Cover photo: Rather than modern black guns, the Las Vegas Antique Arms Show is one about vintage firearms, including these wheel lock and flint lock pistols.
By: Peter Suciu
While not really a “gun show” in the traditional sense, last month’s SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade) Show has remained the largest firearms industry event in the world. It is just one of several high-profile trade shows held in Las Vegas each January including CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) and the World of Concrete shows.
Still Going Strong
Following SHOT Show each year is the “other” notable gun show to hit Sin City: the Las Vegas Antique Arms Show, which celebrated its 57th consecutive year in 2019 and has been noted as the “longest continuing running event in Las Vegas.”
The show has been a continuing event since the days when Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were fixtures on the Strip! While the city has gone through many changes and seen hotels literally rise and fall in the past six decades, this event has been a recurring fixture and constant in the otherwise changing city.
A League of Its Own
In many ways, the longevity of this show is a testament to its founders and show promoters over the past six decades. The Las Vegas Antique Arms Show was first started in 1962 by Las Vegas gun collector and local gun store dealer Harry Manny, and while it was overshadowed for many years by such events as the Great Western Gun & Knife Show and the Wanenmacher's Tulsa Arms Show, this is a show that is truly in a league of its own in terms of high-quality firearms.
Under the stewardship of renowned collector and dealer Wallace Beinfeld, the show grew in size. Despite Mr. Beinfeld’s passing in 2013, the show has not only gone on, but has greatly expanded from an antique arms show into a true "trifecta" of shows. It now includes three marquee events in one: the Las Vegas Antique Arms Show, the International Sporting Arms Show, and the Custom Knife Makers Show. This year it also added the Firearms Engraver's Guild of America to the prominent dealers and show sponsors.
Las Vegas wasn't really much of a town in the "Old West," but there is no denying the city has a western vibe. It was fitting to see a table of repeating rifles for sale.
A High Roller Show
With more than 1,500 tables, this the Antique Arms Show has become the premier gun and knife show west of the Mississippi. It attracts serious dealers from across the country, and notably many who typically don’t make it to similar events in the eastern part of the country.
This year’s show took place at the Las Vegas Westgate Resort and Casino (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton). The Antique Arms Show isn't the place to buy AR or AK black guns, but is a chance to see – and if you have the money to buy – vintage firearms of the sort rarely even seen in many museums.
Some of the stars of the 2019 show were an early 19th century air rifle of European origin, a single action colt revolver dated 1884, and a pre-WWII M1 Garand. Needless to say, these each had a price tag that would make many would-be buyers take notice, but such expensive and valuable items are to be expected at such a high-profile show for serious antique arms collectors.
The show also included a solid mix of ethnographic items from the Far East, Africa, and of course, from across the American southwest. It was a show that offered a mix of history, culture, and artistry in vintage small arms.
After seeing the latest developments in modern firearms at SHOT Show, the Las Vegas Antique Arms Show offered a chance to step back and take in the history of vintage firearms. It is easy to see that this event could be going strong for another 50-plus years.
While there are plenty of places to fire live machine guns in Las Vegas, there were also a few for sale at the show – albeit in miniature form. These mini-Maxims were truly limited edition 1/4 scale versions that actually function!
Peter Suciu is a freelance writer based in Michigan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.