The Column, No. 64:
Notes from the 2011 SHOT Show
The 2011 SHOT show was held at the Sands Convention & Expo Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, from January 18-21. The 2010 attendance numbers, according to the NSSF, were 58,444 “total attendance” including 31,280 buyer attendance with 1633 exhibitors. For 2011, the estimated result was 57,390 total, including 31,769 buyers and 2074 media. Other Guns and Shooting Online staff members in attendance included Rocky Hays, Kathy Hays, Jim Clary and Mary Clary. In practical terms, the size of the show was the same as last year with a handful more visitors classified as buyers and media, yet slightly less total attendance.
It was one of the most enjoyable SHOT shows I've attended in many years. Some of the credit for this is due to Mother Nature, as last year's event in the same venue was rainy, cool and windy with the added bonus of flooded parking decks and snared traffic. Rain isn't a good thing in Las Vegas, particularly when a goodly portion of the annual rainfall happens in a day and a half. By contrast, this year the weather was beautiful, a bit on the warm side for this time of the year of Las Vegas with sunny skies and enchanting sunsets. It made the entire event more efficient, productive and enjoyable starting right away with the pre-show events, like the Bass Pro sponsored “Media Day at the Range.”
New product releases are tricky. Prior to the SHOT Show, even the simplest information is classified, or you are sworn to eternal secrecy. A day or two later, the same manufacturers complain when their new products aren't mentioned quickly enough. Mentioning a new product is a bit of a double-edged sword in itself, as the natural questions that follow are: “Is it any good?” and “Where can I get one?” Some new products are a long way from actual production firearms, being tool-room or non-functional concept guns that are months away from actual production, if indeed they ever are. It makes all of this interesting, to say the least. The best thing about the SHOT show is that it brings folks together from all around the world, who otherwise would not have an opportunity to meet, much less gather at the same table.
Sunday evening at the Flamingo I “turned the tables” on Las Vegas, scoring an upset victory at the blackjack table for the astounding sum of twenty-two dollars and fifty cents. That's only $12.50 short of being able to pay for a second checked bag on American Airlines for the return flight, but what do you expect for eighty-seven decks out of the shoe? Waldo, the pit boss, was naturally nervous about this stack of several chips going the wrong way, so I even offered to buy him a massage. A massage for myself would have been an unnecessary distraction from my dedication to splitting Aces and Eights. I also assured Waldo that if this fortuitous happenstance repeated itself often enough, I just might be able to reward him with his very own autographed Donny & Marie t-shirt by week's end. It was good times.
Monday, it was off to Media Day at the range. On the ride over, I had the chance to visit with one of the best gun writers we have, Bruce Buck of “Technoid” and Shooting Sportsman renown. It was great to see Bruce again. Bruce is one of the few (outside of the Guns and Shooting Online family) who understands that his first responsibility is to his readers.
It was a gorgeous day at the range with something like seventy-five or eighty exhibitors. A couple of guns impressed me, one being the new Beretta A400 Xcel Sporting Clays model. I also broke some clays with the A400 Xplor Light which, comparatively, I didn't care for, but the Xcel Sporting Clays (with KO) was smooth, steady, comfortable and effortless with which to break clays. I liked the wide, stepped rib on this model and I think there is some value in the “Balance Cap” interchangeable weight system. The Xcel also has the Beretta “Gun Pod,” a glorified LCD shot-counter added to the bottom of the pistol grip. I can take it or leave it, but at least it is out of the way and nothing you need to look at, so it doesn't detract from the rest of the package. Things like this are best left to personal preference or the internment of merciful time. In my view, t is from the Nintendo division of Beretta.
Vinci," the new 3.5 inch chambered version of the Vinci. Cristi still looks perky, no small feat
considering she had been up until past the wee hours finalizing the extensive Benelli displays.
Savage Arms may have struck gold with their new Lightweight Hunter rifles that weigh 5.5 pounds in short action (Model 11) and 6.0 pounds in long action (Model 111). A sharp-looking model with a lightened bolt, oil-finish American black walnut stock, black fore end tip and Pachmayr recoil pad, this is just what the doctor ordered. I'm very much looking forward to reviewing Model 11 in 7mm-08. This shaves a full pound and a half off of what has become one of my favorite hunting rifles, the previously reviewed Savage American Classic.
It was a well-attended and successful Range Day. On the way back, I shared a seat with eternal Olympic champion Kim Rhode. It was great to see Kim again. Kim is far too young to be considered truly eternal, I suppose, but she is the youngest gold medalist in Olympic shooting history (17 years old in 1996). She's been shooting and winning ever since. It was an interesting visit with Kim, as always. It was also nice to chat with Phil Bourjaily from Field & Stream. Phil is finding it a bit difficult to accept the idea of the $1500 mass-produced aluminum autoloading shotgun and I agree. A couple of years ago, Phil wrote of a “$2500 Gobbler Rig” he had used. The hoary “Is it worth it?” question is redundant and impossible for a gun writer to answer, but it is no stretch for me to say that I don't need a $2500 scattergun to whack a big Tom.
The SHOT show venue was somewhat improved from last year. The pleasant weather made more of a difference than anything else. The SHOT show is still plagued, or infested if you prefer, with too many garage and yard sale type trinket exhibitors, showcasing items with zero relevance to the hunting and shooting sports industry. I have nothing against toys and trinkets, but selling things like electric massage equipment seriously detracts from what is continually touted as the “largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports and hunting industries.” Why vacuum cleaners, massage equipment, belt buckles, kitchen utensils and t-shirts would be considered intrinsic to the shooting sports is beyond my comprehension. The SHOT show warns that it is for “the trade ONLY."
The flowing maze of the combined Venetian – Palazzo – Sands Convention/Expo Center can be a bit confusing if it is your first time there, or if you are driving. Going to valet parking to pick up your wheels might take a while, unless you remember whether you parked at the Venetian, Sands, Palazzo, or another nearby spot. If you see the giant bunny, you're not at the Sands and if you see the same gondola more than once, you're probably not making good progress. I did get lost for a while with Tricia, who flew in doing some work for ABC and was equally lost. If you are going to get lost, it is better to be with someone both intelligent and attractive.
appealing. Here are two of them, Giovanna and Barbara. Fausti has
some good things in store for the American market. Expect reviews
of Fausti shotguns soon on G&S Online.
As you might expect, with over 1600 exhibitors, there was far too much content to cover in one article. Crosman/Benjamin has some exciting new products, including a PCP .357 that was easy for me to make head shots with at 75 yards. Sightron has a new 1-7x variable scope that looks to be one of the most versatile big game hunting scopes ever released.
George Trulock, along with sons Jerrod and Scott, proved to me that there is at least one hotel in Las Vegas that really does have a 13th floor. (There's quite a story behind that one.) It is always a pleasure to spend time with Trulock and Company. The news from Leupold & Stevens is their new VX-6 line of riflescopes, their new illuminated reticles and what Pat Mundy promised was a significant upgrade to what is already my favorite rangefinder. The latter will soon be the subject of a Guns and Shooting Online review.
It is hard to beat good friends, good guns and great weather. This year's SHOT had all that. There is too much to mention, but that's what keeps things going all year. Good visits with Coni Brooks of Barnes, Jason Evans of Benelli USA, Steve Hornady, Doug Phair of Western Powders, Wes Lang of Caesar Guerini, Mark Laney of Thompson/Center, Ron Reiber and Tom Bowen of Hodgdon Powder, Paul Thompson and Cindy Jensen from Browning, Brian Herrick and Cathy Hale of Savage Arms, Mike Farrell and Zak Amert of Ithaca Gun Company, Dan Tercho from Nice Shot and Ming from Ecotungsten. It was one of the best SHOT shows in recent memory and we have a lot of people to thank for that. It is going be an exciting and busy year in the shooting sports industry!.
Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.