What You Can Find at a Gun Show (Besides Guns)

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This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Before we moved to Texas a few years ago, I had never been to a Gun Show.  Now we go a couple of times a year.   It’s fascinating to me how you can buy all sorts of things in a gun show, besides guns, ammo and accessories.  Not everyone lives in an area where gun shows are regularly available, so I thought I’d share the experience with anyone who has never attended one.

What You Can Find at a Gun Show

The gun shows in town are usually held a couple of weekends per quarter, at a convention center downtown.  Fortunately you won’t run into a lot of traffic, at least until you get to the entrance.  Because there are other shows going on at once (usually jewelry shows, car shows and maybe even a 5k run somewhere in the vicinity) so you may run into some backup at the entrance.  Parking is around $8-10.   After a walk to the location, you get in line to pay the entrance fee, usually around $8 for adults.   A lot of folks bring children and babies, with kids getting a discounted price.  It’s actually a family friendly place.

A few attendees bring rifles, but concealed weapons are prohibited (see sign below).

Gun Show1When you first enter the hall, you will find there are rows upon rows of booths, selling everything from beef jerky, candied nuts, military memorabilia, jewelry, pottery, t-shirts, knives, and of course guns, bullets and all the accessories.  Lately, I have started seeing more preparedness products such as water purifiers, MREs and dehydrated foods, paracord, backpacks etc.  I even saw a booth carrying preparedness books, and I got a kick out of seeing my book, The Prepper’s Pocket Guide, right next to the Zombie Survival Guide.

Gun Show2

Of course if you get hungry, there are the usual hotdog stands, barbecue sandwiches and the like, but they are usually overpriced so we avoid eating until we leave.  When you have a specific item in mind, the best strategy is to walk along all the booths, and make note of where your item is selling and at what price.  There is usually a disparity in pricing, so careful before you make your final purchase.

Cash is definitely the way to buy your items, as there is always a cash discounted price; the credit card or debit card is always higher.  Sometimes the store keeper is willing to haggle, or may throw in an accessory for free.  I have noticed the buyer with the CCL (concealed carry license) carries some value among the store owners, as some are willing to accept checks at the cash price buy only from CCL carriers.  It is also a lot quicker to purchase a gun with the CCL, as a thorough background check was already done when the license was obtained.  When purchasing a gun with a background check, there is a 45 minute to one hour wait time, at least in Texas.  In many states, there is a 30 day waiting period to buy a gun so one hour to me is hardly any wait at all.

The other interesting feature I found is many gun museums and historical societies place their items on display.  The last one we went to had military vehicles on display.  You can also see a lot of military surplus type items on display and for sale.  Some of the booths also do trading, so I imagine a lot of collectors frequent these shows.

Gun Show4

Sometimes you may find good deals on preparedness items if you are familiar with the brands, comparable prices or can quickly look up things up on your cell phone.  Even if the item is priced the same as online, it can be a good deal as you are saving on shipping costs.  One vendor was offering such a cut rate deal on an item, I could not believe it.  When I got home, I researched the item online and found he was selling a “first-generation” type item, which was far inferior to the current fifth generation version now available.  As with any type of purchase, buyer beware.

In closing, my final tips are:

  • If you plan to buy something, make a list.
  • Know the features you are looking for and ask lots of questions.
  • Bring cash.
  • Comparison shop before making a purchase.
  • Try to haggle.
  • Bring snacks and bottled water to avoid pricey concession stands; or if you get hungry buy the beef jerkey or candied nuts that are reasonably priced.
  • Ask about return policies.
  • If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Keep your receipts and ask for contact information in case you have a question about your purchase later.  The vendors are pretty good about giving their business cards.

© Apartment Prepper 2012

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    1. You might want to visit a show to get the feel and check out the competition. MREs has always been at the shows w/ the military surplus, but lately food storage has also started showing up my local shows. Some vendors only pass out pamphlets for large bulk orders, but the successful ones are selling smaller items. The 2wk-1mo type “buckets” seem to sell well. I would also sell individual packs (like mountain house pouches) and small samples. Of course include your card so they can order more after trying the sample pouch. Good luck!

    2. Hi Misty, In previous years, there wasn’t much food storage except for MREs, now I always see just one booth selling Thrive, which would be ideal if you were the only one selling it.

  1. Gun shows in California had always had a focus on emergency preparedness due to earthquakes so seeing MREs, freeze dried foods and packaged water had always been the norm. After Y2K and more so now with world events I have seen mylar bags, food prep and other similar booths than in the past.

    I always pick up dental medical tools some of the better grade go into my medical preps and the lower quality tools are used for gun cleaning.

    Tools galore for not only gun cleaning but many for emergency uses.

    Jewelry for the ladies

    Safes for not only firearms but for essential paperwork.

    Political t shirts

    1. Hey Jarhead 03, Sounds like you’ve been going to the gun shows for years, so you’ve seen the variety of items. I don’t think I’d ever seen dental tools at this one; those would be good to have.

  2. It has been a long time since I visited a gun show. I loved the selection of books these shows offered. By purchasing these at the gun show and paying cash will keep people from being placed on government lists as terrorists.

  3. Gun shows are one thing I love to have with our setup in Ohio. No wait time, general FBI NICS quick check, and private sales with no problem. One organization has a gun show close enough to go to at least twice a month, and a local flea market has one every weekend. Hard to beat!

  4. Also some other gatherings like gun shows to try out for supplys(especially if you are like me and learning pioneer living style)is festivals like: covered bridge festivals, county fairs that have a pioneer section, festivals that are themed and set back in those days. Plus for more modern time supplys also try boating and outdoor shows too. You can usually find a lot of survival and prepping supplys at those too. Maybe even Flea markets too.

  5. Not to be a fear mongor, but go to gun shows while you could. Through different 2 A newsletters, I’ve read about different shows being closed down due to zoning laws & other excuses.

  6. I was at the same show =-) There were very few deals that I found. I bought my fox tactical for a lot less than it was at the show. However, I got a good deal with a vendor after chatting with him for a bit. I did like people watching, talking to vendors, and learning about items. I value being able to see items in person over ordering blindly through the internet. I parked for free since I wasn’t above walking a tiny bit. I’ll be returning for the next one as I’m sure I’ll have a new shopping list by then. All in all it was a good experience.

    1. Lily, LOL we could have been next to each other and not know it. I don’t mind walking from further away either, those parking rates are pricey! Thanks for the comment!

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