NRA expo's 9 acres of guns, bras and zombies

Last updated 09:12 06/05/2013
NRA show

"FUN-TIMES": Family members watch as 11-year-old Mark takes aim with an AR-15 style assault rifle at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Houston.

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The political speeches get the headlines but most of the 70,000-plus people attending the National Rifle Association's annual meeting are here to see an eye-popping extravaganza of guns and gun culture.

Nine acres (3.6 hectares) of exhibits at the George R Brown Convention Center in Houston show off guns, scopes, grips, holsters, targets, magazines, cabinets, safes and antiques.

And that's just the beginning.

Zombie Industries sells US$90 (NZ$105.40) bleeding zombie targets. The human-scale targets can take thousands of rounds, and come in terrorist, Nazi, alien and zombie kangaroo varieties.

"The zombie is America's folk monster," said Roger Davis Jr, president of the San Diego-based company.

"For myself as someone in his mid-30s - or even people in their 20s or 40s who grew up playing video games, it's just a good time. A lot of the media don't cover the fun-time aspect of the shooting sports industry."

The best seller? "Probably the clown. People really seem to hate clowns."

The company makes zombies of all different kinds of people, and Davis emphasizes that there's no political message behind its products.

"The zombie virus doesn't discriminate," he said.

Over in booth 4855, Magpul Industries showed off a tricked-out 1963 Volkswagen microbus — that hippie emblem of peace and flower power - with a Dillon Aero Gatling mini gun mounted on the roof.

The showpiece is street legal but not for sale - it comes from company owner Richard Fitzpatrick's personal collection.

"It's an expression of the company culture more than anything else," said Magpul marketing director Duane Liptak Jr. "We should all be able to agree on individual freedom and personal responsibility."

Magpul makes a variety of accessories that, its marketing says, give gun owners an "unfair advantage".

The company is based in Boulder, Colo., but is looking at other locations - including Texas - after the Colorado Legislature passed gun-control legislation.

Flashbang Holsters showed off a bra with a concealed holster. T-shirt vendors hawked slogans such as "Deport Piers Morgan" and "Ted Nugent for President".

What's not for sale at the NRA exhibits? Guns. That's mostly because of logistical concerns about inventory, cash and background checks, said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam.

Then there are products with only a tangential cultural connection to guns, like camping gear, outerwear and gold bullion. (Universal Coin and Bullion, with one of the largest booths at the show, is the official gold dealer of the NRA.)

An entire aisle was set up for safari and big-game hunting excursions. Hertz had a booth to give NRA members rental car discounts. Hillsdale College in Michigan, which has shotgun classes and a shotgun team, recruited high schoolers.

Kubota Tractor Corp had tractors and front loaders on display.

"This is our kind of audience. They're people who own property. They own tractors," said Susan Holmes, marketing support manager for the Torrence, California-based company.

Project Appleseed combined a revolutionary war history experience with marksmanship training, with the idea of exposing more people to America's inherited gun culture.

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"The old market is rural white dudes. But rural America is declining," said the non-profit group's Joshua Streiff.

"A lot of people say there are pro-gun people and anti-gun people, but really, there are people who have had a positive firearm experience and those who have not."


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