Tickets to the gun show

In Communicate, Marketing, Opinion, Published journalism on November 23, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Communicate takes cover as the public lays siege to the Idex defense exhibition

Originally published in Communicate, April 2009

People like guns apparently. And bullets. And armor to protect them from guns and bullets.  And Tasers for when their guns run out of bullets. The scary part of Abu Dhabi’s Idex defense exhibition was ultimately not the hardware on display, but the sheer appetite of visitors for all things deadly or free.

On the last day of this biennial weapons extravaganza, Communicate found the exhibitors facing an invasion force. But it was not an enemy that could be readily taken out with the likes of the Taurus MT40 submachine gun (Belgian made, firing 1,200 rounds of .40 ammunition per minute, displayed with expanding bullets). Nor could it be escaped, even in a Bodyguard armored car (for “next generation VIP evacuation”). No, on the day the exhibition was open to the general public, the world, his wife and their four over-excited children were on a mission: to search and to sample.

“Please be careful. Please,” begged one exhibitor as a plump 14-year-old swung a sniper rifle while his father looked on complacently. Communicate had just asked how big the gun was. “Point 338. Very effective. Only one shot needed,” the rep told us. As we backed slowly away our meaty marksman had a nearby sandwich vendor in his sights.

Despite boasting exhibitors armed to the teeth with enough firepower to give NATO pause for thought, Idex is really much like any other exhibition. On day five (open day), patience was wearing thin and even special-ops veterans were beginning to look like they would welcome an efficient, fast and painless intervention from a sniper rifle. “Give me one bag,” demanded a visitor as we chatted to a stallholder. “I don’t have any left,” she pleaded. She told us even plastic tags for badges, and her own mobile phone, were not immune from the freebie hunters. “I wish I had a Taser,” she sighed, when we suggested she visit some nearby stands for a bit of civil defense. “They make them in pink now.”

Unfortunately for the bag lady, Communicate couldn’t find any pink Tasers. However, there were plenty of “less lethal solutions.” If someone uses these on you, you’ll presumably be a little less dead. One less lethal hand cannon promised to induce “a dissuasive level of pain,” emphasizing that, “The primary effect of the projectile is trauma.” Deciding this may be less than some of the attendees deserve, we moved on to a glass case displaying a Sig Hauer P226 Al SO pistol with a flashlight, laser sights and a silencer attached to it. “It is for combat,” we were confidently told. With that much stealth gadgetry, the other combatant would probably be excused for not knowing they were involved until combat was over.

Happily, not all the brands at the show were designed to kill or traumatize. At one stand, a German man was demonstrating a chain-mail glove, with which you could disarm a knife-wielding attacker. He was wearing a lapel badge in the shape of a minute pair of handcuffs. “The right size for a hamster,” his colleague said. “Or for Barbie,” we suggested. “Barbie probably likes to handcuff Ken,” said handcuff man. “It is a badge for a fetish club,” said his friend. Everyone laughed. We’re not sure this was still a joke or, if it was, if it was funny. But at an arms expo, it’s probably safer to laugh at the jokes.

Later an Aussie from an Abu Dhabi company that makes protective equipment – including bulletproof vests – looked round the hall despondently. “We’re a bit out of place here because nothing we sell does actual harm to people,” he said. “It’s a race between us and them.” Having wandered the stands over the week, he knew which side was winning. “I wouldn’t like to be out there,” he said. “That stuff will kill you deader than anything else.”

Before long, though, he was deploying his defensive arsenal against the real dangers at the Idex. “No. I don’t have any gifts. Try that stand there.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: