Saturday, June 05, 2010

Fun Show today!

Sometime around noon I will depart to prowl the aisles at the Indy 1500.

The dynamics of gun shows are well on their way to coming full circle. Most started off as ways for collectors to meet and ogle each others collections, swap guns, and sell off excess pieces. Over time, new guns, accessories, ammunition, and all manner of other things shoehorned their way in. Desperate to fill table space, some show organizers even let people set up tables full of Beanie Babies or whatever, which triggered an inevitable backlash.

Two things changed this.

First, the virtual elimination of "kitchen table" FFLs in the 1990s meant that new guns at gun shows were no longer cheaper than they were at brick and mortar gun stores, because most of the sellers now were brick and mortar gun stores. Contrary to popular belief, transporting inventory to a show, renting tables, and paying staff overtime to man them means that selling them cheaper than you would back at the store is not really a winning business plan. And if it's just a common used gun you're looking for, there are probably a hundred for sale on GunBroker.

Which brings us to the second big change: the internet. I used to go to gun shows looking for ammo and accessories and parts and books, but nowadays you can get almost all that stuff off the internet any time you want to, and frequently cheaper.

Pretty soon, the only good reason to go to a gun show will be to buy some beef jerky and browse up and down aisles of antique Mausers and old Smith & Wessons. Which is kinda why I go in the first place, actually. I sure won't miss the Beanie Babies...


og said...

I NEVER miss the beanie babies. All you need is a good scope.

Partner got a Snuggle bear by mail order, once upon a time. His mother confiscated it, knowing it's intended purpose full well.

Partner and I will be there on sunday.

UK Houston said...

new guns at gun shows were no longer cheaper than they were at brick and mortar gun stores
This is not true here in Texas as several recent purchases of mine will testify. One Dallas firm is often 5% cheaper at a show than in their store, where their prices, by the way, are already significantly under list.

almost all that stuff off the internet any time you want to, and frequently cheaper.
Also not true, particularly for ammo when shipping is taken into account. When Cabelas is back ordered, I can frequently find it at a gun show, cash and carry.

Some of this may be the volume here. On any given weekend, I have 2 or 3 shows within 200 miles to choose from in the Dallas-San Antonio-Houston triangle, including at least one supersize show a month. This reminds me, I bet the local show today has that .45ACP ball I have been looking for. I think I will go see.

Tam said...

UK Houston,

"One Dallas firm is often 5% cheaper at a show than in their store, where their prices, by the way, are already significantly under list."

"Significantly under list" means bupkis, as most manufacturers set MSRP at keystone.

True, buying bulk ammo is cheaper when you take shipping costs out.

George said...

I remember back in the '70s, when the shows were small (high school gym size), were actual shows ("look at my collection"), and here in AZ, everyone carried!
NOW, the big show is @the state fairgrounds, 1 main huge building, 4 or 5 outer buildings, and a tarp covered area between, all with tables! Of course, if carrying, must be unloaded and nylon tied closed. You may still find a bargain-like an ar15 for $450-if you hunt, and know the product. The best part is walking around for hours, running into friends you've not seen since the last show! THAT's why I go...

Anonymous said...

Speaking of backlash, I see that as a significant factor as to internet sales. By the time a buyer pays shipping, local FFL fees, and the time and cost to pick up the gun, any dealer with half a brain can meet most deals on new guns; that's what I told my customers for years, and it worked very well. No advantage to sending your hard-earned moolah into the wild blue yonder based on faith alone when you can hold the object of your desire in-hand, support your local dealer, and get the same (or better!) price.

As for used and vintage, well, those are case-by-case; as you say, plenty of stuff online, but again, one picture may be worth a thousand words, but one touch can be worth a thousand bucks; that % condition thing can be pretty subjective depending on which side of the virtual table you're standing...way better to stand at the real one and make your own judgement. I think the pre-owned market will always ensure a place for good shows...extraneous factors notwithstanding.

Can't beat the 'net for research and comparison shopping to keep the sellers honest, though. That MSRP thing you mentioned is for true; the market determines the price.

Al Terego

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention the flip-side of the 'net thing for dealers; no longer is he stuck with a LNIB Browning Medalist that nobody in his neck of the podunk woods even recognizes let alone is willing to plunk down a G or better to obtain. Throw it on GunBroker and access a national might not get top dollar and you'll have competition, but at least you can turn over the cash to buy more locally targeted stuff.

This apparently doesn't apply to the dumbass pawnbrokers that Xavier seems to be acquainted with, though. Not only are willing to sell their inventory for half-price, but don't even seem to know what half of it is 'til Xav comes along and tells 'em...I gotta check out LA one of these days; maybe it's something in the water?


Bubblehead Les said...

I still like the gun shows in our area (Northern Ohio) for several reasons: 1) we still have a few guys setting up tables that say "Not a Dealer". They usually prefer cash, and this helps keep the Federales out of your hair.2) you can find some odd ammo that the brick and mortar stores won't carry (ever try to find 38 S+W at Gander Mountain?) 3) parts and accessories can be found w/o having to pay s+h charges 4) You can buy/sell/trade w/o a lot of paperwork, and you can meet your buddy who's bringing up that thing you need from the next state that's a four hour drive one way 5) you are surrounded by like-minded people, and can get into some great BS sessions 6) and finally (drum roll please!) you get to look and touch all the great Class 3 guns that you can't afford, but have been drooling over for years! Live Gun Porn! I'd rather spend $6 at the show rather than spend $10 for the latest Hollywood Flopbuster whose Trailers looked so good, but is horrible when you see it all. Just my 2 cents, of course. Enjoy the weekend!

wv: propper- the name for overpriced military clothing that has serious quality control issues.

Stranger said...

Your roomie has probably noticed the same thing at hamfests, where amateur radio equipment was crowded out by old (Altair/IBM jr. era) computer "junk." By the time you walked past half the tables filled with that, that 30 pf 6KV variable for the next project was long out of mind.

The same thing has happened to coin shows, antique shows (with new Chinese "antiques"), car parts swap meets, etc., ad infinitum.

But after the second printer port cards, and the BoscoBears, and the fake denarii, the antique Shaker furniture with the "made in China" label under the seat, and worn out brand new car parts have been passed by for several years, the vendors stop coming and the hobbyists can get back to the pleasure of shopping.

Take a little tincture of time, and it will all change.


Ed Foster said...

Springfield Mass. show this weekend, 800+ tables, and lots of bargains (especially on Sunday afternoon).

Not so much in ammunition (I make the stuff part-time now as a business), but military rifles make up 50% of the show, and a lot of $600 guns are going for $400 cash by 1:30 on Sunday rather than being rolled up in canvas and lugged back to Eat Bumf--k Maine.

I suspect the difference between our shows and those further west is that so many times back here you meet elderly gents selling off their collections.

Like buying good doubles cheap in England,I think the good buys are indicative of a local shrinking in the pool of serious collectors and shooters. Something to worry about 10 or 20 years down the road, but right now, the bargains are there for the taking.

If I owned a gunshop, I could buy enough, cheaply enough, at Springfield, Stratford, and some of the other local shows, to stock most of my shelves with interesting guns at a 50% markup.

Something about clouds and silver linings.

UK Houston said...

Let's look at some simple economics. Traveling to gunshows is expensive you are right, but less expensive than opening stores in six different locations. It's all about volume and reach. If I can reach 3x the customer base for the price of a van and table rents, that's worth something. The store I am thinking of is probably lucky to sell 20 weapons a week at their storefront in a crap neighborhood in Dallas. They probably average 10 weapons per HOUR at a show. I saw them doing that kind of business an hour ago at a local show here. They have 3 or 4 people who do nothing but write deals and they are constantly busy.

Here is one price example. SigP229-SCT. List price $1156. In store price $875. Show price $829, which beats the best prices I have seen on-line, plus no shipping, no FFL transfer fee, no waiting.

I am sorry if the market is not as good in Indiana. Another great reason to come South. Cheers.

The Jack said...

"Pretty soon, the only good reason to go to a gun show will be to buy some beef jerky and browse up and down aisles of antique Mausers and old Smith & Wessons"

This is true. Normally I've only gone if I have something specific in mind.

Or I want to try out the ergonomics, and fit, something that the internet can't do. But I may not purchase then.

Now on some of the used stuff I will prowl to look for someone selling something that they don't know what it is, but that can be real, real hit or miss.

staghounds said...

I miss the Stratford and Hartford shows!

Joe in PNG said...

It may just be me, but the few times I went to a show back in FL, I was not all that impressed. In fact, I regretted the entry fee.

The prices seemed to actually be higher than a regular shop. The guns available were both uninteresting and in poor condition.
In fact, the best prices in my home area was during one gun shop's annual 'red tag' sale.

But that may just be North Central Florida...

Tam said...

"I am sorry if the market is not as good in Indiana. Another great reason to come South. Cheers."

Actually, the Indy 1500 is one of the biggest and best gun shows around. There are a few bigger ones (Tulsa, National Gun Day in L'ville, Vegas has a big one...)

"Come South"? You've started reading here since 2/08, I'll bet. ;)

Joseph said...

I used to live in Tulsa. Now I live in San Antonio, a much larger city. But the Tulsa gunshows were much better. And larger.

Rabbit said...

I used to hit every show on the NE TX/NW LA circuit. It got to be a running commentary on P35s with several of the old timers back when I was 'heavy' into them. One old codger always had the most incredible and unique selection of Winchester lever actions I'd ever seen, and his prices guaranteed he was running a museum, because I never knew him to ever sell one. If it wasn't for the (now rare) small venue gunshow, I'd have never picked up those 'new' Browning Double Actions with 3 digit s/n's in .45ACP and .38Super. For me, those were more social events than anything, swapping goodies and lies with the characters I'd met.

I still kick myself for passing up that Danish Remington rolling block and the cute little Chilean cavalry carbine all those years ago.

FatWhiteMan said...

"...and browse up and down aisles of antique Mausers and old Smith & Wessons."

In 2003 I had my first of three kids and my last trip to a gunshow until Spring 2009. That of course was during the mad gun rush and I was quite disappointed to find only one Mauser at the whole show and the old S&W's were getting gobbled up quick for prices twice of what I remembered. And if it was a rifle and wasn't evil and black, it did not exist. I have since been to a couple of shows that have restored my faith thank goodness.

As to that first show that only had one Mauser, it had zero Mausers when I went home. I must admit, had they had a bigger selection, I may not have had a chance to meet this one which I really like. An old Spaniard in 7x57 made at Oviedo in 1907.

Anonymous said...

"I am sorry if the market is not as good in Indiana. Another great reason to come South."

The market for guns is much hotter than in Texas. The Texas gun market is a lot softer and thus dealers have to cut prices to encourage sales.

And what I've seen in San Antonio, Houston and the last one I went to in Dallas this January, the Texas gun shows are a lot smaller than up here. You could put the 4 Dallas shows in one Indianapolis show. With the smaller Texas shows the dealers have lower table rentals and less overhead (better for the consumer from your report).

Shootin' Buddy

FatWhiteMan said...

I thought the problem with the Texas market is that all of the Mexican drug cartels send their mules there to make straw purchases and they are all shipped to Mexico. Isn't that what the media says?

Tam said...

From a consumer standpoint, the ATL metro market was wonderful for gun shows back in the mid-'90s: The metro area was geographically large enough that there was a pretty good-sized (500-800 table) show somewhere in the area seemingly every other weekend or three.

From the merchants' side of things, though, that blew. Even with a population of ~4 mil, you hit market saturation pretty quickly in the gun show industry.

I think the 1500's "every other month" schedule is about right.

D.W. Drang said...

I think the Western Washington gun market has recently de-saturated. All kinds of folk suffering from Obama Voters Regret Syndrome are starting to stock up.

Good thing the ammo market is loosening up, although not necessarily cheapening...

WV: forti. No,fortiphive...

Robert said...

"but nowadays you can get almost all that stuff off the internet any time you want to, and frequently cheaper."

When it comes to the accessories, I like to pick them up, check out how well they're made (and where they're made, i.e. NOT made in china) before I buy them. Internet makes it hard to do that.