January 16, 2023
By Lynn Burkhead
After humble beginnings in St. Louis in 1979, the annual Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show—known to most in the outdoors industry as the SHOT Show—has grown into a can't-miss event that has had many big moments through the years.
Perhaps none of those moments were bigger than last year when the 2022 SHOT Show held an in-person reboot after it was cancelled in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A virtual show was held in 2021, and while it was indeed a testimony to willpower, great teamwork, and the use of online capabilities and digital technologies, many hungered for the SHOT Show to find its way back to an in-person gathering.
As it turned out, the 2022 SHOT Show, held in the shadow of the famed Las Vegas Strip and its high-rise casino hotels, came back stronger than ever. The show also became award-winning in the process after the Trade Show News Network (TSSN) recognized the event as its 2022 Comeback Award Winner for Exhibitor Excellence.
The 2022 show featured the event’s largest floorplan in its 44-year history, expanding from familiar turf at The Venetian Expo onto the Caesars Forum. Altogether, last year’s SHOT Show checked in with 804,000 net square feet of exhibit space, up from 676,000 square feet in 2020, the last year an in-person show had been held. SHOT Show officials note that’s enough space to park 547 F-16 fighter jets.
“We’re honored to be recognized for being the only large trade show in North America to have grown by 20-plus percent in 2022, especially after having to cancel the 2021 event,” said Chris Dolnack, senior vice president and chief customer officer for the sponsoring National Shooting Sports Foundation, in a news release. “Our team, partners and board are aligned to have a laser-like focus on listening to our customers and delivering the experiences they desire.”
But that was last year, and this is this year as the 45th edition of the SHOT Show prepares for this week’s Jan. 17-20 return in Las Vegas, marking the 24th time that the Clark County metropolitan area has hosted the event. Add in the Monday, Jan. 16, Industry Day at the Range, and that’s five days’ worth of new firearms, new ammunition, new hunting gear, and plenty of tactical and law enforcement gear to attract in exhibitors, buyers, industry professionals, and media members from all 50 states, and participants from more than 100 countries worldwide.
As the fifth-largest trade show in Vegas and the 19th largest in America, and with more than 55,000 industry professionals attending last year, the 2022 event was big and then some, even while the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was sweeping across the country. While some had to sit out the SHOT Show event last January, there was still plenty of people jamming the in-person return of the show a year ago.
That included more than 2,400 exhibitors on the SHOT Show floor, which featured 13.9 miles of aisles, along with more than 500 material suppliers meeting with manufacturers. All of that helped lead the 2022 event into record-breaking territory and added up to numbers a far cry higher than the 5,200-square feet of show floor space that the first SHOT Show occupied in St. Louis back in the days when Jimmy Carter was the President.
SHOT Show organizers are expecting more of the same this week, if not more, in terms of gaudy numbers—the show’s primary slogan in 2023 is actually "It’s a Big Deal!"—as some 2,338 exhibitors are expected to be in town this week. Add in the tens of thousands of attendees, and the members of the media, as well as spouses and family members who have made the trip to Vegas, and there's little wonder that the show typically brings in upwards of $88 million of non-gaming revenue for the local economy.
Big Deal? You bet, although it’s not really surprising, even in these challenging economic times. After all, the NSSF reports that the firearms and ammunition industry is a $7.9-billion economic machine in America, creating a total economic impact of $70.5 billion and supporting more than 375,000 jobs.
With the worst of the pandemic seemingly behind us as the SHOT Show crowds descended upon the Harry Reid International Airport on Sunday, there's every reason to believe that the 2023 event will see an uptick from the big numbers of a year ago.
Already, the week is underway with the NSSF/HAVA Golf Classic on Sunday, Jan. 15; and there was more to come on Monday, Jan. 16, as the annual Industry Day at the Range returned to the Boulder City Rifle & Pistol Club. Add in the Suppliers Showcase, which is continuing on this week after its beginning back in 2017, and SHOT University running the course from Jan. 15-20, and there’s a definite buzz of excitement in the Vegas air.
This week will also mark the return of the second annual Governor’s Forum, as the NSSF and The Firearm Industry Trade Association bring to town governors from several states to speak about the importance of the firearm industry in their respective states, their state’s efforts to attract firearm and ammunition companies, and the benefits of bringing such businesses to their states.
“This unique opportunity to hear directly from governors of the importance of the firearm industry and issues important to them was a resounding success last year,” said Lawrence G. Keane, SVP and General Counsel for NSSF, in a news release. “We wanted to create another event to welcome these governors to speak directly with show attendees and industry media. NSSF has regularly welcomed governors, but this is a truly special chance to gather these governors in one space to speak about the importance of a growing and vibrant firearm industry to their states.”
If all of that isn’t already big enough news, the week’s calendar is featuring a “SHOT After Dark” event with the 2023 All-Star Jam free concert on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at the Caesars Forum, next to the SHOT Show’s Great Outdoors Plaza. With Outdoor Sportsman Group presenting the event this week, the musical guest list is impressive with the likes of Lynard Skynard’s Johnny Van Zant, Montgomery Gentry’s Eddie Montgomery, and a special surprise guest to be named.
“We are delighted to be the Presenting Sponsor of the inaugural All-Star Jam experience,” said Mike Carney, Chief Operating Officer for Outdoor Sportsman Group, in a news release. “SHOT Show is the industry’s premier, must-attend event. New show features like the All-Star Jam adds to the dynamics, networking opportunities and overall show enjoyment after a productive day on the show floor. We’re looking forward to helping NSSF make this year’s SHOT Show fun, effective and memorable.”
The NSSF’s Chris Dolnack agrees, both in terms of the week’s new opportunities being realized and the excitement of the new music event.
“Our expansion to Caesars Forum has provided us with more opportunities than ever before to introduce new elements to the SHOT Show,” said Dolnack, in the news release. “This concert is going to be an awesome new addition to the SHOT Show experience, and we can’t wait to share it with our attendees. We can’t thank Outdoor Sportsman Group enough for their amazing support in helping us make this happen.”