What would SHOT Show have been like 160 years ago?
Fairfax, Virginia -
Since beginning in 1979, SHOT Show has become one of the premier firearms industry event of the year. Those who are able to attend circle the date on their calendars; those who are unable curse under their breath.
As I was packing up amazing and historic guns for SHOT Show from the NRA Museums, I was led down a path of historical whimsy: what would SHOT Show have been like 160 years ago in 1855?
All of the today's household names in firearms would have been in attendance: Remington, Colt, Smith & Wesson, Winchester, and others. Some of them were already well established; others were on the edge of greatness.
Eliphalet Remington would have been there. Already a well-known and respected businessman, he would have been representing the company he founded 39 years before in 1816.
Samuel Colt would have been in very good spirits. He had just renamed his company – Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company – and had broken ground on a new factory that would open the following year in 1856. His revolver patent was also set to expire in 1856. Colt had recently fired Rollin White, a trivial matter at the time, but it would come back to haunt him.
Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson would have been there, too. At this point, the now-venerable firearms company had only been a partnership for three years. They would likely have been joined by one of their investors, Oliver Winchester, and showcasing their lever-action “Volcanic” arms.
Very shortly, Winchester would buy Volcanic; Rollin White would patent a bored-through cylinder that Colt had rejected; and Smith and Wesson would form Smith & Wesson Revolver Company utilizing White’s new patent.
As you can see, many of the technologies we consider antiquated were, at the time, revolutionary. Some of the designs we take for granted today were in their infancy in 1855.
Other lesser-known (and less successful) gunmakers hoping to capitalize on their new products would have been there as well. After all, there’s no better place to unveil new designs than at SHOT Show!
Thomas Wright Gardener Treeby (often known as T.W. Treeby) would likely have been at SHOT Show displaying his new 14-shot, .54 caliber chain rifle. Designed in 1854 and patented in 1855, these rifles were ever made in an attempt to create a successful repeating rifle design. The British military tested the gun with a 30-round chain, but the idea never caught on.
Stop by our exhibit inside the NRA booth, which is at space 14540, and do a little time traveling for yourself. See Treeby's rifle, one of the most iconic Smith & Wesson revolvers ever - Dirty Harry's Model 29 .44 Magnum - and many others!