SHOT Show Trip Report: 60 Hours, Fear and Learning In Las Vegas - Bathroom Edition

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searchgeek - author
Jun 21, 2009
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Camarillo, CA
I shared this recently with some folks at work. Hudson was one fo them and he suggested you guys might enjoy this one, too, so here goes...

WARNING: This is a LONG post – some pics, but mostly words. If you typed them in a straight line, they’d reach out to 134 feet. That’s over 4100 words. If you want to hear about Rachel NV (Area 51), the SHOT show and shooting with snipers in the desert, read on. If you just want to browse all the photos, click here.

Before I start… A guy walks into the washroom with an ice cream cone…and since this was in Vegas, this isn’t a joke! Literally, this guy walks into the washroom in Vegas, does his business at the urinal and leaves – the entire time, eating his ice cream cone. I can get past the no-washing-of-the-hands thing – icky, but whatevs. What stuns me is his desire to consume urinal cake scented ice cream for the next 10 minutes! I swear, only in Vegas, baby!

So….I spent 5 days in Las Vegas recently, which is 2 days more than my usual self-imposed limit. This is the story of 2 and ½ of those 5 days.

Sunday dawned as almost all days in Vegas do – inevitably and sunny. Not a stitch of movement at the construction project next door to my hotel, making my 6:30 am start peaceful. Sunday would have been normal for me, save for two things…

First, the Seahawks were in the NFC Championship game, and being from Seattle, I was invested in the outcome, so that was on my mind. I managed to watch the first half of the game, and managed to not throw up, too. Sadly, I wasn’t able to watch the second half as my work had me on stage at a conference doing a presentation during that time. By the time we reached the Q&A portion of the session, the audience was feeding me updates. After an initial ribbing by a couple Packers fans, I was vindicated with a tremendous win. Felt good standing there in my ‘Hawks jersey…but this also signaled the beginning of the next phase of my day. Something I’d dreamed of for years – most of my life, actually.

Now it was time for that second thing. Something that required some of my own cash (to rent a car) and about 5 hours of my time. Normally I don’t leave Vegas when I hit town. My 72-hour limit sees to that – simply no time.

This trip, however, was different, as I was staying to attended the ATAC Range Day prior to SHOT and then spend a day AT SHOT.

Sunday evening seemed like the perfect time to make a dream come true, so I did.
I hopped into the rental, henceforth to be known as The Buck Twenty Burrito. A flashy red Kia Soul loaned to me by the kind folks at Enterprise in exchange for 244 of my greenbacks…two day rental and yes, I WILL take all of your insurances… See, I knew I was going out into the desert…


And that dream? Well, I wanted to go to Rachel, Nevada. It’s OK if you’ve never heard of it. It was renamed after the first person born in the community, a girl named Rachel. She died 3 years later, but the town remains. Only a handful of people live there today, and it’s roughly 110 miles North-ish of Vegas. Now, you may have heard of Area 51, and so now will understand Rachel’s significance. It’s the closest “town” to Area 51. The Black mailbox (which is actually white now) is a few miles before Rachel, on Mailbox Road, on your left. The Back Gate to Area 51? The spot where you can approach the gate – walk right up to it – and not get harassed, fondled or shot – yep, a few miles down the road, too. Mind you don’t take photos of the guard gate – apparently you can be shot for that…

Almost all of my time during this trip was after sunset, so the Burrito was called upon to blast tunes from my iPod and carry me down the Extraterrestrial Highway (it’s real) and on to Rachel proper.


What’s there? Well, maybe 8 streets, 50 people, one bar/café/inn, a time capsule from the producers of ID4, an old tow truck carrying an actual UFO (let’s just say this – it looks the part, but I’m guessing it’s a “local” product) and a monitoring station which takes air samples several times each day, reads the radiation levels and transmits it’s report to…well, who knows…
Since it was 7:30 PM when I arrived, pitch black out and clearly everything was closed…OK, the ONLY thing there, was closed, I cozied the Buck Twenty Burrito off on the side of the road in the ditch, pulled on my jacket, grabbed a sandwich and a tactical flashlight, and proceeded to … sit very still.

It was 33 degrees out and I could hear some weird trill from a local bird. Nearby and farther away, they were communicating. It was pretty cool. Munching half my sandwich I stared up in awe as the entire Milky Way was clearly visible. It was magical. All joking aside, it’s inconceivable to me that there is no other life in the galaxy, never mind the entire universe. The English language does not, IMO, have a word to actually describe the size and scope of the universe. Go stand in the desert, look up at just the ONE galaxy we can easily see and remember there are thousands of galaxies in the universe.

‘Sniff, grunt, scratch”… I jumped. Now, it could have been muscles contracting that made me jump, or it could have been the rapid ejection of feces from my butt. Don’t know. I did jump though…

W.T.F. was THAT? And how’d it get SO close to me without me noticing?!

Seriously spooked, and recalling I was standing smack in the middle of some desert scrub, I rattled off options. Standing still seemed a good idea, in case a frozen snake was nearby and really pissed at me. My thumb found the ignition switch on the flashlight and roughly 1 Billion lumens flooded the area, damn near blinding me…and I was behind the light! Thank you, oh Lord of Cree, for coming to my rescue. Funny how “light” alone makes humans feel safer. In reality, it just enables us to see our demise clearly. LOL

Scanning the immediate area I’m met with 4 glowing dots. They moved…in pairs! OMG! Aliens?! If so, they’re really, really short. Comically so. Never met any alien before, and the first ones I encounter are pocket sized…what’r the odds?

Rationality sets in…it’s those birds I heard earlier. I laugh out loud. It’s creepy hearing even my own voice in the desert.

Expect, they aren’t birds. They’re on 4 legs. I see one clearly. Foxes! Wait…foxes make those trilling noises? Guess so.

I do the only natural thing I could think of. I started talking to them. And as nature apparently intended, they came closer…LOL

In fact, one came to about 10 feet from me, sniffing in my direction – no doubt more curious about my sandwich than afraid of me and my mini-sun.

About this time it occurs to me I’m cold. Not chilly, but teeth chatteringly cold – to my core. As I moved, I scared the crap outta that nearby fox as it jumped straight up and immediately bolted into the underbrush. Feeling bad, I left the other half of my sandwich as a snack for them.

A few more minutes of the most beautiful, stunning silence I’ve ever experienced in life and I lit the fuse under the Burrito. Time to head back to Vegas. The next day would see me shooting the big guns and I needed some rest.

One the way back, in the wide open, on the long, arrow straight runs often found in the desert, the Burrito earned her moniker. Other than beating the crap out of the fuel tank and requiring a top up at a rate that would have done a top fuel dragster proud, she was reliable and supportive, even as we headed back into a total surprise…

As the 1-15 comes into Vegas, you see the clouds lit up about 100 miles away. That’ll be the light on Luxor vaporizing clouds. And maybe 20 miles from my hotel, I crested a mountain pass and found my jaw resting firmly on the floor mats. The view across the valley that holds Las Vegas was unbelievable. THIS is the view that describes Vegas as beautiful. Like someone spread a million yellow and chocolate diamonds across the valley floor, then lit the entire scene from below. THAT’s a view I wish I had captured on film. It should also be noted that high speed in the desert with your lights off makes for an honestly exhilarating drive.

Thus ended Sunday…with one of the nicest visions of Vegas I’ve ever experienced. My pillow was insistent and I gratefully gave in.

Divots in the Desert

This feels like a Monday morning. Lemme guess…I’m in a hotel room, right? That combo of stale pizza, shampoo and cologne hanging in the air, reminding me I’m definitely NOT at home again. But where am I this time? Oh, right, Vegas (again). And it’s Monday…oh, I’m going shooting today! OK, THAT’s worth getting up for!

Rental keys in hand, check. Maxpedition bag loaded with eyes & ears, check. Extra water, check. Attitude update: “Lemme at ‘em; gimme more ammo!”, check - bullseye on attitude for the day…

You’ll need to forgive me for taking but a single photo at the Range Day. The ONE photo I took was in the designated location, and with Richard Marcinko. Name escaping you? Well, let’s try this moniker, as I’m certain you’ve heard of them: Seal Team 6. And as with everything throughout history, someone had to start it, right? Meet Richard Marcinko. Tough as volcanic cocktails, quick like shattering glass. The guys STILL exudes that aura of confidence actual operators possess. Not cocky, just confident.


Now, what could be cooler than one-on-one time with him? Where he answered silly questions like “What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten?” (Incidentally, it was monkey brains, followed by cobra…natch.)

Well, I’ll tell you what could be cooler…

Barrett, H&K, silenced sniper rifles, Ma Deuce, SAW…subsonic sniper rounds through silenced rifles, a boat load of AR-15-based platforms, grenade launchers and free BBQ for lunch. OK, in reality NONE of that is cooler than Richard, but it’s a tight race…

As the day played out, I found myself falling in love with the HK 45C – what a sweet shooting pistol! Naturally I simply HAVE to have an HK 40 MM grenade launcher, which is so cool in action mostly because you can fire and watch the grenade arc through the air to either hit or miss your intended target. I hit, blue smoke everywhere! The HK sub machine guns were fun, though hardly on my radar for home defense.

Next up was IWI. I had hoped they’d have the new Desert Eagle pistols on hand – the light weight ones – but alas, rifles only. That said, I went hands on with the newest Uzi for a while, and lemme tell you, I WANT IT! Short stock, held tight to the body, zero movement, ringing steel at 25 yards, 50 yards and 100 yards every time, like clockwork! Yup, with 9mm rounds. Even full auto the position you hold makes the thing so controllable I was able to place just over half of my rounds on the 25 yard steel while on full auto. I was impressed.

Down the line I moved. By the time I hit the setup with the Ma Deuce and SAWs, they were out of ammo. I shot them last year, and while fun and all, hardly a good use of time, IMO.

A bit farther down we saw all the AR-15 guys – quite the selection of companies I’ve never heard of, but damned if their wares didn’t shoot super straight. On the ground, a couple guys from one of the services (active duty Seals and Delta guys, among others, attend this event) were putting full mags, round after round, on steel at over 600 yards.

If you kept walking you’d eventually hit a big berm. Just before that a guy was demoing his company’s latest armor. Ceramic coated AR500 steel plates. He asked the Barrett guys to come down and bring a few rounds. They did. They lost. At 50 yards, the plates stopped the 50 cal round dead in its tracks. Thank you ceramics, the wonder material! Don’t get me wrong, there was a heck of a dent on the backside of the plate, but nothing came through. Impressive demo.

I followed the Barrett back to its perch and cozied up for some time behind the trigger next. It’s the whole system, and YOU just become an organic component. The squishy bit doing the trigger squishing. I put about a dozen rounds through it over the afternoon. It was ALIVE when in action, I swear. The recoil management springs inside contribute to the feeling something is happening well after the bullet leaves you behind. Very solid shove into your shoulder – mind you don’t get your eye socket too close to the optics – and if the cross hair is still on target, squeeze again! WHAM!

I can tell you this: I am not a marksman. Zero training other than growing up hunting in Canada. This gun. The Barrett. It’s MAKES people good shooters. In the sense that all of us were hitting the steep plates at 500 – 600 yards every single shot. The gun has a three point touch-down system, so you just slide into place, try not to move it around and pull that delicious sliver of metal under your finger – it makes the magic happen.

When not shooting, I was watching through the spotting scope, and seeing the most amazing sight. As the bullet heads down range – and you won’t see the bullet here – you can see the “contrail”, the disturbed air is leaves behind. Rippling in a concentric cone from the head of the bullet, you can follow the bullet’s path as it arcs upwards slightly, then descends to shatter against the steel. I watched a guy hitting the targets at 1200 yards and it was mesmerizing to watch the bullet’s path in real time. I must have watched about 25 rounds this way – highly entertaining stuff!

Remember that berm I mentioned earlier, where we were testing the ceramic/armor plate? On the other side is where you could fine the real distance demons. Guys there were hitting 6” steel plates at over 1600 yards. Yup. And that’s far enough downrange to actually be partly UP the side of the hills that mark the end of the range limits. These guys were the real deal. You didn’t talk down there. You just watched until after a shot was taken. Yeah, I took some shots, but really, I was hitting the 300 yard steel, and no one was even interested. I felt good about it, then happily gave my seat up to those with greater skills. Damn fine show if you can get a ticket, IMO.

And so the day went. Shoot, chat, shoot, eat, chat, shoot, shoot, shoot. As sundown approached, I fired up the Buck Twenty Burrito and made for the hills. Red Rock Canyon, to be precise. That’s a beautiful spot. As the sun sets, the entire side of the mountains turn vibrant red, a combo of the color of the light and the natural coloration in the rocks. Very, very inspiring. There was a nice 13 mile looped scenic drive that I meandered around at the stately pace of 25 MPH, stopping for phots and soaking in the views of a beautiful desert wilderness. I was amazed it was so close to Las Vegas. Like 25 – 30 minutes for the Strip – that close.

My day ended as the day before did – with me exhausted, seeking solace in my pillow, knowing another exciting day awaited me. Rather than succumb to the tease that was food, I opted to go fetch my badge for SHOT at the 24hour sign in desk. Wise move it turned out, as I was over, badged, and back to my room in about 45 minutes.

SHOT full of options!

The next morning, the line up started at 7AM and people waited 2+ hours to grab their badges I was told.

Meanwhile, I was in the staging area. Standing outside the entrance to the expo hall I wanted to start with –there were several, but I knew the gun manufacturers were in this one, so that’s where I bee lined. They held us back until 8:30 proper. Not 8:29. No, they had an official clock and gosh darn it, they stuck to it like a fly’s arse to a windshield.

To kill time, I hung with the RAM Gals and the trucks on display. Suited me just fine, as I have a 2014 EcoDiesel, so this was sweet.


And just like that, we were let in.

It’s was a maze. Like someone contracted the designer of Pac Man to build a human-scale warren. Totally built to ensnare the unprepared. Three story tall booths towered over guys at tables. There were guns, knives, clothing, boots, cooking gear. There was ammunition, fishing equipment, camping gear and spices for cooking your pemmican. There were wheelers and dealers. There were pitchmen and pedestal models. Rifles, shotguns, camping gear and compasses. Holsters, GPSs and map makers. It was endless. I spent 8 hours ON THE FLOOR and saw maybe a third of the show!

My goal was simple – scout out guns I thought I wanted to own. Now given the booths were scattered around the ginormous hall and between two floors, this effort alone took a good few hours to accomplish. And as more and more people piled in, you ended up riding along on human waves generally going the direction you thought you wanted to go. Frequent checking of the floor map was critical, or you’d end up a zip code in the wrong direction, or North when you needed to go West.

Seeing a sign for the restroom, I made for it with much anticipation. Best to get this outta the way first and fast, so I could amble around comfortably. Well, as with my previous bathroom instance, this one proved to be slightly out of the ordinary as well. What can I say?

Ah...nothing...the picture will cover it...


Back to the booths, I hit Smith & Wesson first – nice selection, helpful folks, not for me I don’t think. Yes, they make great guns, and I did like the 1911-style 9mm officer size model – it felt great, was a useful weight and came as a great package. But I was after a different animal.

H&K. I have almost bought an HK P2000SK three times now – sight unseen. I’m am very glad I waited and found one at the show, because I know with 100% confidence I will not purchase one now. Yes, it’s an excellent gun, just too small for my hands. Phooey. Maybe a P2000 then – that fit…so the hunt continues.

Just for fun, I grabbed the Mark 23 – LMFAO – you’d have to be one big mofo to make that beast seem normal sized. It’s so much larger than I expected. Felt amazing in my hand, had fantastic balance, but dang – big pistol.


Trucked over to the Walther booth next – zero new to see there, though the Hammerli competition guns on display there caught my eye – super nice .22s.


Now, where did they hide CZ? Oh yes, there you are my fine euro-friend. 30 seconds in and one of the reps had the CZ-75 Compact PCR in my hand – yep, I’m buying it when my order arrives! What surprised me was how good the RAMI felt in my hand. I can see why it’s a popular CCW pistol. Very nice. CZ also had some custom shop guns on display and well as the Dan Wessons. I kinda fell for the ECO model – small, light, oozing quality.


One of my goals on the trip was to visit the Bersa folks. Well, the Eagle Imports folks, actually, as they handle Bersa in the US...and it just so happens they also handle a company called Grand Power, out of Slovakia. I have a Bersa Thunder 380 and the customer service I recently received ordering extra mags was fantastic, so I figured I'd swing by and say thanks in person. Naturally, I also wanted to check out the rotating barrel 9mm from Grand Power, the P11 Mk12. And lemme tell ya, it's impressive. The engineering is top, I mean TOP, quality.



As I'm fondling the P11, the gent at the counter asks me if I know anything about the X-Calibur. He hands me the gun, I ask him to tell me about it and his only response is, "There is no need for me to say a thing...".

Until this point the guy seemed normal. Like a regular fellow, working his job, helping people out as they came through the booth. Now I was beginning to suspect he was, well...nuts.

While I'm mulling over the appropriate public response to obvious lunacy, I racked the slide on this gussied up 9mm. super smooth. Easy pull. Snick, snick. The raving lunatic next to me suggests I pull the trigger. I do. I am converted. Instantly. Irrevocably. I'm a believer. It took 2.75 pounds of effort to make my conversion complete. A factory single action at under 3 pounds on the trigger. It's the crack of pistols. I am immediately addicted. Rack, click; rack, click, RACK, CLICK! I MUST OWN THIS!!!


Yeah, I'm kind of partial to the cuts, grooves, angles and polished bits, too. And what's that you say, I can get the same gun in 380 ACP? Oh my, oddities attract me. Yes, Grand Power is legit.

I now see my friendly booth buddy as less lunatic, and more sage. And while I grapple with the mathematics involved in ordering two new guns (again), an introduction is made. To the founder/owner of the company. To the guy who designed these interesting pistols. Jaroslav Kuracina is the man behind this successful, growing company. He's full of good humor, happy to pose for the cameras and clearly has an eye for detail, with enough bravery to add some attention-getting flair. If you think about it, the 9mm round and the 380 ACP are almost identical. The difference being the 2mm shorter case for the 380 ACP v. the 9x19 round. Thus is should make sense offering a gun in either caliber, yet almost no one does this.


After leaving the Eagle Imports booth, I spent time with the BladeTech guys (locals, who I'll swing by and visit shortly), the guys at Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) (whose knives I seem to collect) and the Desert Eagle booth held my attention for a short time with their new lightweight model. Noticeably lighter, the new model makes much more sense to me, if only as a range gun, simply due to the sheer size of the gun. That said, me likey!!!


While downstairs I came across the Nissan display. Yes, Nissan had the new Titan with the Cummins turbo diesel. And being the owner of a RAM EcoDiesel, I naturally had to investigate things. Within a few minutes of chatting with the booth folks, I was introduced to one of the Nissan USA marketing managers, who asked if she could interview me on camera for

. I said sure, the lights came on and we chatted. What can I say? I was impressed with the truck on display. The interior is the match of modern rivals (finally), the diesel in a light-duty truck means more work and better economy - indeed they claimed 20% better economy than competitor's gas engines while towing. That's a diesel for you. Nice looking truck. Though final thoughts will have to wait for a test drive.

Rounding out my day, I stopped to look at some cool boots (Rocky Boots - which I ordered that night), hung out with the Holosun gun sight guys (they have cool solar powered sights with all kinda of crazy features for reasonable prices - I'm ordering one this weekend.) and stopped at the Maxpedition booth to see if they had any new gear. The Lapua booth offered me swag (ball cap) and knowledge (did not know they make 9mm rounds). Beretta, Ruger, Chiappa, Benelli, Perazzi ($8,000 shotguns!), Tanfoglio, Smith & Wesson, Colt, Browning - everyone was there. Even those you've never heard of. Guns, knives, gear, bags, camo, coolers, camping equipment, scopes, sights, holsters, bandanas, ball caps, boots, gun safes, camp cooking equipment, rods, reels, hip waders, jackets, ammunition, lasers and so much more was all on display. Walk right up, lay our hands on it, ask your questions, collect your swag and move on. Walk, oogle, repeat.

The 2015 SHOT show blew my mind. If you can get to one, you should get to one, IMO. Such an impressive event, though really needs at least two days to fully explore. Hopefully next year will see me return, and if timing allows, I WILL explore the floor for more than a single day.







I'm sorry but I have the attention span of a knat.








Suppressed and compensated Barrett!

Thanks for the report Sportsguy. I'll be glad when this phase of everything must have a tactical rail is over.

Very much so, CAJW! Been twice now to Range Day at ATAC and it's been top-flight both times, and a heck of a good time if you enjoy triggers and things that go bang, boom or kaboom. ;) Oh, and I label this as "long" because most folks 'round these parts seem to loose focus unless they follow the bouncing boobie from word to word...

Curious. You found the HK P2000 too large but liked the LARGE MK23. Have you tried the quiet, yet simple, yet perfect, USP?

BTW, thanks fior an excellent report.

Sure it was long sportsguy, but quite entertaining. Sounds like itt would be a hoot to try some weekend out there.

BTW, if your presentation is half as good as you write, I'd be interested in knowing what your presentation was on.

Curious. You found the HK P2000 too large but liked the LARGE MK23. Have you tried the quiet, yet simple, yet perfect, USP?
BTW, thanks fior an excellent report.
The HK P2000SK was too small. I was trying to get across that the Mark 23 was HUGE, and that maybe the P2000 was what I should try next. ;) I have a VP7 so a USP strikes me as a bit of a repeat - different for sure, but size-wise similar maybe? - haven't "run the numbers" though, so I don't actually know...

...and thanks for the kudos. :)

Sure it was long sportsguy, but quite entertaining. Sounds like itt would be a hoot to try some weekend out there.
BTW, if your presentation is half as good as you write, I'd be interested in knowing what your presentation was on.
Vegas is a great place to go shooting, for sure! for my presentations, enjoy them you'll need to be a particular sort of person. A person who likes humor (OK, I don't land every joke, but I'm often accused of being funny on stage), and you must be a person who likes being successful and making money online.

I like to write, which shouldn't be a shock if you've read this thread and enjoyed it. I've actually written two books, and I'm writing a third now. They are business books, they do not make one rich, but they do an admirable job of replacing a resume in many cases. ;)

This is me at the office...


Keynoting at an event in Dallas - been going there for almost 5 years now and I've been gifted a white hat, a black hat and a belt w/fancy buckle. Bought my own boots. ;) Lockhart BBQ in South Dallas, baby! Every. Time!


Keynoting at one of the search industry's largest conferences - Pubcon Vegas. I am fully aware I am wearing a tiara...the next image will explain why...


Accepting the award for US Search Personality of The Year - and with it came a tiara as part of the actual "crowning" - who am I to deny the crowd?


And I talk on a range of topics - from online marketing (search optimization, social media, conversion optimization, affiliate programs, email programs), to the shift in mobile technology to future tech and how it will impact consumers and businesses.


...and here is a crap load of videos - a few I made on topics I'm passionate about - motorcycles, my dogs, the GoodGuys Car Show in Nashville last June, but mostly it's just interview after interview other's have published.

So if you REALLY want to check out a presentation after all this, you'll likely find a couple sessions I've done in the video pile.


Very much enjoyed your write-up of the show Duane. You certainly have skill in great prose. I'm sure the gun range was a major highlight.


Love your work. If any of those Firearm makers have any trade samples laying around send them on to me. Heck customs wouldn't let them in, guess I will have to be satisfied with gun porn.

Back soon.

Best regards


Thanks guys. :)

Gun PRON...yes, it's addictive...and having lived in the US for the last 5 1/2 years, I'm embracing this greatest of all rights in this amazing country as I gently glide towards citizenship in a few months.

For the record, if you recall above, there was a pic of a CZ-75 PCR - smallish, alloy 9mm. Waiting on it to arrive right now... ;)