Those who strolled around Brisbane’s RNA Showgrounds on the last weekend in August would have witnessed first-hand just how bright the future of shooting and hunting in Australia really is. Overwhelming at times, a colorful crowd converged on the venue under the warm winter sun to soak up all that wasa on offer at the SSAA’s pinnacle firearms event.
Impressive attendance numbers clearly show that Australia’s biggest shooting, hunting and outdoors show continues to shine, with an incredible 25 per cent increase in crowds compared to the inaugural Brisbane SSAA SHOT Expo in 2015. Saturday headcounts alone showed that the firearms community were out in full force, with nearly 8000 people streaming through the gates on the opening day.
A plethora of popular events occurring on the Sunday influenced crowd numbers, but by mid-morning the venue was just as packed as peak Saturday times. The final crowd numbers bordered on 13,000, described as a “pleasing result” by SSAA Queensland President Bob Green. “For only the second time hosting the SSAA SHOT Expo, it’s great to see another huge turn-out and a remarkable increase in crowd numbers,” he said. “Of course, the event would not have been possible without the volunteers and hard workers.”
For the 130-plus exhibitors who overcame logistical challenges and tight timeframes to ensure the latest and greatest products were on display, there was a notable increase in families, women and children at the event. Adrian Walker, from sponsor Joker Knife Australia, commented that “every Expo crowd is different, but Sunday very much seems to be the family day.”
“The event is great as it gives us an opportunity to connect directly with people,” he added, in a rare quiet moment.
Although predominately a shooting and hunting show, there truly was something for everyone to enjoy. Exhibitors filled two floors and spilled outside, taking advantage of two sensational sunny winter days that provided the perfect setting for the much-loved Working Gundogs, who were showed off under the expert direction of the SSAA United Field & Retrieving outfit.
Keen shooters at the SSAA Indoor Shooting Range peppered nearly 5000 paper targets with pellets on Saturday alone, with the chance to have a shot with air rifles too good to pass up. The Bushbow 3D Indoor Archery Range also tested the aim of budding archers, while the younger crowd enjoyed the jumping castle and face-painting.
Judging by the line-up at sponsor Beretta Australia, the chance to experience a one-of-a-kind virtual reality was also too good to miss. For the first time in Australia, the Aimpoint VR game saw shooters don eyewear and a firearm-shaped item to take a shot at virtual fast-moving targets. Beretta Australia’s Clemente Scribani Rossi said many had travelled from Townsville, Cairns and even Tasmania, solely for the event. “It’s just a great opportunity to meet with our customers, support the firearms community and the SSAA,” he said.
With 400-plus brands and the latest accessories and services on display, expert talks and demonstrations in the stage area allowed attendees to soak up some knowledge, along with R-Licence testing for keen hunters. The team at sponsors Winchester Australia took advantage of the rare opportunity to “engage face-to-face with customers,” according to Jeff Gordon. “As wholesalers, the SSAA SHOT Expo is the biggest and best opportunity for us to have that interaction with our customers and find out exactly what they want,” he said.
Sponsor Swarovski Optik had prime position at the top of the escalators and was also swamped for most of the two days. Johannes Nothdurfter noticed an increase in women and children attendees, saying the team was “busy throughout the whole two days.” “We are already looking forward to the next one,” he added. Fellow sponsor ATN also praised the crowds, with the ATN Night Vision Tunnel a highlight for those wanting to test the latest in night vision and thermal optics. James Keech noted the “positive feedback” and described the event as “very successful”.
The sun shone even brighter for several Expo-goers, including resident Jonathan Gardiner, who was the winner of the Steyr-Mannlicher SSG 04A1 .308-calibre rifle provided by Winchester Australia and Swarovski X5i 5-25x56 scope, and Ty McCarthy, who won the Benelli 828U Black shotgun supplied by Beretta Australia. But the overall winners were the firearms community, who were treated to the best of the Australian firearms industry at the biggest gun show in the nation.
The SSAA SHOT Expo heads to Sydney on June 23 and 24 next year - and if the success of the Brisbane event is anything to go by, it will be well worth the wait.