David asked me to do a brief write up on the 2015 SHOT Show (my first in Vegas), based in part on my experiences at the ’07 and ’09 SHOTs in Orlando.
It’s an amazing gathering of all things shooting no matter the venue. The opportunity to pick up and get a hands on feel of just about any gun currently made is really unprecedented. Not even the NRA Annual Convention is this big. To that point, however, the very scope of SHOT can work against you. Also, the layout of the Show can make it more difficult to see everything. Unlike the Orlando hall, the Sands Convention Center places the vendors in many rooms that are separated by walls and hall ways. That plus the multi-level floorplan works against my usual technique of starting in one corner and working my way through the booths in a logical “up one side of the aisle and down the next” pattern that ensures that I don’t miss anything. To their credit, the organizers did provide a smartphone app that was a help.
Del Stonehouse and Gene Gutierrez were both fit, sharp guys, despite being over 90 years old. The whole Case Knives crew was clearly honored to have the Forcemen there, and are dedicated to producing a faithful copy of the Devil’s Brigade’s signature knife.
Speaking of vets, we made a point of visiting as many Veteran Owned companies that we could find. LocknLoad Java was co-located with Chase Tactical. Good coffee, conversation, and checking out new nylon gear was a great way to spend some time off of the floor. Five Toes Custom builds serious guns for serious shooters, and the owner, John Wayne Walding, who left a leg in the “Sandbox” makes sure that the highest standards are met on every one of them. Winkler Knives is located in Blowing Rock, NC and Spartan Blades is in Southern Pines. Both of these companies are producing well-designed and executed knives for Warriors to carry into austere environments. Lots of Rangers and Green Berets are represented in these enterprises, and they were a pleasure to talk to. It’s great to hear how all of these Vets got started and became successful in their chosen fields.
The guns… Man, the guns! It’s not practical to try to write about every firearm that was presented in this short write up. Suffice to say that the American Firearms Industry is alive and well. From giants like Remington and Colt to specialty outfits like Five Toes Custom, and every size of company in between, there is no shortage of quality tactical, hunting, self defense, waterfowl, sporting clays, trap and skeet, belly gun, prairie dog, you name it guns available to us as American sportsmen. I love this country! One thing I will mention is the explosion in the number of AR 15 manufacturers. In Orlando, there were a respectable number of builders, to include Armalite, Colt, Olympic Arms and DPMS. In the six short years since my last SHOT visit, the AR platform is easily the most represented on the floor. It got to the point where my eyes started sliding over the booths that were displaying “another AR”. And there were more accessories for the AR than any other gun there, to include the venerable AK platform. Having said that, I think that it’s great that there are so many AR makers, as the cream will rise to the top and only the best will survive
We saw some celebrities, to include UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes, and conservative commentator Dana Loesch. There were plenty of others, but we just weren’t in the same place at the same time. The real stars of the show, in my opinion, were the vast number of Vets, Active Duty Military, and Law Enforcement personnel who were in attendance. Many of these attendees are putting their hard-won skills to use in the shooting industry, as well as on the street and in bad places around the globe in support of US interests.
In conclusion, we had an incredible time at SHOT. As I tell people, it’s like the Grand Canyon; pictures and words don’t do it justice. You need to visit it for yourself to truly comprehend it.