|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. Seventh in our “Blast from the Past” series is a visit with Timney Triggers Owner, John Vehr, interviewed by Richard Mann. Enjoy!
— Chris Dolnack, NSSF Senior VicePresident and Chief Marketing Officer
Real riflemen have always known the importance of a good trigger. It is, after all, the primary point of interface between the shooter and the rifle. It’s the go-switch that launches the missile that will ultimately decide the outcome of your hunt, competition or fun day at the range.
During the first SHOT Show I attended, I had dinner with John Vehr, who at that time was the new owner of Timney Manufacturing. We talked about guns, triggers and a variety of eclectic topics that always come up when you’re in Vehr’s company. Back then the trigger business was creeping — pardon the pun — along, but Vehr changed all that.
In 1946, Timney was started in a garage in South Gate, California. It offered triggers for Mauser rifles. Over the next few years, Timney introduced triggers for a variety of rifles and, in 1981, Paul and Rosemary Vehr purchased the company. In 1982, Timney relocated to Phoenix and the trigger introductions continued. Then, in 2000, the Vehrs sold Timney to their son, John. John continued to offer new triggers but, by establishing relationships with gun writers and helping them learn the importance of the trigger, he embarked on a quest to educate shooters the world over as to why triggers mattered so much.
Today, the trigger business is booming, and Timney offers drop-in replacement triggers for more than 50 firearms. In 2013, Timney moved to a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility located at 2020 Quail Avenue in Phoenix. Vehr’s plan had worked. Through the relationships he’d built, many starting at SHOT Show, he’d managed to teach shooters how important a trigger is to the true purpose of shooting: actually hitting what you aim at. Timney is now the largest replacement trigger manufacturer in the world, and the Timney brand is strong.
John Vehr and I have shared a few hunts, and we’ve spent time training at Gunsite Acadmey together. We’ve also argued the fate of the world while sharing a campfire and a beer. Recently, I had the opportunity to play reporter and ask John a few serious questions. As it always is with John, everything from alligators to aliens was discussed, but I did manage to get some insight into how SHOT Show has been a part of Timney’s success.
Richard Mann (RM): Tell me about your first SHOT Show?
John Vehr (JV): It was 1995 in Vegas. We had a 10×10 booth with a little table and a pop-up display we hung paper plates on. On those paper plates, we had each operation of manufacturing sears. We thought featuring our manufacturing process was a good way to show people our triggers’ features. I recall that first SHOT Show as an overwhelmingly huge trade show.
RM: What product or particular SHOT Show really turned the tide for Timney?
JV: In 2005 we launched Timney’s AR-15 trigger to a perfect storm. The market had proven the AR rifle, and people wanted to become as accurate as possible with it. A great trigger was their choice, and we were one of the strongest messages at the show. They found us in droves. We listened to our customers and delivered exactly what they were asking for. Our AR trigger offerings now include many models, including a two-stage, the Calvin Elite (the ultimate 3-Gun trigger) and, of course, the best single-stage model in the industry. All these triggers were developed from suggestions from our customers.
RM: What is your best SHOT Show memory?
JV: So many memories to choose from. Mostly, my best memories come from friends and simple conversations. SHOT is all about the people — it always has been. People like J. Guthrie who would stop by and tell me stories that would simply make me laugh. That guy could tell a story like no one else I’ve ever met. My best memory? A Guthrie story, but there are too many good ones to pick just one. NOTE: J. (James) Guthrie was a young and successful firearms journalist with an infectious personality. He was a contributor to most of the major firearms and hunting periodicals, and he passed away in 2013, at the young age of 37.
RM: What was your biggest SHOT Show mistake?
JV: Playing too small for too long. Our booth is bigger now. I just wish we had bought much bigger when we first had the chance.
RM: What advice do you have for other companies and manufacturers when it comes to making the most of SHOT Show?
JV: Simple. SHOT is about relationships and people. It always has been and always will be. The show brings together the coolest people in the industry. Find those people and listen to their stories. I guarantee you will learn a ton. I have.
When you look at the success story Timney is, maybe the most amazing facet of the saga is how the company managed to take a service and skill typically provided by gunsmiths and turn them into an over-the-counter product. And it’s a product that anyone capable of mowing their own yard or operating a toaster can use to transform their rifle in one evening while sitting at the kitchen table. Also, convincing the average shooter they were capable of fixing their own trigger and establishing manufacturing processes that flawlessly produce one of the most critically important components of a firearm through near automation is most remarkable. SHOT Show was a big part of making that happen, and I know I’m one among many looking forward to seeing John and his staff at SHOT Show for years to come.