Rambo clones and mercenaries spoiling for a fight invaded a Strip hotel for a Soldier of Fortune convention this weekend, doting over exotic weapons and attending lectures on battles to be won in far-off places.
Meanwhile, the promoter of the event collected donations in large glass bottles to help fight a $9.4 million judgment awarded by a Texas court that ruled his Soldier of Fortune magazine was used to recruit a contract killer.Before the weekend was over, the eighth annual convention was expected to draw several hundred competitors for a wide range of paramilitary events.
Participants spent the earlier part of the week attending shooting matches and learning survival, commando and defensive techniques. Seminars ranged from air operations in Nicaragua to Middle East terrorism and new Soviet weaponry.
In addition, some 7,000 visitors were expected to browse through an exhibit hall filled with knives, stun guns, semi-automatic pistols, high-powered sniper rifles and assault weapons.
One gray-haired woman, clad in a camouflage hat, slacks and jacket and a T-shirt touting the Survival Store gun shop, huffed her way up a disabled escalator to a convention area where some 200 exhibitors were displaying their weapons.
Intratec of Miami featured its new Scorpion, a pistol capable of firing 30 rounds as fast as the finger can squeeze the trigger.
"It's for defense and recreation," said company spokesman Tom Conrad. "It's great for a family, for recreational shooting. A child can handle it. It's great for plinking tin cans."
The company also is promoting a weapon less than 5 inches long that fits in the palm of a hand, touting it as "a very affordable insurance policy."
Action Arms of Philadelphia promoted a range of weapons as "New Toys for the Big Boys." Among the weapons was a 32-round Uzi pistol, less than 10 inches long, manufactured by Israel Military Industries.
At the end of one aisle, a man on a videotape discussed "the myth of shooting to wound versus shooting to kill," saying the latter was the smarter policy.
Ed Ciammitti, vice president of the Guardian Spy Shop, Phoenix, talked of personal security items such as tear gas, stun guns up to 100,000 volts, a strobe light that temporarily blinds an attacker and a new dry powder that swells an attacker's eyes and throat, making it hard to see and breathe.
T-shirt vendors were doing a booming business, with messages such as "Mercenaries Never Die: They Just Go to Hell to Regroup," "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," "Fight Crime - Shoot Back" and "Gun Control is Being Able to Hit Your Target."
Bumper stickers implored "Boycott Jane Fonda" and "Pardon Ollie - Indict Congress."
Throughout the exhibit hall and registration areas were giant bottles for donations to various causes, including the Omega First Amendment Legal Fund, to be used to fight a $9.4 million judgment levied against Soldier of Fortune magazine in a Houston case.
The lawsuit claimed that Robert Black hired a hit man through the magazine's personal services classified ads, and the hit man killed Black's wife, Sandra Black of Bryan, Texas, on Feb. 21, 1985. The magazine was found negligent for publishing the ad.
Robert Brown, editor and publisher of the magazine, based in Boulder, Colo. said in a statement to conventioneers that it would be impossible for a publication to track down and verify each advertiser's "hidden agenda."
Black is on Texas death row for paying John Wayne Hearn $10,000 to kill Mrs. Black. Hearn is serving three life terms for the Black slaying and two other killings in Florida.