Firearms enthusiasts and vendors converged on the Expo I building at the Great Bend Expo Complex Saturday for the Great Bend Gun and Knife Show.
The show continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the facility west of town, 9810 B-29 Way. Adult tickets are $8 (VIP, $10.50) and children’s tickets are $4 (VIP, $6.50). For more information, call 563-927-8176.
In all, 35 dealers from across Kansas packed 150 tables to peddle a wide variety of guns, gun-related items, knives and other merchandise, said Rex Kehrli, owner of show sponsor R.K. Shows Inc. of Manchester, Iowa. Products included hunting supplies, military surplus and outdoor gear.
“Things have really started to pick up in the past couple of months,” Kehrli said of gun show sales. He should know since R.K. Shows handles about 100 events per year across the Midwest and Southeast.
Activity peaked in 2013 and 2014, he said. But, the market became saturated and sales plummeted.
Now, though, “the pendulum has swung,” he said. “We are on a pretty good uptick.”
Still, he said firearms enthusiasts who have been burnt by politicians in the past are leery of possible new gun-restriction legislation, even with the Trump administration. “The current environment is somewhat tenuous.”
That aside, Kehrli expects a good turnout at the Great Bend show. Recent shows here have drawn as few as 500 visitors and as many as 2,000.
With the pleasant weather this weekend, traffic was looking brisk this time around.
And, he said, these attendees are varied.
“There are three audiences we really hit,” he said. Crowds are equally split between hunters, collectors and target shooters.
However, he said they are seeing more and more women interested in self defense and conceal-carry. “That’s our fastest growing audience.”
As for the dealers, “it’s been slow,” said Leslie Gifford of Burlington. His fellow vendors agreed.
Customers are fickle, said Gifford, who attends around 20 shows annually. Sometimes the quality items don’t move as well as the “junk,” and sometimes it’s the other way around.
But, there will always be a market, he said. However, “the older stuff is getting hard to find.”
A licensed dealer, Gifford is among those eyeing the political landscape. “We don’t need any more gun laws. We just need to enforce the ones we have,” he said.
Wearing a ball cap with a picture of a revolver and the words “We Don’t Call 911,” he said he has to call each sale into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and have the customers fill out the mandated paperwork.
Safety was a factor at the show as there is security and check-in points for the safety of attendees and vendors. There were also signs noting “no loaded guns allowed.”