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.