NRA Meeting — A Dealer’s Research Forum

As an industry event, the SHOT Show is closed to the general public. Therefore, the NRA’s Annual Meeting & Exhibits becomes the biggest “industry-direct gun show” your average customer will ever attend. This is why so many manufacturers eagerly set up booths in the exhibit hall at these NRA gatherings.

What do you, the dealer — at the retail end of the industry — gain from the NRA event? Foremost, it provides a preview of how your retail customer base reacts to new products. Noting how deep the consumers are packed around a given booth offers a solid prediction of how much interest that same brand and product is going to produce in your shop.

Of course, selling guns isn’t just about being familiar with the latest products. The NRA Annual Meeting agenda features relevant classroom experiences. One high point is the Leadership Forum, and this year, speakers included Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindahl and others.

If you are a dealer who has become a spokesperson for gun owners’ civil rights in your community, being able to catch these talks adds to your credibility on political issues. It’s one thing to say, “I read that Mitt Romney said …” But it’s more powerful to be able to say, “Well, I was present when Governor Romney said such-and-such about the issue.”

I know this sounds like a pitch to attend next year’s NRA event, but only because it’s good for your business. Now, here are some of the new product introductions and updates from this year’s event.

S&W Shield Makes A Splash

Sometimes, the high-interest new product simply isn’t ready for the January SHOT Show, making the springtime NRA event a logical venue for that introduction to “make a splash.”

This year, an example of that came from Smith & Wesson. With beautiful orchestration by Jim Unger — who has been promoted to head of new product development after years as head of S&W revolver production — the company managed a suspenseful public lead-up to the new Shield product. As the NRA bash began, S&W revealed a scaled-down Military & Police pistol in 9mm and .40. With a single-stack magazine, the gun’s width is just under an inch.
Whether or not its overall dimensions fit those of a “pocket pistol” will pretty much depend on the size of the pockets. It will certainly be attractive for inside-the-waistband and under-the-shirt carry.

Surging crowds around that section of the S&W booth bore buzzing testimony to the interest this product can be expected to generate among gun buyers in your community. On the day of the Shield’s official introduction, Unger and his team were able to announce holsters, laser sights and additional add-on products that are already made for this gun.

A few thousand of the Shield pistols went out to wholesalers prior to the show. They all sold out in a time frame better measured in hours than in days.

If you were not one of the lucky dealers to get a Shield this spring, customers still probably asked you what you thought about the pistol, and if they should order one through you. If you had attended the NRA show, you would have been able to tell them you had handled that gun. You tried its fit in your own pocket. You pulled its trigger. You’d be able to give them a more convincing reason to reach for their wallet and order one from you right now.

With all the publicity they’ve receiving, you can expect the Smith & Wesson Shield to be a very good seller.

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By Massad Ayoob

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