The material dimension of any culture is important. Other students of gun culture have highlighted this previously, including Abigail Kohn in Shooters: Myths and Realities of America’s Gun Cultures, Jimmy Taylor in American Gun Culture: Collectors, Shows, and the Story of the Gun, and Joan Burbick in Gun Show Nation: Gun Culture and American Democracy.
The material dimension of gun culture was on display in abundance in the exhibit hall of the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston: over 600 companies displayed their products over 9 acres (400,000 square feet) of meeting space. The exhibits are free for NRA members and their immediate families, as well as for police, boy scouts, and others. Many if not most of the 86,000 attendees came to walk the exhibit floors and look at the “gun porn.”
Although there was lots of stuff to see, guns were center stage, and the NRA show presented what to me was a unique opportunity to actually handle a $64,000 Krieghoff shotgun, a Barrett 50-caliber sniper rifle, and a Kriss Vector.
There were also books (and the authors thereof) . . .
. . . Sights . . .
The abundance of modern sporting rifles — sold for tactical purposes (military/law enforcement), self-defense, hunting, target shooting, and action shooting — would confuse though perhaps not surprise those outside the gun culture. For perspective on “why would someone want to own one of those,” I recommend Dan Baum’s recent book Gun Guys: A Road Trip, as well as an interested article in Wired magazine called “The AR-15 Is More Than a Gun. It’s a Gadget.”