Final Thoughts On
SHOT Show 2024


There was a time, at the height of the pandemic and shutdowns, when prognosticators proclaimed large-scale trade shows were past their prime and no longer needed to conduct business in a digital world. Using SHOT Show 2024 as a reference point, it’s safe to say that assessment has been blown out of the water.

The largest SHOT Show ever — in terms of both exhibitors (2,500+) and exhibit space (816,000+ sq. ft.) — SHOT Show 2024 delivered an exceptional event. The Supplier Showcase, SHOT Show After Dark events and Venetian Expo and Caesars Forum exhibit halls produced a “target-rich environment” for countless networking, ideating and new partnership opportunities to fuel growth.

Heather Pleskach, Otis Technology director of marketing, left SHOT Show 2024 with a bullish outlook for the year ahead.

“SHOT Show is all about connecting and relationship building, and it’s not just limited to sales,” she said. “We cultivate and grow relationships with other manufacturers, suppliers, influencers, writers, organizations, etc. — all in the name of developing win-win opportunities. If only 10% of what we dreamt up at SHOT comes to fruition, 2024 will be a great year for us.”

The only “issue” with a trade show of this size is it’s impossible to see and write about everything. Taking Pleskach’s “10%” perspective above — if this massive, boisterous trade show could be boiled down to three talking points, here’s what I’d say stood out most at this year’s edition.

1. Innovation Through Diversification

It’s been a gripe over the years from some: there are few things truly “innovative” in the industry today, with skeptics pointing to century-old (and older) designs like 1911s and lever-action rifles still being produced.

However, as those reading this are well aware, these platforms have been refined with modern touches. Double-stack 1911s are growing ever-popular (the Staccato booth was a hub of activity throughout SHOT Show), while lever-action rifles can be both suppressed and fed with AR-style magazines today (the Henry Repeating Arms Lever Action Supreme checks both boxes). Speaking of lever guns, SHOT Show 2024 reaffirmed there is significant interest in this platform from both manufacturers and end users alike.

Numerous manufacturers announced their entry into new product categories — one could argue, “innovation through diversification” — at SHOT Show 2024. As noted in my column last month, Smith & Wesson’s entrance into the lever-action segment (Model 1854) generated substantial interest from attendees, as did the Daniel Defense DANIEL H9 striker-fired pistol. Other manufacturers announced diversification efforts at SHOT.

Taurus USA debuted the Expedition, its first-ever bolt-action rifle, during SHOT Show. Based around the Remington 700 action, the Expedition delivers sub-MOA accuracy thanks to its hammer-forged barrel, according to Taurus.

“I expected people to be excited for the rifle,” said Caleb Giddings, Taurus general manager of marketing. “But I didn’t expect there to be a literal line at the booth for people to get their hands on the samples we had on display. As feature-packed as the Expedition is, and coupled with an MSRP under $1,000, we’re expecting these things to fly off the shelves.”

Black Rain Ordnance entered two new markets this year with its BRO Bolt-Action Series and BRO Handgun Series. The Bolt-Action Series is available in three models, while the Handgun Series is initially chambered in 9mm (Black Rain has plans to release additional chamberings).

This is just a small sample size of companies expanding their reach to appeal to new customer groups.

It’s a sign of two things: 1) Manufacturers are once again able to prioritize R&D projects — as opposed to keeping up with rampant demand; and 2) Manufacturers are looking for ways to appeal to a broader base of customers. Both developments will, ideally, get customers into their local gun stores to examine these new introductions firsthand.

2. Data, Research Increasingly Important

The following won’t be a new point for those of you who regularly read Shooting Industry. To achieve success in a soft market, a few things are becoming more and more apparent: If you’re not investing time in analyzing your point-of-sale trends, looking at research from NSSF, Southwick Associates and others or networking with fellow dealers to uncover helpful margin boosters, growth is going to be more difficult to come by.

The SHOT Show Research Breakfast, held Wednesday morning during SHOT Show week, provided telling insights into today’s market.

Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, shared data from his firm’s 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, relating to the initial takeaway above. Additionally, Southwick recommended companies can 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 VP of Data Analytics Kaleb Seymour sifted through a treasure trove of data that’s included in 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.

The lesson here: the opportunity for securing add-on sales is greatest during in-store interactions. Make sure your sales team looks for ways to expand a sale, rather than being order takers.

Another “nugget” — Seymour recommends dealers look for optimized data to influence their buying decisions in an ever-changing retail landscape.

“This empowers retailers to effectively monitor market dynamics, optimize their stock levels and ensure customer satisfaction by having the right products available at the right time,” he shared.

As director of research for NSSF, Salam 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.
Fatohi shared these reports have a twofold ambition.

“The NSSF research department is member driven, and our budget largely revolves around studying topics that help our members better understand the market and consumer habits,” he said. “This helps the largest manufacturers to independent firearm retailers make business decisions and increases the value of being an NSSF member.”

3. “Stories Sell, Not Price Points.”

Southwick’s recommendation for companies to stand out through brand stories especially resonated with me. I immediately thought of SI’s target reader, the independent storefront dealer. Your store is an essential part of the community — enabling customers to exercise their Second Amendment rights, as well as being a resource to help them defend themselves and loved ones. Having a physical presence in your community gives you a significant advantage over the competition.

During the research breakfast, I wrote the phrase “community thread” in my notes — a reference to a memorable title from an article published in SI’s Nov. 2022 issue (“Become Part Of Your Community Thread” by Brenna McCoubrey).

At the close of her story, McCoubrey said, “The more we, as dealers and range owners, become involved in our surrounding environment, the more likely the ‘local gun shop’ becomes a staple in what we collectively call ‘community.’”

Attending an energized event like SHOT Show certainly showcases the “community” aspect of our industry. I asked B.A. Stear, founder of Shoot Indoors Franchising LLC (which opened its fourth location in Colorado, fifth overall, earlier this year), on the greatest advantage of attending SHOT Show. The second half of his response related well to Southwick’s observation.

“Looking for new products, physically handling them and meeting the people responsible for their creation is a significant advantage of attending in-person events like SHOT,” he said. “Dealers speak to sales reps all day long, but hearing the inspiration and passion directly from the founder or designer really takes the relationship to a whole new level. Stories sell, not price points.”

(Stear’s response provided an excellent idea for a future article — expect us to unpack the “stories sell, not price points” concept in an issue later this year.)

What were some of your biggest takeaways from this year’s SHOT Show? I’d love to hear from you: