The SHOT Show: A Beginner’s Guide
The Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show, commonly referred to as The SHOT Show, is the world’s premier small arms trade show. Owned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), and held annually for 38 consecutive years, it’s the largest trade show of its kind in the world. From January 19-22, 2016, it was hosted for the 17th time in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. With more than 1600 exhibitors, and over 64,000 attendees, it’s an exciting place to be for four days! My wife and I attended the show for the second time in 2016. Although I’ve only been through it twice, I learned a few things worth sharing.
The SHOT Show will be held again in Las Vegas next year (Jan. 17-20, 2017). It is not open to the general public. You have to apply and register to get admitted. If you’re not part of an exhibitor booth, you need to register as Media or Attendee. To do either, you must generally prove affiliation with the hunting or shooting sports. Visit SHOT Show’s website for specifics on how to do this and what they consider as proof. I attended on a media badge because of what you’re reading right now. You need to apply early and follow through until that badge shows up in the mail. You will quickly get a confirmation email if you’re approved, but they don’t send the badge to you until December. Don’t lose that badge or forget to bring it to the show. You’ll have to wear it the entire time you’re there.
Wear comfortable shoes. You will be standing and walking a lot. I saw somewhere that they estimated this year’s show to have over 12.5 miles of aisles, and I believe it. Get organized if you want to see what interests you. There are free maps, descriptions of all the exhibitors, and huge display boards throughout the show, as well as an app for mobile devices to help you navigate the maze of booths. It will take all four days if you want to see everything, and you probably won’t get a really good look at anything. Prioritize where you want to spend your time.
Be polite, but don’t be afraid to engage with an exhibitor if you want to speak with them. These poor folks are talking to hundreds, if not thousands of people during the show. Jump in, hold their attention until you get what you came for, and then get out of the way so they can talk to the next guy. You may have to circle around a few times before an opening appears, but that is more effective than leaving the area entirely and trying to return. If you need to spend some quality time with a particular representative, consider arranging a formal meeting at their convenience.
If you go on a media badge, you’re allowed to take photos and video, but politely ask the exhibitor before doing so. The vast majority of the time, they will gladly grant you permission, but occasionally they’ll decline. The SHOT Show is where a lot of new product releases happen, but not every vendor wants the general public to get a look at their wares just yet. It seems rather silly once you’ve seen the hundreds of cell phones snapping quick pics of this or that cool gadget, but be professional and courteous, and you’ll likely end up with some good footage.
There are thousands of free samples, catalogs, and swag of all flavors on exhibitors’ tables. Grab what you want or need, but don’t clean them out with plans of selling it on eBay. If you need official photos and specifications of a product line, consider asking for a media kit. The big guys with professional marketing folks working their booths will have them, and it will help keep your carrying weight down. Speaking of which, there is no shortage of free bags available at the show for carrying various handouts. I prefer to wear a small daypack for those chores. It keeps my hands free, and allows me to carry my camera gear, snacks and water, and other things I might need while cruising the aisles.
There are plenty of food and drink options at SHOT Show. They even sell mixed drinks, beer, and wine there. Also, the food court in the attached hotel is just a 15 minute walk away, as well as several restaurants. There are free water and coffee dispensers sprinkled all over the perimeter of the convention center, so fill up while you’re there.
If you stay in a hotel on The Strip, SHOT provides a shuttle service to and from the show, as well as free shuttle service to the airport on the last day. It’s all very convenient, reliable, and free. Check your brochure or the website for official routes and schedules. For better deals, make your airplane and hotel reservations as far in advance as you can. The SHOT Show website has a list of hotels for you to consider.
If you want to attend next year’s SHOT Show, I recommend checking their website for dates and instructions, or sign up on an email list. If you have any questions I might be able to answer, feel free to drop me a line. See you in Vegas!