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First Time At SHOT Show

First Time At SHOT Show

I’m into double digit SHOT Shows (which pales in comparison to some people), but I’ve attended it as low-level media, mid-level buyer and now higher-level media, so I have a fairly broad experience with this event. It’s tempting to think of SHOT as just another gun show, where the point of things is to hang out and look at cool guns and snarf up some swag from the dealers, errr, vendors.

This is not the case. It’s an INDUSTRY show, not a local gun show. It’s fun, but it’s also serious business, where millions of dollars of deals will be made. Some tips for surviving your first time there.

  1. If you’re going there for swag, stay the hell away from those of us whose livelihood depends on meeting people at SHOT. You’re going there for fun (and it can be fun, lots of fun), I’m going because it’s part of my job. If I have to wait for 10 minutes of my 30 minute appointment because someone is yammering on with the Director of Marketing about a great idea for a gun they should make, rest assured your words are falling on deaf ears. He’s more concerned about the appointment he’s missing with me than he is with what’s being told to him.
  2. Those red collapsible carts (or big red shopping bags) are instruments of Satan. Nothing says “I’m not really serious about attending SHOT” than a cart full of brochures and pamphlets.
  3. The after-hours event opportunities for first-timers is limited. Embrace that. Don’t expect to get invited to the Glock party. Look at attending the Wednesday Beer Garden or similar NSSF-sponsored events. Make good connections now to improve your experience later. 
  4. How do you make those connections? Don’t be someone who looks like they’re going to SHOT just for the free stuff (see items #1 and #2). To quote a very wise and very experienced firearms marketing dude, the gun industry is a small industry. It’s even smaller if you’re a jerk.
  5. Consider staying until Friday afternoon. That’s the social time, when things are winding down. In the past, there have been soft good vendors who would rather sell you their display items on Friday than ship them back home.
  6. If the swag ain’t on the table, chances are, it either doesn’t exist or they’re sold out. There are people in the booths whose sole job it is to restock such things. 
  7. Unless you’re a keychain, koozie or hat collector, there really is no such thing as good swag at SHOT. The most useful thing I ever got there was a small microfiber cloth from RSR. It’s the only thing from past SHOT shows I still have.
  8. Relax and soak in the vibe. It’s amazing experience. Enjoy it for what it is. At my first SHOT Show, I made the connections which resulted in me working as a full-time firearms writer for one of the biggest publications out there, and I didn’t need a cart full of brochures to make it happen.