There is a uniqueness to conventions that manifests to those who pay attention to such things. My first experience with conventions was the NPE back when I was in the plastics industry. Every three years we would all converge on Chicago and walk around the convention floor looking at industrial machinery.
When I became a hunter I started going to the SCI (Safari Club International) convention in Reno (and occasionally Las Vegas). That convention was, and is, extremely different from a general trade convention. At SCI you meet with outfitters and buy hunts, at least that is what you are hoping will happen.
The NRA convention, at least for me, is less of a convention and more of a legal seminar update.
Then there is SHOT.
SHOT, put on by the NSSF, is our firearms industry once-a-year “trade show”. It is only open to industry professionals (as opposed to the general public) and actual “sales” really do not take place there. You are evaluating product offerings as opposed to buying individual products. It is sort of our “Detroit Auto Show” for the gun business… and each year the different vendors use the show to debut their new “models”.
It is also a fascinating exercise in seeing how others are viewing the market. The manufacturers are each sitting in their cubicles and boardrooms trying to divine where the market is headed going into the future. To a large extent they are seeing the same market data, but obviously interpreting that data in their own unique way. As such, what I have noticed over the last 12 years of going to SHOT is that every show sort of has a “theme” attached to it.
In the past there was the testosterone fueled “tacti-cool”… everything must be black and scary product lines. Then the same manufacturers a year later decided they really wanted to penetrate the female market. So they painted all of those black, scary guns pink. Thankfully, this line of reasoning was abandoned fairly quickly. Then there was the “suppressor” year… then the cowboy gun year. Then, of course, there was the Covid year when the show was canceled. The following year… last year… was a muted year. Many vendors did not show up, and those that did found that their booth location was getting moved.
This year seemed, to a large extent, to be back to normal. The crowds were there to be sure. I’m not sure what the final attendance numbers will turn out to be, but it certainly reminded me of shows past.
To learn the theme of the show, I do somewhat of a ritual. I speed walk through the show floor to get a general vibe. Then I go to the “New Product Showcase”. This is typically where new vendors to SHOT get to put their products… sort of an advertising bonus.
From looking at the New Product Showcase I can only surmise the theme of this year’s show is “Useless Trinkets for Gun Owners, Produced by People Who Very Well May Not Own Guns”.
I told Kavon, as we were walking through the New Product Showcase, that our industry is stalled. He corrected me… he said it looks like we are going backwards.
From “recoil reducing jewelry”… (yeah, you read that right)… to locking magazines that will set you back 80 bucks and literally compete with the cable lock that comes free with each gun, the offerings were dismal.
There were some firearms that made the list to talk about though… so let’s get into those.
- Franklin CA 320So… you might have read about this one in the news. Franklin Armory, out of Nevada, loves to tweak the nose of CA and our draconian gun laws. When it comes to the CA roster, a gun that is limited to a single shot with no magazine is able to avoid the micro-stamping requirement and still be approved for the roster by DOJ. (Yeah, I didn’t even realize this). So, with assistance from Sig Sauer, they created their own version of the Sig 320. Now the 320 is federally recognized as having an internal frame and receiver. That is the “thing” that gets the serial number. The external frame and slide are replaceable, and in the case of the Franklin 320 “disposable”. And that is the point. The gun arrives without a magazine well. You literally load one round at a time through the ejection port. Hence, their ability to get on the roster. Once you are in possession of the gun you would then remove the serialized frame, throw away the external, and replace it with a new lower that has a magazine well… and voila… Sig 320.
- Glock and their new triggerGlock has introduced their 2023 varietals and they look… well… like Glocks. The one new thing they have done is included their new Glock trigger (which has been available for a little while now as an aftermarket upgrade) to their out-of-the-box models. I do like their new triggers a lot. While this is good for the rest of the country, as long as the nefarious roster exists (hopefully for not that much longer), we are stuck only getting access to these 2023s through interfamilial and PPT transfers.
- Armscor (Rock Island) and their 5.0
So, I went into this gun with serious apprehension. There are a couple of reasons for this: First, it is an Armscor, or Rock Island Armory gun. Now, I don’t want to sound snobbish here, but many people see Armsocr as an entry-level gun. This is unfair. The manufacturer did have some quality control issues in the past, but they have greatly improved. Still the stigma exists, and, I must admit, I have fallen victim to that prejudice. The second is the 5.0 itself. The gun is built on a CZ type design and incorporates elements of a 1911, as well as a striker fire. There is no tang safety or thumb safety, but it does have a hammer that is oddly shrouded by the slide. It has a slide that is probably half the thickness of a traditional slide and the frame produces a squarish, almost taser-looking appearance. The 5.0 I played with in their booth had an optic on it and did not possess rear or front iron sights (which candidly kinda bugged me). The trigger is far better than I was expecting, the square barrel is visually arresting, and the balance of the gun is exquisite. I am really curious to see how the market reacts to this gun. Candidly, if and when the roster is overturned, I might seriously consider getting one.
So… all in all, it was a good experience being there. Of course, there is the ever present “networking” that one must do at these things: USCCA invited us to their VIP gig at the Paris Hotel, and, of course, hanging out with my 5.11 peeps.
Perhaps the best part came somewhat of a surprise and had nothing really to do with the show itself. Every year we struggle to balance cost and efficiency of our accommodations. The Venetian (where the show is held) would be the most efficient, and they clearly know that. They price their rooms so expensively we cannot in good conscience stay there. I’ve stayed at Luxor (not one of my finer moments), Mandalay Bay (not bad, but too damn far away), Stratosphere (surprisingly okay, though they had just had a refurbishment of their rooms), and the Lucky Dragon (ya… the Lucky Dragon… I still wake up screaming thinking about that fiasco).
This year I stayed at Treasure Island, which literally filled the bill on both cost and efficiency. With the hotel located across the street, and connected by a sky bridge to the Venetian, I just had to walk across each morning. That alone was glorious, and TI was having a deal that made the rooms quite cheap. Now, I haven’t stayed at TI for a good 30 years, so I really did not know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, frankly. The room was nice, had a great view of the Strip, and I didn’t completely lose my ass at the casino.
Let’s see what happens in 2024.