Every year those of us in the firearms industry make our annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for SHOT Show. For those of you who are unaware of SHOT, it is the “Detroit Auto Show” of guns. New products and, in certain instances, concept products are introduced by manufacturers and everyone gushes (or pans) the new arrivals to the marketplace.
SHOT is also interesting for a more academic reason.
Firearms companies, like their counterparts in just about every other industry, tend to develop products in an internally-cloistered environment. The design guys at Smith and Wesson don’t exactly have product development meetings with the guys from Ruger or Sig Sauer. They are all looking at the same marketing data developed internally, or through third-party sources… and then independently they go to town.
This creates what could best be described as independent collectivism. (Oxymoron notwithstanding… it does adequately describe what takes place.) Collectively, everyone seems to come up with the same general ideas… but they do so organically, without collective input.
Thus, each SHOT Show tends to display a “theme”. You see it as you walk down the aisles. A few years back the industry decided we all needed black, scary rifles, so all you saw were black, scary rifles. Then they decided that women needed to be focused on, so you saw pink, scary rifles. Two years ago they realized that cowboy action shooting was the new “thing”, so all you saw were six-shooter pistols and lever-action, scary rifles.
Then last year we had the Toilet Paper Wars.
For the first time SHOT was canceled (for that matter, so was Vegas in its entirety). They vowed to be back in 2022 though, and they kept their promise… well, sort of.
Sandy had come out a couple of weeks earlier for the Consumer Electronics Show. Like SHOT, it had been canceled last year. This year Sandy reported that it was “dead”. There were few vendors, and fewer attendees than she had ever seen. (I saw it reported that CES was down in attendance by 70%.)
SHOT appeared at first to follow in the CES footsteps. Tuesday morning was spectacularly dead. Sandy ran off to the new product showcase area and I headed to the main floor. Foot traffic was noticeably light. The first impression when I headed into the main area was incongruity.
Each year there have been certain notable icon vendors who had established mega-booths, always in the exact same location. This year everyone was moved around. Also… some of the show’s biggest attendees were simply absent.
Sig Sauer, Springfield, Beretta, Traditions, 5.11, and many others simply decided not to come. Their booths were giant empty fields with a pathetic placard that read, “See you in 2023.”
The others who were present… well… there was nothing particularly “new” being offered from them.
There was a theme, though, nuanced and, frankly, not even recognizable by me initially. Sandy was the one who picked up on it: “Vintage Gentleman Self-Defense”.
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There was definitely a “gentlemanly” aspect to things. From vintage style wooden cleaning kits by Woox (yeah… they are totally impractical, and god damnit I want one!!!) to Dr. Jim’s Prescription Gun Elixir (I want some just for the friggen label!), there was a decidedly masculine air to the products being proffered.
Then there was the crowd.
On Tuesday it was indeed limited. By Wednesday, though, it had swelled to what I would consider to be average SHOT levels. There was one thing absent, however: overly tactical guys in weekend combat gear.
Every year there is a fairly large contingent of gentlemen who look like they just wandered out of a FOB in Eastern Crapistan: magnificent beards, sleeve tattoos, and enough morale patches on their backpacks to add 20 lbs.
This year they were significantly smaller in number.
Actually, that may not be entirely accurate. They might still have been there, but they have switched out of the tac pants and untucked t-shirts and, instead, were now sporting slacks and blazers.
I ran into Tim Kennedy and spoke to him for a bit. I have never seen him in anything that doesn’t look minted in an armory somewhere. He shook my hand while wearing a striped blazer. I barely recognized him.
So… perhaps the savages have become gentlemen.
Or… they have become Savage Gentlemen?
There was one “unique” product that does deserve a greater look though… and it was from our local boys at Juggernaut Tactical.
Our own Kevin Korff mentioned this rifle to me a couple of weeks ago, and I was largely dismissive based on the limited knowledge I had at the time. Turns out, I think I was wrong.
Juggernaut has developed a “featureless” AR-15 rifle. I put featureless in quotes because there is really nothing that suggests it is featureless except for one major component… the trigger.
The weapon system has a fixed stock (that looks collapsible), a muzzle break (that looks like a flash hider), a traditional magazine disconnect (because hey… it is “featureless”), and a traditional pistol grip. What is different is the tigger sits lower than usual, lower than the webbing of your hand.
This is the largely debated “magic line” concept. Arguably, the rifle system falls on the legal side of the line. Could you still be arrested for having it? Yes. Would you ultimately prevail in your criminal case? Probably. Would you be able to get all of your legal fees back under a 1983 civil rights action? Errrr… that is a little more speculative.
I don’t want to mince words here though… I think it is legal and, frankly, I think Juggernaut deserves a lot of credit for pushing back at the tyrants in Sacramento.
So… in the final analysis… SHOT was alive and kicking… or at least eventually got that way.
Let’s see if the “theme”, as well as the vendors, return to a more product-specific agenda in