By Jeff W. Zimba
The Largest Gun Show West of the Rockies May Soon Become The Highest Attended Gun Show in the Nation!
The crowds have gone and the vendors are all back home as this is being written, but the memories of SAR Show 2006 may linger on for years. The final numbers are just coming in and past show records are breaking in all areas. This was the seventh annual SAR Show West, and it has been larger and getting more attendance every year. Small Arms Review sponsors this once a year show with the Crossroads of the West Gun Shows organization, who bring their professionalism and show base to this event as well.
With a gate attendance of over 30,000 people, SAR Show 2006 was attended in greater numbers than many past SHOT Shows and within 10,000 of their record breaking 2006 show in Las Vegas. The footprint of the entire show was over 3,000 tables, and of the SAR (Class 3 focused) portion of the show alone was over 900 tables this year, including inside and outside space, display booths, military vehicles and towed weapons.
To anyone who is a regular attendee at this show, it is obvious that the SAR Show has become more of a specialty trade show than a traditional gun show. This year featured two different bands playing on opposite ends of the courtyard to entertain attendees while they viewed the military vehicle displays, stopped for lunch at one of the many food vendors or just rested and enjoyed the beautiful Phoenix sunshine. Phoenix Country Western band “Mogollon 4” played directly in front the SAR building, and they were definitely in synch with the theme of the show and will be back next year. Their original music was excellent, but their rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama” brought tears to many eyes of those in the crowd. There were groups of re-enactors milling around the show with talk of bringing back the old “Great Western” tradition of a costumes contest. There was even a bagpipe group roaming the many buildings of the show, briefly entertaining in different areas.
The main SAR building was again filled with professional booths and displays, and huge collections of firearms seldom amassed in one place. At this event it is common to visit and talk with the people who have been promoting Class III for decades; and in some cases over half a century. Several trainers and suppliers of military personnel and civilian law enforcement were there with their wares to take orders, purchase firearms and accessories and to just pass along their vast knowledge to the next generation of Emma Gees. Some of the more recognizable names and businesses at this years show included Dolf Goldsmith, Kent Lomont, Bob Landies, Dan Shea (LMO), Doublestar Arms, Gemtech, John’s Guns, POF-USA, DPMS, Robinson Armament, MGI Military, SOG-LLC, Model 1 Sales, Halo Manufacturing, J&T Distributing, Lakeside Guns, SRT Arms, Garwood Industries, Lage Manufacturing, Gordon Miller (HKSpecialist.Net), Elite Iron, Arsenal, Inc., Cold Steel, and many, many more. With close to 900 tables and booths for the vendors we cannot even attempt to name everyone individually. A quick look at the vendor list online at the smallarmsreview.com website gives a more accurate depiction of the show and reads more like a “Who’s Who” list of the military firearms world than a simple dealer listing.
As expected, the Class III inventories were enormous and lots of guns, ammo and accessories were bought, sold and traded throughout the show. Collectors were quick to snap up the transferable North Vietnamese K50 submachine gun from Kent Lomont’s tables, and if they didn’t get the Bren made by the Nationalist Chinese arsenal at the show, then surely someone called Kent later for this piece of history. The variety of truly rare machine guns spanned the building, with General Mitch Werbel’s (MAC) personal fully transferable M134 Minigun at L&L’s tables, twin water-cooled fifties at M6’s, a beauty of a 106mm recoilless with M8C spotter was sold before it got off the trailer outside, and a cherry M4 Enhanced 4- position Colt was at Dennis Todd’s table. One of the most interesting guns spotted at the show was the Hughes Heligun at the Long Mountain Outfitters display. Built in 1965 by Hughes Helicopter Corporation as a competitor to the Minigun, this rare 2-barreled gun fired 6,000 rounds per minute of 7.62x51mm NATO with no external power. LMO also had a few highly sought after HK-416 parts sets, both with proper pedigrees.
Several vendors had new items to introduce and waited until this show to show their wares to the general public.
•POF-USA had their new .308 Piston Rifle on display. This rifle actually uses all standard AR-15 internal trigger parts allowing the operator to utilize any combination of favorite custom parts from prior designs. Other dramatic changes from other AR-15 style firearms include a heavily beveled magazine well and a right-hand-side bolt release that can still be operated from the left side like the traditional design. SAR will be keeping a close eye on this rifle in the future and has already requested one for T&E (Testing and Evaluation) for a future article.
•MGI Military had several examples of their “Hydra” Modular Weapons System on display. Interchangeable lower receivers on hand included .223, 7.26×39 and their new .45 ACP. With several other calibers in various stages of pre-production, many pistol calibers will eventually be offered as gas operated or in a traditional blowback design. Their QCB Upper was also a popular attraction.
•Red Rock Arms (formally known as Bobcat Arms) unveiled their ATR1 Sporting Rifle. It is a new FN FAL-style rifle in .223 and it uses standard AR-15 magazines. It is very light and appears to be well thought-out. One will be on the way to SAR shortly for T&E.
•DeGroat Tactical Armaments, LLC has started manufacturing a new AR-15 style lower receiver in .45 ACP. This receiver uses unmodified Grease Gun magazines much to the delight of all who handled it. There will be more information in a future issue of Small Arms Review as this project develops.
•Lage Manufacturing had their popular MAC upper receivers with a few surprises in store. Along with their highly acclaimed M11/9 upper, was an upper for an M10 in .45 ACP and an upper for .22 LR. If they are as well built and designed as the M11/9 uppers, they will certainly also be a fixture at every major shoot and competition.
The Meeting with ATF
The National Firearms Act Trade & Collectors Association (NFATCA) and Small Arms Review Magazine sponsored another meeting with top ATF Officials to meet with members of the Class III industry. Anyone who is a member of NFATCA or a vendor in the SAR Show was welcome to attend. Speakers included Lewis Raden – Assistant Director, Office of Enforcement Programs & Services, Gary Schaible – Program Manager, NFA Branch, and Rick Vasquez – Deputy Chief of Firearms Technology Branch. Speakers from NFATCA included John Brown, Mark Barnes and Dan Shea.
There was a great amount of focus on the completion of the new industry handbook being authored by NFATCA consultants, and vetted by top advisers at ATF and members of NFATCA. It was reported that this new book for all members of the Class III community is nearing the final stages and printing and distribution details were currently being worked out. For anyone not aware of this project, the handbook is a compilation of all rules, laws and policy relating to transactions and doing business with NFA firearms. Many NFA decisions in the past have been vague at best and often contradictory, depending on whose interpretation was being utilized. This has created a lot of confusion in the past and has been a point of contention for years. Thanks to all the hard work by NFATCA and the excellent cooperation with many top officials of ATF, we will finally have a rulebook with “black and white” policy to follow and no longer be subjected to erroneous and ever-changing opinions.
There is almost a universal feeling regarding the excellent service the community has been provided with since the move of the NFA Branch from Washington, D.C. to West Virginia. Under the direction of NFA Branch Chief Ken Houchens, transfer times have been cut to a fragment of their previous lengths and customer service is at an all time high. With all these positive changes and increase in service it was very surprising to learn that ATF is currently operating with a vacancy rate in staffing of 55%. The new budget they are given to operate with will determine how this is affected in the future.
It was also reported that major progress has been made with the implementation of E-Filing specific forms with BATFE. In the near future we may have the ability to E-File forms 2, 3, some form 5s and 5320.20 eliminating the necessity to download or order a form, fill it out, and fax or mail it. E-Filing will allow us to electronically submit these forms resulting in less time spent getting the information to BATFE and faster turn-around times in the information being recorded and approved.
Live Fire & Group Gatherings
There are lots of informal shoots and meetings that happen around the days of the SAR Show. This is a natural occurrence given the massive influx of industry people and collectors to the same place at the same time. It seems that every Internet firearms related group has an annual (at least) face-to-face dinner or meeting while in Phoenix, obvious by the sea of buttons, stickers, name tags and shirts seen at the show. These are encouraged and we hope they grow at the same rate as the show itself.
Although there are no formal shooting events associated with the SAR Show there are always rumblings of a few invitational live-fire demonstrations. These seem to also be growing every year and from the photos we see and the reports we hear they can be quite productive, not to mention fun. There are several Class III clubs, ranges and organizations within a reasonable distance from the show and if any of them would like to step up and organize something more formal we would be happy to tell the show attendees about it. For obvious reasons, all we would ask is that the hours do not conflict with the show itself.
SAR Show 2007
Plans are already underway for the next show and the dates are November 30 through December 2, 2007, again at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. The floor plan is already being laid out and if you plan on exhibiting you should have already signed up and be on the waiting list. People’s travel plans change all the time so it is certainly well worth being on this list if you would like to display. As we get a little closer to the show the website www.smallarmsreview.com will be updated with all the show information.
If you were at the show in any capacity, we sincerely thank you for your participation. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy putting it on every year. If you have never been to this show you owe it to yourself to do so in the future. In the (slightly altered) words of an old Irish saying; “There are no strangers at the SAR Show, only friends you have yet to meet.” We hope to meet you there next year.
Small Arms Review
SAR Show 2007
631 N. Stephanie Street # 562
Henderson, NV 89014
Fax: (702) 558-2167