Well, I’ve completed my tour of duty at SHOT this year, and I’m happy to be done with it. If you want to see all of my SHOT Show 2022 coverage, use the “shotshow2022” tag. Here’s some overall thoughts about trends and other things:
There were a lot of attendees, but there were a lot of missing exhibitors: Sig, Beretta, Ruger, and so on pulling out was a pretty big hit to the show floor. But even outside of these entities, there were a lot of smaller exhibitors who didn’t make it. One or two tried the “we pulled out because of the mask mandate”, but this is simply farcical: the mask mandate was in full effect when they signed up, and they knew it. It was plastered all over the signup paperwork. Claiming that they were taking a stand when they agreed to comply with the requirement in the first place is somewhere between disingenuous and dishonest.
The reality is that the bigger companies had serious concerns about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, and they pulled out for various health and liability reasons, not because of any mandates. Masking was in evidence on the show floor, but it was uneven, and enforcement was somewhat lackadaisical – it wasn’t like they were pulling the badges of people they found without masks. If I had not recovered from Omicron a mere week before SHOT, I might have had some serious concerns myself. Maybe the masks will help with SHOT crud avoidance… that would be good.
AR-15++: There are more and more companies offering AR-15s and AR-9s with substantial internal operating system improvements, such as MEAN Arms roller-delayed system and the various bufferless systems floating around the show floor. I expect that within a decade, the “standard” AR-15 we have today will be relegated to more budget builds. This is not to imply I think “direct impingement” will be gone, though.
Bolt-guns are getting even more crowded: Aero’s getting in the game with a 700 action and a chassis. American Defense Manufacturing has a new chassis. Bushmaster has their AR-308-esque straight pull system. Remington will be producing the 700 again. It feels like everyone wants in on manual-action rifles. I don’t really see the increasingly-urbanized market going in on this, and I wonder if we’ll see a dramatic correction within the next couple years.
5.7×28 is the new hotness: I guess NATO standardization kicked off some kind of industry trend, because it sure seems like everyone wants in on that sweet, sweet 5.7×28 action. PSA’s got something, Kel-Tec’s doubling down, the AR-57 is back, CMMG’s got a rifle, FN was showing off the PS90, etc. I personally don’t get it, but people must be buying these guns… right? Didn’t the Internet decide years ago that 5.7 in non-AP format was kind of a pointless round that had inadequate terminal ballistics?
30 Super Carry is DOA: The thing that a lot of people do not understand about the firearms industry is how easy it is for the big companies to generate a hype wave by just throwing money in the pool. Fly out some gun journalists for demos in some nice spot, send out T&E guns and ammo, gin up a couple minor strategic alliances, and issue press releases like crazy. This happened with 224 Valkyrie (Federal’s brainchild) and now it’s happening 30 Super Carry (another Federal invention). I’m not saying 30 Super Carry is even bad, but this is a thing that no one asked for and I would suggest that no one really wanted. We’re going to see some products now and then zero follow-on when it turns out very few people buy them.
 If any vendors want to send me somewhere nice, I’d be happy to accept, and for the record your product is fantastic. 🙂
Turkey is making waves: The Turkish manufacturers were out in full force, and their arms industry seems to be churning out progressively better product at a lower cost. Unfortunately for them, this is because the lira basically collapsed and is now worth half as much as it used to be a year ago. But Sarsilmasz, MKE, Girsan, Derya, and others are shedding the “cheap bad imports” image and giving American shooters some top quality gear at fantastic prices. I’ve heard the PSA MP5 imports from MKE are hitting record low prices, and that’s great news for American shooters.
Glock in a Stock: There were at least half a dozen “Glock in a Stock” (or brace, or chassis) systems out at the show. Again: who is buying this stuff, and why? If you’ve got a Glock SBR already like I do, you at least have the excuse of trying to make the best of a questionable decision. But just making your Glock heavier and throwing a brace on… why? The ATF is going to ban that soon enough. You know it. I know it. We all know it.
The LPVO space is getting competitive again: A week ago, I could have listed off every LPVO worth buying at every price point. Now… I’m not so sure. The Eotech 1-10x came out the gate with a very aggressive price point plus what appears to be very solid FFP illumination, and Blackhound’s stunner of a 1-6x with a fiber optic reticle – made in China – threw all that on its head. I know what my preferences are, but it’s clear that the competition is increasing fast.
Las Vegas is fun – embrace it: When I was here in 2020, I didn’t do much other than cover SHOT and go out for a quiet dinner with relatives in the evening. This time, I brought my wife and got out a bit. We saw some shows, did some tours, and had a pretty good time. I’m not saying you need to be out all night partying and gambling, but enjoying yourself while you’re out here is sensible to keep sane.
SHOT can survive, but probably not continuing like this: SHOT was good (not great) this year, but so many major manufacturers pulling out of the show at the last minute definitely reduced the value to journalists, even terrible amateurs like myself. If I can’t talk to reps for the inside scoop and go hands-on with the hot new releases before they hit retail, what’s the point? The solution is certainly not moving it to Florida or Texas. Not only is that unrealistic (NSSF signed a contract with the Venetian through like 2027), but it’s not addressing the real reasons that caused Beretta, Sig, Ruger, SiCo, etc. to pull out of the show. If anything, it might have made the situation worse. A few more smaller guys coming because there’s no mask mandate isn’t going to be an overall improvement if another big group drops out, or if the international manufacturers drop for fear they won’t be able to travel home – that’s the cold truth regardless of how you personally feel about mask mandates.
If the pandemic isn’t functionally over by about October 2022, NSSF needs to sit down and really understand what they need to do to make all these big manufacturers feel comfortable enough to come. This trip costs most of us non-trivial money, and the value proposition this year was teetering on the edge of “not worth it” – and the fact that many of the drop-outs happened very close to SHOT prevented people from changing their minds about coming (and perhaps saving some money). I don’t want to accuse NSSF of acting in bad faith, but some of their social media posts leading up to the show seemed completely unwilling to engage with the reality of what was going on. I guess that’s the hallmark of a good industry PR organization, but it did rub people the wrong way.