From its humble beginnings in St. Louis, in 1979, to taking every nook and cranny of the Sands Expo Center in 2017 — and prompting expansions to the MGM Grand in 2020 and Caesar’s Forum in 2021 — SHOT Show is the industry’s signature event, bringing together more than 1,700 exhibitors and 65,000 attendees. Last year, in celebration of SHOT Show’s 40th Anniversary, we ran a series of “Blast From the Past” columns that had some of our long-running exhibitors taking a look back at the ups, downs, merriment and mayhem that has attended the show since its earliest days. The column proved so popular, we’re bringing it back again. Enjoy!
For most of us, having a pocket knife handy is part of being who we are, part of being ready to meet whatever challenges the day may bring. It’s a talisman that reminds the bearer any task, no matter the size, can be handled with the right application of determination and a few key tools, true whether the job is carving up an apple or, maybe, flying to the moon. Based in Bradford, Pennsylvania, W.R. Case & Sons’ Fred Feightner, Consumer Marketing and Communications Manager, has been with the company for 15 years. He tells me the company’s annual SHOT Show experience is a job all its own, and while it doesn’t call for an astronaut per se, it doesn’t hurt to have leaders who remain cool under pressure.
Kevin Tate (KT): What is it like working with a company as rich in Americana as Case?
Fred Feightner (FF): How can you begin to express the number of blessings you’re given when the company you work for had a product that went to the moon with Neil Armstrong in 1969? Case’s history and intermingling with the American way of life, it’s just such an iconic brand people have been exposed to, sharing them with their family and friends. The number of Case knives involved in field dressing and skinning someone’s first buck or their first ducks with their fathers is astounding. We’re lucky, as Case employees, to be associated with something that carries with it such a heartfelt pride in ownership.
KT: What was your impression of the SHOT Show at first sight?
FF: My first SHOT Show was in 2005, and I was a complete newbie to the whole Las Vegas experience. I’d never been to a large trade show or seen the bright lights and big-city atmosphere. I think it was even my first time being out West. I’d been to some local gun shows and made trips to some large-format retailers like Cabela’s, but I’d never been to an outdoor-themed event like that with some 50,000 people.
It was an ominous feeling, not knowing what to expect, but once I go there I remember being very impressed with our own booth and the number of man-hours it took to get it up and ready. It’s like an entire city being built in three days!
After the show started, the number of people who came by to see us was impressive. It was great to meet the people I’d been dealing with over the phone or via email in my time on the job but had never met in person. It was definitely such a learning experience for me. I’ve made so many good friends at SHOT Show through the years, so many good contacts, that’s all of part of what we do. The more SHOT Shows you attend, the more you see how your company has adjusted to changes in the market and see where your company needs to be heading in the future.
KT: What’s been your best or most effective product launch at SHOT?
FF: This is a tough one because we’ve launched so many products at SHOT Show, it’s staggering, but we do somehow, pun intended, whittle it down for the consumer and dealer public there.
For me, it would be the V-42, the World War II-era dagger that we remade and launched at SHOT Show in 2015. The V-42 dagger was the dagger issued to members of the First Special Service Force, also known as the Devil’s Brigade, an elite American and Canadian commando unit in WWII, which is now referred to as the “Granddaddy of all Special Forces.” It was during that show we had a couple original members of that force at our booth, and that was just such a thrill to be among these men and all the military members who came by to shake hands with these heroes. I’m a grandson to an infantryman in WWI who survived four bloody battles in France, and it made me realize how lucky I was to be among those in attendance and see the special knife reintroduced after more than 70 years. Part of launching this product required me to do some intensive research so that we could get the story right. It was such a proud moment for us as a company, and I was proud to be a part of it.
KT: What would be your favorite SHOT Show memory?
FF: It’s always interesting to see people who are in the spotlight at the SHOT Show. I remember a couple years ago, a man and a woman, pretty well-dressed, came into the booth and were just sort of looking around. Naturally, I went over to greet them, and I noticed the man’s name badge had a name I recognized. I introduced myself, saying, “Hey, thanks for stopping by. Did you know you share the same name as a famous screenwriter who wrote the scripts for some of my favorite movies?” and he responded, “Actually, I am a famous screenwriter.”
The screenwriter was David Mamet, whose work includes The Untouchables, Ronin, the screenplay for Hannibal and much more. I was so star struck for a minute, and it turns out David is an avid knife enthusiast.
KT: Are there any errors you might have made that could be a cautionary tale for other companies attending SHOT?
FF: The one that comes to mind most quickly for me, because I’m on the communications side of things, is make sure you dress warmly for Industry Day at the Range. It’s unbelievable how cold it can get out there. A couple years ago, it was just so bitter cold. We set up early in the morning, and I wound up doing one interview. It was so cold and so windy, everyone was just trying to keep their booth from flying away. Everybody was also trying to get coffee but, by the time you got coffee and brought it back to your booth, it was stone cold. We wound up breaking down early that day. I remember there weren’t many people left after about 11:30 in the morning, but I did manage to squeeze out one interview and saw a couple of people before we had to pack it up. So I’d say, definitely bulk up your bag before you leave. I never thought I’d be out West and wishing I was somewhere ice fishing to keep warm.
KT: What advice would you have for other companies so they might make the most of their SHOT Show experience?
FF: Take advantage of the opportunities SHOT Show brings. Use your budget wisely. Try not to do everything that’s available, but rather focus on a few tactics you can use to get to potential customers. Use your time and money wisely.
About the Author
Kevin Tate is Vice President of Media Productions for Mossy Oak. As a lifelong outdoorsman and certified country boy, he finds himself continually in awe to be part of SHOT Show and of the industry that drives so many dreams. He and his wife, Amy, live in Tupelo, Mississippi, and have a daughter, Avery, 15, and a son, Walker, 12.