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Chris Ellis: SHOT a chance to try out latest hunting products

Jan. 21, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

Last week I attended the 36th edition of the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) in the desert paradise of Las Vegas. More than 60,000 industry professionals attended with outdoor retailers looking to fill their shop's shelves from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

Owned and sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the SHOT Show is the industry's most anticipated event of the year. The NSSF describes the event as the show that provides a first look at new products and services used by target shooters, hunters, outdoorsmen and women and law enforcement professionals.

The show also provides members of this multifaceted industry an opportunity to network and attend educational seminars.

The SHOT Show is the largest trade show of its kind in the world. It is open to the trade only and not the public. Shooting sports enthusiasts will see the new products unveiled at the show on retailers' shelves during the year.

The show brings together all segments of one of America's oldest and most storied industries. Manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, shooting range operators, outdoor media and representatives from wildlife conservation groups conduct business, exchange ideas, renew contacts and reaffirm the unity that has been the hallmark of the hunting and shooting sports industry.

On the exhibit floor, which covers 630,000 net square feet and has 12.5 miles of aisles, manufacturers and distributors display a wide range of products including firearms, ammunition, gun safes, safety locks and cases, optics, shooting range equipment, targets, training and safety equipment, hunting accessories, law enforcement equipment, hearing and eye protection, tree stands, scents and lures, cutlery, GPS systems, holsters, apparel, leather goods, game calls and decoys.

The $6 billion industry has seen record sales over the past several years fueled in part by the surging number of new gun owners. A recent study by NSSF showed one in five target shooters is a newcomer -- someone who has taken up the sport in the last five years. The same study showed that the industry's customer base has greatly expanded, with new target shooters being younger, female and urban-based.

Another driver of sales in recent years has been firearms purchased for personal and home protection. Many of industry's newest model firearms and accessories have been developed to satisfy this rapidly growing market. Women, in particular, have a high interest in obtaining their concealed carry permits after purchasing their first firearm, according to NSSF's First-time Gun Buyers Report. Also, women's participation in both target shooting and hunting has increased dramatically over the last decade.

The largest number of outdoor media in the world turns out at the SHOT Show to cover the introduction of products and to report on the firearms and outdoor industry. NSSF has credentialed about 2,500 media members like me for the 2014 show.

I have attended the SHOT show for more than a decade. I have been part of many new product launches and watched new companies born and old products retire. But the coolest thing about the show for me is the meeting of old friends and the gathering of new ones and of course, coming back to my West Virginia home.

Chris Ellis of Fayetteville, W.Va., an outdoorsman and Marshall University graduate, is owner of Ellis Communications, a public relations agency serving the outdoor industry. Contact him at chris@elliscom.net.

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