The Two Most Important Events to Attend for People Serious About Small Arms


I’ve mentioned many times in our magazines the trade shows and other events I personally consider to be critical for both interested parties and vendors to attend. The two main Symposia include the Symposia at Shrivenham (Close Combat Symposium) held each summer near Swindon in the UK—

The other event, much larger and more central to the US, is the NDIA Small Arms Group meeting. There are various names including today’s “Armament Systems Forum,” and attendance has fluctuated a bit due to location and Obama’s military budget cutting, generally from 400 to 1,000 attendees.

But what a group of attendees it is. This is one of the few places that the top people in the Western world gather regarding small arms. Years ago it wasn’t unusual to meet with Eugene Stoner, Uzi Gal, Colonel Chinn and many others at an ADPA (NDIA’s old name) meeting. Today’s meetings have similar luminaries from the small arms world, as well as many fresh faces of engineers, designers and government procurement personnel and experts.
“Why should I attend?” you might ask. For that very reason. The Armament Systems Forum has been a “be there or be square” event for decades. Not only are you mixing with and meeting top people in small arms, the technical papers that are presented are not seen anywhere else on the planet. The discussions, while fiery and controversial at times, are generally quite enlightening.

Major manufacturers support this group, as well as smaller R&D shops and subject matter experts, and the vendor attendance is frequently a roll call of shakers and movers. Now that there’s a Live Fire Demo for small arms on the third day of the show, vendors can really strut their stuff in front of the buyers and let them get “hands on.”

Those papers and discussions are a key to new opportunities in the defense business. Generally, there are keynote speakers from the military, the government and the industry—I know that the 2017 event is looking for a keynote speaker from the industry at present so if you’re involved and know an industry leader who might be good for this, let them know.

Can foreign small arms experts and companies attend and exhibit? Yes, absolutely. There may be some papers that are restricted to the US only, but that’s a small part of the events, and plenty of NATO and other groups attend.

If you’re thinking that you might want to present a paper, it’s full for 2017. Submitters for papers on the 2018 meeting can start preparing; the guidelines are on the NDIA website.

2017 Armament Systems Forum May 1-4, 2017

Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center
Fredericksburg, VA
Search for the Armaments Division

Basic schedule:

Monday— Tutorials including Jason Wong presenting on the ITAR

Tuesday— Seminars all day

Wednesday— Seminars all day

Thursday— Seminars in the morning, at noon and afternoon are the Live Fire demonstrations where attendees can get “hands on.”