It’s hard to believe for those that have been there from the beginning, but 2013 will mark the 35th SHOT Show. Throughout the year we’ll be looking back at the show’s history, from its inception in 1978 and its official opening in 1979, up to where it stands today as one of the largest and most vibrant trade shows in the world.
St. Louis, 1979: A Look Back at the First SHOT Show
On Jan. 19, 1979, at the opening ceremonies of the first SHOT Show, Bill Talley, chairman of the NSSF Board of Governors, remarked, “This show, soon to open, is the realization of a dream of many years. We’ve long wanted a forum for products allied with hunting and shooting, and now we have it. The support and enthusiasm you have all displayed has been extremely encouraging, and we know that this will be an important beginning for an annual event of growing influence.” Prophetic words, indeed.
The St. Louis SHOT Show opened its doors with 290 exhibitors occupying a total of 52,153 net square feet of exhibit space. Show manager at the time, Jerry Van Dijk, admitted a few years later that he had laid out the show with aisles on the diagonal to create the illusion of a larger overall footprint. There was, however, no illusion in respect to the success of this inaugural event.
Fears about the lack of dealer support were laid to rest when almost 4,700 attendees crowded the show floor and kept manufacturers busy for three days. As the show wound down, press notices were highly favorable, with all segments of the industry–dealers, distributors and manufacturers–overwhelmingly endorsing the SHOT Show as “the” annual trade event for our industry.” Harm Williams, at the time president of Browning, summed it up when he said, “In retrospect, I don’t know why we were so worried in the first place.”
The SHOT Show was a turning point not only for NSSF but for industry as a whole. For NSSF, the show not only provided significant new funding but also substantially raised the visibility and stature of NSSF within the entire hunting and shooting-sports community.
The show was also the first time the industry–not only major firearms and ammunition manufacturers, but hundreds of companies whose products are used in the hunting and shooting-sports world–united behind a common cause. After 1979, industry companies no longer formed just a “section” of the sporting-goods business but instead had their own showcase event, one that allowed many companies to dramatically grow their businesses and enabled everyone to stand proudly together.
Up Next: The Elite Eight: SHOT Show’s Host Cities