For the past 30 years, as somewhat of a minor functionary in the vast gun world, I have always been jealous of those colleagues who were able to make the across-the-pond flight to Germany to see the annual IWA Show. This year, at the generous invitation of American Rifleman Television, I was finally able to join in and see what all the fuss was about.
NRA 1st Vice President Pete Brownell confers with Douglas Hamlin, executive director of NRA Publications at the Brownells booth at the 44th Annual IWA Show.
Stunning is a word that immediately comes to mind, or off the hook, to use modern parlance.
From Roman Legions to medieval knights and today’s soldiers in full battle-rattle, the vendors at IWA seemed to have all historic periods covered with the products that they offered.
Since 1973 the Internationale Waffen Ausstellung (International Weapons Exhibition), pronounced Eeee-Waah, has been held at the Nuremberg Messe, which is actually at the far end of the infamous NSDAP rally grounds, 100 yards away from Albert Speer’s famed Zeppelinfield. Interestingly, it’s somewhat appropriate that the show is held there, as it seems to be the largest open area in all of Bavaria, and the IWA Show needs every inch of space that it can find. At nearly 1 million square feet, the IWA Show boasts 1,500 exhibitors spread over 10 buildings and foot traffic of more than 45,000 visitors.
Having the show broken up into 10 separate, but connected, buildings enabled the show producers to segregate the vendors according to the types of merchandise they sold.
Browning’s display of ball caps was intriguing to say the least.
Five buildings housed the firearms manufacturers. Another held shooting sports accessories, ammunition and optics. Other buildings were stocked with manufacturers of hunting accessories, outdoor clothing, knives and archery equipment and even one area was set up exclusively for security and police supplies.
The venerable Mauser company showed off its growing inventory of civilian sporting rifles.
Some call it the SHOT Show of Europe, and the IWA Show is certainly that and more. It wasn’t hard to go snow blind from looking at the most state-of-the-art in military hardware, much of which could never even be displayed in the USA. Seeing items made for the European-only market was intriguing and fun but brought with it its own set of frustrations. I found at least two dozen gun books that, even though they were profusely illustrated, were written in German and unlikely to ever be picked up by American publishers/distributors.
Some of the engraved and embellished Sig P226’s that are not traditionally seen in the American marketplace.
One of the more interesting fringe benefits of attending the IWA Show is getting a jump on some of the products that won’t normally be seen by the American public until the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits, which is traditionally a few months after the IWA Show.
Sig Sauer created quite the footprint on the show floor with its popular booth. This Sig 226 (right) is as embellished as any ever made and is adorned by many Pirate motifs.
For instance, the SIG booth was probably two to three times the size of the booth that it occupies at the NRA show and the SHOT show. However, here in their native Germany, it was full of goodies that will most likely never find their way over to North America.
Pedersoli of Italy is introducing a civil war-era Potsdam Musket and an Austrian Lorenz that will find favor with numerous living historians and reenactors.
Being able to actually meet and converse with some icons of the industry, who don’t normally make appearances overseas, was also a huge bonus. Pierangelo Pedersoli of Brescia, Italy has been making reproduction and sporting black powder firearms for decades. To have been given a personal tour of his booth and to see and handle the coming new products, was one of the many highlights to the three day-event.
Blaser was able to spread out and display one of everything that could be found in its catalog.
And then, like a flash, it was over as soon as it started and all that was left to remember the commotion was a bright orange literature cart emblazoned with Blaser’s logo which every visitor seemed to have in-tow as they limped to the train station or car park at the shows closing bell.
The IWA show is held annually and more information can be found by visiting iwa.info/en