Praise the Lord, I made it home alive and healthy. Last year's trip to SHOT Show left me with flu-like symptoms and an overwhelming desire to put myself into a two week NyQuil coma.
But not this time.
So, without further ado, here is my after action report from the 2014 SHOT Show - the world's largest gathering of guns, gear and industry ne'er-do-wells...such as yours truly
Same Old, Same Old:
In talking to various friends on the show floor, as well as my distinguished colleagues here at the Outdoor Wire Digital Network, this year's SHOT Show seemed to fall into the category of 'Same Old, Same Old.' That's not to say there weren't plenty of new products. It's just that they weren't big standouts. Mostly variations on a theme. You know SHOT Show is hopping when the first thing a person says to you is, "Have you seen XYZ?" Nobody I came across hit me with the particular query. Perhaps next year will see a flood of new, standout products. Or maybe I'll just be a little less jaded and get all school girl giddy about an old gun with a new camo pattern.
Safariland & Wesson...Huh?:
No, the 160-whatever year old company didn't change its name. They did however add to their shooting team. Bobby McGee has signed with the S&W shooting squad and will be campaigning for the blue team. Of course, his jersey might not have a ton of blue in it since he works for Safariland.
In addition to being an accomplished shooter, Bobby is also a holster designer with a fairly strong track record. After leaving Blade-Tech a couple years ago, Bobby found his way to Ontario, Calif. and the corporate home of Safariland where he's been focusing on a variety of new products, including a line of gear for the IDPA shooter. And it's in IDPA matches where you can expect to see Bobby spending most of his time...shooting for Team Smith & Wesson...err, ah, Team Safariland...I mean S&W...no, Safariland.
Oh crap! Just call it Team Safariland & Wesson when talking about Bobby McGee and we'll know what you mean.
Make Your Sponsored Shooters Feel...Wanted:
S&W's Paul Pluff (left) welcomes Bobby McGee to Team Smith & Wesson. Just don't expect McGee to ditch that Team Safariland jersey. It's his employer, after all. Photo by P. Erhardt
One of the more interesting conversations I had came on the final day when I chatted with Matt Duff. Not familiar with Matt? Maybe you heard of his wife, Jessie Duff. She's kind of a big deal.
We were in the Taurus booth waiting on Jessie and I asked about her relationship with her sponsors. Obviously with a shooter at Jessie's level money comes into play, but it's the working relationship with the sponsors that Matt said carries so much weight.
I know in talking to both Mark Kresser (CEO of Taurus) and Jessie that both are very happy with how their relationship has progressed. Kresser is very respectful of Jessie's time as she has other sponsors to address, several matches to attend, a TV show to host and, oh yeah, a husband named Matt who just might like to see her from time to time. Matt told me that they are equally concerned about not taking advantage of Taurus' generosity.
Jessie recently signed with Uncle Mike's and will be, among other things, working on designing competitions holsters for them. Previously she had been with Safariland. Now, it's important for me to point out that this change does not reflect negatively, in any way, on Safariland. Their shooting team has a stellar reputation and to my knowledge I have never crossed paths with anybody who had a bad word to say about being associated with Team Safariland. And frankly, from my experience with them I'd find it hard to believe if they did complain. In Jessie's case, it was just too good an offer to walk away from.
According to Matt, the Uncle Mike's opportunity presented to Jessie was one where the manufacturer sought her out and courted her to join their brand. Money talks, but so too does an arrangement where one is asked to contribute their talents at a greater level. Oddly enough I heard the exact same thing Friday night at Michael Bane's world famous SHOT Show after party. Another female shooter that switched teams expressed how she had a greater sense of being valued by her new sponsor. That they really, genuinely wanted her. And to her, that meant a great deal.
The lesson I took away from this was that companies need to broaden their approach to handling sponsored shooters in order to maximize the value of those relationships. And, of course, the shooter has to be willing to invest the same from their side of the equation.
This dynamic is something that companies will want to watch closely as they develop sponsorship deals and branding relationships going forward.
West Coast Steel Don't Rust:
I ran into Jim O'Young on the show floor and talked briefly about the the West Coast Steel Championships. Once the home of the famed Steel Challenge (Piru, Calif.) and previously known as the West's regional Steel Challenge event, the match this year is cutting all ties with the Steel Challenge.
While hopes were high that the Steel Challenge would flourish under new leadership when Mike Dalton and Mike Fichman sold the Steel Challenge to USPSA
in 2007, the reality is that it fell well short. Despite a very promising future the Steel Challenge has languished losing both competitors and major sponsors.
The one bright spot has been the West Coast match which has steadily grown in number of competitors and sponsors. It's grown so much so that it is likely to supplant the Steel Challenge World Speed Shooting Championship altogether. If Jim O'Young's list of sponsors is any indiction, the industry sees it that way as well.
Finally, as you may remember I stated my hatred for the SHOT Show and fell short of declaring open war on the event after I lost my way on the main floor. To add insult the injury I was ridiculed by an amazingly unsympathetic NSSF staff. As I contemplated my revenge, and the Teddy K-esque manifesto that would proceed it, SHOT Show issued an official apology. NSSF's Laura Springer tweeted, "and I'm sorry for being mean to @PaulErhardt earlier today."
Folks, that's clearly a 100% bonafide O-FFIC-IAL apology, if ever I saw one. And I'm gracious enough to accept it, not just for me, but on behalf of the hundreds (if not thousands) who no doubt suffered a similar fate.
Dear SHOT Show, apology accepted.
- Paul Erhardt, Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network
Got shooting sports news? Send us an email at email@example.com.