Skip to comments.Overkill - Our correspondent is blown away at the largest gun show in the U.S.(Barf Alert)
Posted on 02/04/2011 5:24:19 AM PST by marktwain
LAS VEGASMy nametag revealed I was a journalist from Alaska, so I said I was researching an article on firearms for bear protection in the Last Frontier backcountry. Century International Arms salesman Steve Sanko reached into a glass display case and came up with a bulky, tricked-out handgun.
If youre looking for a compact bear gun, this is the best we have to offer, Sanko said. Its our new for 2011, Centurion AK 39, semi-automatic pistol.
I handled the gun. It looked more like Han Solos blaster pistol than one of the big bore revolvers.44 magnums and .454 Casullsthat Alaskans often pack in bear country when theyre too lazy to carry a shotgun or a rifle. Those guns hold six bullets. The one in my hands could fire 30 rounds without reloading.
Sanko continued his sales pitch.
The high-capacity magazine makes it illegal in New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Connecticut and Hawaii, but in Alaskano problem!
The Centurion AK 39 is chambered to fire 7.62x39mm Soviet-origin assault rifle rounds, the standard issue bullets for AK-47s. Theyre excellent for killing people. For killing animals, however, I wouldnt trust them to drop anything larger than a Sitka blacktail deer, and certainly not a brown bear. Id rather be armed with pepper spray. Or bottle rockets. Or a bell.
I expressed concern as to whether 7.62x39mm bullets, even 30 of them, would be powerful enough to drop a brown bear before it had time to rip off significant chunks of my flesh. I said I feared that might embed in the bears fat and thereby piss him off all the more. Sanko had this pat answer: Well, youre going to need Chinese steel-core armor-piercing rounds.
Arent those illegal? I said.
Wellll, yes and no, came his reply. You cant bring them in [to the country], but its pretty much legal to possess them, and theyre out there. You can find them. Just ask around.
He gestured beyond his own sales booth to the sea of weaponry filling the main hall of the Sands Expo & Convention Center, one block from the Las Vegas Strip. It was day three of the 2011 SHOT Show, the largest annual gathering of firearms makers and dealers in the United States. This year the convention was held in late January. It marked the 33rd annual SHOT Show and the biggest yet. More than 50,000 attendees reveled in a mind-boggling orgy of firepower displayed by about 1,600 exhibitors spread across more than 650,000 square feet of total exhibit space. Thats five times the size of the casino floor at Caesars Palace.
Looming over the main entrance was a massive banner of a leering Grim Reaper with glowering red-eyes, wielding a scythe. It advertised a laser scope called the Eliminator.
Death personified also symbolized the timing of SHOT, which began just 10 days after Jared Loughner opened fire on a crowd in Tucson, Arizona, killing six people and wounding 13, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner used a Glock-19 handgun, the same gun used in 2007 by Virginia Tech spree shooter Seung-Hui Cho to kill 32 people and wound 17. Loughers Glock-19 was equipped with a 30-round magazine. Chos held 15 bullets.
I went to SHOT to gauge the mood of the firearms industry in the immediate wake of the Tucson shootings, which reenergized the national debate over gun control in America. What I found in Las Vegas was lethality mania, with major firearms manufacturers and distributors promoting new lines of weapons that hold even more bullets and with various gadgets and tactical features that supposedly maximize operator lethality. In other words, theyre better able to kill human beings in greater numbers and with more efficiency. Thats all theyre good fornot target shooting, not hunting, just killing people.
Smith & Wesson is perhaps the most quintessentially American firearms company. It was founded in 1852. I bought my Dad a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum for Christmas a few years back. At SHOT, the guns on display at the Smith & Wesson exhibit provided a vivid Darwin-chart of the evolution of the modern handgun from the straightforward, classic, Wild West-style revolver to new-fangled guns like the Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22P. Its all curves and serrations, equipped with a 25-round banana clip magazine, a muzzle flash suppressor and a ported barrel with holes to lessen blowback and heighten control during rapid fire. The M&P 15 is part of Smith & Wessons popular Military & Police line of firearms that, despite their branding, are perfectly legal in Alaska for civilians to purchase.
The manufacture for sale in the U.S. of handgun magazines holding more than 10 rounds, known as high-capacity magazines, was prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). That law expired in 2004. Attempts to renew it have been thwarted by the National Rifle Association, aided by legions of firearms industry lobbyists.
The self-defense applications of high-capacity handguns that fire 15, 25, 30, or 50 rounds without reloading are dubious at best. Yet since the expiration of the AWB, high-capacity magazines have become integral to the core marketing strategies of firearms manufacturers. Heres why: Unlike televisions or blue jeans, firearms dont wear out in a matter of months or years. Gun ownership has been in long-term decline over the last 40 years. The industry experienced a brief resurgence in 2009 after President Obamas election stirred fears of new gun control laws. However, that buying surge has evaporated and left the industry reeling as many recent buyers have sold their firearms, flooding the secondary market. To lure repeat buyers, increased lethality has become the nicotine of the firearms industry. But for the most part, increased lethality equates to pointless overkill.
Consider the legitimate personal protection needs of Alaskans when it comes to defending against their fellow man. First, theres home defense, that is, defending ones residence against intruders. The best weapons a shotgun. Easy to operate, no need to aim with high precision, fun for the whole family. Plus, the distinctive chik-chik sound of a shell being chambered in a pump-action shotty is known and respected all over the world. But lets say that for whatever reason, you want to keep a handgun for home defense. Fine. Why in the hell do you need 25, 30 or 50 bullets and a ported barrel? Are you Al Pacino in the last scene of Scarface?
Moving on to concealed carry. Packing some heat beneath your street clothes on a day-to-day basis. Legal in Alaska without a permit. Again, why do you need a high-capacity magazine? I can think of just one reasonable scenario: zombie attack. If a zombie virus breaks out in Anchorage, and youre caught downtown, youre going to want a gun like the M&P 15-22P to blast your way through the undead hordes shuffling down Fifth Avenue. Otherwise, its just overkill. Unless youre a deranged spree shooter. Deranged spree shooters have a particular fondness for high-capacity magazines.
I dont think Im being unreasonable here, and Im hardly anti-gun. The way I see it, owning a firearm in Alaska is like owning a Sports Utility Vehicle in Alaskatotally justifiable. Rugged individualism, outdoors adventuring, subsistence hunting, self-reliance, frontier mentality, Im all about it. But surely reasonable Alaskans can support the broad concept of private gun ownership while agreeing that high-capacity assault rifles and handguns hold no constructive purpose in this state or any other.
My gun of choice for both home protection and bear protection is a Mossberg 500 shotgun. Its also serviceable for bird hunting. Looking for a dose of sanity amidst the lethality mania at SHOT, I made my way to the Mossberg display area to check out their new shotguns. What I found was tough guy lifestyle marketing taken to a new extreme with Mossbergs 2011 line of customized Blackwater-signature special purpose shotguns.
Yes, that Blackwater. The notorious American guns-for-hire company that changed its name to Xe in 2009 to distance itself from a string of bloody misdeeds committed by Blackwater private security contractors in Iraq, including the September, 2007 Nisour Square massacre, in which Blackwater mercenaries killed 17 Iraqi civilians.
The Blackwater shotguns from Mossberg are emblazoned with a vintage Blackwater logo: the companys former name above a bear-paw in crosshairs. They also incorporate new features that represent what Mossberg salesman Chuck Spaulding termed a Blackwater design aesthetic. These include a gnarly, jagged-edged barrel extension on the pistol grip Mossberg 500BW (dealer price $447).
You can use that to stick in a door and blow off a hinge, or to take a core sample out of somebodys chest if you find yourself in a hand-to-hand situation, Spaulding said.
Blowing doors off hinges? Hand-to-hand combat? Blackwater? Et tu, Mossberg?
Of course it wasnt just firearms manufacturers rolling out new, more deadly products at SHOT. Ammunition-makers likewise promoted new bullets designed to heighten the damage they cause to the human body. For example, this year the Nebraska-based handgun ammunition manufacturer Hornady, one of the leaders in the industry, introduced .44 Special and .45 Colt caliber rounds to its popular Critical Defense line of personal defense hollow-point handgun rounds. (Hollow point bullets expand or mushroom when they enter a human body, amplifying tissue damage, blood loss and shock.)
The only problem with typical hollow-point rounds is that when they travel through heavy clothing, the tip of the bullet tends to clog up, which doesnt allow the bullet to fully expand, explained Hornady salesman Tom Mills. The Critical Defense line bullets solve that problem by having a flexible tip that allows for maximum penetration and maximum expansion. Mills held up a gleaming Critical Defense .45 Colt round. This offers 13 inches of penetration into ballistic gel [which simulates human tissue] when fired through the standard FBI heavy clothing protocol. In other words, Hasta la vista, baby.
The action movie character that coined that phrasethe Terminator played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgment Dayglowered at SHOT attendees from the cover of glossy brochures piled at either end of a row of dozens of .50 caliber Desert Eagle handguns in the Magnum Force sales display. The Desert Eagle has been featured in more than 500 Hollywood films and television shows, and name-checked in dozens. The brochures gleefully tag the burly pistol a pop cultural icon. Custom models on display included a Desert Eagle with the Grim Reaper laser-etched on its grip and one plated in 24K gold.
Magnum Force was just one of many high-profile firearms manufacturers that used the prevalence of their guns in Hollywood movies as a marketing gimmick at SHOT. The German arms manufacturer Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen made sure no one forgot that Sean Connery-era James Bond flicks granted its Walther PPK .380 semi-automatic legendary status as the undercover weapon of choice for 007. As with the Desert Eagle, the Walther PPK was on display at SHOT in a variety of festive special editions that James Bond wouldnt be caught dead wearing beneath his tuxedo: neon blue, hot pink, even a Walther PPK decorated with a Dutch pottery-style fleur-de-lis pattern.
The Smith & Wesson exhibit boasted a Smith & Wesson on the Silver Screen display of the actual Smith & Wesson firearms used during filming by Hollywood stars playing iconic characters in famous movies, such as Danny Glover as good cop Roger Murtaugh in the original Lethal Weapon, Heath Ledger as mass-murdering supervillain The Joker in The Dark Knight and, of course, Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry Callahan in The Enforcer.
Yet the most famous Smith & Wesson movie firearm of them all, the Feel lucky punk? .44 Magnum carried by Eastwood in the original Dirty Harry, was nowhere to be seen in the Smith & Wesson display. Thats because it was beneath glass in the National Rifle Association SHOT exhibit Hollywood Guns.
Like Smith & Wesson, the NRA gave equal billing to movie heroes and movie villains. Also in Hollywood Guns was the Remington shotgun with attached silencer carried by the sociopathic hitman No Country For Old Men played by Javier Bardem.
The reality of SHOT was thousands of yards downrange from the image projected by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association that owns SHOT and celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. The NSSF portrays SHOT as representing the business interests of family-friendly, outdoors recreation-focused shooting sports that are popular in Alaska, such as moose hunting and clay target shooting.
These sports are represented at SHOT, as they are in the firearms industry as a whole, but theyre vastly overshadowed by handguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, home defense shotguns and the like, along with hollow point bullets, concealed carry holsters, tactical clothing and other personal protection accoutrements. As the bumper sticker for sale at the Second Amendment Foundation booth put it: The Second Amendment Aint About Duck Hunting. Yet to watch the video presentation at the State of the Industry Dinner on the first night of SHOT this year was to be shown images of sons and fathers duck hunting together wearing orange vests and carrying traditional shotguns, rather than the destructive force of .50-caliber sniper rifles. (Such rifles, by the way, are capable of piercing an aircraft hull, let alone blowing a head off, at 1,500 yards. Because theyre classified as rifles, however, theyre less regulated than handguns.)
What we have in common is we all share a common destiny and a common vision. We want to see our children and our grandchildren growing up and enjoying those same recreational activities and the shooting sports we all hold so dearly, said NSSF president Steve Sanetti in his keynote address. Our goal is clear and unchanging: We want more. More hunters and more target shooters and more freedom to do what Americans have done since this nation began.
Nowhere was the chasm between SHOT show messaging and reality more glaringly evident than in the wares on display in the Century International Arms exhibit space. The Florida-based company specializes in cheap AK-47 knockoff assault rifles from onetime Eastern Bloc nations like Bulgaria and Romania. Century was doing brisk business at SHOT in both assault rifles and assault rifle ammunitionEgyptian and Romanian-manufactured rounds available for wholesale purchase at $4.87 per 50-round box, or $89.97 for a 2,000-round case. Serbian-made sniper rounds went for $8.87 per box.
Were having a good show, said Century sales rep Sanko. We had the post-Obama boom, now I think were seeing a post-Tucson boom.
“when theyre too lazy to carry a shotgun or a rifle”
no bias there
Notice these people always lie to push their agenda. They are never up front with who they are and why they are at these events.
Yeah, because that's the ONLY reason you'd carry a revolver in bear country.
What a dink
I stopped reading this guys spew when I got to:
“I wouldnt trust them to drop anything larger than a Sitka blacktail deer, and certainly not a brown bear. Id rather be armed with pepper spray. Or bottle rockets. Or a bell.”
What a pussy. I’ll bet Brownie Scouts beat him up.
--best bargain I've seen in a long time--
More pictures HERE
Well, right there is the key word isn't it? Don't push your choices on me Mr. Holthouse.
basically 30/30 that you cant aim is not a good choice.
Holy crap! I love Century, buy from them all the time, but I’d be lucky to get 1000 rds. for $150, let alone double that for half!
I couldn’t read this idiot’s missive. When he started equating the 7.62x39 to a mankiller vs. a .454 Casull, which packs a wallop by comparison, I knew I was dealing with an ignorant ninny.
Anybody remember it takes TWO HANDS to work them there rifle/shotgun thingies??
What iffen you’re like, USING one of yours at the time?
Where can I order some? LoL
First, this is the typical liberal argument of what do you “need”. The author knows more of what you need than you do and so do liberals.
Second, if the author attended media day, he would have been able to shoot everything from submachine guns to .50 cal rifles and nearly anything in your wildest dreams. Hundreds of firearms handled by hundreds of people, expending many tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition and guess what? Not one person shot or injured!
454 Casull will emit a 240 gr (16 g) XTP JHP at a muzzle energy of 1,923 ft·lbf.
7.62x39 is 123 gr at a muzzle energy of 1,560 ft·lbf. So you get 75% of the muzzle energy and five times the mag capacity, plus the ability to quickly switch mags.
Yes, .454 Casull has enormous recoil IN A HANDGUN, due to felt recoil being proportional to the ratio of the bullet weight to the gun weight for a given muzzle velocity, and that makes it impressive to shoot.
Damned liberal elitist. He’ll decide what you “need”. AND, he thinks he’s not an anti gunner. These smarmy SOB’s telling me what I “need” really pisses me off. Maybe the safety button will break on his Mossberg right in mid Grizzly attack and with his last breath he’ll say “I shoulda bought the AK pistol” ARRRGGHH.
He also wrote that James Bond used a Walther PPK chambered for .380. If I recall correctly, Bond’s PPK was chambered for .32.
Westword ran a cover story on May 13, 2004 entitled "Stalking the Bogeyman" in which the 33-year-old journalist, David Holthouse, described being molested at the age of 7 by a 14-year-old at his home in Anchorage, Alaska. The attacker was not named but a picture and other details were printed. The article told of Holthouse's recently abandoned plans to belatedly kill his now grown-up attacker: "I was going to watch him writhe like a poisoned cockroach for a few seconds, then kick him onto his stomach and put three bullets in the back of his head. This time last year I had a gun, and a silencer, and a plan" .
After the article was published, Holthouse feared retaliation and asked a friend to follow the alleged attacker. The friend was arrested on suspicion of stalking on May 29, 2004. Holthouse's arrest soon followed. "Any charges against me are essentially charges of thought crimes," he said . The alleged attacker and his wife declined to press charges . The article won a 2nd place in the annual awards of the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists .
Westword published a followup story by Holthouse on July 8, 2004 in which he described his reaction upon being arrested: "I said to myself, to the walls, to no one, 'Well, isn't this a bitch? The guy who raped me when I was kid just got me arrested. I should have gone ahead and shot his ass'". Holthouse feared retaliation because "After the article came out, my mom, who still lives in Anchorage, Alaska, where the rape occurred, and from whom I inherited my taste for vendetta, mailed copies of the cover story to everyone in the man's neighborhood, along with a signed note identifying him as the unnamed molester in the story. She was a one-woman sexual-predator notification program"
I almost stopped at “too lazy to carry a shotgun or rifle”, and then did stop at the exact same place as you. Those words reveal this guy is a complete moron, and/or thinks his readership is, too. I’m thinking “and”, and that they indeed are.