The sound of freedom echoed through the desert hills outside of Phoenix, Ariz., the afternoon of Nov. 14, 2016 as 1,000 shooters from across the country took positions on the firing line at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility, shouldered their Henry Golden Boy rifles and let fly a thunderous volley.
They were participating in the 1000-Man Shoot, an event that will go down in NRA annals as a record number of participants to simultaneously fire rifles. However, it was intended to be much more than that, to show the world that, despite what some politicians and media elites wanted to sell the public, Americans adamantly support the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
Indeed, the 1000-Man Shoot was an idea hatched more than a year before the shots rang out by Henry Repeating Arms President Anthony Imperato during a time when gun rights were under severe siege.
“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 to the 1,000 participants, 400 instructors and safety officers and many onlookers who attended.
During his welcome speech Imperato reminded the crowd, “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!”
Henry donated the rifles to the NRA, the one organization Imperato knew could muster the support and handle the logistics of such an event. The NRA, in turn, is using the gift rifles to raise money for its continued fight to protect the Second Amendment. Shooters were offered an opportunity to purchase the commemorative .22-cal. Golden Boys they fired; those that went unpurchased will be auctioned at Friends of NRA banquets in the future. The hope is that the sale will net about $1 million for NRA programs.
The bright sun that lit up the Sonoran desert seemed dim compared to the energy and exuberance emanating from the shooters and instructors. Though few said they signed up specifically because they wanted to make a political statement, they were nonetheless happy to view it as a celebration in light of President-Elect Donald Trump’s historic victory.
Pete Brownell, first vice president of the NRA and CEO of Brownells Inc., said the election was analogous to the “shot heard round the world” in terms of its significance, but that the 1000-Man Shoot also served as such a statement, reinforcing the fact that most Americans are a long way from lying down and giving up their freedoms.
“As some of you may know, we made history last week,” Brownell told the crowd before they moved to their respective spots on the firing lines—coincidentally labeled as the red, white and blue ranges. “We made history then by coming from behind.” Then he encouraged the participants to go out and make their own history with the record-setting shoot. Shooters from 16 states stood side-by-side in a line spanning a mile and a half long and simultaneously fired two shots from their rifles under the close supervision of the NRA.
Regardless of how long it may be before another chance comes up—few ranges can accommodate such a long line of shooters—Brownell said those who came together for freedom at Ben Avery Range on Nov. 14 nevertheless will hold their own in history as the first ever to man the firing lines in a 1000-Man Shoot.
And although Anthony Imperato wasn’t ready to look ahead to a repeat of such a massive undertaking, he said the concept of the shoot was so well-received that it wouldn’t surprise him if follow-up events occur, first because of the fact that the 1,000 slots filled so quickly, and second because he has received so many requests for a similar event in other parts of the country.
“The Henry 1000 Man Shoot was all that I had hoped it would be and more," he said. "Looking out at a sea of 1000 participants, their families, and 400 volunteers was very emotional. There was a tremendous sense of patriotism and I'll never forget it.”