By: Serena Juchnowski

Ask anyone – SHOT Show week is exhausting. Everyone is sleep-deprived, trying to stay healthy, and tired of walking on sore, if not blistered feet. This is the unglamorous side of attending the largest outdoor industry trade show in America. Two weeks later, though I am swamped with a twenty-two credit-hour college course load and other obligations, I am ready to do it all over again.

Some of the magic of the SHOT Show is that one does not truly appreciate what happens there until afterwards. I have thought about people and products I should have seen, things I should have done differently, replayed scenarios over in my head – but all of this rolls into my experience and into my preparation for next year.

Industry Day at the Range
Invited media have early access to industry day at the range, an event where exhibitors can show off new products for attendees to try – essentially the fun day to try out firearms you will see on the show floor. Many people had asked me what I shot, what I enjoyed, what it was like – I can honestly say I spent more time at a smaller number of booths than visiting every one. I saw many new things I had never seen before as well as connected with people I know who I only see once a year.
By far my favorite part of range day was spent with CVA. I had the honor of receiving the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association’s Dave Meredith award last fall, for which CVA donated a muzzleloader. I stopped by primarily to thank them for their generosity, and quickly received an invitation to try their newest muzzleloader, the Paramount Pro. Thomas MacAulay, Tony Smotherman, and Jason Sebo of BPI Outdoors (the parent company of CVA), spent the time to give me my first formal introduction to inline muzzleloaders.

“Powder, Patch, and Ball, or it won’t shoot at all.” The loading process for a percussion cap rifle immediately came back to me. Though the elements remained largely the same, there were significant differences. 150 grains (by volume) of Blackhorn 209 powder was pre-measured in a tube which made it easy to load. To my surprise, there was no patch or lube. A 45 cal. 280 grain PowerBelt ELR Bullet replaced the round ball I was used to. Rather than struggling to pick up a single percussion cap, a primer loading tool made priming the muzzleloader easy.

Though the rifle comes with a solid aluminum ramrod, it also comes with a new collapsible field loading ramrod that functions much like a tent pole. After firing the muzzleloader once, I could not wait to do it again. Luckily no one else was waiting so I had the opportunity to repeat the steps as I had been shown and send yet another shot downrange into a cowboy shaped target. Even with the cleaner loading procedures, I still ended up with a streak of black “war paint” on my chin…


Firearms are not the only products to be seen at Range Day. I learned at the Buck Knives booth that I do not have a talent for knife throwing, and saw representatives from the Civilian Marksmanship Program and the Professional Outdoor Media Association in a section dedicated to exhibitors who did not need use of a range.

The Show
Primarily a high power service rifle competitor starting into Palma this year, there was not nearly as many products relevant to my disciplines as there were for tactical and three gun shooters. I was thrilled to see and shoot a Kelbly’s Panda action on range day at the Sierra Bullets booth, as well as connect with my sponsors at Berger, Lapua, and Vihtavuori. Too much of SHOT Show can turn into lists of companies and products that fade into one another.

For me, SHOT Show is about the people. The Women’s Outdoor Media Association made me feel particularly welcome and I had the opportunity to attend several media events. Meeting friends and colleagues both to catch up and to discuss opportunities gave me faith in my endeavors as well as provided a much-needed feeling of home in an environment unlike any other. What perhaps surprised me most is the fact that being so small in the industry, there are people who remember me from my first SHOT Show, who are interested in what I am doing, and who are eager to help.

New products are exciting, and my biggest regret was not knowing about the Bergara B-14R Trainer rifle until after range day, but sometimes it is the products and the people that are not always talked about that really create an experience.

At the TUFF Products booth, I received a glow-in-the-dark patch shaped like a pill labeled “Crud Cure,” an ingenious promotional item and keepsake that may or may not have played a role in my avoiding illness at this year’s show. Passionate salespeople abounded in the Pop-Up Preview, a one-day area of the show dedicated to new exhibitors. With one day to network, their persistence and skill was impressive. Dog beds, hunting clothes, pens, pistols, holsters, metal detectors – the array of items on display is far more diverse than one might imagine. The SHOT Show is not just about firearms or about hunting. Though the focus of the main floor with the biggest industry players is on those two, it is fun to see the many different accessories and lifestyle products that I never knew existed.

Every day I learned something different that I can apply to my future career and to my everyday life. SHOT Show 2020 presented me some great opportunities that I am looking forward to exploring this year as well as showed me areas in which I need to grow and learn. Ultimately, the outdoor industry is largely a big family – exhibitors are hoping to make business connections and deals for the year, but at the end of the day, nearly everyone is there for the sake of a shared passion for the outdoors.

Serena Juchnowski is a Distinguished Rifleman, hunter, and freelance outdoor writer, writing from Ohio. Contact her at [email protected].