The Antique Arms Show

I had no idea there was so many objects to choose from, should you want to hack, shoot, and whack each other to pieces. I mean, I knew there were a lot…but really? REALLY?

Good grief!

We meandered down to Las Vegas last weekend to attend the Antique Arms Show. It strikes me that we’ve spent more and more time in the city of sin over the last decade – and never done anything really naughty. Until now.

I’m kidding.

In the past we’ve travelled through Sin City en route to remote archaeological sites and old mining camps. We’ve used it as a jumping off point to conduct research in Death Valley, the Valley of Fire, and an obscure number of western ghost towns. I’ve done fieldwork throughout the west, for both professional and writing pursuits. My husband didn’t really know what he was getting into when he proposed.

Like the time I decided to research brothels. My husband scandalized his colleagues when he explained what I wanted to know. They were speechless when they learned it was follow-up to a comparative study completed in Reno…but that’s another story. I have to protect the…eh, not-so-innocent.

I digress.

So off we flew to the town of neon and glitz to entertain ourselves at the arms show. I’m not much into weaponry, but the show was surprisingly interesting. There were many beautiful swords, knives, and other accoutrements – but the firearms were amazing. Since the show concentrated on vintage pieces – many had a story and most of the vendors were masterful in their knowledge. The sheer variety was breathtaking and mindnumbing at the same time.

My husband’s primary reason for attending, was to visit friends from Albion Swords. They are a company specializing in the production of premier training swords. They also produce museum-quality pieces for collectors and specialize in designing swords for Hollywood filmmakers. The Albion Forge is located in Minnesota, so we took advantage of the fact that as manufacturers of historic weapons they attended the Antique Arms Show and met them there.

I confess to liking longswords. They sound naughty and always produce an instantaneous association with historical romance novels. Yes, I said it. I read ’em. Admit it, you do too.

Officially, I was in Las Vegas doing research. As an academic it is the BEST excuse for cancelling class and heading out the door. Forget the slot machines and roulette table, I follow people around and asked questions.

We sighted a zombie panhandling out side the convention center. Honest. He was looking for handouts but didn’t even have the requisite cardboard sign. I guess that’s maybe because zombies don’t read and write? This is an obvious lack of data I’ll have to rectify. We also had a run-in with a transvestite in the parking lot who wore the most amazing pair of boots. Fortuitously, we ate dinner at neighboring tables in the wee hours and I got to admire them a second time.

Viva Las Vegas!

Lacking any practical experience with firearms, my husband has endeavored to explain some of the basics, and he’s kind enough to review the guns I put in the hands of various characters, but I found the Antique Arms Show very inspiring because it was a place where I could pick up and handle a gun.

Of course it’s a good idea to ask first. Many of these guns are unique. I’m certain we were rubbing shoulders with some exalted names in the area of firearm collecting, but I was simply overwhelmed. Like a novice in any new subject, I was stunned repeatedly by the pricetags.

Something that never fails to surprise me is how heavy a gun is, in the hand. They feel weighty even when it’s only a few pounds. Since several of my recurring characters have favorite firearms, I searched them out and now I have a real perspective on how each feels – one firearm does not feel like another. Stop thinking that. Likewise, the sheer variety of guns is mind-blowing and I don’t think there was anything newer than WWII on display in the show. Additionally, I found it fascinating to observe people who are genuinely comfortable, knowledgable, and at ease around guns. The way an accomplished person handles a gun is markedly different than the way I fumble one around.

Useful stuff to know. It’s amazing how much of these experiences translate into stories. 

Research and observation provide endless fodder. By the end of the weekend I recorded enough “data” to complete my novel, sketch out a professional paper, and set aside a substantial chunk of that tell-all memoir planned for my nefarious elder-age.

How was your weekend? Attend any unusual events? Meet any strange people?

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  1. #1 by Bridgette Booth on January 26, 2012 - 5:12 am

    Fascinating! I like swords too because of the clanging sounds they make. It just SOUNDS exciting. (We have a thriving sword club nearby and they do lots of theater productions so I can more than my share of opportunities for watching a good swords battle.)

    Your brothel research is intriguing. Will there be more????

    • #2 by Leslie on January 29, 2012 - 9:24 pm

      Lucky you…I bet living next to a sword club is fun. It’s just fun to say. “I live next to a sword club…” I mean, really, there can’t be that many people who can drop that in casual conversation. I’m jealous!

      Brothels. Whew. There’s a messy subject…but it was very intriguing. You have to have a sense of humor, thick skin, and an open mind to ask questions around one of those places ’cause they let the answers rip. It was hilarious and alarming, and a little sad, but in the end most of what I learned was good background research but not useful for the scene. I ended up changing the scene altogether as a result. Eventually some of the original study (from back in the early 90s) will wind up in a book.

  2. #3 by Amy Shojai, CABC on January 26, 2012 - 8:28 am

    What fun! Who knew zombies don’t read and write…*s* Love the decorative aspects of antique weaponry and wow, they were lethal, too.

    Brothel research, hmnnn. So many questions to ask~~ *eg*

    • #4 by Leslie on January 29, 2012 - 9:27 pm

      See! This is what happens to me…I start out wondering something odd like what color is the bloom of a desert moonflower and wind up at a brothel asking the madame how they determine pricing. THAT was a bizarre conversation…and I still don’t get it.

      I have no idea what was going on with the zombie panhandler but I wish I’d been faster with the camera!

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