On the weekend of June 21 and 22, the SSAA SHOT Expo returned to Sydney, bigger and better than ever and with something for everyone. Organised by the Exhibitions Group at the new location of the Rosehill Gardens Event Centre at the Rosehill Racecourse, the event drew gold sponsorship from Winchester Australia and Swarovski Optik, and support from many media partners, including Australian Shooter and Australian Hunter magazines.
I was pleased to attend the Expo with my wife Vera as photographer. Some 10,000 people passed through the turnstiles over the weekend, with the event offering them everything they could want in relation to shooting, hunting and the great outdoors, and with more than 130 individual exhibitors and more than 300 booths, the SSAA SHOT Expo exceeded the expectations of organisers and participants alike.
The SSAA was well represented at national, state and club levels, with staff and volunteers from the SSAA National Media & Publications, Store, Membership and Insurance departments, as well as the SSAA NSW Branch and clubs, to promote the organisation and answer any questions visitors may have had.
SSAA National CEO Tim Bannister said the Expo was an important event for Australian shooters and the SSAA overall. “The SSAA SHOT Expo is not only a showcase of the best of the Australian firearm and outdoor industry’s wares, it’s also a platform for the Association to promote to the wider community the varied activities and interests of our members.”
SSAA Insurance Brokers Manager Trevor Jenkin, who along with SSAAIB staff gave out more than 500 showbags, said the Expo provided an excellent opportunity to connect with members. “It was fantastic to be able to talk to the members face to face and to learn from them what they want from their brokerage and their insurance plans,” he said. We had many inquiries on all classes of insurance, and as we told them at the Expo, if they can’t get on the phone, the new SSAAIB website is the best place to start.”
The trade stands, both wholesale and retail, were hives of activity. The big names such as Winchester Australia, Beretta Australia, Outdoor Sporting Agencies, Swarovski Optik and many more were all in attendance, showing off all their wares, including items new for 2014. Retailers did a roaring trade, selling everything associated with shooting, hunting and the outdoors, including torches and other optics, bipods, clothing, backpacks and other accessories.
Many importers had in attendance overseas representatives for lines represented in Australia and this really shows how highly the international companies regard the Australian marketplace. One such visitor was Benjamin Wallbott, head of sales at JP Sauer & Sohn in Germany. Mr Wallbott was a special guest for Outdoor Sporting Agencies, the Australian agents for Sauer rifles. “Sauer is committed to providing an excellent product, as well as backup and support for our Australian customers,” he said. “We have the utmost confidence in our products for the Australian shooting sportsman.”
This year, there were many events running alongside the normal trade booths. The SSAA-sponsored Field to Fork demonstrations were very well attended, with full sessions being run on both days. Professional demonstrations in caping, butchery and sausage/smallgoods making were made possible from the input and support of SSAA National’s Field to Fork books, SSAA Sydney Branch, Great Sausages, The Biltong Man and Costante Imports.
2014 Commonwealth Games shooters Laetisha Scanlan and Paul Adams, the Medway family of Single Action shooting, Extreme Huntress contestant Christine Pisani and American hunting personality Larry Weishuhn also made presentations and were very warmly received, particularly by participants new to the shooting and hunting sports. When asked about his visit to Australia, Mr Weishuhn said, “I am very excited to be heading up to the Top End to hunt some of your big game.”
The Working Gundogs Association of Australia (WGAA) once again provided demonstrations over both days, showcasing the dedication of the trainers and skills of the gundogs. The demonstrations were very popular with attendees and Sydney turned on some beautiful sunny weather, which was enjoyed by human and canine showgoers alike.
Back inside, the SSAA shooting ranges were very well patronised by both experienced shooters and those new to the shooting sports. These types of hands-on activities are just fantastic for those who have never held, let alone used, a firearm or bow before and all no doubt enjoyed testing their skills. These activities, expertly and professionally run by SSAA NSW, were hugely popular and always had long queues.
Talking with many of the exhibitors and general public, it was clear that this year’s SSAA SHOT Expo in Sydney was a winner. A change in venue really transformed the event, creating a fantastic atmosphere over the two exhibition buildings, with plenty of room to move around and peruse all the displays.
SSAA National President Geoff Jones surmised the general feeling well, saying, “This SSAA SHOT Expo was clearly the best yet, with a consistent positive buzz among the exhibitors and attendees alike during the whole weekend. The strong family attendance was a real indicator that the broad thrust of the SSAA is striking a chord with the community at large, where legitimate firearms ownership and associated activities are increasingly being accepted as mainstream.”
The Expo aims to continue breaking new ground later this year with the first SSAA SHOT Expo to take place in Perth over the weekend of December 6 and 7, and also next year in Brisbane. The SSAA SHOT Expo is certainly taking shooting, hunting and outdoor pursuits in Australia into the future and beyond!