Sunday 17 January
I am again fitting in the Shot Show in Vegas on the way to meet Sylvia for a week, then Cam and AJ, in Cuba.
On arriving in LA, after a reasonably comfortable flight NZ6 from Auckland, I discovered Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck had taken up residence at US immigration. Thanks to Helen Clark my passport had hit the 5 year mark recently and had to be renewed. They have passport scanners at US Immigration!! You got it – there is a but coming up. A fat man in a light blue uniform stands saying “ETSA passports over here if you have visited since 2008. First time passports over to counters 52 to 58” then goes back to telling his female colleague how shit his marriage is. The queue was only a dozen or so. Two hours after getting off the flight I finally cleared customs. They just kept shoving people in front of us.
I made the United flight to Vegas with thirty minutes to spare. A window seat allowed (after a bit of a sleep) a good view over the barren hills and desert of Nevada. This scenery continues right up to the edge of Vegas. Even the city looks barren as we land in the centre, only 5kms from the Treasure Island hotel on the strip.
After checking into the Treasure Island Hotel I headed across to the Venetian hotel to pick up my pass for the Shot Show.
Monday 18 January
After a text from good friend Michael (formally Sure Fire Michael) I headed to Battlefield Vegas. Here they have a gun shop and a range plus a few tanks and other military equipment. After meeting up with Michael, Eric from Aim Point in Sweden, and Husam a Colonel from Saudi we got to look at a few new toys and test-fire the new Perators OSS Suppressor.
Next was a forty minute drive north to the Home Guard Shooting Range. Four ranges were operating at full noise as hundreds of people tried out the many different guns on show. Marathon Targets had some robotic targets there. These guys are on a 4-wheel platform and are programmed to fall over when hit. Stuart (who I met here last year), an ex Aussi SF guy based in Dubai, was running the stand and insisted on handing us 30 round magazines so we all had plenty of shots as the robots raced around from cover to cover. We ran into lots of people from all over the world who we had met here previously. There is a no photo rule out here.
In the evening we met for dinner at one of the many restaurants in the Venetian. We were also joined by Mikko and Yari From Finland. I first met these guys in a sauna in Helsinki in 2015 and again at the Show that year. Travis who visited us in NZ last year also joined us. I first met Travis down at Fort Brag three years ago and still have the Mayflower t-shirts he put up as prizes at a shoot we had there. Magnus (at well over two meters and 230 kgs – he was formally the worlds strongest man) from Sweden also joined us. I had met his brother Torbjorn (formerly Sweden’s strongest man) in Sweden. He helps promote Aimpoint. We all had a great catch up, the responsible ones heading of to bed after dinner. A few of us headed to the bar at the centre of the Casino. After chatting to a few people it was suddenly after 3am. Micheal was still at the bar after midnight something no one has witnessed before!!!
Tuesday 19 January
The Shot show begins. With 1600 exhibitors spread over 63,000 sqm over 3 floors, it’s massive. There are 60,000 plus people that visit each day from all over the US and a hundred different countries. It opens at 8.30 in the morning – the huge hallways leading to it are packed.
The first day I managed to cover most of level one, making a list of stands to go back to. The product range is huge; there are even undies with built in pistol holsters.
At 4,30pm we meet at the Aimpoint stand (they have beer). It’s a great chance to catch up with the many people one knows here. It was great to see Bill, a retired SF Colonel I met in DC 3 years ago and again here last year; Gary and Simon from Sportways Distributers NZ, who I had got to the show through (thanks); and Frank and Kris from Papakura Camp NZ to name just a few.
This was followed by dinner and a yarn at a bar then it was suddenly 2 am.
Wednesday 20 January
Before heading into the show I took a stroll around the Wynn, Palazzo and Venetian hotels, which are all linked up with high ceilings, statues, displays and many upmarket shops. There is a canal running through the Venetian with electric gondoliers singing to their guests as they motor past the many shops and restaurants. Around 20 years old and in immaculate condition these places can best be described by pictures.
The day passed quickly as I investigated target systems and shooting range building processes.
Later in the day Micheal took me to a suite in the Venetian. There I met Peter, an ex Aussi Commando. He and his colleagues have developed a head camera “Mohawk.com” for the military as in the past they have been adapting Go-Pro and other products that don’t quite do the job properly. This is a good example of the innovation and product development you see at the Shot Show.
After dinner I snuck off for an early night.
Thursday 21 January
After a final day of looking at products we headed to the El Dorado Cantina, a Mexican Restaurant. This was the first time (apart from crossing the bridge from the Treasure Island Hotel to the Venetian) i had ventured outside since Monday.
At the restaurant along with Eric and Michael were Dusty and his 3 DEA colleagues, who I had met the previous evening; Ron, who I have met at two previous shows and his three Dutch Marine colleagues who were first time at the show; John an ex Canadian SF ,who I met in Vancouver three years ago who now works for Arcteryx; Sean and Chris from Aussi, representing Beretta (Sean is a former olympic clay target shooter) and a couple of others who’s names I have forgotten. One thing I enjoy so much about the shot show is the great people one gets to meet. Everyone has great and interesting stories to share.
A short taxi ride and I was back at Treasure Island for a farewell drink with Gary and Simon.
Friday 22 January
I was lucky to have arrived early for the flight as the queue for security was the longest I have ever seen. It was however compact, going backwards and forward then around columns. They guy who put up the ropes must have filled spaghetti tins by hand in the past. The queue moved surprisingly quickly – a card was handed to me as I entered the queue with the time on it, 29 minutes later i was through the other side.
I got to have a good chat to Tim and Jennifer from Colorado,, who had been at the show on the way through . They are keen snowmobilers and bikers, among other things.
Flights in the US are struggling just now as most of the east coast airports are closed due to snow. Some of the boys can’t get out of Vegas until Monday but my flight left pretty much on time. Flying out over the gulf from Houston I counted over seventy ships either anchored or heading into the ports.
Arriving in Cancun I got a shuttle to the Casa Mexicana Hotel. It’s not one Sylvia would stay in. In fact it’s pretty old and run down and in quite an untidy area. The guy on the desk flagged me down a cab to a local restaurant the lady on the shuttle counter had recommended. La Parrila turned on a good meal with a great atmosphere including a a bunch of musicians serenading people from time to time.
A 30min late night stroll home revealed some dodgy looking places with lots of bars on windows and broken glass set in the tops of walls. The people I passed on the streets seemed pretty friendly though.