The 2016 SSAA SHOT Expo exuded the ‘wow’ factor as it ventured way out west to Perth for a follow-up showing. Over the weekend of October 22 and 23, the Claremont Showground was the place to be, with shooting enthusiasts from far and wide clamouring to check on the latest offerings from Australian and international distributors.
SSAA WA President Ron Bryant was delighted that Perth had lapped up the chance to host its second Expo. Crowds officially tallied at 6288 for Saturday and 4869 for Sunday. More than 1200 family tickets were sold for the weekend - a figure more than double any other SHOT Expo.
“It is exciting to see the event back in WA again,” said Ron, shortly after the first eager punters had surged through the gates on Saturday morning. “It showcases this exciting and growing sport. People have come from all over the state and from interstate.”
The consensus among stallholders was that the Perth crowds were intent on purchasing merchandise that had been strategically jetted into the west coast location. “It’s going extremely well, the stall was mobbed early on,” said James Keech, of ATN. The ATN Group had an added attraction in the form of a night-vision tunnel, which gave visitors the opportunity to view virtual reality animals through a night scope complete with sound effects of grunting pigs.
“We have had a fabulous response,” said Winchester Australia sales & marketing manager Jeff Gordon. “We have not been hit this hard by customers at any previous show...The customers in Perth seem to really come to buy, whereas in, say Melbourne, they initially just come to look. The interest in firearms has been phenomenal.”
Adrian Walker, of Kizlyar Knives, echoed those sentiments. “It’s been an awesome crowd. It has been by far our best show,” he said. “We freighted everything in and I must admit we were a bit wary. But we were annihilated by the crowds and it has been short-term pain for long-term gain.”
Schmidt & Bender from overseas also attended for the first time and was pleased with the result. “For Schmidt & Bender it was the first time to exhibit all their high-quality riflescopes at a hunting show in Australia,” said area sales manager Thomas Pehlke. “I personally exhibit Schmidt & Bender scopes at shows around the globe, but I have hardly experienced such well-skilled and focused visitors as in Perth. We’ll be back!”
Frontier Arms was another company that enjoyed the Perth experience. “The first day we were busier than Sydney,” said commercial director Chris Papps. “The crowds have a real appetite for firearms, they really turn up. I have been very impressed and WA is a pretty good state for us.”
Glen Curyer, of Wolf-Eyes Tactical Torches, utilised what he called a ‘disco laser’ on one of the walls to highlight his stand. “It certainly does the trick,” said Glen. “I think the people in Perth are very appreciative that we have made the effort to come over here.”
Swarovski Optik area sales manager Stewart Leach was only too happy to be rushed off his feet. “I haven’t stepped off the carpet,” said Stewart as the hubbub late on day one finally showed signs of easing.
Greg Chan, of Beretta Australia, proved to be an accomplished orator on the main stage. He went about debunking some of the myths about shotguns and spelled out his philosophy on the subject of being a proficient shooter. “Gun-fit is not something, gun-fit is everything,” was Greg’s mantra. He stressed that all the measurements had to be right and that Beretta was not afraid to make alterations to even the most expensive shotguns. During the Expo, the Beretta Australia stall was taking measurements of patrons, which could then be stored electronically to be used when that person decided to buy a Beretta firearm any time in the future.
Greg has impeccable credentials to offer advice, having been an Olympic coach for many years, mentoring Michael Diamond and Rio Olympic Games gold medal winner Catherine Skinner among others. “Olympic medals are everything and it is how you are judged,” said Greg. “I told Catherine Skinner when she won her gold medal that her life would never be the same again.
“I have recently visited China and I am about to go to India. Both those countries are throwing bucketloads of money at shooting with the aim of achieving success.”
Another speaker who drew a healthy attendance was Dodge Keir, with his demonstration of game harvesting, caping and preparation on behalf of EDI-T Hunting & Outdoors. During his morning show, Dodge displayed his skills on the front end of a pig, which he meticulously treated. Dodge said he had also worked on such animals as bears, camels and elks. His coldest working scenario had been at -22C in Canada on a mountain goat. “Bears are unusual in that they have almost similar features to humans, which is a bit creepy,” Dodge told his listeners. He added that water, warmth and bacteria are the enemy when skinning in the wild.
The dangers of the trekking in the wilderness was a theme explored by Bob Cooper, who delved into his outback survival kit when he took to the stage. He listed the five elements to survival as water, warmth, shelter, signals and food.
Bob pulled seemingly endless items from a tiny receptacle including such apparently innocuous objects as a whistle, teabags, a magnifying glass and a mirror. In conjunction all these bits and pieces can mean the difference between life and death. And Bob had one further warning. “Fear can play a crucial role. Once fear kicks in, it can smother other emotions and common sense goes out of the window,” he said. It was a riveting delivery.
Outside the main arena, the SSAA Working Gundogs stole the show with six canines being put through their paces by their respective owners. Some of the dogs had been flown across from Melbourne to display their retrieving skills. The MC, Shane Edmond, explained to the engrossed cluster of onlookers how training the dogs involved perseverance in installing obedience in the young animals.
Kio, a pointer, was one of the stars of the display, showing an ice-cool temperament on a simulated trail for quail. With SSAA Working Gundogs National Discipline Chairman Barry Oliver directing her, Kio found the spot for a substitute homing pigeon in a deftly choreographed routine.
Adding to the outdoor spectacle was the Perth Volunteer Rifle & Artillery Regiment, a colorful troop put together by the SSAA Perth Muzzle Loading Club. Their red uniforms provided a dash of pomp and they are regular performers on special occasions in WA. Recently they added to their achievements when some of them journeyed 500km to Yalgoo to be film extras in an Australian Western titled The Decadent and Depraved. The film, starring Logie-nominated actor Ben Mortley, of McLeod’s Daughters fame, is expected to be released in 2017.
Elsewhere, Channel 10 cameras roamed the emporium, putting together a segment for the channel’s evening news bulletin. Reporter Claire Dearle seemed impressed as she held one of the wrongly-maligned Adler shotguns while SSAA National President Geoff Jones showed her the working procedures.
The indoor shooting range, in conjunction with an adjacent archery layout, proved a major drawcard with youngsters. Even the smallest of potential shooters were able to stand on crates to take their aim. In one case the juniors were guided by one of their own as 13-year-old Cordell Wilson, of the SSAA Perth Lever Action Rifle Club, fulfilled his duties as one of Australia’s youngest range officers. Junior Isaac Todorvic was among those who heeded Cordell’s instructions.
Astrid Coleman, of the SSAA Geraldton Branch, was the volunteer coordinator, and reckoned the raking queues had been non-stop once the doors opened. “It’s been a useful exercise in introducing some newcomers to shooting,” said Astrid. “The lines of people have been constant. We have also been giving out showbags and some of the metropolitan clubs will be following this up by holding open days.” Official figures showed nearly 2000 people had shot at the indoor range, including more than 500 juniors.
As the sun set on Perth’s weekend in the spotlight, organisers were already turning their attention to future chapters in the SSAA SHOT Expo series. The next event is scheduled for Melbourne on May 20 and 21, 2017, with the showpiece returning to Brisbane a few months later on August 26 and 27.