Photo by Brent T. Wheat // Drugstore sushi. Seriously. Only in Vegas.
Photo by Brent T. Wheat // Drugstore sushi. Seriously. Only in Vegas.

This week we’ll share a short travelogue of our adventures at the 2018 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in that humble and wholesome family town, Las Vegas.

For those unaware, the SHOT Show is one of the largest trade shows in the world and caters to those of us who write or sell things related to the gun and hunting business. We’ve been to more than 20 of these things and even today, the whole circus is utterly mind-blowing but overall, there is no better place to see the people, products and trends within the shooting industry.

For starters, I flew into Phoenix to visit friends and we then made our way to Sin City. Along the way, the drive on I-40 from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Kingman, Arizona, then Las Vegas through the Lake Mead National Recreation isn’t usually mentioned on tourism guides but it certainly should be. From Desert Mountains to sagebrush high prairie and then the incredibly dramatic vistas of Technicolor rocks along the Colorado River, the trip was spectacular in its own right.

There are several areas of red granite ‘dells’ that must have been designed by the Disney Company while the run-down, end-of-the-line homesteads in the desert are highly picturesque. My own favorite is the hardscrabble airport settlement south of Lake Mead where every home, travel trailer and adobe dwelling has a ramshackle hanger alongside.

Our first destination was the Boulder Gun Club shooting range complex near Boulder City, Nevada, home of the Hoover Dam. The gun range was the setting for the Industry Day, where exhibitors offer the opportunity to shoot their latest wares since the actual trade show doesn’t have such facilities.
Among all the other cool toys we fondled, the Ruger Security Nine pistol appears to be a real winner. It is a rather nondescript black striker-fired 9mm defensive pistol that is pretty lightweight and boasts all the typical bells and whistles of a modern defensive handgun. However, the big advantage is the price point: around $300. You might find a well-used Glock for that amount of saved lunch money but instead, you could have a first-quality, American-made, brand-new 9mm handgun. I think this will be a big seller for Ruger.

The next day we joined 60,000 of our friends as the show opened its doors. In no particular order of significance, here are some observations:

1) The coolest product overall was Buck Tracker Antler Recognition Technology by Spypoint game cameras. Using these cellular-based cameras, you can now be notified when a particular buck or doe visits your camera. It also works for several other game species and people also. Now you can be notified when that one particular buck, or trespassing neighbor, is tiptoeing through your woodlot.

2) I did a couple of media interviews and a common question was: How does the industry “feel” at this moment? The simple answer is “happy.” Nearly everyone from manufacturers to dealers to media agree that the current political and economic climate is good for shooting-related sports. Furthermore, there is a belief that things will continue strongly in this vein after a year of “correction” when pent-up demand had been already spent in the buying frenzy leading up to the last presidential election. Things have now returned to a more normal, albeit steadily upward, trend line.

3) The first night, after a really fine dinner courtesy of someone else’s expense account, we adjourned to The Strip for our favorite after-dinner activity: cigars while people-watching.  If you want to see every possibly variation of humanity, good and bad, spend an hour along Las Vegas Boulevard.  From shell-shocked families straight off the farm to hordes of Japanese tourist groups, dirty insane homeless people and the 50-year-old Michael Jackson impersonator who more closely resembled Your Faithful Correspondent than Mr. Jackson, you can see it all.

4) You can also buy Sushi at the Walgreens Drug Store.

5) But I wouldn't

While the focus of this column is ostensibly the “outdoors,” we must conclude our brief narrative with a note from our visit to the downtown “Old Vegas” Fremont Street Experience.

In a weird town, this is the ground zero of strange. Aside from the standard-issue tourists of every stripe, you can throw in hustlers, partially-clad street performers of infinite variety, attractive show girls, drunks and two flummoxed gun writers. After a few minutes I told my buddy that it was conclusive: we had stumbled upon the fourth level of Hell.

In a few blocks, we saw: a topless nun, a man wearing only an adult diaper, another “street performer” who would allow you to kick him between the legs for $10 and two very buff male dancers performing an act on an elderly grandmother that was likely illegal and definitely unsanitary.
Of course, grandma was smiling from ear-to-ear.

Viva Las Vegas!