“Well,” said the officious, but not-quite-competent waiter, “we’re only open because of the gun show.”
The venue was a French restaurant in the sprawling Venetian Palazzo complex in Las Vegas which contains the Sands Expo Center.
The “gun show” the waiter referred to—to cover his unfamiliarity with the lunch menu—was the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, one of the largest trade shows in the US.
Contributing Editors Diane Walls (with photographic assist from her husband, Tom) and Dave Workman each weigh in on SHOT in these pages, and, as the year progresses, we’ll have reviews of many of the new products seen there.
As usual, for me, SHOT starts with a five hour flight to Las Vegas, a quick bite at the hotel, and as long a sleep as jet lag will allow.
The following day begins our annual “wait for stuff,” as our booth is in the back of the main hall and always among the last to receive our shipments, regardless of what the schedule promises. It’s a lot easier, though no less trying, to track down various bits and pieces these days. I’ve been doing SHOT Shows long enough that I can remember when every inquiry required a physical trip to a “show office” and a chat with the in-creasing familiar faces. Nowadays, there’s cell phones and that makes it an easier—but, alas, no shorter, process.
While we are scheduled to set up on Sunday, we generally end up back in the booth on Mon- day, which means I usually have to skip Media Day at the range, the annual kid-in-a-candy-store celebration that allows you some hands on time with the new products and some face to face time with the people debuting them.
By Tuesday, when SHOT itself starts, I’m usually pretty well acclimated as to the time of day and the location of our booth, but getting to the booth about 10 minutes late, I was surprised to see how many attendees had already made it back to our little corner of SHOT.
As usual, there are familiar faces along with a host of new folks.
One thing SHOT Show isn’t, except by the vaguest definition, is a gun show.
There are, to be sure, lots and lots of guns. And it is fun to see those in the business, be they dealers, distributors, manufacturers, writers, etc., react to all the new things SHOT has to offer. It’s also great to see, again from my vantage of having attended 20 or so SHOT Shows, how many more women are in attendance, as dealers, distributors, manufacturers, writers, etc.
The number of women in attendance—both as buyers and sellers—has also dramatically in-creased in the time I have been going to SHOT.
First and foremost, SHOT is a business show and is conducted in a businesslike manner, so that if you covered all the displays, you would certainly guess “trade show” before you said “gun show.”
In my estimation, the business of firearms has changed a lot in 20 years as well. To be sure there were always some in the industry who were attuned to the political climate, but pretty much everyone these days has a good grasp of what is going on not just on the federal level, but in the courts, in state capitals, and even in local municipalities. In the last several years, for example, the relocation of firearms and related businesses from their historical roots in the Northeast to more gun-friendly communities in the Southeast, Southwest and Plains states have been duly noted by all.
Just two weeks into the new year, SHOT was a hotbed of talk about the 2016 presidential election, and I heard a lot of interesting, and in some cases, far-fetched, speculation. That’s pretty much America’s pastime nowadays, and the floor of any trade show would likely be rife with political talk.
But back to our erstwhile waiter. The SHOT Show brings a lot of people to Las Vegas, filling up hotel rooms, grabbing cabs, seeing shows, and, even having lunch in French restaurants.
While the SHOT Show is not a gun show, it does stand in for one in a similar, albeit, smaller, way—it provides commerce to a host of unrelated businesses, including employment to waiters in restaurants which might otherwise be closed, for example.