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The Changing Demographic of Gun Show Attendees

While the silly season is not yet in full swing, Bitter and I are still trying to fill seats at the county Friends of the NRA dinner, so that means working gun shows (don’t forget to sing the fun show song). The most popular area gun show used to be hosted at the Valley Forge Convention Center, but they’ve recently turned that into a casino, forcing the shows to move to a convention hall just up the road in Oaks. So Sunday I get to sit there at our table and not wander, lest I might find something, like a Trapdoor Springfield in very good condition, which tempts me greatly to part with money I shouldn’t be spending on guns right now. Of course, said Springfield was on the table next to us, and it called to me the whole time. I resisted, however.

But there’s a few things that struck me about the crowd compared to even a few years ago. Generally speaking, guns shows were mostly a sausage fest, and the women you did see tended to be bored girlfriends who were dragged there by their boyfriend. What’s surprising is that not only are there more women at the shows, but they often have kids in tow. Gun shows seem to have developed into family affairs where mom and dad bring the kids along. Bitter talked a good bit to someone who was a 4dH mom, and who was interested in the dinner (since the grants fund 4H programs). The other demographic that seems to have grown quite a bit at the shows are middle class blacks. Sure, you still have your stereotypical fat middle-aged white guys, but the demographics are getting younger, more diverse, and trending toward families. Needless to say this is not good news for our opponents.

32 Responses to “The Changing Demographic of Gun Show Attendees”

  1. Thirdpower says:

    The same at the NRA AM in St Louis. While Ladd Everitt ranted on about ‘white race wars’, a large percentage of the show floor attendees were families.

  2. Dannytheman says:

    How did you do with Friends sign ups there?
    I got my ticket, waiting for my “last minute” friends!

    • Sebastian says:

      Not many direct sales, but several people interested that hopefully will develop into ticket sales. We’re doing really well on the raffle though.

  3. Andy B. says:

    Could this changing demographic be a harbinger for a change in our coalitions, as discussed yesterday in the “Reaction of the social conservatives” thread?

    IN MY OPINION, in the past gun owners have been the low-hanging fruit for “Huckabee faction” front groups who easily mine them for votes in support of SoCo candidates, who may or may not really care all that much about gun rights, but are solid on (e.g.) Religious Right issues. But, that probably was a function of gun owners being the “fat middle-aged white guy” demographic. (Yes, I know that was far from being universally true, but true enough to make it the demographic pandered to.)

    Will kids grow up to be SoCos because they’re gun owners, or will the gun owner stereotype change as those kids — of both genders — bring their new social philosophies to the gun owners fold?

    • anon says:

      I’ve found the Generation Y and younger gun owners to be

      *More comfortable with tactical and defensive use firearms than a number of the Baby Boomer gun owners
      *Very Pro-2A and Pro-CCW
      *Indifferent or hostile to the Religious Right.

      • HSR47 says:

        “*Indifferent or hostile to the Religious Right.”

        I think I understand what you’re basing this on, but I don’t think you’re drawing the correct conclusion.

        Look at your other bullet points: They all translate rather directly into “Oppose government-imposed restrictions of individual liberties.”

        It seems to me that it isn’t so much *religion* that we find distasteful, it’s the idea of imposing the dictates of religion on society as a whole by utilizing the coercive power of government.

        Personally though, I believe that most of what people see today as “religion invading government,” especially with regard to “gay rights” is largely a response from religious institutions to government invading religious territory. For example, I don’t believe that “gay marriage” would be the issue it is today if the government didn’t insist on shoehorning itself into the explicitly religious institution of marriage.

    • anon says:

      The crucifixion of Jim Zumbo really represented a generational shift amongst the American gun owners community and was very similar to the 1977 Cincinnati Revolt by Harlon Carter and Neal Knox that saved the NRA from becoming a full-blown Fudd organization.

  4. Andy says:

    I’d think, in just the 2A context, we’d hope for the latter. Diverse populace with common ground is more likely to get attention in the halls of power.

    I was at an Eastman’s show just this Saturday with my 8yr old daughter. We got 550 cord bracelets together. And looked at guns. Her groupings are pretty consistent on the air rifle.

  5. How come I didn’t get a Twitter DM regarding that Trapdoor?

  6. Archer says:

    Last couple shows I attended my wife and kids came with. And were just as interested in the various wares as I was (my wife and I have differing interests, but there’s plenty for both of us at the local Fun Shows). My kids like the tactical flashlight and laser sight booths and whatever tables have free candy for kids. Kid #1 even received a BB gun courtesy of Grand-dad at the last one.

    In short, it’s been a long time since I attended a Fun Show solo. That, I believe, is what’s known as a Very Good Thing.

  7. Marcus says:

    Just think. If gun shows could clear out the WWII German crap, and make it a requirement that the vendors shower before the show, the shows would be so much better. While I heard that the bigger shows in KOP and Harrisburg have more to offer, the smaller shows really are a stinky retard fest.

    • Trevor Shepherd says:

      Amen to the idea of getting rid of the WW2 Nazi crapola from the gun shows. Every serious militaria collector knows that 99% of that Nazi crap being sold at the gun shows are counterfeits. It’s all fake crap. The nazis did not like people like me. They killed people like me. People like me believe everyone is free to buy whatever garbage they want to pollute their homes with, but we do not understand why they’d want to buy nazi crap. People like me own guns and train, hard, so that the next time a group of people like the nazis try to take over a country and persecute people we can and will fight back, and win.

      • Marcus says:

        Everyone seems to forget that the Germans lost the war. Why would you buy loser gear?

        • Sebastian says:

          They didn’t lose because of their gear. Most of the German tanks were better than ours, and if they had produced SG-44s or Messerschmidt 262s or V2 rockets in greater numbers and earlier, we would have been in a lot of trouble.

          • Steven says:

            If the Gemans had not invaded the USSR, they would probably have won.

            It would have turned into a war of attrition on the seas, and IF we invaded they would have had a redonkulous amount of men, material, and airpower to oppose us.

            We forget that by 1944-1945 a lot of the US population, while very patriotic, were getting worn down by the rationing, the losses at sea / in the air, and we had never really lost a huge amount of troops (barring the Civil War).

            If Germany had stayed out of Russia and just concentrated on Europe and closing the Suez canal – IMO – they would have had time to build up more of their uber weapons (Assault Rifle, Fix teething problems with tanks (& better larger production), jets etc).

            Also, and a side note, but not unimportant, the Germans had so many different calibers for weapons, both hand held and Guns, that their S-4 logisitical problems were a freaking nightmare.

            Oh and the German spy networks sucked and got compromised and we were reading their mail (Enigma) – that worked against them too.

            I know, I know – total tangent. Sorry. :)

            • Ian Argent says:

              The invasion of Russia was the whole point of WWII on the German side. If the Allies had treated Poland as they did Czechoslovakia, likely no war in the West in 1939. Hitler wanted Lebensraum in the East, not France.
              One alt-history that I haven’t seen explored much is what happens if the Czechs are not sold out as Danegeld at Munich in 1938, and have their army and border forts intact, and Hitler doesn’t get the impression of weakness that emboldens him to take Poland.

              • Harold says:

                Well, that was the intent of Stage 1. Grab as much real estate as possible and then have a war on the Nazi’s terms somewhat later, and almost certainly in the East. As it turned out, the limiting factor on productivity in the Greater Western European Co-prosperity Sphere was food, and a critical and bungled part of the invasion of the Soviet Union was to starve the cities and re-direct the resulting agricultural surplus to the west, so that e.g. coal miners could dig up enough coal to power the generating plants to power the French aluminum smelters (they had plenty of ore) so that more planes could be built.

                But that wouldn’t have addressed Hitler’s obsession with the International Jewish Conspiracy(TM), and e.g. his opinion that FDR was its current (figure-)head.

                Continuing to delve into alt-history, I believe short of Hitler declaring war on us, we would have never gone to war against the Nazis prior to that becoming the Party Line. Which of course in real history it became on June 22nd, 1941, the same day the French Left joined the Resistance, etc. etc.

    • Andy says:

      Funny thing, the Nazi crap table (it’s not so invasive down here, usually just small corner of the show) held my daughter’s interest for some time. Was it counterfeit crap? Perhaps. I don’t know enough to judge, and don’t really care. BUT, if it tickles her history bone to glance through the case, I call it a win in the name of education, because that leads to discussion.

      Then I got to point out the Garands, Lee-Enfields, etc at other tables.

      Then we bought bouncy balls.

    • HSR47 says:

      Honestly, I didn’t see a lot of generic Nazi junk; Sure there were firearms used by the Germans in WWII (I even got to hold a 1941 Kongsberg Colt), but I don’t remember seeing arm bands, belt buckles, daggers, flags or such.

      It could be that I just missed them, but unless it was a very small display, I highly doubt it.

      I remember at the Valley forge show there were typically two or three dealers that seemed to ONLY have that kind of stuff, and they were generally fairly obvious about it; The Oaks show has a different group promoting it, and seems to be better overall.

  8. Stephen says:

    I think I might have mentioned this here before … but I’ve attended gun shows off and on for decades, and things have changed a LOT. Nowadays I work several gun shows a year at the booth for the Colorado State Shooting Association/NRA, so I go to quite a few — before that I’d only go every few years when I was bored or looking for something special.

    The first few gun shows I went to way back in the 80’s I was one of the very few younger people there — most were about the age I am NOW — so mostly middle aged or older white guys with a strong blue collar representation. And that didn’t really seem to change until about a decade ago, though obviously new generations were attending — but only as they aged to the right point.

    Now while the largest single demographic is middle aged white guys (which I now am) there are a lot of women and kids and people who are not white and a much greater mix of white collar types. The show was particularly crowded a couple of weekends ago, and I saw a lot of women pushing strollers through the throng.

    And perhaps most indicative of the changes — a few shows ago I spent quite a bit of time chatting with an older bi-racial couple. In fact, an older bi-racial GAY couple. They were interested in CCW and training, and while that’s not the purpose of our booth we’re more than willing to give people some unbiased (mostly) advice. I couldn’t have imagined a couple like this being so obvious about their relationship a couple of decades ago, but at this show they seemed perfectly comfortable and I’m sure no one hassled them.

    Radically changing times. I never would have imagined we on the pro-gun side could have accomplished what we have in the 1990’s, when I first really started caring about the issue.

    • HSR47 says:

      That just goes to show that we WIN when we approach gun rights as an issue largely independent of other political issues/parties.

  9. Boyd says:

    I see a definite stroller crowd at the shows in my area (click my website link : ) Now, not to hijack your thread but… (here I go): I’ve been a fonra volunteer for a time and I have to say my committee has a heck of a time getting interest at shows. With a table we’ll sell a few raffle tickets each day (maybe 10-20, would hardly be enough to cover table costs if the show promoters were less generous in donating) and seldom sell more then 5 or 10 dinner tickets if we go to 3-6 show weekends before the dinner.
    FoNRA folk; what are some tips, where do you sell?
    Gun show folk; what would interest you to stop and talk with me about my dinner auction? TIA -Boyd of wa13

    • Bitter says:

      I’d love to know any tips, too. However, I will speak to this year’s table versus the same one last year.

      Last year, we only sold one dinner ticket; this year, we sold two. That’s even fewer than what you sell, but this show is also about 40 minutes away from our actual area represented by the dinner. We did have far more women taking the flyer who were legitimately interested in buying tickets. They were going to see if they could round up some more of their friends to come along. I don’t count those as sales until we have money in the hand, but they are what I will classify as “likely sales” as opposed to the average person who took a flyer.

      We almost sold out of raffle tickets. I think we sold about 40 raffle tickets. You’re correct in that those kinds of sales wouldn’t cover the cost of paying for a table, but we’ve never had an issue there. Hopefully, the promoters will remain just as generous.

      Last year, I put out a rifle we won at a previous dinner and Sebastian’s Glock since we had a distributor donate a Glock of the winner’s choice. That was just about it, aside from materials like flyers. We didn’t have any raffle tickets to sell. This year, we had far more traffic actually stop at the table. I believe it was mostly because we decided to take the Jeep from this year’s prize package and put it on display on the table. Adam Z. also donated one of those armed garden gnomes, and he brought it to set up on the table. Those two items really helped attract attention. On Sunday, we also had AR parts that were donated on display, and that got several more people, too.

      I really think actually showing people what they can win probably goes over better. If you pick the really unique items that make you stop and do a doubletake, then you can at least get people slowing down near your table. Then again, you guys seem to do much better than we did. :) What are your secrets?

  10. Heather from AK says:

    Maybe I’m going to the wrong ones, but I’m not very impressed by gun shows. A lot of booths selling overpriced guns, very few interesting pieces. Last few times I’ve gone I’ve considered it a waste of an entry fee.

    • james says:

      Agree on the booths selling overpriced guns comment. I stay away from the storefront sellers at the shows. Although it can be a very good venue to see many different types of guns prior to purchasing. I’m really looking for the gems that show up. Back in march I found a pistol for $1500, on the drive home I stopped at a friends to show it to him, he offered me $2000 on the spot for it. I still have it and it won’t be going anywhere, I know what it’s really worth.

  11. PT says:

    You’re more likely to get yourself run over by a stroller than anything else at the gun shows I’ve been to recently.

    Notably there are more than a few “middle class black” FFL’s and dealers at the shows as well.

  12. Trevor Shepherd says:

    You mean that gun owners are no longer a bunch of fat white smelly middle age dudes? Holy cow! If young people and families and women are getting into guns today, then that can only mean that the worlds of Lionel trains and ham radio is not safe for tomorrow!

  13. old&loud says:

    As a long time gunshow seller (father & son dealers ) and someone who has attended various shows across the northeast over the decades, i can tell you that shows have changed greatly over the years. Gunshows used to be for true collectables, mostly vintage items and yes the nazi “crap” you dont like is one of the only strong sellers besides bulk ammo that sells there. Back in the 80’s when the shows started to allow alot of new modern rifles , meaning the ak47 variants and other modern copies most of the dealers then agreed it would mark the ruining of our shows. New made wasrs and droganovs are not collectables. And seriously what civilian really needs a drum or beta mag. Shows have devolved from places of true vintage collectables to mostly reproduction items or bad knock offs. My father used to deal with only vintage U.S. webgear but has since stopped to to the amount of bad knockoffs . People would rather buy a new copy of a ww2 cartridge belt for $30 then buy a true real one for $85-$110 . Same with slings, $20 new copy k98 slings sells faster the a $200 original. And dont forget the rise of ebay also contributed to a bigger intrest in shows due to the fact of easy selling online, but again made most of the good originals dry up quickly. I was there selling at oaks this past weekend and i brough alot of true vintage military collectables and yes as the crowd was impressivly large, biggest i have seen in many years, they were not really spending any money. That area was really boring, i drove around on friday and staurday night and there was nt much to see so that would explain the amount of familys seen there, ust a day out for them. I observed most walked around empty handed. And As with most shows the big sellers were bulk ammo, mosin nagants amd ammo cans, same pattern i have seen in va md pa ny ct ma. Hard to really use this show as demographic, ny shows dont have families walking around like this one, same goes for the harrisburg show and allentown. And also most of the nepa shows are attended by mostly people from Nj buying whats illegal there, i know cuz i have asked and noticed the amount of NJ license plates in the parking lot. Ever go to the orange county ny show, its a sea of nj license plates. I myself firmly believe that due to these factors that gunshows as we know it will not survive the coming anti-gun storm. How do i know this, at various jobs i have worked most of the staf is far youger then me , high school or college ages, and they are 99% anti-gun. Try finding a pro-gun college kid, its very rare.

    • Andy says:

      staf is far youger then me , high school or college ages, and they are 99% anti-gun. Try finding a pro-gun college kid, its very rare.

      That would be counter to my observations here in the South.

    • Harold says:

      When did the transition from buying vintage collectables to copies happen? I know that if I were interested in that sort of thing … well, I’m sufficiently cheap and have allergies so I’d always buy the copies, but I’d expect the copies to sell much better during bad economic times, which you might score as starting in 2001 or thereabouts.

  14. HSR47 says:

    “The most popular area gun show used to be hosted at the Valley Forge Convention Center, but they’ve recently turned that into a casino, forcing the shows to move to a convention hall just up the road in Oaks.”

    I think you have your facts confused…

    The Oaks show has been around for years, and the previous promoter had been doing a HORRIBLE job. Somewhat before the last Valley Forge show, Eagle Arms took over the Oaks show, and did a competent job of it (meaning that they actually brought in dealers, and advertized the show).

    The people who put on the Valley forge show are completely seperate from the people who put on the Oaks show — both the original promoter, and Eagle Arms. They moved the Valley Forge show to Warminster, and they also run one in Lancaster.

    TLDR: VF show didn’t move to Oaks, it moved to Warminster. Around this time, Eagle Arms had recently taken over the show in Oaks from a third promoter, and took advantage of the VF show promoter’s difficultly in locating new premises to take over the dates that the VF show had used, thus allowing dealers to easily switch from VF to Oaks.

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