The Las Vegas Antique Arms Show 2016

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The Las Vegas Antique Arms show has been the worlds premier arms show since long before I started in this business, the inaugural show was in 1962 making 2016 the 54th year of the event. I think having just spent 3 days exhibiting at the show my overriding question has to be where are the buyers and collectors of the future?! Certainly the foot fall  decreases year on year whilst the walking sticks and motor cart congestion increase! Youth is not to be seen.

This has always been a show for like minded people, collectors and enthusiasts alike who enjoy walking the aisles looking perhaps for a bargain or something that they need to round off the collection. It is a time for long conversations between collectors and dealers of various specialty markets, Colts or Winchesters, percussion guns and modern guns there is always something here for everyone and a huge amount of firearms knowledge to tap into, here you will find experts on every type of firearm. But alas the numbers of people attending is in decline and it was obvious this year, I don’t know if it was a ‘one off’ but feel it is not, the youth of today just don’t have the passion for vintage guns as much as those in the past. On Friday I believe the attendance was in the region of 1200 visitors and I am sure in the heydays of the show at the Sahara Hotel there would have been 4 or 5000 visitors.

Westley Richards has for some years now been the only English gunmaker to exhibit at this show and we have done so pretty much every year for about 40 of the years it has been going. In the early days when my father attended we sold only antiques, items which we had got in India and which were always fresh to market at this show. They always generated a huge amount of interest. When I started attending in 1988 we started a blend of old guns and new guns and now I primarily show our new guns, it being an opportunity for people to see in the flesh exactly what we make. I think I can comfortably say that 30% of our new gun sales during my years at Westley Richards have come from people I have met at this show, people who like guns have always made an effort to attend. I certainly hope that it continues, there is no other gun show quite like it.

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Las Vegas Antique Arms Show 2016 (6 of 11) Lewis Drake always has some of the finest vintage firearms in the show.

Las Vegas Antique Arms Show 2016 (7 of 11) Steve Fjastad the author of the Blue Book of Gun Values.

Las Vegas Antique Arms Show 2016 (9 of 11) Larry Blunk with LD McCaa of Gulbreeze Firearms

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Las Vegas Antique Arms Show 2016 (11 of 11)

Tony Gallazan of Christian Hunter GunsTony Gallazan of Connecticut Firearms, Best Guns and Black Guns.

And some further comment by Larry Blunk.

I was fortunate enough to attend the Antique Arms Show in Las Vegas last week. It’s an interesting show in that it’s not the typical, high-profile show such as Safari Club or SHOT. Vendors generally have small, easily collapsible “campaign” tables and just a few guns. Naturally there are those that bring a massive number of guns, but I don’t really know that it’s advantageous for them. However, it is a great opportunity to see a lot of what’s on the market without having to shop all around. It’s very nice to have exposure to these guns as sometimes it’s really quite hard to tell what a gun is truly like via photos on the internet.

The show is sectioned into various departments such as fine guns, engraving, knives, and more generic guns. There are some fascinating things that can be seen at this show from carved ivory to historically important “old west” guns to very nice hand-made knives. I even found a gentleman practicing his sword handling skills in the lobby! Because of the range of options, the vendors and attendees are quite diverse in many regards. I think that this wide range of people is quite good for the show as it perhaps brings awareness to certain companies that they would otherwise never have. However, and as I’ve stated previously, finding a young person at the show is very difficult. It’s mostly gray-hair filling the aisles. I know that there are a few young people campaigning for this sector of the industry so perhaps we’ll be able to get more youth interested in the near future.

One thing I really enjoy is that the show is much more intimate than the others. It’s easy to speak with someone and that is really what this show is all about. I must say that I met some great new people and was reintroduced to some I haven’t seen in years. I spent hours and hours just chatting about all things related to the industry as well as some more diverse topics such as Elton John and cars. I think that everybody that goes to this show has somewhat of the same opinion in that it’s more for harvesting relationships and connecting with others than it is about outdoing others with showmanship. Overall this show was quite slow but I did enjoy the conversation and the new relationships that were formed.

Shooting Hunting & Outdoor Trade – SHOT Show 2016

Sands Expo Las Vegas home to Shot 2016The SHOT show at Sands Expo in Las Vegas.

1600 exhibitors in 630,000 square feet of exhibition space with an expected 65,000 industry professionals visiting during the 4 days of the show. SHOT claims to be the world’s largest gun show, but I wonder what IWA in Germany thinks of that.

I never quite know why I actually attend the show, it is pretty irrelevant to everything we do in our manufacturing and retail side at Westley Richards. I guess I am in Las Vegas always for the Antique Arms show later in the week so it seems sensible to arrive a little earlier and see what is new in the industry and gain a feel of how buoyant our trade is. Additionally, I always think I will discover something very novel, but that find seems to have eluded me for years.

The show at the Sands Expo is not open to the public, with the organisers paying strict attention to your credentials before you are allowed in. So if you do ever want to attend, make sure you register online first and get passed off before travelling, you will need to demonstrate you are in some way associated to the business. Once in, you will see everything ‘new’ that the international manufacturers have to offer for the coming year, guns, optics, clothing, knives and everything else associated with our sport.

Certainly the show seemed very alive, people were upbeat and I believe the Obama factor has put gun and ammunition sales up into a place ‘never seen before in the industry’. People here just can’t seem to get enough of either.

So tomorrow I will continue the walk and see if I can find the elusive ‘must have’ accessory   and then on to the Antique Arms show and a world I am more familiar with.

Cartridge Boards – The Perfect Decoration for a Gun Room.

Cartridge Board

Those of you who have visited our factory will have noticed we have half a dozen or so vintage cartridge boards as part of the decoration. Originally these boards were given out by the cartridge companies as a sort of ‘salesman’ tool. They were designed to show the variety of cartridges that the maker produced. All the vintage boards were beautifully made with excellent typography and decoration. They do make a superb addition to a gun room’s walls adding interest and a bit of colour.

Over the years I have come across some magnificent boards and they are always something I like to get my hands on if and when I can. This small collection of both old and  more modern boards has just arrived with us in USA and will be available on our website soon. The Holland & Holland board was made in I think the early 90’s as a limited run and the Manton board is also a modern reproduction but very well executed, again I believe this was made about 20 years ago. The UMC and Eley boards are excellent examples and both in fine condition.

I must know of about 20 or so different types of these boards and perhaps I can add photographing these to the list of my ‘to do’ projects as otherwise they never get seen or appreciated once in someones private study where they all end up!

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The Gunmakers Shoot at Gatton. Photographs by Emma.

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Last Saturday whilst we were attending the Dallas show, the lads from the workshops went on a 250 bird Pheasant shoot at Gatton in Shropshire. I am sure a great time was had by all. Emma went along to record the day and here are some of her shots.

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From left: James Hornby, Jo De Hustlers, Gregg Fox, Adam Morris, Jason Morris, Matther Bloor, Dave Gawne, Dave Watson, Lloyd Fox, Ian Sweetman, Sam Banner, Joe Hocking, Peter Richards, Stuart Richards and Ivor Fox.

 

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Molland Shoot. A Photographic Essay By Brett.

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Last week we organised a shoot at Molland for some clients and we sent photographer Brett who goes by the name ByBrett and whose photographs I have posted here on other occasions.

Brett did a superb job of capturing the day, the sport, the people, fun and camaraderie. I hope you enjoy this small selection from the day.

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My thanks to Caleb Sutton of Bettws Hall for managing a superb day for our guests at Molland and assisting Brett to get around the shoot during the day.

Brett can be contacted here if you would like someone to record your day and is also a superb teacher for those of you who like me use the Leica M system which he used for all these images.

A Young American’s Perspective of the English Gun Trade by Larry Blunk.

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Last week, I was fortunate enough to visit Dallas for the SCI show. It has been years since I have attended and I must say the show has grown since I remember. It was nearly the size of the Las Vegas show which is saying a lot! There are a massive number of vendors selling and promoting everything from hunting trips to clothing to expedition Jeeps and everything in between. Ah yes, and of course, firearms. I think being a young American affords me a different perspective than many that attend the show and are in this trade.

Most Americans are consumed with so-called scary “black rifles.” Especially with the younger generation, it has consumed the shooting sports in all regards – from hunting to competitive shooting and everything in between. I will not lie – I do like them. They are fun and can bring some excellent range time and sport with friends. But my passion has always been fueled by the English guns. This is a sector of the industry that is unknown by most Americans. Words such as “drop lock,” “round body,” and “rising-bite” are rarely if ever heard whilst discussing guns in America. Of course they are commonly used across the pond and at shows such as Safari Club.

Naturally guns of all sorts are on display at the show. The younger crowd typically hovers to those with long-range tactical hunting rifles on display while the English booths are surrounded by gray hair. Rightfully so, in some aspects, as the English guns are a fair jump more in cost! However, there is nothing like them. The look, the feel, the finish, and the history. You just can’t feel warm holding a fiberglass rifle called “Chey-Tac.”

Walking around the booths I noticed another commonality: the companies either had guns or they didn’t. Some English makers had droves of “new” guns on display and available for immediate sale. I write “new” hesitantly, because it appears these guns have been around the block a few times and have the handling marks to prove it. If I were paying $50,000 or more on a new gun – I wouldn’t want it to appear already used! I was also a bit confused by some makers who would place half-finished guns on display. At least for me, this was very unattractive. Why not display the pinnacle of your work? It’s almost as if they just don’t understand. Is there a reason these companies aren’t selling guns?

All of the English booths had a certain aire to them. Although, some were stuffy when compared to others. Most of these people didn’t know me – especially those owned by the large companies – and it was like pulling teeth to get them to acknowledge my standing there! Although, I noticed, I wasn’t the only one! This is of course a frustrating battle to fight; especially for the younger generation. For all they know, they just missed a sale for $250,000 to a dot-com millionaire! Others welcomed me with warm arms, encouraged questions, and seemed genuinely interested to have a young body nearby. I think these are the companies of the future.

While at the show, I had one person ask me – What will it take to bring the younger generations into this trade? Honestly, I don’t think it takes a lot (other than a massive checkbook, of course!). Once you hold these guns, see the details, and understand the massive amount of time and energy it took to create these – it’s quite easy to fall in love. Like anything else, it has to do with taste. Some might teeter back and forth describing their taste. For me, it’s quite easy: the best

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Dallas Safari Club Convention 2016

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A Very Happy New Year to everyone! Thank you for your patience over the holiday period and I hope that you have all had a wonderful Christmas.

Our year kicks off today at the Dallas Convention Centre where we are exhibiting our guns and rifles at the annual Dallas Safari Club Convention. This is a huge event which is now similar in size to the annual Safari Club convention in Las Vegas. Most of the people who exhibit in Las Vegas are now here also, so for people living in this part of the world it is a good show to try. Please come along and say hello!

I will update this post as the days unfold to give those people unable to attend an idea of what there is to see should you ever decide to attend.