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Volume 13, Issue 2 March
  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:
  With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti

Impressions Of A Distant Planet - I don’t know if I can make it. My lips are parched and my mouth is as dry as a TV dinner left in the microwave for an hour. My stomach rumbles like Mt. Etna getting ready to consume a sleeping village in a deluge of fiery lava. I can’t remember the last time I ate or drank. My vision is blurred by the ever changing and confusing landscape. My feet, legs, and back throb from the endless trek. However, I know if I let my fatigue overcome my little remaining strength and I fall by the wayside, the natives will pounce, and rip my body to shreds for the cheap trinkets and pins that I have in my bag which they value so highly. They’ll also probably take my shoes. So I stubbornly trudge on under the glare of the blinding and totally unyielding light overhead.

     Suddenly I freeze in terror, and my heart starts pounding like a flat head six in a 53 Plymouth trying to climb through the Thompson Pass. Directly ahead, I see three blond Amazon women dressed in what looks like leather shrink-wrap pants, knee high boots, and little else. All three are carrying tasers in low slung holsters tightly strapped to their narrow, muscular hips. They take one look at me in my weakened condition, exchange knowing glances, and smile wolfishly. I panic, and run into a nearby thicket of posters and catalogs hoping they’ll be thrown off by the confusing profusion of color and the flashing of a nearby strobe light. It doesn’t work, for this is their native territory and they know it better than Paula Jones knows her teasing comb. I’m the outsider here, and I’m doomed. Am I on the planet Zarnix in the year 2202? No, it’s worse than that. I’m in Las Vegas, at the 2002 Shot Show.

     As you might guess, the Shot Show is big, as in really, really big. In fact, the Show this year was the largest ever both in terms of floor space, numbers of exhibitors, and number of people attending. Here’s just a few of the statistics. Floor space - 495,000 square feet. This is the equivalent of over eight and a half football fields in area. Just to walk the aisles one time would be a six mile trek. In fact, there are only four convention centers in the nation that are suitable to hold a gathering of this size - Las Vegas, Orlando, New Orleans (anti gun town) and Atlanta (anti gun town). Next year’s Show will be in Orlando. Number of exhibiting companies - over 1400 at the latest but not the final count. Number of firearms dealers and other buyers attending - 17,000, including 1900 from 65 foreign countries. Total number of people at the Show - at least 30,000 but probably closer to around 35,000 (they’re still tallying up the numbers). Value to the local economy - around $50,000,000.

     So what is the Shot Show and who puts it on? It’s basically a trade show for the firearms, ammunition, camping, optics, and outdoor accessories industries. The Show brings together the manufacturers, distributors, and retail dealers in one place at the same time. The entire focus of the Show is on the business of doing business i.e. selling and buying. This is where our local dealers or their distributors will purchase the inventory that they’ll sell to us throughout the year. Consequently the public is not invited.

     This event has been going on since 1979 and is sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which has been a sponsor of several IHMSA Internationals in the past. The NSSF is one of the prime lobby organizations for gun rights in the nation, and is the major force involved in defeating the law suits brought against the firearms industry by several cities throughout the United States, including Atlanta and New Orleans. Every one of these law suits have been thrown out by the courts and we have the NSSF to thank for it. It is also a sponsor of a myriad of shooting activities like the U.S. Shooting team, the U.S. Biathlon Association, the 4H Shooting Program, the Cody Firearms Museum, etc., etc.

     In fact the profits from the Show go to support all these efforts as well as a comprehensive education program. Besides all the buying and selling going on at the Show, a series of six educational seminars sponsored by the NSSF was going on behind the scenes. They covered topics for local retail dealers such as “Community Relations: Don't Give Back to the Community - Be the Community, Loss Prevention for Today’s Retailer, A Smart Approach to Insurance, Developing a Place to Shoot, BATF Issues & Answers, and Identifying and Deterring Straw (bogus) Purchases.”

     The NSSF also develops marketing and communications programs to promote the shooting sports and a broad array of public opinion surveys and strategic planning studies on behalf of all segments of the industry.

     This show is so huge that in the four days I was there, I’d estimate that I saw perhaps around 60% at most. Consequently, I had to carefully plan what sixty percent I’d be able to take in. Like the Internationals, certainly one of the best things about going to the Show was visiting with industry friends that I have worked with for many, many years as well as some of the established movers and shakers in the industry such as Steve Hornady and Deiter Anschutz.

     It was also an opportunity to meet the new movers and shakers coming into the industry like the President of Alliant Tech Systems (rocket boosters for the space shuttle, ICBM engines, Lake City Ammunition plant, etc.) who recently bought Blount’s Sporting Equipment Division (CCI, Speer, Outers, Weaver, Simmons, et al). I was very fortunate in being able to snag a interview in which I was able to glean a lot of information about his future plans for the company. I’ll be passing this information on in my follow-on Shot Show story next month.

     In summary, the Show, which I ironically attended as a personal “vacation”, was physically exhausting but mentally stimulating. It was also extremely rewarding to see that the current state of the sporting firearms industry was very healthy and prosperous. Barring some unforeseen calamity, I think we’re going to be ok for the next couple of years.

     By the way, the three blond Amazon women with the tasers were real. I have their photo and autographs to prove it.

Good luck and good shooting. Todd

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