NSSF Celebrates 50 Years Of Achievement on Behalf of its Members

National Shooting Sports Foundation Celebrates 50 Years Of Achievement on Behalf of its Members

NSSF has chronicled its wide-ranging achievements in a history publication and a video that will be shown at NSSF's State of the Industry Dinner at the SHOT Show Jan. 18-21 in Las Vegas.

National Shooting Sports Foundation
National Shooting Sports Foundation

NEWTOWN, Conn –-(Ammoland.com)- In 1961 when John F. Kennedy was president, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chased Babe Ruth's career home run record and digital music meant tapping a rhythm with your fingers, the leaders of America's firearms industry boldly acted to form a new organization to meet the era's growing challenges to hunting and the shooting sports.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation was born.

The year 2011 will mark the 50th anniversary of NSSF, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry. Appropriately, NSSF will kick off the celebration at the SHOT Show — the industry's annual trade show and one of NSSF's great success stories — by recognizing past and current presidents of the organization and chairmen of its Board of Governors. NSSF has chronicled its wide-ranging achievements in a history publication and a video that will be shown at NSSF's State of the Industry Dinner at the SHOT Show January 18-21 in Las Vegas. The publication and video will help NSSF recruit new members and educate various audiences about the industry, NSSF's government relations efforts and the purpose, programs and goals of the Foundation. A special notation that highlights “50 Years” has been added to the NSSF logo for use during the anniversary year.

“Our goal in celebrating this milestone is to remind our more than 6,000-member companies how much NSSF has done over the past 50 years to help their businesses thrive and to protect our great American pastimes of hunting and shooting,” said Steve Sanetti, NSSF's president and CEO. “We're proud to share our history, our accomplishments and our story with all those who support what NSSF stands for — to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports.”

Williams of Browning Arms Co. makes the motion to set up the NSSF
A 1961 article in Field & Stream magazine tells of the formation of NSSF. In the photo, Harmon Williams of Browning Arms Co. makes the motion to set up the NSSF at a meeting in New York City in May of that year.

As recounted in “The National Shooting Sports Foundation: A History 1961 to 2011,” authored by former NSSF President and CEO Doug Painter, NSSF's story begins when Field and Stream magazine, encouraged by longtime shooting editor Warren Page, organized the First National Conference on the Shooting Sports in 1960 in New York City. From this gathering, a recommendation was made the following year to start a new industry organization — NSSF — which was chartered with 30 founding members. Research uncovered a fascinating Guns & Ammo magazine article that covered the Second National Conference on the Shooting Sports, helping to shed light on the formation of NSSF and providing photographs of the historic meeting.

Some of industry's most well-known and colorful figures were part of NSSF's early years. With the publication and video, NSSF will introduce these individuals to a new generation of firearms industry workers.

“We'd like to foster an awareness and appreciation for the men and women who stepped up and took action at this critical period to help preserve our hunting and shooting traditions,” said Painter.

In addition to Page, early NSSF Executive Directors Charlie Dickey and Arnold H. “Rock” Rohlfing helped establish the Foundation. Others included Bill Talley of Winchester and chairman of the NSSF Board of Governors from 1972 to 1981, who summed up NSSF's inclusiveness as a trade association by remarking, “The entire shooting-associated industry, from gun maker to boot maker, should speak with one voice.” Such unity is a hallmark of present-day NSSF.

Some NSSF history highlights through the decades follow:

  • The 1960s — With an early mission “to create a better understanding of and a more active participation in the shooting sports,” NSSF began to tell the story of the hunter's role in conservation and to bring out the facts about the safe and responsible use of firearms through Hollywood spokespersons such as Bing Crosby, Roy Rogers and Slim Pickens. Early safety promotions included encouraging hunters to adopt the use of “hunter orange” clothing.
  • The 1970s — NSSF achieved prominence on the national scene in 1972 with National Hunting and Fishing Day, one of the most effective grassroots efforts undertaken to promote traditional outdoor sports and conservation. President Nixon signed the first NHF Day proclamation, a tradition followed by nearly every other president.
  • SHOT Show, 1979 — A turning point in the Foundation's history came with the creation of the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show—widely known as the SHOT Show. One of the great success stories in trade show history, the SHOT Show began with 290 exhibiting companies; today, more than 1,600 exhibitors attend this international trade show. Though “SHOT” would become the economic engine that powers NSSF's many programs and services, early champions of the show knew they were taking a big chance in breaking away from the National Sporting Goods Association trade show to start industry's own. As Rohlfing remarked the night before the first show SHOT Show in St. Louis “Boys, I sure as hell hope someone shows up tomorrow.”
  • The 1980s — NSSF launched a national advertising campaign to promote good sportsmanship in response to a study that showed the public did not have a problem with hunting so much as with hunters who behaved poorly. Educational initiatives continue to be a mainstay of NSSF's outreach efforts and include brochures, websites and videos on firearm safety, hunter ethics and wildlife conservation, the latter notably promoted in the landmark “Un-endangered Species” video for schools.
  • Field & Stream magazine shooting editor Warren Page
    NSSF's story began when Field & Stream magazine, encouraged by longtime shooting editor Warren Page (pictured above), organized the First National Conference on the Shooting Sports in 1960 in New York City. From this gathering, a recommendation was made the following year to start a new industry organization -- NSSF -- which was chartered with 30 founding members.

    Though commonplace today, television shows covering the shooting sports and hunting were anything but common decades ago. NSSF set out to change that in order to attract a new generation of participants. Among the shows NSSF helped bring to the small screen was the SPORTSMAN'S TEAM CHALLENGE, a rifle-shotgun-handgun event with unique courses of fire. This show became part of the first major shooting sports programming on ESPN — NSSF's Chevy Trucks Shooting Sports America — that for 10 years brought the world of shooting into millions of American homes on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

  • The 1990s — NSSF established the Women's Shooting Sports Foundation, providing women the opportunity to try shooting at chapters across the country. As adept in conference rooms as at shooting ranges, NSSF began the Shooting Sports Summits that brought industry and conservation leaders together to assess challenges and develop new strategies to promote hunting and shooting. Many of NSSF's most successful programs, such as STEP OUTSIDE, originated at Summit meetings, which continue today.
  • The 2000s — As anti-gun forces grew, NSSF helped fight off challenges to industry, none greater than the 23 politically motivated municipal lawsuits filed in attempt to hold manufacturers financially responsible for the criminal misuse of their lawfully manufactured and sold products. In its finest hour, industry rallied to its own defense and, with help from the National Rifle Association, ultimately won passage in Congress of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005, prohibiting any new lawsuits based on this failed legal theory.

The turn of the century also brought two big nationwide programs — Project ChildSafe and Don't Lie for the Other Guy — that were supported by federal grants in addition to funding from the firearms industry. A gun lock and safety information distribution program, formerly known as Project HomeSafe, Project ChildSafe was given its name by President George W. Bush in 2001 and became the firearm safety initiative of his administration. Through 2010, the program has distributed more than 35 million gun lock safety kits. Don't Lie for the Other Guy is a partnership effort with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives designed to help firearms retailers better detect and prevent illegal purchases and to warn the public that such purposes carry stiff penalties. The program's slogan, “Buy a gun for someone who can't, buy yourself ten years in jail,” says it all.

Winchester's Bill Talley
Winchester's Bill Talley, chairman of the NSSF Board of Governors from 1972 to 1981, once summed up NSSF's inclusiveness as a trade association by remarking, "The entire shooting-associated industry, from gun maker to boot maker, should speak with one voice." Such unity is a hallmark of present-day NSSF.

Building participation has always been a priority for NSSF. Early programs ranged from encouraging millions of Boy Scouts to hone their marksmanship skills to promoting the introduction of sporting clays. In the 2000 decade, efforts such as the Scholastic Clay Target Program and First Shots carried on that tradition. With hunting facing cultural and access challenges, NSSF and industry answered with the Hunting Heritage Partnership program to provide millions in funding to state wildlife agencies for programs that encourage hunting. This effort is complemented by Families Afield, NSSF's excellent partnership effort with the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and National Wild Turkey Federation that has lowered barriers to youth hunting in 30 states.

As the decade came to close, NSSF launched an education program to dispel misconceptions about AR-style rifles, noting that these modern sporting rifles are commonly owned and widely used for target shooting and hunting, and that they are definitely not “assault weapons.”

The Founders Would Be Proud

NSSF's founders intended that America's sporting and gun-owning traditions would continue to flourish due to the efforts of the organization they established. Their hopes continue to be realized.

“We would like to think that the founders of NSSF, most of whom have passed on, would be proud of the work that the organization they formed in New York City in 1961 has accomplished,” concludes the publication's foreword. “If those founding individuals were here, they would be able to enjoy hunting and target shooting today much as they were able to fifty years ago. That surely would be one measure of success of their vision and effort in creating the National Shooting Sports Foundation.”

About NSSF
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 6,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen's organizations and publishers. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.

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