CLA President’s Message 2003

CLA Letter 2002
CLA Letter 2003
CLA Show 2008
Written for the Contemporary Longrifle Association newsletter in response to the 2002 CLA show and comments overheard there.

As president, I would like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts on the annual CLA show in Lexington, Kentucky.

If you have been able to attend, you know it is not like any ordinary gun show. An ordinary gun show, for either modern or antique arms, is usually sponsored by a collectors club, a company or simply by an enterprising individual. Put in the simplest terms, the sponsor’s mission is to attract exhibitors, dealers and customers and, by so doing, to make a profit for himself or his club. The sponsor wants the right mix of dealers whose tables will be full of items that appeal to that show’s customers. Because of the relationship between what is either displayed or sold and the customers who are attracted to attend, shows have a “personality.” Here on the east coast, the “Baltimore” Show is known for quality antiques and prices to match.

We have all seen shows evolve over time.  Sometimes they change for the better and sometimes, if it drifts away from our particular area of interest, for the worse. A show’s sponsor needs to be aware of the changing market and make the show attract the right exhibitors and dealers so the customers who pay admission will return year after year. If the show offers space for educational exhibits, the sponsor needs to recruit and reward them. For a dealer at one of these shows the decision to return, or not, may be a simple business equation—return on investment. 

To me the CLA show is quite different. Our show is really a multi-day meeting sponsored by the CLA for the CLA. When the first annual show was being planned, it was originally envisioned as a completely closed show. The exhibitors, dealers and customers would be members only. The purpose of the annual meeting would be to promote the study, identification and collection of Contemporary Longrifles, Contemporary Pistols and accouterments among ourselves. The show was to be a place where collectors could come to learn about the contemporary work and perhaps, upon seeing work they liked, add to their collections.

 Some of you are members of, or at least familiar with, the Kentucky Rifle Association and their annual meeting and show in PA. The KRA is primarily a collectors association and the show is for members only. In the early discussions about the formation of the CLA, and how our show would work, the KRA was frequently referred to as a possible model. Since 1997 our association has evolved considerably from the KRA model. For the past several years CLA shows have been advertised and open to the public, as new members for insurance purposes, for part of the multi-day event.

 Having a successful show is key to the success of the CLA. Gordon Barlow and the board of directors have always been concerned with making the show meet the membership’s needs. They must do this while remaining aware of the intent and by laws of the Association. That has been and is a tremendous challenge because our diverse membership can have very different expectations. As an example of how the board has changed the show rules because of requests from the membership, look at the issue of displaying antique arms:

  • Originally it was thought that none should be allowed unless an antique was being exhibited to show what a contemporary piece was based on.
  • Members who felt they would benefit from seeing more old guns asked for and got a table reserved each year for the study of a carefully selected exhibit of antique arms. (Thanks to Henry Bishop who displayed some of his rifle collection last year.)
  • About 2001the board decided that a small amount of space on any table could be used to display antique items as long as they were clearly marked as such and related to the subjects of interest to the Association—contemporary longrifles, contemporary pistols and accouterments.
  • Last year the board discussed again just what percent of an exhibit could be antiques and how best to communicate that to the membership.

The board is working for you the member. They welcome your input and a chance to answer your questions.

So is the show a success? If you come to the CLA show with the expectation that it is like an ordinary gun show, and base your opinion of the show on your return on investment, you may be disappointed. This unique show is first of all a place for meeting your fellow CLA members, sharing ideas and knowledge with them and, together, promoting the art of rifle making and the collectibility of contemporary longrifles, pistols and accouterments. Do that and the day will come when we all look at it as a commercially successful show as well. (top)