Impressions Of A Distant
I don’t know if I can make it. My lips are parched and my mouth is as dry as a
TV dinner left in the microwave for an hour. My stomach rumbles like Mt. Etna
getting ready to consume a sleeping village in a deluge of fiery lava. I can’t
remember the last time I ate or drank. My vision is blurred by the ever changing
and confusing landscape. My feet, legs, and back throb from the endless
trek. However, I know if I let my fatigue overcome my little remaining strength
and I fall by the wayside, the natives will pounce, and rip my body to shreds
for the cheap trinkets and pins that I have in my bag which they value so
highly. They’ll also probably take my shoes. So I stubbornly trudge on under the
glare of the blinding and totally unyielding light overhead.
Suddenly I freeze in terror, and my heart starts pounding like a flat head six
in a 53 Plymouth trying to climb through the Thompson Pass. Directly ahead, I
see three blond Amazon women dressed in what looks like leather shrink-wrap
pants, knee high boots, and little else. All three are carrying tasers in low
slung holsters tightly strapped to their narrow, muscular hips. They take one
look at me in my weakened condition, exchange knowing glances, and smile
wolfishly. I panic, and run into a nearby thicket of posters and catalogs hoping
they’ll be thrown off by the confusing profusion of color and the flashing of a
nearby strobe light. It doesn’t work, for this is their native territory and
they know it better than Paula Jones knows her teasing comb. I’m the outsider
here, and I’m doomed. Am I on the planet Zarnix in the year 2202? No, it’s worse
than that. I’m in Las Vegas, at the 2002 Shot Show.
As you might guess, the Shot Show is big, as in really, really big. In fact, the
Show this year was the largest ever both in terms of floor space, numbers of
exhibitors, and number of people attending. Here’s just a few of the statistics.
Floor space - 495,000 square feet. This is the equivalent of over eight and a
half football fields in area. Just to walk the aisles one time would be a six
mile trek. In fact, there are only four convention centers in the nation that
are suitable to hold a gathering of this size - Las Vegas, Orlando, New Orleans
(anti gun town) and Atlanta (anti gun town). Next year’s Show will be in
Orlando. Number of exhibiting companies - over 1400 at the latest but not the
final count. Number of firearms dealers and other buyers attending - 17,000,
including 1900 from 65 foreign countries. Total number of people at the Show -
at least 30,000 but probably closer to around 35,000 (they’re still tallying up
the numbers). Value to the local economy - around $50,000,000.
So what is the Shot Show and who puts it on? It’s basically a trade show for the
firearms, ammunition, camping, optics, and outdoor accessories industries. The
Show brings together the manufacturers, distributors, and retail dealers in one
place at the same time. The entire focus of the Show is on the business of doing
business i.e. selling and buying. This is where our local dealers or their
distributors will purchase the inventory that they’ll sell to us throughout the
year. Consequently the public is not invited.
has been going on since 1979 and is sponsored by the National Shooting
Sports Foundation, which has been a sponsor of several IHMSA
Internationals in the past. The NSSF is one of the prime lobby
organizations for gun rights in the nation, and is the major force
involved in defeating the law suits brought against the firearms industry
by several cities throughout the United States, including Atlanta and New
Orleans. Every one of these law suits have been thrown out by the courts
and we have the NSSF to thank for it. It is also a sponsor of a myriad of
shooting activities like the U.S. Shooting team, the U.S. Biathlon
Association, the 4H Shooting Program, the Cody Firearms Museum, etc., etc.
In fact the profits from the Show go to support all these efforts as well
as a comprehensive education program. Besides all the buying and selling
going on at the Show, a series of six educational seminars sponsored by
the NSSF was going on behind the scenes. They covered topics for local
retail dealers such as “Community Relations: Don't Give Back to the
Community - Be the Community, Loss Prevention for Today’s Retailer, A
Smart Approach to Insurance, Developing a Place to Shoot, BATF Issues &
Answers, and Identifying and Deterring Straw (bogus) Purchases.”
The NSSF also develops marketing and communications programs to promote
the shooting sports and a broad array of public opinion surveys and
strategic planning studies on behalf of all segments of the industry.
This show is so huge that in the four days I was there, I’d estimate that
I saw perhaps around 60% at most. Consequently, I had to carefully plan
what sixty percent I’d be able to take in. Like the Internationals,
certainly one of the best things about going to the Show was visiting
with industry friends that I have worked with for many, many years as
well as some of the established movers and shakers in the industry such as
Steve Hornady and Deiter Anschutz.
It was also an opportunity to meet the new movers and shakers coming into
the industry like the President of Alliant Tech Systems (rocket boosters
for the space shuttle, ICBM engines, Lake City Ammunition plant, etc.) who
recently bought Blount’s Sporting Equipment Division (CCI, Speer, Outers,
Weaver, Simmons, et al). I was very fortunate in being able to snag a
interview in which I was able to glean a lot of information about his
future plans for the company. I’ll be passing this information on in my
follow-on Shot Show story next month.
In summary, the Show, which I ironically attended as a personal
“vacation”, was physically exhausting but mentally stimulating. It was
also extremely rewarding to see that the current state of the sporting
firearms industry was very healthy and prosperous. Barring some unforeseen
calamity, I think we’re going to be ok for the next couple of years.
By the way, the three blond Amazon women with the tasers
were real. I have their photo and autographs to prove it.