The anticipation which greeted last weekend’s SSAA SHOT Expo in Victoria was summed up almost immediately, with Winchester Australia selling their first rifle of the day within four minutes of the doors opening at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
Thousands of shooting sports enthusiasts flocked to the two-day event and were treated to a host of new products launched to tie in with the Expo. Brian Mortensen, national sales manager for Winchester, one of four major sponsors, was delighted when one of the first arrivals snapped up the latest CZ 457 rimfire rifle.
Said Brian: “Could hardly believe it actually. The doors had been open for less than five minutes and the first of the CZs was sold. So many people had been telling us how much they were looking forward to the Expo and that customer knew exactly what he’d come for. He was a happy man - and so was I.”
And CZ’s 457 family wasn’t the only new face at the Winchester stand, with plenty of visitors keen to view the latest Meopta Meopro 6 Series of riflescopes and the Steyr Zephyr II rifle.
In keeping with this year’s theme - Pathway to the Shooting Sports - among newly-launched products from the other major sponsors, Outdoor Sporting Agencies introduced the Diana MK38 shotgun by Miroku, aimed at entry-level youngsters and female shooters. Swarovski were kept busy all weekend thanks to their exciting Z8 series of scopes and Polaris took the wraps off the new Ranger EV all-terrain electric ute which proved popular with hunters.
Among other major exhibitors, Beretta Australia unveiled the latest 694 sporting shotgun and Spika did brisk business with their new ranges of both knives and clothing.
High-profile visitors this year included Commonwealth Games gold medallist Laetisha Scanlan who compèred the main stage, while Senator Bridget McKenzie, Federal Minister for Agriculture, spent the weekend mingling with visitors at “one of my favourite events of the year”.
Said Senator McKenzie: “As a proud legal firearm owner I’m here to support our often maligned and misunderstood sport and butt against these misconceptions. Hard data cannot be argued with and in the national survey carried out earlier this year, it was proved the shooting sports are not only beneficial to our physical and mental wellbeing, they also contribute $2.4 billion to the Australian economy each year.
“Our gun clubs are very important in breeding talent, Laetisha Scanlan just one example of how far you can go in this sport, but the recreational side of shooting cannot be understated. I’m off hunting next weekend and will be buying a few pieces of equipment here at the Expo and am pleased to see so many people also supporting these proud Australian businesses.”
She also took time to discuss the dangers Australia faces from the lethal African swine fever, highlighting the fact the disease has now infiltrated Southeast Asia and stressing the need for Australia to be ever-vigilant to the threat it poses to our borders and calling on local hunters to report any sightings of what could potentially be infected animals.
Senator McKenzie lent a hand at one of the hugely popular demonstrations by the Victorian branch of the Working Gundogs Association of Australia, other crowd-pullers including cooking displays by Jason Spencer of Hunt Catch Cook who rustled up several mouth-watering creations from the SSAA Field to Fork cookbook, and the deer hunting panel discussions which drew plenty of reaction and feedback from a large audience.
The 2019 SHOT Expo was superbly organised by Michael Allendorf and his team at Level Up Events and hosted by SSAA Victoria who signed up hundreds of new members to the Association, and New South Wales won’t have long to wait for their turn with the 2020 event scheduled for Rosehill Gardens Racecourse in Sydney from June 20-21.