by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
I have walked through Paradise… and my feet hurt.
The Husband and I have just returned from the huge NRA convention in Atlanta, and it was fabulous! But my feet still hurt. There was over 15 acres of exhibits over three floors of the immense Atlanta convention center. We were there three days and still didn’t get to see everything. We even got lost a couple of times in the neatly gridded maze of exhibits.
In case you didn’t know, I like competitive shooting. Don’t do it much anymore, but I do like shooting, which pretty much means I like guns. The Husband prefers long guns while I lean more toward pistols, but we looked at everything and tried everything we could, including the virtual shooting booths. In a pistol booth I hit 12 targets with 13 shots, missing (embarrassingly) only on the next-to-last shot. I don’t like hunting or the idea of hunting but couldn’t resist trying a virtual reality experience where you use a ‘rifle’ to ‘shoot’ marauding bands of feral hogs. Shooting pixels with lasers doesn’t bother me. The only bad thing was the VR helmet would not fit over my glasses, so I had to shoot literally blind – and so missed every single one of those pixilated beasties! For someone with my shooting record it was a humiliating experience. (And we won’t talk about what the tight-fitting VR helmet did to my hair!) I did better at the air-powered range, where you shot pellets at a variety of targets, and made most of my shots, which made me feel better.
I asked a lot of questions about guns and ballistics and took pages of notes, so my fictional villains (and heroes) can be up to date on the tools of their choice. I also loved seeing the historic guns – whether real or exact replicas. I think everyone who writes historicals and has a character who uses a gun should actually hold one in their hands – it’s an eye-opening experience. All of them are unwieldy and unbelievably heavy, including the little two-shot derringers. (I was startled to learn that there is a company not too far from me that still makes beautiful, hand-crafted two shot derringers!)
One thing that sticks in my mind is an incredibly beautiful .45 1911 automatic (which is a big handgun) that was not only a fantastic firearm, but had the entire surface covered with the most exquisite engraving. I have never seen engraving so beautiful, not even on historic museum-quality silver pieces. The owner allowed the manufacturer to display it at NRA – after paying over $50,000 for the pistol. I am so grateful he did, for the gun was not only a prime example of wonderful technology, but of pure beauty.
I could – and probably will – write lots more about the convention, but must say one more thing. The pre-convention estimates put expected attendance at 80,000. I disagree, thinking that by a conservative estimate it must have been closer to 90,000. The crowds were enormous, but it was an incredibly pleasant experience. Attendees were clad in everything from very expensive-looking suits and ties to full camo hunting gear and just about everything else in between, and got around on everything from feet to canes to walkers to scooters to infant strollers.
What struck me most was the behavior of the crowd. It was one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve ever had in large venues. Everyone was polite. There was no pushing or shoving, no shouting, no fights, no arguments. The only raised voice I heard was a mother shouting for her child who had wandered off. Yes, the noise level was high, but it was the natural volume of lots and lots of people talking in ordinary voices in an enclosed (albeit huge) space. One time I tripped (over my own feet) and almost fell, but three strangers caught me before I smashed on the floor, set me upright and would not leave until I assured them I was all right. They offered to get me a drink or a chair or take me to the First Aid station or go look for my husband if I wanted. Their clothes were rough and their accents definitely not posh, but they were true gentlemen, and I found that true of everyone I saw there. Even the children (and there were lots of them) were well behaved.
Would be that the entire world were so civil.