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.
How SHOT Got Its Name and Plans for the First Show
After getting the green light from industry in 1977, an NSSF-appointed committee began work on planning the first show.
Show committee member Ted Rowe, then president of Harrington & Richardson, came up with the now-famous acronym.
“I guess,” said Rowe at the time, “I am usually given credit for the name. The show committee was fiddling with other combinations of the letters and then ‘SHOT’ just seemed to be a natural.”
The name SHOT (for Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade) was adopted as the official name for the show.
With the groundwork in place, plans for the first show went into high gear during 1978.
An extensive direct-mail and trade-advertising campaign was launched featuring the original SHOT Show slogan, “We Won’t Waste Your Time.” Former Texas Gov. John Connally accepted an invitation to be the keynote speaker as part of the grand-opening ceremonies that were planned.
As opening day grew closer, there was considerable speculation about the potential success — or failure — of a trade exposition exclusive to the firearms industry. While exhibit-space sales had been encouraging, would retailers from across the country attend?
“Hunting buyers are cool to the idea of an NSSF Show” was the headline in a story in one trade magazine. The president of one large sporting-goods dealership was quoted as saying, “There are too many shows to attend now . . . the last thing we need is another show to kick tires at.”
On the eve of the first show, even NSSF’s then executive director, Arnold H. “Rock” Rohlfing, was quoted as saying, “Boys, I sure as hell hope someone shows up tomorrow morning.”
Rohlfing need not have worried. All the hard work of the many who were involved in the planning and execution of the first SHOT Show paid off.
At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 1979, the first SHOT Show opened its doors and almost 4,700 attendees crowded its floors.
Up Next: The First SHOT Show