An Account of My First SHOT Show

I departed Austin, Texas on Sunday the 21st in a Xanax-fueled daze. After my first pill kicked in I forgot I’d already taken it. So I took a second one, reserved for the return flight. I haven’t taken this sort of stuff in years so my tolerance is apparently very low. Needless to say . . .

I had a stress-free flight. With Van Morrison in my headphones and Iceberg Slim’s Pimp in my hands I was in Sin City before I knew it. Literally.

I met Robert and Jeremy at Airport Van Rental, a dingy off-site operation as far removed from a hi-tech Avis counter as, say, a soccer mom minivan is from an MRAP. As head of logistics, Jeremy had reserved us a Dodge Caravan (not exactly the “badass TTAG tactical vehicle” as described in his e-mail). From the look of the lot they weren’t in high demand.

Jeremy immediately drove us to a sketchy looking neighborhood close to the airport. Although they swear they did, Jeremy and Robert refused to tell me what we were doing parked in front of a suburban crack house.

The house was stocked with beer, food, a bunch of guys who looked like they’d enjoyed both, a lot, and more than a few ZERODelta Genesis Z9 pistols. My SHOT Show had started without me even knowing it.

After snapping a few pictures of Robert filming Jeremy making love to a table while filming the ZRODelta guys demonstrating the features of the Genesis Z9, we headed to the Venetian. The TTAG crew settled into a pair 11th floor suites which would function as our headquarters for the week.

Jeremy, who’s spent seven weeks jailed in the Venetian for various corporate conclaves, would function as our navigator.

The day before the main SHOT Show floor opened in the Sands Convention center, the TTAG team trooped about 45 minutes into the desert to SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range.

The gun range is massive. There were shooting bays as far as the [desert sun-blinded] eye could see. The rifle lanes sat on the top of the hill, with targets out 1,000 yards. The trap ranges were trapped behind appropriately-named food trucks, like Strip Cheese.

I made a quick lap around the range to get my bearings. I kept a lookout for new bolt-action rifles or shotguns, my assigned area of coverage.

My first stop: the IWI tent.

I had to shoot the new Tavor TS12 bullpup shotgun before the line grew longer.

Winchester brought a WWII era M1 Garand for a new writer to test their new line of old ammo.

The Kel-Tec KSG-25 was fun . . . for a while. After 10 rounds I was ready to move on. Jeremy, not as much.

The RDB-S was light, easy to maneuver, comfortable and pretty much beaten to death with an ugly stick. We are working on getting one to review. I think I’ll wear gloves.

FightLite had a full-auto MCR (and their Raider). I got to shoot a short belt through it. Recoil was minimal and controllable. F*ck the NFA.

The recoil generated by the FightLite Raider was way less than I expected from such a small pistol. Not surprisingly, it is loud. Very loud.

John Baker of Axeon Optic Solutions with his custom-built hyper-accurate bolt gun, dressed for winter.

I shot a mag through the Franklin Armory Reformation with their Binary trigger. I either liked it or didn’t. For around $2,000 it will shoot factory ammo around four MOA. If you want closer to one MOA you will need to buy their fin-stabilized ammo, which I doubt will be easy to find. Or affordable.

So, $2,000 for an inaccurate not-an-SBR that prefers proprietary ammo or $1,000 or so plus $200 for an SBR or just get a brace-equipped “pistol.” Discuss.

Tactical dogs need tactical eyewear, apparently.

Who doesn’t want a 40-round magazine full of 12 gauge?

The TTAG team piled into the Caravan and headed for dinner. After Thai-ing one on, we explored the Sands convention center. The security guards blocked access to the show floor. A quick peek revealed enough pallets and crates to occupy an army of top men. Top men.

The first order of business on the first day of SHOT Show: Franklin Armory’s press conference. I needed details on their new Reformation firearm (though Ron was assigned to cover ARs), a much-hyped non-NFA short-barreled AR-looking gun.

The Reformation turned out to be an AR-15 with an 11.5″ barrel with straight lands and grooves. The ATF doesn’t consider this rifling so it’s not a rifle so it’s not a short barreled rifle so it’s not subject to the NFA. Nor my interest.

The next few days I walked an average of eight miles per day elbowing past 60,000 other show attendees trying to see 1,760 exhibitors occupying over 645,000 square feet of floor space. SHOT Show is split up on five levels.

The first level, which we called the basement even though it wasn’t a basement, contained mostly smaller manufactures, law enforcement specific suppliers, and the new product center.

The main SHOT Show floor is on the second level. This floor houses all the major manufactures. The crowds here were dense and endless.

If a booth was giving away products or having a celebrity appearance, the entire area around the booth was impassable. The amount of effort people exerted to get a free sticker or patch was unbelievable.

The third level of SHOT housed the press room and NEXT, a hallway packed end-to-end with manufacturers that are still on the waitlist to get a “real booth” on the first or second level of the show. This is a great area to find start-ups with new, unique, and sometimes silly products (last year’s NEXT silly product, this year’s. No offense).

The fourth level of SHOT Show was reserved for education seminars on executive management, law enforcement education, retail management and other industry related issues.

The fifth floor housed the supplier showcase. For the first two days of SHOT Show, OEM suppliers along with designers, machine and material suppliers highlighted their capabilities.

Most of my time during the day was spent running between the show floor and the press room.

I’d move from booth to booth asking exhibitors if they had any new products. I’d grab a few quick pictures, get some basic information and move on.

After I had a few products to blog about I’d return to the pressroom, write them up, then head back to the show floor. This process continued for the next three days. By the last day of the show I was exhausted and mentally drained.

A North Face backpack I have had for almost half my life functioned as a brochure depository. A collection which grew continually. Seen above is just about half of the brochures I’d assembled at the end of the show, and I was trying not to take brochures.

Unfortunately our resident Pinballer, Robert, had to leave the show early to take care of his flu-riddled daughter, so Jeremy was responsible for testing the Real Tree pinball machine. Review probably not pending (though just try and talk RF out of it).

By the last day of the show the long lines and dense crowds had taken their toll on everyone. My brain stopped functioning around 2:00 PM Thursday afternoon, which, thankfully, was after I had talked Jeremy into putting the machete down.

By Friday I was glad the show was over. At the same time I knew I’d miss being around so many like-minded people and cool gear.

The flight home was not fun.


  1. avatar hillbillyjew says:

    So you effectively roofied yourself, made fun of a neighborhood you know nothing about, and proved that you’re not too great at summarizing your experiences. If we’re lucky, this will also be your last Shot Show.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      And if we’re lucky, this will be your last comment.

      I liked it. It summarized the show, or at least part of it. No one can be expected to hit every point that’s of interest to every person. That’s why there are multiple articles.

      The Reformation is interesting. Not interesting in a way that makes me want one, but interesting nonetheless.

      As a relatively recent Garand owner (twice, even), the Winchester .30-06 ammo interests me more.

      1. avatar Dev says:

        While the first poster has an offensive name designed to troll and a few idiot comments, I agree with the idea that describing drug abuse in a firearm related article is a really bad idea. I stopped reading after that first paragraph.

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          If he has a serious anxiety issue with flying then it’s not drug abuse in any way. In that case it’s exactly the kind of thing Xanax was meant for.

          It’s also safer for him (and easier on his liver) and for everyone else than pounding down a bunch of booze before getting on the plane.

        2. avatar hillbillyjew says:

          I can see your concern with my name. But I’m truly Jewish. And a hillbilly by all accounts. Been rockin’ that handle long before trolling was trolling. I appreciate you denouncing drug abuse along with me though. Xanax has ruined some lives around my parts. He forgot he took the first one because Xanax makes you forget short term and long term. Doctor prescribed is an unfortunate description for a terrible substances.

        3. avatar Matt in FL says:

          I feel like terming it “drug abuse” is stretching the point. A lot.

          If I take two Excedrin, and then take two more, either on purpose or by accident, is that drug abuse? And no, I don’t think Xanax being a controlled substance changes the answer.

        4. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          The neighborhood WAS sketchy, and we entered from the extra sketchy side. The house they were renting was quite nice and so were the homes on either side of it, but everything around them was rundown, abandoned, people loitering around, etc. I thought the GPS had taken us to the wrong place, and since Chris had absolutely no idea why we weren’t going straight to the Venetian I think his concern was very well justified haha. Plus when we deviated from going towards The Strip I may have told him we were scoring hookers and drugs first, and then the feel of the area really fit into the joke all too well.

        5. avatar Muhammad says:

          I also thought the whole Xanax thing was stupid, and not the kind of thing I like to read about from a gun guy. Then in the next paragraph it’s alcohol and guns at the crack house.

          your not helping us dude, I’m with the Jewish guy on this one.

        6. avatar Em says:

          I liked the article. Bookending it with x2 xanax at the beginning and then not having any for the return flight was funny. As far as sketch neighborhoods go, you have to go to Summerlin to find the nice crack houses.

        7. avatar Chris says:

          As somebody who takes benzodiazepines for anxiety/panic disorder, I can fill in: Xanax is prescribed for people who are afraid of flying. It has a very short halflife and only lasts about 2-3 hours. Comparing alprazolam to rohypnol is apples and oranges, roofies aren’t even legal in the united states. What he took for this purpose has nothing to do with his review of a gun show that happened later because the effects would have worn off by then. He says he hasn’t taken it in years, I can reasonably conclude he isn’t a drug addict and used it for its intended purpose. You guys are making a strawman out of nothing, it would have been no different had he stopped at the airport bar for a couple of shots before his flight.

        8. avatar NateInPA says:

          So what I gather from this is, because you have an aversion to dr. prescribed medication and tipping back a few cold ones…no one should imbibe.

        9. avatar John E> says:

          Rohypnol is legal and often prescribed for narcolepsy. My dog ate 4 Xanax off of the counter. Other than being exceptionally loopy for an hour, and sleeping the whole night through there were no other side effects.

      2. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

        HeY Matt! Glad to see you’re still around.

        The vintage ammo really piques my interest as well. Sometimes I don’t want to reload and would just like to buy a few boxes of ammo. Getting ought-six ammo for a Garand can be trying. Love shooting mine.

      3. avatar Chris Heuss says:

        The Winchester rep told me the WWII ammo will be a limited run unless the demand is high enough. I hope enough people buy it to justify continued production.

        The best thing about the Reformation is the middle finger it waves at the NFA. Which is pretty cool.

        1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

          Thanks Chris. Might have to pick up a few cases then. I’m down to my last 2 spam cans of ball.

      4. avatar Ansel Hazen says:

        I liked it too. I got a sense of how crazy it must be to be at something so big. You can’t disgorge the entire thing in one shot. I bet this will provide material to write about for a long time.

      5. avatar Sean in Tampa says:

        Here, here.

        1. avatar jug says:

          Sorry, but the correct term is: “Hear, hear!”

      6. avatar Accur81 says:

        Nice article and glad you enjoyed the show.

    2. avatar ironicatbest says:

      Gee whiz. I thot the article good, some tongue in cheek, humor. And I enjoyed seeing pictures of the guys that put up these articles. Makes reading there stuff more face to face.

      1. avatar Red in CO says:

        Couldn’t have said it better myself

        1. avatar Scoutino says:

          Sure you could. You could have used “thought” and “their” for example. 😁

    3. avatar Xander says:

      I remember when people went to great length to hide the fact they couldn’t deal with life and took anxiety meds — now people will post that fact for the world to see and joke about it.

      It also seems that all of those mass shootings started about the same time as anxiety meds became popular… but that’s a different topic.

      1. avatar ironicatbest says:

        . I don’t use any drugs for anxiety, not since I took someone’s advice on here and adjusted my tin foil hat to 9° which strangely is the exact temperature outside right now. Damn it’s cold

      2. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Oh, you mean when the violent crime rate was up and the murder rate was almost double? Yeah, the good old days…

      3. avatar Em says:

        Well bless your heart, the ladies at the Temperance League must adore you.

  2. avatar strych9 says:

    Heh, crowds will get to you. When I covered ComicCon Denver I was surprised how tired I was by the end of the second day. You don’t feel like you’re doing that much when you’re doing it but when you stop moving/check your FitBit you realize you’ve actually done a lot of moving and that it’s made worse by having to fight through the crowds.

    Nice that you could work some humor in, well done.

    Sucks that you have issues with flying to the point that you need to take serious benzos to do it but hey, at least your more functional than my friend’s wife. She drinks like half a fifth of top shelf Scotch before getting on a plane…

  3. Nice report! It gave me a feel for the big event better than anything I’ve read before.

    1. avatar Defens says:

      Hey Mike! Nice to see you.

  4. avatar Geoff PR says:

    “By the last day of the show the long lines and dense crowds had taken their toll on everyone. My brain stopped functioning around 2:00 PM Thursday afternoon,…”

    That’s the bad thing about mega-shows like that, there’s too much of it.

    The data dump on your brain gets you burned out. That’s bad for the booths in the far corners of the show.

    It starts to no longer register as “Now that’s cool!” when the big boys pay extra to be seen first on the show floor…

    (EDIT – Holy crap. The Eagles won. I sure wasn’t expecting that outcome. I hope the Philly cops greased every streetlight pole while the famously calm and rational Philly fans tear Philly to shreds…)

    1. avatar Marc says:

      Just won $900 on that final score, thank you very much!

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        I do believe this Tweet is my *favorite* :

        “This kind of teamwork to get the kegs over the fences is why they call it the city of brotherly love”

        *snicker* 😉

        A whole lot more recorded fan mayhem here :

  5. avatar former water walker says:

    Good report…yeah it was a good Superbowl. Didn’t care who won.

    1. avatar neiowa says:

      Someone somewhere is still watching the NFL children play their kiddy game?

  6. avatar Jeremy S. says:

    The table says she’s pregnant. Ugh. Freaking Vegas.

  7. avatar Chris says:

    Looks like a porn convention, it’s just a bunch of hairy guys in various states of baldness. This is why I never leave the house anymore.

  8. avatar Xander says:

    As someone who has flown on a weekly basis for decades, I’m continually amazed at the growing number of people who can’t fly without help — chemical or otherwise. I had someone sitting next to me on a flight to Orlando pop a Xanax and then tell me about how he was planning to ride all the thrill rides at Universal that evening.

    Everyone (myself included) has fears and phobias, sometimes irrational, but (proudly!) popping pills seems to be the way most people deal with problems these days … scary and sad.

    1. avatar ironicatbest says:

      I used to like to fly, but after watching a show about airlines maintenance procedures you’d have to knock me out like Mr T on the A Team series.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Maybe, but a bigger problem is self righteous douchebags that can’t shut up when they have no idea what they’re talking about.

      1. avatar hillbillyjew says:

        Not long ago, I was a purchasing manager with plenty of weeks put in at Vegas trade shows, so I thought my experience was relevant enough to chime in. I can understand coming down on me. I meant what I said, but came off as brash. I didn’t realize this was a safe space where critique isn’t welcome. I’ll try not to hurt anybody’s feelings next time.

        I can appreciate some folks chiming in on a positive note to make the author feel better, whether they’re his friends or coworkers. But calling the other guys also opposed to Xanax and Alcohol douchebags? I can only imagine how else you contribute to society.

        Xander hit more directly on a point that was only in the back of my mind. Do some searching on prescription or psychiatric drugs and mass shootings, if you haven’t already. Authoring these drugs in a positive light within a pro-firearms article might not be the best idea. I’d like to see us 2A folks get along, and not accidentally add drug fuel to the alleged gun fire. That’s all. My apologies.

    3. avatar Jim says:

      Be quiet already, you’re talking about a subject you clearly don’t understand. No one wants to read your uninformed ramblings.

      1. avatar Scoutino says:

        When did you buy this site from RF?

  9. avatar John Thayer says:

    We don’t particularly care about the way you see the world. We care about what you can offer to the world. You seem to think that the world revolves around yourself. It doesn’t.

  10. avatar Anymouse says:

    1) That’s a smatchet, not a machete. Your TTAK compatriots are probably rolling their eyes.

    2) My tomboy wife refuses to drive a minivan, so the Sienna is referred to as the “battlewagon.” Large sliding doors for easy ingress/egress and hard to block shut. Cut a hole in the roof, and you can have a pintle mounted M134 or a clear flight path for an 81mm mortar.

    1. avatar Scoutino says:

      My wife refuses to be seen in a minivan too. That’s why we had to buy Chevy Traverse. Same thing, without the practical stuff.

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