SHOT Show Survival Guide

It is almost time for that annual pilgrimage that members of the shooting industry make:  the SHOT Show.  If you are going, will you be ready?

Since 1979, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has organized the yearly Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show.  For most of the public, the NSSF SHOT Show is about new guns and gear.  While that is certainly part of the overall show experience, primarily the show is about business.  It brings together manufacturers, distributors and retailers in one place where everyone can work out deals for the coming year.

The general public is not admitted into the SHOT Show.  But, if you are attached to the gun industry, you can certainly obtain credentials and attend.  The show is huge with tens of thousands of attendees and about 1,600 exhibitors.  While it can be overwhelming, there are an abundance of opportunities for the business-minded.

So, if 2013 will be your first trip to the SHOT Show, here are a few things to keep in mind to make the experience a little better.

Dress – Attire varies depending on your goals for the show.  Business casual is certainly appropriate for most people, but it really is a sliding scale.

If you are there as an exhibitor, trying to sell your product or services, being a little more formal is certainly appropriate in many cases.  But of course, match your product.  If you are selling a specialty line of camo, wearing your product might be a good idea.  Likewise, if you are demonstrating how to degrease gun parts, a suit might be a poor choice.

Buyers and retailers are generally in casual to business casual depending on their goals.  If you don???t plan on meeting with anyone, you just want to eyeball what your distributor is going to be pushing on you in the coming year, feel free to emphasize comfort in your attire.

Media should go business casual since you will likely be meeting with various company representatives.  Of course, certain public personalities have an image to project that might be more formal or more casual.  If that is your schtick, go for it.

Regardless of what your attire, try to wear comfortable shoes.  The show is huge and you will be on your feet all day.  I cringe when I see some of the women walking around in heels all week.

Bags – While on the floor of the show, exhibitors will hand you everything from catalogs and sales flyers to keychains and shot glasses.  A few will even hand you samples of their products if they believe it will lead to sales or media coverage.  You better have a plan for hauling all of this stuff around.

A shoulder bag of some nature is preferred by many people.  This might be a fancy attache-type bag or a tactical looking pack covered in PALS webbing.  You are going to tote this thing all day, so make sure you will be ok with it in your hand or on your back for long periods of time.

Rolling cases are used by many people.  They do not put the same strain on the person pulling them that a heavy bag will.  However, the show floor is very crowded, and pulling one along through the throngs can be a problem for both you and the other attendees.

If you are making deals and need to have a lot of your sales materials with you, the rolling case makes sense.  If you are mostly talking and window shopping, go with a shoulder bag.

Cameras – Generally, photos and video are not allowed on the SHOT Show floor.  The exception to this is anyone with media credentials.  Even then, you should give deference to the exhibitor.  Per show policy, photos and video should be approved by the manufacturer.

Most of the larger manufacturers will not give you any problems if you want to photo their products that are on display.  However, some smaller companies prefer to keep new products under wraps until an official introduction is made at a later time.  So, when in doubt, ask for permission.

Press –  Speaking of the media, if you are at the SHOT Show with a media badge, make sure you take advantage of the press room.  The NSSF sets up a very nice media room that includes work areas, WiFi access, light refreshments and bins for manufacturers to distribute press kits.

The press room is open only to properly credentialed members of the media.  Since the NSSF recognizes the importance of online media, this includes anyone with an established online presence who goes through the credentialing process.  The press room is a great opportunity for new media folks to meet some of the established names in the industry and make connections.

Miscellaneous – Five words: lip balm and water bottles.  The show will be in Las Vegas this year, which tends to be dry.  Inside a convention center, things tend to be even drier.  Some type of balm will really help keep your lips from chapping.

Carrying your own water is also a must.  You can certainly find vendors that will sell you refreshments, but they tend to be expensive and often have long lines.  Carrying a little of your own water can make all the difference to you.

If you make the trip to the SHOT Show this year, you will be among some 60,000 others attached to the shooting and hunting industries.  If you will not be making the trip, make sure you check out my website ( ) where I will have daily updates from the show.  I will also have in-depth reviews of all the new gear in this column for several weeks after the show.

Drop a note in the comments below if there is something specific you would like me to check on while at the SHOT Show.