I did attempt to get this article out a week ago. That didn’t happen.. why? Because SHOT Show plague.. If you have no clue what I am talking about I will explain all in this article. Although I will mention some companies and items I saw this is more about attending SHOT in general and surviving Vegas….
SHOT is the biggest firearms and related trade show in the world. It usually takes place in Las Vegas but it has been held in other places previously. My understanding is that attendees and exhibitors increase when SHOT is in Vegas for some fairly obvious reasons I will discuss further down. SHOT is a trade only event. It costs a hefty sum to exhibit and you must prove that you are based in the firearms industry to attend. They are very strict on the vetting so do not turn up expecting to “buy tickets at the door”.. 2018 was my first visit to the show and my second trip to America. My first trip was across to a Ballistics seminar in NC. North Carolina had been a wonderful experience. The countryside was beautiful and vast, the people warm and friendly and the Tea cold and sweet.. Now I normally live in a tiny village in England. We have one Pub (sometimes open), no shops and a large grapevine for passing local gossip.. A totally different world to the vastness of NC and as I quickly found out almost a different planet compared to Vegas..
The first thing I did was talk to industry friends about SHOT Show. I am a little bit OCD when I go somewhere new so I like to get prepared. This turned out to be essential. If you have never been to a huge trade fair then it is tough to comprehend how big these things are. To walk past every exhibitors booth would be a 12 mile trek! If you went to the show with the idea of just wandering around seeing stuff then you will miss exhibitors and likely spend a fair amount of time lost. Luckily SHOT have your back with a mobile app which I was surprised to find was pretty good. You can search all exhibitors and add them to a list which the app then plots for you in geographic order. There are plenty of other features as well including notifications of events at the show.
Other than the show itself you will need to book hotels and travel early.. like months early. Vegas has a thriving tourist trade throughout the year. If you add SHOT and other conventions to the list then rooms might get hard to find. During the 2018 show there was also a huge concrete convention (sounds real exciting huh!) and a Porn convention.. more on that later 😉 Be aware that hotels on the Strip are expensive and those on the outskirts cheaper just like any major tourist destination.
I flew out of Gatwick Airport in the UK with Virgin Atlantic. I flew economy and the trip was great. Hats off to Virgin for great staff, comfortable seating and a generally pleasant journey. After around 10 hours we touched down at McCarran Airport, Las Vegas. I had come from late January weather in the UK (-2C) to a balmy 17c.. That was pleasant!
I spent the afternoon getting acquainted with the area and my hotel which was about a 20 min cab ride from the Airport and about a 15 min walk from the SHOT Show at the Sands Expo.
The show runs over 4 days. I walked to the Sands in glorious sunshine. I walked along Paradise road next to the Monorail then turned right down Sands Ave. I should probably mention to my fellow Brits that crossing the road in Vegas is a bollock shrivelling experience. The roads can be 8 lanes wide and the pedestrian crossing rules seem a little hazy. You cross when you see the white walking man or the amber walking man with countdown timer. You assume that traffic will stop… You would be wrong.. Some traffic will stop and some might not.. a sort of roulette type of affair which seems appropriate for Vegas I guess!
As I approached the expo centre I was blown away by the size of the buildings. I have never seen anything like it.. Entry was a fairly simple process. I had already logged all my business credentials with SHOT online so it was just a case of confirming i.d. and picking up my badge. The crowd waiting to enter was not to crazy. Sure there were lots of people but everyone was relaxed. We all had four days to look around so nobody needed to panic.
I began to follow the directions from my mobile app. Shot Show offered free Wifi which was a bonus for us foreigners as mobile data costs us a fortune in the States. As well as the mobile app there are info booths dotted all over as well as signs on the floors. Even with all that it is still fairly easy to lose your bearings and I often found myself walking back to the perimeter of a hall and following it round until I found a familiar spot…
Products of interest
Remington – despite rumours about bankruptcy, Remington had a big presence at SHOT. Their new shotgun with detachable magazine was proving popular. I had a good look over it and ran it in their speed loading/shooting booth. Felt really slick.
Cadex – I have wanted to check out Cadex rifles for a while now. A lot of guys I respect have pointed me in their direction. They gave me a run down of their multi caliber system. Very well engineered indeed. Hopefully we will be shooting some Cadex rifles soon here at GnZ.
KRG – as well as their excellent stocks and accessories for precision rifles KRG are now making their own rifle. The “Sotic” looked to show a lot of promise and superb build quality.
MDT –Another respected player in the precision rifle world. The latest stock offering was very impressive. The folding stock hinge assembly had a greatly reduced footprint yet still gave ultra solid lockup.
Peterson Brass – If you reload and you want to best quality brass then find these guys! The quality of this brass is in my opinion better than any I have previously used.
Spyderco – the guys at Spyderco had a number of knives on display which will be new releases this coming year. One of those knives was a slipjoint aimed at the UK EDC market. For a change the blade was easy to open and gave a confident “lock” at the end of travel. Details to follow here soon!
BCB Adventure – A company based in Wales which has been supplying the Military with survival kits and field accessories for years. I was able to get a look at their Firedragon cooking system. This new clean burn fuel is more efficient, gives no toxic fumes and could even be swallowed if you wanted to! I won’t be swallowing any but I will be using these to brew up when trekking. I will let you know how they work out..
Battle Arms Development – a very cool 300 Blackout AR dubbed the “300”. Battle Arms said they have spent a lot of time getting the system right and have overcome the issues many of us have experienced when using 300 Blackout. Time will tell.
JP Enterprises – I had a good look at large frame ARs throughout the show. I have a feeling that systems in 6.5mm (6.5CM or .260Rem) will be getting increasingly popular and I may jump on the bandwagon. JP Enterprises offered both calibers in their comp proven large frame systems.
Puma SGB – The hunters among you may be aware of Puma knives. The German blades have a long and respected heritage out in the field. Puma SGB sit at a lower price point that their older more expensive brother. The German materials are manufactured in Asia which allows a substantial saving for the buyer. I had a look over some of the tactical pieces and thought they looked well made. I will try to get some in for review shortly.
Mantis Knives – Stopped by at Mantis by chance. I have never really seen any Mantis Knives up close. They have a futuristic appearance (compared to my usual carry). I was given a little tour of a few models and I was highly impressed with the quality of materials and engineering. I was particularly taken with a new development on display which was a cog driven opener. Great concept which I hope to take a closer look when it becomes available.
Strangest gun – Franklin Armoury Reformation
Changes in firearms law have meant that Gunsmiths now have a new line of work. Engineering ways to overcome what many consider to be over reaching legislation. Franklin Armoury promised to showcase a short barrel rifle which would not require registration and tax. A bit of a two fingers up to “the man”.. The Reformation gets around said law as it has straight “rifling” – no twist. Obviously a standard projectile will be very unstable as they all require spin. The Reformation will use a proprietary projectile which has a vane at the rear (the same concept as stabilising an arrow. While my hat tips to the concept my cynical side wonders if it is wise to poke “the man” with the cleverly engineered stick.
After the show..
If you have any energy left after the show then you are well positioned to eat and drink pretty much anything you like. While your at it you can smoke and gamble at the bar. It is an odd feeling for us Brits as we are now so used to no smoking indoors and we normally don’t gamble while eating! I also made a short trip over to Bass Pro. The store is HUGE and stocks everything an outdoor fanatic would ever want. I spent several hours in the fishing section wishing I had a bigger suitcase for my return flight..
Other than that I just wondered around staring in amazement. The Strip at night is a sight to behold..
SHOT Show Plague and other negatives..
Now for the possible downsides. If your British like me then no doubt you enjoy an orderly queue. America does not respect the system which I had thought to be an international standard. Investigation led me to find out Brits are quite odd and the rest of the world simply gather in masses.
There will be times at SHOT when you feel tempted to make passive aggressive huffing noises at someone. Maybe they nearly tripped you up with their trolley on wheels. Maybe they stopped dead in the middle of a busy walkway for no obvious reason. I just took lots of deep breaths and counted to ten. It seemed to work ok…
Last of all was the Plague which is a little bit of an overstatement. The fact is thousands of people are within an air conditioned building for 4 days touching products. Your chances of catching the Flu or a cold go up. Lucky me I caught the flu and I feel like crap..