|From its humble beginnings in St. Louis, in 1979, to taking every nook and cranny of the Sands Expo Center in 2017, the SHOT Show is the industry’s signature event, bringing together more than 1,700 exhibitors and 65,000 attendees. Next January, SHOT Show will be celebrating its 40th Anniversary, so we asked a handful of today’s top outdoor writers to pick two exhibitors they know well to tell their SHOT Show stories. Craig Boddington returns with the fifth article in our series, an interview with Steve Hornady. Enjoy!|
— Chris Dolnack, NSSF Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
Hornady Manufacturing of Grand Island, Nebraska, is among a small cadre of manufacturers that have been present at the SHOT Show since the beginning — and Steve Hornady is among an even smaller number CEOs who were also there at the beginning, back in 1979. Come to think of it, I’m probably among few remaining journalists who were also there at the beginning.
Steve Hornady (SH) on the first SHOT Show: We’d exhibited at NSGA [National Sporting Goods Association] forever, and that first SHOT Show was a whole lot smaller. I remember that we found some really great barbecue, but they couldn’t figure out how to get hot water to our hotel rooms!
Craig Boddington (CB): Is there any show that stands out or, after all these years, do they run together?
SH: Well, they do run together because there have been so many, but that blizzard we had in Atlanta was unbelievable. I remember the first show we had at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It was huge and so convenient from the hotels. And, of course, I can’t forget the first SHOT Show in New Orleans. That was one of just two SHOT Shows I’ve missed. If I’d gone to that one we wouldn’t be talking now*. But I fondly remember later SHOT Shows in New Orleans, especially the great food and great parties after show hours.
CB: Can you recall some products that you introduced at SHOT that became a “thing,” an iconic product?
SH: Well, in the last few years we’ve introduced an inordinate number of new bullets, cartridges and loads, but for sure I will never forget the reception our .17 HMR received! Understand that the wholesaler show precedes SHOT, and that’s when our new products generally “go public.” So, SHOT is where we get dealer attention. By then, new products are known, so the attendees come to see, not to discover. But the .17 HMR, first seen at the 2002 SHOT Show, was not only an instant home run, but an incredible long-term success story. And, although it was purely for fun, we were absolutely shocked by the reception to our Zombie Max ammo at the 2012 SHOT Show. Clearly it was just a fad, and we agreed it wouldn’t last — but what a fad and what a reception! We had no idea it would last as long as it did. We eventually killed it ourselves just so we could get on to more serious projects!
Over the years, our customers have seen a lot of new Hornady products at SHOT — bullets, cartridges, accessories, loading tools, entire product lines. Sometimes I’m amazed! But right now, I’m really pleased with the acceptance of our ELD lines, both ELD-X and ELD-Match. The engineering and development side of these bullets is a long and complicated story — it took a whole lot longer than we expected, and use of the Doppler radar gave us some interesting turns along the way — but I’m really pleased with the results and the acceptance.”
CB: What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you at a SHOT Show?
SH: Well, understand, I was a kid from the Midwest, not necessarily sheltered, but maybe a bit naïve. At a SHOT Show in New Orleans, I was walking through my hotel lobby when I saw a man tackle a woman, bringing her to the floor. There was another man there as well — apparently a three-way scuffle. Instinct kicked in and I was just about to rush in along with other bystanders, when one of the combatants flashed a badge, saying gruffly, “Back off, she’s a professional, he’s a john.” I backed off — fast. We never saw stuff like that in Grand Island!
CB: Can you think of a rookie mistake you made as an exhibitor?
SH: “Well, it wasn’t at SHOT, but at one of the NSGA shows I was hanging a backdrop on the booth when a union rep caught me and read me the riot act.”
CB: How do you view the SHOT Show as key to your business?
SH: It is key to both maintaining and building our business. There’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting, understanding what your customers, vendors and suppliers want, what they can do and what they can’t do. Today, for us, the SHOT Show isn’t so much about taking orders, but sitting down with partners — such as Ruger — and planning production and marketing, bringing joint development to market.”
CB: Thanks, Steve. I know I speak for many when I say we’re happy you’re a part of this industry and especially SHOT Show’s history. I know we’re all looking forward to seeing you at the 2018 show!
*As a sad footnote to SHOT Show’s history, the private plane of Joyce Hornady, Steve’s father, went down on approach to the 1981 New Orleans show. There were no survivors. Hornady’s founder and much of his management team were lost.