MIA For SHOT Show 2013 And The Annual Hoplo Hunt

It’s comin’! Still three weeks away as I write this, but it looks like I’ll miss SHOT Show again. Sometimes it sucks to be “indispensable.” Yeah, it guarantees I have work — my “day job” — but it also means I’ll be stumpin’ around a freezing, windy firing line while hordes of dealers, manufacturers and gunwriters soak in a sea of new! and innovative! firearms and accessories, some of which will actually be “new” and “innovative.” Well, poop … I was sniveling about it to Uncle John, and he just laughed and punched me.

“Which parts are you gonna miss?” he chuckled. “The famous, ferocious SHOT Show flu? The 9-dollar mystery-meat burgers at The Ptomaine Tavern? Being run over by marketing reps draggin’ those bucket-carts of press releases? Getting trampled by mobs jostling to see The Fabulous New Gun! that turns out to be the same ol’ gun in hot pink or zombie-green?” I knew he was just tryin’ to cheer me up, but ….

“Well, I’ll miss seeing a lot of good people,” I said, “And ya gotta admit, the Hoplo Hunt was always fun.”

Annual Hoplophobe Hunt

The Hoplo Hunt is a little-known SHOT Show activity. See, every year a handful of dedicated antigun hoplophobic journalists from the lamestream media finagle SHOT Show press passes. Their mission is to “rip the rotten, racist, radical mask off the murderous gun industry” and write Pulitzer Prize-winning exposés. They routinely fail.

A small group of us would stalk ‘em just for fun. We never confronted, harassed, or debated them — because we didn’t have to. Eventually, you’d find most of ‘em frozen in catatonic states between enormous displays of firearms, having suffered “data overload” seizures and, to put it delicately, enuresis ignavus: involuntary wetting due to acute pusillanimity. The others often get, well … healed.

Healing The Hoplos

Female infiltrators tend to be young, bright, brittle types with hidden digital video cameras and the vague impression that women who like guns are haggard, hoary harridans with more tattoos than teeth, totin’ double-barrel shotguns. Miss Winifred Wimple’s hoplophobia rarely lasts through Media Day at the Range, an event held the day before SHOT Show, where members of the media get to shoot the latest guns and burn tons of free ammo. There, she gets gob-smacked with reality.
Her first shocking observation is that those gun women are, umm… feminine, and attractive — ladies who can talk Dolce & Gabbana and Smith & Wesson too! And they have something she had only seen women possess in movies: confidence and self-assurance. Surrounded by armed Amazons, she wilted until they learned she’d never even held a handgun.

Never? Oh, honey! We’re gonna have SO much fun! Miss Wimple disappears, emerging 5 days later as Winnie, with a grin, a Glock, a cherished “Shooter Ready!” T-shirt, and epiphanous insight into her new self.

The male hoplos are generally urbane, sophisticated-lookin’ (that usually means emaciated and pale, resulting from too much tofu and not enough sunshine) dweebs who think a 12-pocket vest is good “gun show camouflage.” That could be, but he’s wearing that vest over a starched button-down, a mauve bow tie, and Italian skinny-sole loafers.

His problem is, he comes lookin’ for “gun crazies,” but he runs into people like the Brownells, the Hornady family, the Hoffmans of Black Hills Ammo, and others who just stick out their mitts and welcome him with open, sincere smiles and handshakes, like he’s never experienced at any leftie-lib gathering.

Many gun-folks avoid hoplophobes instinctively, sensing that “sumpin just ain’t right with that fella,” but he’s just as likely to get shanghaied by a buncha Texas gun dealers who throw log-sized arms around his narrow shoulders and haul him off to a steak-an’-taters dinner, whispering among themselves, “Heck, he cain’t he’p bein’ the way he is — He’s prob’ly Yur-peen, y’know, from one of them itty-bitty countries in Yurrp where all they git ta eat is snails an’ cabbage.”

By evening’s end, he’s buying rounds of boilermakers for the boys, is admiring his newest-bestest-buddy Big Red’s beautifully engraved 1911, and has learned how to yell Yee-Haa!!! with the big dogs. By close-of-show, he’s ditched the bow tie and geek getup for comfy flannel and jeans, won Big Red’s 1911 in a hand of Texas Hold ‘Em, has an invitation to a feral hog hunt at Red’s place outside Nacogdoches, and that smile? He knows his new pals Shorty, Slim and Lufkin Luke will be there too, to help him get snapped in with the .45-70 Marlin Guide Gun he ordered.

Dingell T. Berry had never shot a firearm before — and found he liked it! — And could actually shoot pretty well after some coaching by the boys at the Clark County Range. He’d never had men argue over whose home he would first be a guest in, and settle it with a coin toss. Never had a nickname before either, nor been bear-hugged by what felt like real bears when they bade him farewell at McCarran International.

“Ding,” Red told him, “You’s always a good man inside, pardner. You just needed ta git peeled outta that plasticwrap and sorta un-hogtied, y’know? Now, adios don’t mean goodbye, ‘cause we’re gonna see you come spring, okay? So adios, my friend.”

Yes, some hoplos can be healed. Try it on your own turf, because we need all the friends we can get!
By John Connor

AH MK 2013

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