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The National Shooting Sports Foundation 50th Anniversary

By Dr. Jim and Mary Clary


Most of us in the media, as well as manufacturers and buyers, think of the SHOT Show as the place to go to view the newest products for the shooting sports, and it is. As interesting and educational as the exhibits and products are, it is easy to forget the purpose and benefits of the organization behind the SHOT, The National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Firearms and hunting have been honored traditions in the United States since its founding. However, in the fifties, with sixty-four percent of the population living in cities, the anti-hunting movement gained momentum among the liberals in the country. They based their views on the pseudo-thesis of animal rights, depicting hunters as cruel, deceitful and socially unjustifiable. They enlisted all manner of fringe “scientists” to support their view that hunting was disruptive to the environment. At this same time, with crime increasing in the urban areas, the possession of firearms became an easy target and gun control became the panacea for solving the problem.

Noting these and other challenges, Warren Page, shooting editor of Field & Stream magazine, urged his magazine to bring together industry leaders and host the first National Conference on the Shooting Sports on June 8, 1960. From that conference, a recommendation was made to start a new industry organization. The National Shooting Sports Foundation was chartered in 1961 with 30 founding members. The charter mission statement was: “To create a better public understanding of and a more active participation in the shooting sports.” Early spokesmen for the NSSF included Bing Crosby, Robert Stack and Slim Pickens.

With strong support from the NSSF, the Congress unanimously passed a joint resolution which established the first National Hunting & Fishing Day on the fourth Saturday of September. In May 1972, President Nixon signed the first presidential proclamation establishing the NHF Day. By the end of summer of the same year, the governors of all fifty states signed proclamations establishing state NHF Days. Today, the NSSF does more than just represent the industry; they represent all of us as hunters and shooters.

The NSSF has done so much for hunters and shooters over the past fifty years, that it would be impossible to list them all here. However, you can read about them in Doug Painter’s book, 50 years of Promoting, Protecting and Preserving Hunting and the Shooting Sports by NSSF, the Firearms Industry’s Trade Association. (The National Shooting Sports Foundation, A History 1961 to 2011.)

Over the years, most manufacturers of firearms and shooting equipment exhibited their products at the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) trade show. While this was a good venue, many companies believed that they did not get enough exposure in a show that included camping, team sports equipment and fishing tackle. As such, the NSSF sent questionnaires to hundreds of industry executives to determine their interest in having their own trade show. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of establishing a separate trade show for firearms and shooting sports. In 1979, the first SHOT show opened in St Louis with 290 exhibitors and 4,700 attendees. Fears that it would flop were laid to rest as media responses to the SHOT show were outstanding and industry executives overwhelmingly endorsed the show as “the trade show for their industry.”

Now, thirty-three shows later, the 2011 SHOT show had 1,600 exhibitors covering 660,000 square feet in the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas (January 18-21). Attendance included 31,769 buyers and 2,074 media. Adding in the exhibitors, there were 57,390 people at the SHOT. It is now the largest trade show of its kind, with representatives from every aspect of a $4 billion industry.

It is literally impossible to get around to every booth and chat with every exhibitor, so most of us use the My Show Planner in advance to set up our schedule for the show. We selected forty exhibitors that we wanted to visit and set up appointments and in between, we stopped by another fifty. Overall, we were on the go from opening day to the close of the show. We picked up a lot of merchandise to test in the coming year, including firearms, knives, ammunition and field gear. After we put each piece of equipment “through its paces” under field conditions, we will write our reviews. Until then, we are looking forward to the attending the 2012 SHOT show.




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Copyright 2011 by Dr. Jim Clary. All rights reserved.


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