From Thursday to Sunday last week, thousands gathered in Bellevue, Washington to see the latest the tactical arms industry has to offer. More than 100 companies attended TriggrCon 2018 to showcase products ranging from new AR platforms to niche shotguns to specialized accessories.
TriggrCon’s founder and organizer, John Hwang, said he created the event four years ago as a way to meet with customers, but as the show expanded so did its mission. Now, he wants to provide time and space for companies to conduct business and for fans to meet the people behind their favorite brands.
“This is an invite only type of show. Instead of bringing every guy who sells beef jerky and dog products, we’re very specific in what kind of people and what kind of manufacturers we bring to the show,” Hwang said. “So we want to create that very unique experience that’s very catered to what all the enthusiasts really love.”
Hwang sees TriggrCon as filling a gap between industry shows scheduled at the beginning and end of the calendar year, but he also wants to give smaller companies a chance to publicize new products. At larger shows it can be more difficult since they have to compete with major manufacturers. And he should know. He also owns the online shop Rainer Arms and Defense Marketing Group.
“I know how much it costs to go to a trade show. I know how much it costs to put something like that together, so I wanted to make sure we take care of the manufacturers who came to the show,” Hwang said. “And I thought the best way to do that is to give them exposure on all the new products and all the things that they’re doing.”
While many of the exhibitors understood Hwang’s vision for the “Tactical Innovation Guns and Gear Review” convention, they also had their own commercial goals. Exhibitor Michael Rivera said he wanted to raise awareness of the emerging gun brand Sol Invictus — owned by Florida-based gun parts maker Tactical Superiority Inc — as well as the brand’s line of semi-auto shotguns.
“Some of the goals that we have for attending this show is obviously gaining notoriety for the brand itself. It hasn’t been around for a very long time, so we want people to know that we exist,” Rivera said. “And also presenting the innovative products that we have. We have a couple unique sort of firearms that we’re bringing to market this year and we want to make sure that people are excited about them and that they’re aware of the fact that they exist.”
President of the Washington-based Killer Innovation, Rick Olsen, took a more literal approach in setting his agenda. “What I want the public to take away from coming to our booth and meeting us is that we’re a local company and that we’re innovators. Attention to detail trying to solve issues with products that have been around for a long time. We’re trying to come up with new solutions and make things better and more accurate. And to show people what we’re doing in those fields,” Olsen said.
Olsen applauded the size of the show, crediting it for allowing his company to stand out as a premier parts maker. “I think this is a really good show because it’s all about innovation. That’s obvious who we are. Killer Innovation,” Olsen said. “That’s all we do. And I think this is a better venue for that than something like SHOT Show or some of these other shows where there’s so much going on you can get lost in the white noise.”
Christopher Berlinski, the marketing manager for one of the bigger vendors at the show, Connecticut-based Stag Arms, said they wanted to meet potential customers in a new market. “We haven’t really done many shows out in this area, so it’s a great place for us to meet the customer base that we have out here,” Berlinski said. “Meet the fans of Stag Arms that are out in the Pacific northwest. Really, just show them our product if they haven’t seen it yet.”
Other established companies also wanted to explore new markets even if they didn’t have a strong presence with the show’s target demographics. Seattle-based Outdoor Research has made outdoor apparel for close to 40 years and has law enforcement and military contracts, but has only dabbled in the civilian tactical market. “We’re exploring new markets. Looking at growing and expanding our tactical line. So this is a way to talk to new customers and figure out where we’re headed in that market,” said company rep David Moir.
Hwang described this year’s show — the size and attendance — as a model for future TriggrCons. Small enough so vendors could do business and focused enough to keep the public interested. “Our goal from day one is we’ll never have more than 200 vendors. I mean who knows if we could stay true to that, but that’s our goal. We never wanted to get bigger than that. This year, I think we maxed out here at about 100 manufacturers. And it’s mainly because how much space we can fit in this trade show; into this convention.”
Moving forward Hwang said he wants to maintain quality and grow a strong presence for his show rather than focusing on the number of vendors and people in attendance. “Some shows are just for profit. They want to fit as many people as they can and grow as big as they can. We want to keep our show in the northwest. That’s first and foremost. We really wanted to give back to our regional customers and all the people who support us from the beginning. We wouldn’t be where we are without that, so we wanted to keep the show in the northwest.”