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SHOT Show review 1995: the shooting industry shines in glitter city.

The 1995 SHOT Show in Las Vegas lived up to its top billing as the Show Of Shows of the shooting industry. The gathering at the Las Vegas Convention Center Jan 19 - 22 set records in attendance. Dealers, 17,510 of them, crowded the showroom, floor, joining thousands of manufacturers, distributors and other industry professionals. In all, more than 29,600 attended the show, a 14 percent increase over the 1994 Dallas show.

The overall mood of the show was upbeat and while few predicted a sales year like 1994, most of those in attendance believe 1995 will be a good year overall for the industry.

"We don't expect the type of buying we saw in 1993 and '94" said Ken Jorgensen, of Smith & Wesson. "This is the year we'll get back to business as usual. Customers will be more discerning in the firearms they'll be buying. They'll be looking for value, instead of buying the first gun that's available. Overall, we're guardedly optimistic about 1995."

Reflecting predictions that much of 1995 sales will be in accessories, manufacturers with non-gun items did an especially brisk business. Those booths that always seemed to be crowded with dealers included Buck Knives, Winchester Ammunition, Hodgdon, Blount, Hornady, Bianchi, Galco, Bausch & Lomb and Swarovski.

"We've started the year off strong," said Kevin Howard, of Winchester Ammo, "and we see a strong year across the board for all calibers of ammunition. I think the upbeat mood of tile SHOT Show is good for the industry. It shows that there is a positive future."

"It was a great four days,' said Dick Fern, of Guns Galore, Fenton, Mich. "In fact, it was too short. It should have been a week long. The most impressive firearm I saw was the SHOT Show Special from Remington, the 1100 12-Gauge Field Gun. I ordered a bunch of them. I also bought some Sweeney (Enterprises) Game Feeders. The Browning 425 Sporting Clays and their new bolt-action (A-Bolt) shotgun also caught my attention. I also got some of Smith & Wesson's new 629s, that new Mountain Gun.

"Everyone definitely had a positive attitude and I think we'll have a good year, but it won't be like 1994. We've already seen a decline in the number of handguns we've sold. but there's been an increase in rifle and shotgun sales."

A year of record sales and the changing of the guard in Congress were credited with much of the upbeat mood at the show. However, many still were concerned about the next move of anti-gun organizations. The call to continue the fight was sounded loudest at the American Shooting Sports Council (ASSC) meeting held on Saturday at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

"Now is the time to press our attack," said Mike Saporito, ASSC chairman. "The threat to our industry has not gone away. We have a lot of work to do at the national, state and local level"

Eddie Mahe, of the Eddie Mahe company, who has helped direct the ASSC's political battles, also made it clear the fight is not over.

"Our opposition is dedicated and they have a mission. It is to do away with private ownership of guns. If you don't believe that, you are deceiving yourself. It has nothing to do with handguns or Saturday Night Specials. They want all weapons eliminated from this country."

Remington took another giant step into the political arena during the SHOT Show. The company announced it has established the Remington Arms Political Action Committee (REMPAC).

"At Remington, we don't accept the politically-popular notion that guns are the source of crime problems and that gun control is the solution to those problems," said Thomas Millner, Remington's president and chief operating officer. "REMPAC will be an important tool to help us make sure that Congress understands that position, along with the positive contributions made by hunters, shooters and the firearms industry to the nation's economy"

There were no "Headline-Grabbing" new guns at the show. The 10-round magazine law has tempered the growth in high-capacity semi-autos, but there were still some interesting new offerings including Springfield's new Ultra-Compact semi-autos in .45 ACP. Browning's A-Bolt Shotgun with its fully rifled barrel turned a lot of heads along with Winchester's Model 1300 Deer Shotgun with rifled barrel.

There was an air of excitement at the Colt booth, or perhaps is was a sigh of relief from not being under the threat of going out of business. Colt emerged from bankruptcy on Sept. 28, 1994.

"It has made a big difference in the way we operate," said Jeff Crute, vice president of sales and marketing. "We can now direct all our creative energy into developing new products and improving our present firearms instead of struggling day-to-day just to stay in business. For the first time in years we're upgrading equipment and putting money into research and development."

There appears to be an explosive trend underway in the marketing of clothing bearing a manufacturer's name. Signature clothing is now a big pan of the marketing strategy of Browning, Colt, Smith & Wesson and Springfield. Even Bianchi is flying its colors on new polo and T-shirts, shooting caps and a flashy red and black racing jacket.

Technology continues to make advances into the shooting industry. Bausch & Lomb's Night Rangers, Swarovski's new laser range finding riflescope, Brunton's range-finding InteliOptics and Ranging's range-finding LaseRange all drew interest. In the global positioning systems business, Garmin has joined the fray. With their GPS 40 Personal Navigator, they will be competing for those customers who "must have" the latest high-tech gear.

The 1995 SHOT Show was a dazzling success, setting the tone for an aggressive year in the shooting industry. Next year's show will be held Jan. 11 - 14 in Dallas.
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Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Thurman, Russ
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Mar 1, 1995
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