Brownells 75th Anniversary - A Shooting Heritage
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SHOT SHOW 2005

By Larry Weeks

As always this year’s Show was an absolute blast! If you’re not a dealer or a friend of one with access to this dealer-only show, what I’m going to tell you will be like me talking about something you can’t have, but keep close enough so you can overhear. For that I apologize, but the show is just too cool NOT to talk about.

I spend time in the mornings on the floor looking at new products, plus talking to some suppliers, long-time industry friends and meeting new people. Since four, full days isn’t enough to cover the whole show floor completely, three, half-days isn’t nearly enough. But, I did get to hit some high spots. Overall the enthusiasm was incredibly high. The Law Enforcement corner had a tremendous amount of energy. The new FN, pistol and sub gun round, a little bottleneck (a whisker bigger than .22, it’s called the 5.7mm x 28mm) could make one heck of a short-range varmint round. FN’s P-90 rifle system for the round is also really nice. A bull-pup design with the magazine lying down on top, it comes apart by pushing or pulling three or four buttons and latches, snaps back together in seconds. The stuff these folks come up with is just amazing!

I love the booths with demonstrations and caught one on tactical knife fighting that was just too darn neat. I learned that the object is not to stab the bad guy in a vital organ; instead they try to cut the muscles that allow the baddie to move. The example the guy gave related to hunting – a heart shot deer can run 100 yards. A heart stabbed bad guy can still kill you. But, if he’s immobile, on the ground, he can’t get to you.

Of course Remington and Winchester, etc. are always busy and I generally skip them, but did have to stop at Ruger and fondle the new, downsized single action with the grip frame from the original flattop .44. Feels awfully close to a Colt and ought to solidify Ruger’s position as the leader in handguns for the cowboy market.

As you move to the other end of the main hall, you get into some of the smaller companies that are really hungry and out for business. Sometimes, you get virtually dragged out of the aisle into a booth and find something you can’t live without. Didn’t happen this time, but I still like going through past those booths and make a point of hitting the far end of the hall. That’s what’s so great about SHOT; those folks are pumped up and get you pumped up; the excitement is contagious!

Matter of fact, one customer I greeted at the booth got me fired up. It was near the end of a long, first day and I asked how he was doing. I spend afternoons in the booth and by that time, most folks, including me, had sore feet, rubber legs and other ailments. Not this fella, he almost shouted, “Great! I’ve spent all day looking at the best gun stuff in the world!!” Perked me up and almost made my feet stop hurting. That’s another part of the show I love, talking to customers, since I don’t have a lot of direct customer contact for most of the year. Folks with new products, people just looking at what we have, customers with questions (thank goodness we have techs there to help if the question is too tough). It costs a good chunk of money and time to go to SHOT, as a result, the folks you see have to be pretty darn serious about their passion for shooting and gun work. Their enthusiasm pumps us up, and we hope ours pumps them up.

Another favorite SHOT tradition is the receptions various companies and groups sponsor, both before and after the show. (It's a real challenge to get these all covered - but heck!, somebody's gotta do it!!) They’re a great way to meet other industry people in an informal setting. I got to Vegas early enough on Thursday that I was able to make a Smith and Wesson shooting event at American Shooter’s Supply. We shot the Smith/Walther PPK, the Smith 1911, the big X-frame in .460 Smith, and a rifle using Crimson Trace Optics who partnered with Smith for the event. I shot terribly, but the guns were nice. Their 1911 had a good, crisp trigger and didn’t miss a beat. The .460 kicks hard but the ball of flame and light it puts out are even more incredible! Indoors, in a range with lots of light on the target and less at the line, plus shooting between baffles emphasized it even more. When you watched another shooter, you could stand 20 feet away and see a bright light behind the baffles and a ball of flame out the front. And the concussion! Wow! I actually shot something that looked sort of like a group with the .460. I’m not shy at these events, so I talked to anyone near me just to find out where they were from and what they did. What a fascinating, wonderful bunch of people we have in the gun industry. If you get to go to a SHOT show, make sure you check into the pre-events. Some are for the magazine writers only, but the Smith event was open, just took pre-registration.

Same goes for the evening events. Some are invitation only; many are open to all attendees. The event sponsor generally feeds you, then goes through a program covering what they’ve done for the last year, are going to do for the next and pass out awards to various people. Afterwards there’s generally entertainment of some sort.

The hot ticket is the Glock party, rivaled this year by the NSSF State of The Industry event on Friday night, complete with a concert by LeeAnn Rimes. Since Brownells is a member of NSSF’s Heritage Foundation (which raises money to help fight those lawsuits blaming the gun industry for every inner-city problem) our table was pretty close to the front for a great concert – LeeAnn isn’t just country, she can ROCK! I guess Pete and Frank inviting me along to that made up for what happened on Saturday night. I had managed to wrangle a ticket for the Glock reception and Pete promptly stole it! Drat! For Glock, semi-formal dress is required, which means the women in the industry dress to the nines and look great. The food is gourmet quality and Mr. Glock and crew had Gunny R. Lee Ermey from the Mail Call TV program (he was also the tough drill sergeant in the movie, Full Metal Jacket).

With no ticket to Glock, I headed for the Outdoor Channel event. They had good food, an awards program, followed by a concert by country singer Tracy Lawrence. Two nights of country is a lot for rock and roll guy, but I survived. I plopped down in an empty seat at a big table with a gentleman that turned out to be Reed Knight Jr. of Knight’s Armament. They make of some of the premier M16 guns and pieces around. He and his group, Karen, Ginger and Rudy, were friendly and fun as were our other table mates, Jonathan Ceiner (.22 conversions) and his girlfriend Suzy. Ya never know who you’ll meet at SHOT. Just before 8:00, Knight and his gang left, to attend the Glock reception. Double drat!

The event scheduling was poor this year. Almost everything was on Saturday night. Glock, Outdoor Channel, Budweiser, Swarovski and who knows how many others. I missed Bud, which is a favorite. They give away some pretty darn nice door prizes.

I came home with a stack of business cards from new contacts I made, some great memories, and one heck of a nasty cold. That’s my least favorite SHOT Show tradition. It’s tough to talk to, shake hands and mingle with 30,000 of your closest friends without picking up some sort of bug. But, it’s like any road trip, if things don’t go wrong, you have a lot less to talk about until the next trip.

Those are just my highlights, I’m sure everyone that went has different things they remember. For me, it’s a great time of meeting customers, friends, and seeing what’s new out there. If you are a dealer and haven’t gone to SHOT, you need to. You’re bound to find some products for the store that you didn’t know existed and will bump sales through the roof. Plus, when a customer comes in asking about the new, super zoomie whatever, you can say, “Yup, saw that at SHOT Show.”