A while back I had email exchanges with two friends, one also a colleague, about the then-upcoming SHOT Show, the annual trade show for the firearms industry, held in Las Vegas in January.
Both friends expressed the wish that they were going, too, and to both I replied, somewhat jokingly, that the highlight for me is always not having to wear boots and gloves for a week.
In truth that is a major perk of travelling from Buffalo to Las Vegas at the end of January, and everyone else on the plane—many of whom were going to a different business convention in Sin City—seemed happy to be sitting down without a down parka on.
But the big value to going to SHOT every year is in seeing both the old and the new.
It starts on set-up day, when the Sands Convention Center is basically a giant concrete shell. Depending on when you do your set-up, there may already be the biggest booths set up, or cranes and other equipment could be pulling them into place. Smaller booths (like Second Amendment Foundation’s) generally get their shipping toward the end of set-up and oftentimes later than expected. That allows you to roam around looking for floor managers (I’ve been doing this long enough to remember when we didn’t have cellphones to help track people and things down), and as you do, you see the “city” that SHOT will become start to take shape. You also see any number of old friends and acquaintances, many of whom are roaming for the same reasons you are. You have to be careful where you step as there are shipping boxes strewn all over and the buzz of the small army of motorized helpers to contend with.
By the end of set-up, they are laying down the aisle carpets and putting up signage directing show goers through the maze of booths.
You generally see different friends in hotel lobbies and in restaurants as well, or queuing up for coffee in the morning.
All that before the show even starts. After that it’s a whirlwind of more old and new, but the emphasis shifts to the new. It seems everyone in the business has something new that you must stop and look at—guns of every description, and accessories you never knew you needed.
Many of the professional gun writers have had an opportunity to try the new products hands-on the day before the show opens, and they are eager to let you know what’s on their “to-do” list for the year—stay tuned as we review a host of new offerings throughout 2018.
There is also ample time to talk to people about general trends in the industry, about hopes and fears for new legislation and regulation.
At the SAF booth, we spend a lot of time talking with manufacturers and dealers about pending court cases, as that is the lion’s share of our activity these days. There are so many in process that it is often hard to keep them all straight.
SHOT attracts a fair amount of folks from around the world, many buyers, others manufacturers, but there is a universal language among folks in the world of guns—what the late David Caplan called The Second Amendment Friendship—so there never seems to be a barrier to a lively discussion.
After a week of SHOT Show, it is time to go home, ladened down with catalogs instead of Welcome to Las Vegas mugs. These days, a lot of the catalogs come on thumb drives, which spares the packing considerably.
There’s always a few people you never met before on the flight home—either who attended the show and want to spend some time talking about it, or folks who were in Nevada for other reasons, but want to hear all about it.
And, yes, when you get to your car at the airport’s long term lot, your old boots are waiting for you.