• Stories
  • SHOT Show 100 Years ago (2021 to 1921) | Firearm History

SHOT Show 100 Years ago (2021 to 1921) | Firearm History

SHOT Show 100 Years ago (2021 to 1921) | Firearm History
January 21, 2021

100 years ago there wasn’t a SHOT Show but firearms manufacturers and designers still needed a way to get their products out to the market. The World's Fair of 1921 would’ve been the closest thing to SHOT Show. This episode of Gearbox Talk Logan Metesh, from High Caliber History, explains what SHOT Show would’ve been like in 1921. Which booths would’ve been a “must visit”, what firearms were brand new on the market, and how World War 1 influenced the commercial and military firearms industry in 1921.

**Gearbox Talk is brought to you by GoWild™**

Download GoWild today. Join a community of shooters, hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. http://bit.ly/DownloadGoWildNow

Gear Mentioned:
Tommy Gun http://bit.ly/Tommy-Gun
Colt 1911 http://bit.ly/Colt-1911
Browning A5 http://bit.ly/Browning-A5
Remington 783 Walnut .30-06 Springfield Bolt-Action Rifle http://bit.ly/Remington-783-Walnut-30-06-Springfield-Bolt-Action-Rifle

Show Notes: https://www.highcaliberhistory.com/podcast

Full Transcription:

Brad: 2021 hit hard really hard i mean it literally punched me in the face today we're talking about how the *beep* has impacted the shooting industry hang on what Tubers won't let me say that all right let's do a take two no i'll start after the part where i mentioned that i nearly broke my own nose all right there's this thing and it's the worst we've seen in a century it closed down our businesses and now we have a new method for self-expression but in addition to closing down your favorite vietnamese restaurant or canceling the joe rogan nationwide tour still bitter this thing shut down trade shows that includes the biggest trade show for shooting hunting outdoor and tactical that's right shot show normally brings 70 000 people to vegas they're talking about all things in the gun industry but it's not happening this week so with a hundred year *beep* i've decided to look back at what the firearms industry was doing a hundred years ago why not i have a firearms historian on board and we're gonna take a look at 1921's hottest products what was drawing a crowd we'll see what products were flipping awesome and what products were total flops and there are some hilarious flops this is one of my favorite shows we've ever done it is crazy fun so stick around to learn more about the firearms history and you'll learn more in this show than you did in all of 2020 about gun history i promise you that but first make sure you subscribe so you don't miss out on more content like this and please text it to a buddy to tell them they'd like the show all right this is Gearbox Talk with Logan metesh


Logan Metesh welcome to Gearbox Talk man i'm pumped to talk about what was going on in the firearms industry a hundred years ago because that's where we're at shot show has been canceled and we're going to dive in and take a little bit of a different look and see a lot of or i'm going to ask you a lot of the same questions that i would have normally asked at shot show but we're going to put a different kind of lens on it you're the perfect dude to do this with welcome to Gearbox Talk man

Logan: awesome thanks for having me Brad i'm really looking forward to looking backward

Brad: i love it i love it dude all right so when you when you get to shot show there's always something in development right you're always looking at products people sometimes there's early teasers sometimes you're looking at products that won't roll out for six months to a year right so back in 1921 what products were in development what were people talking about what was the excitement back then

Logan: sure yeah so there's a couple things one john thompson had just released the tommy gun onto the market and of course you know this is pre nfa and pre-gca you know so you could roll up and and check out the tommy gun and it definitely would be there on on the line at industry day at the range for folks to shoot and i definitely think it would be a buzz one of those hot just released products and it's also possible that john browning might have had some of his designs that became the m2 the moddus the 50 caliber machine gun because he'd been working on that and had been put into into play at the end of world war one and he was still tweaking the design so we might have seen an iteration of that in the booth where you can check it out and you know see what might be and and what might not and what he's gonna need to fix to bring it to market next year maybe

Brad: now that m2 has got a lot of history to it what what with that gun you know what did it go on to be and talk a little bit if you can just expand it on some of the history people know that came after that year like like you kind of said like to me that's one that people probably know even if they don't know what it's called they've seen it that's a very very famous well-known firearm whether whether it's from your your history buffs on the war side or whatever can you give some insights into that

Logan: yeah yeah so like i said the m2 the ma deuce you know it goes on to become the 50 caliber machine gun hands down you know it gets used prolifically during world war ii and of course that's that's where it really gains its fame but they're using it in korea vietnam desert storm our guys over there are still using it today you know you find them in the hands of foreign countries as well whether they got them legitimately or not but but the madus the 50 cal browning i mean that's that is that's the machine gunners machine gun and folks that shot in 20 or at shot show 1921 would have been possibly getting some of the the first looks at a couple of the production pieces from world war one a couple years previous and maybe some tweaks that he's working on for the next coming years

Brad: you know i was was there a show like this like was there an industry focus or an event that people would have come to at that time i should ask you this first but as you were kind of talking about this i was kind of wondering because i can't remember how old shot show has been around but for a long time by today's standards but back in 1921 what was it like to try to get the word out about something

Logan: sure yeah i think shots been around like 40 41 years the closest thing you would get would be like a world's fair or the colombian exposition or taking it even further back the crystal palace exposition in london but you know folks the countries would gather and they would put their their best products on display you know for their industry and what would the united states be if we didn't put a bunch of guns on display you know and it's we did it in the past you know colt and smith and wesson all showed up at previous expositions so yeah if if there was a comparable thing it would probably be like a world's fair or the the colombian exhibition

Brad: i was just talking about that with my dad on on how those world's fairs were so incredible for really changing cities i mean it was kind of like the olympics you build a lot of infrastructure they they really focused on establishing you know the place and the the the where the food was going to come from like how are you going to have all the bedding like it was such an event back then i mean really like do you how many people would have come through in an event like the world's fair do you know off the top of your head

Logan: yeah i mean you know you're talking hundreds of thousands if not into the millions but of course you know where shot show takes place over four to five days you know a world's fair and exposition lasts for weeks if not months so they've they've got a lot more time to bring something through but in terms of what they're bringing to the table i mean i would say it's fairly comparable in what they try to do on a daily basis

Brad: it's crazy to think about with the infrastructure back then of what they pulled off and the buildings they put up and i mean you had entire areas of towns that were built around that here in louisville we had a similar event that came and you know much of the old louisville as it stands today was structured and designed around a world's fair type event that i don't i can't remember how long it came in but you're right like hundreds of thousands of people funneled through here talking about drawing crowds man you know every time you go to shot show there are the new products but there's also you know you go to a booth and people are still coming in to see tried and trues you know garmin comes to mind i've been with garmin on i was at their booth at on the archery side when they rolled out that that xero bow sight and and then the next year we got we got to be in the booth and roll out a product with them and it was amazing to me a year later you know thinking through just a year later people are still coming through to see last year's product in 1921 what are the tried and true weapons that would have been kind of generating that kind of hype to keep bringing people back in

Logan: sure yeah you know i think from from a sporting side because after all shot show is is a sporting show in in many ways you know you'd have shotgun manufacturers with new double guns and you know stuff like that so guys are always going to come through and want to see you know what's the new shotgun that they can come to market so you know winchester is obviously going to have a lot of the market there ithaca and parker and stuff but stuff that people are always excited to see you know some things never change i got to go back to machine guns you know but of course we're just talking different types of machine guns so you know you'd be looking at the vickers and the maxim and and if even at this point if you wanted to make it a little old-school you know you go with the handcrank go with the gatling gun you know stuff that stuff that it just it appeals to people of all ages year after year you know you can have that stuff there and people are going to be excited about it you know i mean look at glock a glock is a glock is a glock but there's always tons of people in that booth every year i think it would be very much the the same way in the different shotgun booths and and at colt and at smith and wesson and at remington you know it's it's the names that are tried and true that everybody knows that you can go to them for a solid product year after year

Brad: you know you mentioned shotguns what were the quality like what was the utility they were using the shotguns for at the time you know hunting was a different landscape in a lot of ways you had a lot of upland hunting like that was a popular pass time back then what were people looking for in their shotguns at that time period

Logan: sure yeah like i said you know double guns were were still and still are a big deal you know for the upland hunters and of course there's always a market for single shot shotguns you know people are looking for something that's inexpensive but but one gun that comes to mind that i think people were definitely clamoring over was what we know is the browning a5 the auto five which was being made by fn and that's just such a great gun i mean it was the first commercially viable semi-automatic shotgun so it is hands down it's the only thing like it on the market you know so if you want to see a semi-auto shotgun you've got to go check out the a5 that's that's your only option there i think it would have been obviously very popular even though the gun had been out for a couple decades at that point it was still a very big deal and and browning had had quite the coup to bring that gun to market in the end so

Brad: and what year did that gun roll out

Logan: oh god

Brad: i threw into a curveball

Logan: yeah yeah i want to say it was initially it was did he put it in like 1895 but he had issues with bringing it to production because he had a huge falling out with winchester because he wanted royalties instead of a flat fee so then he tried to take the gun to remington and no joke the president of remington literally died of a heart attack while he was waiting in the lobby to meet with him so it couldn't come to market with remington and then he ended up taking it over to europe to fn so it it took a little while he had the gun designed for a handful years before it exactly came to a mark before it came to market commercially and yeah off the top of my head gun guys are going to kill me for not knowing the exact year of the a5 but i have a lot of useless knowledge floating around in my head forgive me if the if the a5 isn't there in the fourth

Brad: no it's all right and and Logan you know and i i've gotten to know him over the past couple months i guess and we've chatted a couple times and i like to just pick your brain randomly like hey tell me about this random thing like it's like you it's like going through the files he's like well let me he pulls out five facts about stuff just randomly a fun guy to chat with whether or not you can remember the date doesn't matter i think you also had had mentioned before the show a a semi-auto revolver that would have still been drawing crowds do you remember particularly which one i'm thinking of

Logan: yeah yeah yeah there was there was only one at the time it was the webley fosberry developed by lieutenant colonel fosberry and it a semi-automatic revolver i mean it is just as odd as it sounds it was a it was a gun that was it was answering a question that no one had asked it's a really cool design they're a lot of fun to shoot but they are absolutely a novelty and they were you know functionally obsolete by 1921 because of course browning had designed what we know is the 1911 i mean that is the penultimate semi-automatic pistol so it just as it's cool to see a fosbury today you know i think people would have still been amused by the fosbury then and and checking that gun out just like you'd look at a mataba or something today

Brad: what's a fosbury go for if you have one in good shape today depending on the condition and if it's retail marked i mean you're looking could be anywhere between ten and thirty thousand dollars

Brad: wow yeah i i i looked that gun up before the show once you had mentioned it very unique looking too it got a very cool look to it i would certainly make a awesome collection if you've got a spare thirty thousand dollars sitting around and you wanna pick one up

Logan: absolutely yeah i'm going to grab one tomorrow you know yeah

Brad: it's like it's like buying a car

Logan: yeah it really is like do you want a down payment on a house or do you want a webley fosberry be careful who you ask

Brad: right some people that's like you know me going to chipotle

Logan: yeah exactly you know you have to think about chipotle

Brad: yeah i know you've been to a lot of them but if nobody's ever been to a gun auction or like you can you can go to you know nwtf or a lot of these safari clubs have auctions and it's always amazing to me to go to those to see holy crap that person just paid twenty thousand dollars for a rifle a modern rifle you know so so it does happen it's fun to watch i can't do it hey man i wanted to ask you you know a lot of these shot show for for anybody that doesn't necessarily i should have prefaced this too this show shooting hunting outdoor and tactical right it's it's not just firearms though you across the space you have evolutions in military gear like i saw there was a you know there's there's like mini tanks and there's robots and all this really cool technology that comes out in 1921 were there were there any evolutions that were happening in in the military and tactical space does anything come to mind that would have drawn attention in the same way that we see today you know obviously we're talking about a totally different type of technology but what what evolutions were you seeing in 1921 in the gun space outside of the firearms

Logan: sure yeah the first thing that comes to mind would be body armor you know they first tried to come up with a viable type of body armor for modern firearms during world war one i mean of course you know body armor has been around for thousands of years you know with the chinese and stuff so it's it was nothing new at that time but because of the advances in weaponry during world war one guys were trying to find any way to save their lives and there was a lot of interesting designs you know stuff called splatter masks that basically were just like hanging chain mail in front of your face it was popular with tankers and stuff that things that kind of looked like lobsters because the plates were layered on top of each other and it was trying to help you have a little bit better movement but by far the most unusual one on the market was from a guy named guy otis brewster and he created this armor that is it reminds me of what they thought robots and stuff would look like in the 1950s if you watched those old shows it's just it's massive it's bulky it's got weird corners and angles and it just it just looks something like it's straight out of science fiction and but it it worked and brewster proved it because he actually had people shoot at him while he was wearing it to give public demonstrations to prove that it worked and they asked him afterward they said what did it feel like he said it just felt like someone was hitting me with a hammer which i'm sure he was probably blowing a little pr smoke there but he did he he took it out and you know there's great photos of him holding old it's a trapdoor springfield rifle and a man with a bayonet and he's doing bayonet thrusts and trying to attack guys with it and so yeah body armor was big you know we'd just come through world war one killing tens of millions of people so anything that you can do to help save someone's life was in the forefront of their minds so there was a lot of body armor advancement at that time

Brad: did that one in particular have commercial success or

Logan: no no no not at all no it it did not and and folks will have to look up some pictures of it and

Brad: yeah if i remember i'll cut in a picture of it to while we're i made a note to do so out of those body armor did anything like when did our modern the way we think of body armor now what year if you know did that start to really did you see that at these kind of events or really just in practice

Logan: right yeah you know kevlar is really the the biggest advancement that allows body armor to go mainstream and you know we don't we don't get kevlar until the middle of the 20th century so you know well after you know a decade or more after world war ii and then once they developed kevlar you know we're able to to build upon that so but yeah in the 1920s it was still just metal plates and you know stacking leather and stuff and just trying to come up with something but the the technology just wasn't there in terms of what we have today

Brad: i'm gonna throw a curveball at you just my brain's kind of working on on some of this when did gas mask start to become you know that would have been a thing at shot show back way back when i just don't know when that became when did that become a tool that was in the arsenal

Logan: sure yeah well gas warfare really comes about again in world war one i hate to feel like we're beating a dead horse but if we're talking 1921 world war one is right there yeah gas attacks really came into their own and came into being in world war one that's the first time you see it and on a widespread scale so yeah gas masks would have been in in full-fledged production there were all sorts of varieties being made by the different countries across the world and of course shot show brings in makers from all over the world so if if you were looking for innovation in gas masks you you probably would have seen four five six seven different designs there

Brad: yeah that's kind of what i was thinking the you know it's interesting man the you know talking about body armor and gas mask this year has been wild to see the stuff that has caught on on the consumer side there have been millions of dollars of gas mass sold this year for example and you know a lot of that's for a variety of different reasons you know it's been the civil unrest this year's driven a lot of these sales too but all this stuff rolls down to consumers right you know whether it's body armor the the the firearms the gas mask all that stuff it's designed for military and police and there ends up being you know versions of this stuff that comes out on the consumer side sometimes it's the same it's just made available sometimes it's the you know over time it gets modified to whether it's for for legal to make it available to the public legally i'm kind of curious in 1921 does anything come to mind that was filtering down to civilian level something that had mostly been designed for military or police that that would have come on to the you know the consumer market were there any products that were really hot with consumers that year

Logan: yeah yeah the first one that comes to mind is is going to be the colt 1911 you know and everybody wants what the military is carrying and you know it was it was true for 30 years with the beretta m9 and the 92 variants and stuff that our guys were carrying and even now with with the sig m17 you can get civilian versions of that and civilian version of the m18 the the slightly smaller version as well and colt was doing the same thing with the 1911 you know you'd get the government model and the the serial numbers had a c prefix in front of them for commercial but it was it was the same gun that our doughboys had over in the trenches with them during world war one so that's that's probably the the foremost example of a commercial adaptation but again you know if we're talking you know bigger weapons and stuff used for the military like you know the tommy gun or or vickers or you know anything like that again this is pre-nfa so if you wanted something full auto that was just like the military you just bought it so so there wasn't quite as much of the adaptation to make it civilian legal because that wasn't a thing then but but yeah so the the the 1911's probably the biggest the government has it i want one similar they make their own variation and and put a prefix in the serial number to designate the difference

Brad: what is the like an early serial number 1911 go for these days

Logan: oh man you know again it's all condition condition conditions with collectors and you know if you got a really early like a four-digit gun in beautiful condition i mean you know you you could spend you know 20 30 40 000 if not more you know some of the single-digit guns just go for astronomical numbers and it just yeah the sky is the limit you know

Brad: for like what you would buy a 10 foot section of booth at shot show you could have a yeah a 1911. yeah

Logan: you know the shot show booth might actually be more affordable

Brad: yeah yeah for sure if you're going into that six-figure price i you know that certainly resonates you know i'm kind of curious there's always a you know there's companies that kind of spin off and they push product that's not necessarily where their what with what their core was and this isn't even much as much of a shot show thing i'm just kind of curious you and i talked about this before i know there's a fun answer here i'm leading into a funny question looking back though who was pushing a product if we had a shot show in 1921 who's pushing the most bizarre product that just isn't gonna make it


Logan: yeah so one stop shopping you could go and pick up tennis rackets flashlights roller skates washing machines all told there were 750 different items all made with the winchester name and logo on them winchester was in a ton of debt after world war one and so they were licensing their name to just about anything to help make ends meet in the consumer market you know and their motto with that was you know as good as the gun you know and they had a great gun so if they could get you to buy a tennis racket that would that would perform like your winchester 73 or your 94 you know that must be a pretty good tennis racket but it just didn't pan out obviously i mean winchester's a gun company they're not a washing machine company you know maytag they are not so they they tried they really tried but it just didn't work and instead we end up with some some fun stuff on the collector market

Brad: yeah i was gonna say is there any commercial like oddities are always the like it may have been junk back then i'm not saying it was i'm just saying a lot of times you see something that you know just didn't wasn't commercially viable but that means only a few were made and therefore today it can have a lot of value do you know any of the on the collector's side is there any of this stuff that you see from time to time that just you're like you paid what for a roller skater or a tennis racket like how right how do you see any of this stuff that goes crazy on on the auctions

Logan: yeah you know the the price can be all over the place again it depends on how bad someone wants something but i do know i do know collectors that they love collecting the weird and the niche and i know winchester folks that you know their their collection it's tons of winchesters not a single gun it's all you know it's roller skates axes flashlights tennis rackets you know they're collecting the stuff that most people aren't yeah which is really cool because it makes for a a very disarming winchester collection if you're not expecting it you're like oh i'm gonna go see a winchester collector and you show up in tennis rackets and washing machines and you know

Brad: that might be the best use of disarming with that double entendre you just pulled there


all right so there's flops in terms of washing machines and roller skates but looking back at the firearms was there any gun you know that that would have been unveiled around this time or maybe a company was pushing that you know looking back it's like it's just clear that gun wasn't going to make it it wasn't getting traction it was a silly concept or whatever it was is there anything that comes to mind of just a total product flop that year

Logan: yeah the smith wesson model of 1913 it was a semi-automatic handgun and it was their first foray into a commercially viable semi-automatic and of course they're wanting to capitalize on this new semi-auto trend you know colt has done incredibly well with with the 1911 and so they introduced the their model of 1913 but unfortunately it wasn't very popular you know and again if you see one of the guns it's not the most aesthetically pleasing thing in the world

Brad: i'm gonna ask you about that it it almost looks wimpy yeah it's like a derringer feel to it you know

Logan: right and it's you know and in terms of caliber it was yeah you know it was in 35 s & w auto so you know it was it was an oddball caliber even by those standards then it's certainly more of an eyeball caliber today but yeah between colt kind of having the market cornered on the semi-auto and then making it look a little odd and then it being in an unusual caliber it just didn't work and j

We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, Privacy Policy, and Terms of Use.