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'This Feels Like the SHOT Show of Old'

News and notes from the floor at SHOT Show 2023 in Las Vegas.

'This Feels Like the SHOT Show of Old'

There are no shortage of ammo products at the 2023 SHOT Show in Las Vegas. (Photo by Lynn Burkhead)

Any whispered rumors of the SHOT Show’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, and that might be putting it mildly.

That seemed quite apparent on Tuesday, January 17, 2023, as the first of four days of SHOT Show action opened up at The Venetian Expo and Caesars Forum along The Strip in Las Vegas. From the beginning, it was apparent that the 45th version of the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show was going to be a full throttle show, reminiscent of the shows prior to the COVID-19 and its unwelcome appearance in 2020.

On Tuesday, as Monday's rain gave way to sunshine, bright blue skies, and a skiff of snow on the Spring Mountains to the west of town, a show that grew by 20 percent and become an award-winning endeavor a year ago seemed poised to gain even more traction this year.

OSG at SHOT 2023
Game & Fish Magazine editorial director Adam Heggenstaller (left), Outdoor Sportsman Group Digital Editorial Director Darren Choate (center), and many other OSG team members and guests discuss business and enjoy the company’s booth event to end a very busy Tuesday at the 2023 SHOT Show in Las Vegas. (Photo by Lynn Burkhead)

But this isn’t just marketing hype, mind you, since many of the exhibiting companies in Vegas—the 24th out of 45 SHOT Show events to be held in the fabled Sin City—are fully staffed, swamped with buyers seeking to make orders, and a host of new products being unveiled.

That observation included the spacious and crowded booth being occupied by Benelli, the Italian gun maker bringing to market a new 28-gauge version of the Super Black Eagle 3 shotgun, a new scattergun that in its Optifade camouflage patterns and sleek sub-gauge design drew a swarm of buyer and media attention throughout the day.

“You know, this feels like the SHOT Show of old where the traffic is wall to wall,” said Nick Andrews, marketing director for Benelli. “I had meetings booked up weeks in advance. It’s just the vibe that everybody wanted to be back.”

Benelli at SHOT
Benelli's Nick Andrews said heavy booth traffic and keen interest in the gunmaker's new Super Black Eagle 3 shotgun offering in 28-gauge delivered a noticeable upwards trend from a year ago, harkening back to the SHOT Shows of old. The industry veteran was quite enthused with his company's results Tuesday in Las Vegas.(Photo by Lynn Burkhead)

Then he swept his gaze across a booth that had several dozen people in it, nodded to the crowd, and smiled, a common occurrence on Day One. “This is it, it really came to fruition. … It’s funny, I haven’t even had time today to go on over there. I tried to go over during setup, but I was even too busy there to even make it over there then. This is just phenomenal (the Day One crowd) and I just love that the vibe is here, that the excitement is here, and this is just perfect.”

Over in the Beretta  booth, another historic Italian gunmaker and a long-time exhibitor at SHOT Show, sports marketing manager Amanda Popp had just a brief window of free time to visit as the company unveiled new offerings in its A400 shotgun lineup, a new over-and-under option that should delight upland bird hunters and clay-target shooters, new turkey shotguns, and new apparel options.

As we caught up, found out how our respective families were doing, and talked business, she too was all smiles and quite happy with the early results on Day One as Beretta’s booth was swarmed from the start with buyers and media looking at old and new products alike. “This is just awesome, we’ve been busy since the show opened,” she indicated. “It’s really exciting and I haven’t slowed down yet.”

For Hornady’s marketing communications manager Seth Swerczek, the theme of our conversation was the same as crowds flocked in for a look at the Nebraska company’s new 7 PRC load. “It’s not just booth traffic (here), but also the show traffic (out on the floor) has been up considerably,” said Swerczek. “Being where we are, kind of centrally located (on the show floor), you can just see the waves of people come through and compared to last year, (the traffic is up) pretty significantly.”

Hornady at SHOT
Hornady's Seth Swerczek was quite pleased with Day One traffic in the Nebraska based ammunition maker's booth as the 2023 SHOT Show opened up in Las Vegas. Much of that traffic was due to the introduction of the new 7 PRC rounds, with lots of orders being made on Tuesday.(Photo by Lynn Burkhead)

Swerczek noted that while the traffic numbers seemed down to him last year, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t plenty of people at the 2022 SHOT Show, nor that key business deals were not conducted. “The people that were here last year had business to conduct,” he said. “The time spent here was (quite) valuable, but just the volume of people seemed down.”

This year, however, the vibe is high energy and upbeat. “I would agree,” said Swerczek. “I came to my first SHOT Show in 2013 and I was just blown away with how many people, how many booths, the traffic, the noise, and just for a lack of a better word, the gaiety of it all with so many talking, laughing, joking, smiling, and carrying on. And you can see that (same kind of thing) is going on today.”


While Swerczek was happy with the volume of people being up at the 2023 SHOT Show, he was equally pleased with the business side of things since Hornady has worked hard to meet the ammo demand, upped its ammo making abilities, and kept pushing forward into a new year of opportunity.

For Hornady, part of that investment in the future is with the new 7 PRC round, a caliber offering that's generating a lot of buzz and positive feedback. But Swerczek admits that his company isn’t the only one pushing forward with new product development as he has visited with show attendees, colleagues, and media.

“I think so (that there’s a sizable wave of new products),” he said. “It’s a result of the growth of the industry, because the industry as a whole has grown, and the manufacturers have responded accordingly. And yeah, (we’re certainly) committed to that too (with new products coming out now and in the future from Hornady).”

SHOT Show 2023
The 45th annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show is underway in Las Vegas. (Photo by Lynn Burkhead)

For Kendra Tobler, senior brand manager for Benchmade Knife Company, the observations were similar. “Yeah, it’s great to see everybody back,” said Tobler. “There are big crowds on the show floor, it feels like there’s a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, throughout the brands, and (we’re all) connecting with people face to face, and you can see that here. … So, yeah, it’s great to be back in Vegas and have everyone coming into the booth!”

While Tobler’s hopes were high coming into the 2023 event—especially since Benchmade is showcasing 30+ new products this week—she admits that there was just a bit of uncertainty. "We didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “Would there be a lot of attendees, what would the show look like, and so, I think we’re really happy with the number of people coming through. There’s a lot of energy around the product that we’re introducing at the show. So, yeah, we’re really happy and we’ve been really busy.”

But longtime manufacturers in the shooting and hunting industry weren’t the only ones pleased with early numbers in terms of traffic and orders for new and existing products.

Infinite Outdoors
Long established outdoors industry companies weren’t the only ones enthusiastic about Day One action at the 2023 SHOT Show in Las Vegas. First time attendees Sam Seeton and Sam Brunner were equally pleased with the booth traffic stopping by to find out more about their Infinite Outdoors app based company that seeks to pair up hunters and landowners. (Photo by Lynn Burkhead)

For Sam Seeton and Sam Brunner of the relatively new Infinite Outdoors Company based out of Wyoming, the interest in their mobile app platform product that gets hunters and private landowners together in what’s almost an Airbnb format of booking hunts and fishing trips across the western and central parts of the country. While they have been in business for a couple of years now and continue to grow, this was their first SHOT Show experience.

“We had heard a lot of stories coming in,” said Seeton. “But this has exceeded so far what we were expecting coming in.”

Brunner agreed with his business partner and said the interest had. “We’ve got just about everything to offer, from big game hunting for species like elk, deer, and pronghorn with properties for those endeavors in six different states right now,” said Brunner. “We’ve got whitetails in Nebraska and Oklahoma too. We’ve got upland game, turkeys, and waterfowl as well. We’ve got small-game hunting options and some fly fishing properties too. All in the same concept, the same platform, book it at a daily rate, and have (land and hunting) access all to yourself.”

Brunner said that he and his business associates—manning a booth in a block of space from economic and tourism officials in Wyoming—were happy with the Day One results and eagerly anticipating what is still yet to come at the show.

Yeah, it's good to be back at SHOT Show full throttle. And Game and Fish Magazine will cover it all the way to the end.

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