Starting in the mid 1980’s and early 1990’s I started going every year, with friends, to the Las Vegas Soldier Of Fortune Conventions. I was mainly interested in their huge gun show and the Firepower Display. The gun show portion had manufacturers and company booths with the latest and greatest of cool “toys”. All the best custom and production knife makers were present in addition to everything firearm.
At S.O.F.’s desert shooting range, where the Firepower Display was held, they had firearm rental bays where, for a fee, I was able to fire a 7.62×51 NATO GE Minigun, a .50 BMG “Ma Deuce” (mounted on a WWII half track), and even a full-auto .22 caliber American 180 w/275 round drum… all these for the first time! It was there that I got hooked on automatic weapons.
Another annual ritual I had at every S.O.F. Gun Show was visiting Al Mar at his company’s trade booth. A good friend in Seattle, who never attended the Vegas show, would give me cash to buy a dozen or more small Al Mar “blems” or seconds. These knives seemed to only be available at this venue. My friend would then give them out to his friends and family for Christmas gifts. Since the Al Mar booth was always the first place I went when the show doors opened Al got to know and expect me to show up. He would already have 20 or so assorted small knives ready for me to choose from. I would always buy the models that he recommended. His “blems” would be anyone else’s top of the line. He was VERY particular about what went out with his name on it.
As usual at the ’92 show I went right to the big Al Mar booth to get the “Christmas” knives. Al came right over and started to apologize that he had very few seconds to sell that year. He had cracked down on QC and the result was a big improvement. He only had 7 of the smaller folders to sell. I said that was fine and bought them all. After I paid for them Al reached into his pocket and brought out an AMK Hawk with titanwood scales. He said that since I had been a good repeat customer over the years it was just a small gesture of thanks.
Before we left SOF I went back again to thank Al. A friend took a picture of Al and me shaking hands. I remember he had a grip like a vise!
Back at home I turned the 7 knives I bought from AL to my friend and the balance of his cash. I never told him about “Al’s knife”. I have had it now for over 20 years. I carry it often.
Sadly, Al died a few months after the S.O.F. show in 1992 from an aneurysm. It was only after his passing that I learned he and I were both Industrial Design graduates of the same school; Art Center College of Design, then located in the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles, now located in Pasadena, CA.
Al had earned a Masters Degree at ACCD… his master’s thesis was building and launching a working 2-man submarine!
Rest In Peace Al.