Around the end of my first shooting season, in 2014, the buzz began, talk of this magical outdoors trade show, of an infamous firearms convention. I had been to a few car shows in my day, but nothing too extreme. I had even been to the Home and Garden Show Expo once at the convention center in Pittsburgh, PA. So I didn’t think much of this SHOT Show hoob-lah.
So, being new to the shooting industry, I did a little research. It turns out that I sorely underestimated the scale of this event. SHOT Show is the “Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show and Conference for the firearms, ammunition, hunting, and shooting accessories industry”, according to the website (http://www.shotshow.org/). The website continues to boast that this is “the largest trade show of its kind in the world, and fifth largest trade show in Las Vegas”. This sounded awesome! I wanted to go! Unfortunately, not just anyone can attend SHOT Show as it is a trade-only event. What does this mean? You can only attend as a buyer or seller.
By late 2014, social media began to blow up with talk of SHOT Show 2015, and all the neat, amazing, and cool things that were coming out or going to be announced. My excitement grew! I knew I needed to go to SHOT Show. Regrettably, it was too late in the game to try and make it to Las Vegas. I probably wouldn’t have been able to get in anyway, because I did not have the proper credentials. I clung to social media during the week of SHOT Show trying to vicariously live through all the attendees who were posting pictures of themselves with various pro shooters and even some celebrities. I wanted go! So, I set a goal for myself and my husband, Heath. We would go to SHOT Show 2016, and we had a year to make that happen.
First we needed to figure out how we were going to get in. This ended up being a lot easier than we had anticipated. One of our lovely sponsors, Eagle Imports Inc., agreed to get us passes because they would have a booth set up at the show anyway. We were eager to finally get to meet everyone we had been in communication with via email and phone calls throughout the year.
Next, we needed to fund this adventure. We attended various major matches throughout 2015 and picked up some really cool prizes off the prize tables. Though a lot of the prizes were really awesome, we couldn’t use all them, either the prize was not compatible with our firearms, or the product was from a company that conflicted with our sponsors. So we sold them. We waited until the last few months of the shooting season and sold all our items within a month or so and put that money in a savings account dedicated to SHOT Show. This prevented spending the money on ammo or something else we have a ton of and don’t need like holsters (*cough cough* HEATH!!).
Heath helped a few friends build guns which brought in extra funds as well. And finally, with Christmas coming up at the time, we requested monetary Christmas gifts from our family. Before we knew it, we had just enough to achieve our goal. Planes tickets were purchased, hotel rooms reserved, and time off of work requested, we were all set!
As the 2015 shooting season came to an end the anticipated SHOT Show buzz began. I didn’t know what to expect. I had attend the NRA Annual Meetings in April 2015, so that was really all I had to go off of, because all of my previous experience with conventions and trade shows became irrelevant once I realized the magnitude of SHOT Show. I’m a planner, I like to plan things. So naturally, I downloaded the SHOT Show app, and started getting a schedule set up. I highlighted booths Heath and I were interested in visiting. I noted appearances so that we could try to run into some of our friends and favorite shooters. I scheduled meetings to talk to different people, and meet with other female shooters. The list of things to do, initially, was not very long. Heath and I were happy with our few appointments, and the amount of free time we had to roam the vast showroom floor(s).
Finally, the time had come! We arrived in Las Vegas late Monday night, with the Show beginning bright and early the following Tuesday. Tuesday morning we woke up exhausted, and this became a continuing theme. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and we navigated our way to the Sands Expo Center. We stayed at the MGM Grand Hotel which has a monorail station located in it. We bought a 4 day monorail pass and used the monorail as our main means of transportation. The monorail dropped us off in Harrah’s, from Harrah’s we walked about a block to the Venetian, and cut through the Venetian to get to the Expo Center.
Walking through the doors to see the majesty of guns and ammo, was actually quite difficult. The biggest crowd to get through was the one outside the main floor showroom doors. But once through, it was great, magnificent, awesome, and overwhelming. We got our bearings by finding the Eagle Imports Inc. booth and taking note of what was around. After all the “Hi!”s and “Nice to meet you.”s, we began to wonder. We saw a ton of stuff! We saw a lot of really cool things, a lot of things we’ve seen before, and surprisingly, a lot of junk. We also ran into a ton of people we knew. Every time we ran into someone we would end up making plans to meet them somewhere, whether it be at another booth, or meeting them for lunch on another day. By the end of day one, our not so busy schedule started to fill up.
The rest of our days at SHOT were spent at meetings, gatherings, booth appearances, and various other events. We even managed a few invites to some parties each evening. Towards the end of the week, each evening we felt more and more worn down. There was one night where we just decided to stay in. The 4 days and 5 nights came and went. This trip to Las Vegas, which I had viewed as a vacation, felt more like a work trip. It was work! Though we tried, we did not see everyone we wanted to see, and we were not able to visit every booth. We weren’t even able to see everything there was to see. There were so many vendors, so many booths, several floors, side rooms, and so many people. Nonetheless, as a SHOT Show rookie, I felt as though I had a successful first time. I washed my hands every time I was near a bathroom, I used hand sanitizer after every handshake and after touching any firearms, and I avoided touching my face. I felt good, just tired, really tired.
While most peoples’ flights were getting canceled due to bad weather on the northern east coast, we were able to catch our flight on time, and we landed in cold and snowy South Carolina around 11pm Saturday night. We were dropped off at our truck, and drove home, picking up a gallon of milk on the way. We set our bags down, put on our pj’s, and passed out. Over 12 hours later we woke up, with every possible symptom of a hangover. We had a SHOT Show hangover pretty bad. I was pretty sick most of the following Sunday but was able to get it together to go to work Monday and try to get back to a normal work schedule. Heath, on the other hand, got downright sick as a dog. It took him about a week to recover from his SHOT Show hangover. And we were not alone, various people noted on their social media accounts how their SHOT Show hangovers were affecting them. As they say, it comes with the territory.
Was going to SHOT Show worth it, and did it live up to the hype? Absolutely! We had an amazing time, made some great memories, and met some new friends along the way. SHOT Show helped us solidify some sponsorships for 2016, and helped us see what all is out there and happening in the firearms industry for the new year. Most importantly, Heath and I enjoyed going on this new adventure together, and getting to experience SHOT Show together. It was a beneficial trip, and one that I feel everyone interested in shooting and firearms should try and take at least once. Just remember to bring comfortable walking shoes, hand sanitizer, and plenty of business cards, you never know who you’ll run into.