The British Shooting Show moves to the NEC this February, but will the character of the show change as a result? Gun Trade News provides a comprehensive guide to what to expect

With three weeks before the British Shooting Show opens at the NEC for the first time ever, anticipation is definitely mounting. The show marked its tenth year with a move to the UK’s premier exhibition venue, a move that has sparked a huge increase in interest – not to mention curiosity as to what the new-look show will be like.

For one thing, it will be more international. Among the 600 exhibitors, there will be over 50 international stands with private office suites, with some hosting corporate entertainment functions. There will also be over 170 trade-only exhibitors. The ambition is to create a combination consumer-trade show the likes of which we haven’t seen before in the UK. Whether any British show can replicate the scale of IWA remains to be seen – but that’s certainly the end goal here.

BSS staff on a visit to the NEC halls

That said, the number that matters most to the trade is not how many exhibitors there are, but how much money the exhibitors take. To that end, organisers work closely with exhibitors, promoting and marketing their company and products throughout the year to ensure the show is a success for them. They have created a platform to support the gun industry, including shops, shooting grounds and distributors, and promote all disciplines of shooting in the UK. We caught up with show organiser John Allison to get an insight into the show, the spectacle and the sights to be seen.

“To be honest, given that we are moving the British Shooting Show to the UK’s largest international venue, my timetable is looking remarkably calm,” he said. “But that may have something to do with working up to 20 hours a day! I’d say 99 per cent of the show has already been organised, but the key to success is going to be the final 1 per cent. We pride ourselves in paying particular attention to detail when planning the show to ensure it’s a success for our exhibitors and the best possible experience for our visitors. Our teams are scheduled to be on site a minute past midnight on Wednesday 14 February to start the build – watches will be synchronised.”

With the move to the NEC, this year’s show has increased by almost a full third again in size, and sees the greatest number of manufacturers ever to attend, along with many of the industry’s leading distributors. We asked John for a ballpark figure on how long will it take to walk down every aisle. “That’s an interesting question,” he replied. “I’d probably sum up the answer by saying that with the quality and eclectic mix of exhibitors and products on display, visitors would be unable to see everything over the three days of the show.”

The increased scale of the show, coupled with the burgeoning international element to its make-up, means that many exhibitors are upgrading their presence to fit the setting. Visitors can expect to see a lot of huge IWA-style stands. In previous years there have also been dedicated areas for gamekeeping, gundogs, rifles and the like. John told us that with a larger venue and a more ambitious scale in general, it’s now even more important for exhibitors and visitors that stand layouts follow a logical order and are grouped in specific areas within the halls. “The growth of each dedicated area has made this even more necessary,” he said.  “There’s a new emphasis on specialist rifles, and the airgun ‘Have-A-Go’ area has doubled in size. The shotguns to be seen at this year’s show will be truly amazing with all the massive brands attending. In the true British Shooting Show style, it is now very much a unique visitor’s experience.”

Moving to the NEC will also make travelling to the show much easier. Its central location means that 75 per cent of the UK is within a three-hour drive, and on arrival, parking will be free for BSS visitors. If the thought of navigating the UK’s beleaguered road network doesn’t fill you with joy, there are also 43 direct rail routes from around the country straight into the NEC; the entrance to the British Shooting Show is a two-minute walk from the platform at Birmingham International. For those travelling from abroad, there are 143 direct flights into Birmingham International airport from European destinations, as well as direct flights from the USA. Again, the NEC is only 90 seconds from the terminal, so the ease of access from international destinations could not be easier.

As always, the British Shooting Show will provide the first major platform of the year for manufacturers and distributors to unveil their latest products, so expect dramatic launch events and exciting new technologies. Everything is very hush-hush, so in many cases even GTN will be at the front of the line to get the first glimpse of what the big names have to offer in 2018.

John told us a few of the other attractions visitors can look forward to: “Throughout the show area visitors will come across stands where artisans demonstrate incredible craftsmanship such as hand engraving, barrel making, stock making, taxidermy and stick making to name just a few. The arena is the place to be for visitors wanting to enjoy an exciting line up of displays on a rural theme presented by the leading professionals of their fields. The inspirational Andy Cullen MBE demonstrates invaluable techniques and personal tips on how to train your gundog and build a successful working partnership. The charismatic Chris Green will be sharing his vast knowledge of country skills in a way that is as entertaining as it is enlightening. And if game cooking is your passion, ‘Wild Chef’ Ralph Skripek will be showing how to prepare and create delicious recipes using the game abundant in our countryside. Stunning and unusual gun, rifle and pistol collections will also be on show, from antique pistols and historic breech loading rifles to .50 calibre rifles and Mike Kay’s magnificent Winchester collection. For those wanting a challenge ‘The Battleship Breach’ in the tactical area gives visitors the chance to come on board and ‘clear the decks’, shooting at a variety of targets against the clock while moving through the ship.”

Whether exhibiting yourself or just going to take in everything the show has to offer, now is the time to make your preparations. We’ll see you there.


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