The SHOT Show is the annual trade event for all things shooting and hunting. This year it will again be in Las Vegas. The show starts on 18 January and ends on 21 January. That’s four days of rubbing elbows with dealers, writers, media folks, company representatives and shooters and hunters that think they are TV celebrities. It’s also a lot of walking; maybe as much as five to 10 miles a day.

What’s a gunwriters job at SHOT show? Mostly to find stuff to write about. You can do this several ways; wonder aimlessly around the SHOT floor and hope you stumble on something new or attend various press conferences. Another way is to attend range day which is the day before SHOT. This is where you get an opportunity to actually pull the trigger on new guns.

My approach might be a bit different than most. I’ve done the media day in the past but find it mostly a waste of time. For starters, you only get to fire a few shots from any particular gun and those are generally rushed, with a 100 other folks in line behind you. It’s not enough exposure to “write-up” any new gun and generally the shooting you are allowed to do is fairly elementary. I won’t be doing media day this year.

I’ve also tried the glossy-eyed floor roaming technique. This typically results in me getting lost and not uncovering anything but sore feet and a bad attitude. The press conferences can be OK, especially when the products being covered are really new. Food and drink is usually involved so that makes it nice too.

I used to do appointments but have given that up as well. Typically, you end up waiting on the person you are scheduled to see as they run over time with their last appointment. This makes your visit short unless you want to be late for your next appointment. (I despise being late for anything and will probably die a bit earlier than I plan just so I am on time for my final event.) It also makes it impossible to take advantage of episodes of opportunity that might crop up as you run into old friends or meet interesting people.

My approach is fairly simple. I take the first three days and visit with friends and manufacturers that I have a relationship with and know make good products. I do so at my leisure, mostly looking at rifles, handguns, ammunition, reloading stuff and optics. If I stumble upon something cool in the process, I have plenty of time to investigate it further and arrange a test of the product.

I’ll also talk with editors about ideas for articles in the upcoming year and maybe even plan hunts or events with friends. Generally, every evening is filled with a dinner with a group of friends that I don’t get to see enough through the year. We’ll talk about hunts, gear and guns but mostly solve all the problems of the world.

On the last day of SHOT, I’ll visit what I call the “cheap seats.” This is the out-of-the-way section of the show where all the small, mom & pop business have been shoved into. Folks that have come up with a new product and maybe even mortgaged everything they own to promote it. Largely, most of this stuff is useless but every now and again you’ll find a real gem hidden in a booth along a back wall. If I can I will help these folks get some press if their product or idea has merit.

Some go to SHOT show to work. I gave up work when I turned in my badge. I go to SHOT to have fun and see what new and exciting gear I can find to play with over the next 12 months. If at anytime I get to feeling like what I do is work, I’ll go find a real job that pays really good.

So, with that in mind, each day after my time on the SHOT show floor I will post here on the Empty Cases blog what I think my best find of the day has been. I might even include a runner up or two if they are cool enough to warrant mention.


About gunwriter

Born and raised in the West Virginia hills, Richard literally grew up in the woods. He has chased coon hounds until daylight, waited out whitetails perched high in an oak, canoed the New River and hunted from the Montana Mountains to the Green Hills of Africa. During service in the Army and later as a municipal police officer and Special Agent with the railroad police, Richard obtained numerous certifications in small arms instruction. He has trained military personnel, law enforcement officers and civilians in the application of firearms for defensive, competitive and recreational use. Richard won the West Virginia Governor’s Twenty Award for law enforcement, the West Virginia National Guard State Pistol Competition and earned his Distinguished Medal with pistol. Badge turned in, Richard is now a contributing editor for several magazines. He was the compiling author of the book, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter and conceptualized and contributed to Selecting and Ordering a Custom Hunting Rifle. Richard also contributed a chapter to the John Velke book, The True Story of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. Richard has patents on a riflescope reticle and a revolutionary bullet testing media. A hillbilly at heart, Richard lives on Shadowland - his shooting range in West Virginia - with the most understanding wife in the world, their three kids and a very protective ridgeback hound.
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6 Responses to The SHOT Show PARTY

  1. Mark McDowell says:

    Hey Richard, Enjoyed todays issue. Maybe one day you can write about me starting an ammo company doing Hunting Handloads only. Using some of what I learned in your book on Hunting Bullets. I watch out for more useful imformation.

    Mark McDowell

  2. Patrick says:

    My technique is similar – wander around and see what catches the eye, though I also have a list of booths I want to visit because there are times you just have to evaluate product by seeing it rather than reading about it. And, you’re going to find it at the SHOT show.
    I’ve often said it’s like “the world’s largest Cabelas where you can’t buy anything.”
    See you there!

  3. Shannon says:

    Great post Richard! This is the reason why I love EMPTY CASES, to get into the mind of gun writers. Thank you for your straight forward approach to SHOT Show. Look forward to hopefully running into you next week!

    • gunwriter says:

      Um, thanks! But trust me, most gunwriters don’t do SHOT the way I do. I know, I’ve watched them and talked with them. That does not make my way the right way, just different. Nothing wrong with being different; at least that’s what Mom always told me…Was she just being a Mom?

  4. Beth says:

    Considering 2011 is my first trip to SHOT, this post was very helpful! Thank you for writing it. I’ll be killing several birds with one stone this trip so hopefully we’ll get the chance to meet!

  5. Jim Dodd says:

    I am retired now so I will give SHOT a bye this year and put the money in my hunt fund. 😉


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