By: Serena Juchnowski

I was not sure how it was going to go. After nearly five hours on a plane from Ohio to Las Vegas, Nevada, navigating Uber for the first time, and trying to find our hotel room in the winding halls of the Linq Hotel, I was hoping my mom would enjoy the trip. I decided to go to the 2019 Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) early last year. As I am currently working towards a career in the outdoor industry, attending SHOT Show was not just an item on a bucket list, but an invaluable networking opportunity.

I asked my mom to come along. I was nervous, but most of all I wanted my mom to experience the show with me. Neither of us had been to Las Vegas before. I wanted her to be there to share in whatever the experience brought, especially since she has been incredibly supportive of my passion for the outdoors and my dream of working in the outdoor industry. She was able to come along as a “spouse,” since my dad was representing Olmsted Armory at the SHOT Show.

The first morning of the show, my parents joined my mentor and me for breakfast in the Press Room. With only a few minutes of exposure, Tina Juchnowski (my mother) was very impressed, remarking, “It was very well organized for as many people as were there… [I wonder] how much time goes in prior?”

Even with the magnitude of the show, “navigation was very easy,” she said, as the SHOT Show app helped immensely for finding booth numbers, and signs hanging from the ceiling provided visual confirmation of the numbers on the mobile app. Tina commented, “You need several days…there’s not enough time to go through it all.”

The first time I saw my parents after breakfast was during my meeting with Teresa Mull, editor of Gunpowder Magazine. This was incredibly fitting, and I was glad that my family had the chance to meet her. I was surprised and happy to see my mom smiling, truly enjoying herself. I found out later more about her experience. Tina attended three days of the show, saying, “I liked it all – I never saw so many different kinds of guns.” Though she recognized many popular brand names, she was surprised by the variety.

“It was nice to see other booths other than the ones I already knew…you see all these different names that sell similar products but they are all a little different,” she told me.

After casting one’s eyes upon hundreds of firearms, some do start to look alike. At other times, the same gun would be displayed at two different booths, for example, at the manufacturer’s booth as well as sporting an optic from an optics company. I learned after the show that my mom “actually…liked a lot of things that were there…[she] would look at things with [me] and with [my dad] in mind.”

One day after the show, I was thrilled to discover that my mom had found something for herself. She was captivated by the design of a concealed carry backpack from Bulldog Cases & Vaults. Growing up, my mom carried a satchel to school. She never had a backpack. “I had my first backpack [I purchased to bring to the show] and was excited looking at all the other ones. I never realized how much so many of the tactical backpacks could fit.” While most were looking at the wares, Tina Juchnowski surveyed the myriad of backpacks both displayed and worn at the 2019 SHOT Show.

It was not just the backpacks that Tina found entertaining. “I got a kick out of everybody, all I heard through the whole thing was the clicking,” she said, referring to the constant dry firing of firearms as potential buyers inspected them. “I loved the walking,” Tina added, using mealtimes to explore the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian as well as to find food outside the show.

When I asked my mom if she was glad she came, she said, “very much so.” Tina Juchnowski “did grow up with hunting and guns…[it] brought a lot of good memories back…the last show I went to was a craft show… but this was by far my favorite.” Tina said she thought about her father, my grandfather, and how he would have reacted to the show. “I don’t think my dad would have realized how many things are out there from when I was growing up to now, it’s just amazing.” My mom felt the same way, excited by the multitude of opportunities she saw for me.

In all, my mom and I left SHOT Show 2019 with the same observation and a newfound source of hope for the future.

“With so many people against and fearful of firearms in today’s world, it was amazing to see how many people support the Second Amendment and share a love of the outdoors, that was good to see,” Tina Juchnowski said.

The author and her mother at SHOT Show 2019.

Serena Juchnowski is a high power service rifle competitor and regular contributor to Junior Shooters magazine, writing from Ohio. Contact her at