by B.B. Pelletier
The 2012 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits, in St. Louis.
The NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits: it runs for three days instead of four, yet it out-attracts people 2:1 over the SHOT Show. The public can’t get into the SHOT Show except on the last day by buying a $50 ticket; but if you are an NRA member, you walk into the exhibit hall of the Annual Meetings for free. If you aren’t a member, they’ll give you a one-day dispensation for a small fee. And, unlike the SHOT Show, there are things to actually buy, as well as tons of guns to win in drawings — both free and paid.
Ostensibly, the reason for the event is the annual election of a new president and board members, but the main attraction are the exhibits. They’ve been described as a mini-SHOT Show, because most of the exhibitors are the same, though their booths are just a fraction of the size of the ones they have at SHOT. This show fits into about one-fifth the space needed for the SHOT Show, meaning that most major American cities can host it because they have civic centers adequate for the task — where the SHOT Show has grown to a size that just a few cities can handle it.