Worn out from yet another trip to one of the world’s various crapholes, I had recently returned home to San Diego, just missing the insane El Nino-driven flooding. The sun was out, the skies were clear, and I was looking forward to some nice R&R on the beach, even with the stinking hippies lurking about in my alley. Alas, it was not to be.

I had accepted an invitation from SOFREP to go take a look at the annual Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show, or SHOT Show, taking place in America’s worst large city—a city where the hopes and dreams of countless young boys and girls are gambled away at the craps table, a city in which you can never really rule out the possibility that the woman you are talking to in a bar is actually a man/prostitute. Of course I’m speaking of America’s scabby, amiable panhandler: Las Vegas, Nevada.

I lubed up my trusty Toyota 4Runner, kicked the tires, and lit the candle. I reluctantly left Ocean Beach and started heading into the deserts of inland California.

Realizing that gasoline in California is still like twice as expensive as the rest of the country (it’s still almost three bucks here in a lot of places), I formed a plan. I had enough fuel to get me out of city centers, and I figured I’d gas up out in the desert somewhere, assuming that the fuel would be much cheaper. Of course, I hadn’t counted on the unrelenting greed of the high-desert bastards.

I pulled into the Shell station on Cima road, only a few miles from the Nevada border. By the time I left, I was seething. Don’t get me wrong: Did I enjoy urinating into the decorative fountain urinal? Yes. Did I enjoy the 14 different selections of homemade beef jerky? Obvie. Did I enjoy the outdoor display of the life-size prospectors panning for gold? It was freaking outstanding. All of those things were good.

What was NOT good was the price of gasoline. FOUR GODDAMN DOLLARS A GALLON. I mean, what kind of desert grifting CHISELERS have the gumption to charge that much for a gallon of gasoline? It was appalling. Frankly, I was even a bit offended. But, since I was running on fumes, I really didn’t have a choice, so the sons of bitches got over on me. I felt like running over the prospector display, but they looked so friendly and old-timey, I just couldn’t do it. Four bucks a gallon…how do you people sleep at night?

So, not a great start. But I figured it would all be worth it when we arrived. SOFREP had arranged for us all to stay at an Airbnb that the company had rented. I had already pictured it all in my head. This was Vegas, and men-about-town such as myself were going to be put up in a pimpin’-ass mansion. I was picturing something along the lines of this Jay-Z video. You know, phat crib, probably some Dom on ice, maybe a few scantily clad chicks running around serving us cocktails. We’d all get our own rooms, maid/butler, probably a new watch for everyone, etc. Basically, all of the things rappers have informed me that I, as a man, may expect when in the company of big-time media ballers.

I knew when I passed the active crime scene only a block away from the house that my expectations might be a little, ah, farfetched. No shit: full CSI crew, shell casings, cops everywhere, right in the middle of the street. You think I’m fucking with you? I am not fucking with you. I finally pulled up to the house, noticing the “For Sale” sign out front and a partially collapsed roof on the right side. No Dom or dancing girls, sadly. So not really like the brochure. I ended up camping out in my 4Runner.

It wasn’t all bad, though. We had the Loadout Room guys—Rick, Mark, and Eric. We had the Odyssean, with his oddly compelling tales of Japanese tentacle porn. Indeed, after the twelfth or so story about bizarre Asian sex practices, a couple of shadowy corporate Force12 Media overlords who were bunking with us quietly excused themselves, no doubt to go take a bath to wash away the verbal filth they were being subjected to.

Speaking of porn…our interest piqued by the presence of mysterious obscure-language magazines in the kitchen, we started snooping around the place. The jackpot was hit when we stumbled upon a box of premium movies in LaserDisc. This included something that I didn’t even know existed: LaserDisk PORN, MAN. Yes, really!

IMG_2929 (1)

Sadly, there was no LaserDisc player in the house. Since this revelation merited further investigation, we called several pawnshops looking for a LaserDisc player. The little shits that answered the phone didn’t even know what we were talking about, because We Are Olds. That depressed the hell out of us. Nevertheless, it was good meeting some of the guys, most for the first time. James Powell was there, and Jack Murphy even showed up, although he spent most of his time being chased around by large-breasted Chinese spies.

But, enough of my bitching, let’s get to the gear. Obviously, there were a ton of guns. The AR platform continues to evolve, and it’s astounding how light and compact they are getting. I have a Larue stealth upper on my rifle at home, fairly new, yet it now feels ancient. Everything is thinner, lighter, and stronger. So I didn’t check out too many guns, I was just looking at what was interesting. Here’s some stuff that caught my eye.

Baron Engraving:

IMG_2938

Any jerk can own a Barrett .50 caliber, perfect for turning jihadi heads into pink clouds from a thousand meters out. But this beautiful, one-of-a-kind, custom engraved piece by Baron Engraving was absolutely stunning. They’ll turn your lame-o rifle into a museum piece.

Kahr Thompson Gold-Plated Submachine Gun:

IMG_2940

Gangster as fuck. Al Capone and the family never had weapons this cool. You could also go post-modern hipster and get the chrome-plated one instead. I bet Saddam had one of these tucked away somewhere. At a hefty 16 pounds, you better pack your forearms if you want to carry this beast around.

Mare’s Leg Lever-Action Pistol:

Yep, it’s a pistol, made famous by Steve Mcqueen in his television series “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” I didn’t even know how to shoot the damn thing. Because of its tiny buttstock, you can’t really put it into your shoulder like a rifle. You can either stick it against your hip and do it Old-West style, or, for more accuracy, you can hold it out in front as I was doing. I wasn’t exactly comfortable with it, because if you’ve ever shot a powerful lever-action, like a Marlin 336, you know it kicks like crazy. But, as you can see, the .45-caliber Mare’s Leg was smooth like buttah.

DP-12 16-Shot, 12-Gauge Shotgun:

IMG_2943

Ever since Kel-Tec started upping the ante on shotgun firepower, there’s been a dash to make the world’s meanest shotgun. Even if you miss with all 16 rounds, you can still stab their brains out or go all Mola Ram with a gruesome flash hider that reminds me of the Black Fortress from that shitty movie, “Krull.” Whatever…like I’m the only one who saw it when I was a kid and thought it was awesome?

Wicked Edge Precision Knife Sharpener:

IMG_2946

Very cool design. Clamp your blade in place, set the grinders for whichever angle you want to hit, choose your grit, and go to town. There are little measurement tick marks set in place so you can ensure you’re hitting the exact correct angle on both sides. Buy this for your idiot friends who don’t ever sharpen their knives, and then invite you over to battle a steak with a butter knife. Super annoying.

Tacticool Ted: 

IMG_2948

Much tactical. Very wow.

Core Rifle Systems:

IMG_2949

Doesn’t really get more ‘Murica than this. Don’t just display your freedom by merely owning a rifle, make sure everyone can see that you are more patriotic then they are.

Silky Epic Camp Saw:

IMG_2954

You have a survival saw in your bug-out bag? That’s cute. These saws by Silky will make sure you don’t just survive, but remain capable of chopping down the whole friggin’ forest. I don’t even think this was the biggest one.

Klymit Camping Air Mattress:

IMG_2956

Great selection of air mattresses from Klymit. These pack down to the size of about half a Nalgene bottle, weigh nothing, and yet are still incredibly strong. Plus, when I was driving home from Vegas, the manager emailed me and said that I had won a free one in a drawing, which he promptly air-mailed to my house. So he gets a free plug. Compared to other heavier mattresses I have, this thing is badass.

Wilderness Dreams Evening Wear:

IMG_2960

Hey, who among us hasn’t had the fantasy of laying down next to a roaring fire while the blizzard rages outside, next to a beautiful woman in camouflage undies? I know I haven’t. But if you have, you are ready to go. Nice selection of various lacy camo undergarments for your lady friend…or yourself, if you’re into that kind of thing. (Laughs nervously, changes subject.)

Taurus Judge:

IMG_2964

Yeah, it’s not a new product. I know, I know. But it is awesome. You can choose .45LC caliber or a 410 shotgun shell, perfect for vaporizing small rodents, snakes, or crackheads. And when you run out of ammo, you can crush someone’s head with it, since it weighs like 10 pounds. Watch me shoot it right here, and see where I catch shrapnel clanging off a steel target at about 33 seconds in. I tried to play it cool, but I’m not gonna lie: That shit hurt. I had to look tough for the Asian Airsoft guys filming me in the background. For the rest of the day, my earlobe felt like it was on fire. That’s why we always wear eye pro, kids.

Benjamin Pioneer Airbow:

IMG_2966

The evolution of bowhunting. Let’s face it, you have to be sort of strong to draw back a bow. Even a modern compound bow. And it’s exhausting and we are lazy. Hence the airbow. The company claims you only need a finger or two to draw it, and this gun-like apparatus shoots these bolts at almost 500 feet per second—more than enough to bring down that prize elk or the neighbor’s yapping dog, whichever way you wanna go. Yes, it is very inappropriate for me to joke about these things.

Perazzi Shotguns:

IMG_2968

I didn’t realize that there were non-antique shotguns that cost 15,000 dollars. I was ignorant to Perazzi Shotguns, the Ferrari of buckshot blasters. Holy crap. For 15K, this thing should give you a happy ending when you’ve finished up shooting it.

Bubba Monster Mug:

IMG_2972

Ladies, some advice when shopping for presents for a man. Whether it’s your father, boyfriend, husband, son, grandpa, WHATEVER, there are a handful of gifts that, no matter how many they have, they will love. I had a list of these items: flashlight, multitool, knife, thermos. You see, even if he has like 50 of any of those items, he will STILL love the one you get for him. I have a new entry for the list—the epic mug. This monster from Bubba is great. I put the Bud Light in for scale, and because by the second day, I needed a beer to keep walking.

Muck Boot Company:

IMG_2974

Why settle for boring brown boots? The Muck Boot company not only had this cool-looking blue-ish Kydex pair, but pairs in pretty much every camo pattern/color combination you can think of. Get with the times, Gramps.

Mustang Survival Vest:

IMG_2976

Great design from Mustang. Instead of cumbersome life jackets, you can strap this on. I barely noticed it when it was on my torso. It has a ripcord for quick CO2 cartridge activation, or you can pull out a tube and inflate it manually with your suck, just like the flight attendants are always yammering about when they do those dumb demos. Honestly, if you can’t figure out how to buckle your seat belt, I feel you deserve to die.

5Toes Custom Carbon Fiber Rifle Stock:

IMG_2958

Picking this thing up was like picking up a twig. If you’re looking to downsize your weight for your big Alaskan caribou hunt, go pick up one of these barely-there carbon fiber custom stocks. Not only is it light as hell, it looks badass. All of your gun-nut buddies will be green with envy. Some trivia: The owner of the company is former Special Forces Sergeant John Wayne Walding, who was the first amputee to graduate from SF’s sniper school.

Watershed Waterproof Bags:

IMG_2978

Love. These. Bags. Watershed makes these beautiful, high-quality, watertight bags in the USA and to pretty much every shape and size you would need. Whether you’re out duck hunting or storming the beach at Normandy, these bags will keep your gear dry and ready to go. I’ve used quite a few waterproof bags before, and this fabric feels much lighter and thinner than others I’ve seen. I’ll see if they want to send me a few so I can put them to the test, but they look pretty sweet.

SHOT 2016 is in the bag. Whew. See you next year. @BKactual.