Why SHOT Show has lost its luster

first published on January 22, 2017 by

SHOT Show 2017

The last couple of years my followers have asked me why I no longer produce videos at SHOT Show. Let’s go back to the beginning of my SHOT Show experience and I’ll do my best to explain my decision to step away from the event.

Many years ago I was like most new media guys who were able to attend SHOT Show; I found it to be amazing that I had reached a point in my YouTube career that I was being taken seriously enough by the firearms establishment that I could actually get in as credentialed media and cover the largest trade show of the firearms industry.

Like a dutiful man of the media, I lugged backpacks full of camera gear to and fro around the massive Sands Expo Center. I busted my hump to get video of the latest and greatest gadget so I could race up to the media room, edit my footage, and post it as quickly as possible. I hoped that perhaps I would be the first one to break a major new product or catch something no one else had noticed yet.

This was, of course, a fools errand. There are thousands of media types at the show all trying to do the exact same thing. Some have tiny audiences and some have massive audiences, but they all think they’re going to break the next big news story. It’s an utter rat race with nothing of substance at the finish line.

I conducted myself like the others I saw on the show floor. They did “booth reviews” so naturally I had to do “booth reviews”. What is a booth review anyway? Well, it’s a 5-10 minute commercial for a product you have absolutely no experience with. You parrot data given to you by the company representative and tell the world how awesome it’s going to be when it comes to market weeks, months, or even years later.

Slowly I started to realize what I was doing is a major disservice to my viewers and was accomplishing little more than wasting my time and money to go promote products I would likely never see again. I realized I had become what I once mocked… a “reviewer” of things I had absolutely no meaningful experience with. Worse, many times I was exciting people about products that may never come to market. I’ve gotten angry emails from people that put money down on something they saw me cover at SHOT Show and years later they still hadn’t received their product. I have an obligation to vet companies and to test their products before giving what some might view as an endorsement based on 5 minutes with the items at a trade show.

SHOT Show is a trade show structured for the old school print and broadcast media. I take great pride in that I do not follow old school methods, so why was I playing along? Why was I going against the grain of my own best practices? Good question.

So I stopped. I haven’t shot a “booth review” in several years.

I thought it would be possible to attend SHOT Show but do something no one else was doing at the time; Cover “firearms tourism” of really awesome places like Battlefield Vegas. I did this one year… and by the next year others started doing the same thing. How many times can I go to an indoor range in Vegas and produce an interesting video? Is it worth the cost of travel to Vegas to produce videos on firearms tourism every year? Nah, not really.

So I stopped. However, I still love Battlefield Vegas.

I spent the next year thinking about how I could make SHOT Show productive and worth the considerable expense of traveling to Vegas for a week. I spoke with my good friends at IraqVeteran8888, a Veteran review company, and we came to the same conclusion; SHOT Show isn’t worth the expense if your ultimate goal is to produce meaningful content that has actual meat to it. You may have noticed IV8888’s crew was absent from SHOT this year too.

I could use SHOT Show to meet with my fans, which I love to do, but it’s a closed event intended for industry folks only. Most of my fans aren’t industry folks. The NRA show, on the other hand, is open to the public and many of the same companies are there as well. It’s also interesting to note that many companies are now releasing new products at the NRA show vs. SHOT Show. So why am I attending both? Good question.

In the end I see no real value in covering SHOT Show going forward. I don’t feel doing “booth reviews” is worthwhile as I can’t offer meaningful commentary on a product I’ve only handled for a few minutes, likely haven’t shot, and many times isn’t a production item anyway. I feel like I’m lying to my audience if I say “this looks pretty cool” and I feel like I’m wasting all of our time if I say “I hope to get my hands on one to use in the future, meanwhile let me recite some company provided data points”.

This year I went strictly to shake hands, talk to companies about getting products later in the year and to meet fans. Instead of a full week in Vegas, I stayed only for two days. However, all of this can be done at the NRA show and at least there I can shake a lot more hands and give away a lot more free patches because it’s an event that’s open to the public. I’ll let the old timers and new comers scurry about regurgitating company propaganda and offering commentary on products they have no experience with. I can’t do it anymore because it kills my soul.

Ok, saying it “kills my soul” is probably a bit melodramatic. 🙂

It’s just not for me guys. This is why I’m taking a break from SHOT Show going forward. I’ll see everyone at the NRA show in Atlanta this year!