Friday, April 02, 2010

Some Additional Thoughts on Yesterday's Post

I was doing this as a comment, and then I decided that it needed its own's the primary comment I was responding to:
You seem to have equated target shooting with competition in your post, but is it REALLY? Are the people who answered "target shooting" casual shooters who shoot sporting clays or falling plates for fun but who have never entered a competition? The answer to that question would be interesting.
IMHO, "target shooting" encompasses "competition," but competition isn't the whole of target shooting. Target shooting is the shooting of targets, both formally and informally. Plinking by any terms is target shooting.
If you look at the big surge of AR owners, I would say that the vast majority of those new shooters are "target shooters" but
NOT engaged in formal competition. Some will find their way to formal competition, but based on my experience most won't (3-gun and Camp Perry type competition are are high barrier-to-entry sports)...which is fine. Shooting with one's friends is certainly every bit as valid an activity as competing in an IPSC match. Also, training is not competition, although you could probably make a case that it is target shooting — target shooting for a specific purpose.

In the past, the industry has tended to define ALL non-formal competition as "preparing/practicing for hunting," which is simply incorrect. At one point, the industry stats lumped both most .22 rimfire sales and most shotgun shells sold as "preparing for hunting," then used those numbers as "proof" that hunting was the primary driver in the industry. This wouldn't be important except that it skewed where the industry spent its promotion money for recruitment and retention, with 90+% of the bucks going to hunter recruitment and retention and virtually nothing going into the areas that had huge growth potential.

In a white paper several years back I argued for a 2-tier recruitment and retention system for the industry and the culture. My argument was that for newcomers participation in formal and informal shooting sports faced 1 major barrier, purchase of a firearm, while participation in hunting had 2 major barriers, purchase of a firearm and killing an animal. Rather than pour huge amounts of money into a 2-barrier jump hunter recruitment with what amounted to very low success rates, I suggested we put the lions' share of the money into recruitment for target shooting (both formal and informal), focusing on self-defense as the primary driver, and get them past Barrier 1. THEN create a mentoring system — which has been repeatedly shown to work very well — to introduce newcomers who got past the first barrier to the sport of hunting. 

We talked about the transformation of the gun culture a couple of weeks ago on the podcast. Here's my nut graf: The gun culture has morphed from a hobbyist culture focused largely on hunting and somewhat on formal competition (back in the 1960s and earlier) into a more coherent culture built around self-defense, concealed carry, RKBA issues, training, competition and some hunting. The elements of our culture that are growing, as noted by another poster, are self-defense/concealed carry...and that growth is in demographics where we historically have never been strong — women, young men, etc.

In my brief tenure on the NSSF committee to translate their "omnibus study" into something of value, I argued vociferously that to NOT include the needs and wants of informal target shooters like the new AR owners and concealed carry permit holders rendered whatever was to come out of that planning committee worthless. And that has proven to be the case.

Our goal in this culture MUST be to drive growth — the bigger we are, the harder it is to step on us —and the intelligent way to drive growth is to push the machine in the direction it is already going! I believe, for example, that the growth in women hunters, one of the only hunting demographics showing any strength, is proof of my 2-tier theory...more women have come into the culture through concealed carry and self-defense training issues, and once in the culture they are more easily recruited to the other things the culture has to offer.


Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the NSSF committe. I don't believe you've posted on that. I've often wondered how that was going. Could you please comment on it and bring us up to date? the mushroom

Dave S. said...

Gun culture follows mass culture. Hunting is falling from favor as the population becomes more (sub)urbanized and Mommy-nice (killing animals is not "nice").

I truly believe that the growth areas and the growing acceptance of gun culture we're seeing stem from two other "gateway" hobbies - paintball, which links shooting to fun, and especially video games, which present the player with "cool" high-tech weaponry to play with (and which I believe is part of the AR boom.)


Bub said...

As more and more people learn guns are not inherently evil and can serve both utlility and recreational purposes, I wouldn't be surprised to see more converts to the gun culture.


Michael Bane said...

I lasted 2 meetings...the profound lack of understanding of the culture was just amazing to me. They knew what results they wanted and the whole process was wildly slanted to deliver those results. They wanted to prove that, more or less, everything was exactly the same as in 1956, and if only Daddy would take little Tommy and little Janey out hunting everything would be just spiffy again. The survey cost $250K (I'm told), at there was at least another $100+K in expenses and time from the participants,

We could have taken that $350K and given out 10 $35K "challenge grants" to USPSA, IDPA, SASS, trap, sporting clays, 3-gun, etc. to grow membership, then synthesized the programs that worked a "best practices" working program and spread them around. Instead, we took the money and pissed it'll notice that whole "10 year initiative" has disappeared down the memory hole? Like all the rest of the bogus "research" crap that has been generated in the interest in propping up one segment of our culture at the expense of all the rest of it.

And Dave S., you're absolutely right...the growth of the gateway hobbies, along with returning veterans from our wars, has helped "tipped" us...which is why it's puzzling that for the most part the industry ignores or scorns the other gateway hobbies.

The NSSF study INTENTIONALLY chose not to include new AR owners or anyone who identified themselves as a black rifle/military rifle enthusiast (including me)...I know that because the director of the study told me that in answer to my direct question. He also said they had made "no effort" to poll concealed carry holders because "we didn't know how to find them." I asked whether he;d tried Google...


Wade said...

With NSSF apparently still living in 1952, have any of the large players in the black rifle and pistol business tried to form their own organization? It sounds like even some sort of voting bloc in the NSSF with, say S&W, Remington/Bushmaster, and several of the tiny AR and AR accessory makers could form and have some influence. Is there some quirk in the way the NSSF is governed that prevents something like that from happening?

saltydogbk said...

I have more fun target shooting than freezing my behind off in the field. I purposely recruit new shooters. This means tin cans, water jugs and paper targets. Now do not get me wrong, I love to hunt. But there is something about "bagging" a new shooter, seeing the smile when they first hit what they aim at, that just lights up my day.

Rastus said...

1956...a good year but that was 54 years ago. I don't remember '56 but I do remember '60 and I wanted to pass on hunting to my children. In a small part, I have. In a larger part I have passed down shooting. Pistols and AR's primarily with a slant towards supressors. Hunting, I sure would like to but I moved from my ancestoral home and finding a place is hard with professional work. Far easier to find a gun store and join a range. The extra costs with hunting, licenses, food, overnight stays, clothing, bug spray, whatever offsets costs of buying more ammo.

I love hunting, but shooting is what we do. It is far more accessible for suburban/lightly rural dwellers and we can do it when we want. I've nearly finished raising three sons..they can each hunt...but they are shooters first. And, they have received professional training as well. I was a hunter I am a shooter first.

The NSSF is no longer relevent in the context they once were. Evidence that demographics has passed them by and they are about to be fully eclipsed and lose status. People vote with their feet and pocketbooks.

Anonymous said...

"We could have taken that $350K and given out 10 $35K "challenge grants" to USPSA, IDPA, SASS, trap, sporting clays, 3-gun, etc. to grow membership"


What,exactly, would growing any of those groups do? I mean, last time I looked, IDPA membership was a miniscule ~11,000+. Let's say the IDPA org grew to 25,000 members? My question is, what does that accomplish? Would they be challenged to recruit new shooters? Or could they recruit from current shooters?

I shoot sporting clays for fun. My WAG is that at the local commercial sporting clays facility I shoot at the "fun" shooters outnumber the competition shooters 10:1 (I wouldn't be surprised if it was 20:1.) What exactly has been accomplished if the NSCA signs me up as a member?

I'm just trying to make the point that growing the membership of a particular shooting org may not matter a tinkers damn overall.

More ranges, and more events for newbies would help a lot more that growing IDPA or NSCA, whose membership growth would inevitably come mostly from current shooters, not newbies. Or at least that's what I think.

Louis said...

As mentioned by one of the other posters. Hunting has one other huge barrier. Access to a good hunting area.

I'm surprised you didn't raise the issue of the firearms and ammo excise tax. Just how much is coming from the target vs. hunting buyers and where is that money going.

Anonymous said...

The NSSF study that delivered The Future of Hunting and the Shooting Sports was indeed a complete waste of money...unless you wanted a document that promoted hunting over shooting. Why the researchers behind that document chose to ignore/overlook the competitive organizations, the concealed carry universe and non-hunters in general is the true question. And NSSF must answer to their members why they chose to turn a blind eye to those segments when this new poll clearly shows they represent a much larger constituency than NSSF wanted to admit.

There seems to be a lack of focused leadership at NSSF. Of course, when all you need to do is hold a hunting trip for the Board of Directors to get them to buy into your plans, you end up with lax oversight.

God, Gals, Guns, Grub said...

"Our goal in this culture MUST be to drive growth"... which is the wife and I are 4H Shooting Sports instructors and I'm an NRA certified instructor providing CCW training here in Ohio. After almost four decades of hunting, I have had far more opportunity to safely introduce, train and convert many to the pro-gun side through CCW and 4H over the last 20 years. If you have the time, get involved with introducing and teaching youth the fun and satisfaction of safely using firearms.

Anonymous said...

I have hunting guns
I have competition guns
I have plinking guns
I have self defense guns

The activities do not compete with each other.

The NSSF should not care about channeling folks into to specific activities. They should care about getting people buying firearms, ammo, and kit.

Let the market place determine the activity and do what ever possible to promote sustainable growth in the industry.


Rog said...

Here's a thought: if the majority of firearms and ammunition being bought in this country are NOT meant for hunting activities, why is it that ammunition and firearm manufacturers are still forced to pay the 11% FAET excise tax which primarily funds federal wildlife management programs?

If most of our ammunition is being used for target shooting, why should we be taxed to fund programs that benefit mainly hunters? I've seen recently where the NSSF has lobbied to get the FAET payable quarterly instead of bi-weekly, but honestly I think its time to eliminate the FAET alltogether. Its a relic that serves only to punish shooters who do not participate in hunting and ensures that all of our firearms and ammunition are at least 11% more expensive than they really need to be.

I still say the biggest threats to ALL shooting sports are high prices for guns and ammo and lack of safe, affordable, and nearby places to shoot and/or hunt. We could go a long way to make the shooting sports more affordable by eliminating the FAET or at the very least using FAET funds to build new ranges.

Anonymous said...

"include the needs and wants of informal target shooters like the new AR owners"

Where I'm from everyone that owns an AR(there's a lot of em'), be it .308 or .223 uses it for hunting and target shooting.
Please don't treat AR's like they're only used for self defense and target shooting. I know some states don't "allow" people to hunt with autoloaders but many do.

ExurbanKevin said...

The gun culture has morphed from a hobbyist culture focused largely on hunting and somewhat on formal competition (back in the 1960s and earlier) into a more coherent culture built around self-defense, concealed carry, RKBA issues, training, competition and some hunting.

The difference is full-time vs. part-time participation: Hunting (except for a very few people) is part-time occupation at best, while carrying a firearm for protection is a daily thing for CCW holders.

Anonymous said...

we had a club IPSC match yesterday with 90 shooters. Each shot 120+ rounds. 10,000 rounds downrange in one day.
Today (yes, Easter) there will be an IDPA match, next weekend 3-gun, on and on, every weekend day. 40 shooters is a small match. Do the math on those dollars.

NSSF or somebody should survey with a simple question

What percentage of your shooting-related dollars (guns, ammo, equipment, fees, travel, etc) goes to:

1- Recreational, hunting-related?
2- Recreational, non-hunting related?
3- Non recreational?

Kathy Jackson said...

You are right on target. (See a comment I left on the SHOT Show blog a few days ago at

Question for you: why, in your opinion, is the NSSF so determined to deny the existence of the self-defense portion of the firearms community?

nguyenhm16 said...

@Kathy Johnson:

I think that "the NSSF so determined to deny the existence of the self-defense portion of the firearms community" because it is less politically correct, or more likely, is straight up more political in nature, whereas hunting is less so, and has more weight behind it from a historical perspective.

Take a look at the gun control groups' messages, and even as they press for a ban, they still extol, at least in theory and abstractly, the virtues of hunting. When they do this, they are trying to marginalize guns to something that only an elite few should have, including the dwindling number of hunters, and not something that people in general should have a right to

That and institutional inertia, as discussed earlier.

Anonymous said...

I think that "Ratcatcher 55" said it the simplest and best. He's where I am and I'm sure that there are others that enjoy from one, to all four activities. They're all relevant.
Maybe it's time for a new "Spokes-person" organization to represent us. The "not-invented-here" attitude of the current NSSF will be to it's own detriment.
Life Member

Unknown said...

I live in MD and there is a lot of goose hunting on the eastern shore. They have extended the season extensively. The state forests allow hunting deer in the western portion. The south county of Anne Arundel there is a lot of deer hunting on private land. Most hunters ask permission a month or so in advance. The just drive up to a farm and get written permission. I ride horses and every year I run into hunters. A lot were thirty year old. The bad ones were the poachers. They would shoot a deer from the truck and drop it in the front yard or drive. A few times they killed horses in the fields. That got expensive, as the mares were $40,000 imports.

However many may know where to hunt. I do. And where to find deer. But I have no idea how to field dress. Plus a novice wants to go with an experienced hunter. There is no local place that pairs up experienced with a green novice.

IF a novice could get a hunter license and at that spot have a list of willing hunters who would take on a novice, that may be a solution.

By the way I never watch hunting shows. I have always known that is geared to fancy hunters.

benEzra said...

You're exactly right. I'm 39 and have been an avid shooter for over 20 years. I have never been hunting, though I would be open to it if I had the chance. My primary interest has always been recreational shooting of practical firearms suitable for defensive purposes---the same dynamic, I would point out, that exists for many students of empty-hand martial arts.

A couple of years ago, I started shooting USPSA matches as a way to get more dynamic shooting time as opposed to square-range paper punching. I greatly enjoy USPSA, but I enjoy practical guns, not raceguns; I shoot my CCW 9mm and my little black carbine (I'm in the process of transitioning from an AK w/optic to an AR).

I have little interest in 1950's style straight stocked bolt-actions, though I own a couple of historically interesting Mosin-Nagants; if someone gave me funds to purchase some new guns, I'd get a Glock or M&P, an FN PS90, and maybe an RFB, but the only Remingtons that interest me are the R15/R25 and the 7615. I don't own any shotguns, though I would not be averse to owning an 870, I suppose.

The biggest impediment to me as a shooter is lack of a place to shoot. North Carolina spends practically every dime of the Pittman-Robertson excise taxes on wildlife management, even though nonhunters like me pay the vast majority of the tax. I want to introduce my 9-year-old daughter to shooting, but so far I haven't found a practical place to do so; our local ranges are always too packed to take a noise-sensitive child, and the woods belong to the hunting clubs. And it is supremely ironic that here in NC, I'm not allowed to carry my 9mm when taking my daughter out stargazing at night on the game lands that *I* fund.

As far as hunting, I'm certainly open to it; it's just that (1) not knowing where to go and what to do are big barriers, as you state, (2) access is expensive if you don't know what you're doing and don't know the right people, and (3) if I ever take up hunting it will be with a gun I enjoy shooting, namely an AK or an AR with a suitable upper.

A majority of my coworkers own guns, but only a few of them hunt; a lot of them are probably in the same boat I'm in.

Here is some advice for the NSSF. I *despise* the term "sportsman", considering it dated, frivolous, unintentionally sexist, and soooo 1950s, so don't tag me with it. I'm open to hunting, but the current structure isn't very friendly to adults who didn't grow up hunting, and a lot of the hunting establishment exudes an elitist, traditionalist vibe even if most hunters I know aren't that way.

And if the NSSF doesn't wake up and realize that the most popular sporting rifles in the United States are just as "sporting" as straight-stocked bolt-actions, then some other, less hidebound organization will replace them.

ExurbanKevin said...

The problem with CCW / personal defense enthusiasts driving growth in the firearms industry is that it's hard to introduce young shooters into the sport that way: CCW holders are by their nature, over 18/21 (depending on the issuing state) and a tad reclusive.

I have two boys ages 6 and 4 and they know Daddy has guns, and they know not to touch them and just in case they forget, I've got 'em locked up.

The guns. Not the kids. :D

Personal defense / practical shooting my passion, and there just isn't the same opportunities to bond with my boys as there would be if I were into hunting. My shooting range has a .22 steel match each month and I'll be taking my oldest out to it in a couple of years, but that somehow lacks the same sense of tradition and heritage that goes along with taking your sons hunting.

In order for the sport to grow, we need to find a way to get youngsters involved with us as we shoot. Maybe it's .22 steel, maybe it's scholastic rifle shooting, but it needs to happen, and the NSSF needs to lead and not follow.

pax said...

"... that somehow lacks the same sense of tradition and heritage that goes along with taking your sons hunting."

And that, of course, is the other problem.

50% of the voters in this country are nobody's sons.

Nick said...

One huge barrier to entry is firearms dealers. They're the least friendly and interested people I've ever given hundreds/thousands of dollars to. Firearms dealers seem to have a target audience (salt-n-pepper hair, gut) and everyone else can go pound sand. This attitude probably keeps countless new shooters away.

Jim Heffelfinger said...

Michael -

I took great interest in this episode for several reasons: I am a former USPSA competitor, current IDPA Competitor (2nd place in last year's AZ State Championship for CDP-SS Division), serious gun rights advocate, CCW holder, professional wildlife biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, hunter, hunting mentor, pro-hunting advocate, reloader, and my paycheck comes from Pittman-Robertson (PR) funds.

I think where your argument is weakest is when you talk about the black rifle owners and self defense gun owners as if they are a different people than hunters, and a competing segment of gun owners. You reported that 76% of people who bought guns in 2009 did so for self defense or personal protection. I know you understand that last year was unusual (to say the least) when it comes to firearms sales. With the election of President Obama, many hunters, and others, bought Sport/Utility rifles with AR or AK in their name, semiautos, and high capacity handguns. Thousands bought guns they normally would not have. I am no exception: I built an AR, purchased a hi-cap 9mm with 4 spare mags, a hi-cap .45 with 4 spare mags, and was one of hundreds of thousands waiting for my 30-rd PMAGS to come in. I think you are smart enough to know 2009 was not representative of shooting sports from now on, but a unique phenomenon driven by political events. I doubt anyone ran out to get a bolt action rifle in 2009 before they were outlawed. I know many people that wanted a bolt action rifle last year, but decided to spend their money on something they may not be able to get if they waited.

The NSSF survey was not a random survey of shooters or gun owners or any population, it was an on-line survey where respondents who felt like offering their opinion did so. All reputable human dimensions experts will tell you that does not represent any population as a whole and can not be extrapolated. It simply tells you about those who responded. Also, do you think those surfing the NSSF website represented all gun owners, or a disproportionate number of non-hunting shooters (National Shooting Sports Foundation). The NSSF is not an entity that most hunters go to when on the web, but shooters are very familiar with the NSSF. It is no surprise to me that hunting was not more strongly represented in that survey conducted the way it was.

I know you are not anti-hunting, but your suggestion to earmark 30% of PR funds for shooters is not supported by anything that but the 2009 bump in sales, which is of course temporary. You probably realize that cutting wildlife conservation dollars will have negative consequences that will be defended not by hunters but by the American people who enjoy wildlife. I don't understand why non-hunting shooters would put themselves in that position. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is the most successful system of wildlife conservation ever devised and is now the envy of most other nations. No other system has resulted in such an incredible complement of native wildlife in near native habitat. Non-hunting shooters should be proud to be a part of that. In my opinion there is way too much "what is my government going to do for me" these days. It is not in gun owners best interest to pit themselves against such a successful system because they want more shooting ranges. I think that will be a bad move for the shooting community/firearms industry and is destined to backfire.

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