NRA Annual Convention, Phoenix

The wife is still on the fence about going downtown today. Yeah, it’s gonna be hot but the light rail is supposed to be punctual so we’ll sit in the car until it’s almost time for it to pick us up at the park ’n ride lot near Christown Mall. Then, it’s $2.50 each for the round trip (day pass same as two rides) to the stop right next to the Convention Center downtown. I have the maps and the schedule right here.

Her admission to the convention will be $10.00 but, for me, as an NRA member I get in free. I remind her to look at it as entertainment. (Update: She gets in free based on my membership!)

“Where else will you be able to see such an intense concentration of Libertarians with a few Republicans thrown in for seasoning?”

And I mention that today’s free “Refuse to be a Victim” session is at 1:00PM. I’d like us both to attend that. And the “Methods of Concealed Carry” at 2:00PM just down the hall also looks interesting but probably not for her. (She could use that time to check out the convention floor and find a set of grips for her as yet unknown carry that’ll match her mood – that’s how she packs for trips, by the way. “I have to take all this because I don’t know what I’m going to feel like wearing each day.” Okay, maybe a couple of sets of grips – to match her mood of the day.)

I’ll be stopping by booth #2406, Eagle Grips, to look at their ESS3s for my S&W 36 snubby that I’ll have in my pocket – my AZ Concealed Weapon Permit will be in my wallet just behind my driver’s license.

And I’ll be watch for Paul Huebl, one of my regular morning reads – Paul is supposed to be wandering around the convention, perhaps today. It’d be a pleasure to shake his hand.

But time’s a wast’in. I need to cut the grass before the temperature hits 90 and then get showered and ready to go to the convention.

… Later

A lot of firsts today!

  • First ride on the taxpayer-subsidized light rail.
  • First NRA Convention I’ve attended.
  • First time I knew Phoenix has a Star Gate (see to the right above).
  • First time the wife went to anything gun related. (Well, that’s not 100% accurate – she did go to the range with me once years ago but she read a book while I took a lesson from Coach Pat, God rest his soul.)
  • First time we’ve seen the new Convention Center – and, Wow, it is nice!
  • First time my NRA membership card got me anything free – not that I’m complaining, just observing – and the wife got in free because she was with me. Not bad.

But it was crowded, very crowded.

The newspaper said they were expecting the largest crowd that’s ever attended an event at the Phoenix Convention Center and, judging from the registration line, the hamburger line, and the line at the air rifle range, yeah, they probably did just that.

The one booth I wanted to find was that of Eagle Grips. The floor plan had them in #2406, a relatively small space not far from one of the entrances.

But as luck would have it, I was holding the floor plan upside down so we walked half way across the arena before checking a few landmarks and re-orienting the map. We’d walked unseeing almost directly past it.

As we returned, I spotted it from twenty yards when I saw Paul Huebl’s toothy grin.

Meeting Paul was one of the reasons I had come to the show and, as if by magic, he was in the only booth on my shopping list. (I should add he’d put me on to these grips in the first place so maybe his familiarity with their product and his being in their booth wasn’t quite so miraculous.)

Walking up, I introduced myself and we shook hands. I introduced the wife, talked about blogging, my wife’s smile started to sag, we talked about grips for snubbys, my wife started to look around …

So we quickly drafted her to take pictures of Paul and myself with both his and my cameras. And after two exposures on each, Paul got busy with other readers of his blog and we moved on.

One of the bigger lines was for Ted Nugent.

Well, I thought to myself, with such a great first meeting with Paul, let’s go shake hands or something with Ted Nugent.

“There, did you see him look up in our direction, dear?”

Waving, “Thanks, Ted!”

Man, what a great pal.

Uhm, what should we do now?

“I’m tired,” my wife said. “How about if I sit over there in that chair and you go see the exhibits for a while?”

God doesn’t make ’em better than the one that married me.

So I wandered the floor for a while. I bought tickets for a couple of different raffles, listened to salesmen hawk their wares and shove brochures into my hands that later went into the recycle bins, dropped the hammers on a couple of S&W revolvers, asked the young lady in cowboy clothing why the Ruger factory in Prescott AZ doesn’t give free samples when someone just stops by to see what they’re working on today … but all I got back was a smile.

Still, it was a nice smile.

On the way back to where my wife had been patiently waiting – I kept my perambulations to 30 minutes, I’d like you to know – I took a quick turn through the NRA Store.

They had some new items I hadn’t seen a few months earlier when I visited their museum in the Washington DC area but, somewhat expectedly, the prices again seemed just a tad high.

Mind you, I don’t mind supporting the NRA. I like what they’re doing.

And on my Washington DC visit, I did buy an NRA baseball cap – Made in China – and also an NRA emblazoned wind breaker – Made in Vietnam.

But I normally prefer to be a little more direct in my gift giving and not muddy the waters of “value” by paying more for something than I felt it was worth.

So I looked but bought nothing and headed out to where I’d left my wife sitting in a very comfortable looking chair.

Walking up I asked, “Ready to go?”

We reached home an hour later and we were both drained from the walking and the heat. The weatherman says it was 102 at the airport but downtown at the convention center with those tall mirror-like buildings and big expanses of concrete and asphalt, it surely was another 5-10 degrees hotter.

Dinner was take-out chinese washed down with several glasses of water.

Hours later, sitting in the dark with only the glow of the 52" LCD TV and a taped episode of NCIS, we were starting to feel mostly recovered.

But I’m goin’ back tomorrow. There’s more to see.

The wife will, undoubtedly, stay home in the cool house but, oh yeah, I’m goin'.

It’s huge and really nice, and so very, very different from the junky, dirty gun shows. There’s carpet on the floor, good air conditioning, clean rest rooms, new guns and equipment in expensive displays.

Besides, I need some newer catalogs.

I need one from Brownells, Champion’s Choice, Midway, Cheaper Than Dirt, IMMR, Hodgdon’s, Springfield Armory and, of course, Smith & Wesson. I could also pick up some brochures on black powder long rifles, shot guns and high power rifles, and maybe one or two on smallbore. I saw the Clark booth and, at the other end, the one for Kimber. (I wonder if Dave Salyer or Ed Masaki are here?) And there was that one really interesting display of Kentucky long rifles over on collectors row. I wonder what it feels like to heft one of those into position?

Yeah, I gotta go back.

So many guns, so little time.

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