Tuesday, May 7, 2013

142nd NRA Annual Meeting AAR

Before we get too much further from the event, I figured I'd give my impressions of the 142nd Annual Meeting of the National Rifle Association. As I've done in years passed, I'll run through (mostly) text here, and put up some pictures in a later post. I took fewer pictures this year, mainly because I decided to leave the big camera home when going out for events and actually interacting with people rather than spending time behind the lens. I don't know how Oleg does it...

The city.

Houston is, well, Texas. It's the fourth largest city in the US in population, and the largest city in Texas. Size wise, it's more than half the size of Rhode Island. I drove for nearly an hour and was still well within city limits; to put things in perspective one can easily drive from New Hampshire to CT through central MA in an hour and a half... I hate to burst Sabra's bubble but the traffic in Houston - while challenging - doesn't hold a candle to Boston. There was some enthusiastic amateurs - I did manage to sufficiently enrage a cabbie to get him to honk at me and gesture animatedly - but for the most part people drive pretty normal in Houston.

The convention center.

The venue was a microcosm for Houston and Texas: simply enormous. The George R. Brown Convention Center is a mammoth facility and had ample room for the vendors, exhibitors, and attendees. Even with the extra space, though, the aisle were crammed with folks. We haven't yet heard any specific numbers, but counts that initially stated 70,000 people were almost certainly far too low. We heard 90,000 and up listed as the total number of attendees. Previous NRA conventions have been closer to 60K - so this is a significant increase. (I wrote the above on the plane ride home; the "official" count was 86,000 and change attendees, so definitely more than in previous years).

The stuff.

The new offerings for firearms were slim; it certainly seems as though companies are working as hard as they can simply to continue to bring their existing product line to market. A recurring theme at the show from talking to vendors of both firearms and accessories was that the past four years have seen incredible growth in the industry even eclipsing that of the early 1990s.There wasn't a lot of new material at SHOT Show this year; it didn't seem to me that much new had come out since. There were still some great displays, and some great ideas (SIG SAUER had chips and salsa for Cinqo de Mayo which I thought was cute), but overall the offerings from the major players seemed be on the mature side.

As far as gear, well, I was doing a little research for an upcoming article, so I was a little focused on a certain area. There's still a good deal of new items, mostly from the smaller outfits, but anyone that makes anything related to the AR-15 is going full blast right now. Obviously, the big story everyone was interested in hearing was when ammunition was going to be back on shelves, but wherever I went, no matter who I spoke to, the answer was the same: They're running straight out, but we're buying it all. Right before I left I talked to my dad, who just picked up some 9mm at a store for $30 for a box of 50 rounds - and I remember paying $20 for 100 rounds barely 6 months ago.

The events.

For me, the biggest reason to go to the NRA convention is to connect and reconnect with my tribe. We enjoyed Cajun food Thursday night, an upscale pub Friday, a beerhaus Saturday, and genuine Texas BBQ on Sunday. We eat well at the NRA convention - and this year even more than most, walking the convention floor helped keep things in check! Not to mention the after-after-party back at the hotels - Ambulance Driver was kind enough to indulge my weakness for Shiner Bock, frex. There is a powerful goodness in breaking bread with good friends, enjoying good company, and being with people that you know have your back.

There was one thing that messed me up Saturday night after the event at the Flying Saucer. We left around 10:30 and proceeded back to the car, which was in a parking garage conspicuously labeled as "public parking". Upon arriving at the garage, we find the entranceway covered by a gate. Hmm. This is not good. Walk around the other side of the building thinking that maybe they close off that side after a certain hour to find the other side also gated. Just as the panic is starting to take hold, I notice there's a call button for the attendant - apparently they close the gates after a certain hour. I've been in Boston at 3 in the morning and the parking garages are open, so it messed with my head...

The protest.

Saturday there was a protest at the convention. Honestly, it should have been called a "protest", because there were *maybe* 30 people there at the absolute most. I took a good number of pictures throughout the entirety of the protest, and if there were more than two dozen or so there at any time I'd be surprised. It was hard to tell what, precisely, they were protesting other than the general fact that the NRA exists. We saw exactly one "Demand a plan" pre-printed sign (that's the faux-roots campaign backed by dictator-wannabe Bloomberg); the rest were hand-printed in all their crayola glory.


Hmmm. Flying wasn't that big of a deal; both on the way out and on the way home getting to the airport, getting checked in, and getting through security was quite simple. Got X-rayed both times, no probulation needed. The rental car, well, that's a separate post; I will tip my hand a bit and say be careful when renting through Thrify - not a fan. Houston knows how to run a big convention right, unlike Pittsburgh - getting in and out of town Friday, Saturday, and Sunday was pretty effortless, and finding parking close to the convention center was simple as well (if you arrived early enough). I'm still not used to this whole "concealed carry not allowed" business, and leaving a gun in the car still blows my mind. I did have to admit to feeling nekkid on the ride back to the airport... Oh, and wearing a kilt in Houston was just as disappointing as wearing one in Massachusetts. There were a few glances, but not a single word was spoken. I think the power of the handlebar mustache kept naysayers at bay...

I'm already looking forward to Indianapolis next year!

That is all.


Jay G said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention. My one true "squee-worthy" moment was meeting the nice gentleman who runs the Box 'o' Truth.

I saw the nametag as we were walking out of the Press office and he was walking in and I did a full OMG. "You're from the Box 'o' Truth!"

Dave H said...

You're such a fanboy. But I'd probably do the same thing if I passed you at the show too.

I try to give Alamo car rental my business when I can. They came through for me when I was in a tight spot in Phoenix years ago.

Peripatetic Engineer said...

Traffic is usually good in Houston, unless you are trying to get around the construction on the610 Loop. It's just fast.

It will take more than a kilt to turn a head in Houston. They've seen a Scotsman and since the Offshore Technology Conference followed the NRA, they probably thought you were one of them.

CoolChange©© said...

Jay I enjoyed meeting you and all the others. I wanted to stay longer but obligations and my soar dawgs said go home.

You give Houston too much credit. ;) This country boy likes to stay in the woods as much as possible and if you think the drivers in Houston are amateurs I think I'll just take a cab if I ever make it your way.

But all in all I'm glad you enjoyed the convention and the hospitality.

Sabra said...

It's not so much that the drivers are particularly bad in Houston, it's just that the things they do make NO SENSE AT ALL. I'm guessing you mostly stayed off I-45 and so missed that totally random panic braking. It's not scary, just annoying. Nothing like booking along at 65mph and all of a sudden traffic comes to a complete #($*U&(@* stop with no cause.

Also, this time I saw no impromptu lowrider shows on the left shoulder, so maybe that's not a usual occurrence.

Andie said...

@ Sabra: "Nothing like booking along at 65mph and all of a sudden traffic comes to a complete #($*U&(@* stop with no cause." is a most common event on 128, 93, and Storrow Drive daily. ;) I surely do not miss Boston traffic, especially when it takes 45 minutes to go 10 miles!

Old NFO said...

Good report, and agree with all (but I do Hertz, cause they take care of me)...