LAS VEGAS – This SHOT Show was one for the record books.
After recently spending multiple days walking the show that took up more than 600,000 square feet of the Sands Expo and Convention Center, I came away with one prevailing affirmation: The shooting, hunting and outdoor trades continue to thrive.
As the country’s economic outlook rises, it’s safe to say that business is booming.
The show, owned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, is the largest trade show of its kind in the world and this year featured about 1,600 exhibitors and more than 60,000 attendees from every state and more than 100 countries. NSSF is the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry, and revenues from the show support its programs that carry out a mission of promoting, protecting and preserving hunting and the shooting sports.
The sheer dimensions of the event almost can’t be put into words, but there were three facets related to the industry as a whole that I brought back.
The industry is recession-proof: Steve Sanetti, president of the NSSF, and other officials noted that the shooting industry, a more than $4 billion enterprise, has experienced a year and a half of monthly growth, based on National Instant Criminal Background Check statistics. Simply put, more folks than ever are going through the process to buy guns, even if they ultimately don’t.
Another indicator pointing to a growth in gun sales are federal excise taxes collected on the sale of new firearms and ammunition. Those have risen about 48 percent during the past five years.
NSSF membership, another smaller indicator of industry success, has surpassed a record 7,000 and includes firearms and ammunition manufacturers, wholesalers, importers, retailers, shooting ranges, gun clubs, conservation groups, outdoor media and safety instructors. Reports also point to an increased demand for concealed carry permits and for seminars such as NSSF’s First Shots program, which is designed with the novice shooter in mind.
Tactical is taking over: When Glock representatives attended their first SHOT Show in 1987, corrosion-resistant plastic and lightweight polymers were the exception rather than the norm in the firearms industry.
Today, the tables have turned.
From hunting and sport shooting to self-defense and plinking, manufacturers increasingly are designing firearms that mirror what those who serve and defend our country and community carry every day. Polymers and composites continue to be used on a global scale, and consumers worldwide are buying into new designs that offer stark differences from what was on shelves even a generation ago.
There were a number of inventive offerings from U.S. companies but there also were as many from the likes of Germany and Japan, highlighting an arms race of sorts that only will continue to fuel industry innovation, which always is a good thing.
Outdoor companies are targeting women: The days of simply slapping a shade of pink on something and expecting it would appeal to female consumers are over. It’s not like that was ever really a good marketing approach anyway, and in fact, all it did was portray a negative stereotype.
More in the industry quickly are learning that women are no different than men when it comes to gear – they want functionality and affordability – and they’re willing to pay for it. Female participation in outdoor pursuits still lags when compared with the overall number of men going afield, but don’t tell that to the numerous companies that cater to women. There are now more manufacturers than ever that have entire lines of products with females in mind, and that figure only will rise.
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E-duck stamp: The House approved legislation last week regarding the federal duck stamp, which would allow the secretary of the interior the permanent authority to allow states to issue the stamps electronically. The legislation would extend an expired pilot program that allowed eight states, including Texas, to issue the stamps in this manner.
The duck stamp was authorized in 1934 as the federal license required to hunt migratory waterfowl, but it has evolved into a vital tool in the funding of conservation efforts, with more than $750 million generated in the past nine decades. Ninety-eight cents of every dollar generated in duck stamp sales goes to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the national wildlife refuge system.
The stamps also give birders and others free access to the country’s wildlife refuges and also may be purchased at post offices.
It again is proof that hunters indeed are the best conservationists.
Will Leschper’s work has been recognized by the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Texas Outdoor Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter and at Will Leschper Outdoors.