Texas International Firearms Festival Review

Posted: November 10, 2014 in General, Shooting
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This is a brief review of the Texas International Firearms Festival, held at the Best of the West Shooting Range in Liberty Hill TX on Nov. 8 and Nov 9, 2014.  Liberty Hill is NW of Austin and almost directly west of Georgetown.

I attended the event for approximately six hours on Saturday, including an hour in line before opening.  The organizers made a big deal of advertising 5000 firearms enthusiasts, so I wanted to be in line early just in case they were right.  I also enjoy meeting and talking with fellow firearms owners and this event provided a superb opportunity.  I had a great time talking with four other people during my wait.

Ticket options included a single-day pass for the budget-challenged such as myself, a two-day pass, and a VIP pass for the upper crust.  The VIP pass was good for two days and included a VIP lounge area with free lunch, preferred parking, and hour-early access to the range.

I don’t care about preferred parking as you need to be on your feet for multiple hours anyway for an event of this nature, so the early access seemed to be the greatest appeal to the VIP package.  To really make it pay off, however, you needed to be able to attend the event both days.

Since I purchased a single-day pass, I can only comment on Saturday operations, which was the opening day of the very first event.

Driving to the range from north Round Rock was a breeze.  Best of the West was very easy to spot from the road and the organizers did an excellent job of routing traffic into parking slots.  They had a large number of lanes setup at the general admission tent, but only two people handling admission for the single VIP line.  And, there were a LOT of VIP’s.

Line processing is an issue since a waiver must be signed and identification must be provided.  The event rep. then looks up the attendee’s registration in the computer and provides them with a colored wrist strap.

By 9:30 AM, it became apparent that the VIP’s were not going to make it in an hour early.  So, the organizers moved them through the GA area to speed processing.  This seemed to me to be the best compromise, especially since those people dropped a buck fifty a piece.  While it did speed the VIP’s through, some people in the GA line got pissed and one person even became belligerent.  At that point, you have to realize that you’e going to be inside in about 15 to 20 minutes and have a great day to look forward to.  So, just ignore it.  I wrote the incident off to morning entertainment.

I think the people working admissions could use some more training.  My entry was delayed for over five minutes due to the fact that the person processing the entry could not comprehend that ‘Jim’ and ‘James’ are the same person.  I could not even get the rep to click on the ‘Jim’ entry (James was on my driver’s license) to check the address.  She had to call a supervisor over who finally told her to do exactly what I originally suggested.

Ha ha – morning entertainment indeed 🙂

Weather for the day was superb.  The wind started blowing around 9:30 and that made an already crisp, cold morning a bit crisper and a bit colder.  As the day drug on and the sun came up, the wind was to be appreciated, although if I could script it out, I would have wanted about half the wind speed.  Still, it beats rain and cold, so overall I was very pleased with the weather.

The range was well organized with retail tents and gun store on one side, rifle ranges roughly in the middle, and all the other firearms vendors on the opposite side.  I knew I was in for a long day of walking.

The motto of the event is ‘Come And Shoot It!’  If you attended, your expectation probably needed to be along the lines of stand in line a lot, shoot a lot, and then buy it if you like it.  If so, you were likely a happy camper.  If you came just to look around, then your money could probably have been spent better elsewhere.

I worked my way back and forth across the range to gauge lines, wait times, and general audience reactions.  It was very hard to resist the temptation to stand in line and fire off a bunch of state-of-the-art bang-bang myself, but then I would have ended up buying something I don’t need right now and it kind of defeats the purpose of a review.

Actually, I’m lying.  I really wanted to get my hands on an STI Perfect 10 and the AAC 300 BLK AR pistol with Sig arm brace (for vehicle operations in security work).  I asked the AAC reps if they had the AR pistol at the event, which they did not.  Nor did I see any hint of STI guns at the event, although they did have a banner displayed.

The rifle lines filled up quickly.  One of the men I stood with in the GA line with went directly into the rifle line to fire a Barrett and he told me later that he waited 45 minutes.  Wait times during the morning varied quite a bit.  That same gentleman stood in line to shoot a Sig 320 for about 50 minutes.  Now, once you were moved up to the firing tents, you could proceed from stage to stage and shoot anything you wanted.  I thought Sig, btw, had the best setup of the larger firearm companies.

Some people waited as little as 25-30 minutes.  Everyone I talked to, which was about two dozen people, indicated that they thought the wait was worthwhile.  Vendors whose products induced longer wait times seemed to do best when they either had something novel to shoot or allowed attendees to shoot a very wide variety of firearms.

Discounts were offered if you wanted to purchase something at the event and I know of at least three sales that were closed from people I interviewed.

While Sig had one of the best setups of widely know firearms companies, I thought the most impressive display was from Underground Tactical.  Yeah, leave it to a local Texas company to show everyone how to kick azz.  Their firearms looked pretty decent and their triggers were simply incredible.  It was no surprise to me how well they sold.

I also enjoyed talking with Cabot Guns. I first saw their products up close at SHOT earlier this year.  There should be a picture of them beside the word ‘craftsmanship’ in the dictionary.

Tracking Point is always cool and just as much out of my budget as it was when I talked with them at SHOT.

Walther did not have a CCP to show off, but you could take a product brochure.  Winchester’s new ammo line with matched practice/defense ammo was interesting and seemed to be well-received from the people I talked to.

Pretty much all my vendor interactions were positive.  I enjoying talking with FNH and getting a preview of new firearms coming in the near future, including an AR-15 sporter and a DMR.  One vendor kind of copped an attitude with me.  One of the men I met in line and I were checking out their 1911 models.  He asked me if I shoot a .45.  I told him that my duty weapon (for security work) was a Glock 10mm.  The vendor slid a pistol in front of me and said it was a 10mm.  After a dry-fire, I asked if they had a 10mm model to demo.  He gave me a snide look and said, ‘Noooooo … we have a 10mm model to BUY.”  A simple ‘no’ would have sufficed.  After all, the motto of the event was ‘come and shoot it.’  I’m not going to buy anything without shooting it first.  And, if they had just been a little more professional, they would have gotten their name mentioned (with pictures below) in a review that will likely reach thousands of people.

Well, hopefully they won’t be back next year and that bay will be occupied by a vendor with better people skills.

The VIP area seemed okay, but just okay.  There is only so much you can do with wide-open land.  I asked several people that exited the area whether or not they thought it was worth the extra money.  Opinion seemed to be split about 50-50 in this rather non-scientific survey.

Portable restroom facilities seemed reasonable for the actual attendance level.

After five hours, I decided to leave and then on the way out I gave into temptation.  I headed back to the Sig line to shoot the MPX.  Nice firearm and no chance of buying temptation since I have no use case for a sub-gun at this time.  Wait time was just over 40 minutes.  I also noticed substantially lesser lines at the rifle area in the afternoon.

I attempted an informal car count on my way out by counting the number of cars in a single line and then multiplying by the number of lines.  I rounded up and came up with 650 cars in the lot by early afternoon.  Fortunately, the 5000 count seemed to be over exaggerated.  I’d hate to see even 1-2K people in that area at a single time.

Food selections were okay if you like really rich food.  The BBQ was excellent!

If you are interested in attending next year’s event, consider going on Sunday instead of Saturday.  I heard that wait times were significantly lower on the second day.

Overall, I’d give the event pretty high marks.  Based on my observations and conversations with others, here are some suggestions for next year.

– Streamline the entry process.  The waiver is a bottleneck, so have a PDF of that form available online for people to fill out and bring with them.  Have a special line for both GA and VIP for those with pre-filled waivers.

– This is the age of the device.  How about a staff of people with iPads that can go out into the lines and pre-process people?

– Offer a one-day VIP pass.  A lot of us can only attend a single day.

– Make the VIP truly VIP.  Get the VIP’s into the range TWO hours in advance each day and make it a real two hours.  That gets them on the rifles, for example, with very little wait time.

– A lot of people waited in line an hour or more.  How about a couple portable restrooms?  And, how about a coffee stand?  Wait, you can’t do that.  I’ll be running the coffee stand next year 🙂

– Reconsider event timing.  I know there is a lot of stuff going on in Austin.  How about before hunting season opens instead of after?

– Get more retail vendors involved, especially those selling firearm accessories.

– How about some seminars or clinics – something to occupy time while waiting for lines to thin down?

– I saw workers shuttled back and forth in golf carts.  How about a shuttle for attendees to move them back and forth from retail tents to firearm vendors?  A lot of people have knee and feet issues that make walking after standing for a long time difficult.

– Get north Texas involved.  How about altering each year between north and south Texas?

– I think a lot of people liked the event, so get some testimonials up on the site and start advertising for next year’s event NOW.

Here are a few of the pics that I took on Sat.

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As always, thanks for spending part of your day at Texas Gun Show Review.

– Diligencia, Vis, Celeritas

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Comments
  1. Dan Z. says:

    As one of the organizers of the Festival, I’d just like to say thanks for the well done, very thorough review. We really appreciate all of your feedback and ideas. We learned a lot this first year that should help us make next year’s event bigger, better and flow even more smoothly.