A $4000 scope giveaway, a wedding proposal and a runaway gundog were just some of the many highlights when the SSAA SHOT Expo travelled to Melbourne in May.
The SSAA SHOT Expo is Australia’s largest event for showcasing safe, legal and responsible firearms ownership, sports shooting and recreational hunting in Australia. And with nearly 14,000 attendees walking through the Expo doors in the Melbourne Showgrounds in Ascot Vale over the weekend of May 23 and 24, it’s clear that not only are people keen to see what’s new in the firearms industry, but also that the shooting sports are alive and very well in this country. As Beretta Australia senior marketing analyst Leisha McCallum commented, it was a “good show with great numbers!”
Inside the pavilion, more than 145 exhibitors displayed everything from new rifles, shotguns, handguns and firearm chassis, to camo clothing, bowhunting equipment, quads and waterfowling boats and much more. Major sponsor Winchester Australia even had an impressive ‘ammunition bar’ to take your pick from. Some of the smaller and newer exhibitors said they couldn’t have expected such a fantastic turnout, with many of them nearly selling out of stock by the end of the first day. For those who wanted something more hands on, there were air rifle and air pistol shooting ranges, plus licensing and safety testing. Victoria Police were also available to answer shooters’ licensing, permit and other queries.
Free talks and demonstrations were held outside, covering topics such as firearm and projectile selection, shooting and hunting activities, and game meat cooking with marinades and smokers. There was also a jumping castle and face painting for the kids.
However, it was the SSAA Working Gundogs demonstrations that really drew in the crowds. Working Gundogs is a SSAA discipline that promotes the use of trained dogs for retrieving in the field, as well as for trials and competitions. The demonstration, which was sponsored by Beretta Australia, showcased the fastidious obedience, locating, pointing and retrieving skills of Labradors, Brittany spaniels, pointers and other breeds. Some of the gundogs were understandably more trained than others, with one beginner pup escaping the oval and deciding that the pats of the enthusiastic crowd and the tempting smells emanating from Aaron Smith’s The Smoke Shack’s roast marinated meats were much more appealing than retrieving a plastic duck dokken.
Back inside, Thales Australia had one of the most popular stands over the weekend, showcasing their ADI Powders, Outback Australia and Lithgow Arms brands, particularly the new Lithgow CrossOver LA102 centrefire rifles. The LA102 rifles were launched earlier this year at the IWA Outdoor Classics in Germany and follow on from the success of the LA101 rimfire rifles in 2013. Production models are expected in the coming months and we can’t wait to have a closer look at one.
Thales Australia marketing manager Rosalie Landers said the SSAA SHOT Expo was an important event for Thales and gave them the opportunity to interact with their existing customers and others interested in their products. “This year’s show did not disappoint,” she said. “We were overwhelmed by the support and positive feedback we received, and it was great to see so many people supporting Australian-made products,” she said.
Major sponsors Swarovski Optik and Winchester Australia put up two fantastic prize packs for patrons, including a brand-new Swarovski X5(i) scope valued at $4490 and two Winchester eskies filled with merchandise worth $1000 each. Congratulations to the winners Gary Lehmann, Stephen Vines and Michelle Muscat.
Swarovski Optik Australia area manager Stewart Leach said, “A great opportunity was given to us, and so many people were able to see our amazing range of products. The Expo was a huge success and beneficial to both the exhibitors and visitors alike.”
Winchester Australia marketing coordinator Jackie Martin said, “The 2015 SSAA SHOT Expo was the best event we have been involved with to date. We were amazed by the massive attendance in Melbourne and great people are what makes a great event. The entire industry appreciates the support. We had our largest display ever and we were glad to hear how happy the public were with our firearms and ammunition. Also, the support for our shooting accessories was the strongest ever. We will continue to invest and diversify our stand in the years to come.”
Finally, it’s not unusual for people to talk about the ‘romance’ of classic and old-world firearms, but the Expo experienced some romance of the more traditional kind when exhibitor Adrian Laino popped the question to Jess Barbar with his wedding proposal. Adrian and Jess were both working the Gunco Superstore stand over the weekend. Congratulations to the happy couple.
SSAA National CEO Tim Bannister said, “The Melbourne SSAA SHOT Expo has been a terrific showcase for the recreational hunting and shooting sports. Melbourne turned on terrific weather. We had products galore and an excellent turnout. Thanks again to the major sponsors Gun Emporium, Swarovski Optik and Winchester Australia, and to everyone else for their support.”
SSAA National President Geoff Jones said, “Melbourne has been the most successful Expo to date and we look forward to future events being bigger and better than the last. This weekend bodes very well for the future of Australia’s shooting sports and the industry overall. The signs at this stage are that Brisbane’s August SSAA SHOT Expo will be very well attended, so we’re excited about that.”
If you missed out on attending the Melbourne Expo, or you’d just like to do it all again, the SSAA SHOT Expo travels to the Brisbane on the weekend of August 22 and 23, with tickets already available.