draws to a close, it’s perhaps fitting that this is one of the best SHOT Shows I’ve seen, but it sure would be nice, if we make it to 2013, to see the Booth Babes come back.