Attendees at the 38th annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show, commonly called SHOT Show, are a diverse bunch.
There were plenty of women present Tuesday, some children, too. And the men in attendance couldn't be lumped into any category or stereotype: They wore T-shirts and jeans, suits and ties or looked like they walked out of an episode of "Duck Dynasty."
But they all share a passion for the gun business.
The firearms industry trade show kicked off in Las Vegas for the 17th time Tuesday at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. More than 60,000 people are in town for the show, which runs through Friday.
The SHOT Show, which brings together manufacturers, dealers and other professionals, is the Sands Expo's largest show — there are more than 13 acres of floor space, on multiple levels, with 12.5 miles of booths and more than 1,600 exhibitors.
There were well-known products, from brands such as Glock and Smith & Wesson, and an entire floor, more or less, devoted to such law enforcement and military products as helmets, gloves, batons and bulletproof vests. One Las Vegas police officer seen wandering the floor said it was like Christmas for guys like him.
A main draw for gun store owners was the chance to handle the hundreds of new products on display.
Take the folding rifle stock made by first-time exhibitors Dead Foot Arms of Deerfield, Wisconsin. CEO Ted Schumacher complained about the long stock of the AR-15 he had to carry when he was deployed overseas. The stock, he said, would obstruct his view and movement in vehicles, and military personnel who grew tired of having the stock hang right by their faces would often fall into the bad habit of carrying the rifle away from their bodies.
But Dead Foot Arms' stock kit allows the stock to be folded down in a more manageable way, Schumacher said. If someone needed his rifle in an emergency, the gun could even be fired with the stock folded.
Developing the stock kit was a labor of love for the company, which is named for Schumacher's grandfather who lost a foot in World War II.
"Let's answer some of the problems we had. Let's make solutions," Schumacher said of the design process. "We engineered and re-engineered everything until we got exactly what we wanted."
There was also a line of multicolored birdshot rounds featured in the SHOT Show's new-product center. The product helps solve another basic problem by helping hunters know who killed which fowl.
Attendees lined up by the dozens to tinker with the new uses for light and affordable thermal-imaging gear featured by San Diego-based Torrey Pines Logic.
The company's Light Gun L10 was designed for the Air Force to give it a handheld lighting alternative to signal aircraft. The company also developed communication devices using light and optics — almost like infrared — which can be handy when there is radio frequency interference.
Torrey Pines Logic boasted a handheld thermal-imaging system that doesn't cost thousands of dollars. Besides the military applications for the Thermal Imager T12, the small-screened device could be a big opportunity for firefighters who could use heat-signature tech to monitor hot spots.
"These are so low-cost, you could make them standard issue," Torrey Pines Logic's Russell Purcell said.
The SHOT Show offered a different take on AR pistols, shorter versions of AR-15 style rifles that are classified as pistols and are gaining popularity, said Dave Saraiva of Florence, Massachusetts-based Yankee Hill Machine Co.
"It's the best of both worlds," he said. "They're very compact. You can really move around."
Von Davis, a product design engineer for Fayette, Missouri-based CMMG, said people want the look and durability of an AK-47 on other kinds of guns.
The young designer beamed with pride as he talked about his work on the Mk47 line, which basically combines the durability of an AK-47 and the accuracy of an AR-15. The platform was honored with a Golden Bullseye Award and was named Tactical Rifle of the Year by the National Rifle Association.
The Mk47 accepts AK-47 magazines and ammunition and really comes alive in full-auto mode, Davis said.
"I'm really proud of it," he said with a smile.
The Review-Journal is owned by the Adelson family, majority owners of Sands Expo and Convention Center operator Las Vegas Sands. Contact Wesley Juhl at firstname.lastname@example.org and 702-383-0391. Find him on Twitter: @WesJuhl