It’s the concentration of media at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits and the North American Sporting Goods Wholesalers convention that fuels the introduction of new firearms, ammunition and associated gear at the annual events. The captive audience delivers the kind of coverage ideal for placing those products on the shelves and generating sales.
It’s tradition, but the industry has grown and trying to get the message out on a crowded trade show floor has become a serious challenge. That rare spot to sit, candy bowl and warm smile in a booth no longer guarantees traffic. It’s a particular challenge for new companies with unfamiliar names, even when their products are innovative and hold the promise of the performance enthusiasts deserve.
More and more of the industry’s familiar names are avoiding the three-times-a-year din, scattering new product introductions randomly throughout the year. Springfield Armory, for example, unveiled its new, modular 9 mm Luger-chambered Echelon pistol on July 12. The design is a huge departure for the company that American Rifleman has covered in detail. It brings the kind of versatility that would have drawn big crowds at any convention, but Springfield didn’t wait.
In fact, the company added something different. On July 15, enthusiasts gave the new pistol a try at GRITR Sports & Outdoors in North Richland Hills, Texas. The free range day ran from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and all Springfield products were 5 percent off during event.
In partnership with Federal Ammunition, on the same day, Springfield Armory held “Hit the Range and Win” promotions at several other ranges across the nation. The celebration of the Echelon’s launch gave shooters the opportunity to shoot it and a chance to win one for themselves.
The first 50 shooters at each even received a Springfield Armory hat as well as a Pro-Shot SplatterShot target and 10 rounds of Federal Ammunition to use on the range with the new firearm. “This new product launch will further build on Springfield Armory’s reputation for developing and offering firearms and products the shooting community demands,” said Steve Kramer, vice president of marketing for Springfield Armory.
Admittedly, a select few members of the media had the chance to give the Echelon a try before the launch—after promising to keep the pistol secret. But it wasn’t the entire industry fondling them in a crowded convention hall rushing to report the news months or weeks before consumers even saw one on an FFL’s shelves.
That delay may build anticipation, but it’s frustrating when you’re eager to see or purchase the new gun. Ruger, and a few others, address that problem by adhering to a strict policy that no gun is publicly announced until its in the supply pipeline—period.
Springfield Armory’s dedication to enthusiasts loyal to its brand is the same, but holding consumer events commemorating the introduction simultaneously is an unusual twist. Add the “off season” introduction and the marketing approach certainly rose above convention “noise.”