I know I did this last year - didn't go back and read, of course, because I'm an idiot, but I'm going to do it again, anyways. Here's a rundown of what worked and what didn't work for me at the 2013 SHOT Show:
There's no way to get around it; it's a long way from Massachusetts to Las Vegas. I'm going to spend all of one day getting down there and one getting back. As it turned out, this year I really hit the jackpot: my flight down left at a reasonable hour and got me to my hotel at a decent time. Hard to argue with the outgoing flight. I think the flight left at 1:50 PM EST and touched down at 6:40 PM Vegas time - I lucked out and got a flight where I didn't have to switch planes, so there was minimal time between flights. A direct flight would have been preferable, but all the direct flights were easily double the cost.
ALSO: BOOK EARLY. I definitely waited too long to book the flight down. I booked mid-December, and wound up paying about $150 more than had I booked back in October when I first started looking. Additionally, flying Southwest is both good and bad - the two free checked bags is AWESOME; the cattle-car general admission seating is not. Might be worth ponying up the extra $10 for better seats next time if SW is priced in line with other carriers.
The flight home really sucks, because the time zones are working against you. I was picked up at the hotel at 6:10 Vegas time, and my return flight into Boston is scheduled to land at 7:40 PM EST. By the time I get my luggage out of hock and drive home it'll be close to 9PM. Even with the time change, that's well over 12 hours of travel time. That's more time than I spent driving to the NRA convention in Pittsburgh...
Last year we stayed as a family in one of the deluxe tower rooms at the Luxor. It had two separate sleeping areas and an in-room hot tub, which was nice considering that we had the whole family there, but certainly not necessary for me traveling alone. The hotel is decent and clean, but certainly dated; there were some cosmetic blemishes here and there but it wasn't too bad. Navigating was a little on the difficult side, and it was over 2 miles from the Sands Convention Center. I did walk the length once, but overall I took the (free) convention bus - which is somewhat limiting.
This year I stayed at the Imperial Palace / Quad hotel. Reading comments and talking to folks who know Vegas better than I was a little nervous before hand, but after having stayed there I'd go back again. The room was clean, the same comment about the Luxor applies in regards to cosmetics, but the water in the shower was hot and the room was certainly adequate for my needs. You have to pay for internet, as in the Luxor; however the Quad had wi-fi, whereas the Luxor only had an ethernet cable. The location was EXCELLENT - it was a 10 minute walk to the Sands, easy - so close that I could walk back to the hotel mid-day if I wanted.
Media Day at the Range:
This one's a little tougher. Because they split the group into morning and afternoon sections, as well as the temperature hovering somewhere around "Dark Side of the moon", by the time those of us in the afternoon group arrived there were a lot of exhibitors that had packed up already. We didn't get off the bus (we were the first group out, too) until 1:30, and a good number of exhibitors started packing things in at 3:00. There's a LOT to cover at Media Day - last year the whole day was open and I still didn't see everything - and an hour and a half is nowhere near enough time to cover everything.
If next year's Media Day is run the same as this year, I may elect to pass rather than cram everything into the afternoon session. Unless I can figure out a way to get one of the coveted AM invites, that is...
As far as the actual event, it's always a great time - how can you go wrong shooting ammo you don't have to pay for out of guns you don't have to clean - but from a media perspective it was barely worth the time. I hardly got any pictures from the event and no video; and only got to shoot a small handful of guns. Now, I did get to dual-wield custom 1911s (more on this later, have no fear), shoot a Deagle in 50 AE (meh), and hit a 4" steel plate at 75 yards - with an air rifle - so there was a bright side.
The show itself is run well and I have no complaints there. The press room is well-appointed, with soda and coffee available all day long, and plenty of workspace (most with working power outlets!). It's open an hour ahead of the show, so each day I'd be in the press room at opening time, spend an hour getting posts ready (and drinking coffee), and then hit the floor. Two or three times during the day I'd head back to the press room to post something new, check e-mail, etc. and just got off my feet.
As for walking the floor, I need to have a better plan for next year. What I'd like to do is take the first day and hit specific vendors, take the second day and walk the main floor (where most of the gun manufacturers are located); hit more specific vendors on the third day; and spend the last day on the bottom level and any last appointments. DEFINITELY want to stay through Friday next year, even if the hotel will cost more than 2X the weekday rate. Missing a quarter of the show time severely limits the time available for reporting on the goings-on.
One of the things that did work this year was specifically targeting new items. From the Springfield XDs 9mm to the Ruger SR45 (and many others), there are a lot of new products on the show floor. There will be dedicated displays for new items in just about every booth; so those areas should be the first places to check out when looking at a vendor's booth (obviously this applies more towards the major manufacturers and not the boutique and custom shops).
I need to make better use of the SHOT Show tools next year - there's a free app for the iPhone that gives all sorts of great information, from which vendors are where to planning out which vendors you'd like to visit. Since my iPhone is always handy, it would make lots of sense to better utilize this resource so that I'm not running around like a kid in a candy store. Well, no more so than usual.
One of the best things about SHOT Show, though, is that it makes the NRA Convention look almost manageable...
That is all.
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