What if I told you about a place far, far away that had more guns, gear, and ammo than you could possibly see in five entire days? It's hard to imagine that such a place exists, but that's what the annual Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show is. It's coming up next week, and I'm going.

Affectionately known as SHOT by those of who head to the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas every January, it’s a sort of pilgrimage for those in the industry. If you attend the SHOT Show, you’ll do so with 70,000 of your closest friends.

While SHOT is fun, exciting, and completely overwhelming, it’s all business. Not open to the public, it’s for commercial buyers and sellers. Gun stores, distributors, law enforcement agencies, and foreign militaries send representatives to SHOT to meet with manufacturers to evaluate new products and place orders for the coming year. It’s also open to a thousand or so media hacks like yours truly, so it’s a great opportunity to bring you the latest scoop on guns, gear, and ammunition.

What It’s Like to Go to SHOT Show
You won’t see a mannequin like this in a department store at the mall.author photo

How big is the SHOT Show? Consider these (not fake news!) facts:

• There are 1,898 exhibitors registered for the 2017 SHOT Show. I always plan to swing by and visit with each and every one, but doing the math, if I am on the show floor every possible minute that it’s open, I would have exactly 65.4 seconds to spend with each exhibitor. That’s barely enough time to dig a business card out of my pocket and hit the hand sanitizer. And that minute doesn’t even include walking time from booth to booth or much-needed medicinal absinthe breaks.

• The sun doesn’t shine at SHOT Show. Well, that statement is kind of like the conundrum of whether a falling tree makes any noise if no one is around to hear it. You see, the Sands Expo Center is inside the same massive building complex as the Venetian and Palazzo casino hotels, so if you stay in one of those guest rooms, you can go for four straight days without seeing the sun…and I usually do. Normally that would be depressing, but it’s not, due to all the cool stuff going on inside.

What It’s Like to Go to SHOT Show
SHOT Show is not only guns, but related gear too. Last year, I talked the folks from FLIR into letting me wander the halls with one of their new Scout Infrared optics.author photo

• How many guns? Of the nearly 1,900 vendors, 526 are firearms companies. I’ll bet you didn’t even know there were that many firearms makers in the business! Before the show, each and every gun is carefully inspected, and the firing pin removed, so attendees can safely and confidently handle them during the event.

• How much space? The indoor exhibit area covers 630,000 square feet. That’s 13 acres. You might also visualize that space as 13 football fields plus a spare end zone or two.

All that space translates to miles and miles of walking. In fact, if you just walk by each booth once, you’ll cover 12.5 miles. Last year, I wore a FitBit because I was curious about how much distance I covered each day. As it turned out, I walked over seven miles per day - all inside the same building. I had a lot of gear to see, and the primary reason I wear my Danner Mountain 600 hiking boots to SHOT every year. Miles and miles of concrete exhibit hall floors will put a serious hurt on your feet if you don't wear really good shoes.

What It’s Like to Go to SHOT Show
Industry Day at the Range, held at the Boulder Rifle and Pistol Club outside Las Vegas the day before the exhibit halls open, allow media and buyers to try out all the new guns, ammo, and gear.author photo

• The day before the exhibit halls open is an event called Industry Day at the Range. It takes place at the vast Boulder Rifle and Pistol Club, located in the middle of the desert outside of Las Vegas. You can imagine what it sounds like as 1,600 or so media reps and invited buyers check out the latest guns from 200 manufacturers by shooting the snot out of them all day long. I'm not sure there's ever been a tally of rounds fired, but I'll bet it's in the gazillions.

• SHOT Show is the place for all the industry players to do business. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which produces the SHOT Show, firearms and ammunition comprise a $6.7 billion industry, with a total economic impact of $49 billion (2015 figures). All of that supports somewhere in the neighborhood of 288,000 jobs.

What It’s Like to Go to SHOT Show
Just one row of the many, many, MANY guns you’ll see displayed at SHOT.author photo

• Unlike local gun shows, exhibits at SHOT Show for just one vendor can be enormous, more like multi-story buildings. Many of the larger companies set up booths (for lack of a better word) that compare to large family homes. All those displays put together weigh approximately 6,600,000 pounds. That’s 400,000 pounds more than a Saturn V moon rocket fully fueled and ready for liftoff.

So do you get the idea? SHOT Show is simply epic. Stay tuned, because we’ll be sharing all the new guns, gear, and news.