So my pal Lever Action Don recently heard about the Tulsa Gun Show, billed as the world’s largest gun show. Don said “We should go!” Don is always on the hunt for the exactly perfect, very expensive and hard to find, just right, commemorative Winchester lever action so he was pretty excited when an Oklahoma dealer said he knew we could find them at the Tulsa show. I on the other hand already own at least three of everything and don’t “need” any more (I still maintain a pretty hefty “still want it” list however.) In the end, we reconciled my being a retired guy and my wife was leaving out of town that same week and who was going to feed and care for me and do my poo poo undies if I run out…so I said sure, I’ll go for the ride. We went this past weekend, and it was so big we only attended for one day! We were tired!

If you get in the truck early in the morning, why you can be right there in only ten or eleven hours! We did of course get waylaid in the tourist trap “Uranus, MO.” Anyone who has driven west across Missouri has probably stopped in or spent time in Uranus. They advertise it on funny billboards for hundreds of miles, so we were of course powerless to resist stopping and reading all the funny t-shirts and swapping “witty” sophomore level jokes with the happy staffers.

So anyway, we got to Tulsa and checked into a $70 a night not-fabulous hotel, which barely qualifies as a “human hotel” what with no carpet, no shampoo, no blankets on the bed and best of all from 5 pm to 10 am there is no manager on the property! Lots of fun stories from that location I can tell you- from nearly getting eaten by a pit-bull in the elevator, to residents locked out for 2.5 hours and finally on the last morning having to call the cops on a tenant who was yelling violently for 1 hour starting at 5 AM! I could go on.

Photo of one half of the show early on Saturday.

Where was I? Oh yes, the show. Phenomenal. The Wanenmacher family says it has been running for 65 years and it is hugely successful. The Chamber of Commerce says the two shows a year bring the community an estimated $16 million annually.

They have 35,000 people visit in a weekend. They only run the show twice a year at the state fairgrounds in Tulsa inside a single heated and air conditioned building which covers 11 acres. Lever Action Don somehow measured the building with his cell phone (maybe he just looked it up online) and said it was 400 yards long and 150 yards wide. Enormous building.

They listed the show as having 4,200 tables. Lined up end to end they would be just shy of 5 miles long.

Now I had been to the Shot Show in Vegas couple months ago, and it is the largest gun trade show, but you don’t buy anything there. Tulsa is what a gun show should be! It is all guns and ammo and firearm accessories. The management is very proud of the fact they do not allow flea market type crap on vendor’s tables. You can’t buy a pack of tube socks, vape cartridges or a mood ring anywhere!

Competition is fierce with antique, collector, modern guns, knives, ammo and accessories. Dealers know they need to be competitive in pricing. This is so different from tiny local shows I go to in my area just to be shocked at how those pirates are overpricing their 1960’s vintage wares like dragons hoarding gold.

We learned a lot about the show walking the concrete for about 6 hours. We found out the dealers set up on Friday, and can do deals that evening and the public is not allowed in. Saturday was the biggest day of the show with the most foot traffic. Sunday was supposedly a mixed bag as most vendors from out of state are packing to get out by noon instead of staying till 4 pm. However, we also heard “Sunday Prices” were a very real thing and bigger bargains could be had if you gambled and waited until Sunday.

My buddy, a rabid commemorative Winchester collector, had a fine time looking for the rarest of rare. He was in Winchester Heaven that day. I am not a collector, and can’t quite figure out why you would buy a gun and not shoot it. Seems contrary to me. But a friend once said to me the second best thing about guns is showing them off to your friends. I guess he was right. If it make’s ya happy have at it. 

While talking with a vendor about some blinged out lever gun which was the “ultimate one” a nice man tapped Lever Action Don on the shoulder and held up a cellphone photo of an entire rack of decorated Winchesters. Said he had 500 or so, and oh that one “ultimate” American Quarter horse with gold plate to include the barrel…oh yeah, he had half a dozen on the shelf at his shop in Louisiana. We are laying in plans to maybe ride a tug and barge down to Louisiana to see them! (I am in less of a hurry than Don is apparently.)

There are real deals to be had, and haggling is welcome! How refreshing! To a person, every vendor we met was very friendly and willing to negotiate. Lever Action Don had a good time and I wandered by him haggling one time and asked “How’s it going?” He said “I got him down to my price.” OK, great. “So did you buy it yet?” “Well, he hasn’t exactly agreed to my price just yet…but I got him down!”

There were visitors from almost all 50 states and several foreign countries. We met people from Illinois, Ohio, Texas and Louisiana, and one guy from Canada who was buying antique revolvers. Not sure how they get back to Canada with their current government. But he seemed to know what he was doing.

There were modern AR’s and HK’s by the boat load. Thousands of black plastic cases containing Glocks and Springfield Armory pistols were on display. If you wanted to match prices, this was the show to do it. Being a Sig Sauer aficionado (fancy title for “Sig Pig”) it was odd that Sig Sauer was not seen in large numbers. This feeds into my suspicion Sig pretty much controls the MSRP price of their new guns nationwide, and so the sellers won’t have a lot of wiggle room to sell new ones at a discount gun show. Used guns are where the higher profits linger.

Almost anything you imagination held was on sale. How about a table full of broom handled Mausers? Maybe an old beat up .44 Automag. How about a double barreled shotgun with a bent over custom grip so the barrels line up in front of a right handed shooter who is left eye dominant? Or half a dozen WWII Johnson rifles? Or scads of knives and military blades and holsters. One holster maker was making custom Kydex holsters on site. How convenient!

Desert Eagles? There were as many as there were pick ups in the parking lot. I didn’t even look at AR’s  or AR accessories what with them not being welcome in the People’s Republic of Illinois and Ole JB having those border large capacity magazine inspection station plans just around the corner.

I saw more Pythons than in the rest of my life combined. I think they are breeding. Ken Hutchinson would have been so proud. Ever since seeing that 6″ royal blue Colt Python on Starsky and Hutch, I have always wanted one. When I was a baby fed agent, I felt I could not afford one, so I wore two different Dan Wesson’s with vent rib barrels for a few years and felt like I had a Python-like revolver. I lost the Python fever over the years and thought I was fully recovered- until I fired a new Stainless Steel version at the SHOT show last year, and it is still the icon of a cool revolver. My Python fever has receded but remains resident. After so many years of shooting semi-auto pistols at work and in competition, my hands no longer fit naturally around a revolver. Should I get a handicapped hanging tag for my car?

Another very cool thing to note about this show, even with crowds running thick, everyone was so polite and friendly. The crowd was dense late morning- thousands of attendees but all in good humor and very polite. “Oops, sorry I bumped into you.” “No problem brother. Have a good time!” I think it was Robert Heinlein who said “An armed society is a polite society.” Gun people are always nice any way, but in big crowds like this the good humor and fun was infectious.

Speaking of nice, we got to meet the owners and most of the staff from Locked & Loaded Guns from Pana, IL at the show. Lever Action Don likes their online sales and “knew” Jamie, one of the staff from phone calls. We got to meet them in person and promised to come see their shop some day. Super nice people. On the way home we diverted and went to Pana. We were greeted like family or at least minor celebrities. While at the show I looked up a gun via for a nationwide search for best price, and not too amazed to see offerings from Locked & Loaded in small town Pana (Pop less than 5,000) was the #2 vendor listed online. They have some prices my friends.

Attendees could bring in their own sale items and put a white piece of typing paper on it describing the item, but no dollar amounts could be listed on the sign. I saw a guy with a grenade/flare launcher over his shoulder and another with a Chinese version Dragunov. No I did not ask their prices. I just like to chronicle the bizarre and strange. I was there and saw it.

The Wanenmacher family runs this show only twice a year and you come away thinking “Wow. That was something.”  The next show is 09 and 10 NOV 2024.  I need to talk to Don about flying in next time…or maybe he could sell off a couple Winchesters and we could just charter a plane!

Oh, and what did I buy at this show after driving 11 hours to get there? A $10 box of .22’s. Whee. Felt I ought to buy something.

2 thoughts on “Tulsa Gun Show. “Largest Gun Show in the World””
  1. Nice recap of a “free state” gun show marketplace that sadly are probably going to be eliminated/outlawed here in the Soviet-Socialist State of ILL-Annoy by regulations and restrictions from the Anti-constitutionalists in our “general ass-embly” in Chitcago-Springfield (Spring-cago?).

    1. It was stunning to see a gun show operating like it used to be. You know before they were regulated and persecuted to “protect us” from lawful gun owners. In town where I live they used to have a large and lively gun show couple times a year until a liberal mayor decided she did not like the idea and enlisted the chief of police to talk about the dangers of all those guns passing through town for 8 or so hours. They started pressing and legislating and ran the show out of town to prevent a “gun problem” that never existed. The law abiding are supposed to just shut up and sit down and lose out on pretend problems which have never happened are supposedly prevented for the common good.
      My best example was when I lived in Kalifornia and Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill to ban .50 cal rifles despite the fact there had never been a crime committed with $5k to $15k Barrett rifles. But by God those liberals stopped that “problem cold.” I never wanted a Barrett- until they banned them!

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