Melbourne once again played host to the SSAA SHOT Expo over the weekend of May 20 and 21 as more than 150 exhibitors and 500 brands put their best foot forward to sporting shooters from around the city and the rest of Australia. The weather forecast predicted heavy rainfall over the two days, but the only deluge came from the 17,000 attendees that broke the all-time attendance record at a SSAA SHOT Expo.
SSAA Victoria President Denis Moroney said the Expo had exceeded his expectations and it was great to see so many families coming along. “Our volunteers have been absolutely brilliant and they have worked so hard to bring this all together. I am amazed by how eager the volunteers were to keep offering to come back and help some more,” he said. “We are already planning for the next one and we have had lots of interest from organisations wanting to get on board. We also plan to use local police to help with the traffic next time.” Families made up an impressive amount of ticket sales, which were helped by jumping castles, face painting and a petting zoo.
There were plenty of free live talks and demonstrations on offer, including a deer caping and butchering demonstration by Dodge Keir, from RaptoRazor Australia, which saw people spilling out of the tent in which the talk was held. Corey Wilson, from Hunting the Menu, gave a great presentation about how he takes the amazing shots seen in the SSAA-sponsored television series. “Prior to drones, the only way to get a similar looking shot was to hire a helicopter for two to three thousand dollars an hour,” said Corey. “But my latest drone has a 7km range and automatically avoids crashing into things, unlike our old one, which we did lose in the bush a couple of times during filming.”
On the political side of things, Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie spoke about the success of the shooting sports in the Olympics and the upcoming Commonwealth Games. She also pointed out that there has been an increase in firearms ownership and involvement. NSW Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm was also present at the Expo and said non-scientific comparisons with countries like the United States were undermining Australia’s firearm laws, but he agreed with Senator McKenzie that the general public must be won over for firearm owners to be given a fair go.
Along with the overall attendance, the number of families who made their way through the gates was also higher compared to previous shows. Evan and Heath Porter, brothers from Warrnambool, had a blast on the complimentary Big Buck Hunter video game setup in the SSAA stand. The junior SSAA members had helped their dad milk the cows on their farm in the morning, then drove down to Melbourne for the Expo before heading back home in time to milk the cows again.
There was lots of action at the SSAA Little River Raiders stand as attendees were blown away by the Single Action shooters’ Western-inspired outfits. SSAA National President Geoff Jones said the spirit of the Expo was great and everyone he saw was in a good mood. “It’s been fantastic to get among the crowd and hear the terrific feedback we are getting on the SSAA SHOT Expo,” he said.
Greg Chan, as always, was at the impressive Beretta Australia stand fitting shotguns for people. However, this time during his presentation he was joined by Olympic Games gold medallist and SSAA member Catherine Skinner. Greg explained that he encouraged Catherine to change from Down the Line (DTL) shooting to the Olympic Trap discipline because, as Catherine put it, “I was trying to shoot everything two feet out from the trap.” Later, Catherine explained how her shotgun had gone missing during the flight over to Rio but how she was still able to maintain her composure leading up to the Olympics.
The SSAA Working Gundogs demonstrations were a huge draw for the crowd and the dogs managed to execute their retrieves perfectly despite being on the big stage. The highlight came at the end of the demonstration when Nellie, a brown Labrador, showed her versatility by retrieving a couple of drinks from an esky and returning them to her trainer and another handler.
With so much to see and do many punters lined up to grab a deal at the Winchester Australia ammo bar, while others signed up to be fitted with an electronic hearing aid from SportEAR, capable of enhancing hearing up to six times, at the Beretta Australia stand. ATN’s night vision tunnel allowed people to experience ATN’s amazing night vision and thermal optic products, while down the far end of the exhibition hall Schmidt & Bender proudly showed off its new 5-45×56 PM II High Power scopes. Joker Knife Store had an amazing assortment of knives, with staff run off their feet throughout both days of the show. In the middle of the hall, the Blaser stand drew in attendees and Swarovski Optik’s range of scopes were a crowd-pleaser as usual.
Expo-goer Christopher Di Manno was the lucky major prize winner of the Ultimate Hunter Package and received a Steyr SM12 rifle, Swarovski Optik Z8i scope and EL Range binocular package valued at $10,000. “A big thank you to Swarovski, Steyr, Winchester and of course the SSAA SHOT Expo for my prize. I still can’t believe I actually won. I can’t wait to get the package out in the high country and scout for the mighty sambar,” he said.
SSAA National would like to thank the event’s major sponsors Swarovski Optik, Beretta Australia, ATN, Winchester Australia, Joker Knife Store and Blaser, as well as its media partners Australian Shooter and Australian Hunter. Events such as the SSAA SHOT Expo take a tremendous amount of planning and it is only possible because of the support of the firearms community as well as the hard work by many staff and volunteers behind the scenes. Thank you to everyone who took part and attended the Expo.
The next SSAA SHOT Expo will be held in Brisbane on August 26 and 27 this year, before returning to Sydney and Perth in 2018.