Mercenaries and Walter Mittys itching for a fight, and weapons dealers with the hardware to accommodate them, got together last week to swap tales, show off paramilitary techniques and browse through survival gear ranging from high-power firearms to camouflage underwear.
The sixth annual Soldiers of Fortune Convention and Combat Weapons Expo ’85, sponsored by Soldier of Fortune magazine, drew hundreds of veterans, mercenaries, arms dealers and fervent anti-communists to join the gamblers and vacationers at the Sahara Hotel. The five-day event ended Saturday.
Among the items displayed by 150 exhibitors were laser gun sights, dart guns, ammunition of all types, bullet-proof vests and a range of knives, including some with brass knuckles and others that can be fired from tiny holders.
The participants immersed themselves in shooting matches, knife-fighting classes, firepower demonstrations, parachute jumping and rappelling down the side of the high-rise hotel.
“This always draws the Walter Mitty crowd,” said Jim Freeland, referring to the daydreaming fictional character, as he displayed an 8-inch-long, .45-caliber, semi-automatic pistol capable of firing 50 rounds at a clip.
Freeland, 31, a former Chicago policeman, said he works off and on as a freelance military adviser for government troops in El Salvador. He said he makes the occasional forays there without pay “because I really hate communism.”
Clothing made of camouflage material was the vogue, from T-shirts and long skirts to playsuits on toddlers and one man’s sport jacket. One booth sold women’s underwear made of the material.
Drawing the biggest crowds were booths featuring posters of scantily clad models displaying weapons, with the women on hand to sign the posters.