Saturday, September 27, 2008

Getting Beyond Catch & Release

The last few posts have got me thinkng about recruitment and retention strategies within the shooting sports, and issue that is guaranteed to come up in the first meeting of the NSSF 20/20 Shooting Sports Task Force in mid-October.

Speaking strictly for sport shooting, we typically put the huge majority of our efforts on recruitment — how do we get new shooters? Most of the sports have junior programs in place (in some case for a long time), and we define that as "recruitment."

That's good, but not nearly good enough. I think the strength of the NSSF report is dividing potential shooters into a number of distinct markets that all require different strategies to reach. I'll deal with that in a later post.

I do plan to put the issue of retention squarely on the table, because I think we do a very poor job of it. That's because retention has only in the last couple of decades become an issue. In the semi-mythical Old Days, hunting/shooting was in fact a lifetime pursuit. You had "hunting families," where generations of family members went into the field. However, the same megatrends that have affected shooting and hunting — urbanization/suburbanization, competition for declining leisure time, liability issues — have also worked to alter the retention equation...there's more to do and less time to do it. A constriction of places to shoot, rising ammo prices and, let's face it, a change in the social acceptance of the shooting sports have made it easy for even dedicated shooters to "drop out." As I've been fond of saying for years, "net is net" — if we recruit 10 new shooters and lose 10 through attrition, it's a wash.

Interestingly enough, about a decade ago I did some research in participant retention in another sport, scuba diving. At that time (and I haven't looked at it in a while, so the numbers may have changed), the average time-in-sport for a scuba diver was 18 months. After a year and a half, new divers started to drift away, so to speak. And this was in a sport with pretty high barriers to entry: a certification process requiring classes and in-field tests, relatively complicated math skills required, expensive equipment to purchase and an element of danger in the sport.

My take on the issue was what I termed the "blue fish conundrum." As a sport scuba had built a huge recruitment machine and it worked extremely well. People come into the sport really pumped up after the recruitment phase, ready to explore the underwater world; after a year or so, divers without gobs of money to travel the world, started wondering how many blue fish they could look at. While there were upward paths that would help keep divers involved in the sport, they were often not readily accessible, expensive and often scary (my own certifications, which interestingly enough I never use anymore, are Full Cave/Mixed Gas/Deep Air, and that's a path not a lot of people would choose to follow).

I see a good bit of similar retention issues in shooting. We're actually pretty good at getting people into the sports, but once they're in they're pretty much on their own. That works just swell for serious competitors,, who tend to be both self-starting and little Energizer Bunnies on moving forward. More casual competitors, however, tend to drift away.

As usual, I don't have giganto answers, but I think the key to retaining shooters is to both publicize what's "under the tent" — that is, show the breadth of what's available to shooters in all the venues...sport shooting, hunting and self-defense/training — while making it as easy as possible to sample those items under the tent. We definitely need to make sure the self-defense/training component of the industry — huge — is under the tent. the NSSF report makes only one "action item" reference to that side of the industry, and it's negative...allegedly some newcomers to sport shooting are 'troubled" by the huminoid targets used on the self-defense side of the industry, so, hey, let's abandon ship!

To quote John McCain, "Oh, pleeeeeeessssssse!"

We need to figure out how to keep the people we've got in the tent in the tent. I'm open to suggestions...

22 comments:

nj_larry said...

My own experiences with shooting go back to when I was kid living in a rural area. I could shoot 100 yards from my house in an open field. Neighbors understood and no complaints. Now in a suburban home I would be literally arrested if I even took my archery gear out to the backyard. I now have to drive 40 minutes on highways to get to a club that costs me 350 dollars a year for membership. So to shoot is an expensive proposition. It has fallen into the “hassle” bucket. I talk to other members about how we have to “sneak” our gun cases into the car or truck. How we have to carve out a significant portion of the day for the whole deal.

I had mentioned the expense of the Vintage Cup a couple of posts ago. I was making a very good buck at the time. I could afford some pretty high end toys. But this class of action was way beyond my pay grade. I’ve noticed a clear trend towards the Gray’s Sporting Journal types. Maybe this is a natural progression of the industry. As the drive for profit goes up you can’t get blood from a stone at the lower economic levels. So the Craig Boddingtons of the world hunt Africa. The Argentina bird hunts are big. That may drive a few thousand overseas trips. On the shooter side I can’t afford to go to Gunsite or Thunder ranch every year for training. I would be lucky if I could do that once in a lifetime. That isn’t going to keep an industry alive.

The economics all point to a cottage industry. Small groups of interested folks will continue to patronize the manufacturers. They will have their trips to hunt in Alaska,Africa or South America. But Joe six pack will be driven out of the game. Sure he may own guns and even buy guns. But why do you think the price of long guns is down to 400 dollars and they are made of plastic or come from overseas? They are being driven out of the game. In a country of 330 million we are talking about overall numbers not some place in Idaho or Montana with a population of less than 5000. Most Americans live in 10 or so large urban areas.

The next generation is not oriented to shooting or hunting. They spend more time on their computers then outside. In my club of 250 members there are NO children. There is dam little shooting allowed in school programs. SCTP IMO is growing because it is held AWAY from school. If you tried to have indoor ranges for rifle or pistol (as did exist several decades ago) it would fall flat on its face.

My club is composed of 240 guys, 10 women, average age is 50. Not to mention there are almost no minorities. That is another area which is not confronted honestly. You do not see representative percentages of non-whites in the shooting sports. America in not to long, will have to deal with a majority non-white population. All the demographics point in the wrong direction.

So in summation as the lawyers say, if there aren’t available places to shoot and hunt, if the costs of equipment and ammo continue to rise, if the social acceptability of the shooting sports continue to decrease, we are in a death spiral. As much as that breaks my heart it is reality.

Sorry for the long post but I just got wound up.

Anonymous said...

To begin with, forget about getting people into competitive shooting. The competitive shooting sports almost always degenerate into an equipment race. Not to mention the childish "mind games" so many competitors play.

Skeet was invented to simulate hunting, or so I have read. As it is now shot it is all about shooting tubed O/U's and is boring as hell. Trap is also as exciting as watching grass grow. Sporting Clays seems to have two elements, professional shooters and recreational shooters. Sporting seems to be holding its own with recreational shooters. But the course I attend you see mostly older dudes shooting, people who have a good deal of disposable income.

IPSC turned into an equipment race with its race guns. Joe Blow was left cold. Silhouette shooting was supposed to be about a guy taking his deer rifle and getting in some practice. It was ruined by the equipment race.

Cowboy Shooting was hailed for years as a family sport where you pretended to be a cowboy and shot. Two sixguns, a lever rifle, and a shotgun made it pricey to get into. And the fanatics who demaded "authentic dress" upped the ante since cowboy clothes were damned expensive. And the gamers took hold by modifying '73 Winchesters with "short throw kits".

Competitive shooting will always have a ceiling beyond which it can't grow as most shooters don't want to put up with the BS and the ever spiraling cost of keeping up with the latest and greatest.

Simply put, to keep interest in shooting we must have many more public shooting ranges that are affordable for people to visit. A person may not be interested in shooting competitively but wouldn't mind shooting a falling plate course at his own pace if such were available. The industry needs to find a way to make sure more public ranges are available that can be visited by the average guy/gal.

And I second nj larry....we have to get more minorities involved in shooting. And more women. More everbody. And the best way to do that is to give them a place to shoot.

Anonymous said...

I can't disagree more with the theory that competitive shooting cannot grow. Everybody is competitive. Everybody. And everything is an equipment race. Golf. Cycling. Hell, even competitive cooking is an equipment race if you watch any of the shows on the Food Network. That's a piss poor argument against competitive shooting.

Competition at the highest level is exciting and interests people because we wish we could shoot, golf, play tennis, drive like they do. The USGA knows we rather watch Tiger Woods than the local better ball match at the local 9 hole course with no name duffers. They use competition - televised - to help expand the sport. And that's what we need.

Unfortunately shooting sports on TV is very limited. We get a 7-min segment on Shooting USA on occasion. Shooting Gallery limits match coverage to a few. Guns & Ammo does about nothing and the NRA barely touches on their own competitions. This would change with serious corporate $$ behind a match but that hasn't happened.

Retention works when you give people in the sport something to do. The most successful retention program is the Harley Owners Group. They sell you the bike then give you a reason to use it. Glock's GSSF accomplishes this on a much smaller scale. But where Glock runs 6-7K a year though the program a year, HOG has 1 million members.

The key to getting people in is giving them a place to shoot. Ranges are the first and greatest need. Then once you have people in you need to give them something to do with their new toys. Competition does that. Organized events do that. This comes back to the ranges in a big way as they need to create programs to give their visitors a reason to keep coming back. Think bowling league...which by the way is a competition. Softball also uses leagues. As does baseball and football. More competitive formats that require equipment and training if you want to play at the highest level. Of course these are team sports/leagues usually but nobody ever said you couldn't shoot as a team in a league.

JasonK said...

I think that a large problem with recruitment into the action pistol sports is the myth of the equipment race. USPSA is best known for it's Open division. I run into people all the time who may not recognize the acronym but do know the sport when you explain it. Almost universally they have no idea that Limited exists much less Production. I think that if the coverage of USPSA gave half to Production and the other half to Open/Limited combined that we could get more people to take the guns they already have out to the range.

On the subject of retention, in my experience the biggest problem is the old 80 20 rule. You know 80% of the work provided by 20% of the people. There have to be ways to spread the load. If the hardcore 20% get burned out the casual 80% just find something else to do. Programs like required "volunteer" time, or paying for the privilege of not working. I don't know that either of those are the ideal answers but something must be done.

$0.02

Duane said...

Lately I have noticed that the availability of ranges is a major factor. Admittedly I am from Southern California so it may well be atypical, but 15 years ago there where 6 indoor pistol and rimfire rifle ranges within a 30 minute drive, 10 years ago there where 2, and now there is 1, and it will probably be closed due to a homicide a couple of weeks ago (looks like a suicide from what I originally heard). If I want to shoot my long guns I have to drive at least a 100 miles or more to get to a range, and then they won't allow 90% of my ammo. There is no visible outreach to educate or to get people who do shoot out and active. I here nothing locally about things like the Steel Challenge, irst I heard about it was from blogs like yours.

To retain shooters we need to get them out shooting. To get them out shooting we need places to shoot and we need them to be aware of these places and to encourage the use of the ranges.
I know I would burn a hell of a lot more powder, If I had a local place to shoot, and especially if I had local events and training to go to.

George said...

Well, here's my two cents:
I think a dramatic attitude change needs to occur within our sport, specifically at the shooting range. In my area there are two ranges that I really have difficulty justifying the time to go to because of the attitude of the people who run them. What I see is mostly retirees who have nothing better to do than to worry about things like if you are shooting too fast. Or if you bring an AK to the range, they impose their view of how all AKs are junk, etc. It's just the attitude that is on display that is very "customer unfriendly".

Also, the attitude within the users in the community needs to change. A softening in the attitude toward divergent points of view is called for. For example, someone earlier posted their opinion about how the evolution of USPSA left out the average shooter. The next post said in response that their line of reasoning was "..a piss poor argument against competitive shooting."

This type of "in your face" dialog is a huge turnoff to most people. These are the same people who are at the range who will tell you that all "plastic pistols are pieces of shit" or some other over the top statement. It's time to turn the volume down and take a less strident tone.

How we relate to others in this sport sends a message to the others whether this is a good place to stay or not.

Anonymous said...

anon@4:53

Everyone is competitive? Afraid not. Think back to your high school and college days. What % of the student body was involved in competetive athletics? The debate team? A very small percentage I'd wager.

Competition shooters make the mistake of thinking everyone thinks and acts as they do and that isn't the case.

http://www.idpa.com/default.asp

IDPA has 11,000 members in 19 countries. That is really a very small percentage of handgun owners, don't ya think?

Competitive shooting will always have an upper limit to the number of people it will recruit.

Cowboy Shooting has probably peaked because there was only "X" number of people willing to dress up and play. Cowboy was responsible for the intro of some great guns, the majority of which I bet were bought by non Cowboy shooters.

Competition shooting can help drive gun sales and interest such as cowboy guns or sporting clays shotguns but in the end if people don't have a place to go shoot their toys people will stop buying and will drop out of shooting.

Mike M. said...

Hmm...

I think there are several factors at work, and several solutions available.

First, I think the shooting sports are INCREASING in acceptance. There may be some hyper-leftist areas where this is not true, but in general, things are improving.

The range issue is a problem. I think the solution will be increasing use of air rifles and pistols. They might not be as sexy as your vaunted 1911, but you can shoot them anywhere - and even match-grade pellets are a penny per shot.

Coverage is also a problem. Yes, there are the shooting TV shows...but they are obsessed with IPSC and IDPA. The Olympic competitors get rather short shirft, Camp Perry gets table scraps...and if you are shooting black powder competitively, you get the black hole. Which is VERY bad, as the precision sports are good ambassadors for the shooting sports with people who are non-hunters.

And I agree with the idea of making a serious outreach effort to minorities and women. The NRA has been making some good headway with the latter, but I think that there is too much of an obsession with recruiting hunters. There are a fair number of people who just aren't interested in turning Bambi into Bambiburgers. We need to be reaching out to these people as well.

Jeff said...

More ranges? maybe some places, but I've seen a whole lot of existing ranges that are pretty empty.

I think that in order to get people to get in and stay in the shooting sports it needs to be fun. Very rarely are competitions fun for people trying to learn a new sport.

The television and internet media do a decent job of communicating the fun aspect of shooting, but the problem is that the people who are watching are mostly either active shooters or used to be shooters.

What turns people off? For me, I'd just as soon go to a gravel pit or out in the back 40 and shoot with family or a few carefully screened friends.

Why? because for some reason we as a "culture" don't do a very good job of policing our own ranks. We just accept too much rude, disrespectful or just plain obnoxious behavior at public ranges.

Brad said...

Another vote for finding ways to make shooting fun. What was the real advantage of the olden days when we could easily shoot on our own outside the city? Was it just a convenient way to duplicate today's range environment, shooting paper targets from a fixed position? For me it was shooting things that moved. Chasing a can across the desert with a .22 is classic shooting fun.

I find ranges boring, and indoor ranges to be almost grim - standing in a noisy little booth isn't my idea of shooting fun. Yes I know to double plug, and ranges are good to see how well you and/or a gun are shooting and to keep basic skills from getting rusty. But after a rookie is good enough to hit those paper targets is shooting enjoyable enough for him or her to keep shooting?

We need ranges that offer things like falling plate racks and dueling trees to everyone. I don't think it makes financial sense to run people through a USPSA-type course on demand so promote competitions to the recreational shooter as way to have fun. Some are there to win, most (like me) are mid-pack finishers there to have fun. As long as the "wanna be" top shooters remember that more novices means more people paying for more and better matches, it works. (Rant from other sports - the real top guys aren't a problem, it is the legends in their own mind crowd that is bothered by the those that aren't "serious enough")

I live in the Phoenix, AZ area with many competition matches that welcome new shooters and have seen this in practice. Tuesday Night Steel at Rio Salado will have Rob Leatham following a new shooter who has never drawn from a holster before and the only problem is too many people trying to help the new guy.

And once you do draw people to shooting as a sport there will be turnover. Some people like the learning process and move on to something else after they are competent. Some are competitive but don't have the skills to win so they move on. Whatever the reasons, people come and go so make it fun, find ways to publicize the sports (advertising!?) and I think we are in a good position.

Anonymous said...

Question:

Just how many new, never shot a gun people does IPSC or IDPA or whatever REALLY recruit into shooting? My hunch is very few as I suspect most people who sign up to shoot competitively are already shooters.

Anonymous said...

mike m.

Use of airsoft and such lets people experience shooting in a fashion, but they still haven't shot a real gun. More ranges - that are professionally run - are the answer. If airsoft is our primary focus we make the argument for elimination of firearms and ranges all together. We could go to paintball instead.

Coverage of USPSA, Steel Challenge and IDPA are important. They are exciting. The Olympic sports for the most part are like watching paint dry. And if you wanted to get into, say Olympic trap, you'd have only 26 bunkers in the US to shoot on. There are not a lot of indoor ranges designed for the Olympic style shooting. It's kind of like Bianchi which has dwindled down to what, 130 shooters? When it used to be 300+. There's a sport that required special range equipment that very very few ranges have. USPSA and IDPA need bays (same as Cowboy Action).

The lack of coverage of Camp Perry is a crime and yet another example of where the NRA has again failed to do the fundamental job of promoting the shooting sports - their own shooting sports.

None of the organizations do a good job of public relations with the exception of the NSSF's Scholastic Clay Target Program (which is now in doubt because of the hand-off to an outside group that is underfunded) and the USPSA which has made it a major focus of their efforts this year. They even had coverage of their nationals on Fox News Channel. After those two groups, the amount of PR work done is minimal.

Now, I agree that black powder deserves more focus but they aren't doing the work themselves and it is still visually boring. In a world where Halo 3 pulls in $300 mil in its first week of sales - far exceeding the pace of movies like The Dark Knight - we need to realize that to grab the attention of the young people with money in their pockets and the desire to do something cool, we need to present those sports that are cool.

Once this younger generation picks up on the shooting sports we can grow. Without them we grow only off our own families which is the path to a slow death of the shooting sports. Our own shooters cannot retain their own family members at a rate high enough to continue to grow. The diminished hunting numbers clearly prove that.

Things that need to happen in order to grow are:
1) more public ranges offering a wide variety of sports
2) better communications/PR/advertising to non shooters by the industry and the organizations
3) more TV coverage fueled by sponsorship $$$
4) more aggressive counter attacks by the industry on those that define us negatively to the general public. As long was we allow them to define us we will always remain second class citizens in the minds of people that are unfamiliar with our sport/hobby

Those are the things I would focus on with the task force. But they will probably spend all their time talking about hunting and ultimately get nothing accomplished.

Anonymous said...

anon@ 7:39

Everything is competition. Its called Darwinism but just without the killing. That nerd who isn't on the track team and didn't debate but was tops in the class was competing. He/she was competing against you and everybody else in the class...and won.

The guys stat stayed home from the games playing dungeons and dragons were competitive. They now play World of Warcraft on Xbox 360.

The guy that made first tuba in the band - he beat out the rest of the tubas and it was a competition.

nj_larry said...

Let’s consider some numbers for a moment.

The following from Wiki Answers:

Number of guns and gun owners in USA.
Most estimates range between 39% and 50% of US households having at least one gun (that’s about 43-55 million households). The estimates for the number of privately owned guns range from 190 million to 300 million. Removed those that skew the stats for their own purposes the best estimates are about 45% or 52 million of American households owning 260 million guns).


With regard to Hunters how many in the USA? Well it is far fewer than the 52 million households.

From Sporting Goods Business 10/31/05

The number of paid hunting license holders in America has increased slightly over the previous year, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service's recent National Hunting License Report. Numbers for 2004 rose 0.3% from 14,740,188 to 14,779,071, ...


When I read member numbers like SAS having 80K members I think the 80/20 rule. I bet you that for every active SAS shooter there are at least 4 badges in bedroom drawers. How many folks are NRA members? 4 million? How many even show up for the NRA annual meeting? 60K. All these shooter groups have tons of inactive members. Of the 52 million households with guns how many guns sit in closets or safes for 365 days a year?

How many of these hunting licenses are never used? Or the hunter goes out for one or two days a year?

You have to be realistic as to what is going on before you can fix it. I believe the "active" shooting community is smaller than most think.

You also get into the whole issue of what is an active shooter/gun owner? Shoots once a year? 10 times a year? Shoots 500 rounds a year? Shoots in competition? Well Camp Perry only attracts 4K shooters across all disciplines.

Lets do some math. Lets just assume 10% of owners are active. If you have two shooters per household that’s only 10 million active shooters (which is a REAL stretch. Kalifornia has 10M households so that’s 5M gun-owning households x 2 shooters x 10% or 1 MILLION active shooters. You would have to reserve a spot 5 years in advance at the local range if that were true). But just to finish up the exercise, at 10 million active shooters you would be losing something like a thousand a day just to old age and death.

My own gut feel (I would prefer numbers that were researched) is we probably have a fraction of this. That just means that our perception of what is going on in our community is out of touch with reality again. If the number is a few million “active” shooters MB would have to have a plan to attract many tens of thousands a year to just remain flat. That is ignoring all the negative factors mentioned above by the various writers above. At most any program is going to be a token factor in this entire equation. I think there are grander factors in gun ownership than some program the NSSF dreams up. Societal pressures and perceptions like safety and threat, the entertainment industry, schools and teachers are going to have a greater effect than anything else.

We are dealing with a mature sport/interest among people, we are not in the early stages where growth goes exponential.

At some point we will reach a “steady state” where all the factors just balance out and a particular gun owner population and active shooter population remain at some given number (if we haven’t already). We will never have all citizens gun owners nor will we have zero gun owners in America.

Anonymous said...

Everything that has been said, is probably "correct". The one negative factor the shooting sports face, including hunting, is the growing (and fashionable) public sentitiment that "Guns are for killing things, mainly people." I think that we need to address those thoughts and work there. Recruiting new shooters is also part of it, but many people shy away fro shooting and even admitting that they have guns, because of those perceptions held by the public.
If we go back to some earlier pages on this blog and take the advice given there about how to address the anti-gun people, I think that we will find part of the solution. Let's face it, "anti-gun" attitudes lead to lawsuits, closed ranges, or ranges never even opened, loss of hunting land access, stores not even selling guns anymore, etc.
My suggestion is to learn to talk to the "antis" and get them to see the facts.
Life Member

Anonymous said...

Not so sure about Mike M's comment: "And I agree with the idea of making a serious outreach effort to minorities and women. The NRA has been making some good headway with the latter..."

The NRA did have a good women's gun magazine for a few years, but it quit coming with no explanation, and the NRA started sending their political magazine in its place.

DirtCrashr said...

Not everybody is competitive. I find it annoying when I'm repeatedly challenged by a competitive-obsessive. I quit playing the trombone in band because it was a downer and I sucked at it. I went to UCSC where we didn't even have grades. My golf clubs are twenty years old and my bike is older. I WON'T go bicycling in Spandex or buy goofy bicycle-shoes. I play golf without keeping score at uncompetetitive par-3 courses because I'd rather play a *bit* (and not all damn day) than watch Tiger.
I've never been hunting or been invited to go hunting, so I have no idea what that's like - although I used to spend a lot of time in the back-country on a dirt-bike so I'm not unaccustomed to Nature and camping. Except I'm over 50 and know what entropy means and haven't been camping in the past few years and I haven't been on the dirtbike either so maybe I should change my nickname.
My dad was an Eagle Scout and all our family vacations were one form of camping or another - but not guns. No guns. We never stayed in a hotel growing-up so I didn't have exposure to the socially competitively lifestyle measured in Money or the Financial Race - we didn't have it - my parents were Missionaries and God would provide. And God did. My dad taught High School industrial arts after we returned from the overseas preacher-thing.
I don't pay for TV so there's no shooting-sports to watch.

But I still like to improve and I measure improvement by my own scores and tighter groups. I shoot across-the-course with a Garand or an CA-legal AR15, the lower of which I built myself.
I started shooting when I was 42 and had never shot a rifle before 2000. I taught myself how to reload to afford the Garand's appetite. Reloading for a match on a single-stage press is a pain in the ass.
I'm not interested in going to Camp Perry - been to Ohio several times, didn't hook me to want to return.
When the CMP runs out of guns a lot of my club's attendance will fall-off because a lot of it's fueled by Garand-buyers.
We do a pretty good and active Juniors Program especially given where we're at in blue-state California, but further restrictions at Schools have even impacted the Jr. ROTC off-campus activities to stall, which is one place/group where we normally pick up the slack with center-fire.
We have a good and nice 200-yard range and the drive isn't too bad, about 40 minutes for me, longer and my threshold might be eclipsed though.
I have a nice shotgun that I inhered from my Grandpa's estate (Browning A-5) that I've never fired - none of my Gunfriends shoots shotguns.
Next month (two weeks) I'm driving up to Reno for the Gunbloggers Rendezvous for the second year in a row - but I have so-far avoided making hotel reservations because I discovered last year that I really-really hate casinos, and Circus-Circus was just really irritating - it was an environment that I simply could not find at all comfortable - and while I really enjoyed the People of the Gun, I might bail - it's a long drive. Threshold. Also I'm not working right now so money is tight.

Saladman said...

I think that a large problem with recruitment into the action pistol sports is the myth of the equipment race. USPSA is best known for it's Open division. I run into people all the time who may not recognize the acronym but do know the sport when you explain it. Almost universally they have no idea that Limited exists much less Production. I think that if the coverage of USPSA gave half to Production and the other half to Open/Limited combined that we could get more people to take the guns they already have out to the range.

Quoted for truth. I consider myself hardcore on the rights end of gun ownership, I own several guns, and I did not know until now there was a production class in USPSA. Which matters, because a customized handgun (or top-tier shotgun, or match-barrel rifle and handloads, whatever) just is not in the financial cards for me.

A secondary retention issue for me personally was that my learning curve was pretty slow for quite a while when I was learning to shoot. Largely this was about my own self-consciousness, but I've run across a couple of excellent shooters who I wouldn't want near a beginner because they'd be more likely to embarass them away than encourage them.

ExUrbanKevin said...

A few things:

1. From a marketing perspective, it's been proven again and again that you'll get a much higher return on investment (ROI) over the long haul if you spend your money making sure you retain your current customers rather than trying to constantly acquire new ones.

2. As for competitive shooting, look at your barriers to entry. Assume a new shooter has a 9mm for defense/CCW and is interested in IPSC/IDPA. He'll need mags, and if it's USPSA, a new holster/belt to be even the least bit competitive in Standard/Production class. And if a person doesn't have a pistol, they're looking at $700+ to start off (9mm, belt, holster, mags). Compare that to other leisure sports: How much does fishing or golf cost to get into, and how much does it cost to practice?

3. The shooting sports aren't on TV because, well, they don't make for good TV. If you're not into it, they make golf on TV look riveting by comparison. Heck, I can't even watch YouTube vids of USPSA competitions, and Iove the sport.

4. Training. Shooting IPSC/IDPA requires specific skillsets that can't be acquired quickly or casually. I'm a new shooter to USPSA, and getting consistent results has been a major hurdle for me. A Beginner's Guide to Practical Shooting that covers basic pistol accuracy, drawing techniques and USPSA rules would go a long way to bring people into the sport.

Doubly so if they're done as videos up on YouTube.

TV isn't the only video channel out there now. Heck, to reach young shooters, it's probably the worst way to go these days.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I took our son trap shooting when he was about 11. But he fell in love with rifle at BSA camp. They loved the rifle range and placed little toy dinosaurs and soldiers on top of the poles and shot them. THAT WAS FUN for 12-15 year old boys.

Then he went to jamboree in 2004 and he did not like the lines so spent a lot of time with shotgun and the soldier that threw their birds kept trying to make it difficult as they improved. They spent 4 hours a day doing that and really enjoyed it.

So the best way to recruit boys in Boy Scouts. Ranges should go to local meetings and offer discount and teaching and take the parents if they can. This will get the boy the merit badge and the family may join.

For the girls try it through the girl scouts and defensive work. Soma ploy and there will be some who stay.

Anonymous said...

Retention is definitely the bigger issue, and it has probably been considered but some sort of handicap system along the lines of golf would help to allow people to compete with themselves as well as others at the same level of proficiency, and a Seniors level, as everyone over 40 develops eyesight and strength issues, again to keep it relatively competitive. And while most would like to gain confidence in the weapon they keep in their home for protection, .22 cal is a great intro level, certainly how I got my start so many years ago, and poses less social "threat" in the neighborhood, so maybe .22 cal only ranges might work. If you look at the 10/22, there are a lot of kids that are having a good time "hot rodding" their rifle, always an appeal to the young. And maybe you teach reloading at those ranges in order to develop new levels of interest for the cost concious. Lastly, I know that they are more acceptable from a liability standpoint, but indoor ranges are indeed usually loud, dark, grim places, maybe more focus on sound supression would help.

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