SHOT Show 2019 just ended and, as always, it was a whirlwind. As I cleaned out my bag and filtered through the two dozen business cards for vendor reps that I will likely never call, I thought about whether the trip is actually worth the time and expense. Walking through the halls of the Sands Convention Center was like swimming upstream in Class VI rapids. But in fighting the relentless hordes of bearded flannels and big-boobed eye candy, I came to understand the facets of the industry are about as diverse and random as a bag of Halloween candy. So is SHOT worth the time and expense? It depends on your expectations.
I'm not an annual passholder to SHOT but I've been to a few in the past. One thing I've noticed is that not much changes from year to year. The vendors are all pretty much the same with the same booth locations and same booth layouts, down to the padded carpeting. My first SHOT Show was in 2010 and the Glock booth was exactly the same then as it was this year. If it's the same crap year in and year out, why bother going?
Well, first off, it's Las Vegas. And personally, I love Vegas. World-class restaurants, world-class entertainment. But I get that the Vegas scene is not for everyone. The sensory overload can be a bit much for those who prefer less stimulation.
If you're a vendor, then the show is pretty much a necessity for brand marketing. Granted, companies like Glock don't really need the exposure. A Sig shooter is not likely to switch to Glock because of some new product they saw on the floor. But there's something reassuring about meeting company presidents, owners, CEOs, etc., as a consumer. It serves to remind us that this industry is still about the end user and these companies ultimately care about what we think. The grandiose company parties seem more like opportunities to blow off steam than peddle the latest holster. If Crye Precision wants to rent a warehouse and make it look like Ridgemont High, I'm game. At least, until I have to wait 30 minutes at the bar to get a watered down Jack & Coke.
For the buyers, SHOT is where the burgeoning deals start taking shape for the contracts and purchase orders to come. For media, SHOT is gear porn that will be emblazoned across every IG post and blog. And for others, it's simply a chance to see their favorite YouTube instructor or IG model in person.
For me, SHOT is like a wedding. It's the one time and place where all of your friends (albeit industry friends) congregate to talk shop, drink and be merry. I get to see faces I've trained with in the past. I make connections with those vendors I think are selling quality products that our team may need. I get to bond not only with my own team guys, but the people from teams near us that we work with periodically, but not enough to know socially.
At the end of the day, SHOT is whatever you make of it. It's business opportunity, industry expo and social festival all wrapped into one glorious package wrapped up in the glitz of Vegas.