SHOT Show: Work First, Guns Second

Every year, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) puts on the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, for professionals in the firearms industry. The show has had various venues over the years, including Orlando, Florida. For the past few years, though, the SHOT Show has been hosted at the Sands Expo convention center, adjacent to the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

A Week-Long Trade Show

SHOT Show consists of four types of events stretched out over five weekdays in January. Monday is Media Day At The Range, held at the Boulder City Shooting Range just outside of Las Vegas. This day is dedicated to allowing members of the media and purchasing agents to shoot a wide variety of guns. At the same time, inside the Sands Expo Center, there is SHOT Show University, put on by the NSSF. This event has various classes of interest to people in the firearms industry, such as shooting range safety and help with the legal aspects of buying and selling guns. 

SHOT Show Is Not Your Typical Gun Show

There are also various NSSF-sponsored networking opportunities throughout the week. The main event, though, has to be the trade show and exhibition, which goes from Tuesday to Friday of SHOT Show week. The size of the trade show boggles the mind: It takes up practically all of the 2 million+ square feet of the Sands Expo, and is stuffed to the gills with manufacturers, distributors, and other organizations related to the firearms industry. 

What Happens In Vegas…

When I mention that I’m headed to SHOT, it usually elicits one of two reactions. People who work the show as either media or an exhibitor are sympathetic, knowing what’s in store for me that week. People with a more casual relationship with the gun industry think it will be a fun time of flitting from booth to booth, learning about the coolest guns and the latest gadgets. To be fair, there is a certain element of truth to that. Every year, there are more new and amazing guns revealed at SHOT. However, the thrill of those new products soon wears off, and you find yourself facing the fact that SHOT is all about the business of guns. 

A Two-Edged Sword

SHOT Show’s greatest strength is also it’s curse: Practically everyone in the firearms industry goes to the show, which makes it a “can’t miss” event for people whose livelihood depends on the business of guns. But because the show is only five days long, it means there is always a lot of work to do in a very short period of time. SHOT Show means that everyone is in one place, at one time. However, that time is very short, and the place is rather large. 

SHOT Show In Pictures

To help people understand just how frantic the show can be for people who work in the gun industry, I followed around professional competition shooter Julie Golob for one day at SHOT. Aside from being a wife and mother to two wonderful kids, Julie is a successful national and world practical pistol champion who is sponsored by a number of different gun-related companies. This means she has many commitments to appear at their booths for promotional activities during the show. SHOT Show also gives her a unique opportunity to meet with her sponsors and learn about their new products, as well as provide networking opportunities with fellow firearms owners and industry professionals.

Life In The Gun Industry

For Julie, and thousands of people like her, SHOT Show isn’t a fun time looking at cool guns. The cool guns are there, of course, but the time to appreciate them happens after the show. There is also time to relax and socialize at SHOT, but the frenetic pace of the show means that even the time to relax with friends is in short supply.  

SHOT Show Is Great, But…

To be sure, SHOT is an amazing event, full of great guns and fantastic people. However, with so much going on, it can be a hectic place to work, where meetings happen on the way from one booth to another. If guns are your business, the SHOT Show is the place to be each year. It isn’t for everyone, though. If your interest in guns is more casual, you’d honestly be better served by going to the NRA’s Annual Meeting. There you’ll see almost all the same cool guns on display, without having to pass by booth after booth of shooting range accessories and other gear that’s only of marginal interest to the American gun owner. After all, SHOT Show may be fun, but when it comes right down to it, it is all business.