Airgun Predictions From The 2023 SHOT And IWA Shows
Now the main “business to business” show season for the airgun industry is over. The 2023 SHOT Show and IWA Outdoor Classics show have run their course. So what did we see, what did we learn and what airgun predictions can we make for the future?
Above we see the impressive venue for the IWA Show in Nuremberg, Germany.
Trade Shows Are Back
Well, firstly, 2023 represented the first year in which the trade show circuit is recognizably back to normal after the wrenching dislocations of the Coronavirus pandemic. My estimate is that both shows were running at about 70 – 80% of their former peak in 2019 in terms of attendance. Certainly both were well above the 2022 levels.
Below. The BRK Ghost is the latest model from the British manufacturer formerly known as Brocock. Here, Tony Belas shows the gun to us at the 2023 IWA Show.
For many years, these two shows – SHOT and IWA – have formed the backbone of new product introductions and sales for many companies. This has been true for airgun companies, as well as the broader shooting goods industry.
But that may have changed forever. Prior to 2019, attendance at these shows was mandatory for almost every significant company in the outdoor business. If you were not there, you were not a player.
Yet sales did not stop during the pandemic. Indeed they increased for most – if not all – shooting goods companies. Airgun companies too.
Product launches happened without the need to confirm to a “show timetable”. Orders were placed without the need for a show venue.
The big loss was that of face-to-face communication. Relationships survived, but only through the means of the phone, Zoom and email.
In my opinion, the overwhelming benefit of this year’s SHOT and IWA shows was the re-building of personal relationships.
Everywhere you could see people who were delighted to actually meet each other face-to-face again for the first time in years. This was my experience, as well as the experience of other attendees I spoke to.
So the 2023 trade shows have been primarily about personal relationships. Not new products.
In fact, some booths at IWA consisted – like Umarex (photo below) – primarily of private meeting areas behind a high wall, rather than displaying acres of products as is traditional.
The Benelli Group (including Stoeger Airguns) took this even further, their IWA “booth” consisted entirely of a set of confidential meeting rooms for pre-arranged meetings. No freely-available product display at all.
So What About New Products?
This means that overall, there have been less new products announced at the 2023 SHOT and IWA shows.
It’s also noticeable that the composition of the trade shows has changed. Some dominating players – notably the SIG SAUER/Blaser firearms group – have oped to be almost non-existent at the 2023 shows.
However, a host of new, smaller companies have been seen, some for the first time.
In the airgun world, it’s noticeable that some big names are no longer present. Velocity Outdoor (the parent company of Crosman and Benjamin) did not exhibit at either show. Air Arms had no booth at the IWA show and just a panel on the Air Venturi booth at the SHOT Show.
Another noticeable non-exhibitor was FX Airguns. Although Element Optics and “FX Outdoor” were present at both shows, there was no FX Airguns booth at either and – in contrast to pre-pandemic shows – no new airguns.
What does such non-attendance mean? I don’t know but you can probably make your own airgun predictions that are as valid as mine…
On the other hand, there’s an explosion of Turkish and eastern European companies in the airgun market with new or expanded product ranges. (That’s the Hatsan Sniper, above). Particularly this is in the case of companies in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and adjacent countries.
Sure, the Chinese are doing their thing and moving steadily upmarket – for example Nova Vista. However it’s clear that the PCP airgun market is primarily being powered by Eastern European innovation.
At the high-tech end, Skout Airguns is definitely new and exciting, while the Daystate/Brocock combo of companies continues to introduce innovative new products at a prolific rate. Otherwise most of the PCP excitement is coming from Eastern Europe.
Unsurprisingly, most of the new models are magazine-fed, sidelever, regulated, “black guns”. Many of them have a modular design. That’s another clear trend.
Below the KalibrGun Snipe is an example of the development of PCPs in Eastern Europe.
And while Weihrauch is still at full production capacity and the Black Bunker BM8 was – for me – the most innovative airgun product at the IWA Show, it’s clear that the breakbarrel air rifle is a dying breed.
Sure, low cost breakbarrels will still be sold in “big box” stores. At the high end, Weihrauch is clearly in the dominating position for enthusiasts. But really, that’s about it. I don’t see a big change in this market going forward or many fundamental new breakbarrel products – although Black Bunker shows that radical new directions are available for the brave.
As far as ammo goes, JSB and H&N are still clearly in the driving seat. Both companies are working flat-out and have ranges of both slugs and pellets. But there’s many new entries in the airgun ammo market, many driven by the interest in slugs – which are easier to manufacture than pellets.
But don’t rule out pellets yet! There are some slug manufacturers – Zan Projectiles is one and I know of another – that planning to break into the pellet market. Yes, some slug makers recognize the value of traditional diabolo-shaped pellets and want some of the action there too.
My airgun predictions are that 2023 will continue to be a very interesting year for us airgunners…