1998 Soldier of Fortune Firepower Demo

By Jeff W. Zimba

Once it is in your blood, your hooked. As soon as you have your first taste, you will need more. Absolutely nothing in the world can duplicate the sights, the sounds and the smells of a firing line erupting with live machine gun fire. It is like nothing you have ever witnessed on television or at the movies. The explosions and the bullets are as real as the participants. The guns posses countless untold tales and many played an important role in shaping history to the way things are today. As soon as you attend one of these events you will search high and low for others like them, but there are only a few of these large scale events in the United States each year. It just so happens that the Soldier Of Fortune Firepower Demo is a great place to get your fix.

As in years past, the 1998 Soldier of Fortune firepower demo was held at the Desert Sportsman’s Range on Charleston Blvd. just outside Las Vegas. The convention and trade expo was based at the Sands Convention Center just off “the strip”.

To those who have never attended the Soldier Of Fortune Convention, you don’t know what you are missing. There are venders from all over the U.S. that specialize in all kinds of firearms and related products. With exhibitors such as Jay Tee’s, Armalite, Barrett, Bushmaster, Gemtech, John’s Guns, Lomont, LAR Manufacturing, Olympic Arms, Springfield Armory, and many, many more, the expo is an actual who’s - who of the shooting industry.

This past year the Firepower demo was on Saturday, September 26, 1998. As usual, Peter Kokalis was the master of ceremonies and addressed the crowed with a few of his words of wisdom before getting started. If you enjoy reading Peter’s articles and columns you can rest assured he is just as prolific on the microphone as he is with the pen. He always has some insight to share with those in attendance and is far from shy when asked his opinion on any subject. Peter is an asset to the firepower demo and his friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) banter is an important and essential part of the show.

The firing line is swollen with guns and gunners and as soon as all muzzles are locked downrange the introduction stage begins. Each shooter is introduced to the crowd, (along with their A-gunner, when accompanied by one) and their firearm of choice. We are treated to a brief summary and history lesson of each firearm such as caliber, rate of fire, Country and period of origin, and major conflicts it was used in if any.

As Peter finishes each individual introduction, he asks the shooter to let loose with a five to ten round burst so those in attendance can distinguish the differences between each firearm. For those who are not deeply involved with Class III firearms this is a very educational and interesting part of the demo. You would have to visit a very large museum to obtain ½ of information you will learn at this demonstration and it wouldn’t be ¼ of the fun!

As soon as the introductions are over it is on to the open line. The moment of the line going hot is difficult to explain. The percussion of the explosions and the gun fire are as overwhelming as the noise. The intense heat of the fireballs downrange are warm to the skin even in the 90º desert heat. Within a minute, the dust and smoke make it impossible to see the whole impact area and it is the occasional lone explosion that lets you know another target was successfully destroyed. (Of course, this being real life, the explosions are from prepared exploding targets, in contrast to the movie explosions that occur every time some punk nails an automobile with a 9mm.) After the shooting stopped and the dust cleared, the noise of the applauding crowd was the last we would hear before returning to the convention center. As usual, Peter and his crew pulled off another excellent demo and helped to fix the post-ammo shakes from the last machine gun event. No matter weather you are a new Class III enthusiast or an “Old Salt” there is something for you at the SOF Convention & Expo. I’ll see you there!

The 1999 Convention will be at Cashman Field in Las Vegas September 22-26. This years schedule of events includes the Firepower Demo, many seminars, the SOF Submachine Gun Match, and much more. The new headquarters hotel this year is the Palace Station Hotel & Casino on West Sahara Ave.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V2N12 (September 1999)
and was posted online on January 29, 2016


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