After just attending the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Orlando, it's nigh on to impossible not to comment on the experience. Others have already given their views, and here are some of mine. First of all, I have to admit that it is the first SHOT Show I have been able to attend. Usually it is on the other side of the country or at the wrong time for me, but Orlando is pretty close, so off I went. Well, this show was HUGE! The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) statistics showed 656,100 square feet of exhibitor space and 1,870 exhibitors. There was a total attendance of just over 42,000 people. Access is restricted to dealers, the media and a few "friends" of the industry, but it would be hard to imagine what would happen if it were open to the general public. It would have to last for weeks, just to accommodate the crowds. It was crowded enough as it was. It's hard to say exactly how much of the total show is actually dedicated to law enforcement products and services. There was a separate area for LE vendors, but many companies, especially those with firearms and knives, had exhibit space in the "General" area. So there was a lot more territory to cover than just the LE section. Suffice it to say, you can easily stay busy for all four days.
One of the things that struck me, being an old guy, is the incredible variety that can be found nowadays in any one segment of the market. For example, the AR-style rifle must be doing pretty well, despite reports to the contrary. Booth after booth had every variation on the platform that you can imagine, and every gadget that could possibly be affixed thereto. Well, at least every one that's been designed so far. In fact, you can get the basic AR so tricked out that you'd need a cart to lug all the accessories. While I like choices and variety, sometimes enough is enough. If you get the gun too loaded down, you lose the lightweight maneuverability that was the original purpose of Eugene Stoner's design. One thing is for sure, there are enough slings, lights, optics, lasers, stock modifications and sources of goodies to satisfy every AR-lover in the land. Now, if we could just get folks to spend some time on serious training with them, we'd be in a better position to weed out the essential accessories from the gadgets that just look cool.
Clothing and wearable gear is another area where diversity abounds. I admit to being extremely jealous. In the early days of SWAT, we had to cobble together whatever military surplus stuff we could find, adapt it, dye it black (remember RIT dye?) and dream of the day when someone would actually make what we needed. Now there are aisles full of tactical gear and clothing. BlackHawk, for example, had a huge display area in the LE section. Many other companies, large and small, had their latest designs for everything from a busy day at the office to high-risk entry outfits. By the way, it's nice to see the cops getting some decent HAZMAT gear. Sometimes we forget that we are increasingly exposed to all sorts of hazardous materials (besides bullets, knives, clubs, etc.), often with little time to get suited up. Please take these risks seriously. You never know what you're walking into next. Ever been to a meth lab? 'Nuff said!