January 22, 2024
On the eve of the 46th annual SHOT Show, it's impossible to miss the clues this week in Las Vegas that a football game is coming to town.
That's because in three weeks, Las Vegas will become the proverbial center of the universe for one weekend as one of the world's biggest spectacles arrives in town for the kickoff of Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday, Feb. 11, at Allegiant Stadium.
It will be a huge weekend for Sin City—some say it's the biggest ever—after some $1.3 billion in total economic activity was reported in Arizona for Super Bowl LVII last year. This year, just one state to the north, officials in Vegas believe that the NFL's finale for the 2023-24 season will generate huge money, too, around $600 to $700 million more than a standard Super Bowl weekend does elsewhere.
With all of that Super Bowl hoopla looming, Las Vegas is ready for a good test run this week with the SHOT Show visiting town. It won't reach Super Bowl heights this week, but huge gun show is now ranked as the eighth largest in America according to the Trade Show Executive Gold 100 rankings class.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the host organization for SHOT, the Gold 100 rankings were based on trade shows held throughout the U.S. in 2022 and measured by net square feet.
The SHOT Show will draw in a significant number of attendees this week, and the industry types and media that arrived at Harry Reid International Airport on Sunday found crowded airline gates, jammed restaurants, long lines at luggage carousels and a lengthy wait to pick up show credentials at the airport.
In town, the crowds were slowly building as the arriving show began to pick up steam on Sunday night prior to Monday's annual Industry Day at the Range, scheduled rain or shine at the Boulder Rifle & Pistol Club east of Las Vegas in the desert foothills surrounding Boulder City. A prelude for the actual show, Game & Fish Magazine editors and other Outdoor Sportsman Group staffers, will be attending and reporting on Range Day, which provides a first look and hands on experience for some of this year's new products from manufacturers.
Once the actual SHOT Show kicks off on Tuesday for its four-day run (Jan. 23-26) at the Venetian Expo and Caesars Forum convention facilities, more big crowds are anticipated from early indications. Last year, SHOT Show officials rated the 2023 show as one of their best in recent times, drawing in more than 52,000 industry professionals and media who packed the 13.9 miles of show aisles to see what was new.
"The industry was back in full force at this year's SHOT Show, and the energy and momentum among all attendees was palpable," said Chris Dolnack, NSSF Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer, in a news release last January. "I always say the SHOT Show is like Christmas morning and the Super Bowl all in one, and this year it was that and more. We are thrilled at the positive response from our attendees and optimistic for a strong year of industry sales to come."
In fact, the numbers a year ago were indeed Super (pun intended) for a city that was 12 months out from hosting the Super Bowl football spectacle. At the 2023 SHOT Show, as attendees opined in crowded aisles that the event harkened back to "SHOT Shows of old"—NSSF officials shook their heads politely at the end of the show and said no, last year’s event wasn’t like previous shows. In fact, those same NSSF officials went a step further and confirmed that the 2023 event was the largest SHOT Show ever in the second year of expanded exhibit space at Caesars Forum, in addition to The Venetian Expo, and it's the third largest trade show to ever be held in Vegas.
NSSF also noted that more than 2,500 companies displayed products and services in booths covering more than 816,000 net square feet—up from the 804,000 square feet in 2022—and attracted attendees from 115 countries and all 50 states.
Those 2023 show results were especially encouraging coming on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic that saw virus outbreak news hovering over the January 2020 event, forced the cancellation of the 2021 event, and brought a bit smaller crowd in 2022 when the show resumed.
But that was then and this is now, and all thoughts of the pandemic have faded into memory. And this week, there's much to do in Vegas during SHOT Week.
SHOT Show expects 2,500 exhibitors this year in a show space so voluminous that attendees can spend only a few minutes in each booth if they hope to see everything within four days. With more than 800,000 square feet scheduled to be occupied again this week, it's worth noting that NSSF officials say that's the equivalent of 18 acres, or more than enough space to park 547 F-16 fighter jets.
If all of these numbers seem super big for a show that has grown exponentially in the nearly half-century since its beginnings in St. Louis back in 1979—which had 290 exhibitors and 5,200 square feet of aisle space occupied—that’s correct since this year’s version and its nearly 14 miles of show floor space actually encompasses enough turf to run more than half of a marathon. That will lure in more big crowds this week, including more than 2,000 members of the media who are in town to cover the show and its news and new products.
With firearms and ammunition being a big focus this week in Vegas, just how big is the industry in the U.S. According to figures from the NSSF, they represent a $9.4 billion industry that has a total economic impact (from the sporting arms and ammunition industries) of more than $80.7 billion, a figure that supports more than 393,000 jobs. The NSSF also notes that through excise taxes on its various products, the firearms and ammunition industries also contribute more than $1 billion a year to the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund that supports wildlife conservation and education across America.
With this week marking the 25th SHOT Show to be held in Vegas, more than $88 million in non-gaming revenue is likely to come into the Las Vegas economy, too, according to NSSF.
A once-a-year gathering place for the shooting and hunting industry, the show for manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, publishers, non-profit organizations and media is the year's biggest event in the outdoors industry as a whole. It brings together people from all across the U.S. and abroad, who share a common passion for firearms, ammunition and outdoors equipment used in shooting disciplines and hunting endeavors. It's also where the industry as a whole can show unified support for the Second Amendment.
It's worth noting that for all of its history and tradition, the SHOT Show does continue to evolve and there will be some more of that evident this week, including a deeper emphasis on archery hunting, as well as a deeper wade into the political spectrum with the third annual Governor's Forum at SHOT Show. Ways of doing business are changing, rules and regulations are changing, and the world as a whole is changing and the SHOT Show continues to try to set the pace in the firearms and ammunition industry.
All in all, the SHOT Show remains can't miss territory this week if you have your fingers on the pulse on the firearms, ammunition and hunting industry or are simply an interested party wanting to know what’s new for 2024. While it's true that some familiar names in the industry have chosen not to come the past couple of years, the waiting line is long and plenty of others have quickly taken their place as the show continues to thrive and expand in challenging times.
As the 2024 version of the SHOT Show rolls into Las Vegas for a pre-Super Bowl party, we'll be there all week covering the event from start-to-finish with videos, social media posts, written content, and much more. There’s plenty ahead this week, so stay tuned here for what's to come this week from Vegas.