3 Way-Too-Early SHOT Show Impressions


Spanning four days (five, with the Supplier Showcase), 816,000 square feet and more than 2,500 exhibitors, SHOT Show 2024 represented the place to do business in the industry.

Writing this as SHOT Show 2024 comes to a close, one thing is abundantly clear — the industry turned out in droves this week. At the time of publication, NSSF has yet to reveal the official figures of the event, but there’s no question thousands of motivated dealers and buyers were at the Venetian Expo and Caesars Forum to uncover new products, make fresh connections and support each other. Even with its largest exhibit footprint ever, SHOT Show’s miles of aisles still felt a little crowded at times.

As the shooting, hunting and outdoor industry’s largest event and it’s timing in the calendar, SHOT Show certainly “sets the tone” for the year ahead. Here are three way-too-early impressions from SHOT Show 2024.

1. Diversification Key

To take a 30,000-foot view of the show, “diversification” represented a major theme. Numerous manufacturers announced significant launches into new product categories. Smith & Wesson released its first-ever lever gun. Daniel Defense launched its first handgun. 2011 manufacturer Staccato unveiled two ammunition lines. After more than 75 years of taking countless four-legged game for rifle hunters, Remington Core-Lokt Handgun is now available. Black Rain Ordnance stepped into the handgun and bolt-action rifle markets. And I could keep going …

Conversations with executives at some of these companies, and others, revealed a common rationale: they have taken notice of changing consumer preferences, and desired to carve out their own niche to expand profit potential.

After years of trying to keep up with rampant demand, it looks as though an emphasis on R&D is back — and will be a big factor as we move deeper into 2024. Long may it continue!

2. What Research Is Saying ...

The SHOT Show Research Breakfast, held Wednesday morning during SHOT Show week, featured a variety of speakers — Rob Southwick of Southwick Associates; Dr. Steven Leath, executive director of the Council To Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports (CAHSS); Tom Decker, wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Kaleb Seymour, Gearfire VP of data analytics; and Salam Fatohi, NSSF director of research.

During his presentation, Southwick shared data collected from Southwick Associates’ quarterly surveys — which indicate consumers are more likely to make a firearms purchase this year compared to Jan. 2023. Self-defense as a motivator to buy remains the top factor in driving a customer to a potential firearms purchase.

To capture more sales in 2024, Southwick highlighted the importance of innovation in the marketplace — which relates to the initial takeaway from SHOT Show above. Additionally, Southwick recommended for companies to stand out through telling their brand stories. (For brick-and-mortar dealers, you have a ready-made opportunity to highlight your brand’s connection to your local community, as you’re a locally owned business. Seek out local partnerships this year.)

Gearfire’s Seymour sifted through a treasure trove of data that’s included in Gearfire RetailBI, which tracks online and in-store transactions from 2,500 stores. One data set was particularly stirring. Comparing in-store sales to online sales in 2023, an in-store firearms purchase was accompanied with additional products in 45% of transactions. Online, an add-on purchase to a firearm was only accomplished 12% of the time. In this business climate, you can’t afford to not have your sales team seek out add-on sales at the point of purchase — because if they’re in your store in the first place, they’re likely to buy more than simply click “check-out” and move on with their day.

As director of research for NSSF, Fatohi shared findings from recent projects and previewed those arriving later in 2024. In its recent research, NSSF has seen the largest growth from African-Americans, Latinos, consumers aged 18–34 and women. One research project slated to be complete later this year is an in-depth report on magazine ownership.

The Holosun booth was a hub of activity during SHOT Show 2024. The P.ID-K,
P.ID-K-Plus and IRIS were among its most popular products at the show.

3. Cautious Approach To Year Ahead

In conversations with exhibitors and attendees, there is a sense of cautious optimism surrounding 2024. Election years, historically, stir up interest in the consumer market — but early forecasts predict this cycle will not be as rampant as the most recent cycles.

One factor, which we’ve talked about previously is “crisis fatigue.” Major events that would normally impact consumer buying behavior (such as the fear of legislation being passed to outlaw entire classes of firearms) cause ripples these days, rather than waves. Of course, it could all change in an instant, which is why manufacturers have adopted a flexible manufacturing model to prioritize one product category over another if a demand surge occurs.

Dealers, what were your impressions from SHOT Show? Let us know anytime: editor@shootingindustry.com.