It really does just keep getting bigger. A record-breaking crowd of more than 15,000 firearms, shooting and hunting enthusiasts made their way through the gates on the weekend of June 25 and 26 for the SSAA SHOT Expo in Sydney at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse. Both mornings had seemingly endless lines going up stairs and around wrapping corners filled with excited ticketholders. Once the gates opened, almost 8000 shooters swarmed the showgrounds on the first day, with similar numbers the second day.
“Attendance on Sunday soared, with visitors wanting to find out more about our sport, which includes target shooting, recreational hunting and collecting,” said SSAA NSW Executive Director Diana Melham.
Shooters came from all over the country for the day, some as far away as Perth and others as close as Parramatta. The exhibitors came from all around the world, such as Gil Shvartz, American Technologies Network (ATN) regional sales manager from San Francisco.
Even more varied than where they came from was why they came. Some came out to obtain their NSW hunting R-licence, some to buy their first shotgun and others to learn the finer points of reloading and field-dressing, but most came for the whole show and to see the entire spectacle. Very few were able to leave without spending some of their hard-earned dollars on something.
SSAA SHOT Expo major sponsors ATN, Swarovski Optik Hunting and Winchester Australia, along with the other 130 exhibitors, were thrilled by the turn-out. Spika managing director Dean Anderson was again impressed by the commitment of attendees who made their way into the Expo and got involved. Sales representative for Nightforce and APRS, Jamie Dennis, said he was run off his feet for both days fielding questions and enquiries from punters who were keen to see it all.
Forever a crowd favourite was the SSAA Working Gundogs, who stole the show during their four demonstrations across the weekend. The hard-working group and their four-legged companions impressed the crowd and showed what’s possible with ‘a little bit of obedience and a lot of patience and persistence’. Using mock birds and simulated gun shots, the team displayed obedience, pointing and many different retrieving variations including doubles, triples and blinds.
Of course a spectacle like the SSAA SHOT Expo means the media were out in full force. Several of our friends in the communications industry were creating their own content throughout the weekend and we look forward to seeing their finished products over the coming months. The SSAA SHOT Expo is a great opportunity for everyone to rub shoulders with big and small players involved with the shooting sports. Ben Unten, from The Shooting Show, said: “The weekend is unbelievable for us, so much talent and interesting things under one roof.”
A disappointing Channel 7 story broadcast on the Saturday night attempted to sensationalise the event, but also resulted in free publicity leading to record attendance figures. SSAA National Media Officer Kate Fantinel, who was in attendance, said: “We can’t control what the media says, but we can continue to create positive opportunities for our members and shooters to come together at events like the SSAA SHOT Expo.
“It was great to see that despite the sensationalised story, the licensed firearm owning community turned out in full force to rally behind our sport at the Expo and prove that sports shooting is alive and well in Australia.”
As always R-licences were a big hit in the state, with SSAA NSW busily working through and presenting more than 200 licences over the course of the weekend. Show-goer Dallas Ruhan travelled over from Canberra to take the test and said: “I usually don’t care about tests, but this one I make sure I pass.” R-licences allow hunters to hunt game and feral animals on public land that has been declared for hunting and opened, or on private land with the permission of the landholder. We welcome the more than 300 new members who signed up to the SSAA over the course of the weekend.
Another highlight was the ATN night vision tunnel, which allowed attendees to test out the latest night vision optics on offer from ATN. The dark area was a huge hit and allowed customers to really try out the products. James Keech, the managing director of ATN Australian distributor Ground Force Products, said: “We love coming to the SSAA SHOT Expos. As long as the SSAA keeps putting on Expos we will keep doing bigger things and bring even more exciting products.”
Yamaha demonstrated proper safety and what is capable on its all-terrain vehicles using a purpose-built obstacle course, while Devil Ark continued its conservation efforts of saving the Tasmanian devil. Dean Reid, supervisor from Devil Ark, brought along Levi, a real-life devil who was more than happy to pose for photos and receive some pats from excited devil fans.
The Winchester Australia ammo bar, which has become a staple of SHOT Expos in recent years, was again in full swing and supplied shooters with ammunition and technical know-how. Swarovski Optik Hunting made full use of the picturesque racecourse outside, utilising it as the perfect ‘range’ for punters to inspect scopes. Swarovski also had its new Z8i riflescope on display, while ATN showed off its X-Sight 2 scope with recoil-activated recording.
Inside the halls two large stages enabled experts to talk and demonstrate their skills to large crowds. Andy Mallen, from the SSAA Sydney Branch, demonstrated deer caping, Mathew Cameron and Ewan Williams, from ADI World Class Powders & Ammunition, ran the crowd through the art of reloading, Keith Fludder showed us how to make a knife and there were many more presentations. A highlight was Greg Chan, from Beretta Australia, who entertained the crowd with a funny and information-packed talk covering everything shotgun related. All this kept the adults busy, while the kids made good use of a jumping castle and face-painting. However, the ultimate crowd pleaser was the air rifle range, which got everyone a little competitive.
Father and son, Mathew and Barney, from Windsor in Sydney, said: “We came here for the freebies and magazines, but it looks like we might end up buying a lot more stuff than we thought.” Shane and Danielle Ravenscroft, along with their daughter, picked up their tickets for free by winning a SSAA National Facebook competition. “It’s a perfect family day,” they said. “Everyone is really nice and friendly, plus the weather is great.”
Politicians were well represented throughout the weekend with appearances from Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm, Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Senator Robert Borsak. All these politicians being keen shooters themselves meant they were just as excited to see what was at the Expo as they were to take questions from attendees. Senator McKenzie couldn’t contain herself in her booth for long and quickly joined the crowd, saying: “There is just too much to see!”Also in attendance was the Outdoor Recreation Party.
SSAA National President Geoff Jones said: “It has been a wonderful weekend and everyone has had a great time. We are proud of our sport and we aren’t afraid to show it.” SSAA NSW President Paul McNabb said the Expo was a huge success and thanked all the volunteers who contributed to the SSAA stands throughout the weekend, as without their help it would not have been as successful as it was.
SSAA WA President Ron Bryant said he was excited for the event to make its way across the country in October. The SSAA SHOT Expo will be in Perth on October 22 and 23.