We are finally back to our work benches and back to work after the 2012 show season. The shows are quite exhausting but such great fun to be able to talk with and show off our rifles to so many people. We expanded to three full booth spaces this year at both the Dallas Safari Club show and the SCI convention in Las Vegas with 28 custom rifles on display to be held and handled, and were still crowded. Interest was higher than ever, and we did a record number of personal fittings.
The two shows combined only run a total of eight days for those visiting, but for us, it is a total of 25 days of packing, travel, set-up, show days, break-down, more travel, another set-up, more show days, another break-down, and finally the return trip back to Montana. Since the freight quotes came in higher than ever, we once again packed a half million dollars of rifles and 7,000 pounds of booth and gear into our trailer and headed south from Montana. This year, however, our regular driver was unavailable and it fell to me to haul this load on the 4,800 mile round trip. Crossing the continental divide six different times during the middle of winter with our truck and trailer is an interesting and sometimes challenging experience. I confess I loved it. It has been almost thirty years since I last had the chance to drive cross-country. You really cannot even begin to appreciate the grandeur and beauty of this great country without driving thousands of miles across it.
The highlight of the shows for us was the presentation by Sporting Classics magazine of their Award Of Excellence for 2011. Noted writer Ron Spomer made the presentation on behalf of Sporting Classics to the Kilimanjaro team in Las Vegas, and the crystal trophy was proudly displayed on the front table in our booth. Dr. Kevin “Doctari” Robertson was once again able to join us in our booth in both Dallas and Las Vegas to demonstrate our Doctari Rifle which he designed. This year, customers were able to meet and talk with not only me, Dr. Robertson and Master Gunsmith Gene Gordner, but also Principal Gunsmith Noah Hathorne.
We were quite apprehensive about the new location for the SCI convention in Las Vegas, but the logistics went very well. While I am sure many attendees enjoyed the Las Vegas environment, we still prefer Reno. The show was larger than ever in Las Vegas, but the casino megaplex just seemed to swallow and disperse everyone as soon they left the show floor. In Reno, it is hunting, guns, friends and colleagues morning, noon and night—and that’s what makes it so much more fun. SCI will be back to Reno next year, and we are looking forward to it.
The Dallas Safari Club continues to amaze with their superb hospitality. The 100% commitment of virtually every club member to the success of the show is a joy to behold. Our thanks go out to them. This commitment has seen the Dallas show grow at an incredible rate to the point where I am no longer sure which is bigger, the DSC show or the SCI show. DSC reports there were 38,000 attendees this year in Dallas. One of our favorite parts of the Dallas show are the Exhibitor breakfasts sponsored by Sports Afield magazine. Held every morning in a relaxed setting before the hustle and bustle of the show day begins, these breakfasts continue to provide the very best opportunity for us to meet and share notes with others in the industry, establish new working relationships, and launch more joint projects and endeavors.
We wish the primary purpose of the shows was for all of you to buy new custom rifles, but booking of hunts is still paramount as it should be. We were at it ourselves. We have now made arrangements for our 2012 Field Tests, and this year, we will put our rifles to the test in the high alpine environment of the South Island of New Zealand. My son William and I accepted an invitation for a “Southern Slam” hunt for Tahr, Chamois and Sheep with Stu Marr of New Zealand Safaris. Meanwhile, Master Gunsmith Gene Gordner is also heading out into the New Zealand mountains with Gus Bisset of New Zealand Trophy Hunting with the very modest objective of bagging the World Record Red Stag taken with a flintlock firearm. Gene will be testing one of our new Historical Rifles-a new firearm crafted from scratch to a historical design. He still needs to finish building the rifle for the hunt. Now Gene complains loudly each year about the cramped conditions on the short plane flight from Kalispell to Dallas and Las Vegas. I can hardly wait to hear his reaction to the more than 25 hours of airline travel it will take to get him to New Zealand, but at present he is as excited as a child on Christmas Eve.