With the red-brown earth peppered by desert flora rising before them to meet the cloudless blue sky, 1,000 eager Americans stood shoulder to shoulder in the warmth of the Arizona sun, awaiting instructions from a disembodied voice of authority emanating from the range’s speakers.
When prompted, the line of shooters simultaneously grasped the lever-action rifles placed before each of them, aimed,and squeezed the trigger, sending 1,000 .22LR rounds downrange and cementing their place in shooting sports history.
A year in the making, the concept was the brainchild of Anthony Imperato, the visionary president and CEO of Henry Repeating Arms, a leading manufacturer of lever-action and traditional American rifles located in New Jersey. While meeting with NRA staff, Imperato pitched the idea of creating a shooting spectacle as a way to positively represent the shooting community while uniting American gun owners following what was sure to be a divisive and taxing 2016 Presidential election.
Imperato leveraged the strength of the NRA to help transform a dream into a reality, watching the sprawling expanse of the Ben Avery range grow into a colorful assembly of Americana, filled with entertainment and enthusiasm amongst the throngs of excited participants and guests.
“We’re all gathering to make this very patriotic event one of unity, one of unwavering support of the Second Amendment—and to have a lot of fun as well,” Imperato said in his emotional opening remarks to the crowd of shooters, spectators and corps of staff members and volunteers. “Whether we have a President that supports the Second Amendment or not, we should never be asleep at the wheel and we must always continue to fight for our freedoms and traditions. So let’s send a loud message to whatever powers that be, that we will never give up the fight. Let Freedom Ring!”
NRA First Vice President and CEO of Brownells, Inc., Pete Brownell echoed Imperato’s zeal for the spirit of the shooting sports and championed the efforts that garnered a victory for American gun owners and enthusiasts.
"We made history last week," Brownell said referencing last week’s election, "and I have to tell you it feels great to be on offense again."
In addition to local and national media outlets on hand to capture the spectacle and tell the story, a contingent of social media stars from popular gun culture and firearms media channels made the trip to both cover the event and secure a spot on the firing line. Personalities included YouTube trickshot master 22Plinkster, Georgia’s beloved IraqVeteran8888, veterinarian and rising YouTube star Demolition Ranch, the cerebral, no, nonsense firearms review savvy of Military Arms Channel, and viral video veteran Hank Strange, as well as the up-and-coming firearms industry news chops of The Gun Collective and gear heads from Four Guys Guns.
Just as Imperato had hoped, the NRA was up to the massive logistical undertaking required to pull off an event of this scale, recruiting volunteers from coast to coast to serve as Range Safety Officers and event staff alongside NRA staff members.
The shooters came from 46 states, and represented a cross-section of American gun owners from all backgrounds and walks of life. They ranged from casual hobbyists, novices, and even some that had barely laid hands on a firearm before, all the way to gun store owners, certified instructors, military veterans and lifelong gun enthusiasts. Despite their wildly varying backgrounds and ways of life, they all came to make history together, surrounded by the camaraderie, passion and sense of community that is so often left out of the media’s depictions of the American gun owner.
In a time where so many Americans needed something to feel good about, something to feel part of and cherish, and something to share with family – real or extended – the warm Arizona autumn afternoon was the perfect prescription for these 1,000-plus in attendance.
“The Henry 1000 Man Shoot was all that I had hoped it would be and more," Imperato said following the event. "Looking out at a sea of 1,000 participants, their families, and 400 volunteers was very emotional. There was a tremendous sense of patriotism and I'll never forget it.”
More important than setting a record, the Henry 1000 Man Shoot made a statement: we are proud American gun owners, a fraternity founded on freedom, and we will always make our voices heard.