January 23, 2024
Three Inducted into NSSF Hall of Fame
On Wednesday, the National Shooting Sports Foundation honored three new inductees into its NSSF Hall of Fame. Those included Don Gobel, the legendary Grits Gresham and Robert (Bob) Morrison.
According to a NSSF news release, all three were recognized for their accomplishments that both strengthened the firearms and ammunition industries, as well as helping to expand the shooting sports.
“On behalf of a grateful industry, I take great pride in recognizing trailblazers like Don Gobel, Grits Gresham and Bob Morrison and their many professional accomplishments," said Joe Bartozzi, president and CEO of the NSSF, in a news release. They have played important roles in America’s story and heritage of firearm manufacturing and popularizing the shooting sports and hunting. They deserve our respect and praise.”
The late Gobel, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 88-years, was the former president and CEO of Browning Arms Company and Winchester Repeating Arms. Gobel was also a past chairman of the NSSF Board of Governors and led several contentious legislative fights during the Clinton Administration as gun laws tried to tighten up. A passionate hunter, Gobel retired from Browning and Winchester Repeating Arms in 2001.
Gresham—whose full name was Claude Hamilton Gresham—was known to millions as simply "Grits." Born in the Carolinas and eventually a Natchitoches, La., resident who received a bachelor’s and master’s degree from LSU, Gresham served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war, he served as the outdoors editor for the Shreveport Times, eventually landing in the jobs of hosting the iconic The American Sportsman television series on ABC and serving as the shooting editor for Sports Afield for 26 years.
Gresham had a humorous personality and he would go on to become one of the nation's most recognizable outdoors writers while also excelling as a talented photographer and a TV entertainer. In the latter endeavor, his work included efforts with the NSSF in the 1980s and '90s as he hosted the Where to Hunt and Where to Shoot specials on ESPN and the Shooting Sports America series on ESPN's primetime lineup. A recipient of the NSSF Ken Sedlecky Lifetime Achievement Award, Gresham passed away in 2008 at the age of 84 years.
Morrison has had a long career in the firearms industry, marked by his long run as CEO and president of Taurus International Manufacturing. At the helm of the gunmaker, Morrison brought energy and innovation with some well-known product introductions at the SHOT Show. He was a part of an effort that brought a strategic partnership between his company and the National Rifle Association, one that boosted participation in the shooting sports. Morrison was also an NSSF board member and is also a recipient of the NSSF's Ken Sedlecky Lifetime Achievement Award.
"The NSSF Hall of Fame reminds all Americans of the pride we take in our industry and the firearm-owning community and what our leaders then and now stand for—the freedom to make, own and use firearms responsibly in America,” noted Bartozzi.
New Products Catching Attention
As the opening excitement of the SHOT Show turned into full scale business mode on Wednesday, several things caught our attention on the crowded show floor. Those include the unique Mallard Machine motion decoy by Mojo Outdoors; the new Benelli Lupo HPR (High Performance Rifle) bolt-action rifle that delivers MOA shooting in a rifle that has the function of a chassis gun and the smooth handling grace of a bolt action in its six different calibers; and the Browning A5 Hunter 20 as the iconic Utah-based gunmaker gives A5 enthusiasts a gauge offering they've wanted for years complete with its humpback receiver, reliable and fast shell cycling, soft-recoil shooting, and a 100,000 round or five-year guarantee.
Big Crowds on Day 1
When officials cut the bright green ribbon in front of the SHOT Show sign and the doors officially opened for the 46th annual Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoors Trade (SHOT) Show, it didn’t take long for thousands of attendees to crowd onto the nearly 14 miles of show floor aisles being occupied this week in Las Vegas.
While it remains to be seen what the rest of SHOT week at The Venetian Expo and Caesar’s Forum brings in terms of final numbers, there were thousands streaming in to see what's new from more than 2,600 exhibitors occupying more than 800,000 square feet of show floor space. Last year’s event was the largest ever in square footage and officials with the National Shooting Sports Foundation are expecting more of the same.
That seemed to be the case on Tuesday morning after the opening bell, with high energy and a lot of rushing down the aisles to see new gear.
One of the new products that brought a nostalgic nod to previous shows was the introduction of a camouflage pattern by Bill Jordan's Realtree, a Columbus, Ga., company that helped revolution the camouflage industry a generation ago, and remains the host of the long running and immensely popular Realtree Outdoors television program on Outdoor Channel.
While Jordan and his longtime associate David Blanton—a pair of friends, business associates and TV personalities who have had a heavy presence at SHOT Show through the years—have increasingly given way to Bill's son Tyler Jordan now as he becomes more and more the face and voice of the camouflage franchise, the Realtree booth was once again a popular place to be when the SHOT Show curtain came up on Tuesday morning.
That's when the company unveiled Realtree APX, the newest camouflage pattern creation by Jordan's iconic company, a new pattern that the company believes is the highpoint of its camouflage development—offering the perfect blend of shelf appeal to younger hunters as well as the functional effectiveness in the woods that older hunters demand.
Designed with environmental color schemes and open zones, the resulting APX pattern features Soft Edge Technology (S.E.T.) that prevents hard lines, allows for easier visual blending, and is a mix of gray-toned hardwood bottom canopy as well as other color schemes including tans and greens. Giving a mixed look of bark, rock and abstract elements on the ground floor of the outdoors world as well as above at treestand level, all of this combines to break up the human form both upstairs and downstairs before the prying eyes of big bucks, ducks, turkeys, and predators on the prowl.
If previous pattern introductions are any indication, Realtree will once again draw attention in 2024 from both the outdoors industry as well as its longtime fans and customers.
"We're excited to launch the APX pattern, a game-changer for the camouflage industry,” said Bill Jordan, Realtree’s Founder & CEO, in a company news release. “We believe it will not only delight hunters with its effectiveness but also drive business for our partners with its unmatched shelf appeal. We invite everyone to come and see this innovative pattern in person."
While Bill Jordan's out-front presence in the company has faded a bit as his son Tyler continues to take on increasing responsibility in the business and as the face and voice of the company out in public, there's plenty of energy and solidarity between the father-and-son team. After all, they're a couple of Ole Miss Rebel alumni—Jordan once played tight end there as he caught passes from legendary quarterback Archie Manning, and Tyler is a 2016 graduate from the University of Mississippi in Oxford—that bring the same kind of passion, excitement and vision displayed by their beloved Rebels’ athletic teams.
After the long-time run of Jordan's success at the helm of the Realtree brand, he's giving back in big ways to both his alma mater and to conservation causes around the country. At the Realtree booth this week, in addition to giveaways promoting the new APX pattern, there is a "Blackjack for a Cause" table that provides some Vegas style entertainment while also raising money that will be given to veteran wellness groups and conservation causes.
That's been a consistent theme over the years in the long trajectory of Realtree's industry growth, as Jordan, Blanton, and others at Team Realtree give back to worthy causes. This year, organizations that will be supported by Realtree will reportedly include Team Red, White, and Blue; Warriors Afield; Gold Star Youth Outdoors; Operation Hat Trick; the Boot Campaign; California Waterfowl, Whitetails Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Turkeys for Tomorrow.
In terms of giving back to their favorite place outside of the Realtree family’s home-grown Georgia roots, Jordan and his family continue to support the Ole Miss Rebels, too—Jordan's daughter Graycen is an Ole Miss softball signee—and recently gave a $1 million gift to CHAMPIONS NOW, the Ole Miss athletic foundation fundraising endeavor.
"Even here at our office, I do everything for the next generation,” said Jordan in an Ole Miss news release. “We’ve been very fortunate and blessed in this business."
Big Music Names Perform at All-Star Jam
Monday's busy day on the show floor concluded with the third annual All Star Jam Concert on the Great Outdoors Plaza. Presented by Outdoor Sportsman Group, along with co-sponsors Glock, Federal Ammunition, and Remington Ammunition, the event featured the band Six Wire, Johnny Van Zant (of Lynyrd Skynyrd fame), Derek St. Holmes (a legendary rhythm guitar player and former lead singer with Ted Nugent’s band), and Grammy award winning country musician Gretchen Wilson.
The crowd was large and the energy was robust for the SHOT Show After Dark event, one of several networking events scheduled throughout the week. Outdoor Sportsman Group CEO Matt Hutchings thanked everyone for coming, introduced the night of musical acts to the crowd, and joked that he and OSG television personality Michael Waddell were going to start a business where they traveled around and introduced great musical acts to enthusiastic crowds like the one at the SHOT Show on Tuesday.
"SHOT Show is the preeminent show in our industry," said Hutchings in a news release. "It is the culmination of folks within the industry, Whether you're in shooting, hunting, fishing, the outdoors, SHOT Show is the place to be."
Star Power on Display
While the rainfall that plagued Monday’s Industry Day at the Range was finally gone, the skies in Las Vegas didn’t clear until late in the day. That didn’t matter since there was plenty of star power on full display throughout the day. That occurred as buyers flocked to exhibitor booths and finalized orders, spots where there was a noticeable influx of celebrity drawing power that was a hallmark of SHOT Show booth traffic in the pre-pandemic years.
On Tuesday, that star power pull was evident again as crowds crowded into different spots for a selfie, an autograph and even some swag from their favorite celebrities to take back home after the show. Outdoor Sportsman Group TV personalities Ralph and Vickie Cianciarulo were in the OSG booth, longtime Bone Collector host Michael Waddell was around the show, and OSG television show icon Jim Shockey was autographing copies of his international best selling novel, Call Me Hunter to name a few.
New Products Catching Attention
There was a wealth of new products that were attracting crowds into the show’s various booths. On Tuesday’s opening day, items that caught the attention of Game and Fish included the new 22 ARC (Advanced Rifle Cartridge) cartridge and the V-Match varmint cartridge from legendary ammunition maker Hornady as the Nebraska company celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. The 22 ARC is designed specifically for a maximum overall length to fit, feed and function as it cycles through AR-15 platforms while the V-Match is offered in several calibers and gives superior performance in competition as well as out in the field chasing varmint species like coyotes…The Browning X-Bolt 2 Speed Rifle is an item drawing attention this week as it build’s on the quality and out-of-the box accuracy that the original X-Bolt is known for. Now with some cosmetic and engineering upgrades, this highly customizable rifle gives faster and easier operation of the bolt and superior performance downrange out in the field.
A Soggy Start
Read our report from Monday's soggy Industry Day at the Range.