Men, some in business suits but others in camouflage-print shirts and khaki pants, cradled the semiautomatic shotguns in their arms.
Then, they yanked them right up to their cheeks, as if sighting in on prey.
Yet all they could do was dry fire.
Then, with dejected looks in their eyes, the men returned the unloaded firearms to their metal racks before moving on to the next booth.
The 2012 SHOT Show, which started Tuesday and runs through Friday, filled the Sands Expo and Convention Center with the who’s who in the firearms and outdoor industry. The trade show, produced by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, encompasses 630,000 square-feet of exhibit space and is expected to attract about 60,000 attendees and more than 2,000 members of the outdoor and mainstream media to check out the wares of more than 1,600 exhibitors — including gun maker Browning.
Blake Mecham, national accounts manager for Browning, said the company’s newly redesigned A5 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun has been a big attraction this year. The re-engineered gun looks the same as previous A5 models, but is lighter and has improved functionality, including a new choke tube system and kinematic drive.
Browning is looking to release it mid-year, with a manufacturers’ suggested retail price of $1,349.
"The reception has been well received," he said.
Down the exhibit hall a ways is Ruger, which is attracting a crowd with a new SR22 semiautomatic pistol and the bolt-action Ruger American Rifle. Lori Petoske, Ruger’s marketing and communications manager, said the new rifle will help open a new market segment for the manufacturer. The rifle will have an MSRP of $449, and will probably sell for about $350, Petoske said.
"The Ruger American rifle hits a lower price segment than we’ve had before," Petoske said. "With the economy the way that it is, everybody’s working off a budget."
Perhaps because of its willingness to reach out to new market segments, the gun industry seems to be doing well overall.
Browning’s Mecham said his company had an extra-strong fourth quarter in 2011, with the company’s sales up almost 20 percent over previous quarters.
At Ruger, things are also going well.
"2011 was a very strong year for us," Petoske said.
In particular, she said that the self-defense market is up, with women buying more firearms than ever.
"Over the last five years we’ve seen pretty consistent growth," Petoske said.
At Colt, sales of its black military rifles were down in 2011, mostly because the company’s contract with the U.S. government expired in June. Colt had been making its M4 battle rifle at the plant’s capacity of 1,000 per week.
Now the company is only fulfilling sustaining orders for the government, which can vary in unit number from one to 100, depending on how many rifles must be replaced. Since June, the company has shifted marketing to capture new revenue streams, including sales to both American and foreign law enforcement and civilians.
"Our biggest customer now is Mexico," said Jeffrey Radziwon, Colt’s director of sales and marketing operations.
Other countries that have become Colt customers in recent months include Thailand, Malaysia and India. Colt exports to more than 90 countries.
Radziwon said that he’s noticed people requesting smaller rifles.
In response, Colt designed the SCW 0921, a subcompact weapon similar to the M4, but with a folding, collapsible buttstock designed for use in tight quarters. Radziwon said it will ship in the first quarter.
"So far everybody likes it," he said.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4588.