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SHOT Show has changed, stayed the same since January 1991

by Patrick Durkin 14. March 2012 23:50
Patrick Durkin

While checking in and picking up my media credentials at the 2012 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas in January, I realized I was attending my 22nd consecutive SHOT Show. My first was in Dallas in January 1991.

Maybe that’s why I couldn’t help but eavesdrop in a hotel elevator the first morning when two guys next to me started complaining. They said they’d been coming to the show “for years,” and groaned about the “long day” ahead.

Pretty girls staff many SHOT Show booths to greet visitors and hand out information.

“It’s not getting any easier,” one guy said.

“Nine hours of walking and standing on cement covered by thin carpeting,” the other sighed. “The more I do this, the worse I feel.”

I glanced at them, expecting to see men in their 40s, maybe even 50s. But no, they weren’t even close to my age, 56. They looked to be in their mid-30s; late 30s at the most.

I couldn’t help but smile and ask: “How many SHOT Shows have you attended?”

The guy nearest me said, “Seven.” His friend replied, “Me too.”

Author and former Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer sold and signed copies of his latest book for charity at the 2012 SHOT Show.

I must have smiled wider, because one of them asked politely, “I take it this isn’t your first one?”

I silently thanked him for not adding, “Old Timer” to the end of his sentence. Then I told him this was No. 22 for me, and I hoped I’d be around for at least 22 more. “They’re all a blur now,” I said.

My companions seemed impressed, even apologetic. “I guess we shouldn’t be complaining, should we?”

Terry Drury, left, and Mark Drury, center, talk with Cuz Strickland of Mossy Oak fame.

“Well, don’t let me ruin a good time for you,” I laughed, and wished them well.

The fact is, the SHOT Show is a demanding way to spend four days, but as I’ll always say, “It beats working for a living.” My typical day at SHOT begins about 4:30 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. Although the show is held in Las Vegas most years, I estimate I’ve spent no more than $70 gambling in all my walks back and forth between the show and my hotel room. And if I were to subtract two $20 bets I’ve made on Super Bowls played during SHOT Show weekends, I’ve spent about $30 on the slots.

The fact is, I must cover so much ground each day of SHOT that I’m too tired to do anything fun in Vegas at night. Plus, I usually file two 700-word articles each night of the Show, and another 700-word newspaper column one morning. Such articles don’t get written unless I visit a lot of booths and attend several press conferences each day.

Astronaut Joe Engle posed for a photo with my daughter, Leah Durkin, at a recent SHOT Show.

Yeah, my job requires a lot of notes, photographs and interviews. And I can’t say I look forward to my nine hours on the show floor each day, and roughly three hours of work before and after the show. Before self pity creeps in, though, I remind myself there’s only a few thousand hunters and shooters who would love to have my job.

During all these years attending SHOT, I think often about how it has changed. During the early 1990s, the show truly featured hunting. All the archery companies were clustered in one part of its massive floor, and the firearms companies stretched endlessly in the other three directions. I spent two days in each, and never came close to seeing everything.

By the late 1990s, the archery industry had all but abandoned the SHOT Show in favor of the ATA Trade Show. About the only archery companies you see at SHOT now are crossbow manufacturers. If not for them and a few tree-stand companies, you wouldn’t suspect the archery industry was once a key player at SHOT.

Miles of carpeted aisles lead SHOT Show business people past thousands of manufacturers' booths.

Then, soon after 9-11 and the United States’ “War on Terror,” SHOT attracted a growing number of entrepreneurs and manufacturers that specialize in police and military hardware. Unlike the archery and firearms industries, however, I don’t see as much overlap between the firearms and police-military industries. I often feel like I’m learning everything from scratch when working the booths in the law-enforcement wings.

Still, there’s one great thing about the SHOT Show that never changes: It never bores me. I always meet nice people who are passionate about their work, play and business. And whether it’ 1991 or 2012, I’ll often see celebrities roaming the aisles or standing at booths to meet people and sign autographs. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to meet astronaut Joe Engle, test-pilot Chuck Yeager, football coach Bud Grant, actor/gunnery sergeant R. Lee Ermey, and various singers and musicians.

Another thing that hasn’t changed: Some companies still hire pretty girls to hand out brochures and pose for pictures with middle-aged and aging guys like me. After 22 years, I’m still not sure if those girls truly generate business for the exhibitors. I’ll never forget when I ran into my old boss at the 1992 SHOT Show, and said: “Al, you won’t believe this. I just saw two really pretty girls in bikinis working at a booth two aisles over.”

You'll never visit every booth at the SHOT Show, even if you spend every hour of all four days on the show floor.

Al smiled and asked, “Which company are they working for and what were they selling?”

I stood silent, totally dumbstruck. Finally I said: “You know. I never thought to look or ask.”

Al smiled again and said, “I rest my case.”

Well, at the 2012 SHOT Show I still saw a lot of pretty, smiling girls working the booths of several companies. None wore bikinis, but six weeks later, I still can’t answer Al’s timeless question: I don’t know who they worked for or what they were selling.

Maybe I’ll pay more attention and remember such things at the 2013 SHOT Show, but don’t hold me to it.




Hunting Down Bowhunting Gear at SHOT Show

by Patrick Durkin 28. January 2011 09:54
Patrick Durkin

Folks who work in the archery, hunting and bowhunting industries sometimes feel insulated from recessions and economic downturns. Even during hard times, their customers shoot guns and bows, and go hunting whenever possible. In fact, recent studies found laid-off hunters went hunting more often than when they’re employed, partly because they had extra free time, but also because it helps feed their families.

I thought often about such economic factors last week while attending the 33rd Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The aisles were packed with store owners, distributors, buyers, outdoor media and other folks who make their living in these industries.

As Bob Morrison, president and CEO of Taurus, told a local television reporter at SHOT- “We are having terrific growth right in the middle of this recession, and I'm delighted to be in this business."

By anyone’s standard, the 2011 SHOT Show exceeded expectations with a record 31,769 buyers and 2,074 media representatives among the overall attendance of 57,390. In fact, the show attracted businessmen from more than 100 countries. By the time the four-day event ended, it was the third largest SHOT Show of all time, trailing only the 2008 and 2010 events. Let’s hope that means we’re seeing a long-awaited economic recovery for our country.

If you’re not familiar with the SHOT Show, it’s the No. 1 event for shooting, hunting and outdoors manufacturers to show their products to retail stores, whether they’re one-man gun shops or corporate retailing giants like Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops. In many cases, these retailers are getting their first look at new firearms, ammunition, clothing, footwear, riflescopes, binoculars, trail cameras and other hunting-related service and gear.

SHOT is not open to the public. Other than the outdoors media, the only folks who can attend are owners and employees of companies in the shooting and hunting industries. Last week’s event marked my 21st straight SHOT Show. As I worked the show, I thought often about how it has changed since my first SHOT in January 1991.

Until the late 1990s, the archery and bowhunting industries had a large presence at the SHOT Show. Whether the event was held in Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Orlando or New Orleans, the SHOT Show’s organizers worked hard to put all the archery companies in one area, rather than scatter them across the huge convention floor.

By 2000, however, the archery and bowhunting industries mostly abandoned SHOT to attend what became the Archery Trade Association Show. You’ll still find most clothing, optics, footwear, game calls and tree-stand manufacturers at both shows, but companies making bows, arrows, releases, bow sights and other archery- and bowhunting-specific gear find the ATA Show a better fit.

The SHOT Show’s importance to the firearms industry remains solid. SHOT has never lost its must-attend status for this $4 billion industry. For four days last week, Jan. 18-21, the floors of Las Vegas’ Sands Expo and Convention Center were stretched to capacity with 1,600 exhibiting companies. When the show opened for business, the booths displaying those companies’ wares covered 630,000 square feet of floor space.

One recent trend you can’t miss at SHOT is the increased presence of products for the military, and tactical and law-enforcement professionals. Whether it’s warfighting backpacks, AR-style rifles, high-turret riflescopes or military-grade binoculars and rangefinders, you’ll find many traditional hunting companies offering “black” and “tactical” versions of their products. In fact, it’s not unusual to see manufacturers staff two booths; one in the show’s hunting section and the other in the police/military section.

Even though it’s rare to see a bow, arrow or broadhead at the SHOT Show, you almost have to attend it if you want to see all the optics and clothing manufacturers under one roof. Many of them also exhibit at the ATA Trade Show, but rent more floor space and display more products and inventory at SHOT. That’s why most media types like me work both shows to stay up to date on all equipment used by hunters and bowhunters.

As I mentioned in my recent blog on the ATA Show, it’s virtually impossible to visit every manufacturer at the show. I note which companies I missed at ATA and put them atop my list for SHOT. Even then, I seldom get through the entire list because there’s more than three times as many exhibitors at SHOT (1,600) than at ATA (500).

Here’s just a few of the unique items at SHOT that caught my eye.

360-DEGREE GAME CAMERA: This trail camera from Bresser is the first to monitor all game activity in a 360-degree radius. It employs four sets of motion sensors, and takes 5 megabyte photos or video. Its fully programmable and stores its images on an SD card.

TINY-W SURVEILLANCE CAM PROVIDES CONCEALED BACKUP: The Tiny-W SpyPoint wireless infrared digital surveillance camera from
GG Telecom stores every picture instantly and securely with its automatic wireless backup, the Blackbox receiver, which can be hidden up to 50 feet away.

BRUNTON DEBUTS PORTABLE POWER PACK: Brunton calls the “Restore” the most efficient, integrated, compact hybrid solar-powered charger available. Its Internal battery keeps extra energy at hand, and twin solar panels recharge the battery to peak capacity in less time.

ENERGIZER’S ENERGI TO GO SP2000: This power pack is powerful enough to recharge everything from iPods to handheld radios, cellular phones and GPS units. It recharges in six hours with solar power, and can be recharged up to 500 times.

SNUGPAK’S STRATOSPHERE BIVVI IS GREAT FOR ELK BOWHUNTS: The Stratosphere from SnugPak is a waterproof yet breathable one-person bivvi shelter that’s great for overnight elk bowhunts and spike-camp setups. When you move on, it compresses into a 5x12-inch package.

REVELATION LIGHTED KNIFE GREAT FOR NIGHTTIME FIELD DRESSING: Bowhunters no longer need to hold a flashlight in their mouth when making precision cuts in the dark, thanks to the Revelation Lighted Knife from Real Avid. The Revelation features two water-sealed, high-intensity LED bulbs that focus a double beam of light around the blade’s cutting area.

SITKA GEAR NOW FEATURES MERINO WOOL: Sitka Gear features Merino wool in its latest line of high-performance gear. Merino wool is naturally odor-resistant, and is excellent at regulating body temperature, especially when worn against the skin.

BUSHNELL DEBUTS BACKTRACK POINT 5: Bushnell’s BackTrack offers simple, basic GPS functions to get bowhunters back and forth between distant points without confusion or complications. It stores and locates up to five locations, using a highly sensitive GPS receiver; a self-calibrating digital compass; and time, temperature and altitude information.

AIR CUSHION DELIVERS COMFORT FOR LONG SITS: Bowhunters seeking a comfortable, lightweight cushion for long sits should check out the Comftable Seat/Table air-cushion from Ry-Ky Products. This rugged air-cushion features a specially designed recessed area that relieves pressure on the tailbone to reduce or eliminate back pain.

The 2012 SHOT Show will return to the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, and run Jan. 17 to 20.

SHOT Show Update: Cool Bowhunting Gear From Leupold and Wildgame Innovations

by Todd Graf 20. January 2011 05:18
Todd Graf

 I wanted to give a quick update about how things are going out here at SHOT Show in Las Vegas.  If I could use just one word to describe the first day it would be: incredible.  As big as the ATA Show was 2 weeks ago, SHOT Show is even bigger.  In fact, it dwarfs the ATA Show in terms of size and exhibitors.  This is because the SHOT Show appeals to a much larger audience.  The exhibitors at SHOT Show display archery products, guns and ammunition products as well as law enforcement gear and information.  It’s where the hunting, shooting and outdoor industry comes together.  I want to take a quick minute to give a quick rundown at the highlights of my first day.  

This photo shows just how busy the SHOT Show really is! camera man and video editor hard at work filming product reviews for Leupold.  Check out the New Products gallery of our video gallery to watch videos of the ATA Show from 2 weeks, and tune in next week for videos from SHOT Show.

 The first booth I stopped by was the Leupold booth where my friend Vici Peters introduced me to the new Leupold RX-1000i laser rangefinder that is perfect for bowhunters.  I know that a lot of the rangefinders I have used in the past appear blurry or foggy when looking through the viewfinder, but that’s not the case at all with the RX-1000i.  The picture is crystal clear thanks to Leupold’s Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) technology.  Rather than looking through and LCD with other rangefinders, the OLED display is reflected into the light path of the RX-1000i leaving a crystal clear image.  Thanks to Digitally Enhanced Accuracy it is accurate to within .1 yard which makes it perfect bowhunters and target shooters alike.  It also has an improved response time that lets you know immediately your target’s exact range.

The new RX-1000i laser rangefinder from Leupold is sure to change the people look at rangefinders, literally.  Thanks to OLED technology, the RX-1000i provides a crystal clear image when looking through the lens and is packed with other features geared towards bowhunters.

 Leupold has also developed the RCX Trail Camera System new for 2011.  The RCX is available in two models, the RCX-1 and RCX-2, and take 8 and 10 megapixel pictures respectively.  Its 54 degree lens angle allows for a wide field of view which in turn captures more than other trail cameras on the market.  However, what sets the camera apart from other cameras is the ability to download high resolution photos in the field without making trips to your truck and back checking SD cards.  Once you have downloaded all your photos on the RCS controller and viewer via USB cable, you can take it back to your home to upload the pictures on your computer. 

The new RCX Trail Camera System from Leupold.  Leupold has long been on the cutting edge of technology in optics, and I am sure there trail camera system is top notch as well.

 I was also impressed with Wildgame Innovations new trail camera that features Field Net Wi-Fi technology.  This unique technology, similar to that of a home wireless network, lets users remotely access, receive, edit and delete photos from their trail camera as long as they are within 300 feet of the device without an expensive plan or adding another cell phone line.  The device will automatically send the photos your iPhone or Droid or your laptop (both PC and MAC compatible).

The YN1 trail camera system from Wildgame Innovation utilizes Field Net Technology to wirelessly send trail camera photos to your iPhone, Droid or laptop as long as you are within a 300 ft. radius of the actual unit. 

I also spent some time at the Hot Mocs booth looking at their line of products designed to keep hunters warm.  I spent a lot of time in the tree year hunting late season bucks and unfortunately, I got pretty cold a couple of times.  After looking over some of the Hot Mocs products, I know two things for the 2011 season, I will be wearing their products and I won’t be getting cold.  I also saw that Evolved Harvest and teamed up with Lee and Tiffany Lakosky and developed a unique clover blend called Clover Crush. 

Lee and Tiffany teamed up with Evolved Harvest and developed their own unique seed blend, Clover Crush.

 Last night my cameraman, Brian McAllister and I were able to attend the Sportsman’s Choice Awards.  Fortunately, a couple of close friends were able to take home some hardware.  Our good friends Scott and Angie Denny of Table Mountain Outfitters took home the award for Best Big Game Footage.  If you recall, Justin and I were able to go on antelope hunt at Table Mountain Outfitters this past August and had a great time.  To view the footage of our hunt, click here.  Also, fellow bowhunter and long time friend took home Best New Series for his show Midwest Whitetail.  Congrats to both of you!
 The SHOT Show is a remarkable event to attend and I am excited and honored to be a part of it.  I can’t wait to see what today will bring!

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