Annual SHOT Show goes from huge to huger

For many folks, this weekend means Super Bowl, but for yours truly it also means the huge SHOT Show held in Las Vegas. One of the largest trade shows in the world, the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting & Outdoor Trade) Show, put on by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), will run February 2-5 at the Las Vegas Community Convention Center. Nearly 2,000 exhibitors will fill 715,000 square feet of space for the event. Just the aisles of the show span over 12 miles. In a word, everything concerning the show is HUGE!

The show has grown so large that the mammoth convention center complex in Vegas can no longer house it in its entirety, and this year it has a big 125,000 sq. ft. sprung structure erected in the north parking lot to house the overflow of 650 exhibitors. Having covered the show for several years, I can honestly say that it can be overwhelming to first-time attendees. The show is not open to the general public.

One of the first areas I normally check is the New Product Center, where companies trot out their latest and greatest innovations. On average, there will be about 500 items exhibited there, covering almost anything you might envision that pertains to shooting, hunting and their related activities. A great innovation, at least for me and other media members, was the addition of portable scanners that are handed out when you enter the center. You simply scan the bar code of those new products that catch your eye, hand the scanner when you're finished, and an attendant prints out a list containing the details of all the products you scanned, along with the exhibitors' booth numbers and contact info. Sure saves a lot of writing. With each new show, I wonder how anyone could come up with something truly new and different enough to warrant much attention? But some always do. Often though, the "new" product may be just a major improvement on an existing one. This tends to be the case with clothing, optics, electronics, and new rifle or handgun calibers. My job is to pick and choose those that are truly useful and beneficial, regardless of whether they're really new or just improvements. Believe me, it's harder than you might think, given all the hype "new" products are given these days. An interesting change in the show has been the growing emergence of tactical weapons and gear relating to the military, law enforcement and security. Of all the various exhibitors sections of show, the Tactical and Law Enforcement Center has grown by leaps and bounds since 9/11. While the vast majority of attendees reviewing this area are there representing the government, law enforcement agencies or security contractors, it's an eye-opener to tour the area and see what's available to our military, police and security people these days.

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