Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More Implications...

I was originally posting this as a comment to my last post, but it got kind of long and I decided to give it a post of its own...

I believe we are at the tipping point I've been predicting for some time. I believe (and have told my consulting clients) that a large portion of the money that has left the hunting side of the market and gone to the present black market/handgun side of the market will not be coming back when the fever subsides.

My rationale is based on human behavior...we tend to go in the direction we're going in until acted upon by an outside force. Then we continue in that direction, etc.

Generally, I never recommend working against what we think of as "megatrends," macro trends that are shaping our current realities. In the case of hunting/shooting, those megatrends are urbanization/suburbanization, increased competition for leisure time, continued expansion of liability laws (there's a reason my property, prime mulie land, is posted) and, to a lesser extent, access issues. Regardless of what programs we as an industry might put in place, we can not significantly effect those trends, because they're societal in nature.

Instead, I am an advocate of bumping, or hitching a ride on, trends we can effect.

For example, sport and defensive shooting are both doing much better than hunting. If Michael ruled the Gun-iverse, I would put most of my money on increasing the upward-tending trends — sport and defensive — then build in a clearly defined "path" to hunting.

My idea would be to increase the big end of the funnel...bring in more people through proven programs...and then recruit new hunters from already committed shooters. Remember, there are two barriers to participating in hunting — purchasing the first gun and killing the first animal. My experience has been that hurdles, especially big hurdles, are best taken individually.

The industry, however, is addicted to hunter recruitment and retention programs that for the most part neither recruit nor retain lifelong hunters. I've used the scuba diving analogy before...a few years back I did some research for a book I was writing on why scuba diving has such a lousy retention number. here's a sport that has a large hurdle for participation — classes and licensing — is expensive and equipment-intensive and, generally, retains new scuba divers for a paltry 18-24 months. My conclusion was at least 1 megatrend — competition for leisure time — coupled with a side effect — you can't just scuba-oooby oooby in your backyard. More importantly, my research, haphazard as it mght be, identified and interesting data point...longtime retention seemed to be tied to the accessibility and definition of an upward path. Duh...people who were constantly learning their sport stayed in it longer. recruitment programs without an understanding of why people stay in the sport are, for the most part, a waste of time.

For example, I've been involved — and not as much as I should have been! — in the current NSSF 20/20 initiative on building hunting and shooting sports. Here's my problem, which is apparently insoluable. The initiative has been built on data that ignores the entire defensive end of the culture and by their own admission — "we have no data..." — overlooks owners and users of black rifles. Also, the NSSF study, while groundbreaking, is shot through and through with researcher error, especially concerning handguns and the handgun sports.

Once again, this "snapshot" of the culture has about 40% blacked out. I said that IMHO casual black rifles users represent as much as 20% + of the essense, "plinking" with AR-15s can arguably be called the most popular shooting sport in America. How good can our recruitment and retention planning if we ignore whole market segments?

Instead, we come back to the same old, "Let's get young people hunting!" Great, except that hasn't worked for the last two decades. The most successful young shooter initiative in decades is NSSF's own Scholastic Clays pprogram...why are we not pouring money into that, then recruit young hunters from the competiton base? The NSSF First Shots program is a huge success...let's do more of that...LOTS more of that! If people want to shoot ARs — and a good way to do a reality check on that is cruise down to your local gunstore and ask what they don't have in stock, — then let's set up programs that help them to exactly that.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately you are singing to the choir. I wholeheartedly agree with what you are (and have been) saying (for awhile now). It would be nice to see the excise taxes that we (shooters) are paying be focused on more shooting ranges/facilities as this would benefit both the shooting/hunting communities.

alan said...

Range development ties into your SCUBA analogy. As we urbanize it's harder to find good places to shoot.

Anonymous said...

Hey I live in tulsa this is nothing you should of been here this time last year i went 7 days with out power.

AlanR said...

NSSF pushing hunting (and throwing money at it) reminds me a lot of congress throwing money at US auto makers, it just ain't what's selling. Time to suck it up and move on into uncharted territory.

CitizenNothing said...

Your suggestion to embrace the trends driven by urbanization makes a lot of sense. That's how I got into hunting.

Shot my first gun at 23 and then bought a pistol as a novelty. A year later bought a shotgun. Shortly after started sporting clay shooting, then dove hunting, then ducks. 8 years and many guns later I went deer hunting for the first time.

Growing up I never had an interest in hunting and never went. It was getting more into shooting and looking for additional outlets that warmed me up to it.

Rastus said...

Your comments are exactly my thoughts. I like hunting more than shooting...but I shoot far more than I in 1 day in 3 years I was able to spend 4 hours squirrel hunting.

There is time for shooting. Shooting is more accessable than hunting. With concealed carry I share defense with my wife out of the home and self-reliability in an urban/suburban environment is not meat hunting. Self-protection and family protection from thugs is a very worthwhile pursuit with greater family benefits than hunting... especially since my meat comes from a store and society here declines.

As proof, I have poured money into the defensive armament of my home. I can get out and watch all three boys at one time shooting at the range and pass on the shooting legacy....hunting we've done, but with hunter education cards, seasons that conflict with football and basketball and just finding a place to hunt...gee, kinda tough when Dad works 50 or so hours a week.

Which is why I posted on Downrange.TV that we should push the big box stores, Cabelas, Bass Pro, highlight shooting, ammo, etc...not hide it behind h-u-n-t-i-n-g on their web Home pages. Keep hunting there with it's shotguns and fine walnut stocked rifles...but I've spent about 50 times more on shooting than hunting in the last 5 years.

Joe said...

Well said Michael. Here in Missouri the DNR does fund open shooting ranges which are heavily used. However, their programs are still geared toward hunting.

Tim Covington said...

I will say that the NSSF needs to do more to recruit older shooters (and hunters) too. I personally would love to go hunting. But, with a severe shortage of public lands in my area, it is to expensive. Why should I spend over $1000 (about what a weekend deer lease in the area goes for) in the hopes that I might get to shoot a deer. For that same $1000 I can do a lot more shooting and also spend a weekend camping. If I was able to get to public land and killed a deer, I would still need someone to show me how to properly dress it out. Nobody I know is an experienced hunter, so I'm left out of the hunting side of things.

frankingun said...

To add to what was already said, especially with urbanization, shooting sports need more push from NSSF than hunting. You need to practice shooting before you go hunting, right? I've only dabbled in hunting, but I've slung thousands more rounds downrange than at game (4). How about converting abandoned factories into urban shooting centers?

Anonymous said...

Not much more can be said here, as most have "nailed it".
Mike, you did mention one aspect of scuba, that affects us too and will be a more prominent deterrent to interest. That's REGULATIONS. Fox news reported on the new DC gun laws, that have training ($$$$), back-ground checks, re- background checks, licensing, re-licensing, finger printing, re- finger printing, blah, blah, blah and blah. In my own fine state, our CCW law was just fine until they "fixed it" with more regulations. Some have been un-done, but most accomplished the Dem's, Spelled "County Clerks") political agendas; More Regulations, less interrst in renewing, or even going through the process to begin with.
If we focus on defensive shooting and personal protection, we'll have to address those issues. There are too many dark clouds on the horizon though. Too bad many of those clouds, or more correctly, "plans" were stricken from the most popular "religous" website in the US, right after the NRA pointed them out. You can still read them in the NRA-ILA archives. Go there.
Life Member

Jim said...

Michael, you and the other posters nailed it! Places to hunt are getting very hard to find. The key to getting more involvement is getting (and preserving) more places to shoot--ranges.

Action shooting is also a key to shooter retention, punching paper on a square range can get kinda boring. What kind of participation do you think you could get from the black rifle crowd with a military style pop-up range?

One Sensible Progressive said...

I know for myself I have only begun to have an interest in hunting after decades of shooting, though the intereset isn't strong enough to do make it happen.

Also like the "range development" comment. How much easier shooting was when you could just drive a few miles out of town and setup some cans on a fence. We can still do that here in Colorado in most of our national forests, but most non-western state suburbanites don't have that ability.

We need plenty of inexpensive, friendly shooting ranges to keep the sport alive.

Aaron said...

I started hunting as a youngster with my dad, uncles, and cousins. I no longer hunt but participate as a competition shooter in cowboy action, trap, BPCR, and combat pistol events.

We need to follow the trend.

Anonymous said...

The most popular religious site in the nation has its "plans" back online under Urban Policy. No need to check the NRA-ILA archive or web page cache.

Anonymous said...

I think your comments are not necessarily rock solid. Being that hunters are actually increasing in record numbers. The problem with what you are saying is that it tends to put hunters on the defensive and creates a divide rather than unification. We as SPORTSMEN, need every able body to join the NRA and any other Second Amendment activist groups. What you fail to understand or state is that the overwhelming part of the numbers that you are calling only "shooters"are actually people who are concerned about defensive purposes for guns and anyone that had a thought that they may want an AR-15. Whether that be to be a competitive shooter or simply taking the President-elect as a good enough reason to buy one. As well, in my area multiple purchases can be attributed to one person. My guess is that this is the case across the nation as well. I'm one of your supporters, don't misunderstand me, but your material falls on only the ears of your faithful audience. Until you get nationally syndicated with your podcast and perhaps do a live show, you will only have a niche following. Let's face it, The Outdoor Channel is an upper tier channel and not nearly enough people have access to it. Most hunters tend to hunt for the love of the sport AND the financial advantage they gain from the meat of their harvest(s). I'm not saying that your ideas are backwards. However, I do think that they are skewed dramatically. I think that the NSSF is basing their focus on the feedback they get. More hunters, more hunter education classes and pupils than ever before and more children (male and female) are participating in hunting. While at the same time participating in competitive shooting as well - my children do. The problem with competitive shooting is it tends to be viewed as a "rich man's game". Seeing $1500+ rifles in the hands of 12 year olds is intimidating, never mind an advantage. My daughter competed with an NEF the first year. I had to scrape every last penny to get her a decent CZ. But the typical hunter may have only ONE rifle that serves his/her purpose and sees no need to run out and buy more. I don't mean to discourage you from your passion. However, at this current point in time, I for one believe that your energy and influence should be used to help focus ALL gun owners on winning the battle we face with the incoming "Regime" and the potential loss of any gun rights. I personally know a handful of hunters/shooters that when hearing your podcasts and seeing your blog, they were turned off and tended to dismiss what you were saying. Hence my division comment earlier. We should encourage everyone to follow their passion and exercise their rights as they choose (lawfully). But also to protect them by becoming active in the fight and introducing future generations to ALL of our sports. Having said all that, I'm very interested in acquiring an AR-15, but would take an AK-47 as well. I like military history and that's my main reason. The fun part is a bonus. I know that there are several frequent visitors that will dismiss what I'm saying. To them, I say, we're all on the same team. Voicing our opinions is a freedom we experience and enjoy. Let's do what we can to prevent BHO from taking our passionate past times away, whatever they may be. Oh, and Michael, you said Rock River was the 1911 for $359 made in the Phillipines. Actually it's Rock Island, and STI uses Armscorps' (I believe) parts. NOT the other way around. That's how STI has a more affordable 1911. BTW, I have a Rock Island and they are worth every cent and then some! is a good reference site. Thanks and let's all "cowboy up" and win this fight!!

Anonymous said...

Just one other comment. Part of the reason AR's, AK's, and handguns are selling so well is because they are seen as the firearms most likely to suffer from the blunt of BHO's administration. Hunting rifles are seen as "safe" and therefore there's no urgency felt in order to run out and purchase every one in every caliber available. That is part of what's going on. I'm glad that folks are buying as much as possible. However, we're setting ourselves up. We're saturating the demand by buying up everything. How long before manufacturers start raising their prices (Mike already mentioned this in his podcast)? Dealers have been jacking their prices up since the craze began. Even though the manufacturers had NOT raised their retail production costs. Soon they're likely be a lull in the movement and the manufacturers will have suffered by making AR's to keep pace with today's demand. Yet once things relax - if they ever do - there'll be a flood of AR's on the market that aren't likely to move quickly. The same can be said of the demand for ammo. Manufacturers will suffer once thousands of people possess thousands of rounds and don't have to buy for years. I understand that ammo is also seen as the most likely avenue of attack from BHO, but what if that isn't the case. Could we be that lucky? let's hope so. Just a thought, but I'm someone who's buying every STANDARD capacity magazine I can, just in case.

Dock said...

Interesting thought.

Hey "high tech rifle" (and accessories for same) dealers. Want to screw up a good thing? Raise your prices into the wave of demand, and keep doing it until people get disgusted with you and stop buying.

Ask your local gas station owner how that worked out for him when the wave crested, because people said "nuh uh, sorry, no mas, too beaucoup" at about $4 a gallon.

As far as I'm concerned everyone can keep their $30 Pmags. No mas.

Insurance and liability are killing ranges even in Texas. More ranges and gun stores have closed since I've lived here than have opened.

It would be AWESOME to have an old warehouse turned into a "shoot house." Imagine a warehouse-sized space with lots of reactive targets - the biggest Shooting Gallery ever! Not gonna happen unless we can keep the lawyers and regulators at bay, and even win new concessions.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the anonymous post on the grounds of these comments divide us and are counter productive to our cause of fighting BHO. As well as this site/podcast, etc.. have pretty much the same viewers and visitors. Michael, I'd be interested in how many unique visitors you get each month on your sites. As far as hunters being shooters as well, I agree whole heartedly. Our era of hunters tend to cross over into the shooting realm. He makes a good point about the AR's and other "assault weapons" being viewed as "at risk", hence the buying frenzy and how it could actually hurt us down the road. I hope people here aren't too critical because it's nice to see someone offer a different opinion than simply agreeing all the time with MB. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Studies show that there are 18.5 million hunters (last years numbers, this years based on licenses purchased in each state, have increased) and 19 million shooters based on early 2008 numbers from competitions of various sanctioning bodies. That's pretty even, and many of that number are the "crossover" hunter/shooter population then that really makes MB's argument somewhat inaccurate. I can see where constantly referring to one being more substantial than the other could trigger a defensive reaction. And I agree joining the fight is the priority now through at least 2013! Let's pull together rather than point fingers and dismiss each other as insignificant.

Anonymous said...

Competitive shooting has as poor a retention rate as scuba diving. Too many people get in, have fun for a while and improve, but then realize the time/$/effort commitment to get better doesn't float their boat and are tired of being at the same place on the results sheet every month.

Plinking at a one-target-one-shot-per-second range is even more boring IMO.

Fun not-very-competitive shooting (action-type or reactive-target-type) is where it's at for mass appeal, but there's precious little of that.

nj_larry said...

Anonymous 10:32am

I don't understand how the 19 million shooter number was arrived at by competitive event entrants. If Camp Perry is any example lots of folks enter multiple events. Hunting licenses are unique per person per state.

Anonymous said...

I got the 19 million number by googling. I may not have described appropriately the process. However, there's a method to the madness, I assume. The number came from several sources and was consistent. Now the reporting could have all come from one original source, I don't know. It was not made clear that there were any valid ways of preventing duplicate counts of people that compete in several place/states/organizations, but I'm sure they try. But in terms of hunters, that number is very solid and verifiable. It has been reported that overall there are substantially more hunters for the current year than last year. Which marks the second time in the last five years the number has risen. So it's a promising sign. I'm just trying to point out that the previous posts about hunting vs. shooters had some validity. I think the guy or gal is accurate in saying that this kind of rhetoric puts people in a defensive mindset and can hurt our overall cause. I personally know several people who I've introduced to the DRTV podcast that have been turned off by similar statements that MB makes sometimes. We know MB and don't always take him super seriously, but for others that may be hearing him for the first time, that may not be the case. The "hunting rifle sales are in the toilet" while true statistically was very well illustrated by the "at risk" description/explanation. Not everyone can afford one on demand, never mind several or a high end rifle in that platform. Which was eluded to as a "rich man's sport". I think that also has some legit beef. Ever ask how much competitors custom pistols cost? It's crazy! Not everyone is sponsored by gun/ammo manufacturers that send them pallets of ammo for free. I reload and I still can't afford to stock up like that. I just agree that we're all in the same ball game and we need to do our share to win the game. Instead of pointing out one is better than the other. I enjoy DRTV's podcast, but there are times when on this subject, MB can cause a rucuss. He himself talked about the NSSF numbers and how he thought they were incorrect. He may be right, but how can it be such a significant fight that it's worth turning off gun owners who use their firearms for different purposes? We must get the right information out and recruit new members to our passions. Go to to arm yourself with actual facts on firearms and firearm statistics. Stand up and make your voice heard, challenge the anti's to a civil debate. You may be surprised at how easy it is to befuddle them and you may convert one or two along the way. Let's rally the troops and win this battle first! I get that and I hope as many as possible do too.

Gary Smith said...

Your point is well taken Michael but I don't entirely agree. I've been trying for years to get the industry behind Handgun Hunting and develop that market segment. I think it has the potential to become as popular as hunting with muzzleloading rifles. However, even though many manufacturers make handguns designed for hunting they just won't put any effort into developing the sport. The answer I keep getting is, "we're putting all of our new efforts into the tactical market".

If you pick up nearly any mainstream industry magazine. It's literally full of AR's and 1911's and tactical this & that. How much more can be written about these guns? Don't get me wrong, I love em' and they are viable hunting platforms (AR's) but please.

These types of guns have huge appetites for ammo and as the cost of ammunition soars, I wonder how many plinkers are going to continue with this type of sport as the cost climbs to $1 or $2 per shot, perhaps more.

If our fears are realized and the new administration goes on a gun ban spree as predicted (and I think he will) the industry may indeed that it had done more to develop new hunting markets like handgun hunting.