So the NRA Convention went well. We flew out there on a Thursday night, arriving in Indianapolis around midnight and grabbing our rental car just before the counter closed. The weekend went past in blur, as I signed Cornered Cat books at the Galco booth in the morning and at the ACLDN booth in the afternoon most days.
By the way, the guys at Galco are good people making some good products. I had fun pointing several women to the contour-cut belts on display a few steps away from the autograph table. Here’s the hint for those who wonder: it’s far easier to conceal and comfortable to carry a gun in a bad holster on a good belt, than it is to carry in even a great holster on a bad belt. If you carry on a belt, the belt is an integral part of the concealment system, so don’t neglect it! (And contour cut belts? They’re the bomb.)
For much of the show, my partner in crime at the autograph table was Tom McHale, author of the Insanely Practical Guides to … practically everything gun-related. His Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters made me laugh, hard, in several spots. Despite the wonderful vein of humor evident throughout the books, Tom keeps a close eye on the overall seriousness of the subject. He knows his stuff and I can firmly recommend his works.
We also occasionally shared the table with Britney Starr of Starr and Bodill African Safaris, who’s also an editor at Women’s Outdoor News. Britney is indeed a star of the highest order. And, it turns out, she’s a master of something else entirely. Don’t believe me? Check out this picture:
Hah! For those who don’t recognize his face, the giggly fan-boy with his arm around me is Kelly Grayson, whom the online legions know and love as Ambulance Driver. As part of his trip, on Saturday morning off-site, he taught a (rumor has it, excellent) class on what shooters should know about treating gunshot wounds. But who cares? Our friend Britney stole the show from him with her awesome photobombing skills. Well played, indeed.
Long time writer Mike Detty could also be found at the Galco booth. Mike’s book, Guns Across the Border, details political skullduggery in high (and low) places. Worth the read for sure.
At the ACLDN booth, I had a chance to catch up with more people doing good stuff. Of course, Marty and Gila Hayes are local to me in Washington state, but we don’t always stay current on how the Network is getting along. Marty and (Network whatever) Vincent Schuck brought me up to date on all things ACLDN, including phenomenal growth in the war chest available to members in need.
Another special treat at the Network booth was spending some time with Massad Ayoob and Gail Pepin. Gail is the producer and editor (preditor) of the excellent ProArms Podcast, and Mas refers to her as his adult supervisor. Mas was, of course, signing books for his many fans – as was my mentor and pal, Gila Hayes. Gila’s most recent book, Concealed Carry for Women, picks up where her excellent Personal Defense for Women left off.
Speaking of special treats, it was a pleasure to touch bases again with Dennis Badarina of Dragon Leatherworks. Dennis makes beautiful, well-constructed custom holsters – actually, “beautiful” barely begins to cover it. They’re really works of functional art, and I was thrilled to hear how well his business has been going. Have to confess that I feel a certain almost-maternal pride at Dragon Leatherworks’ success, since I had the privilege of handling one of Dennis’ holsters very early in his holstermaking career and then giving him a boost through the magazine I was editing at the time. So there’s a special joy for me in seeing what a solid business he’s managed to build since those early days.
Had to stop in and see my old friend Doug Ritter of Knife Rights. Doug has quietly built a small but powerful force to be reckoned with in the blade community, driving for important changes to state and national laws. Think it doesn’t matter? Beg to differ! If you ever drop a pocketknife into your purse or pocket, you benefit from statewide preemption laws and nonrestrictive blade laws. And if your state’s laws have recently loosened up in those areas, you probably have the Knife Rights movement to thank for it.
Can’t finish this up without mentioning the bloggers and assorted online riff-raff I enjoyed spending some time with: Tamara (who has made some great inroads into the print world over the past couple of years, if you didn’t know), MattG, OldNFO, Erin Palette, EMS Artifact, and I should not have started typing names because of course I can’t list everyone and I’m sure I’ve left out a dozen or more people I love.
Funniest part of the weekend? At the airport on the way home, we bumped into Caleb and Shelley Giddings of Gun Nuts. Then into Kelly Grayson a few minutes later. When the airline paged my travel buddy, my phone popped up with an immediate text from Gail Pepin, wanting to know if all was okay since she and Mas had heard the name over the intercom. Then I hopped onto Facebook and found that I’d walked past not one, but two other people who’d recognized me without me seeing them. Small world and what a hoot!
Of course I should be detailing the cool products and nifty guns, holsters, and gear available at the show. And you know there was plenty of that stuff. But for me, this year? It was all about the people.
So what’s the point, here? Simply this: When some political yammerhead tries to tell me about the evils of the gun industry and culture, I think about the wonderful small business owners I know who bust their buns every day to turn their dreams into reality. I think about Sharon from The Concealment Shop, with her custom-made leather holster purses and her small operation. I think about Galco, a “big” medium-sized company with hardworking good people making it run. I think about Lisa Looper, who invented the Flashbang Bra Holster, and her third-generation family business. And I think about the many rugged but quirky individualists who drive the gun blogger community, coming to events like this on their own time and their own dime so they can share their hobbies and obsessions with the world.
Bloomberg’s millions might buy a handful of protestors carrying professionally-made identical signs in a tiny astroturfed protest outside the walls, but the real story is in the 70,000 good people doing good work inside the buildings. Far from being the monolithic bogeyman that paid protestors love to hate, America’s gun culture survives and thrives on a rich vein of diversity, integrity, and hard work. I’m proud to be part of it.