If you missed this year’s Gunblogger’s Rendezvous (and most of you did), you missed a great time with a bunch of great people. Once again, Mr. Completely went out of his way to set up the meet, and his work was greatly appreciated. Overall, turnout was lower than last year. We had a few people pull out near the last minute, but a few new faces showed up, too. Sebastian of Snowflakes in Hell, DirtCrashr from Anthroblogogy and Rob of The Kitchen came, and industry supporter Brownells not only sent door prizes, they sent us a representative who was with us for the entire meet! Larry Weeks is a cool guy, and I’m not saying that just because he’s shipping me a deluxe range bag for free, either! The pièce de résistance of this year’s Rendezvous was an official visit from the
apex of the Triangle of Death NRA. Specifically, Glen Caroline (Director, Grassroots Division) and Ashley Varner (Media Liaison). Granted, they were in town for not one but two other functions, but they knew about us and took considerable time out of their schedule to visit us, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
I arrived in Reno in the early afternoon Thursday and got checked in. Last year hardly anyone showed up early Thursday, but this year the first day turnout was better than half. That evening was, for most of us, spent sitting in the hospitality room eating pizza and swapping stories. Some of our group did a little gambling, and SayUncle and Sebastian managed to weasel dinner out of the NRA (not exactly a wheelbarrow full of cash, but better than nothing.) Most of the group met Friday morning for breakfast, but I slept in, anticipating a late night. At 2:00 PM we all met back at the hospitality room for our meeting with the NRA, followed by “show-n-tell.”
The NRA meeting was… interesting. Glen Caroline’s job is to motivate the grassroots (that’s us, and you, too) to be more active, to write our elected representatives, letters to the editor, to recruit, to basically be part of the voice of the defenders of the right to arms – not just $35 annual contributors. Ashley Varner’s job is to be a public face for the NRA and gun owners. As she described, showing up at a gun control debate, watching her opponent’s reaction to the sudden realization that he has to defend the position that taking a gun away from a petite, attractive, blond young woman who otherwise could not defend herself against a rapist is somehow “protecting” her – and that he has to do it on television – is very rewarding!
Glen asked most of the questions and received most of the
abuse commentary. What I took from the meeting was that the NRA has a large problem with perception – both in how the outside world views it (those of us who support the NRA and those who don’t, or actively oppose it) and how the NRA views the outside world (many of us who are members, and the 20x more gun owners who are not). While the NRA is the 800lb gorilla in the gun rights world, many people see their actions as too compromising. A lot of this can be explained (but the NRA doesn’t seem to bother) as the demands of pragmatism. Unfortunately, some of it appears to be stupidity, or even worse, elitism. I brought up Parker v. D.C. and the NRA’s response, Seegars v. Ashcroft, plus the NRA’s misguided effort to combine the cases. I don’t know how Glen took it, but there seemed to be a general agreement around the room that this gave the NRA a very big black eye in amongst the People of the Gun. It certainly did with me. Others mentioned the word “Zumbo” as a verb. The topic of, if not outreach to at least a reduction of blatant hostility toward the more liberal-leaning gun owners was also raised and discussed. Believe it or not, there really are a lot of liberal gun owners who avoid the NRA like the plague because it is (I think rightly) perceived as a bastion of conservatism. Perhaps it shouldn’t be; at least not as much. What we’re trying to defend is the right to arms. Regardless of your position on any other topic, we should all share that one.
On the positive side, we recommended that the NRA be more visible at local ranges, especially in their efforts and contributions towards range improvement and legal defense, and we recommended that someone with an official NRA voice take a more active part at message boards like The High Road and AR15.com. We asked them to see if the ILA could do anything about restoring funding to the Civilian Marksmanship Program and overturn the ban on military surplus ammunition sales – and if so, to toot their horn about it. We asked them to once again emphasize the abuses of the BATFE, and possibly get some congressional hearings on the topic. We’re losing too many FFLs for arbitrary paperwork “violations” and people need to know about it. We also asked about restoration of rights, though we did acknowledge that this would be a very difficult task.
Then it was show-n-tell time! Larry Weeks brought out some AR-15 magazines and informed us that Brownells was now in the business of manufacturing them for the U.S. military, under contract, in both 20- and 30-round versions. He went through the difficulties they had in finding an injection molding contractor who could make the magazine follower that met the very strict dimensional tolerances required, and the difficulty in securing approval and acceptance from the military, but the product is available and is absolutely mil-spec. Of course, we AR owners glommed on to this immediately. Will Brownell’s be making 5- and 10-round versions? What about magazines for other calibers? Finish options? Followers alone? Springs? Rebuild kits? Etc., etc., etc. Let’s just say that Larry will be taking a lot of notes back to the office with him. He shut us up with a stack of swag; t-shirts, gun oil, and other stuff. Very cool.
Edited to add: Larry informed us that a new, much-improved Brownells website will be hitting the intra-tubes first quarter of 2008, after the first complaint about the site was voiced 0.0137 milliseconds after he finished speaking about the AR magazines. They’re aware, and they’re on top of it.
I did a little demo of my Kimber Classic with a Cylinder & Slide Safety Fast Shooting System hammer kit installed, and I brought my copy of the coffee table photo book Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes for everyone to peruse.
Next up, Uncle showed us the Ko-tonics 6.8SPC upper he’d brought, provided by the manufacturer for us to test. As Uncle put it, “This thing is a piece of sex!” Well, a little too angular and too many sharp edges for me, but I understood what he was saying. It was damned nice looking, and well put together. It had flip-up iron sights fore and aft, but Uncle had put one of his EOTech holographic sights on it. It looked right at home. And it fit nicely on my A2 lower, too! In order for us to be able to shoot it, Ko-tonics had 400 rounds of premium Silver State Armory ammunition – a mix of hollowpoint, softpoint, and FMJ rounds – shipped to the hotel, free of charge. Everybody was going to get a chance to shoot it!
USCitizen from Traction Control pulled out his goodies, a .50BMG single-shot upper for an AR that looked like the barrel from a Panzer, and another AR upper with a 37mm underbarrel “flare launcher.” Also very cool. He’d brought only six rounds of .50BMG to shoot, since the restriction on ammunition weight for his airline was so low, but he’d gotten around the “in the original packaging” restriction by printing out his own label for the box he put the six rounds in. When was the last time you saw a box marked “Original Packaging”?
DirtCrashr is a Californian, a self-confessed ex-liberal who had inherited an M1898 Krag from his grandfather. That, and his exposure to the people who oppose off-road enthusiasts was enough to “convert” him. His Krag was built in 1900, I believe, and he has restored it to original configuration by finding and fitting an original military stock, and locating a period-accurate bayonet for it. His interest in firearms tends toward the antique, as he also has a 1909 Colt New Service revolver in .45LC, a National Postal Meter M1 Carbine (complete with bayonet), an original 1943-vintage 1911A1, and one of the oddest pistols I’ve ever seen; a
Hi-Standard 1913 S&W “Third Model Perfected” single-shot break-open .22 Olympic target pistol with a Pope barrel. (Error fixed!) I didn’t get a chance to shoot it Saturday, but I did shoot his Krag and both of his Colts! Chris Byrne couldn’t take it any longer, so he went down and retrieved his guns from hotel security and brought them up for us all to drool over.
We spent the rest of the afternoon “Oooh”-ing and “Ahhh”-ing, and then broke for dinner, trotting as a group down to the seafood buffet at one of the restaurants at the Silver Legacy casino which is attached to Circus Circus. After dinner, back to the hospitality room for more beverages and bullshit. The last attendees strolled in about that time, and the party went on into the evening. I called it quits about 11:30, retrieved the rest of my guns from security, and headed for my room. All of my stuff was in two hard-side cases, a double rifle case and a smaller shotgun case.
I decided to hop the monorail shuttle from the main hotel to the “Sky Tower” rather than walk the extra three or four minutes, mostly because it was there and I was tired. I sat down with my cases in front of me and waited for the doors to shut. Instead, a veritable flood of people boarded the shuttle, so I stood the cases up on end to let people sit next to me. Some sweet young thing plopped down beside me, looked at the cases and asked, “Keyboards?” I said, “No. Percussion.” Apparently she wasn’t enamored with drummers. Oh, well!
That’s enough about Thursday and Friday. The next entry: range trip!