SHOT Show 2023:
All-In On Fun


Photos: NSSF

There’s no question: SHOT Show 2023 is roaring back in a big way next month. 

Following the cancellation of SHOT Show 2021, the future of the biggest event in the shooting, hunting and outdoor industry was hotly debated by industry professionals and end users alike. 

However, SHOT Show 2022 — though smaller in attendance and without some of the industry’s biggest companies — provided a much-needed injection of enthusiasm driven by an in-person event. This was helped by SHOT Show 2022 having the largest footprint of any SHOT Show, thanks to the Caesars Forum expansion, which featured 2,400 exhibitors and 800,000 net sq. ft. of exhibit space.

Building off the momentum from last year’s show, NSSF is going “all-in” on fun to make SHOT Show 2023 a resounding success for the industry.

Outlook for 2023

Chris Dolnack, NSSF senior VP and chief customer officer, and Melissa Schilling, NSSF managing director of exhibitions and conferences, shared what will make SHOT Show 2023 a must-attend event.

“We’re putting the ‘fun’ back in the SHOT Show,” Dolnack said. “There’s such a direct connection between SHOT Show and the revenue it brings it for NSSF to continue doing what we’re doing at the federal and state level, activating/recruiting new customers and helping keep our industry business. Part of that is putting the ‘fun’ back in, so people can have unique experiences they wouldn’t have if they didn’t come to the show.”

An encouraging sign: SHOT Show 2023 attendance figures are tracking above SHOT Show 2020.

“We’re definitely going to have a ‘normal’ SHOT Show, going back to pre-pandemic levels — which is fantastic,” Schilling shared. “We’re trending above 2020 with our buyers, currently looking at 40% more buyers. We’re getting that quality attendee back at the show, and a lot of new attendees as well.”

There is continued interest at the international level, but according to Dolnack the White House isn’t making it easy.

“Interest from international attendees is pacing terrifically, which is surprising given the Biden administration’s reluctance to bring back consulate staff that issues visas. And it’s not just our industry being impacted by this, by the way,” he said. “All we can do is all we can do — we want to get U.S. products in front of an international audience, but they don’t make it easy with the hurdles they have in place.”

Expansive Afterhours Lineup

SHOT Show 2023 will have a slate of events to hone in on the “fun” side of doing business in-person.

“This is a big year for us,” Schilling stated. “We’re doing a lot of fun, new things. Especially with the Caesars Forum expansion, there will be a lot of new exhibitors. There’s going to be a lot to see, a lot of education.”

On Day 2 of the 2022 SHOT Show, NSSF hosted a surprise “Welcome Back” happy hour staged outdoors on the Caesars Forum Plaza. The event was such a hit with attendees, NSSF decided to expand on the use of an outdoor venue with its three-day “SHOT After Dark” lineup. 

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, NSSF will once again be hosting a welcome reception (5:30–6:30 p.m.). Wednesday, Jan. 18 will feature an All-Star Jam concert (6:00–7:30 p.m.) with Montgomery Gentry’s Eddie Montgomery, .38 Special’s Don Barnes and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. (Johnny Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd was originally slated to perform, but Barnes will be performing in his place.) Completing the trio of “SHOT After Dark” events, there will be a networking reception Thursday, Jan. 19 (5:30–6:30 p.m.) on the eve of the show’s last day for attendees.

“The one thing we hear loud and clear in surveys from attendees and exhibitors is it’s the networking people appreciate during SHOT Show,” Schilling said. “So, that’s what we’re doing with ‘SHOT After Dark’ — the networking opportunities and the concert — we’re listening to them.”

“We’re definitely going to have a ‘normal’ SHOT Show, going back to pre-pandemic levels — which is fantastic. We’re getting that quality attendee back at the show, and a lot of new attendees as well.”

Melissa Schilling
Managing Director of Exhibitions & Conferences NSSF

The Great Outdoors Plaza at Caesars Forum figures to play a prominent role at SHOT Show 2023,
hosting “Shot After Dark” events, as well as the new SHOT Plaza Marketplace.

Other New-For-2023 Updates

SHOT Show will feature both refined and new offerings for attendees in 2023.

SHOT University has changed from a one-day format (held on Monday, prior to the opening of SHOT Show in years’ past) to a three-day one, which will be staged Tues.–Thurs. at Caesars Forum.

According to Schilling, this change will facilitate greater flexibility for attendees.

“Being held across three days, this allows retailers and buyers to better pick what sessions apply to them, so they can better plan,” she shared. “There will be a lot of sponsor interaction, as well.”

The agenda for SHOT University has been released, available at

New for 2023, there will be a Davidson’s-sponsored Buyer Lounge on Venetian Expo Level near the bridge to the Caesars Forum, as well as an NSSF Member Lounge in Caesars Forum.

Additional lounges were a top request after SHOT Show 2022. As part of its “23 for ’23” initiative, SHOT Show is adding 23 seating areas around the exhibit floors to enable quick breaks, team regroups and casual networking.

“We learned something from last year with lounges,” Dolnack said. “That’s why we’re adding more of them. We also heard from exhibitors at Caesars if they wanted to get off their feet, have a quieter lunch or visit with a customer, it was a long haul back to the Venetian. So, we listened to that and it’s why there’s going to be a Member Lounge at Caesars.”

Another new offering for 2023 will be the SHOT Plaza Marketplace, which will allow for cash-and-carry sales of accessories and other non-FFL required products.

“This is another way of putting fun back in the show — there will be clothing and different things for attendees to browse and buy,” Dolnack said. “But still no sales inside the exhibit halls.”

In short, these refinements are primed to enhance the experience for attendees and exhibitors.

“This isn’t rocket science, really,” Dolnack said. “It’s no different than from any other business — you talk to the customer, find out what they want and then try to deliver it in a seamless manner. It’s pretty simple.”

A Critical Juncture

SHOT Show 2023 comes at a critical juncture for our industry: The results of the 2022 midterm elections are still being felt as the 2024 presidential election cycle has already begun. 

Dolnack was candid in sharing how NSSF has taken the lessons learned of the past two years and putting them into action to better serve members.

“We’re headed in a great direction — we came from being on the ropes after the cancellation of the 2021 show, but fortunately the industry was very supportive, allowing us to carry over 50% of their exhibit fees and generous donations from so many companies,” he recalled. “We had a headcount reduction at NSSF and narrowed our focus, but we’re back now and stronger than ever.”

Like many companies, NSSF has adapted to a hybrid work model — which facilitated the sale of its 20,000 sq. ft. headquarters in Newtown, Conn., earlier this year.

“With the sale, we put seven figures in the bank to help us fight the fight. Our lease is about a third of what our annual occupancy cost for the building was as an owner. This shift has enabled us to use member’s dues and fees in a very smart, efficient way. With all these changes, it’s hard not to be excited,” Dolnack said.


“Like the Super Bowl and Christmas Day wrapped into one — for our industry, it’s a big rallying point. You can see everyone and everything you need to have an Edge.”

Chris Dolnack
Senior VP & Chief Customer Officer NSSF

A Can’t-Miss Event

For those on the fence about whether or not to attend SHOT Show, Dolnack offered this take: “The SHOT Show is like the Super Bowl and Christmas Day wrapped into one — for our industry, it’s a big rallying point. You can see everyone and everything you need to have an edge. And, not only do we have more fun events, but more amenities.”

The tactile nature of our industry lends itself to in-person events like SHOT, according to Dolnack.

“It’s also the networking and face-to-face — we have such a tactile industry. You can look at a picture and see if a product looks nice, but how does it feel in your hand? What’s the trigger pull like? How’s the fit? How do the zippers pull? SHOT Show is the one place you can go to do that — 55,000 people can’t be wrong.”

The 45th SHOT Show is just weeks away, running Jan. 17–20, 2023 at the Venetian Expo and Caesars Forum. For more info:

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