Revolvers are displayed at the Ruger booth at the 2014 Show Show at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas Tuesday. (Jerry Henkel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)



SHOT Show is back Las Vegas, and it’s bigger than ever.

The 2014 industry-only trade show is spread across 635,000 net square feet at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, up from last year’s 630,000 net square feet. More than 100 of the 1,600 exhibitors are new, and SHOT, the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show has more than 400 companies on its wait list.

From Jan. 14-17, 61,000 preregistered attendees are set to walk the floor, up 19 percent from 2013. Qualified-buyer attendance also is up 28 percent to 27,000 people.

“I think that really speaks to the quality of the event and the enthusiasm and the passion for our industry and for hunting and shooting,” said Chris Dolnack, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

SHOT is owned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the $6 billion firearms industry that supports more than 245,000 jobs.

Some of the increases are part of the trade show churn, the ebb and flow of people who don’t attend every year. But the show’s also seeing increases because the firearms market was particularly strong last year.

“There’s no question there was record sales both from a manufacturing and retail side,” Dolnack said.

As one industry example, Sturm, Ruger &Co. CEO Michael Fifer said his company had a backlog of 2 million firearms on order when it released its latest earnings report in November. The company’s third-quarter sales in 2013 were s$171 million, up 45 percent from third quarter 2012.

“We’ve been a bright spot in the economy the last couple of years,” Dolnack said.

New to the show this year is Henderson-based ConvExx, which was hired in mid-2013 as the show’s management partner, replacing Reed Exhibitions, a company that managed SHOT for more than 30 years. In May the foundation’s contract with Reed was terminated after Reed restricted the sale of certain types of firearms at a consumer hunting and fishing show in 2013.

“We’re very pleased with ConvExx,” Dolnack said.”

ConvExx’s executive show manager for SHOT, Jeff Pressman, said everything went off without a hitch this year, although when the company took over the show already was fully booked.

“Obviously because we’re based here in Las Vegas, we see the value in this not only for our company but also to the city,” Pressman said.

ConvExx focused on ensuring the attendees are of a certain caliber, something the company did through more stringent qualification methods than in years past.

Because of the management change, all of the show’s vendor contracts that previously were with Reed are now with the foundation. One of those is with Freeman, which handles exhibitor move-in and move-out.

Trending this year is self-defense and concealed carry, while female participation in both self-defense and target shooting has seen large increases. As a result, manufacturers are making more products for women, including holsters designed for a woman’s frame. Youth products are already ticking up, Dolnack said.

For ammunition, there’s now more availability on retail shelves as the market has reached saturation.

“If you ran across it and you like to go shooting, then you bought it,” Dolnack said. “But you can only have so much invested in ammunition.”

SHOT is contracted with Sands Expo and Convention Center through 2018, and the show brings an estimated economic impact of $73 million to Las Vegas, the foundation reports.

“Our attendees like coming here, and they spend money,” Dolnack said. “Vegas is really the best convention city, certainly in America, if not the world.”

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is a silver sponsor of the show. And later this year, representatives from the foundation and the travel board will travel to the IWA Show, an international weapons expo in Germany.

“It’s the SHOT Show of Europe,” Dolnack said.

The foundation plans to exhibit in the show’s American pavilion, where it will work to increase SHOT’s international attendance by 20 percent.

“American firearms and accessories have a tremendous cachet around the world,” Dolnack said of the segment’s possibility.

A top priority for the foundation is fixing NICS, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

“It’s frustrating, to say the least, that mental health records are not in the system, even though, going back as far as the Clinton administration, millions of dollars were allocated in grants to local police and law enforcement agencies to enter those records. There’s a big gap there,” Dolnack said.

The foundation also is working to return federal funding to Project Child Safe, which has distributed more than 36 million free gun safety kits in the United States.

Meanwhile, the trade show is battling suitcasing, which happens when companies walk around and show off their products without buying exhibit space.

“Really, they’re drawing on the equity that others have created,” Dolnack said. “Frankly it’s a form of pirating.”

Outboarding, too, is an issue, and the foundation already has shut down one operator this week.

Outboarding is when would-be exhibitors instead host private meetings in a hotel suite or anywhere off the show floor, taking buyers out of the trade show. During last week’s International CES, outboarding was rampant with companies such as Netgear taking meetings in hotel suites.

“We take that very seriously. We want to protect our exhibitors and the significant investment the foundation has made in the show and conference,” Dolnack said.

SHOT Show also features educational programs for retailers, buyers and law enforcement.

One of the show’s newest sponsors is the Georgia Economic Development Council, which made a three-year commitment to the event.

“They’re actively looking to help companies relocate to a more friendly firearms climate,” Dolnack said.

Relocating has apparently been on company’s minds. Erie, Colo.-based Magpul Industries, for example, announced earlier this month that it was moving to Wyoming and Texas after the Colorado Legislature passed a measure banning weapons magazines with more than 15 rounds.

Dolnack said he doesn’t know of any companies specifically looking to move to Nevada, although it does have a favorable climate for the industry.

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