There I sat at the Leatherneck Club, wide eyed, holding a card signed by Carlos Hathcock… welcome to my SHOT Show experience of 2020.
I had the distinct honor of attending SHOT Show with the crew from AmericanSnipers.org. If you’re unfamiliar with this organization, it is their mission to obtain and provide the specialized equipment our Snipers and Marksmen need, but often times cannot procure on their own.
Independent, intelligent and able to think outside the box, Snipers are unique and specialized warriors. They have to be: Tasked with operating in small teams, behind enemy lines, with the steely patience of a saint, but the lethalness of the Berserkers of old, Snipers epitomize the synchronous union of field craft and precision shooting.
While AmericanSnipers.org does not differentiate between a Marksman and a Sniper (if either need assistance, they receive it) I will provide a short breakdown since I know (I just KNOW) it’s going to come up. So here you go: Marksmen are highly trained shooters with an aptitude for accuracy, while Snipers are all of that, but masters of field craft. In order to hold the title of Sniper, you have to attend and pass Sniper School. End of story.
As one could imagine, the gear required to carry out such diverse missions is difficult to come by and oftentimes expensive. So expensive that a Sniper’s own military unit may not be able to afford the costs associated with their Sniper’s highly specific needs. As AmericanSnipers.org explains, “The snipers and designated marksmen are encouraged to work through their own supply systems and to make their needs known to their superiors to maintain continuity and flow of information. However, that failing, AmericanSnipers.org has the ability to provide gear that goes directly from an AmericanSnipers.org shipping point, to the exact military address of the sniper himself. When the sniper’s deployment ends, he either gives the equipment to his replacement (if it is serviceable) or keeps it if he re-enlists and plans to return to overseas duty in a sniper billet.”
As the American Snipers Program is solely funded by civic donations, the objective at SHOT Show was to fundraise. Raffles were held at SHOT Show, and ATAC, and events were conducted after SHOT finished for the day.
Which brings us back to the Leatherneck Club: Where we attended the Raider and RECON night and got to hang out with some truly incredible people. If you haven’t been there, it’s an unassuming bar off the Strip in Las Vegas. But it’s not just a bar, it’s a museum in honor of these special Operators and their rich history. They adorned with memorabilia going back to WW1 and the drinks aren’t bad either.
I meandered between talking with the guests and hanging out with the lovely models behind the booth, who were signing calendars and assisting with purchases of merchandise.
Brian Sain, the Founding Director, personally designs Challenge coins (badass Challenge coins) that were available for purchase at The Leatherneck Club’s event. These coins are available for purchase off their website, along with other gear (I can personally vouch that their sweat shirts are well made and comfortable) and calendars: https://americansnipers.org/shop/challenge-coins.html?p=1
It should be noted that no member of their organization makes money from these events, merchandise or even the organization itself. This is true altruism. The funds go directly to getting their Snipers and Marksmen what they need.
I guess at this point, you’re still wondering where the card signed by Carlos Hathcock comes into the story. Brian Sain and I were talking about firearms instruction, and I had mentioned a line I use on my students when they first come onto my range, “I don’t care if your Grand Daddy was the great and legendary Carlos Hathcock (may he rest in peace)…” he smirked a little, then pulled out his card. Turns out that Brian was trained by this legend, and this card was referred to as “the Bible” by Hathcock. It was meant to stay on your person at all times, and as Brian explained, “if he asked you to produce and you couldn’t, you knocked out 50 pushups.” So, I sat there in awe, holding a card that was personally signed by one of the most iconic Snipers to ever exist. While I sat talking to a Sniper who was trained by him. Was I humbled? Completely.
However, it was more humbling to attend SHOT Show with this amazing organization. If you haven’t been to the convention, it can be an overwhelming experience. If you distill it down to its essence, everyone is there for something. Most are there to promote themselves or their products. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it was a tremendous experience to watch these gentlemen work so diligently not for personal gain, but for the benefit of their community.
I’m not sure what I did to deserve the honor of attending SHOT and the Leatherneck event with this incredible group of folks, but I am certainly honored by the experience and inclusion.