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Don’t Be That Guy - Tips Tricks and Highlights from Shot Show

January 1, 2024
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Every year since 1979, the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade Show, or SHOT Show as it has come to be called, thousands of industry professionals, media and enthusiasts have gathered together to display the latest and greatest of their wares. Firearms, optics, knives, accessories, and so much more were on display for the perusal of those for whom the outdoors are life. 

Since then, the event has grown to tens of thousands of people attending the weeklong event, now permanently held in Las Vegas with the showmanship to match. Massive displays by Glock, FN, Daniel Defense, and hundreds of other companies showcasing bleeding edge innovations draw in all sorts, with both engineers and media representatives ready to answer questions and hype their brands. 

If this sounds like candy land for gun nerds, you aren’t wrong. The first time going to SHOT Show can be daunting, though, just by the sheer size and scope of the halls filled with displays. Given the expense of entry for an average Joe, here is a short primer on how to make the most of your first show experience, and maybe pick up some connections and freebies along the way. 

Register Early

The only way the rest of these tips matter is if you get in, so make sure you register early. November or December will be the best time to  sign in to ensure space is available. The website is going to try to sell you things, but just pay attention to what you’re clicking, and you should be fine. Follow the instructions and verify that the confirmation emails have been received so there aren’t any surprises at the sign in desk. Nothing’s worse than showing up just to find out you can’t go in, and your money is wasted.

Dress for the Job You Want

As it is the first thing people will notice about you, your clothes and grooming will say a lot before your mouth ever opens. Cut offs, t-shirts, jeans, and any of those that look like you pulled it out from under your bed immediately before wearing it will make you look entirely unserious when you walk into the event. Looking like you wandered in off the strip will likely cause vendors to treat you like a tourist, which will really sour the experience. Putting on your ‘church clothes’ may not be necessary, but ironed slacks and either a polo or sport coat will open a lot of doors.

This Is Not a Patrol, Don’t Wear Your Day Pack

That molle covered camo backpack you’ve had since you graduated from infantry training may be like a trustworthy old friend, but it will also skyline you at the expo. Just as your clothing will tell people how to treat you, that pack makes you look like you live in a van down by the river. Don’t misunderstand, I carry two molle packs in my day-to-day occupation, but I don’t take them there. Wearing a backpack isn’t a bad idea either, as there are a lot of freebies and catalogs you might want to take, and the thin tote bags aren’t great, but maybe get a civilian bag. Consider it low pro, if that makes it easier.

Be Polite, Be Professional, Have a Plan to Speak to Everyone You Meet

Remember as you make your way between stalls that the people sitting at each booth will likely talk to tens of thousands of people during the event. They have a spiel for each type of person, in case you just want to know what their product is about, but they don’t need to hear long old war stories (usually). The best way to navigate the employees and reps in the booths is to respect their time and ask specific questions if you want to know more. 

Since I saw a few examples of this, be warned; security does not mess around. Don’t take pictures where you shouldn’t, don’t be rude, and follow posted instructions. Getting tackled in the prototype exhibit by Paul Blart would be an unfortunate way to end your expo experience.

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